Drawing Dallas • 12.16.11

From coffeehouse to gay bar, Taylor Hartman has a lust for new experiences

SketchesMARK STOKES  | Illustrator

Name and age: Taylor Hartman, 18

Spotted at: Buli Cafe

Occupation: Barista at Buli Café, Dancer at BJ’s NXS!

Wanderlust: This sweet, blonde Gemini was born in Tampa, Fla., but has moved around his whole life. Taylor’s family has an inherent restless spirit, having settled in Florida, Texas and Missouri. A hands-on guy, Taylor knows how to rope cattle and work as a ranch hand — he is good with animals and can even build fences. He came to Texas with his family but moved to Dallas on his own to begin a new life in the big city.
Taylor say his parents always knew he was gay, so coming out was no big deal. He is a fast learner, and has become an experienced dancer in a few short months. He plans to become a professional dancer or a business owner. He has also inherited his family’s wanderlust and has plans to travel to Paris and then see where he can go from there. Until then, he plans to spend Christmas in the gayboorhood with his “second family.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

The L world

PRIDE OF LESBIANS | Debbie Forth, left, co-created the new web show ‘Lez Be Proud,’ depicting the everyday lives of her and fellow cast members, left to right, Dawn, Lauren and Kristi. The show debuts Friday.

The women of the new web series ‘Lez Be Proud’ put real life on display

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Lately, reality TV is all about the ladies. The drama of a real housewife is addictive to watch. Bridezillas make for the most bizarre entertainment. Even the lives of policewomen are on display.

Lesbians have entered the fray with The Real L Word, but one show expects to take the catty drama away to portray the true life of everyday Texas lesbians.

“Most GLBT television exposure and media coverage do not portray us or even come close to our family dynamic,” says Debbie Forth, creator of the web series Lez Be Proud. “We also know that our lives do not reflect the norm that is promoted in the media. Our lives include homework, soccer practice and work. I tossed this idea around in my head for some time.”

Instead of the sensationalism portrayed by network shows, Lez Be Proud hopes instead to educate and bring awareness to issues faced not just by lesbians but the entire LGBT community, and to highlight local charities and life in Texas.

Lez Be Proud show follows business owner Forth and three other women: Dawn, a communications and telecom specialist, and Forth’s partner; and another couple, Kristi, a vice president of a business management firm; and Lauren, a senior loan officer in a bank. One of the emphases is on Dawn and Forth’s family unit: With two children and a baby daddy in the mix, they truly depict a modern family.

“People we meet are always intrigued by our relationship and the dynamic we share as a family,” Forth says. “Meanwhile, the idea of same-sex marriage and the opposition to our lifestyle was constantly in the media.  This negative press left me questioning, ‘Where’s my voice?  Who would understand my family and view?’  I liked the idea of promoting our positive alternative family to give others in the community hope for their families.”

Lauren and Kristi have unique stories of their own. Kristi comes from a Southern Baptist background and was a youth minister; Lauren finds the importance of equality for all people through her personal trek.

“I came to America with my family to escape communism in Vietnam in order to live in a free country,” she says. “Many Americans take their freedom for granted while others still try to take away the freedoms of those who are different.  I hope my story makes people more aware of the prejudice and persecution that homosexuals experience in pursuit of the rights and respect we deserve.”

Dawn’s military background kept her in the closet for much of her adult life. She plans to relate that experience as well for people who struggled during their service — and are perhaps still struggling.

“I was always feeling I had to keep my personal and professional lives segregated. I’m ready to live a life that allows me to be totally true to my family and myself.  I hope to share the inner sanctuary of my home with others so that they can see that it is possible to be out, proud and professional,” she says.

The show may sound like something heavy PBS might run, taking itself very seriously, but the teaser trailer on the website has polish and a light tone. It hints at the packaging of those previously mentioned network shows but with an added wholesomeness. Being that they do have hopes for a network pick up, it would seem only minor adjustments would needed to be made to graduate up to TV.

