Michelle Obama joins “Top Chef” alums in Dallas

For the second year in a row, First Lady Michelle Obama takes her “Let’s Move” initiative to the streets, and this time, it’s coming to Texas — along with some Top Chefs.

Top Chef: Texas is currently running on Bravo, which helps explains Big D for the location of the national tour stopping here on Friday. The aim of the program is to teach kids how to make healthy food choices.

Among the celebrichefs in attendance at DISD schools this Friday will be Tom Colicchio, all-stars winner Richard Blais, dreamboat Fabio Viviani and Jen Carroll.

Dallas ISD is actually a leader in healthy food options for its students, boasting the most “gold” schools of any district in the nation for the Healthier US School Challenge program.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Anti-bullying bill leaves out trans protections

Rep. Mark Strama, who’s considered an LGBT ally, may not realize how big a mistake he’s making by omitting gender identity/expression from his bullying bill.

Later today the Dallas ISD’s board of trustees will vote on a bullying policy that, if approved, would make the district the first in the state to specifically outlaw bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Obviously one of the keys here is gender identity/expression, which covers not only students who are transgender, but also students who are perceived by classmates as not meeting gender stereotypes. Clearly, this is a major factor behind bullying — students who are made fun of, for example, for being “sissies” or “tomboys.”

So why, then, would a state representative who is considered an LGBT ally file an anti-bullying bill that includes sexual orientation but NOT gender identity/expression?

Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, last week filed HB 224, this session’s version of the comprehensive anti-bullying legislation that Strama authored in 2009. But for some reason, and we still aren’t exactly sure why, Strama has left out gender identity/expression this time. The 2009 version of Strama’s bill, HB 1323, which almost made it to the House floor, included both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. However, this year’s version includes only sexual orientation.

We contacted Strama’s office on Wednesday, but we still haven’t heard back. Earlier today we spoke with Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, who assured us he’s well aware of the omission. Smith said “gender identity/expression” was in every version of Strama’s bill  that Equality Texas reviewed, but suddenly disappeared from the version that was filed.

Smith said he was in the office this afternoon despite the fact that he’s supposed to be on vacation — for a meeting aimed at getting a trans-inclusive version of Strama’s bill filed in the Senate. Smith said Strama’s bill can’t be amended until it goes to committee, which might not be until March, and Strama isn’t willing to pull the bill and re-file a trans-inclusive version.

“We’re aware of it, we’re disappointed in it and we’re trying to fix it by having a Senate version of the bill that would be what we want it to be,” Smith said. “Our policy is that we don’t support bills that don’t include both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. We’ve been working on this since HB 224 got filed on Nov. 9 and we realized that it wasn’t in there anymore.”

—  John Wright

Another approach to anti-gay bullying

Jeremy Liebbe wants to show LGBT youth how to fight back against would-be bulliers and bashers.

Liebbe, an openly gay detective sergeant for the Dallas ISD police department, is a volunteer at Youth First Texas who’s taught the YFT Youth Defenders program for the last two years.

The daylong Youth Defenders Program, which is open to all YFT youth and volunteers, will be offered again Saturday, Oct. 23. The program teaches basic self-defense and self-awareness techniques, and is designed to help raise participants’ self-esteem.

Liebbe, a first-degree black belt and a SWAT-trained supervisor in the DISD police narcotics unit, said the Youth Defenders program is especially relevant given the ongoing gay teen bullying and suicide crisis.

“Just changing their mindset alone is going to prevent most bullying,” Liebbe said. “Bullies and bashers, they’re looking for an easy target. Most of the time the bully’s going to back down or walk away the moment they realize you’re going to fight them.

“A lot of it is just self-esteem,” he added. “It’s almost a self-victimizing cycle. Anything we can do to increase the self-esteem and personal power of this very marginalized age group is going to help reduce self-destructive behavior.”

The Youth Defenders program will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Youth First Texas. For more information or to sign up, visit the Facebook page.

—  John Wright