Council member Jones to be first cisgender reader at Houston Day of Remembrance

Jolanda Jones

Jolanda Jones

Houston City Council member Jolanda Jones is scheduled to be the first cisgender reader in the history of Houston’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, one the events sponsors, says that Jones was originally approached to be a speaker at the event because of her advocacy for trans children, but that she requested to read instead.

“I begged to read, I begged them,” corrects Jones, “they asked me if I wanted to speak and I begged them to read instead because it’s profound and it touches you. I think it’s better to read because it’s important.”
Jones said she was particularly moved at last year’s Day of Remembrance by the story of 17 month old Roy A. Jones who was beaten to death by his babysitter for “acting like a girl.” “I was so touched when they read about the baby that was killed,” said Jones, “the readers tell the story.”

Jones led efforts this year to encourage local homeless youth provider Covenant House to adopt a nondiscrimination policy that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. She used her position on City Council to threaten to cut Covenant House’s funding unless they addressed accusations of discrimination. That threat persuaded the organization to overhaul their policies and begin regular meetings with community leaders to discuss their progress in serving LGBT youth.
The Houston Transgender Day of Remembrance is Saturday, November 19, from 7-9:30 pm at Farish Hall on the University of Houston Campus.

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Laster becomes first out gay man on Houston City Council

Mike Laster

Mike Laster

With 57% of precincts reporting Mike Laster is the presumptive victor in the Houston District J City Council race. Laster, an out gay candidate endorsed by the Victory Fund and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, has a commanding lead with 67% of the vote. His nearest opponent Criselda Romero trails with 22%.

Laster is the first out gay man to be elected to the Houston City Council.

From the Victory Fund website:

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin’s Plan II Honors Program, Mike earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Houston Law Center. While at the Law Center, Mike distinguished himself as the National Vice Chair of the American Bar Association Law Student Division.

Today Mike is an attorney specializing in real estate with the firm of Williams, Birnberg & Andersen, L.L.P. in Houston, where he has practiced for the past thirteen years. From 1989 to 1995, Mike served as a Senior Assistant City Attorney in the Real Estate Division of the City Attorney’s Office, where he handled many aspects of a general real estate and development practice for the city.

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East coast victories for LGBT candidates

While we’re waiting here in Houston for the results of today’s municipal elections the Victory Fund reports of victories for LGBT candidates on the East coast where polls closed an hour earlier than Texas.

State Del. Adam Ebbin (D-District 30) was elected to Virginia’s state Senate today, making him the Commonwealth’s first openly gay senator.

“I am honored by the trust the voters have showed in me,”  Ebbin said in a statement. “During the campaign, I listened to the voters’ concerns and will work on behalf of the values we all share: improving our public schools, expanding our transit system and cleaning up Virginia’s environment. I will make sure their voices are heard…”

“Alex Morse, a 22-year-old graduate of Brown University, has just been elected mayor of Holyoke, Mass., a city of nearly 40,000 residents near Springfield…”

“Zach Adamson has won his race for city council in Indianapolis, giving the city its first openly LGBT city council member.”

“An incumbent on the Largo, Fla., City Commission who attacked her openly gay opponent over his sexual orientation has lost her reelection bid to him tonight. Michael Smith defeated Mary Gray Black, who has a history of anti-gay and anti-trans activism on the commission.”

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What’s Shakin’ – Election Day

1. It’s election day in Houston! The Mayor, Comptroller, City Council and three Houston Independent School Board Trustee seats are up for grabs. Decisions made today will affect policy-making decisions on LGBT issues for the next two years so visit HarrisVotes.org and find out where to go to cast your ballot. Polls open at 7 am on Tuesday and close at 7 pm sharp.

2. After you vote, join Out and Equal Houston for their Lunch and Learn series today at 11:15 am the Crowne Plaza Hotel (downtown). Susan Parker, Executive Recruiter and Diversity Consultant , will deliver a presentation how professionals can Brand themselves for success. Out and Equal Houston exists to encourage and assist Houston-area businesses to foster and maintain GLBT-inclusive work environments. More information on the Lunch and Learn series is available at www.outandequal.org/houston.

