Iowa For Freedom: Fostering needless controversy, pretending its neither

gif animator Perhaps more than any other campaign coalition we’ve ever witnessed, the so-called Iowa For Mob Rule Based on Personal Faith Whims “Iowa For Freedom” crew has displayed an incredible desire/ability to have whatever conversation they feel like having, wholly independent of what their opposition is actually saying about their judge-ousting effort. For instance, check out this nugget from Campaign Manager Chuck Laudner:

Laudner also stated Iowa For Freedom continues to educate Iowans about the retention vote, and that opposition to that vote is where the controversy truly lies.

“This isn’t the first ever retention vote,” he said. “Putting something on the ballot, that is not controversial; to block that is. That is part of the disconnect between government and the voter. This is the race where Iowans can take back control of its government.”

IOWA FOR FREEDOM: IOWANS DON’T DESERVE ACTIVIST JUDGES [IFF]

But the thing is: Nobody is arguing with the retention vote process itself. In fact, the system has received many accolades from folks who deeply oppose IFF’s cause. There is no organized effort to change or “block” the Iowa system!

The issue here is that IFF and its gay-unfriendly allies are turning this process into a political war against same-sex marriage, recruiting groups like the National Organization For Marriage and the American Family Association to astroturf the state with “protect marriage” rhetoric. This anti-LGBT rights force has declared a “culture war” against the three judges who are up for retention, based not on a measured assessment of each jurist’s judicial record, but rather on the basis of one lone decision that doesn’t jibe with certain people’s faith-based marital views. And the judges, not being politicians or professional campaigners, are basically sitting ducks, watching as this well-financed, well-connected national consortium threatens both the individual career and the independent judiciary as a whole.

And it’s pretty hysterical (read: anti-intellectual and civilly irresponsible) to act as if its the opposing side that is somehow misinforming here. Because IFF hasn’t even made an attempt to separate the judges and flesh out the individual reasons for voting against each one. They haven’t even faked a claim that this vote is some sort of well-rounded meritocracy based on a nuanced read of each justice’s abilities. In fact, we’d be willing to bet that most IFF supporters couldn’t even tell you the individual justices names. Because all IFF wants anyone to know is that the three judges up for retention this cycle are among the seven who joined the unanimous Varnum opinion that brought marriage equality to the state, so therefore they all deserve a blanket pink slip. The whole idea is to provide a vindictive catharsis, in hopes of “sending a message” to the state and the nation.

Of course the grown adults behind IFF have the right to dedicate their summers and autumns to this very expensive, discourse-reductive, thoroughly divisive cause. But its gays and lesbians that the Varnum decision married: Not the concepts of ability and merit!




Good As You

—  John Wright

DISD trustee to propose LGBT-inclusive bullying policy, transgender homecoming guidelines

Lew Blackburn

Lew Blackburn, a member of the Dallas Independent School District’s board of trustees, said Monday he plans to propose an anti-bullying policy that includes specific protections for LGBT students.

DISD is already considering a new anti-bullying policy, but as currently written, it doesn’t spell out the categories of students who would be protected. Last week, Resource Center Dallas asked DISD to add protections for specific groups, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Several youth across the nation who were gay or perceived to be gay have committed suicide in response to bullying and harassment in recent weeks.

“The policy that the administration has recommended is the same policy that the Texas Association of School Boards has recommended,” Blackburn told Instant Tea on Monday. “What I’m doing is looking at policies across the nation, not just in Texas. I’m looking for something more wide-ranging.

“I’m still doing some research, and what I’m hoping to do is come back to the administration with a revision to what they have proposed with some additional language that other states are using,” Blackburn said. “I think it’s going to be up for approval next week, but I’m going to try to have it delayed for another month so we can get more language into the policy.”

Blackburn encouraged people in the LGBT community to contact their trustees about the new anti-bullying policy. Contact information for trustees is listed on DISD’s website.

We also asked Blackburn about the recent controversy involving Andy Moreno, the transgender girl who was denied a chance to run for homecoming queen at North Dallas High School.

Blackburn responded that he plans to ask the administration to draft a policy on the subject and bring it to the board of trustees for consideration. He said he’s concerned that in the absence of such a policy, principals at different schools could reach different decisions.

“I would like for us to be consistent district-wide,” Blackburn said. “We need to start talking about it so that we have something in policy before the start of school for next year. It’s new territory for us, and I think we need to take our time and do it right.”

