Small-town gay life

GAY MICROCOSM | With fewer than 50,000 residents, San Luis de la Paz doesn’t even have a gay bar, but that hasn’t stopped queer Dallasites from calling it home. (Photos by Jesus Chairez)

JESUS CHAIREZ  | Special Contributor
chairezstudio@gmail.com

SAN LUIS DE LA PAZ, Guanajuato, México — No rainbow flags, no gay bars, no Pride parade, but for ex-Dallasites Ron Austin and Lamar Strickland, this small Mexican town has plenty of gay life in it.

Austin and Strickland sold most everything and packed up what they could, moving to San Luis de La Paz four years ago. Austin says that he first discovered San Luis years ago when accompanied his best friend Manolo Arrendondo, also from Dallas, back home to visit his family for Christmas one year. When Arrendondo moved back to México to care for his ailing mother, Austin and Strickland soon followed.

Austin used to work for AIDS Arms for many years before retiring from the Baylor Geriatric Center. Strickland still works but telecommutes to his job in the U.S.

Though most people think that it is not safe — and even dangerous — for LGBT people to vacation much less live in México, Austin says that he and his partner feel safe.

“In general I have not found much homophobia here and for most people it seems like a non-issue. But yes, there are homophobic people in San Luis and Mexico. We get called names now and then, but then we sometimes got called names in Dallas, too.”

RURAL DRAG | Clockwise from above: Karla aka Carlos and ‘La?Mosca’ aka Adry staged a successful drag pageant this month in the new hometown of Dallas transplants Lamar Strickland and Ron Austin.

Things have changed in San Luis, says the couple, who have spoken to their trans friends Carlos, now known as Karla and Adry Pardo Garcia, known by his nickname, la Mosca (“the Fly”) about the changes: Harassment is basically verbal today and not physical like in the past.

Though there are no gay bars in San Luis, a town of about 49,000, gay people do go out and dance. It is sort of a don’t ask, don’t tell situation where gays blend into the crowd; two men dancing together is something gay men just don’t do.

Though Austin and Strickland say they don’t feel much homophobia in San Luis, “Only the drag queens get by with gay behavior, like dancing together or displays of affection,” says Austin.

Though there are no official gay events in San Luis, five years ago Karla and Adry Pardo Garcia, leaders in the trans and drag queen community, and several of their friends got together to have a Ms. San Luis de la Paz annual pageant called Nuestra Belleza Gay (Our Gay Beauty). Carlos and Garcia say their pageant does give pride to San Luis’ growing LGBT community.

In the U.S., drag queens and transsexuals are often at the forefront of the LGBT movement; it is no different here in México, especially in San Luis. For example, earlier this month the girls got into a Blazer and put loud speakers on the roof of the automobile that blared out announcements for their Ms. San Luis Gay 2011 event held at Bar One, a club almost in the center of town.

As the Blazer drove down San Luis’ narrow streets, the girls — in full makeup and outfits — handed out flyers as they approached anyone on the street. Everyone seemed to be fine with all the glitter and glamour. The Nuestra Belleza Gay marketing worked; it was a sold-out crowd at Bar One. Austin was a judge for this year’s event, as he was last year.

Even before the pageant started there was enthusiasm: As the sun was setting all Nuestra Belleza Gay participants, along with their supporters, gathered at the main bus station where the contestants sat on the hood of a car and everyone caravanned through town with a police escort — basically a very small Pride parade. Small clusters of people did wait along the route that went through the center of town to wave and enjoy the beauty.

Though there may not be gay bars or a gayborhood to speak of, Austin and Strickland, along with their two dogs, Osa and Hoppy and a cat named Miche, are enjoying their new life in  México.

Jesús Chairez is an activist and freelance writer; former producer and host of U.S.’s first LGBT Latino show Sin Fronteras (Without Borders) on KNON 89.3 FM. He resides between Dallas and México City.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Bedpost Confessions’ tonight at The Kessler

‘Bedpost Confessions’ moves sex talk from the closet into Oak Cliff

What would you do if your friend admitted to  being a prostitute? Or if your sister talked about having sex outside of her marriage with a 21-year-old virgin? Sexual talk outside of the bedroom can still be taboo, even in today’s desensitized world of fast hookups and Showtime melodramas. Bring up intercourse (or something far more intense), and most people will cringe or shy away.

