Drawing Dallas

Cortney Guy makes one of the hottest Texas summers on record a little hotter — and we think that’s pretty cool

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

CortneyFNL_5

Name and age: Cortney Guy, 27

Spotted at: Kroger’s on the Strip

Occupation: CEO/founder fashion P.R. firm

Born in East Texas and raised in Mesquite, this handsome Gemini has a major in marketing/communications and a minor in graphic design. Entrepreneurial by nature, he is co-founder of a public relations company which specializes in branding up-and-coming fashion designers.

An “editorial beauty,” Cortney is comfortable in front of the camera as well and has been commercial, print and promotional modeling since age 15. A highlight of his career was when one of his photos taken by Marta Azevedo garnered international recognition. He considers himself “retired,” but he still models occasionally when a good opportunity arises.

Cortney loves the outdoors and when he’s not working you may find him rollerblading, rock climbing or simply cloud watching or star gazing. Eco-friendly by nature, he’s big on conserving, recycling and minimizing waste. A lover of the arts, he also enjoys all forms of live entertainment, including dancing and music.

Studious by nature, he excelled in school, but also competed in football and track. He has a teaching certificate and future career plans include teaching general communications.

Yo, big bro: Big Brother Cortney has been a member of Big Brothers/Big Sisters for several years, and he also has a god-daughter with whom he is very close. He wants to leave a legacy for children. He’s interested in instilling morals and values into the younger generation.

This down-to-earth and non-assuming gentleman considers himself “a country guy that lives in a big city.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Update on Alekseev in Dallas

As we reported last Friday, Russian LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev is will be making two appearances in North Texas this week.

On Thursday, March 3, at 3 p.m., Alekseev will speak at Brite Divinity School, and we just received some updated information on his Friday, March 4 appearance in Dallas.

Alekseev will speak Friday, at 7 p.m. at the Interfaith Peace Chapel, and for that appearance he will be joined by Andy Thayer, the co-founder of Gay Liberation Network who is accompanying the Russian activist on his U.S. tour, as well as several local LGBT leaders who will take part in a panel discussion to compare and contrast the fight for LGBT equality in Russia with the movement in North Texas.

Panelists will include moderator Blake Wilkinson, Rafael McDonnell with Resource Center Dallas, Agape MCC pastor the Rev. David Wynn and Dawn Meifert of MergeMedia Group.

Both events are free and open to the public.

—  admin

Dallas premiere of ‘March On’ is Thursday night

Laura McFerrin

Dallas filmmaker Laura McFerrin’s award-winning documentary about the National Equality March, March On, will finally make its North Texas debut on Thursday, Feb. 24.

The film, which tells the story of the 2009 LGBT march on Washington through the lives of five families, will be screened at 7 p.m. at Studio Movie Grill, 11170 N. Central Expressway (at Royal Lane).

The screening is a fundraiser for GetEQUAL, but admission is free. Donations are welcome at the door, and merchandise will be available for purchase.

In addition to McFerrin, the screening will feature March On cast members Omar Lopez and Zoe Nicholson, who will offer a Q&A afterward, as well as GetEQUAL director and co-founder Robin McGehee.

For more info or to RSVP, got to the Facebook event page.

—  John Wright

We R Family: Rosie ex Kelli Carpenter keeps hope afloat with new take on queer cruise

CHANGE IN PROGRAMMING | The gay travel company R Family Vacations, co-founded by Gregg Kaminsky and Kelli Carpenter, above, is changing things up with its travel options. They are now offering bigger, mainstream cruise options for LGBT families, a Club Med week and new adults-only packages.

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

R Family Vacations was born out of its co-founder’s desire to give her children — and the children of other same-sex couples — at least that one week out of the year when their families were the “norm.”

When Kelli Carpenter and Gregg Kaminsky founded the company in 2003, their primary focus was to provide a place where LGBT couples and families could enjoy a vacation experience with other families like their own. Carpenter and her former partner, Rosie O’Donnell, have four children themselves.

