WATCH: HISD Board gets earful on anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

Trustee Manuel Rodriguez in the hot seat as public condemns his homophobia

A standing-room-only crowd greeted the Houston Independent School Board last night. While the board’s monthly meetings often attract an assortment of parents, community members and gadflies many in the crowd were there with a decidedly non-educational issue on their minds: the anti-gay flier distributed by Trustee Manuel Rodriguez during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. because of his sexual orientation.

The first to address the issue were Rodriquez’s fellow trustees, Anna Eastman and Juliet Stipeche. Eastman spoke passionately of the importance of HISD’s anti-bullying policy which “protects people from harassment and bullying based on attributes we all have,” and said that she felt Rodriguez’s actions violated the spirit of that policy. Stipeche, near tears, read the names of teens who had committed suicide after enduring anti-LGBT bullying.

The board had planned to vote on a new ethics policy at the meeting that covered behavior by trustees. At the encouragement of two speakers, and the motion of Eastman, the board decided to delay that vote until December so that a policy stating that encouraging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression could be added.

After three and a half hours the crowd in the board’s chambers had dwindled, with most of those who had come to confront Rodriquez still waiting. When Board President Paula Harris finally opened the floor for public comment the first person to step up was Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Noel Freeman. Freeman told the board that the extant of Rodriquez’s homophobic campaigning was far greater than the flier which had drawn so much media attention. “What you all might not know is that he also went on television and said that he just couldn’t understand why a 54 year old unmarried man would want, quote ‘access to children,’” said Freeman. “That statement in and of itself, and the implications made therein is reprehensible and simply disgusting.”

Freeman asked that the Board remove Rodriquez as their representative on the Texas Council of School Boards, and as the board’s vice president. He went on to criticize the apology issued by Rodriquez after the election, saying that it did not address the concerns of the GLBT community, nor was it delivered to the community but rather to the press. “You cannot simply say ‘oops, I’m sorry’ and this all goes away,” said Freeman. “We will never forget what you did!”

Board President Harris had made frequent reference throughout the meeting to a group of students from HISD’s Milby High School, letting them know that their time to speak would come. As the students’ designated speaker stepped to the podium his hands visibly shook in nervousness. “When I first heard about [Rodriquez's flier] I did not agree with it because I believe that the message was that a gay person could not be as successful as a straight person and that really hurt me,” said the student. “My question to you is are you going to help us stop the bullying, or are you going to be a bully yourself?”

Perhaps the strongest response from the board was garnered by Paul Gonzales, who choked back tears as he described the challenges he faces as a gay man and parent of an HISD student. “I have a kid, and I have a kid that I have enrolled in HISD, and I love her. Me and my partner every single day are trying to show her that there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong with our family. So for a board member to say that my family is reprehensible to him… I have to explain [to her] that there are still people who consider us not the kind of family that deserve respect,” said Paul to the board, who were fighting back tears of their own. “GLBT parents like myself trust HISD to give us that haven for our children, that they’re not going to be looked at any differently. But the words that we saw on this flier just made me cringe to think that this isn’t the place that I thought that it was.”

After the jump, watch some of the eighteen people who spoke to the board.

—  admin

A message for Bo & Jim: Bullying and beating up trans children is no joking matter

Bo, left, and Jim, morning show DJs on Lone Star 92.5 FM

I drive about 60 miles round trip in my daily commute to and from work, and I almost always have the radio on. The past couple of mornings, while flipping from station to station to find something I wanted to listen to, I have ended up on Lone Star 92.5 FM, the classic rock station, which features Bo and Jim as its morning show DJs.

On Wednesday morning, Bo and Jim started talking about Chaz Bono getting the boot from Dancing With the Stars. When they started talking, my immediate reaction was to begin bristling with indignation, because I expected to hear so-called “jokes” and crass comments about Chaz’s gender identity. But I was surprised. Instead, Bo and Jim referred to Chaz throughout as a male, using proper — male — pronouns the whole time.

The DJs did make fun of Chaz’s dancing. But considering that he was on a dancing show, his talent as a dancer — or lack thereof — was fair game.

But this morning was a different thing altogether.

This morning, Bo and Jim started talking about a 7-year-old girl, Bobby Montoya of Colorado, who was born biologically male but who identifies and, with the support of her mother, lives as a female. Bobby wanted to join Girl Scouts but was rejected because, as the Girl Scouts worker said, “he has boy parts.” Girl Scout officials higher up in the hierarchy quickly stepped in, said the first person misunderstood the policies, and that Bobby is more than welcome to join Girl Scouts. You can read the story here on Huffington Post.