Tonight, it all comes out. The Austin-based stage show Bedpost Confessions features performers talking up their sexual adventures out loud all in good fun. Trying to break away from the taboo of talking about sex, co-founder Sadie Smythe and company bring their show to Dallas. Local writer and Dallas Voice contributor Jenny Block, pictured, gets in on the action which makes perfect sense. As the author of Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage, she’ll have ideal material for the night.

Her thoughts on tonight’s show.

“It’s just sex. It’s supposed to be this happy, fun, sometimes even spiritual experience. It’s all gotten so twisted and tangled when really it should be so simple. Consenting adults doing something that our bodies were built to do. But somewhere along the line, people got confused. Outwardly we are this over-sexed society. But behind closed doors we don’t talk to our kids, we don’t communicate with our partners, and we’re lost when it comes to all things sex. The funny thing is, the fix is an easy one. We have to talk to one another and to our kids and to our partners. We have to strangle the taboo. We could have solved all of the world’s ills by now if we stopped worrying so much about such a natural thing and started putting our brain power to better use.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Block will also be signing copies of her book after the show. Along with Block, Smythe and the other performers, the audience gets to play as they are encouraged to write their sexual confessions to be read aloud. Don’t worry, it’s all anonymous. Read the original article here.

DEETS:


—  Rich Lopez

Snowed-in out film fest viewing

With all the arctic weather turning Texas into Palinland lately, it’s easy to think we have it really bad. But if you wanna see how the cold can truly put the “crazy” in stir crazy, you might check out the 2008 horror film Scarce. Filmed during a harsh Canadian winter, it stars Dallas Voice contributor Steve Warren as one of two middle-aged cannibals who live together in a rural cabin where they torture and dine on hot young men who happen by — who, in this film, often tramp around in their undies in two feet of snow. The gay themes are more suggested than overt, but with Warren playing one of the “confirmed bachelors” who eats other men … well, you don’t need great gaydar to get the point.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

—  John Wright

Why am I not celebrating more?

Although the swearing in of the first trans trial judge is cause for celebration, there is still a long, hard fight ahead

WREN A. WYNN  |  Special Contributor

We have recently seen America’s first transgender trial judge sworn in. So why am I not celebrating more?

Are you kidding? I read the news to my husband and son, and we all cheered and breathed a sigh of great relief and deep gratitude. This momentous ceremony brought us all one step closer to lawful and societal equality and a much safer pursuit of that very happiness our Constitution grants to us all.

But this is where I — as an American, a woman and the wife of an amazing transgender man — must restrain my celebration. The full celebration will commence the day society’s labels fade away.

Humans always try to define things we do not understand. Our lack of understanding leads to fear. Labels are incessantly cast onto anything we need defined for us.

For instance, say you have two tin cans, both sealed. One is labeled “beans;” the other has no label. Which would you choose?

Unless you have an aversion to legumes, you would probably choose the labeled one. I would — I mean, what if the other can has beets?

We should be electing transgender officials. We should be electing lesbian and gay officials, female officials, African-American officials, Hispanic officials, Jewish and Muslim officials — and so on. Because, quite simply, every one of the members of our global society are human beings.

We are all born inherently equal and all hold the same worthiness as our neighbor. Our labels do not designate our worth or, believe it or not, our contents. Existence is where our worth lies. You are here. I am here. We are amazing.

The full celebration will commence when all marginalized people refuse to be yoked to such a lexicon: marginalized, victimized, worthless, wrong, immoral, dangerous. These are only a very few of the terms used by the media, the Biblical Christian right and those in seats of actual “power” when referring to “them.”

When you are marginalized, the first thing that is stripped from you is your name. It is far easier to be cruel and hateful when you are aggressively pursuing the nameless.

How many of us have found ourselves in such a place — no name, no support, no safety? I was hit in the face in seventh grade by an extraordinarily hefty repeat eighth grader because my being gay offended her. Her name was Amie. I bet you a million dollars she doesn’t remember my name.

We cannot continue to allow our names to be replaced with a vocabulary of invisibility and hate. My name is Wren.