“Ro and I were searching for a place where our own children wouldn’t feel so alone,” says Carpenter, who was in Dallas recently to promote R Family’s 2011 line-up of vacation events.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling on one of our vacations,” she says. “I usually just leave it to the people who have been on one of our trips, and what they usually say: It is a sense of community, of, for once, being with other families like yours, that the children really look forward to. There is so much laughter and such a sense of joy and camaraderie that you can’t find anyplace else.”

“A lot of the families that come on board an R Family cruise live in the middle of Idaho or somewhere like that where there are no other families like theirs anywhere around. And their tears and their joy are so intense because this is the one place where they can actually feel that sense of family, that sense of knowing there are other families like theirs out there.”

All-women cruises for lesbians and all-men cruises for gay men were already common when R Family came about. But Carpenter and O’Donnell felt “That’s not what [our] life looks like. Our community has changed. If you are a woman, and you have two sons and you want to go on vacation with your best friend who is a gay man, an all-woman cruise or an all-guy cruise isn’t the place for that.”

And the community has changed even more since the first R Family cruise in 2004. Now R Family clients aren’t just same-sex couples with their children. More and more often, couples are bringing their straight parents and siblings along, as well as their chosen families. Even same-sex couples without children are opting for R Family vacations to take advantage of the family-friendly atmosphere where their straight family members will feel comfortable and welcome, too, Carpenter says.

That change, coupled with the recession that curtailed many people’s vacation plans, has prompted R Family to find ways to reach out to new clients.

“There were a lot of businesses that were really hard hit by the recession. Considering that we are a luxury product, I think we downsized at just the right time and in just the right way,” Carpenter says. “We had built up to two cruises a year, and then, as the economy started to go down, we went back to just one full ship a year. We were starting to run out of itineraries, and we were getting a lot of requests for something different.”

Last year, R Family offered something different: Instead of a cruise ship completely for R Family vacationers, the group started offering group trips on larger, mainstream cruises. Carpenter said while she had some reservations at first about taking a group of LGBT families on a cruise with mainstream families, her fears were soon laid to rest.

“I went in emotionally prepared for some issue to crop up, and there was none. It was kind of nice for our families to have each other to rely on and at the same time, to be able to look at the other families and realize that underneath it all, we looked just like everyone else on the boat,” she says.

Also last year, for the first time, R Family offered something other than a cruise: A week for LGBT families at Club Med in Ixtapa.

“The Club Med week was a tremendous success, and not just for our regular cruisers who wanted something different for a change,” Carpenter says. “This year, we are offering a week at Club Med Sandpiper in Florida, and I think it will be even more successful.”

Despite brighter prospects for the economy, many families are still cutting back on luxury expenses like vacations. Even though last year’s Club Med trip was less expensive than a cruise, it still required travel abroad, and airfare isn’t cheap.

That’s why Carpenter expects the “Summer Camp” Club Med Sandpiper week, July 9–16, to be even more popular. Families can make the trip by car rather than having to fly.

“The Club Med resorts always offer plenty of activities, but for the R Family weeks, we completely start over as far as entertainment and programming. We will have top-notch comedians and theatrical performances for the grown-ups. Every night there will be a different, unique performance. The company will also offer its first adult-only vacation this year, in response to the growing number of requests for something a little more adventurous from gay men and lesbians who want to vacation together.”

The week-long adults-only package aboard the Norwegian Epic sails from Miami to the Western Caribbean March 5. Other packages include a family vacation aboard the Norwegian Jewel Feb. 20, and the R Family cruise returns with a trip aboard the Norwegian Jade from Venice to four Greek islands departing Aug. 6.

“We are glad that we are able to offer all these options, and to do it in a way that doesn’t put the company at risk,” Carpenter says. “There are a lot of families with children that really count on these vacations every year. It’s a chance for these kids to see that they are not alone, a chance to get to see their parents be together and express affection for each other in public, and to have a safe environment to do that in.

“I think our company and the growth of our company is reflective of what I wish the whole world looked like — someplace the entire family can be themselves and be comfortable being themselves.

