The 25 gayest cities in Texas

We’re still working to get in touch with demographer Gary Gates of UCLA’s Williams Institute, the guru of all things gay and Census, to go over those freshly released data on same-sex couples in Texas. Gates says via email that he’s been slammed with media calls all morning and will get back to us as soon as he can. In the meantime, he sent over another tidbit in the form of an Excel spreadsheet listing all cities in Texas ranked according to the rate of same-sex couples per 1,000 households. As we mentioned earlier, Dallas has the highest rate of same-sex couples in the state, followed by Galveston and Austin. The list, which we’ve posted below, contains some major surprises — with cities like Hutto and Jollyville appearing in the top 10, for example. And yes, this does go to show that we are everywhere, but also keep in mind that the cities are ranked according to rate per 1,000 households. So, while Houston has the highest total number of same-sex couples (8,290), it has a much larger population than Dallas and therefore a lower rate. Also, my headline is deliberately misleading because the Census doesn’t count single gays. And in case you’re wondering, the city with the lowest rate of same-sex couples in Texas is College Station, with 131 or 3.74 per 1,000 households. Stay tuned for more as soon as we’re able to talk to Gates.

Check out the top 25:

—  John Wright

HRC bus tour to visit Texas, 10 other states in South, Midwest where support for equality lags

The above chart (click to enlarge) shows why HRC selected the 11 states it will visit on the bus tour.

The Human Rights Campaign on Monday announced a bus tour later this year to 11 states in the South and Midwest that lack both employment protections and relationship recognition for LGBT people. The tour, “On the Road to Equality,” will visit Texas from Sept. 9-11, stopping in Austin and College Station but not North Texas. In announcing the bus tour, HRC released new poll results showing that while Americans widely back LGBT equality, support lags in the South and Midwest. For example, 51 percent of Americans support marriage equality, compared to 43 percent in the South and Midwest; 71 percent of Americans support domestic partnerships, compared to 61 percent in the South; and 79 percent of Americans support LGBT employment protections, compared to 73 percent in the South. HRC spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz said the poll’s sample size wasn’t large enough to yield reliable results for individual states. (A poll commissioned by Equality Texas last year put support for marriage equality at 43 percent and civil unions at 63 percent.) HRC’s full press release, as well as links to the poll results, can be found here.

—  John Wright

Students, faculty at Commerce campus take first steps in creating ‘safe spaces’ at university

MAKING PLANS | Career Services employee Gregory Shirley takes notes on the Safe Space presentation. (James Bright/Dallas Voice)

JAMES BRIGHT  | Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

COMMERCE — Students and faculty at Texas A&M University-Commerce recently took the first steps in establishing safe spaces on the school’s campus.

English professor Dr. Robin Reid and school counselor Dr. Emile Cate held a planning meeting April 14 to set up a committee to create the safe spaces. “Our goal is to take over everything and make the entire campus a safe space,” Reid said.

The meeting centered around discussion of how to set up a safe space system on campus. The current plan is to model the structure of A&M-Commerce’s safe space initiative after the one already in use at Texas A&M-College Station, which Reid said has been well established for some time.

“The safe space is an educational and outreach program,” Reid said. “It’s really an ally program to speak out and say people have rights and people have access to equality.”

The program will allow for several areas on campus to be denoted with some sort of symbol that will tell students, faculty, staff and community members that the area is a safe space.

These areas can be marked with a number of symbols and be located in offices, recreational areas and even entire buildings.

“It’s very much tied to training that people would then post the material and make visible the symbol of equal rights,” Reid said.

The initial primary goal of implementing this program, according to Cate, is to get students, faculty and staff trained in the safe space system on campus.

“We are hoping to have this done by early fall, so we can have people going out and giving these presentations across campus and the community,” Cate said.

Specific training events will be set up, according to Reid. There will be several different opportunities for people of varying involvement whether they are students, faculty, or community members to learn from these classes.