The full celebration will commence when those seated in positions of power and authority stop being so damn afraid that they will be dethroned and overrun. If you are a just and compassionate leader, this is not a concern. So it is no wonder that so many higher-ups are constantly having to towel off their flop-sweat as they stand at their microphones and bullhorns leaking their heartlessness and fear into the world.

This decidedly ridiculous behavior, though, should come as no real surprise. Look at what the leaders worship. All religions at all moments in history, both patriarchal and matriarchal (though to a lesser extent), worship very wrathful and immature gods and goddesses. How many times has a deity cruelly destroyed all of life because another god was getting more attention or because the people weren’t pliant enough or, sometimes, just for the hell of it?

I am all for America. This is proven by the fact that I haven’t run off to Canada or Europe … yet. I truly do believe, very dearly, that America is the home of the brave. Every day I encounter transgender people (my husband included) who are changing the world and saving lives by simply being who they are.

We hear and see and know lesbian, gay and bisexual people who are not willing to let another person die because bullying gay kids and adults is seen as not so big an issue. We have seen the African-American community rise up saying, “We are not second-class citizens.” Everyday the cycle of racism slows.

In recent months, we have witnessed the courageous stance of the Muslim community in New York as they prepare a way for a mosque, even as the Koran is being threatened in Florida. With every passing moment we see and hear men and women standing up for women’s and human rights and equal passage and opportunity in the world.
What amazing and brave people we all are when we stand up for one another!

So God, Goddess, Allah, Abba, Brahman, Waheguru, Yahweh, Jesus, The Light, Almighty, Bahá, Jehova, El Cantare, Oya — all of them — bless America, Mother Earth and all of her beautiful creations. We live in truly amazing times. May we be awake and willing, enthusiastic, even, to stand with one another in our various fires.

This is not a case of “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” This is about celebrating life and Victoria Kolakowski, America’s first sworn-in transgender trial judge. You go girl!

Wren Wynn is a local writer and artist and the author of Chrysalis, a collection of poetry and artworks. She is also a commissioned artist and her paintings have been chosen to hang in the Visual Arts Center of Dallas galleries. Wynn is currently working on a collection of personal essays and a second poetry collection. Go online to Open.Salon.com/blog/wrenaw to read a sample of her work.

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

—  John Wright

Teen gay dream

GLEEK HERO   |  In just four episodes, Criss has become a popular gay on ‘Glee.’ (Photo by Robert Hart)

Darren Criss, the breakout heartthrob from ‘Glee,’ isn’t gay or a teen, but welcomes more romance for Blaine

MARK LOWRY  |  Special Contributor
mark@theaterjones.com

Aside from the hot pink sunglasses, and the assistant who occasionally makes sure that his natural curls fall just so on his forehead, Darren Criss doesn’t come across as the young actor whose star is on a rocket’s upward path.

A new, popular actor on the hit Fox show Glee, Criss possesses an articulate intelligence and level-headedness that belies his age (he turns 24 in under a month). On the show, Criss plays Dalton Academy gay student Blaine, the teenage dream with the glassy brown eyes and plush eyebrows that make Kurt (Chris Colfer) — not to mention the rest of gay America — swoon.

Criss was in North Texas last weekend at the Fort Worth auditions for The Glee Project, a reality show that will debut on Oxygen in June where 12 contestants will vie for a role on Glee. The winner is guaranteed multiple episodes next season. Whether this new character (which hasn’t been written yet, so it’s open to gender and type) becomes a recurring character depends on his or her popularity with audiences.

The winner would be lucky to repeat the feat accomplished by Criss, who in a scant four episodes has already proven so popular that he’s been confirmed as a series regular for the rest of Seasons 2 and 3. The real question that the gay fans of the show — and we hear there are a few — are asking: Will the Kurt/Blaine friendship develop into something more?

“I’m just as curious as everybody else,” Criss says. “Obviously the potential is there. As much as all of us want to see that happen immediately, I think the most important thing to convey between the two of them is that of a support system. It’s really important to show young people especially that there’s a person to confide in, and that friendship is possible. If that does evolve into a romantic relationship, then awesome. But let’s hope that it’s warranted, and real. And there’s no greater way to portray a love story than to prolong it as long as possible.”