For more information, visit FamilyVacations.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Super anti-bullying rally set

Long before the spate of bullying-related suicides that made headlines last fall, an organization called The Bully Suicide Project was working to shed light on the issue.

Now, the program hopes to capitalize on the excitement surrounding Super Bowl XLV to make that light even brighter.

Bully Suicide Project co-founder Dr. Audrey Newsome is working with the city of Dallas and the Dallas All Sports Association to stage what Newsome described as “the first major anti-bullying rally in Dallas.”

The “Super Day of Service, Super Day of Hope” rally will be held Friday, Feb. 4, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at City Hall Plaza.

That is the Friday before Super Bowl XLV will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, and Newsome said organizers are hoping to use the excitement surrounding the NFL championship game to draw attention — and participants — to the rally.

“We already have 28 schools and four professional athletes that have confirmed they are participating in the rally,” in addition to state Rep. Eric Johnson, Newsome said, and more are confirming their participation daily.

Newsome said the two professional athletes whose names she can release at this time are Kansas City Chiefs safety Reshard Langford and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver David Tyree.

“We really wanted to get some of the professional athletes to participate in this because most of them have really been silent on the issue of bullying so far,” Newsome said. “We want to get people out there to think about this issue, and what better way to do that than to use the excitement of the Super Bowl.”

Founded in 2009 by Newsome and Beaux Wellborn as a joint project of Campus Harmony and Youth First Texas, the Bully Suicide Project aims to combat bullying of all kinds and to offer support to those who were being bullied.

Bully Suicide Project started with the release in December 2009 of a series of public service announcements with photos by Tracy Nanthavongsa that featured people of all ages making their own statement about bullying and how it affected them. (See photos from the PSAs only at DallasVoice.com)

A month or so later, in January 2010, Bully Suicide Project released a video PSA on YouTube and organizers began working with local schools to provide education and awareness on bullying and on creating safe spaces for those targeted by bullies.

Last August, Bully Suicide Project launched its fall awareness campaign, again featuring photos by Nanthavongsa and special make-up by Melissa Whitaker.

The theme for the fall campaign was “Real Students With Real Stats,” and each model was a high school or middle school student in North Texas that has survived bullying. The photos were graphic, intended to drive home the real life effects of bullying by showing the physical signs.

—Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 21, 2011.

—  John Wright

DADT repeal was a birthday gift for SLDN co-founder, Fort Worth native Dixon Osburn

Dixon Osburn

As a co-founder and former executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Fort Worth native Dixon Osburn says Saturday’s Senate vote to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a huge moment for him.

It was even bigger still because Saturday also happened to be Osburn’s 46th birthday.

“It was a pinch-me moment,” Osburn told Instant Tea earlier today. “It’s been a long hard fight, and watching the votes take place, I was shaking and crying and smiling and cheering all at once. I thought it would take us 20 years, and it took 17. It’s a great birthday present, and it shows that Texans are helping carve paths for equality.”

Osburn graduated from Trinity Valley School before obtaining his bachelor’s degree from Stanford and his law degree from Georgetown. He launched SLDN with former Army captain Michelle Benecke in 1993, the same year he says President Bill Clinton “capitulated” to DADT.

Osburn, who’d volunteered at SLDN’s predecessor, the Campaign for Military Service, launched the new group because he felt DADT was a defining moment in the history of gay rights — the first time our lives had been discussed on a federal level.

Osburn spent 14 years as SLDN’s executive director before stepping down in 2007. He worked as a consultant and wrote a book before recently joining Human Rights First as director of law and security.

“My focus is on the intersection of national security policy and human rights … trying to ensure we don’t return to a regime of torture, trying to ensure that those suspected of terror receive fair trials,” Osburn said. “All the years of work with generals and admirals with SLDN, is what I’m doing now on these sets of issues.”

Below is Osburn’s full, official statement on Saturday’s vote:

“Today is my birthday, and this is the best birthday present I could have asked for. The real gift, though, is to our nation, which believes in our national security and equality. This victory is a tribute to the 60,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual troops serving our nation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the globe. It is a tribute to the one million LGBT veterans who have been willing to shed blood for out country in defense of our freedom and liberty; they now have been accorded theirs. The repeal of DADT and implementation of non-discrimination policies by the Pentagon will be judged among the pantheon of civil rights advances in our country. Today, no state government, local government or private business can substantiate discrimination when our military does not. Diversity is strength.

