Business Briefs: AssociaTitle names Mark Sadlek director of business development

AssociaTitle names Mark Sadlek director of business development

Mark Sadlek

AssociaTitle announced it appointed Mark J. Sadlek director of business development at its corporate headquarters in the heart of Uptown Dallas at Crescent Court.

“We are thrilled to be adding Mark Sadlek to the AssociaTitle team,” said AssociaTitle President Paul Reyes. “He is a seasoned real estate professional in the Dallas area with a track record of proven success and will serve both our clients and our company well.”

Sadlek joins AssociaTitle from Republic Title of Texas, where he served as vice president of business development and director of coaching services. He worked to build and promote the company externally with Realtors, developers and lenders. His focus also included business coaching and training.

He has also served as vice president of business development for American Title and as home mortgage consultant for Shelter Mortgage & Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Previous to his work in the North Dallas real estate industry, Sadlek worked in marketing and sales for almost 20 years and was intimately involved in the start-up of two companies, VerCeram and Velux-America.

For the past nine years, Sadlek has worked in the North Dallas real estate industry, building positive relationships with local Realtors and lenders. He was awarded the 2010 Affiliate of the Year Award from MetroTex Association of Realtors, served on the MetroTex Board as an affiliate appointee board member, and chaired the Affiliate Forum Committee of MetroTex.

He was a co-founder and co-chair of Leadership Lambda Inc., an LGBT leadership development organization. He was also a board member of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) and has chaired the Heart Strings Fundraiser at the Majestic Theatre. Additionally, Sadlek served on the Board of Governors for the Human Rights Campaign, as well as a co-chair of the Dallas-Fort Worth Federal Club.

Ernst & Young Announces Gross Up for Jan. 1

On Jan. 1, Ernst & Young joined more than 30 major U.S. employers that are equalizing the pay for gay and lesbian employees by covering the cost of state and federal taxes for domestic partners.

Employees enrolled in domestic partner benefits incur additional taxes as the value of those benefits is treated as taxable income under federal law, while the value of opposite-sex spousal benefits is not.

Federal law treats domestic partner benefits differently from federally-recognized spousal benefits.

—  David Taffet

Lucky ticket


AND THE WINNER IS  |  Paul Van de Vyver, who bought the winning ticket for the two-door 2012 C250 Mercedes Coupe at this year’s Black Tie Dinner, picks up his new car on Friday, Nov. 18 at Park Place Mercedes on Lemmon Avenue. Pictured, from left, are Black Tie Dinner board member Kevin Terrell, Van de Vyver and BTD Co-Chair Chris Kouvelis. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas celebrates end of DADT

As ban on open gays and lesbians in the military ends, active-duty military personnel come out, some who were discharged consider re-enlisting

Johnson.Cully
Cully Johnson

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

As the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” became final this week, some active-duty service members came out while some who were discharged under the policy made plans to re-enlist.

Dallas celebrated the repeal with a reception at Resource Center Dallas during which

Dave Guy-Gainer, a board member of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, presented his archive of photos, papers and other memorabilia to the Phil Johnson Library.

Among the papers was correspondence with senators and representatives about supporting the repeal effort. Also included was correspondence with the White House that concluded with Guy-Gainer’s invitation to the final repeal signing ceremony in July.

Guy-Gainer said that he almost missed the invitation, because he almost forgot to check his email one Monday night. When he did remember and checked the inbox, he realized that he had received an invitation to the repeal certification signing ceremony in Washington that Wednesday.

Guy-Gainer said he immediately cleared his schedule and made plans to attend.

Despite repeal of DADT, Guy-Gainer said, SLDN’s  work is not over. Although gays and lesbians may now serve openly, those who are married will not receive 40 benefits that married heterosexual service members enjoy.

Those benefits include their partners having an identity card to get on base and using that card to shop in the PX or use the library.

Same-sex dependents will not be able to use the base attorneys to write wills and other legal papers.

Same-sex couples will not have the access to base housing that opposite-sex couples have, nor will they be eligible for subsistence payments to subsidize off-base housing. That money is offered to many heterosexual couples.

Dependents of heterosexuals also have access to full health care that same-sex partners of servicemen and women will not receive.

Across the country, a number of gays and lesbians who had been discharged under DADT started talking to recruiters Tuesday about re-enlisting, including Cully Johnson, one of the owners of Dallas Eagle.