Criss knows a thing or two about fictional love stories. The San Francisco native has been doing theater for much of his short life. In high school and as a student at the University of Michigan, he appeared in musicals like the “lost Sondheim” show Do I Hear a Waltz and the Rodgers and Hart classic Babes in Arms.

“I’m a big Rodgers and Hart fan. For my audition for Blaine, I sang ‘Where or When’ [from Babes],” he says. “I was a big musical theater rat. I was just a fanboy who got lucky.”

During college, Criss became a member of the UM alumni theater company Team Starkid, playing Harry Potter in the spoof A Very Potter Musical and writing songs for the original musical Me and My Dick (the recording is available on iTunes). He also released a solo EP called Human, showing off his smooth tenor. (There’s a Facebook group called “I liked Darren Criss before he was on Glee.”)

He landed a few TV roles (Cold Case, the short-lived series Eastwick), but it was with Glee that he became an instant hit singing lead in an all-male a capella version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” The opportunity is something that the actor, who is straight, doesn’t take lightly.

“It’s incredibly important to me,” he says. “As an actor, you’re always worried that you’re going to be stuck doing ancillary things, like the boyfriend or the cop or the football coach or something. You just hope for something that you feel has some kind of significance. This would be one of those things that has a great amount of value to me personally and, I think, to a greater community.”

As for his rising fame, he’s cautious to use the word “celebrity”(although the screaming fans in Fort Worth on Saturday would argue otherwise). But he’s preparing himself for it.

“Everybody wants to know who you are, which is a very unfair position to be in because all of us are trying to figure that out on a consistent basis,” he says. “So it really forces you to evaluate and analyze yourself. It’s really forced me into really trying to solidify myself because if people are paying attention, it’s important to step up to the plate and make sure that [I’m] representing something positive.”

Millions of Gleeks can’t be wrong.

New episodes of Glee resume with a special Super Bowl Sunday episode.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

Learning lessons from a tragedy

As a family mourns the loss of a daughter distraught over the outcome of a custody battle, one attorney explains the legal questions over who is — or isn’t — a parent

Michelle May O’Neil
Special Contributor

ParentThe death of Debie Hackett was a tragically shocking end to a family drama that has, to some extent, played out in the local Dallas media. Through her experience and even through her tragic death, Ms. Hackett has provided an opportunity to educate many who are in similar situations.

There seems to be quite a bit of misinformation about her family law case and the litigation that recently ended.

Many people live in families with children that they emotionally consider as “their children.” Knowledge of how the law applies to their relationship with the children in their lives gives power, so even in the midst of this tragedy there is something to be learned.

Texas law has a very specific definition of a “parent.” Texas Family Code defines a parent as:
• the mother (biological);
• a man presumed to be the father (because he was married to the mother when the child was born or at the time of conception);
• a man legally determined to be the father;
• a man who has been adjudicated to be the father by a court of competent jurisdiction;
• a man who has acknowledged his paternity under applicable law; or,
• an adoptive mother or father.

No matter how much love, caring or emotional bonding exists, if someone does not fall into one of these categories, then they are not a “parent” in the eyes of the Texas courts or Legislature.

While a person may feel emotionally connected to a child, the law provides no status for a person who “feels like a parent.” Even if a person is treated like a parent, or even considered a parent by the child, that person cannot be elevated to the legal status of a parent if she does not meet one of the statutory definitions.

So, you either are a “parent” under the law, entitled to the legal privileges and obligations of a parent, or you are not.

Parents have certain rights that are guaranteed under the U. S. Constitution as well as the laws of each state. The most fundamental of these rights is the right to make parenting decisions without questioning or interference from those outside the parenting relationship.

In other words, as long as the parent makes decisions that are not harmful to the child, the parent has the sanctity to make decisions for the child. Only when a decision can bring harm to a child does the law provide a method of reviewing parental decision-making.

The right to make parenting decisions includes the right to decide who the child can be around, spend the night with and visit.

This right is fundamental, like the freedom of speech or freedom of religion, and as a result is heavily protected by federal as well as state law, and highly regarded by most of our courts.

