Finally, a chance to win Joel Burns’ underwear

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns has sat with Ellen, and if you play it right, he’ll sit with you. Burns, whose anti-bullying video became an Internet sensation, is himself the prize at the Thursday performance of Fort Worth’s Amphibian Stage Productions’ presentation of No Child… . The play, written by Nilaja Sun and directed by Rene Moreno, is a one-woman show about a teacher trying to make a difference in an inner-city school. The Nov. 11 performance of the play is devoted to the Trevor Project, which seeks to help at-risk LGBT youth. Twenty percent of that evening’s box office will go to the Trevor Project, and those in attendance that night can enter to win the “Lunch with the Hon. Joel Burns” raffle. He’ll also offer a pair of Ellen Show boxer shorts he autographed for auction.

You can find out more at AmphbianProductions.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Bigots are so unreliable!

Despite news reports indicating otherwise, no one spoke Tuesday night at the Fort Worth City Council meeting to air disapproval of Councilman Joel Burns “It Gets Better” speech last month. Tuesday’s meeting lasted into the wee hours, as the council dealt with several controversial issues. The only person who referenced Burns’ speech during “Citizen Presentations,” which came after midnight, spoke in support of it. Linda Sandoval Foley said she’s been a special education teacher since 1964.

“Bullying and harassment, whatever the reason, is not only injurious to the person who is bullied, but to the bully themselves,” she said. “Parents and community often offer a model to kids as to what is acceptable and give both tacit and implicit approval to bullying behaviors. But equally present is a capacity for acceptance and understanding, and expectations for appropriate behavior toward people who are different from you in any way, whether it’s the color of your eyes, or whether you’re tall and skinny, awkward and clumsy, whatever. Yes, it does get better. But we need, our kids need, the support and involvement of their parents, their teachers and all the other adults who are in their lives. And I thank Councilman Burns for his statement, and I do appreciate his life experience, and I do look forward to it being better for all our kids.”

Earlier, during councilmembers’ reports, Burns also referenced his “It Gets Better” speech, saying he had a lot of announcements but none of them were likely to make YouTube. “But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important,” he said.

Among other things, Burns went on to congratulate the TCU football team for its victory last weekend over Utah, saying it was the only time he’s ever wished he was in Salt Lake City. Burns also congratulated those from Fort Worth who received awards during Saturday’s Black Tie Dinner: the Rev. Carol West (Kuchling Humanitarian Award) and American Airlines (Elizabeth Birch Equality Award).

—  John Wright

WATCH: Chely Wright at Black Tie Dinner

For those who took off prior to Media Award winner Chely Wright’s remarks Saturday night at Black Tie Dinner — and for those who couldn’t make it or simply want to see it again — here’s her full acceptance speech.

—  John Wright

November: Grow a ‘stache, save a testicle

Push broom. Lip warmer. Crumb catcher.

The mustache goes by many nicknames, but during the month of November, it’s also a sign of support for men’s health.

“Movember USA” is a group that helps raise money and awareness for men’s health issues, such as testicular and prostate cancer, by sponsoring a sort of “‘Stache for Cash” fundraiser. Men — and, ya know, I guess women, if they’re from central Europe — dedicate to spend the month of November growing out their lady ticklers (bad example!) to raise money for research.

Now, I’ve had a beard or mustache pretty much continuously since 1994, and went back and forth throughout high school, college and law school at that, so it was hard for me to start a mustache anew — but I did. On Halloween, I shaved clean and started fresh on Nov. 1. I’ve trimmed a little around the neck (and actually did more than I should have just before Black Tie), but I’m committed to letting it get as bushy as it needs to by Nov. 30. Then I’ll … well, probably just keep it.

Anyway, if you want to join, or just get hairy for the coming cold weather, visit USMovember.com to sign up or contribute. And I’ll see you at the reunion of 1970s porn stars and Magnum, P.I. lookalikes.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Leppert misses Black Tie but shoots promo for Out & Equal Workplace Summit

Via GLBT Dallas, above is a promotional video for next year’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit, set for Oct. 25-28 in Dallas. The video reportedly was shown to attendees at this year’s Workplace Summit, in Los Angeles last month.

Among other things, the video features a spot by Mayor Tom Leppert near the end.