Johnson was a captain and said he is consiering re-enlisting in the Air Force. He had an appointment with a recruiter to discuss the possibility on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Johnson said he was stationed in Germany for the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When Turkey refused to allow American planes to use its airspace, he said, he was responsible for finding alternate routes and bases that allowed the mission to happen.

After serving more than nine years, Johnson was dismissed from the military under DADT.

But like many who were dismissed, Johnson never “told.”

Another member of the Air Force asked him out on a date. When he turned the man down, that airman went to Johnson’s superior and reported him as being gay.

Johnson said there was no defense he could present. His attorney said that explaining the story of why he was turned in would just be seen as retaliation.

So Johnson was given an honorable discharge and he returned to Dallas while the closeted gay man who turned him in remained in the Air Force.

Johnson said he would like to finish his 20 years to take advantage of full military retirement benefits. Although he is talking to a recruiter, Johnson said that in addition to his business, he recently purchased a condo and has a new partner.

His partner was taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Johnson’s re-enlistment.

“We’ll deal with it when the time comes,” said his partner, who works for an employer that doesn’t offer nondiscrimination protection and asked not to be identified.

Because Johnson was an officer, there may not be an immediate slot for him in the Air Force. With President Barack Obama’s proposed drawdown of armed forces, many who want to re-enlist whose specialties have been filled will also have to wait for an opening.

Pepe Johnson had an appointment with a recruiter on Wednesday also. Before his DADT discharge, he had been named soldier of the year at Fort Sill and became a sergeant.

Today, the former Dallas resident, who still owns a house in Oak Cliff, works as a petroleum land man in West Virginia.

“I want to sit down with a recruiter and look at the options available to me,” Pepe Johnson said, adding that he holds no resentment against the Army for his 2003 dismissal.

“‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ was a law created by Congress and imposed on the military,” he said. “The Army was an incredible experience for me.”

If he re-enters, Pepe Johnson said he would have to go through basic training again because of the length of time since he served. Then, he said, he’d like to enter officer candidate school.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

DONATION

PURPLE PARTY PEOPLE  | The executive board and associate board of the Purple Party presented Don Maison and Mary Beth O’Connor, center, of AIDS Services of Dallas a check for $50,000 at Revlon House. The money was raised at the April 28-May 1 event and was donated in memory of Peter Brown, a long-time board member who died in July. Purple Party is one of the largest all-volunteer charity circuit parties in the country and has donated a total of more than $400,000, board members said. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Resource Center schedules DADT repeal reception

Gainer to donate his SLDN archive to the Phil Johnson Library

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Resource Center Dallas will hold a reception on Sept. 20 to mark the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

As part of the event, gay Air Force veteran Dave Guy Gainer will donate his archive of material related to the repeal to the Phil Johnson Library housed at the center.

“I’m reducing the fire load at my house,” Gainer joked.

The donation includes photos, Congressional reports, studies, hand-outs and newspaper articles that fill a number of boxes.

“It’s one of the largest donations we’ve ever gotten from one person,” said Resource Center Dallas Strategic Communications and Programs Manager Rafael McDonnell.

Gainer retired from the Air Force as a chief master sergeant before DADT went into effect. He has served as a board member of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network since 2005.Before that he was chapter president of American Veterans for Equal Rights before becoming regional and then national vice president of that organization.

Gainer called the end of DADT the “beginning of a new era.” He said he hopes his donation will help researchers studying the policy as a piece of history.

He said he has already been contacted several times by students writing papers and theses on the topic of gays serving in the military.

“If we can’t tell our stories as a community, we can’t hope to be truly a part of a bigger society,” Gainer said. “It’s important to give documents like these to research libraries to tell our stories factually.”

The reception at the Resource Center runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

McDonnell said the event would honor not just military personnel that were discharged under the DADT policy but all LGBT veterans.

“We specifically want to get word out to get LGBT vets here to say ‘Thank you for your service,’” McDonnell said.

SLDN is compiling a list of events that will take place around the country on Sept. 20, the day that the repeal becomes final. A number of parties are scheduled around Texas.

Most of the celebrations in the state will take place in bars, and after the Resource Center reception, the party in Dallas will move to Pekers on Oak Lawn Avenue.