3. The New York Times reports that 48% of students in a recent study reported being harassed. Not surprisingly, the study found that, for boys, accusations of being Gay hit hardest.

“In the survey, students were asked to identify what had the worst effect on them. For boys, it was being called gay — ‘Everyone was saying I was gay, and I felt the need to have to run away and hide,’ a ninth-grader said. For girls, the leading problem was having someone make ‘unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures to or about you.’”

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Banks Appointed to Citizen Police Oversight Board

Kris Banks

Kris Banks

On Wednesday the Houston City Council confirmed Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment of Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Kris Banks to the Independent Police Oversight Board.  The Oversight Board provides a way for Houstonians to have input into allegations against police officers involving use of excessive force, discharge of firearms, serious bodily injury or death or mistreatment of citizens.  The Board also makes recommendations on recruitment, training and evaluation of police officers; and considers community concerns regarding the Department.  Houstini talked with Banks about his new role:

[Houstini] Why have you agreed to serve on the Oversight Board?

[Banks] I believe the Oversight Board performs an important and vital function that benefits all involved. Police officers are granted extraordinary powers over their fellow Houstonians. They can, under legally sufficient circumstances, detain people against their will, walk into other people’s homes without their permission, and even use physical force to make people comply. We grant police officers these powers because they are necessary for the officers to do their jobs. However, with these great powers come great responsibility, and the Oversight Board exists as a check on those powers, thereby protecting the public against the very rare officer who uses her or his powers irresponsibility or excessively. It also benefits the police department. With the assurance that the Board is providing oversight, members of the public can be more confident of the police department, and form a better working relationship with officers.

[Houstini] What do LGBT Houstonians who have concerns about police behavior need to know about the mission of the Oversight Board?

[Banks] Historically, the LGBT community has had concerns about very broad and obvious police harassment, like bar raids. Incidents like these still occur (see Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth), but they tend to not be the focus of issues that exists between the LGBT community and the police department. Concerns between the community and the police department now tend to be over specific incidents that sometimes come to light and sometimes do not. That being said, the IPOB will review internal police investigations for complaints of excessive force, any discharge of a firearm, any time there is a death or serious injury, or any matter the police chief refers to us. We make recommendations, and the chief has ultimate discretion. What I want to highlight here is that a complaint has to be made for the IPOB to have any role. Complaints have to be sworn, either by the complainant, or, if the complaint is anonymous, by the person taking the complaint.

LGBT Houstonians should also know that I take my role as a community representative very seriously. I will not only take my perspective as an LGBT Houstonian to the police department, I will also take the knowledge I gain back of police procedure back to the community. For instance, I mentioned anonymous complaints above. In the training I have received so far, I learned that organizations can be deputized to take anonymous complaints (LULAC and the NAACP are both deputized). Anonymous complaints are, unfortunately, a big concern for our community. Whether because our congress has failed to pass job protections, family concerns, or any other personal reason, there are still many, many people in the closet. But being in the closet does not mean that a person is not protected. I will learn more about the deputizing community groups and take that back to organizations in our community like the Caucus, Community Center and Transgender Foundation so they can begin that process (as a caveat, I do not have a full list of deputized organizations and any of these organizations may already be deputized).

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Griggs knocks off Neumann in District 3

With 52 of 56 precincts reporting, challenger Scott Griggs leads incumbent Dave Neumann in the District 3 Dallas City Council race.

Griggs, endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, appears well on his way to pulling off a rare upset of an incumbent.

With only four precincts left to be counted, Griggs has 57 percent of the vote to Neumann’s 43 percent. This one’s over.

—  John Wright

Update: Hightower apparently headed for runoff in Arlington

With 80 percent of the vote counted, gay candidate Chris Hightower appears to be headed into a runoff for the District 5 seat on the Arlington City Council with incumbent Lana Wolff.

Although only 112 votes separate the two, Hightower is leading by 7 percentage points.

Their closest competitor is Julie Douglas with 13 percent.