—  John Wright

Kiss Controversy Lost on Modern Family

Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet Modern Family x390 (pub) | ADVOCATE.COMModern Family executive producer Steve Levitan said he doesn’t understand all the fuss about the kiss between gay characters Cam and Mitchell.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Making use of a chance to educate

Instead of working to block controversial film, TENT wants to put transgender issues on the front burner at Austin film fest by sponsoring discussion of movie

Recently, Transgender Education Network of Texas has made a very difficult decision. We have been following  the controversy surrounding the film, “Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives.” We have been discussing the issue with Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (AGLIFF) and both organizations believe that there needs to be dialog surrounding the film.

To that end, AGLIFF will bring the film to their well-attended festival in the fall, and TENT will facilitate a discussion afterward. This was not a decision we made lightly and we want to take a moment and clarify our position.

Many trans activists, as well as GLAAD, have been very vocal critics of this film and the “negative portrayal of trans people in it.”

The majority of our board has screened this film and, though many of us don’t think the film the greatest piece of celluloid art out there, we all pretty much agree that on its surface, it doesn’t portray trans folk too negatively.

Quite to the contrary, it shows drag queens (part of the trans community) fighting back against people who want to hurt them (and are very successful … at least physically).

I’d like to lay all of our cards on the table here. Originally, we were looking at this film to use as a fundraiser for TENT. After all, with all the controversy and shouting, it was bound to be a money-maker.

And we felt strongly that we needed to have a conversation around what was really making us angry; as an organization whose mission is to educate folks about the gender diverse, we felt an obligation to facilitate a conversation.

But after our second viewing and subsequent discussion, it became clear to many of us that using this film as a fundraiser would be adding more fuel to an already over-stoked fire.

We also felt that doing nothing was not an option either. You know, if folks didn’t raise a fuss about this film it may not have even made a ripple in our community.

As a matter of fact the controversy, arguments and protests have done more to pique the interest of viewers than any standard marketing that La Luna Entertainment had planned to do.

So, it is out there; we can’t do anything about that. So we feel it is necessary to talk about it.

We also feel that to have an intelligent discussion about the film, it is necessary to actually see it. Many of the protesters have not seen it and don’t plan to for fear of giving the appearance of condoning the film. We hope they change their minds when it comes to Austin.

Let’s take a moment to talk about what the critics are saying.

One of the biggest issues early on was the use of the murders of Angie Zapata and Jorge Mercado in the trailers marketing the film.

The film gives a nod to the “blacksploitation” films of the 1960s and is graphically violent, shot in high contrast and is very campy. The protesters (rightly, in my opinion) strongly objected to the use of the two very real and very tragic murders in the marketing of this admittedly violent and campy film.

The filmmaker listened to the critics and quickly removed those quotes. I didn’t see that trailer (it had already been pulled) and when I spoke to Israel Luna, the maker of the film, I said to him that had I seen the original trailer, I would probably be equally as offended.

I asked him if he understood that and he answered, “Yes, and that is why I removed those references.”

Although they have been removed from the trailer, this is still an issue that the critics hold on to as a reason to protest.

The other reason that the protesters and GLAAD would like to see the film banned is because “… it demeans actual transgender women who struggle for acceptance and respect in their day-to-day lives.”

We’re not so sure we agree with this statement.  Whereas drag queens are not indicative of all or even most of the gender diverse community, they are a part of the community and, I for one, am proud to stand side by side with them.

After all, it was the drag queens that hurled the first bottles to start the protest at Stonewall, a protest that launched a movement.
Now drag queens, by definition, are usually caricatures of women. We all know what it means to wear “drag queen” make-up, and few women wear the exaggerated make-up and clothing on the street in their day-to-day lives.

But that is the nature of being a drag queen; they are performers wearing a costume. And guess what?  They exist in real life. I know quite a few and are honored to call them friends.

In my opinion, the drag queens characterized in the film are pretty darn accurate. For the most part, I liked these characters. They were real!  Yes, I said it: Real.

Finally, there are a couple of criticisms that I may agree with. The first is the title.

I don’t condone the use of the “T” word; I don’t use the “T” word, and I advocate that no one use it.

The other criticism that has a bit of credence is the speed in which the film goes from a relatively realistic portrayal of horrendous violence perpetrated against these trans women to a “check your brains at the door” campiness. I have some real problems with that and would have a few suggestions for Mr. Luna for a re-edit if he wants to hear them.

But, all of those things aside, it is time to watch the film and talk about it.

It is for that reason that we are not blocking AGLIFF from bringing it to the film festival. In interest of full disclosure, we were given the opportunity to block it; if TENT said “no,” AGLIFF would not have brought it in.

But we feel strongly that this controversial film can open a dialog that can do a lot of good. So we said, bring it in and let us sponsor the discussion after. We hope to have the filmmaker, the critics, the supporters, and GLAAD all participate in this important discussion.

Lisa Scheps is executive director of Transgender Education Network of Texas, based in Austin. The talk-back will be held immediately after the screening of the film on Friday, Sept. 10 at 9:45 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Everyone is welcome to attend.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Target flap helps inspire ‘GroupOn for the gays’

Cooper Smith Koch, the local entrepreneur whose Gay List Daily e-mail service has 10,000 subscribers for its Dallas edition alone, has launched an offshoot called Gay List Deals, which is just what it sounds like. The current deal, for example, is $10 to spend at Urban Dog Coffee for the price of $5, available for purchase directly on the site:

“We launched the Deals initiative to help support our community by encouraging our readers to buy from local gay-owned or gay-friendly local businesses,” Koch wrote to Instant Tea. “We’re highlighting these businesses at no upfront cost to them and allowing them exposure to our nearly 10,000 Dallas edition readers. … Some folks are jokingly calling us GroupOn for the gays. That’s a great compliment if you ask me!”

Koch added that his team is taking it slow with the launch, posting only one or two deals per week initially until they can work out the kinks. He said surveys and research showed people wanted something like Gay List Deals but didn’t want to receive a second e-mail about it.

He also said the new site was inspired in part by the recent Target controversy:

“This is really part of a bigger crusade for me, if you will,” he wrote. “As the owner of two businesses myself, I know the struggles that small businesses face, especially with this recession that just won’t seem to end. Many of us who have survived this long are coming out of it bruised and bloodied, and we need to band together to help each other get through the Great Recession’s final throes. It’s definitely more convenient to pop into Barnes & Noble or to have Bank of America ATMs on every corner, but at what cost to local businesses? And now that Target has shown its true stripes, the biggest companies aren’t much more supportive of us than some conservative small businesses.”

Koch said he eventually plans to expand Gay List Deals to other cities where Gay List Daily is well established.

“We’d been tinkering with it since early this year, but what happened at Target really pushed it forward more quickly,” he said of Gay List Deals.

UPDATE: If you’d like to give Koch some in-person feedback, Gay List Daily’s August Mixer is Wednesday night at the Brick.

—  John Wright

‘There is no day but today’

By Trinity Wheeler, director, “The Laramie Project”

If one, definitive lesson has lingered with me since working with “Rent,” it is that of the lyric, “No day but today.”

This message in mind, I knew it was time — though, well overdue — for “The Laramie Project” in East Texas. When invited to direct a show in my chiefly conservative hometown of Tyler — which experienced a hate crime nearly identical to Matthew Shepard’s, five years before his murder in Laramie, Wyo. — I could have very easily chosen “Steel Magnolias,” “Harvey,” or any other tried-and-true, community-theater staple.

But I didn’t want a crowd pleaser. I wanted to present a production that would allow the audience to consider the views of others, and reconsider their own. To invite debate, discussion, and to open a dialogue — the seeds of progress.

The response I received in coming out was nowhere near positive or pleasant. If this was the reaction of my own family, how would the community respond to a work in which the topic of homosexuality is unabashedly broached?

I went out on a limb in choosing this show, and was very aware of the chance the bough could break, and down would come baby. But the number of East Texans who voiced their support for this production after protests from members of the theater board proved to be unexpectedly staggering.

The show is no stranger to controversy, though I don’t believe any of us imagined we would face opposition long before we even began rehearsals, especially from those who once fully supported the project. But the cast, crew, and community banded together to brave the storm, and I believe we are all the more resolute because of it, having formed a brand of bond unique to such an experience, which may not have happened otherwise.

And that is exactly what this show is about. A community coming together in the wake of adverse events. I have hope for this production, and for Tyler and East Texas. I hold to hope for tomorrow, but, for now, there is no day but today.

—  Dallasvoice

Gay McDonald's ad – the American version?

Last week, I blogged about this cute McDonald’s ad from France with the gay teenager and his clueless Dad.

Then a couple of days later, John Wright blogged about Bill O’Reilly’s comments on the ad, and since then the ad has become more talked about and discussed and praised and reviled. I was a bit surprised by all the hoopla (well, not by O’Reilly’s comments, since I have never expected to hear anything remotely resembling sensible from him), because I thought the commercial was cute but not all that groundbreaking. I mean, it certainly doesn’t reach the level of the Sir Vaughn’s Sunglasses ad Arnold Jones blogged about!

Anyway, today I found this video on YouTube parodying the French commercial. So I thought I would share:

—  admin