Houston will mark the day with a celebration at JR.’s Bar and Grill, 808 Pacific Street from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The San Antonio repeal party begins at 6 p.m. at Sparky’s Pub, located at 1416 N. Main St.

The organizer of the Austin event wrote that they “expect active-duty service members will attend from Fort Hood and other nearby installations, along with scores of our supporters. Please bring your friends. Anyone 18 and older may attend.”

The statement is signed by “Brigadier General Virgil A. Richard, United States Army (Ret) and Chaplain (Colonel) Paul W. Dodd, United States Army (Ret).”

Ironically, Austin will mark the first day that military personnel can openly speak about being gay or lesbian at a bar called Hush.

Hush is located down the street from the Capitol at 408 N. Congress St. The event begins at 6 p.m. Food will be served and each person who attends will get a free drink.

P-FLAG El Paso organized that city’s celebration with several local LGBT groups. The party will take place at San Antonio Mining Company, 800 East San Antonio Ave. Cake and champagne will be served.

DADT was enacted in 1993 as compromise legislation. Previously gay and lesbian servicemembers who were outed were given dishonorable discharges. The new law was supposed to end anti-gay witch hunts in the military.

The repeal legislation was passed in December 2010. Then each branch of the service had to certify that it had prepared for the change.

On July 22, after the head of each branch of the service had signed off that it was prepared for the repeal, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the president and the secretary of defense certified to the armed services committees of both houses of Congress that the military was ready for final enactment.

According to the legislation, the repeal goes into effect 60 days after certification, which falls on Sept. 20.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

The lost art of cruising

‘Electro-tricks’ may be quicker and easier, but half the fun of the hook-up was working at it

Hardy Haberman | Flagging Left

I don’t get out much — at least to the bars. First of all I don’t drink anymore, and second, I am not really looking to hook up with anyone since I am in a very nice relationship.

I do, however, occasionally meet friends out for the evening or for a special event.

When I do go out, it is most often to our local leather bar, the Dallas Eagle, and I often indulge in a little people watching. I like to watch the crowd, the way people interact with one another, the ebb and flow of what was once a favorite past time of gay men: cruising.

What surprised me was the lack of that particular gay art going on.

First, let me say this is not a reflection on the Eagle; it’s a fine, first-class leather bar. What I noticed is something I have seen in other cities as well, and it bothers me a bit.

Now for those who might not know, cruising is a delicate dance men used to perform when looking for a partner, playmate or just trick du jour. It usually began with some long, slow looks, occasional subtle signals like a nod, the touch of the brim of a cap, a purposeful second glance or even just a slight change in body language.

If two people read the signals, and actually respond, it might proceed to sending over a drink — or a more direct approach. Often before actually making contact, you would ask a few friends if they knew the man in question, and for the leather scene that would also entail asking if anyone knew more intimate details: Was he a safe player? What was he into?

Of course, we also had the hanky code. It was a more direct and cut to the chase way to let folks know what you were seeking.

I won’t go into the details here, but the basics were: Hanky in the left pocket meant you were a top, and hanky in the right pocket meant you were a bottom.

Still, even with outward signs, there was an art to the whole endeavor. If done correctly, it had an element of seduction in it and all the sexual energy that went with it.

Sadly, I don’t see much of that going on anymore.

What I do see is guys checking their smart phones. Looking a little closer, I see them using Grindr, checking Recon and texting.

That’s when I realized what happened to cruising: It has gone the way of the dodo.

What was once a face-to-face encounter that actually took some time and energy is now a fast, down-and-dirty, “check a few profiles and text enough contacts until you pull a winning number” routine.

The whole cruising experience has become an electronic booty call with no mystery, no romance and no effort.

Oh yes, it is much more efficient. You can select from the variety of “neck-down pictures” and body statistics, like you were choosing a download on Amazon.

Find Mr. Right or at least Mr. Right Enough for Now, text a few lines, set a time and bingo! Insta-trick!

All very high tech and painless. No face-to-face rejections, no appallingly awkward moments. Just on-line chat and, essentially, “booking.”

It would seem to me that applications like Grindr and sites like Recon and CraigsList have replaced the whole cruising experience, and though it might be much more efficient, it really changes to atmosphere in the bars.

The heady sexual tension that used to permeate gay bars has given way to guys and gals on their smart phones texting or cruising — the web. One bar in Florida even has a screen where patrons can text directly to the screen, sort of a visual “shout out” for all to see.