So, in Ms. Hackett’s situation, her former partner was the legal parent of the child and had the right to decide whether the child would associate with Ms. Hackett after their break-up. Only by proving that the former partner’s parenting decisions are harmful to the child in a court-at-law would Ms. Hackett have been able to have a court overrule the parent’s decision to exclude Ms. Hackett from the child’s life.

The jury trial that Ms. Hackett and her former partner went through in December involved the question of the parent’s fitness in her decision-making. The trial was not about whether the parent versus Ms. Hackett should have custody, what time the child should spend with either of them, who should decide what school the child attends, or even an allocation of child support.

The jury decided that the parent was a fit parent. That decision precluded Ms. Hackett from seeking any other orders regarding the child, such as the right to visitation over the parent’s objection.

Some believe that the law discriminated against Ms. Hackett because of the nature of their same-sex relationship. However, Ms. Hackett stood in the same position as a heterosexual person that does not meet the legal definition of a parent.

The law applies equally to any person that is not a parent seeking to intervene in the parenting relationship.

For example, consider a heterosexual married couple where one member of the couple has a child from a prior relationship. When that couple breaks up, the partner who is not a parent would be in the same situation as Ms. Hackett, left to the parental decision-making of the parent to continue the relationship with the child.

Barring proof that the parent is unfit — that her decisions as a parent are harmful to the child — the non-parent would have no right to interfere.

Grandparents often face this problem as well. Many grandparents assist in parenting their grandchildren yet cannot seek court ordered access to the grandchild absent proof of parental unfitness.

As a Dallas custody lawyer, I counsel many non-parents in situations like Ms. Hackett’s. The most important piece of advice I give them is to adopt their partner’s child while the relationship is good and everyone is on the same page.

Adoption grants them legal status as a parent and gives them the legal rights and constitutional protections that come with it.

This then allows — mandates — a relationship between the adoptive parent and the child after the romantic relationship with the other parent ends. Without adoption, the law provides no relief from the high hurdle of the parental presumption over which a nonparent must cross to even have the chance of gaining court-ordered conservatorship, possession with and/or access to the child over the legal parent’s objection.

The current state of Texas law draws no line regarding the gender of the parent or parents a child has. So a child, by adoption, can have two moms or two dads, provided a judge finds such adoption to be in the child’s best interest.

Michelle May O’Neil specializes in Texas family law cases and works specifically with gay parents regarding relationship and custody issues. She is the author of two books, All About Texas Law and Kids, published in 2010, and The Basics of Texas Divorce Law, published in 2011. Ms. O’Neil practices law with her firm O’Neil Attorneys in Dallas.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay vote for GOP shows change in trend

Exit polls shows 1-in-3 voters who self-identified as gay voted Republican. Do we no longer see GOP as automatically anti-gay?

Matthew Tsien | Special Contributor

We learned a lot about gay voters in this last election — at least, you did if you have an open mind and a discerning intellect.

According to Fox News, which some gays do watch, 31 percent or more of self-identified gay voters in exit polls said they voted for the Republican Party. That is one in three gay voters, and more than the normal GOP base in the gay community of one in four.

That means a considerable number of gay Democrats and independents defected to the party opposing Obama/Pelosi.

Most gays will be shocked that gay people voted for what is supposed to be a party of rampant, uncontrollable, domineering, hyper-extreme homophobia. Well, at least that’s what most gays who live in a gay bubble all their intellectual and social lives would think.

Actually the number of gay people who voted for the GOP might even be 5-to-10 percent higher, since not every gay is inclined to self-identify as gay in an exit poll.

These numbers do tell us something very profound and unshakable about the gay political psyche, and it is not about self-loathing and being in the closet.
Instead, gay voters going to the GOP is strong indication that many gays no longer believe that the world — or even the GOP — is nearly as homophobic as the gay press and political class make it out to be.

Simply put, many gays have walked away from the once-popular notion of homophobia dominating the world according to the gay journalism universe. And they’re tired of being called “nut jobs” and in need of psychiatric help if they don’t vote Democratic or for more government.

Furthermore, many — approximately 30-to-40 percent embrace the Republican position of less taxes, less government, less bailouts, less deficits, less massive foreign borrowing, less Obamamania — and more freedom to run your own life, even the freedom to fail.