“I want to thank President Obama, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen for leading. I want to also acknowledge the many advocates both individual and organizational that have helped this moment arrive. From Baron von Steuben, likely a gay man who helped organize the colonists during the American Revolution to the gay WWII vets who formed vibrant LGBT communities in NYC and San Francisco after the war, to Frank Kameny who protested the ban in the 1960s and 1970s in front of the Pentagon to Brigadier General Keith Kerr, Brigadier General Virgil Richards and Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, who came out as gay on the 10th anniversary of DA DT, to so many more who have fought for what is right for our nation and our armed forces. We owe you a debt of gratitude. December 18th is a great day.”

—  John Wright

WATCH: DADT rally on Cedar Springs


Dozens gathered on the Cedar Springs strip Thursday night for a hastily organized rally in response to a vote in the U.S. Senate blocking the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” More images after the jump. Read our full story on the Senate vote here.

—  John Wright

Day of the living DIABLOS

Dallas gay rugby team wants you to go to Hell(fest)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

GHOUL!  | Diablos Nick Hughes, Stephen Mitchell, Dustin  Abercrombie, Ryan Cavender, Will Padilla and A.J. Tello expect HellFest to be a scary fun time. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)
GHOUL! | Diablos Nick Hughes, Stephen Mitchell, Dustin Abercrombie, Ryan Cavender, Will Padilla and A.J. Tello expect HellFest to be a scary fun time. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Every tournament has its hook, but for the Dallas Diablos Rugby Football Team, that hook comes at the end of a bloody stump.
Or maybe a fairy princess or Sarah Palin impersonator. Point is, it’s Halloween.

The Diablos didn’t really expect HellFest, their one-day rugby tourney to be held Oct. 30, to be such a hit, even though they knew they had a good idea.

“Originally, what we wanted was to have two or three teams come down, play some games, hang out for the [Cedar Springs] block party,” says Will Padilla, team captain and one of the organizers of HellFest. “We said, ‘Let’s try it out and see if we can get people interested in coming.’”

The interest was there and it grew exponentially. The previous year, an attempt to attract gay rugby teams from around the country resulted in only one attendee: the Minneapolis Mayhem. But word of mouth spread, “and more people asked to come, then more and more,” says Padilla. “I eventually had to cap it because it’s only a one-day tournament and we wanted everyone to get to play.”

Right now, 160 players representing eight teams from as many cities as far away as Atlanta are set to descend on Dallas for what looks to be one of the bigger gay rugby matches going.

“Austin, Houston and Dallas used to compete for a trophy called the Texas Pride Cup,” says Diablos co-founder and president A.J. Tello. But the Houston and Austin teams folded in recent years. “We haven’t had anything like that for a while, other than in Seattle, which has several teams in the area, and Bingham Cup every other year. We’re trying to get that back with an invitational with a national reach.”

“What I’ve found is that the majority of people on these teams have never been to Dallas,” adds Padilla. “Lots of them want to see what nightlife is like in Dallas.”

It’s an astonishing sense of camaraderie for a sport known for its aggressive play. But Padilla says rugby is one of the few sports where teams have no problem socializing with each other after the match is over.

“You play hard to party hard. Everybody who comes out is hyper-competitive and wants to win, but afterwards, we’re here to promote the game. You leave the anger on the pitch. After, you talk war stories and live it up with the guys. A lot of sports you don’t get a lot of commingling of teams; that’s not the case with rugby — not all.”

The openness is also true of the membership. “All of the teams are part of the IGRAB, the gay rugby union, and each is classified as openly diverse, but none of them are strictly gay,” Padilla says.

“We’re all inclusive. It’s not about who’s gay or straight — unless you want to date,” says Tello, who notes the Diablos have several straight players.

Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no difference between a gay rugby team and a straight one.