Bo and Jim, in talking about the story, chose to refer to Bobby throughout as a boy and with male pronouns, which was bad enough. But what really set me off was when they said, basically, “You know this kid is going to get beat up all the time. Even the girls are going to beat him up.” They said it as a joke, an attempt to get laughs. And that is unacceptable.

—  admin

Today is National Spirit Day

Last year, GLAAD established National Spirit Day to draw attention to the problem of bullying. To reinforce the anti-bullying message, students wore purple to school today.

Craig Cassey

This evening, the local chapter of GLAAD is sponsoring Get Amped, a 5K walk/run on the Katy Trail to benefit the national organization. The event begins at 7 p.m. Registration begins at 5:30 p.m. in Reverchon Park.

Craig Cassey, a college student from Philadelphia who participates in track and was elected high school prom king last year, will be on hand for the event. He appeared on WFAA Channel 8 Daybreak this morning with Ron Corning. The video is below.

After the walk/run, the celebration at Reverchon Park moves to the Round-Up Saloon.

 

—  David Taffet

On 1-year anniversary of Asher Brown’s death, his parents call for a moment of silence tonight

Asher Brown
Asher Brown

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Asher Brown’s death.

Asher, a gay 13-year-old from the Houston area, took his own life in response to bullying at school.

Asher’s parents, Amy and David Truong, have recorded a video calling for a moment of silence at 8 p.m. today in honor of Asher and other victims of bullying, as well as their families.

Watch the Truongs’ video and read a statement from Equality Texas below.

—  John Wright

Rawlins Gilliland debuts new KERA radio column

When he’s not auctioning at Art Con, Gililand speaks his mind on new KERA segment. (from Facebook)

We may not enjoy those lengthy membership drives KERA has like every other week (OK, every other month?), but thankfully Rawlins Gilliland brings a certain Southern panache to the drive. With sassy wit and comic timing, Gilliland also makes them bearable. We caught up with him last October when he and artist Cathey Miller repped the LGBT contingent at the Pecha Kucha event.

Today, he returned to KERA, not for a drive, but for the first of his on-air columns. And for his debut, “A Verbal Mongoose Guide To Bullies And Bores,” he talks about coping with bullying as he grew up.

He posted this Monday on Facebook announcing the new show:

I return to the KERA Commentary airwaves Tuesday Sept. 20th, both on Morning Edition & later on All Things Considered with an oral essay, “A Verbal Mongoose Guide to Bullies & Bores” about my personal journey to self-protection & creative retaliation regarding being pushed to the brink of teenage suicide.

The issue of bullying in general is very prominent today & relative to gay issues, endemic. So my hope is that my seemingly light spin on this critical issue will make people laugh, yes, but think. Think.

Typically these pieces air shortly after 6:30 am & repeat shortly after 8:30 & then air on All Things Considered shortly after 4:30ish all on 90.1 fm KERA. Hope you can hear it on-air but if not the link to listen will be posted on my FB page after it airs.
Love you, Rawlins

You can either listen to it or read the transcript here.

—  Rich Lopez

Good Christian belle

Gay ally Kristin Chenoweth talks about her new country music CD (she adores Dolly!), queers … and the right way to be a Christian

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO KRISTIN | The performer has conquered stage, recording, TV … and uniting gay rights with her faith.

Kristin Chenoweth doesn’t get miffed very easily. But when she does, watch out. Last year, after Newsweek published a commentary on the inability of gay actors to play straight roles, she wrote an extensive letter to the magazine, calling the article “horrendously homophobic.”

But Chenoweth’s allegiance to the gay community goes back to growing up in Oklahoma — a place she returned to for her latest album, Some Lessons Learned, the first of four where the opera-trainer singer fully embraces her country roots.

We had lots to talk about when we caught up with Chenoweth, on a dinner break from shooting her upcoming series, Good Christian Belles. She discussed her history of dating gay men, her opinion on Michele Bachmann’s support of gay conversion clinics … and being a little bit wicked.

— Chris Azzopardi

………………………..

Dallas Voice: Your character’s name on Good Christian Belles is Cockburn — Carlene Cockburn. Chenoweth: I can’t wait for my family to hear that one. Are you kidding? I was like, “Wait a minute…!” But I just think the most important thing for me as an actress, because of the lines that come out of my mouth, is to just have to speak them and keep going, because they’re so funny and her name is so funny and the whole thing is just so great. I love it.

Does your character have anything in common with April Rhodes, who you play on Glee? Probably not on paper, but they’re both pretty outlandish people. Carlene, though, is the antithesis of April.

