Fort Hood holds Pride celebration

By Irene Andrews

 

History was made in Killeen, Texas, when Fort Hood, the largest Army base in the free world, held its first Pride month celebration on June 25.

My wife and I carpooled with several LGBTQ and straight allies to Fort Hood, for the event, which took place in the Club Hood Grande Ballroom. We were some of the first to arrive and were given seats in the center row. I quickly set up my video camera in the aisle to get a perfect shot of the podium.

As soldiers in camouflage fatigues began to trickle in, I walked around and spoke with them. I met John, who introduced himself as the husband of Captain Robert W. Caruso, the chaplain who would be giving the invocation. John and I were viewing large posters on display: a photo of the Oval Office with President Obama signing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, black-and-white snapshots of the first LGBT protest in front of the White House, circa 1965, led by Frank Kameny, and other photos with captions of interest.

The Black Jacks Brass Quintet of the 1st Cavalry Division began to warm up and in the midst of the music and buzz of conversations, you could feel the excitement and growing anticipation of what was to come.

I felt compelled to capture these moments as they unfolded before me. I grabbed my phone and began using it to do impromptu 30 second interviews: “Please state your name and tell me why it is important for you to be here today.”

Everyone I approached was eager to share their thoughts and leaned close to speak loudly into the microphone. They wanted to be heard as much as I wanted to record their voices. The din of musicians tuning instruments was not going to deter them. We all sensed the significance and gravity of this moment. We were never going back. “Silent No More” was a reality.

This was the beginning of a new Army tradition, and because Fort Hood was leading the way, I knew the surrounding civilian communities — and indeed the whole state of Texas — would follow — even if kicking and screaming. They would have to acknowledge us and respect us and see us for who we are.

Diversity and inclusion were winning the day. Same-sex couples were proudly sitting together, one in uniform, the other in street clothes, both smiling broadly.

Sgt. Major Michael Horton and her wife were among the mixed — military/civilian — couples there. Sgt. Major Horton said, “I am here to help support our Pride month. We have seen a big change in the Army and it has made it a better unit, a better force.”

Her wife, Consuela Jackson Horton, added, “I’m here to show support and I’m actually very excited to see the military community coming together as one.”

I was able to catch up with Capt. Caruso, who said, “I’m here because this is a momentous event. It’s historical, and I’m excited about it. I’m a gay man, out of the closet, and I’ve been a chaplain for two years, after seven years serving in ordained ministry as a civilian, and I am now married to my partner John.

“Our community is now able to express themselves and be open with who they are,” Caruso said. “My ministry is to all soldiers, but I have now had many gay and lesbian soldiers come to me with their issues. It is a different Army now. Its a good thing, but also very new.”

Caruso agreed that this new openness is making the Army stronger and healthier. “’Strength in Diversity’ is a core Army value,” he said. “Diversity is the anchor that holds the Army together, in my opinion. It’s what makes us who we are. We are a microcosm of society.”

Patricia Amazon Muldrow Roberts came with a group from the Bell County and Stonewall Democrats. She said she made the trip because “it is an opportunity and a privilege to be at Fort Hood to honor our soldiers. Our commander-in-chief has set a tone that now gay people, heterosexual people and transgender people — it doesn’t matter — can walk proudly with their partners and not be afraid. I’m proud to be here. I’m so glad to be here. As a black woman I can say the first time we were recognized and we were able to go into a restaurant and we were able to not use the back door — what that felt like. … I just wanted to stand beside my brothers and sisters and let them know we’re all one!”

Brigadier Gen. Tammy Smith was the guest speaker. She was the first LGBT Army member to have her wife, Tracey Hepner, promote her, as is the tradition for a service member’s spouse to do. This action was their “coming out” moment.

Smith shared her deeply personal struggle to live “two separate lives” for more than 24 years while serving in the military, until she met and fell in love with Tracey. Smith said she nearly walked away from a distinguished military career because she could no longer deal with the stress of lying about who she was. She refused to disrespect her wife and their relationship by denying their love and commitment.

Shortly before she was set to retire, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed and Smith decided not to leave the army. She and Tracey proudly live on base in a family housing unit.

Smith’s story stirred many in the audience. Straight allies I invited to attend with me were moved to tears. On a gut level, they began to understand the sacrifice Smith and so many LGBT service members were forced to make.

Protecting the rights and freedoms of fellow U.S. citizens would not afford them any safety. They would be denied those very same rights and witness the court martial and disgraceful dismissal their LGBTQ comrades and battle buddies.

I will never forget the moment my wife and I introduced ourselves to Gen. Smith and thanked her and Hepner. We were humbled by their courage and grace.

Coming out changed their lives as it my and my wife, Joan’s, lives. We left the event knowing that when we all have the courage to be our beautiful, loving, joyfully authentic selves, we release a power within us that reverberates like ripples from a stone breaking the surface of water.

The choice to be authentic transforms each one of us and rocks the world around us. We become part of a positive “chain reaction.” We begin to witness that which we have always hoped for: Equality. I believe Gen. Smith would agree that our families and our future depend on all of us coming out.

Happy Pride. Be out, be loud and be proud.

 

 

—  David Taffet

DADT activist Dan Choi to speak at UNT Feb. 6

0000004401216004555101740Former Army Lt. Dan Choi, an officer-turned-activist after he was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is coming to Texas to speak at the University of North Texas on Feb. 6 for its Distinguished Lecture Series.

In 2009, Choi announced that he is gay on The Rachel Maddow Show and he was later discharged. Afterward, he became one of the most well-known faces of the fight to repeal DADT.

Choi will speak at 8 p.m. Feb. 6 in UNT’s Auditorium Building, located at 1401 W. Hickory St. The event will include remarks from Choi, as well as a question and answer session.

Tickets for the public are $10 and can be purchased online or in person at the Stovall Temporary Union Building Information Desk or by calling 940-565-3805.

—  Dallasvoice

New BSA president is former Secretary of Defense who helped end DADT

Robert.Gates

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will be the new president of the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board, the BSA announced Wednesday.

Gates, an Eagle Scout, will serve as an executive vice president and national president-elect upon the approval of the National Council in May. After the council’s approval, he would serve a two-year term as the BSA national president and lead the National Executive Board, which guides the BSA as it serves approximately 2.6 million youth members.

“There is no finer program for preparing American boys for citizenship and leadership than the Boy Scouts of America,” Gates said in a statement. “As an Eagle Scout, I know firsthand how impactful this program can be, and I believe its mission is more important today than ever before. I am honored to take on this role and look forward to working on behalf of the millions of youth and adult members who make Scouting what it is today — an organization providing life-changing opportunities to today’s youth.”

As Secretary of Defense, Gates helped oversee the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned openly gay military members. The choice is an interesting one for the Irving-based organization, which has a storied past of discriminating against openly gay Scouts and volunteers. In May, the national council voted to allow openly gay Scouts, but not adult leaders.

Gates has a long history with the BSA, having served as a past member of the National Executive Board, past president of the National Eagle Scout Association and being awarded the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest commendation given by the BSA for extraordinary service to youth, and a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, the highest mark of distinction and recognition for those with exceptional service and unselfish interests.

—  Dallasvoice

TENT seeks trans military veterans for Texas Outserve-SLDN conference

Blumer.Oliver

Oliver Blumer

The Transgender Education Network of Texas is looking for trans veterans to serve on a panel at the 2013 Outserve -SLDN leadership conference.

TENT needs those who can attend the Oct. 25–27 conference in San Antonio and are comfortable telling their stories but is also looking for people who are not comfortable speaking in public to privately share their stories to collect for a “public narrative.”

Although “don’t ask, don’t tell” ended for gay and lesbian service members, trans personnel may still be thrown out of the military.

The Saturday afternoon panel is entitled “Transgender Veterans: Stories to Move the DADT Transgender Service Members Forward.” Those interested in participating should contact Oliver Blumer. Those interested in participating in the public narrative should contact TENT’s Katy Stewart.

Among the other presenters at the conference are the American Military Partner Assocation that has been following the Texas National Guard’s refusal to register same-sex partners of military personnel so they can receive an ID and federal benefits.

The 2013 Outserve-SLDN leadership conference will be held in San Antonio on Oct. 25–27 at the Marriott Rivercenter. Tickets are available online.

—  David Taffet

My favorite image of the summer

Favorite image

There always a lot of good photos to enjoy over the course of a year, but perhaps my favorite — and certainly of the summer — is this one from the Associated Press, which says so much with so little. (It also reminds me of another iconic photo, which you can see after the jump.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Obama official highlights business equality at N. TX GLBT Chamber dinner

IMG_4833

Fred Hochberg, the openly gay president of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., speaks at the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s eight annual Business Excellence Awards dinner on Thursday night. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Fred Hochberg is using his position as president of the Export-Import Bank to advance LGBT equality among business leaders and politicians.

Hochberg said he frequently gets an opportunity to educate anti-equality lawmakers about LGBT issues because they want and need to understand the issues of international business.

Hochberg, the first openly gay president of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. and the highest-ranking gay person in the Obama administration, spoke about the importance of educating people on LGBT issues as the keynote speaker at the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s eighth annual Business Excellence Awards Dinner Thursday.

Hochberg’s role includes trying to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of the U.S., Hochberg said he has conversations with people who vote against LGBT issues, but strive to understand the issues in a global market. And he uses his position to help gain understanding for the LGBT community.

But even as the highest ranking openly LGBT official, Hochberg said times weren’t always so accepting, mentioning his hesitancy to come out in the 1970s. He joked that he came out slowly instead of young people now who come out on Facebook.

“If you’re not out, I’ll let you it is a hell of a lot better on the other side,” Hochberg said.

While his career was in business, he said he wanted to do more and dedicated himself to helping elect President Bill Clinton and then focused on lifting the ban on gays in the military, which he called “a gift to America.”

Clinton appointed him to head the Small Business Administration in 1998. And President Barack Obama later tapped him to head the Export-Import Bank in 2009, a position for which he was recently nominated again.

He said he was proud to see Obama repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” sign an LGBT-inclusive federal hate crimes bill into law and come out for marriage equality. But he reminded the audience that the work is not done, and when people see successful groups like the GLBT chamber, they think all LGBT people are successful and happy, when there are many who are not.

“They don’t see the discrimination. They don’t see that our brothers and sisters who work at jobs are afraid to come out or our partners that are not covered by insurance,” Hochberg said. “We all have to keep working because I think our work is not done.”

Recipients of the chamber’s business excellence awards were recognized during the dinner. The awards were: The law office of Rob Wiley, Business of the Year; Kristopher Parker of Resource Center Credit Union, Emerging Leader; Jeremy Bradford of the American Cancer Society, Member Service; Cooper Smith Koch of Cooper Smith Agency, Community Service; Nancy Minchillo of Hewlett Packard, Supplier Diversity Champion; Southwest Airlines, Corporate Ally; and Marsha Thomas of TNT Promotions, Chairman’s Award.

More photos below.

—  Dallasvoice

Hagel vows to push for equal benefits for gay and lesbian military families

Chuck Hagel

Two LGBT groups, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Family Equality Council, are praising Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel after he wrote a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer addressing concerns about his appointment. Boxer endorsed the Hagel nomination on Monday. She had withheld support citing his positions on Israel, women’s and LGBT issues.

With regard to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Hagel wrote:

“I fully support the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 and value the service of all those who fight for our country. I know firsthand the profound sacrifice our service members and their families make, and if confirmed as Secretary of Defense, I will do everything possible to the extent permissible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members.”

In the U.S. Senate, Hagel received a 0 percent rating with Human Rights Campaign and voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. He was not in the Senate for the enactment or repeal of DADT.

“This commitment is a big step forward for military families with lesbian and gay parents,” said Emily Hecht-McGowan, director of public policy for Family Equality Council. “The Department of Defense has a lot of work to do to ensure that all military families have access to the benefits they’ve earned through service to their country. We look forward to working with the Administration to make sure that all military families, including those with lesbian and gay servicemembers, are protected and respected.”

“Senator Hagel’s commitment is a turning point for our gay and lesbian military families,” said SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson. “His promise to grant these service members the family benefits they have earned demonstrates his deepening grasp of the injustice currently being done to them.”

In its press release, SLDN referred to a 2011 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demanding a list of benefits available to straight military and denied to gay and lesbian military because of DOMA. That list includes issuance of military ID cards for a non-military spouse and access to military hospitals to visit a sick child by the non-military parent. Without a military ID card, a spouse cannot get on a base to visit the child.

While far right wing members of the Senate continue to oppose Hagel’s nomination, Jewish members are beginning to support him. In addition to Boxer, Chuck Schumer of New York expressed support today.

—  David Taffet

Defining Homes • How Swede it is

Gay agent Fredrik Eklund is a shark above the rest in Bravo’s new ‘Million Dollar Listing: New York’

By Rich Lopez

NUP_144829_0234

With European charm and no-holds-barred ambition, Eklund swoops in on competitors’ clients and cleverly negotiates the right price for his own in the cutthroat market of New York City.

Turning its eye to the high-rise luxury space of the Big Apple, the Bravo network premieres its latest entry into reality programming with Million Dollar Listing: New York. Three hungry young agents navigate through myriad clients looking to unload jaw-dropping apartments with three floors, major closet space and automatic toilets, and buyers willing to throw down millions for them.

But Fredrik Eklund might just be the show’s breakout star with his good looks, major ambition and a slightly checkered past he has no shame about. Really, he’s a softie at heart with fond nostalgia for the TV show Dallas.

“I was so obsessed with that show when I was growing up in Sweden,” he laughs (and hums the theme music). “But I’ve never worn a cowboy hat. Do they wear those in Dallas?”

He talks with a sincere and almost childlike interest, but he’s anything but when it comes to competing in the intense market of New York City. In MDL: NY, he’s one of three young bucks with one thing on their minds: closing the deal. And Eklund is quick to boast his billion dollars in sales to impress potential clients and make his mark.

“You just have to work harder at [real estate]. Even after eight years of doing this, I am still obsessive about it. I eat and breathe it,” he says.

We see his handiwork when he slyly negotiates offers to his clients’ advantage and will even take a cut in his commission to get it done.

But with commissions running in to the tens of thousands of dollars, he’s hardly missing out. While the money is nice, Eklund says this isn’t what drives him to be the best.

“This fits my brain really well and there’s always something new,” he says. “The number one thing I want to put my mark on is new developments here in New York. Any agent can put up a website and wait for the phone to ring, but with new buildings, I can create a brand for that. That is something I’m very proud of for the future.”

On paper, Eklund has had a privileged life. A successful father provided a blueprint for the success he wanted and ultimately achieved. He studied economics in Stockholm, owned an Internet company by the age of 23, he managed a cadre of music producers to churn out Billboard charting songs in Singapore and Latin America.

Now, at 34, he’s the youngest managing director for Prudential Douglas Elliman, the largest real estate company on the East Coast. Even with his golden career in his hands, the decision to add the show into a busy life was only a positive one — as well as advantageous.

“I knew it was going to be a lot of fun and I have some vanity, but to go so deep into your own life, it does become comical,” he laughs. “But the more serious answer is the international outreach is so important. Everyone wants to own something in New York and so the power of TV is unparalleled. For me, this is an opportunity to showcase my business.”

NUP_144829_0378

The new kids on the Bravo block include, left to right, Ryan Serhant, Michael Lorber and Eklund.

A priceless moment in the pilot comes out of nowhere when cast mate Ryan Serhant outs Eklund’s work in gay porn to a client over lunch.

Without batting an eye, Eklund owns it and swoops in on Serhant’s guest to deliver his card. Eklund is an open book without faulting any past decisions or experiences.

“I’ve always been open about it, but it has never affected my business,” he says. “When people hear me talk about it, I hope they can see in my eyes that it’s nothing. It was a short period of my life, but it’s helped make me who I am and I’m proud of who I am.”

Fortunately for local Realtors, he doesn’t have his sights set on conquering Dallas anytime soon, but if he did …

“I would do what I did in New York and walk around open houses, scan all the top brokers,” he says. “I used to pretend to be a buyer to note who the big brokers are. Every top broker has something that makes you want to really work with that person.”

But his plans right now only include taking over New York, celebrating his engagement to his partner he met during the season and making time to enjoy his whole new life in front of the camera.

“The world s very big and our lives are pretty short. Before we know it, it’s over,” he says. “I want to do so many things and even though I’m calmer about things, I still have that urge.”

Million Dollar Listing: New York premieres March 7 on Bravo. For more information, visit BravoTV.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 2, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Oklahoma House panel hears bill to reinstate ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ for state’s National Guard

Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City

Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern once called gays a bigger to America threat than terrorists, and Oklahoma certainly wouldn’t want terrorists in its National Guard. So according to Kern’s logic, that must mean the state shouldn’t allow gays and lesbians in its National Guard, either.

In January, State Rep. Mike Reynolds introduced a bill that would allow anyone eligible to serve in the military on Jan. 1, 2009 — 20 days before Barack Obama was inaugurated as president — to serve in the Oklahoma National Guard.

The bill would put the state at odds with military policy — which has allowed gays to serve openly since the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” last year.

Last week, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Executive Director Aubrey Sarvis wrote to Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the National Guard Bureau Chief, and asked him to come out against the bill.

“If a state National Guard ‘fails to comply with a requirement of this title, or a regulation prescribed under this title, the National Guard of that State is barred, in whole or in part, as the President may prescribe, from receiving money or any other aid, benefit, or privilege authorized by law,’” Sarvis warned McKinley.

In other words, if Reynolds’ bill passes, Oklahoma could lose $300 million from the federal government.

Sarvis also wondered what will happen to service personnel in the Oklahoma Guard who have come out since the repeal of DADT.

“Would those who have come out since the repeal of DADT be discharged?” he asked. “And if the Oklahoma National Guard mobilizes into federal service, will gay and lesbian guard members from Oklahoma be allowed to serve openly while deployed in accordance with DOD and National Guard Bureau policy, only to be demobilized and discharged under Oklahoma’s DADT law?”

The Oklahoma Daily weighed in with its opinion: “A ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ rule for Oklahoma National Guard is wasteful and disrespectful to guardsmen.” John Aravosis of AmericaBlog has a different idea — call their bluff and let them hang themselves.

The Oklahoma House Veteran and Military Affairs Committee is scheduled to hear arguments about the bill this afternoon, according to the Oklahoma LGBT group The Equality Network.

UPDATE: Oklahoma Sen. Al McAffrey reports that the bill has been sent to a different committee where it will die.

“The bill reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the Oklahoma National Guard is dead!” McAffrey wrote. “It was pulled from the Veterans Committee and reassigned to the Rules Committee, where the Chairman will not hear the bill. It’s good for our state that this bad piece of legislation will not proceed.”

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Rick Perry’s anti-gay Iowa TV ad

The image above may look like a scene right out of Brokeback Mountain, but it’s not. It’s from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s new anti-gay ad that’s airing in Iowa.

“I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school,” Perry says in the ad. “As President, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.”

Watch it below.

UPDATE: For a second consecutive day, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement responding to Perry’s anti-gay tactics:

“Rick Perry is continuing to misrepresent the views of the hundreds of thousands of people of faith in this country who live openly or advocate as allies for the LGBT members of their community,” said Dr. Sharon Groves, Director of HRC’s Religion & Faith program. “We cannot be in the business of forcing people to choose between who they are, who they love, and their faith. Rick Perry’s rhetoric presumes that you can’t be Christian and supportive of LGBT people.  Yet many Christians see in Jesus’ example a call to love and support their LGBT neighbors. Rick Perry is trying to claim religion for political motives but it won’t work. Our faith is too precious to be used as a cynical tool for political ends.”

—  John Wright