“We play other [non-gay] rugby clubs. After games, we go to the straight bars and the straight guys come to the Eagle,” Tello says. “We bring a little kick to it: We ask one of the members from the other team to get on the St Andrews cross, we get some paddles out and a whip and ask one of their girlfriends or wives to whip them. They have a ball and laugh.”

The tournament is intended to allow the players to enjoy a competitive round-robin of rugby, but there’s more motivation behind it. The Diablos  — both the men’s and women’s teams — want to spread their passion for the game throughout the community. (Although the women’s team is not playing, they have been instrumental in planning the tourney and will be active running it on game day.)

“I’ll judge its success by how well the teams receive the tournament, but we also wanna pull people in the community here, to come out to watch a tournament,” says Padilla. “There’s been nothing like this for rugby in Dallas.”

Those who don’t play are still welcome to come watch or even buy a “participant package” including tote bag and T-shirt, and come by the mixers or meet up with them during the block party.

Whether HellFest continues next year may also depend on the satisfaction of their sponsors, though Padilla says many were enthusiastic about helping out.

“It hasn’t been very hard — we’re promoting deeply within the community,” he says. “The host hotel is Hawthorne Suites and they gave us a good rate and helped us acquire shuttles to go to the venues. The Dallas Eagle is hosting our happy hour after the tournament and MGD64 is donating beer.”

That sounds like a sporting event all ghouls and boils can enjoy.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

RL raid anniversary: What a difference a year makes

Fort Worth community leaders, police officials look back at 12 months of change in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid

Tammye Nash | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

THEN AND NOW | A year ago, angry LGBT people protested outside the Rainbow Lounge just hours after a raid on the bar by Fort Worth police officers and TABC agents. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

What a difference a year makes.

On June 28, 2009, seven officers with the Fort Worth Police Department joined two agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in a raid on a newly-opened gay bar in Fort Worth called the Rainbow Lounge.

On June 28, 2010, the Fort Worth police were back at Rainbow Lounge. Only this time, instead of making arrests the officers were sharing a barbecue meal with community leaders and bar patrons and celebrating the progress the city has made over the last 12 months in improving the relationship between Fort Worth and its LGBT community.

And that progress, most in Fort Worth agree, has been remarkable.

Todd Camp, co-founder of Fort Worth’s Q Cinema LGBT film festival, was at the Rainbow Lounge celebrating his birthday with friends when the raid occurred. It was Camp, along with Chuck Potter, Thomas Anable and others, who used e-mail and social networking sites like Facebook to spread the word about the raid almost immediately.

They also put their outrage to work to organize two protests — one that Sunday afternoon outside the bar and a second later that evening outside the Tarrant County Courthouse — and to rally people to attend the next meeting of the Fort Worth City Council.
Camp said recently that he has been pleased to see the way that Fort Worth — its LGBT community, its police department and its city officials — have stepped up to the challenge and worked together not just to mend fences, but also break down barriers.

This week, Rainbow Lounge owner J.R. Schrock, left, and bar manager Randy Norman, right, played host as LGBT community members packed the bar for a barbecue and meet-and-greet with FWPD officers, from Chief Jeff Halstead to beat patrol officers. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

“I think, for me personally, the biggest accomplishment of the past year has been the fact that the city of Fort Worth has become aware that they have a gay community that has a voice with some emotion and power behind it, that it is a community that is willing to speak out when something is wrong,” Camp said.

“The City Council has stepped up to the plate and made a lot of fantastic changes. And there have been some really good changes in the police department, in the way they do business. It has really raised their [the police department’s] awareness,” Camp continued. “It took something going horribly wrong to open their eyes. But I feel like now, for the first time, the city and the police realize that there are gay people living here and that we are valuable members of society. … The city learned a lot about a vibrant part of its community.”

The incident has also, Camp said, raised awareness in the LGBT community.

“There was so much ignorance, and not just on the side of the city officials and law enforcement. It was on our side, too. We all learned a lot about the law, about what was acceptable and what was not acceptable.”