Inevitably, the whole electro-trick phenomenon has spawned something totally unexpected. My partner commented on the subject of this column and suggested there should be an Angie’s List for Grindr.

I was surprised this morning when, while researching this piece, I found something very much like that.

Douchebagsofgrindr.com may just be a parody, but if not it offers some insight into the whole process. Personally, I find it kind of crass, but then I find the whole “electro-trick-speed-dating-booty-call” app thing crass.

It makes me long for the days of actually having to spend a little time to pursue and attract and seduce someone you were interested in. Try that now and I suspect you’d just get accused of being a stalker.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.Blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

FEEDBACK: Looking at District 14

Looking at District 14

This spring’s Dallas City Council District 14 race should draw our community into the voting booth in far greater numbers than any prior municipal election. Angela Hunt, the incumbent, announced Feb. 9 that she would run again for her seat. Jim Rogers had previously announced with the stipulation that he would withdraw from the race if Hunt ran.

The Feb. 4 issue of Dallas Voice announced that Erin Lasseter and Victor Franko were also running. I do not know either of them, but I do know the final announced candidate, James Nowlin.

Frankly, I think the race will be between Hunt and Nowlin. They have important commonalities: Both are experienced attorneys, highly analytical, forthright and hardworking.

Their differences are just as striking. Hunt is straight and married; Nowlin is openly gay. Hunt has served three two-year terms; Nowlin would be a fresh face. Hunt considered a run for mayor; Nowlin announced early for the council seat.

And Nowlin is a Stonewaller — a long-time member and former board member of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas — and a neighborhood activist.

Monday, March 14 is the last day for candidates to file. April 1 is the last day to register to vote or to change your voter registration if you have moved since your card was issued.

What happens in Dallas affects us at least as much as what happens in D.C. Your voice is your vote. So is mine. Let’s speak out loud and proud to assure that our community is heard.

Phyllis Guest
Dallas

—  John Wright

Walking into the future

READY, SET, WALK | AOC Executive Director Allan Gould and AIDS Walk Coordinator Penny Rowell are hoping this year’s fundraising walk will be the best yet. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

AOC’s 2011 AIDS Walk will kick off the agency’s 25th anniversary year

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Tarrant County’s AIDS Outreach Center marks its 25th anniversary this year, and a number of events are already scheduled to celebrate. The first of those is the center’s 19th annual AIDS Walk, set for Sunday, April 3.

Walk Coordinator Penny Rowell said this week organizers are working to build this year’s walk into the biggest and best ever to help celebrate the center’s milestone anniversary.

In the beginning

AOC Executive Director Allan Gould has been involved with the center in some capacity practically since its inception in 1986 as the Fort Worth Counseling Center.

“I was working for Radio Shack then, and the folks from the counseling center came to Radio Shack and asked for help in getting the computers and phone systems and so on set up. I have been an active participant since then, either as a volunteer or a board member or an employee,” Gould said.

That first year, Gould said, the counseling center saw only nine people, but “it was the beginning of an outreach and an effort to supply something [help for people with AIDS] that was sorely lacking then in Tarrant County.”

In the beginning, the agency focused on getting volunteers — “mainly counselors and social workers and attorneys” — to offer services for people with AIDS, he said.

“Back then, there were no AIDS tests. People were only being diagnosed when it was really too late. There were no drugs to keep them alive,” Gould recalled. “I used to keep a record of all the people I knew who died of AIDS. But when the list reached 300 or so, I just stopped recording the names.

“I couldn’t do it anymore; it was just too devastating,” he said.

“It was the immediacy of that moment, of seeing people getting sick and dying so quickly, that caused our community — the GLBT community — to unite and create this organization to reach out and try and give some comfort to those who were dying all around us,” Gould continued.

“There wasn’t much we could do, other than offer them counseling and legal help to get their affairs in order. But we did what we could.”

In 1988, the center changed its name to Community Outreach Center and received its first public funding — a grant from the state that allowed the agency to hire its first actual employees, a counselor and Thomas Bruner, its first executive director. The newly-renamed center focused its efforts then on offering counseling to those with AIDS and on educating the public about the disease and how to avoid contracting it.

The name changed again in 1992 when the agency became the AIDS Outreach Center. Although today there’s nothing unusual about that name, at the time it was a controversial move.