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Local Briefs

GAIN holding monthly meeting

GAIN, the GLBT aging interest network that is a program of Resource Center Dallas, will meet Thursday, April 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Resource Center, 2701 Reagan.
Educator, public speaker and writer Deneen Robinson, BSW, will present the program on Alzheimer’s and dementia in the aging LGBT community.
Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served.

Students seeks study participants

Cindy Chwalik, a clinical psychology student at Walden University who is interning with Youth First Texas, is looking for natal females (those who were born biologically female) who were born in the South and came out as lesbians while living in the South to participate in a research project she is conducting. She is particularly looking for women born in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.

Participation involves a 60-to-90-minute interview. Chwalik said there is no compensation for participating, but the information will help those who come out in the future.
Contact her via email at cindychwalik @aol.com.

TDWCC to hear from candidates

Texas Democratic Women of Collin County will hold their next general meeting Monday, April 25, at 6:45 p.m. at the Preston Ridge Campus of Collin College, 9700 Wade Blvd. in Frisco, Founders Hall, Shawnee Room F148.

The program will feature a forum of candidates in the upcoming non-partisan municipal elections. Confirmed thus far from Plano are Judy Drotman, campaign manager for City Council Place 3 candidate Andre Davidson; City Council Place 5 candidate Matt Lagos; City Council Place 5 candidate Jim Duggan, and City Council Place 7 candidate Pat Gallagher.

Candidates in the Frisco elections who have confirmed so far are Mayor Maher Maso, City Council Place 5 candidate Bart Crowder, and Frisco ISD candidated Anne McCausland and Dody Brigadier.

—  John Wright

Remember to attend Trans Day of Remembrance

Kelli Busey
Kelli Busey

The transgender community in North Texas has been in the spotlight for the last week or so, thanks to the Fort Worth City Council’s vote last Tuesday, Nov. 10, to amend the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections for trans people.

I am pretty sure the council didn’t plan it this way, but the vote happened less than two weeks before the 2009 Transgender Day of Remembrance, the day set aside each year to remember and honor our trans brothers and sisters who have fallen victim to anti-trans violence.

North Texas went a year or two without having any big events planned for TDOR. That changed last year. And this year, there are several events planned to mark the day. Dallas Voice staff writer David Taffet listed the local events in last week’s issue.

Among the trans people who spoke during the public comment session held Nov. 10 before the FW council voted was Kelli Busey of Arlington. She invited all the council members to attend the TDOR event in Fort Worth, taking place at Texas Christian University at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Carr Chapel, 2855 S. University Drive, Fort Worth. In an e-mail this morning Kelli told me she had contacted Mayor Mike Moncrief’s secretary, and the secretary said the event has been placed on the mayor’s calendar. I hope he attends.

There are a lot of other people that attended the council meeting who could stand to attend and perhaps get a better education on trans issues — I am talking about a majority of those who spoke against the amendment. As Kelli said:  “The opponents of a yes vote more often than not prefaced their comments with statements that including transgender people in Fort Worth’s anti discrimination policy as contrary to their biblical teachings, a potential threat to their freedom to practice religion, a threat to the freedom of speech, an added burden to local business because of legal costs defending employment decisions, as undesirable to family communities and, and most erroneous and disingenuous of all, a threat to woman and children in public places.

“All of these perceived threats have been shown to be untrue in Dallas since it’s including in 2002 of transgender people in it’s anti discrimination policies and across the country in hundreds of inclusive cities.

“Why this invitation to you is so very important: I found disturbing the incorrect terminology used by both the council members and our opponents, to describe us as ‘Living a life Style Choice’ and that our mysterious decision was contrary to all they had been taught during their upbringing. These statements would lead one to believe that the Council is, by no fault of it’s own, ignorant about transgender people and that they believed we had a option as to our who we are. I assure you we do not.”

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Fort Worth approves transgender protections

The Fort Worth City Council voted tonight, by a 6-3 margin, to amend the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections for transgender people.
The vote came shortly before midnight, following about four hours of public comment on both sides of the issue.
Watch for details later on this blog and in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  admin