“We need to setup some discussion and support groups that students will feel comfortable going to,” she said.

Cate said all members of the counseling department were well trained and value all issues of diversity including those involving the LGBT community.

“We are available,” she said. “Everyone is ready to give support to the students and the issues they might be experiencing.”

More than 30 people attended the meeting, representing different groups on campus. There were several students who said they had experienced discrimination in class and wanted to learn how they could help educate those on campus.

The program also drew the attention of several different organizations on campus, including career development, and several faculty members such as Mary Hendrix, vice president of Student Access and Success.

Over the next few years, Cate said, she hopes the safe space program will filter to all parts of campus and the community.

“We need to establish a foundation and embed it in the campus culture,” Reid said.

The meeting concluded with a discussion over the committee’s mission statement and suggestions from several students on what wording should be changed. Once the discussion was finished Reid broke the group up into several sub-committees to discuss marketing, web development and training.

—  John Wright

Lt. Dan Choi to speak at Texas A&M tonight

Lt. Dan Choi

Lt. Dan Choi

Lt. Dan Choi, who’s quickly become the face of the battle to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” will speak tonight at Texas A&M University in College Station. From the student newspaper The Battalion:

Lowell Kane, program coordinator of the campus GLBT Resource Center, said each year they try to find a widely known keynote speaker to focus on a serious issue or hot topic.

“I can’t think of any hotter topic than the DADT [“Don’t ask, don’t tell”] policy,” Kane said. “We want to seek out the face, the person who really represents this conversation and there is no bigger, more famous activist today than Lt. Dan Choi.”

Choi graduated from West Point Military Academy as one of eight soldiers in his graduating class majoring in Arabic. He then served as an Arab linguist in the Iraq War.

On March 19, 2009 Choi announced he was gay on The Rachel Maddow Show, and discharge proceedings began within the month.

In his presentation, Choi will tell his personal story, discuss the effect of the policy on GLBT individuals in the military and answer questions from the audience.

“He has gone on the record saying he is willing to lose everything, the career he has built for himself, because he is not going to lie about who he is and everything he learned at West Point and through the military tells him he shouldn’t lie about who he is,” Kane said. “Given Texas A&M’s military history and our current status with the Corps, it’s a really interesting conversation to have here.”

Interestingly, the story about Choi’s visit isn’t the only gay-related item on the front page of today’s Battalion. A centerpiece under the headline “Broken Traditions” focuses on how LGBT students in “Closet Station” face discrimination and feel left out of Aggie rites like Midnight Yell. In hindsight, perhaps they could have combined the two articles under one headline: “Don’t ask, don’t yell.”

—  John Wright

Texas A&M student needs your help building an LGBT community center in College Station

Rachel Boenigk
Rachel Boenigk

Rachel Boenigk, a senior at Texas A&M University, wants to build an LGBT community center in College Station. She’s submitted the proposal as a “Good Idea” to the Pepsi Refresh Project, which awards grants each month to top online vote-getters. Boenigk’s idea is currently ranked 28th to receive a $50,000 grant in March, but only the top 10 projects will be funded. Here’s Boenigk’s description of the project, which you can vote for by going here:

This project will provide a meeting place for GLBT people of all ages, races, genders and sexualities. My community is 100 miles away from the nearest GLBT center and with a center in my area, we would be able to reach so many more people, especially those in cental Texas. The center would provide a home for GLBT organizations, an alternative to club nightlife, a home for GLBT families and a networking center for what is for the most part a closeted community. We hope to provide support groups, entertainment nights, the occasional home for disowned GLBT individuals and free tests for STI’s. With the $50,000 that have been requested, we will continue fundraising to ensure that the center has enough money to function. We hope to raise at least $25,000 more to bring the total to $75,000. Introducing a GLBT community center into our area will encourage a more open and understanding community overall and provide opportunities for us to give back as well.

—  John Wright