“It was necessary to include ‘AIDS’ in the organization’s name. Including it directly addressed the needs we were trying to meet in the community and made sure people knew exactly what we were doing,” Gould said. “But at the same time, it shocked a lot of people. There was still a lot of discrimination happening, a lot of bias and bigotry against people with AIDS.

“That name change was a double-edged sword in a lot of ways,” he added. “It put us out there and made it easier for the people who needed us to find us, but at the same time, it caused a lot of people who had supported us to kind of withdraw, especially in the African-American and Hispanic communities.

“They just didn’t want to be associated with an organization that had ‘AIDS’ in its title,” he said.

Gould said that withdrawal by some previous supporters caused the agency’s donations to drop, and it took some time to rebuild the center’s funding.

Evolution

Attitudes toward the AIDS epidemic and the needs of those with HIV/AIDS have changed over the years, and so have the center’s services.

“Our mission hasn’t changed so much as it has evolved,” Gould said. “We still have the same services we started out with — although most of the legal assistance is contracted out to Legal Hospice of Texas now — but we have continued to add services.”

The center’s counseling services today are “second to none,” and the center is top on the list of agencies to which Tarrant County MHMR refers clients with HIV seeking help, Gould said.

Among the first services to be added was social and medical case management, followed by outreach, education and prevention programs.

“The Nutrition Center came next, and it grew out of the efforts of Sandy Lanier, the wife of Dr. Bob Lanier,” Gould said. “She truly believed that good nutrition was the key to good health for people with AIDS — for everybody, really — and she literally started going around to the markets and grocery stores, getting them to donate food.

“Then she would put those donations in the back of her station wagon and drive around finding people who needed the food,” Gould said. “What she was doing eventually morphed into a more structured format and finally became our food pantry, which is one of our most used programs.”

The most recent evolution came in September 2009 when Tarrant County Interfaith Network merged into AIDS Outreach Center, adding the Guisel-Morris Dental Clinic to the center’s arsenal of services.

At the same time, AOC moved from its longtime home in a cramped and dingy space in Fort Worth’s hospital district to spacious new quarters on North Beach Street.

“That merger and the move was a big drain for us,” Gould said. “We had anticipated that it would take about half a million dollars to pay for it all, and we had gotten enough pledges, enough commitments from people to cover it.

“But then the recession hit, and a lot of those pledges didn’t come through, and we found ourselves with a real cash flow problem,” he continued. About six months ago, we realized we had to make some adjustments, and we ended up laying off four employees and cutting one to half time.”

The agency was able to absorb the duties of those missing employees into other remaining positions and in doing so, realized “a huge and immediate savings of about $130,000 a year,” Gould said.

And now that the economy has begun to recover, he said, so has AOC. Since the new fiscal year began last September, Gould said, the center has seen “a much larger outreach from individual donors than in recent years,” along with a larger outreach from corporations and foundations.

So even with what is expected to be about a 6 percent cut across the board in federal and state funds looming, AOC is able to maintain its $4.5 million budget and keep offering its programs. Gould said the center now serves about 2,000 clients annually on an ongoing basis, although “not every client uses every service we offer.” Two of the most widely-used services are the dental clinic, with about 900 active clients, and the nutrition center, with about 700 clients annually.

The Walk

The goal for this year’s AIDS Walk is $110,000 to $115,000, and while that doesn’t cover a huge portion of the agency’s overall budget, the funds are important. And just as important is the opportunity the walk presents to reach a wider audience with the center’s message of awareness and prevention.

Rowell said she is encouraged by the fact volunteers helping organize the walk are coming largely from a younger generation that “is more aware of HIV and AIDS than any other generation,” and that these young people are taking the message to a new audience.

“It’s opening a dialog with a new and larger demographic,” she said.

Rowell said she is also counting on some changes in this year’s walk to help bring in a new crop of walkers and volunteers.

“We moved the walk back to Trinity Park this year” instead of starting and ending at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center with a route that circled the Botanical Gardens, she said.

This year, the walk starts at the pavilion off 7th Street, then circles through the park to I-30 and back to the pavilion. The event begins at 1 p.m., and the walk itself steps off at 2:30 p.m. Anna DeHaro, Sunday morning radio host with KEGL radio station, will emcee the walk and will have Gould as a special guest on her radio show that same day.
Cooks Children’s Hospital is sponsoring the Kids Corner with special activities for the younger participants, and the Human Society will be at the walk with pets available for adoption. There will also be vendor booths set up near the pavilion.

