Celebration of Love Gala raises funds for Lesbian Health Initiative

The scooter's way cuter in pink, sorry Liz

The Lesbian Health Initiative of Houston is celebrating Valentine’s Day a little early with their Celebration of Love Gala Saturday, Feb. 11. at the Double Tree Hotel downtown (400 Dallas Street). The 10th annual gala is the 20-year-old organization’s major fundraiser of the year.

This year the gala features comedienne Susanne Westenhoefer, who claims to be the “first openly-gay comedian to appear on television” (yep, she was out before Ellen).  Dorothy Weston, co-founder and CEO of The Rose (a breast cancer prevention and treatment organization) will be honored  for her years of service. In addition the evening includes dinner, dancing, a silent auction and the raffling of a pink Vitacci 50cc Retro Scooter. LHI executive director Liz James is particularly excited about the raffle even if she didn’t quite get her way on the prize. “I wanted it to be a black scooter, as I’m a bit on the butch side,” said James, adding that more “femme” forces in the organization prevailed and a pink scooter was selected instead.

Regardless of the color of the scooter, the Celebration of Love Gala promises to be a fun filled night, not just for sapphic romantics, but for anyone looking for a valentine’s date night that supports a good cause. Tickets for the black tie affair start at $100 and can be purchased at lhihouston.org. Doors open at 6 pm.

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Houston ARCH seeks public submissions for new logo

Houston ARCH proposed logos

History relies on historians, whether the formal history of the academic or the informal history of grandpa’s stories, someone must tell the tale for the story to live on. The straight world has many formal institutions designed to maintain its story, from museums to archives to oral history projects the stories of straight people are well documented and preserved.

Queer history, on the other hand, is far more fragile. As a community we have a habit of separating ourselves by generations and the documents of our recent past, the fliers, t-shirts and pamphlets, are often seen as ephemeral trash, rather than important historical documents.

Several institutions have been created to try to preserve that history, including the Botts Archive, the Gulf Coast Archive, and archives at the University of Houston, Rice University and the Transgender Foundation of America. These desperate efforts have joined together to form the Houston Area Rainbow Collective History (Houston ARCH), a coordinated effort to preserve and document LGBT History in Houston.

Of course, any great organization needs a great logo, and that’s where Houston ARCH is reaching out to the public for help. Through January 5 you can submit your design via e-mail to billyhoya@billyhoya.info. Designs must contain the name “Houston ARCH,” and may spell out the acronym, also designs should be be scalable, work both in color and black and white, and be suitable for print and online reproduction. Designers should take care that their submissions are not confusable with logo’s of similarly named organizations.

So far only two proposals have been submitted and loaded to the Houston ARCH website for comment. Final voting for the design will take place January 25 at the regular Houston ARCH meeting.

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Red Houston: The city’s most socialist precincts

Amanda Ulman

Amanda Ulman

Houston has a reputation as a blue dot in a red state, but there’s more than one political movement associated with the color red. Perennial socialist candidate for mayor, Amanda Ulman, managed a respectable showing in last weeks municipal elections with 2% of the vote, a significant improvement from her .6% in 2009 but not quite as good as the 8% she pulled in 2007.

Ulman didn’t win a single precinct, but there were several where she pulled at least 5% of the vote. So if you’re looking for prime locations to foment a socialist revolution, check out these areas of red (or at least pink) Houston.

View Red Houston in a larger map

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Drawing Dallas • Rick Phillips

With the holiday upon us, floral designing is a labor of love for Dallas’ Rick Phillips

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator

Name: Rick Phillips

Occupation: Floral designer

Spotted at: Dog park on Swiss Avenue

Tanned, fit Aquarian Rick Phillips was born in Dallas but raised in neighboring Grand Prairie. He sprouts from a small but creative family: His mother sings opera, his brother is a drummer in a rock band, and his grandmother was also a gifted artist.

Labor of Love: Rick has been creating beautiful floral arrangements for more than 17 years. His first job interview in the business was to create a funeral arrangement. “I almost cut my thumb off,” says Rick, “I think they felt sorry for me. I got the job!”