You grew up in Oklahoma, so country music is your roots. How is your new album a reflection of that? It’s so funny, because I get asked, “Why a country album now?” But that’s how it all began for me. Of course, why would anyone know that? It’s not something I’ve been talking about a lot, but it’s the music I grew up listening to. One of my biggest influences is Dolly Parton, and when you look at the history of songs in musical theater and in country, they’re both usually great storytellers.

I know just how lucky I am to do this kind of music. Getting to go to Nashville and sing this music that feels like home to me was a real gift, and one that I don’t take lightly.

The song “What Would Dolly Do?” reminds me a lot of Dolly herself. I co-wrote that. [Producer] Bob Ezrin asked, “Who’s had the biggest influence on you country music-wise?” I said, “Dolly, without question.” And he said, “How would she approach it? Let’s think: What would Dolly do?” I said, “Bob, why aren’t we writing that song?”

There’s something about her that I feel very attuned to. There’s only one Dolly. I’m not comparing myself, but I’m just saying her spirit and the way she looks at life is pretty similar to me. And the cover I did of hers [“Change”] is actually a very emotional thing and it reminded me — of course, how could I ever forget? — what an amazing songwriter she is. You know, I didn’t do a lot of covers. I did two covers, one of Carrie [Underwood] and one of Dolly’s, and I just love both of them. I love their music, I love their spirit — everything they stand for.

It makes total sense, because, to me, both you and Dolly epitomize happiness. Oh my god, thank you. That’s the biggest compliment you could give me.

So, being so happy… what pisses you off? Oh, gosh! I don’t really get mad that often. But I’m not going to lie: When I do, there’s a quiet that comes over me that is a little like whoa, and that happens when I don’t feel other people are prepared or doing their job or pulling their weight. I come from a family where my dad came from nothing and worked hard to get where he is, and he said, “Work hard, play hard, Kris,” and I guess that’s kind of been my motto in life. So when I see people squandering opportunities or having a sense of entitlement, that really makes me crazy. Because I don’t understand it. It’s not a world I get.

One thing that does make you upset is homophobic people. I don’t like that, you’re right.

Your letter in response to that Newsweek column said it all. Why was it important to address your feelings on that issue? To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for what was going to happen. I was on Broadway doing Promises, Promises, and I read the article and I actually thought it was pretty irresponsible. I’m not even talking about whether a person agrees with being gay or not, I’m talking about artistry and gay

actors trying to play straight. It just made me mad, because I thought, “Well, I’ve played a prostitute, does that mean I am one? No.” I just thought it was a little bit of a bullying thing, and I honestly prayed about it — no kidding, I prayed about it.

And by the way, I’m a big fan of the magazine, which is why I was so bummed. But I think that they felt bad and hopefully there’s been some discussion about it and some learning, because that’s what we’re here to do on this Earth, to learn our purpose. Well, one of my purposes in this life — since I’m a believer and a Christian — is to help people realize that not every Christian thinks that being gay is a sin.

To reinforce your point, you made out with your Promises, Promises co-star Sean Hayes at the Tonys last year. It might’ve been a little jibe. It might’ve been a little one! Ha!

What was it like to make out with a gay man? Was that your first time? Well, let’s face it, my high school boyfriend is gay, so I don’t think it’s my first time making out with gay men! I bet a lot of women don’t even know they’ve done it! And Sean Hayes is just a darn good kisser, what can I say?

Wait, so you dated a gay man in high school? Yeah, and I’m like, “Well, that’s why we were such a great couple!” He didn’t pleasure me in any way but he helped me pick out my prom dress!

Was he one of the first gay people you knew in Oklahoma? Yeah. I want to tell you something I know about myself: When I was in the second or third grade, I first heard the word “dyke,” and it was in reference to a girl in our school who was very, very tomboyish. I didn’t really understand what the word was, but I knew I didn’t like the way it was said. And for some reason I’ve always been drawn to the person that was alone, and I don’t mean to make me sound like I’m Mother Teresa, because I’m not. But I’ve always been drawn to people who felt left out or different, and maybe it’s because, I too, felt different and unique. People would not think this of me, because there’s this perception of me that, “Oh, life’s been perfect and things have come so easily.”

But let’s face it: My speaking voice is very interesting. Yes, I was a cheerleader but I also wanted to do all the plays, I was in renaissance choir, and, I too, felt a little bit like an outsider. I was always drawn to people who felt that way, too. And sure, some of them were gay and I never did understand — I guess the word is fear.