Pre-registration is available for $25. Registration the day of the walk will be $30, and starts at 12:30 p.m. at Luke’s Locker, located nearby at 2600 W. 7th St. Luke’s Locker, Rowell said, is a sponsor for this year’s walk and has been extremely helpful in organizing the event.

She said the store specializing in gear for runners has “done a lot of advertising for us online and at every event they have participated in recently.”

Anyone who pays a registration fee will receive an AIDS Walk T-shirt. But those who bring in at least $100 more will get a canvas tote bag and a T-shirt. Those who raise at least $250 extra get the shirt, the bag and one raffle ticket, while those who raise at least $450 get all that plus one more raffle ticket.

Items donated for the raffle range include concert and theater tickets, dinners and more. Rowell said organizers are also working with representatives from the Texas Rangers baseball team to get a raffle prize donation from the championship team.

“We’re still looking for vendors and sponsors, and anyone who is interested can call me for information,” Rowell said. She can be reached at 817-916-5224 or by e-mail at pennyr@aoc.org.

Looking ahead

Gould said this year’s AIDS Walk — as well as a May 5 open house and the June 25 “Evening of Hope” gala — are just a few of the signs of the great things to come for AIDS Outreach Center.

“We are looking at the future, looking at ways to round out our programs to take a more active role in the overall care, medically speaking, of people with HIV and AIDS in Tarrant County,” Gould said, “We are always looking at new ways to serve and grow, and there are great things to come.

“Over the last 25 years, we have made some dramatic strides forward in offering services and programs to our community,” he added, “and this agency is poised to be here well into the future.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Gay DISD cop among few out male officers

Although Jeremy Liebbe is 100 percent out, he declined to be photographed for this story because he does undercover work.

Jeremy Liebbe serves as co-commander for major Oak Lawn events and is a board member at Youth First Texas

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Jeremy Liebbe’s coming-out-at-work experience was unusual to say the least.

It was September 2004, and Liebbe had been with the Dallas Independent School District’s police force for less than two months. He and another officer were traveling down U.S. Highway 175 toward “Dead Man’s Curve” at a high rate of speed late at night, with their lights and sirens activated, responding to a call for help from a third officer who was in a fight with some suspects.

Liebbe’s partner, a former Marine raised in South Dallas, was behind the wheel. (“Not the individual you would think to come out to,” Liebbe says.)

Liebbe’s partner suddenly turned to him and said flatly, “Are you gay?”

“My first thought was, if I answer correctly, are we going to wreck out in Dead Man’s Curve?” Liebbe recalls. “I just said, ‘Well, yeah.’ And he said, ‘OK, cool.’ Then we go down and deal with the fighting suspects and get everybody in custody, and he decides to out me to the suspects and the other officer by telling them what type of person, in Marine terminology, just kicked their tail.

“I was like, well, that’s one way to come out at work.”

A few weeks later, Liebbe says, rumors about his sexual orientation, now confirmed, had “spread like wildfire,” and he found himself called in to meet with his supervisor, the lieutenantover internal affairs. The lieutenant explained there was a rumor going around that Liebbe was gay.

“I said, ‘OK, well it’s true.’ And he said, ‘So you’re just going to freely admit it?’” Liebbe recalls. “I said, ‘One, we have our nondiscrimination policies that are board mandated, and two, as the internal affairs lieutenant, if I lied to you about something as trivial as that, would you ever trust me again?’

“He said, ‘That’s a damn good point.’”

Since then, Liebbe says, his sexual orientation hasn’t been much of an issue at DISD, and he gets along well with the lieutenant.

“There have been some situations that have come up at work, as would be expected in a paramilitary organization, but for the most part, I’m a supervisor now,” he says. “Most people, just because of the fact that I’m a supervisor, are going to leave me alone. It also helps that DISD has a longstanding nondiscrimination policy for employment practices that covers sexual orientation, so that gives some fallback.”

Today, the 32-year-old Liebbe has been with the DISD police for more than six years and serves as a detective sergeant in narcotics. (Because he does undercover work, he didn’t want his photograph to appear alongside this story.)

Liebbe is one of the few openly gay police officers in North Texas who are male — if not the only one. And as it turns out, Liebbe’s decision to go into law enforcement was something of an accident that began in the gayborhood.