“We’re building a bright future by embracing and welcoming everyone,” Leppert says in the video. “We know that being a world-class city means being a place where all citizens and visitors are both welcomed and appreciated.”

In related news, Leppert was absent from the Black Tie Dinner for the second time in four years on Saturday. He missed gay Pride this year too, also for the second time in four years.

Leppert is widely believed to be eyeing a run for U.S. Senate as a Republican in 2012, but the video shows that he hasn’t completely distanced himself from the LGBT community.

Leppert’s openly gay chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, said the mayor missed Black Tie because he had a wedding and two other events on Saturday night.

“They changed the program a bit this year and the Mayor was not asked to speak, so it made the decision a bit easier,” Heinbaugh said.

—  John Wright

Black Tie Dinner 2010

Photos by John Wright and Brent Paxton/Dallas Voice

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

—  John Wright

2010 Black Tie Dinner

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

The 2010 Black Tie Dinner will be held Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.

The theme for the annual fundraising event this year is “Stand Strong.”

Keynote speaker for the evening will be openly-lesbianof Wisconsin. The Rev. Carol West will received the KuchlingHumanitarian Award, and American Airlines will receive the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award. Activist and businessman Mitch Gold will be on hand to present the Media Award to out lesbian and country/western star Chely Wright.

Special entertainment will be provided by Broadway star Gavin Creel and the Turtle Creek Chorale.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Chely Wright answers the call

The country music star and out lesbian may be busy with a new album and tour, but she always makes time for her new-found passion for advocating for LGBT equality

Rich Lopez  |  Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Chely Wright
Chely Wright

When Chely Wright came out this summer, the buzz in the music industry was mixed. But as it turned out, she did it at precisely the right time.

Combining her star power with advocacy, Wright has become the face of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network and an outspoken advocate for her new-found community. She has stepped up to the plate and used her stature to focus attention on LGBT issues.

The buzz around Wright’s coming out was quickly eclipsed by head-grabbing issues like same-sex marriage rulings, “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the rash of gay youth suicides and bullying.

Still, Wright interjected herself into the conversation and people listened, while other gay celebrities were being supportive, but perhaps less vocal. For her efforts, Wright will be awarded the 2010 Media Award at this weekend’s Black Tie Dinner.

“This is what I felt like I was supposed to do, and it would be wrong of me not do this,” Wright said recently of her work in the community.

Black Tie Dinner co-chairs Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold said that Wright was the unanimous choice for the Med Award this year. As the year progressed, Wright’s work with LGBT youth and her public profile narrowed the choices tremendously until she became the decisive choice.

“The breadth of her activity immediately upon coming out was definitely a factor. She faced issues head on and she’s made an incredible impact in reaching Middle America,” Guillard said.

Wright has most recently chosen to become involved in addressing the seemingly skyrocketing rate of bullying and LGBT youth suicides. Her work with GLSEN helped launch the Safe Space Campaign for schools to provide outright support to gay students and end anti-gay harassment and bullying. She joined a panel of celebrities on Larry King Live calling attention to the issue — which she stressed isn’t new.

“What’s going on now is not a shock to me. The problem isn’t a fresh one. It’s just that now, we have the mainstream media’s attention,” Wright said.

She quoted Kathy Griffin from that panel, agreeing with the comedian that bullying is based in homophobia stemming from a bigger picture that paints a distinct portrait to both straight and gay communities. “I hadn’t thought about it until she said

something amazing. She called it ‘trickle-down homophobia,’ where gay issues and headlines meet. DADT is denied, marriage denied and we’re constantly told we’re ‘less than,’” Wright said. “Not only bullies are hearing that, but young gay people are too.”

And that gives LGBT youth a bleak outlook on their future, while at the same time emboldening the bullies, Wright said.

“We can tell people not to bully, but when mandates are coming down against our rights and headlines show that, how can we expect them not to, when Congress is doing it blatantly?” Wright asked.

When she wrote her autobiography Like Me, Wright’s publishers balked at the chapter on hate crimes. She fought Random House for the chapter to be included, despite them telling her it was too dramatic. In the end, Wright won and the chapter, “Hate Crimes are Down?,” foreshadowed the current issue of harassment.

“If you push a young LGBT person to the point where they take their own lives, it’s a hate crime. If you get them to kill themselves, that’s a hate crime. You aren’t connecting dots that are too far apart and now it’s horrific that it’s come to past,” Wright said.