This first season is expected to consist of a minimum of eight episodes running about 20 minutes each, with plans to expand as it grows in sponsorships. The show debuts May 27 on LezBeProud.com. Future episodes will be archived on the site and can also be seen on OneMoreLesbian.com.

What it definitely is not, is the Real L Word — even if this is a reality show about lesbians and their daily lives. Kristi sees humor in the comparison, but works to dissolve the idea that these women have lives centered solely around sex — or rather, reality TV sex lives.

“Our show is more about educating people and having them not see us as second-class citizens,” Kristi says. “We have families, we’re CEOs, we have houses. We represent all levels of society and for people to know us as human beings instead of lesbian. That’s what’s gonna change the world. That’s our goal.”

The cast talks with good energy about the show, but interestingly has already received flak. There have been complaints that they are “too pretty to be lesbians.” Three of the four are also Anglo, leading to criticism the show doesn’t represent the diversity of the community. But, they defend, it is still a work in progress.

“We’re only here to start this not finish it,” Kristi says. “We want to see more culture and we love the butch community. This show is for all shapes sizes colors and cultures. Too pretty to be lesbians? Really?”

If their goal is network, there are some templates that most shows have to have. Of the Lez Be Proud cast, one has to be the bitch of the show.

“Ha! We’re told if a network picks us up that we need to have some strong personalities,” Kristi laughs. “We don’t have a bitch character, but if you ask any of us on a day we might be arguing, we’ll certainly throw them under the bus.”


Show me the money: Bravo’s grab for glamour glory

Platinum Hit premieres May 30 at 10 p.m.; Million Dollar Decorators premieres May 31 at 10 p.m., both on Bravo.

In order to get a show on Bravo, it doesn’t hurt to have one of three words in your title: “Top” (as in Top Chef and its spinoffs), “Housewives” (as in one of the seven iterations of that franchise — “real” is also acceptable) and now, it seems, “Million.” From Million Dollar Listing to Millionaire Matchmaker, Bravo seems to be selling glamour: hence, the reality show Million Dollar Decorators debuts the same week as Platinum Hit (platinum, million — same diff).  Neither reality series is as compelling as the network’s biggest hits.

Platinum at least has the somewhat tarnished pedigree of host Kara DioGuardi. You may call a cable show slumming for the former American Idol judge, but based on this Idol season, I say she was thrown off a sinking ship. Not that there’s much to keep this one afloat. A dozen budding songwriters compete to compose the next pop hit, but listening to writers (most without instruments or strong voices) croak through their R&B isn’t the best way to showcase talent (though several shine). And DioGuardi, paired with host Jewel, doesn’t show any better judgment than she did on Idol. There are some cute contestants (none clearly gay based on the premiere), but we have enough pretty-boys in the music biz. We need more substance than Platinum Hit manages. Yeah, cuz substance is what reality TV does best.

The uber-gay non-competition Decorators trots out familiar tropes — so familiar as to be ho-hum. This type of show rises and falls on the personalities of the cast NUP_142281_1129members, above; sadly, “bitchy drama queen” has become a description meant to apply to most people in every reality show — which basically means none of these stand out (well, maybe former boy model Ross). Pretentious, egotistical even self-deluded claims to influence (“Sometimes I think my job is more important than the president,” one says; “That goes without saying,” agrees his friend) define most of the men and women here, even as they deal with artificial crises (“Sharon Osborne needs it three weeks early!? I guess I’ll have to make my magic again!!!”). Been there, decorated that.

— Arnold Wayne Jones


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dunn wants to be a voice for LGBT Amarillo

CHURCH TIES | Amarillo mayoral candidate Sandra Dunn is a member of the board at Metropolitan Community Church of Amarillo. (James Bright/Dallas Voice)

Transgender mayoral candidate says anti-gay pastor’s campaign prompted friends to encourage her to run, but she is running to make the city better for everyone

JAMES BRIGHT  |  Contributing Writer

The opportunity to run for public office appeals to people from all walks of life. Sometimes these races attract more candidates than anyone would expect.

One such election is the mayoral race in Amarillo. There are 11 candidates registered for the May election, and transgender graduate student Sandra Dunn is hoping to motivate the LGBT community of Amarillo to put her ahead of the rest.

Although Dunn hopes she will have the opportunity to help the citizens of Amarillo, it was a few of her friends who got her to run for the office. She said they approached her after outspoken anti-gay pastor David Grisham filed to run in the election.

But Dunn’s reasons for pursing the office have nothing to do with Grisham.

“It can’t be about David Grisham,” she said. “It’s time to step forward into the light, wake everyone up, shake some cages, let people know that there are transgenders here and they can do the job.”

Dunn said the financial sector is where she hopes to make most of her changes if elected mayor.

“There’s a lot of money being spent on ideas that could be spent on infrastructure,” she said.

Safety is another area Dunn hopes to secure if elected. She said there are arrow signs throughout the city, some of which require maintenance and some of which are dangerous to drivers.

“Some of these signs are blocking stop signs,” she said.

Although Dunn only recently expressed interest in holding office, she has been involved in Amarillo politics for some time as a business owner. A retired Army reservist, holding the rank of Sgt. 1st Class, Dunn opened a military surplus store that took up about a city block. Unfortunately tragedy struck when Dunn’s business partner was beaten to death on July 29, which led to the closure of the store.

“We were building toward having a business we could run when we retired,” she said.

Dunn relied on her partner, and due to his death could not afford to keep the store open. The ripples of this tragedy have reached so far as to affect Dunn’s filing for the election.

Although she planned to transition in both name and gender early in the winter of 2010, the death of her partner made it impossible to go through with those plans. Due to the fact that she was unable to obtain a legal name change prior to the filing date of the election, Dunn was forced to register as F.E. (SandraDunn) Dunaway, using her birth name on the ballot and her name of choice as a nickname.

Dunn said her name came from an eclectic mix of influences. Dunn came from a family member for whom she has great respect, but Sandra came from a more unorthodox place.

“When I was younger I knew a bunch of girls named Sandra and they were always fun, so I went with that,” she said.

Later, Dunn and a few of her friends got together and decided she needed a middle name. After a short brainstorm, they settled on Faye — and Sandra Faye Dunn was officially born.

Despite the tragedy that befell Dunn over the past year, she has managed to maintain a stellar relationship with her family. She was married to the same woman for 16 years and is close with her kids, and Dunn said her daughter has thoroughly enjoyed her run for office.

“She has had the opportunity to do ‘Trans 101’ many times,” she said.

Although Dunn’s 25-year-old son lives in a different city, she said he is just as supportive when it comes to her campaign.

“He recognizes it’s my life and he stands beside me,” she said.

If Dunn is elected, she said the LGBT community would know they have voice that’s coming from them. She said there is still a lot of discrimination and she would like to work to combat how differences are handled in the city of Amarillo.

“You experience this mostly when applying for a job,” she said. “It’s almost like your IQ has dropped.”

Dunn said she is not trying to change the attitude of citizens of Amarillo, but will work to find a peaceful solution to their differences.

“Everyone is entitled to their beliefs,” she said. “What I’m after is to get people to open up their minds and see what these people are about. Be upfront with your beliefs, but don’t be hateful.”

Dunn said Grisham’s campaign and his group Repent Amarillo run off negative imagery and messaging. Although she has had only one encounter with him and has not personally heard him disparage her, Dunn said Grisham has poured out his opinions on his Facebook page.

“He spews a lot of hate and is very disrespectful,” she said.

Grisham isn’t alone with as far as being affiliated with a church. Dunn serves on the board of the Metropolitan Community Church of Amarillo as the secretary. She said she attends 98 percent of the church functions and enjoys the diversity in the congregation. “We have straight people who come here too,” she said.

Regardless of what happens in May, it is really a win-win situation for Dunn who will complete her masters degree in psychology online from the University of the Rockies in Colorado. She said if she doesn’t win she will most likely not run again in two years, but instead spend her time counseling transgender people like herself.

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

—  John Wright