Police Chief Jeff Halstead agreed that both sides have learned valuable lessons from and about each other in the last year.

“We all decided to get past our emotions, and we’ve learned to respect each other’s feelings and opinions,” Halstead said. “And it’s definitely been a worthwhile investment for us all to make.”

The chief said he has seen a marked difference in the way the LGBT community responds to the police department since the raid occurred, and a difference in the way his officers see the LGBT community.

“I think people in the community feel like they have actually built friendships in the police department, and not just with [LGBT Liaison Officer Sara Stratten]. I think they feel like their ideas and opinions will be heard,” he said.

Halstead had been on the job as chief of the Forth Worth PD for less than a year when the Rainbow Lounge raid happened. And in his first public comments on the raid, Halstead told a reporter that patrons in the bar that night had made “sexually suggestive movements” toward the officers, and that he was proud of the restraint the officers had shown in the situation.

Halstead later apologized for his remarks, but not before the comments made him the focal point for much of the community’s anger and outrage. But at the barbecue this week, and when the chief attended a screening at the recent Q Cinema film festival, it was obvious that Halstead’s efforts to reach out to and understand the LGBT community had overcome the anger.

Camp said that “one of the greatest moments for me” of the last year came when Q Cinema previewed the recently-completed trailer for Robert Camina’s documentary, “Raid at the Rainbow Lounge.”

“[City Councilman] Joel Burns was in the audience, and Chief Halstead was there with his wife. There had been a lot of hand-wringing and worry over the trailer, because it focuses on the community’s immediate gut reaction to the raid. It’s kind of harsh, and [Camina] was a little bit worried about how the chief would react,” Camp said.

But Halstead took it all in stride, he said.

“I think it showed some tremendous courage for him to be there and see that trailer. He was painted as a villain early on, but he’s not a bad guy,” Camp said of Halstead. “He just had some learning to do, and he stepped up and was there and was supportive.

STOPPING TO REMEMBER | Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable, left, and Q Cinema co-founder Todd Camp were among the community leaders who attended a barbecue on Monday, June 28, at Rainbow Lounge to commemorate the anniversary of the 2009 raid on the bar and celebrate the progress the community has made over the last 12 months. Anable and Camp were both at Rainbow Lounge when the raid occurred, and both helped organize the community’s response. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

“I also think it says a lot that the chief of police was there for the opening night of an LGBT film festival,” Camp continued. “It meant a lot to everybody that he was there. … It’s a sign that things really are changing for the better.”

One of the first — and perhaps, most important — of those changes for the better came less than a month after the raid when Halstead announced that Fort Worth Officer Sara Straten had been appointed interim liaison to the LGBT community. By the end of the year, the appointment had been made permanent and Straten had been reassigned from her community patrol duties to the public information office.

Straten acknowledged recently that while she is glad to be the LGBT liaison officer, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride.

At first, Straten said, people in the LGBT community saw her as being too supportive of Halstead, a man they still saw as the enemy. But as time passed, both she and the chief have built not only solid working relationships within the community, but friendships as well.

There have been very concrete advances with the police department, Straten said, starting with the implementation of a new policy on bar checks that went into effect on Sept. 1 last year. The new policy specifies detailed steps for officers to follow, and designed to lessen the potentially adversarial relationship between officers, bar owners and staff and patrons.

Straten also praised the new diversity training implemented within the police department that puts more focus on LGBT issues than before. She said she and Gil Flores taught the first diversity training session, and that officers in the class “asked a lot of good questions.”

“The mayor and the chief both went through the training themselves about a month ago, and the chief was there at the first session,” she said.

Officers also participated in the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade and Picnic last October, and the chief and his wife attended the picnic.

The atmosphere for LGBT officers within the department has improved significantly, too, Straten said.

Before she volunteered for the liaison position, Straten was not out at work. In fact, when she did step forward to volunteer, she became the first officially “out” officer on the force. Since then, a number of other officers have come out, but Straten says the credit for that goes to the chief’s leadership in creating a more comfortable and accepting atmosphere, and the individual officers’ courage in taking that step.