Wright focused on the Rutgers student Tyler Clemente, who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge after his roommate recorded him having sex with another man and streamed it online.

Chely Wright
SHE CAN RELATE | Chely Wright says that after spending years hiding her sexual orientation to protect her career in country music, she understands the anguish that young people struggling with their sexual orientation sometimes feel.

Wright said she faced a similar fear of being outed in the middle of her conservative country music career.

“I know what he felt like and it ripped my heart out,” she said of Clemente. “When you don’t want anyone to know that secret, the thought that runs through your mind is to jump, or pull the trigger. I couldn’t bear someone in control of my timeline for that secret,” she said.

Wright has been open about her faith as well, which brings a fairly new facet to the openly gay celebrity. Where most might dismiss religion as a hindrance, Wright seems to want to let people know that being gay and being religious are not mutually exclusive.

But at the same time, she said it is religion that is responsible for so much bigotry.

“Churches are not being held accountable. They tell young people they are damaged goods,” Wright said. “They tell them not to shoplift, which is a question of morality and making the right decision. But when they tell them not to be gay, that sets them onto a path of self-loathing and hatred and it’s contrary to a healthy life.”

Along with GLSEN and the Human Rights Campaign, Wright has given her support to the nonprofit organization Faith in America, which works to counteract the discrimination by religious communities toward the LGBT community.

“When you tell a kid he can’t be that way, it’s just a problem. We have got to hold churches accountable,” Wright repeated. “Really, you can be a good Christian and a gay person,” she said.

Arnold sees how Wright’s passion led to the board’s decision to honor her with the award.

“She is setting a wonderful example for people of all ages right now in this critical time. She’s appreciated the community and we appreciate what she’s doing for it,” Arnold said.

With her political advocacy, it’s easy to forget what Wright does best. She is still making music, but now balances what she loves to do and what she’s called to do.

“At the root of what I do, I like to sing and make records,” Wright said. “But we do the most damage as humans with words. And I’m compelled to support kids as they turn into grownups and help them keep their heads on straight.”

So to speak.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Customer service: Black Tie edition

I own several tuxedoes plus some nice patent leather shoes, so I rarely rent formalwear anymore. But I had a nice experience at Al’s this week.

One of my tuxes lost a button — the black-satin-wrapped kind. Unlike many suits, which sew “reserve” buttons into the lining, none of my tuxes have extras. I don’t know the first thing about sewing on buttons even if they do. I was  bummed.

But I decided to take a hail Mary: I brought the coat into Al’s on Oak Lawn and asked whether they might have any buttons that matched. The lady behind the counter said, “I’ll look.” She took the coat back with her and emerged a few minutes later with a button that looked like a dead ringer. “That’s perfect!” I said. She snatched it up and said, “Give me a few minutes.” She emerged later with the button, sewed beautifully onto my coat. Exactly what I needed.

“What do I owe you?” I asked, expecting a $20 fee for parts, labor and instant turnaround.

“Nothing,” she said. “Just remember us if you need anything.” (She even offered to re-sew a loose button on another coat I had with me!)

That’s good customer service. Especially for someone who wasn’t even a customer.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Friendship makes things easier for BTD co-chairs

Ron Guillard, Nan Arnold scramble to make sure everything is ready for the 29th annual fundraising dinner

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold
Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold

Being one of two co-chairs of the annual Black Tie Dinner is no easy job. But it is at least a little easier when your co-chair also happens to be a good friend, according to Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold, Black Tie co-chairs for 2010.

This year’s version of the annual fundraising dinner is a week away — Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel — and Guillard and Arnold were busy this past week making sure they had every little detail attended to before the big night.

“It’s a collaborative effort,” said Guillard. “We have to be able to work together and lead the board with one voice. I think we have been able to do that, and I know I have had a great time working with Nan.”

Arnold added, “We’ve been friends for a long time, which definitely helps. Ron and I first met back in the ’90s when we were both working on fundraising for Lambda Legal, back before they even opened a Lambda Legal office here in Dallas. We knew each other before then, but we got to really be friends working with Lambda Legal.”

Arnold grew up near Hope, Ark., and first came to Dallas after high school to attend college here. She ended up going back to Arkansas to finish her degree, but then moved back to Dallas.