Gays know that HIV funding does not disappear with a GOP Congress. They also know that job protection does not evaporate if Republicans take over the government. And many gays just are not interested in marriage since it is set up for heterosexuals with all the potential traumatic divorce laws and financial devastation that accompanies traditional marriage. The trap of marriage equality is simply not a first and foremost concern to many thoughtful gay people.
Gay people were very involved with the Tea Party, phone bank operations and a multitude of effective get-out-the-vote efforts to help the Republicans win a historical election and deliver a massive repudiation of the extreme elements that have defined the first two years of Obama.

And that’s a fact worth noting.

Matthew Tsien is the former public affairs director for the Washington, D.C. chapter of Log Cabin Republicans and a graduate of the National Journalism Center.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Helping build a brighter future

Members of the MCCGD celebrate their new home by helping Habitat for Humanity build a new home for a member of the congregation

LisaMarie Martinez  |  Special Contributor lisamarie1207@yahoo.com

A NEW BEGINNING  |  The Rev. Colleen Darraugh, right, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, blesses the kitchen in the new house that MCCGD members helped build for one of their own as part of a Habitat for Humanity project. (LisaMarie Martinez/Dallas Voice)
A NEW BEGINNING | The Rev. Colleen Darraugh, right, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, blesses the kitchen in the new house that MCCGD members helped build for one of their own as part of a Habitat for Humanity project. (LisaMarie Martinez/Dallas Voice)

There’s a popular saying that goes: “We can take a minute to know someone, an hour to like them, a day to love them, but it would take our  whole lives to forget them.”

These words ring very true for the most recent recipient of a Habitat home, whose family is a member of the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas.

With their recent move to their new location in Carrollton, the members of MCCGD have already begun their mission to serve others within the surrounding communities by volunteering, this summer, to be a part of the North Collin County Habitat for Humanity project.

In the more than 20 years since it began, this branch of Habitat for Humanity has built 63 homes with a service area that includes Frisco, Celina, Melissa, Mckinney, Princeton and all the way to Farmersville.

A typical Habitat home is built within a 12-week span of time, depending on the amount of volunteer participation. The sponsors of this project were Stonebriar Community Church Frisco, led by Pastor Roy Williamson, and The Hartford. They funded the building of the house and supplied volunteers.

Additionally, groups, such as the information technology company IOLAP and churches, including MCCGD, got involved to provide the additional volunteers necessary to complete the project, which was ahead of schedule by four weeks. Key personnel, besides the volunteers, were house leader Russ Waite, volunteer coordinator Andrea Tabor and recipient mentor Dawn Serr.

Knowing the recipient personally and having her family as a member of their congregation, MCCGD Pastor Colleen Darraugh and her congregation said they were delighted to be a part of the project, even if in a small way.

“This project is about relationships; it’s about our mission, about serving, to move into the community and outside of our church walls,” Darraugh said. “It’s about meeting a need.”

There are many ways to support a Habitat build, the pastor stressed, regardless of one’s physical handicaps or scheduling conflicts.

“Collecting water or praying for the safety of the volunteers, the well being of the family or for a successful build, are just some of the ways anyone can support these kinds of projects,” Darraugh said.

Gene Goodwin, a friend of the recipient  and fellow MCCGD member, was part of the build since the beginning and helped to put up doors and paint baseboards.
Other MCCGD members who were unskilled in carpentry, like Milly Crawford and Mary Ann Miller, discovered that every job was important as they held the tall ladders when necessary or helped with clean up.

Darlene Hays of MCCGD worked on a Saturday when the frame was already standing, helping out by handing to those who needed them. By the end of her day on the project, the roof decking had been put in and the siding completed; save for the doors and windows.

Hayes said it was more than just her affiliation with MCCGD and the church’s involvement that made her want to participate in the Habitat for Humanity project.

“I’ve always been blessed with a safe home, and I will do anything I can for someone else to have that as well,” Hayes said.

The Habitat recipient said the experience was about more than just having a house built for her.

“Yes, this project will provide me with a home. But I’m getting more, because it’s about being with community and organizations, and being with other church members,” she said.

She thanked everyone who helped with the project, and said she would remember each one of them every time she walked into her new home.

While North Collin County Habitat for Humanity, as with other Habitat branches, relies on large donations from churches and organizations to fund the homes the agency builds, anyone can give donate to the organization and in any amount. Word of mouth and fundraisers are others ways by which NCC Habitat for Humanity has received support.

It takes about $60,000 to build a house and those dollars are harder and harder to come by in this economy. Habitat does not pay labor costs, which is why volunteers are vital to the organization.

For more information on North Collin County Habitat for Humanity, go online to NCC-Habitat.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Fighting the good fight with LifeWalk

Robert Moore and Ray Warner
RECOGNITION | Robert Moore, left, presents three-time LifeWalk co-chair Ray Warner with LifeWalk’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2009.

This is the third in a series of columns by past co-chairs of the AIDS Arms LifeWalk that will be published in Dallas Voice leading up to the 20th anniversary of the event on Sunday, Oct. 10.

Ray Warner Special Contributor

Because of my involvement with Nelson-Tebedo Health Clinic as an HIV counselor and phlebotomist, a good friend asked me one day if I would be interested in joining the AIDS Arms LifeWalk steering committee for 2005.

“Are you crazy?!” I answered. “I don’t have time to volunteer with another agency.”

But I said I would go to the event and see what it was all about.

Somehow I found the time to volunteer at both places, manage a home and still work full time.

The steering committee was made up of both past committee members and new members, and the people I met that day were a wonderful group. So I joined, and I had a really great time planning and doing fundraisers.

When the day of the walk finally arrived, I felt like I worked my butt off. But at the end of the day, when they let us know how much unrestricted money had been raised, I suddenly did not feel so tired. In fact, I was very excited about getting started for LifeWalk 2006.

Several months before the committee was to meet, I got a call from my friend Bill telling me that AIDS Arms had a new director of development, named Margaret Byrne. I had not met her yet so Margaret, Bill and I met for lunch. And that, as they say, is how it all began.

Bill was asked to be LifeWalk chair, and he suggested me as his co-chair. I was so honored to be ask to do something with an organization that I was passionate about.

During the 2006 LifeWalk, we raised nearly $100,000 more than we had raised in 2005. The steering committee built a float for the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and won the “Carson Kressley Trophy” for best costumes.

I was co-chair again in 2007, and again we raised even more money than we had the previous year. And we won yet another trophy in the parade, this time bringing home the “Queen Latifa Trophy” for best nonprofit.

Then came 2008, and once again I was LifeWalk co-chair, the first person to be co-chair for three years in a row. That was a huge honor for me, especially being in such a great group of co-chairs, both past and present. We again exceeded our fundraising goals in 2008. And when Margaret Byrne and Robert Moore presented me with the Volunteer of the Year Award at the 2009 LifeWalk, I was surprised and honored beyond belief.

I am so honored to have held the position of LifeWalk with such a great group of family, because, believe me, it is just like a family. We argued like brothers and sisters. There were ups and downs. But just like a family, we had each others’ backs.

Bottom line, raising money to help the clients of AIDS Arms and the other LifeWalk beneficiaries is the most important task at hand.Volunteering just a little bit of your time is so important to a nonprofit agency. These agencies are very special to my heart; some of my best friends are living with HIV, and some others have already lost their battles with the virus.

I know that a cure will be found so that no one else has to lose the battle. You can help. Get out there and volunteer for LifeWalk, walk, or just tell others about this wonderful event. I hope that I see you as I walk with the Nelson-Tebedo Team on Sunday, Oct. 10.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 01, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

This photo from Dallas Pride didn’t make our slideshow, but now we can’t stop staring at it

Dallas Voice contributing photographer Chuck Dube shot an amazing slideshow for us at last Sunday’s Dallas Pride festivities. The slideshow is pretty large at 250-plus photos, so it takes a few minutes to load, but it’s definitely worth a look if you haven’t already checked it out. Anyhow, Chuck shot far more than just the 250 photos he sent us, of course, and on Thursday we posted a link to his website for those who like us can’t get enough of his work. Which is where we found this gem that Chuck had been holding back. We understand why he may have thought it wasn’t appropriate, but after all, what else really says gay Pride like a rainbow-colored Speedo with an iPhone tucked into it, a tattoo on the lower abdomen, a pierced navel and a bottle of vodka?

—  John Wright