Studying photography in college led to a natural progression into painting and finally into floral design. The instant gratification he gets from the process satisfies his art muse. Rick says he makes up his arrangements as he goes along. “I have a concept about color and shape when I start, but after that I free-wheel it.” He has been the exclusive florist for a high-profile jewelry store for eight years.

When he’s not handcrafting floral masterpieces, Rick enjoys cooking and shopping vintage and junk shops for awesome shirts and cool coats (and he can’t wait to for the weather to get cooler so he can wear them!) He loves all kinds of music from classical to techno/dance.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

A Solitary Lesbian of Color on TV

Her name is Special Agent Diana Barrigan. She is honey-brown with the kind of long, flowing, presumably processed hair that is sometimes valued by women of color (including Asians like me) in the professional world. She is a near-perfect shot with a gun. She is lithe and lean. She is small-chested (like me), but her legs are muscular and toned. She is tough and independent, but she still calls her superior at the FBI “Boss,” genuflecting annoyingly at every turn. She exudes confidence. She sparks with an easy, powerful intellect. She is beyond efficient. And yes: Special Agent Diana Barrigan is also one of the few (if any) openly lesbian characters-of-color in a currently running scripted, hour-long, fictional television American drama.

(Remember: The L Word went off the air in 2009 and The Real L Word and related shows are “reality TV.”)

The drama is called White Collar. It's a mildly diverting contrivance about an expert con artist and art forger who works as a consultant for the FBI's NYC White Collar Crime Division. I don't own a TV. But I have a computer. I download TV shows from amazon.com. I don't know how I discovered Diana. Perhaps I have a nose for these things. Suffice to say that the only reason why I watch White Collar is to catch a glimpse of Diana.

Diana is played by Marsha Thomason, a 34 year old, presumably heterosexual (because she's married to a man named Craig Sykes) British-Jamaican actress who had (for me) the misfortune of playing Eddie Murphy's wife in an otherwise forgettable Disney film called The Haunted Mansion. (Of course, when I think of Eddie Murphy I can't help but remember his homophobic comedy act from the 1980s, an act that made his dalliance with a transgender woman of Samoan descent named Atisone “Shalomar” Seiuli (1976-1998) all the more hypocritical and vicious. Google it.)

It has not been easy to catch a glimpse of Diana. She appeared in the initial pilot for the series. Her lesbianism was played up in one of those eagads moments where the hero is told that the strong, hot women before him is just not into him. But after the pilot she predictably disappeared. I had to download and screen every episode of Season 1 before the final episode when the FBI Detective calls Diana for help. Then, in a cliffhanger, she reappears as a kind of sidekick. For the current season, Diana is a regular lesbian character on Season 2; and by “regular lesbian character” I mean that she's trotted out for torrid subplots–like the time when she goes undercover as a prostitute (surprise) who must negotiate the ignobility of sleeping with men because, if scriptwriters hadn't told you already, she's a lesbian and she doesn't like men.

Yet, curiously, for all her lack of attraction to men, Diana (as played by Marsha Tomason) is quite relaxed and even subservient to her male superiors at the FBI. Moreover, her chemistry with the Con Man who is hired as a consultant (the main hero) is quite strong. There is a buttery, silky, relaxed quality to Marsha Tomason's performances. And you'd never know she was British. Her flat American accent is a marvel of impersonation.

But like so many LGBT characters before her on dramatic and comedic television, Diana is caught in a netherworld shot through with stereotype, sensationalism, fleeting bits of heartfelt authenticity, and exploitation. Like some animal who only gets leftover steak on a holiday, I gobble up even the rancid bits as if Diana's fleeting scenes are the only food I'll have for weeks.

I've often reflected on this longing within me to see LGBTs of color represented on TV and in films. Why do I care so much? Why do I long for LGBT people of color to be subjects and not just objects–characters with as much depth, diversity, and dynamism as the habitually white male hero and anti-heroes that populate TV? Why couldn't Diana be the lead FBI Agent? And why, for the love of the Goddesses, do I still rush to watch the latest episode, pining for Diana, the solitary (to my knowledge) lesbian character-of-color on American TV?

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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