FROM PROTEST TO PARTY | The Rev. Carol West, left, and David Mack Henderson, right, both of Fairness Fort Worth, are all smiles as they talk to Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead during a barbecue and meet-and-greet with police officers at the Rainbow Lounge on Monday, June 28, the one-year anniversary of the Rainbow Lounge raid. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

“Coming out is scary. But what kept me in the closet back then was as much my own stereotyping as anything else,” she said. “I do think there has been a shift [in attitudes within the police department], but I would never say that came from me. I think it’s more about a shift in the culture at large. The younger officers coming into the force are much more accepting in general, and that changes things for everybody.”

Halstead agreed that there has been a shift within the department.

“I think that more and more, officers are feeling like they can just be themselves, gay or not,” Halstead said. “It’s taken some time, but the improving relationship with the LGBT community is helping. With the proper training and with time, it will continue to improve.”

Perhaps one of the most significant changes over the past year has been the formation and continued growth of the organization Fairness Fort Worth. The group was formed in the days immediately following the raid initially to assist in finding witnesses who saw what happened that night, and to provide those witnesses with legal advice and support in giving their statements to investigators with the Fort Worth Police Department and TABC.

Now, said Anable, the group’s newly-elected president, FFW has branched out and is intent on becoming a permanent resource for the entire community, helping to coordinate between other organizations and serving as a clearinghouse for and point of contact between the LGBT community and the community at large.

Anable said the group has secured its status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and organizers held their “first real strategic planning meeting” in January. FFW is also conducting a community survey that will allow the group to compile statistics on the Fort Worth LGBT community.

“We’ve never really had an organization in Tarrant County that was really plugged into the political process, one that is able to speak consistently with one voice,” Anable said. “We are actually doing, now, things that were only talked about before. We have the momentum and the commitment to move forward with things that have only been talked about for a decade.”

Although the Fort Worth community has “a cooperative spirit” and has accomplished goals in the past — like getting the city to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance protecting lesbians and gays — such efforts were always done quietly and in a somewhat piecemeal manner, Anable said.

But now, he added, “we have an organization that has depth and is permanent, something that won’t go away. We have lines of communication open now that we never had before. We have real credibility now. Now, they know we are a viable and valuable community.”

Members of FFW were among those who went to the Fort Worth City Council meetings following the raid. They stepped up to serve on the Diversity Task Force formed by the council that came up with a list of changes, most of which have been made already by city officials.

Among those was amending the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to specifically protect transgender people as well as lesbians and gays. Two of the task force’s recommendations — domestic partner benefits for city employees and insurance coverage for city employees who undergo gender transition surgery — are still on the table, primarily because the city has to watch every penny during the ongoing economic crunch.

There are other plans in the works, too, Anable said, such as building an LGBT community center that would include a phone bank and a library.

And while the resources — and the need — for these advances have always existed within the community, it took what Anable called “the perfect storm” of the Rainbow Lounge raid to set the change in motion.

“It really was a perfect storm. It was the 40th anniversary of Stonewall; they were having the Stonewall anniversary march in Dallas; Todd [Camp] was there in the bar that night; I was there,” Anable said. “People saw what happened, and people were angry. And they were willing to do something about it.

“It’s amazing, really, everything that has happened,” he continued. “I mean, to go from where we were to where we are now in just 11 months — are you kidding me? It’s been amazing.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Drawing Dallas

Artist and entrepreneur Tabrechai Washington gets her pride on

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator
mark@markdrawsfunny.com

Independent lady

Name: Tabrechai Washington
Spotted at: The patio of the New Amsterdam Bar in Deep Ellum
Occupation: Professional dancer, choreographer and teacher Out, proud … and patriotic: This Big Apple transplant is a co-founder of Kinetic Exhibit, a bi-monthly art party seeking to transform the community through art. This free-spirited dancer spent her formative career in New York City. She has an affinity for Roseau, Dominica, the capital and largest city of the Caribbean island of Dominica. She has spent a lot of time there and is a frequent contributor to the Caribbean Living Lifestyle blog.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas