Navigating our Top 10 News Stories of 2010

In this week’s Dallas Voice, which will be available on newsstands by Friday, we take a look at our Top 10 LGBT News Stories of 2010. Because the list was designed for the print edition, it may seem a little difficult to navigate here, so we thought we’d go ahead and provide this quick reference. As always, you can also download the print edition as a PDF by clicking here.

1. Teen suicides put spotlight on bullying

2. DADT repeal capped 17-year fight

3. Dallas Dems narrowly survived GOP tidal wave

4. As Prop 8, DOMA cases proceeded, Texas made its own marriage news

5. Bus driver’s plight led to trans protections at DART

6. Controversy brewed success for ‘TOTWK’

7. Perry, Dewhurst were tied to cancellation of gay-themed play at Tarleton

8. FW changes continued in wake of Rainbow Lounge

9. Dallasites helped fuel GetEQUAL

10. Rare bathhouse raid sparked controversy

—  John Wright

Top 10: Bus driver’s plight led to trans protections at DART

No. 5:

View all of the Top 10

Ever since Democrats took over the Dallas County courthouse in 2006, judges here have been routinely granting gender-marker changes — court orders that allow transgender people to obtain driver’s licenses and other forms of ID that match their appearance.

Needless to say, this has been a critical development for the transgender community, but as it turns out, even with Democrats in power, gender-marker changes don’t always go smoothly.

In one controversial case uncovered by Dallas Voice in February, an employer tried to intervene in family court to challenge an employee’s gender-marker change, prompting a Democratic judge who was considered a strong LGBT ally to overturn her decision to grant it.

The employer was Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the judge was Lynn Cherry, and this newspaper’s report about the case prompted an outcry from LGBT advocates.

After all, if DART was willing to intervene in family court to challenge an employee’s gender-marker change, would the agency do the same if it didn’t agree with a divorce settlement or a child custody arrangement?

DART offered no good explanation as to why it had sought to intervene in the case, leaving the LGBT community to believe the decision was fueled by bigotry and transphobia. And LGBT advocates demanded that the agency redeem itself by adding gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy.

The employee in the case, a longtime DART bus driver who asked not to be identified, said the agency’s decision to challenge her gender-marker change was the culmination of years of discrimination and harassment on the part of the agency.

DART had added sexual orientation but not gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy in 1995.

After meetings between representatives from DART and Resource Center Dallas, the proposal to add gender identity appeared to be on a fast track for approval when it unanimously cleared a committee in April.

But suddenly in May, despite the fact that the amendment had been under review for months, the agency’s Board of Directors voted to table it so they could seek more information about the definition of gender identity.

Then, following a 30-minute, possibly illegal closed-door session in mid-June, the board hastily approved new language that effectively gutted the proposal.

The new language said the agency wouldn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, “except to the extent permitted by federal and/or Texas law.”

Because there are no federal or state protections for LGBT workers, legal experts said the new language would’ve not only undermined the trans protections, but also rescinded DART’s sexual orientation protections from 15 years ago.

The LGBT community was outraged anew and even more galvanized than ever over the issue.

Claude Williams, an LGBT ally on the DART board, accused the agency’s attorneys of “duping” board members into supporting the new language. Incidentally, it was these same attorneys who’d sought to challenge the employee’s gender marker change.

Finally, on June 22, Williams and other allies on the DART board put forth a motion to remove the language that would’ve gutted the proposal, and to approve it as previously written — with both gay and transgender protections in tact.

Faced with immense pressure from the LGBT community, the board unanimously approved the motion — and received a standing ovation from what was the largest LGBT audience to attend a government meeting in North Texas since Fort Worth City Council meetings in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid.

— John Wright

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Does Asher Brown’s suicide indicate a pattern of ignoring anti-gay bullying in Houston district?

Asher Brown

Asher Brown’s suicide marks the second time in less than a year that officials in Houston’s Cypress-Fairbanks school district have been accused of failing to respond to complaints of anti-gay bullying until it was too late.

Brown, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Cy-Fair ISD’s Hamilton Middle School, took his own life last Thursday, the same day he had come out to his stepfather as gay:

The 13-year-old’s parents said they had complained about the bullying to Hamilton Middle School officials during the past 18 months, but claimed their concerns fell on deaf ears.

David and Amy Truong said they made several visits to the school to complain about the harassment, and Amy Truong said she made numerous phone calls to the school that were never returned.

Last November, a freshman at Cy-Fair ISD’s Langham Creek High School was beaten with a metal pipe in what he said was an anti-gay attack. Jayron Martin, 16, said at the time that he had begged two principals and his bus driver to intervene before the attack, but they failed to do so.

Hours before the incident, Martin said a friend told him a group was planning to attack him. The teen said he talked with two administrators about his concerns. The administrators took a written statement from him, said Martin.

“I sat down in the cafeteria and I started writing the letter and so then I handed it to them and they said, ‘We are going to call y’all down and stuff like that,’” he said.

Martin said he was never called to the office, and the administrator didn’t call his mother.

Equality Texas, the statewide gay rights group, issued an action alert Tuesday calling on people to contact their legislators and urge them to pass safe schools legislation that protects LGBTQ youth. In particular, Equality Texas targeted members whose state representatives’ districts include Cy Fair ISD: HD 126, Patricia Harless; HD 130, Allen Fletcher; HD 132, Bill Callegari; HD 133, Kristi Thibaut; HD 135, Gary Elkins; and HD 138, Dwayne Bohac.

Also, Change.org has launched a petition addressed to Cy-Fair Superintendent David Anthony, spokeswoman Kelli Durham and the district as a whole. But if you’d like to give them a call instead of signing the petition, here’s a full list of district staff phone numbers.

UPDATE: Below is a follow-up story that aired Tuesday about Asher’s suicide and the district’s response:

—  John Wright