God made us all equal. He made me short, he made someone gay, he made someone tall — whatever it is, it’s not a sin; it’s how we’re made. And that’s the way I feel about it. It flies in the face of a lot of what Christians believe, but as I’m finding out there’s a lot of Christian people who think the same as me. So that’s my deal, and I think we should not be careful of the unknown but rather accepting and loving of it.

As someone who’s Christian and supports the gay community, how do you feel about the pray-away-the-gay program that Michele Bachmann supports? [Long pause] You know what, you can have your opinion. One of the great things about being in this country is we get to freely say what we believe. I just don’t happen to agree with that. Though I like the “pray” part!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Is a Republican Texas lawmaker about to host a fundraiser for the VIP of the gay Pride parade?

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie

Dallas’ LGBT Pride parade, the Alan Ross Freedom Parade, is Sept. 18. The parade’s “special VIP Guest” is English rugby star Ben Cohen, whose StandUp Foundation works to raise awareness of the long-term damaging effects of bullying. Cohen, who is straight, was inspired to create the foundation after hearing from LGBT friends about the difficulties they experienced. “I am passionate about standing up against bullying and homophobia in sports,” says Cohen, “and feel compelled to take action. It is time we stand up for what is right and support people who are being harmed.”

In honor of Cohen the week leading up to the parade, Sept. 12-16, has been declared “Stand Up Against Bullying Week” in Dallas. According to this Facebook event the week will culminate in a fundraiser for the StandUp Foundation on Friday night at the Highland Park home of Jim Pitts.

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee and a 20-year Republican member of the House … which begs the question of whether the Jim Pitts who is hosting Cohen’s event is the same Jim Pitts who supported efforts this last session by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, to ban LGBT resource centers from Texas college campuses.

A search of the Dallas County Central Appraisal District’s website indicates that the address given for the fundraiser is owned by Pitts 2007 Properties LTD, which is a subsidiary of Pitts Property Management LLC, which is owned by none other than Jim R. Pitts, the honorable representative from House District 10.

So it seems that Rep. Pitts is, indeed, hosting the event: for which I give him kudos. The StandUp Foundation does good work and Ben Cohen is, by all accounts, a fierce advocate for the LGBT community. Hosting the event is in keeping with Pitts’ voting record this last session, when he voted for both HB 1942 (the “super” anti-bullying bill) and HB 1386 (the teen suicide prevention bill).

I would ask, however, that Rep. Pitts consider his votes on other issues and how they affect bullying in Texas schools. It’s not enough to say that LGBT kids shouldn’t be bullied or harassed if your actions tell their tormentors that LGBT kids aren’t as deserving of respect or resources as other people. There is a direct line running through Christian’s statements on the House floor calling LGBT people disgusting and the middle school student who punches an effeminate child for being a “fag.” When Pitts fails to stand up to the former he enables the later. This inconsistency, this willful refusal to see the systemic discrimination faced by LGBT adults as the license that allows the torture of LGBT children, is, in ways both figurative and literal, killing our children — and it has to end.

Instant Tea has left a message with Pitts’ legislative office seeking to confirm that he plans to host a fundraiser for Cohen’s foundation. We’ll let you know what we find out.

—  admin

EXCLUSIVE: Dallas school board to consider protections for transgender students, employees

Andy Moreno, a transgender girl, was denied an opportunity to run for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School last year.

The Dallas school board is set to consider a series of policy changes designed to protect transgender students and employees against discrimination and harassment — and to protect LGBT students against potential bullying by teachers.

Among other things, the proposed changes could prevent another controversy like the one that arose last year — when a transgender girl was denied an opportunity to run for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School.

DISD’s board of trustees is scheduled to go over the proposed changes during its briefing session this Thursday, which means they could come up for a final vote next month, according to district spokesman Jon Dahlander.

Rafael McDonnell, a spokesman for Resource Center Dallas, said representatives from his organization have worked with DISD officials over the last several months to craft the proposed policy changes, which grew out of the board’s approval last year of an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy.

Many of the new changes would essentially transfer language from the anti-bullying policy into existing policies related to harassment and discrimination, some of which previously included sexual orientation but not gender identity and expression.

“The original policies did not protect the entire community,” McDonnell said. “We’ve been fortunate here at the Center to advocate for more inclusive policies, first with DART and earlier this year with Dallas County, and now with DISD. All of the community should be protected.”

—  John Wright

What do supporters of ‘The Response’ have to say about LGBTs? Here are a few examples

Rick Perry

As the Dallas Voice cover story, “Responding to ‘The Response,” points out, there are a lot of people around the state — and around the country — who are angry over Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to partner with The American Family Association to present his day of prayer and fasting Saturday at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The list of people supporting and endorsing the event — like Pastor John Hagee — also has some people upset.