At first, Arnold said, he involvement in the community consisted just of attending events and donating to worthy causes. Then she got involved with Lambda Legal and “I realized that fundraising was something I could do. And it just snowballed from there.

“It just sounds so trite, I guess, but I got involved because I just wanted to give back to the community,” she continued.  “Dallas has been so good to me, and I really love it. So I wanted to do something for the community. And with Black Tie, you are truly giving back to this community, because of the way we work with our beneficiary organizations.”

Arnold spent four years as chair of the Black Tie Dinner sponsorship committee, and she said working on the annual fundraiser takes up a lot of what spare time she has when she’s not busy at her job doing consulting work and construction management for land developers.

“It [Black Tie Dinner] takes up a lot of time. I am lucky my partner [attorney Linda Wiland] understands. She supports me completely.”

Arnold is completing her 7th year with Black Tie Dinner, and the first year of her two-year term as co-chair. Guillard has been on the board for four years, and is finishing his second year as co-chair.

Arnold noted that she was the one who actually recruited Guillard to the board.

Guillard grew up in Northern Michigan and transferred to Dallas in 1990 for his job.

“Where I lived before, I really hadn’t experienced being part of a real community and what all went with that,” Guillard said. “I was impressed immediately by the people I met and how involved they were in building a sense of community. That’s what led me to say yes when I was asked to get involved.”

Guillard said he wasn’t out at his job — working for a small product design firm — when he first came to Dallas. But he saw a way to bring the LGBT community and his job together when he found out about DIFFA’s annual Dallas Collection event, where jean jackets were redesigned into wearable works of art by designers and celebrities, both local and national.

“Working through our professional organization, I kind of invented a way for us to get involved,” Guillard said. “It was right after [basketball player] Magic Johnson had announced that he had AIDS, and I decided to contact his representatives and see if he would let us put his name on a jacket we designed for him.”

Johnson said yes, and the jacket was one of the top money earners that year.

Guillard said he spent about five years helping design jackets for the DIFFA auctions, and then, “in the second part of the ’90s,” he connected with Gail Richards.

“I ran the White Rock Lake Marathon with her. She was on the national board for Lambda Legal, and she got me involved with Lambda Legal here.”

Guillard noted that Radio Shack acquired the design firm he worked for in 2004, but in 2008, when the economic downtown hit, Radio Shack liquidated the business.

“So that’s when I elected to just enjoy the luxury of focusing on Black Tie Dinner for awhile,” Guillard said. “I still do minimal consulting work, but I spend most of my time on Black Tie.”

And luckily, he said, he too has an understanding partner in hospital CEO Bill Brosius.

And, both Guillard and Arnold stressed, the are lucky to have the strength of the full Black Tie Dinner board behind them.

“This is a wonderful, hardworking board,” Arnold said. “It’s not all about us. We do our best as co-chairs, but we couldn’t accomplish anything with the rest of the board.”

Guillard added, “This board is a great pipeline of future board co-chairs.”

Guillard said his strength — both in his professional life and in his volunteer work — has always been “thinking about what’s next and what’s after what’s next. I am only wired to think expansively.”

It is a trait, Arnold said, that has come in most handy for the Black Tie board.

“That has been absolutely great for Black Tie,” Arnold said. “That’s always a big question for us: ‘Where do we go from here?’”

Especially since next year will mark the event’s 30th anniversary.

“Right now, I am concentrating on this year’s dinner. But I can’t say I don’t think about next year. I mean, how do we get there from here? How will I do any of it without Ron? But I know someone will come along to be my next co-chair and they’ll be great, and we’ll get it done. Plus, Ron’s number will still be on my speed-dial!”

But at least for the next week, Guillard and Arnold are focusing on the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner, which will feature openly lesbian U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin as keynote speaker and recently out country-western star Chely Wright as the Media Award winner. The Rev. Carol West will be on hand to accept the Kuchling Humanitarian Award, and dinner officials will present the Elizabeth Birth Equality Award to American Airlines. Turtle Creek Chorale and Broadway star Gavin Creel will provide entertainment.

“Plus,” Guillard said, “we have a couple of little surprises up our sleeves!”

Arnold said, “It’s just so exciting as we get closer, seeing all these pieces coming together this way. It makes my heart beat faster just thinking about it. It’s why we work all year long, because we know it all comes together for three hours on one night. That’s why we do it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas