Former Dallasite helps form Brownsville PFLAG chapter

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Brownsville became the 17th city in Texas with a Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays chapter on Monday, Jan. 3 when about 35 people attended the new group’s first meeting.

Brownsville City Commissioner Melissa Zamora was among those attending. She said she was there as an ally, invited by the group’s president, Yolanda Speece.

“The communication was amazing. There was lots of talk about our culture and the stigma gays and lesbians face,” Zamora said. “There was a high school girl who was there to support her two lesbian mothers. A mom was there to support her transgender child.”

She said the meeting was well organized, providing good reciprocal support, and was attended by people from around the county — and even from South Padre Island.

Zamora said she recently became more aware of LGBT issues when she read a story by a high school student describing his struggle.

“This is a very Hispanic community,” Zamora said, “and it’s something you don’t talk about in the Hispanic community.”

Zamora said she hopes to find a co-sponsor to put an item on the city agenda introducing the group to the community.

Speece said she decided to found the group because she always had gay friends. She found that along the border and the coast, the closest groups were in El Paso and Corpus Christi and she knew there was a need locally.

“I would hear people say things,” Speece said. “I’d take it in and I didn’t know how to respond. But there’s something wrong with using God to justify their hate.”

Speece said that over the past two years there have been four murders of gay men in Cameron County. One, Barry Horn, was executive director of the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art.

The trial of the 19-year-old accused of Horn’s murder is set to begin in February. And Speece said she is sure defense attorneys are planning a “blame the victim” strategy.

“This needs to stop, Speece said. “We need to start educating the community, so I decided it’s time.”

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes, who helped the Dallas and Fort Worth chapters incorporate in the early 1990s, is involved in the new group’s formation. He said he was concerned that clashing personalities could kill the effort to organize and remembered similar concerns when P-FLAG formed in Dallas.

Wightman-Cervantes credited Dan and Pat Stone, two of the organizers of the Dallas group, with focusing on communication between parents with gay and lesbian children and a variety of allies when the group started.

Speece was also concerned about that, she said, and was very nervous as she began the meeting. But as people began talking to each other, she knew the new group was already working well. They were all there for one reason.

“Parents are supposed to protect their children,” she said.

P-FLAG Brownsville meets the first Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. All Souls UU Church, 124 Paredes Line Road, Brownsville. 956-433-3524.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Attacks on gays decried in northern Ky. city

Associated Press

COVINGTON, Ky. — Police have boosted patrols in a bar district in this northern Kentucky city following attacks that appeared to target gays.

Two people suffered slash wounds and two others had minor injuries in an Aug. 14 knife attack at a gas station in which anti-gay epithets were yelled at the victims, police said.

Police said they will start tracking incidents of ethnic and anti-gay slurs and hate speech, The Kentucky Enquirer reported. Also, a group of residents has formed “Zero Tolerance for Hate Crimes in Covington” and will host an event at six bars in MainStrasse on Saturday, Aug. 28 to raise money for an anti-hate campaign.

“We have had three incidents in the last several months and it has got to stop now,” said Mayor Denny Bowman.

Recent crimes spurred the Covington City Commission and more than 80 people to gather Tuesday, Aug. 24 at city hall to denounce hate crimes and reaffirm support for the human rights ordinance passed in 2003. The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

City Commissioner Shawn Masters said he moved to Covington partly because of its diversity and is proud that the city has a human rights ordinance.

“I’m not proud of the fact we are here because of a certain incident that happened recently, but I think it is a good opportunity to reaffirm where this city stands,” Masters said.

Police Chief Lee Russo said two additional officers recently were assigned to the MainStrasse beat during peak hours. Also, the two patrol officers who roam throughout the city are focusing on MainStrasse, Russo said.

The police also want people to report slurs and hate speech to police so it can be tracked, Russo said.

—  John Wright