But what is it about the American Family Association and people like Hagee that has people so angry? As the Southern Poverty Law Center points out, it’s not because they believe homosexuality is a sin. It’s because of the hateful, discriminatory and outright false things they say to stir up fear and anger against LGBT people, Jews, Muslims, Catholics — in short, against anybody who isn’t just like them.

What kind of things? Well, here are a few examples.

This is an actual trailer for a video called They’re Coming To Your Town. The video, produced by the American Family Association, warns that gays and lesbians are trying to take over city governments across the country, using Eureka Springs, Ark., as an example.

Here’s one where AFA’s Buddy Smith reports to Bryan Fischer, AFA’s director of issues analysis, on a gay Pride parade in which Home Depot participated and why Home Depot is wrong to promote diversity. In this clip, Smith says that “homosexuals are in Satan’s grasp.”

Here’s Fischer again, explaining how the Nazis — including Hitler — were all gay and how Hitler chose to surround himself with gay soldiers because the straight soldiers were not “savage and brutal and vicious enough” to carry out Hitler’s orders, whereas the gay Brown Shirt soldiers were happy to do so:

In this one Fischer explains that tribal reservations are “mired” in poverty and alcoholism today because the Native American won’t convert to Christianity.

One more quick one from Fischer. In this clip, taped in the aftermath of the shooting at Fort Hood, he says Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in the U.S. military and that they probably shouldn’t even be allowed to immigrate to the U.S. at all.

Here’s one with Pastor John Hagee explaining that the Anti-Christ is coming and that he is partially Jewish (“as was Adolph Hitler”??) and he is gay AND he is fierce! Oh yeah, and the Anti-Christ will come from Germany.

Pastor Hagee, by the way, has also called the Catholic Church “a great whore” that “thirsts for the blood of the Jews.” And after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Hagee said in 2006 it was because New Orleans was a sinful place that was planning a gay parade (the annual Southern Decadence party over Labor Day Weekend) and, basically, that the hurricane was God’s punishment on the city. He later recanted.

We tried to find other videotapes of Hagee making these stories, but many of the videos containing some of his more controversial comments have been removed due to claims of “copyright infringement” according to notices posted on websites where the videos previously were displayed.

Want more evidence? Go to YouTube and do a search for American Family Association, specifically Bryan Fischer. Pastor Hagee might have had second thoughts about some of his more vitriolic statements and removed those videos, but Fischer’s videos are there for everyone to see.

Of course, Hagee, Fischer and the Wildmons aren’t the only ones on the list of those endorsing “The Response.” Go here to read an earlier Dallas Voice post that includes videos of “Response”  supporter Mike Bickle who claims that Oprah Winfrey is a harbinger of the Anti-Christ, and of “Response” supporter C. Peter Wagner who teaches that Japan is cursed because the emperor of Japan had sex with a demon.

Then there’s David Barton, president and founder of “WallBuilders,” who said opposes anti-bullying legislation, claiming that laws and policies to prevent bullying actually indoctrinate children into homosexuality. And he uses info from the American College of Pediatricians — a right-wing group that broke away from the American Academy of Pediatricians because the AAP supports gay and lesbian parents  — to back up his claims. Read about that here at RightWingWatch.org.

—  admin

DOE says school district was negligent in responding to bullying against Seth Walsh

Seth Walsh

The U.S. Department of Education today issued a ruling declaring that the Tehachapi School District in California was negligent in not adequately intervening in the harassment and bullying that 13-year-old Seth Walsh faced at school in the years leading up to Walsh’s suicide last fall.

Walsh’s suicide was one of several tied to anti-LGBT bullying that happened last fall and focused national attention on the issue, leading to the creation of the It Gets Better Project.

In its ruling, the DOE noted that Walsh had subjected to “persistent, pervasive and often severe sex-based harassment,” and that the school district had been notified of the bullying but had failed to do anything to stop it. The ruling notes that while the Tehachapi school district’s sexual harassment policy and regulations are in line with federal law, the district — in the case of Seth Walsh — failed to follow its own policies and procedures.

According to the accompanying resolution agreement, the district will be required to revise its policies, hire new personnel to oversee harassment intervention, implement trainings for faculty and staff about both observing and intervening in harassment, and then report on the success of intervention strategies.

To read the DOE’s complete letter detailing its ruling in the case, go here.

To read the complete resolution agreement, go here.

—  admin