In 2001, Liebbe was studying computer science at UT Dallas and had started a database design company. At 22, he had “damn good money flowing in,” and he says he found himself on the Cedar Springs strip three to five nights a week.

At the time, Liebbe says, there was gang activity in some of the clubs. As a regular who happened to be a first-degree black belt, Liebbe says he wound up ending a couple of fights “quickly and efficiently.”

When Caven’s security team asked Liebbe to join them, he questioned why he’d want to. But after learning it would mean free drinks and reduced cover charges, “I said, ‘Where do I sign up?’” Liebbe recalls.

Shortly thereafter, Liebbe caught the attention of Sgt. Lynn Albright, then the Dallas Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer, who noticed that he was a little different from other Caven security guards.

“She said, ‘If you want something to do when you’re bored, come play with us,’” Liebbe recalls.

Albright asked Liebbe to ride along with her twice, and if he wasn’t’ convinced to go to the police academy and become a reserve officer, she’d leave him alone.

“I actually thought she was crazy for suggesting I become a cop,” he recalls.

But Liebbe was hooked, and despite becoming a cop, he never abandoned his roots in the LGBT community.

For the last eight years, Liebbe has worked all of the major events on Cedar Springs, from Pride to the Halloween block party to, most recently, the Super Bowl block party. And for the last three years, he’s served as operations co-commander for them.

It’s a huge job that requires hundreds of hours of preparations for each event on the part of Liebbe and two co-commanders.

“We almost are getting to the point where we literally roll from one event to another,” he says.

Liebbe says he’s proud of how smoothly events run in Oak Lawn compared to other areas of the city. And he’s convinced so many DISD officers to work the events that they now typically make up half the law enforcement presence — which he says ultimately benefits LGBT youth.

Liebbe also serves as a volunteer and board member at Youth First Texas, which stemmed from his role on the Pride Steering Committee since YFT is a beneficiary of the parade.

As an Eagle Scout who was eventually ousted from the Boy Scouts for being gay, Liebbe says he’s always had a place in his heart for youth organizations.

He began volunteering at YFT a few years ago while taking some time off from work, after he’d just finished investigating 33 cheese heroin deaths at DISD.

He recalled that on his YFT volunteer application he wrote, only half-jokingly: “I think it would be spiritually uplifting to work with at-risk groups who are not in handcuffs.”

As it turns out, the presence of a law enforcement officer at YFT has both practical and symbolic importance. For example, the former director of YFT sometimes questioned why Liebbe insisted on carrying a concealed firearm at the center — until a deadly shooting a few years ago at an LGBT youth center in Israel.

Liebbe also teaches a self-awareness and self-defense program at YFT called SEED, which stands for Survive, Evade, Escalate and Destroy. Liebbe, who was bullied as a teenager, says his role as a DISD police officer gives him an interesting perspective on the problem, and the recent LGBT youth suicide crisis reopened old wounds.

Despite its name, Liebbe says the SEED program, which he wrote with a friend, doesn’t advocate violence. Instead, the program is based on the idea that most bullies will back down if you stand up to them, even if it’s just verbally.

“We teach that violence is a last resort,” he says. “You don’t hit anybody unless they’ve taken a swing at you. But once the bullying escalates to violence, once it becomes bashing, then the nature of the game needs to change.”

Liebbe says he makes clear to YFT youth that he isn’t there as a cop, before adding that he hopes they’re never involved in one of his investigations, because his case clearance rate is pretty high.

But given the perception in the LGBT community that law enforcement isn’t gay-friendly — and the fact that a lot of officers sleep through diversity training — Liebbe acknowledges that the mere presence of a gay law enforcement officer at YFT can’t hurt.

“Every one of the youth there who get to know me can say there’s at least one cop that, if I see him, I can give him a hug and he’ll help me,” Liebbe says.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

Oliver Blumer named vice chair of TENT board

Oliver Blumer, left, and his partner Mary Kay Cody

Oliver Blumer, who was profiled by Dallas Voice a while back, has been named vice chairman of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, the statewide organization dedicated to furthering the cause of gender diverse people.

According to the press release we’ve posted after the jump, Lisa Scheps is stepping down as executive director of TENT, and board chairwoman Katy Stewart will take over day-to-day operations.

—  John Wright