Pride 2011 • LGBT seniors in Dallas ‘just out of luck’

One man’s plight highlights the needs, dangers facing the entire community of older LGBT people

Kee-Holt
Kee Holt

David Webb  | Contributing Writer
davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com

Almost a year after a well-known gay community activist was discovered wandering the streets and apparently suffering from dementia, he remains alone in a nursing home near White Rock Lake without any support from family or friends, according to representatives of Dallas’ Crisis Intervention Unit.

“He is completely alone,” said Valencia Hooper, a caseworker for the unit, which is a program administered by the Dallas Police Department. “He doesn’t have anybody.”

The activist, whose identity is being withheld because of his vulnerability, was arrested by police just before Christmas last year when he was allegedly discovered trying to get into a car that did not belong to him. At the time the activist was homeless and wandering the streets after being evicted from his Oak Lawn apartment.

It is suspected that at the time of his arrest he was too confused to understand what he was doing, and that he was likely trying to find shelter from the weather.

While he was in jail¸ the activist came into contact with a nurse who realized that he was suffering from dementia and did not belong there, according to Marilu Thorn, another caseworker with the unit that initially assisted him and tried unsuccessfully to locate family members or friends who knew him.

Thorn said that when she started looking into the activist’s personal history in an attempt to find help for him, she was shocked to discover that he had been so well-known in the community. A few years ago, the activist was on the Democratic Party’s ticket running for a state representative’s position for a district in central Dallas.

Thorn reached out to the Dallas Voice for help, and a notice was posted on the newspaper’s blog featuring a picture of the activist and asking for assistance in locating his family. The effort was unsuccessful so the activist now only has contact with nursing home staff, other residents and the caseworkers who still monitor him.

“He’s pretty much out of it,” said Hooper, who noted that he needs someone to visit him and make sure that he has the personal things he needs such as clothing and shoes. “He’s really a very sweet man.”

Hooper said that as it stands now, if the activist were to die there wouldn’t even be anyone to notify to determine if anyone wanted to hold a memorial service. “He is going to die someday,” she said.

The activist, who moved to Dallas in 1975, is believed to have a son and a grandson somewhere, but apparently no one knows how to contact them. A former roommate of the activist’s now reportedly lives in Florida.

Hooper said that when the activist was first evicted from his apartment, some of his neighbors tried to help him for a while. One neighbor would let him sleep on her sofa at night. He would go to the streets during the day when she left for work.

“They didn’t know what to do,” Hooper said. “They kind of treated him like he was a little dog.”

At the time the activist’s plight came to the attention of the Dallas Voice, research showed that there were scarce resources dedicated to aging LGBT people who lack personal resources. Although the activist’s plight sparked some concern in the community, apparently no progress has been made so far.

One reader who commented about the lack of resources said the community’s resources are rightfully dedicated to HIV/AIDS services, and that there is no room for other programs.

He said that LGBT people are already entitled to the same resources that benefit all elderly people, but another reader noted that many programs benefiting seniors are religion-based and reject homosexuality.

Resource Center Dallas sponsors a program for LGBT seniors, the GLBT Aging Interest Network or GAIN, but its primary focus is education, entertainment and social activities, according to Kee Holt, RCD’s center services manager who oversees the GAIN Program.

After the activist began receiving help from the caseworkers, he was transferred from jail to a medical facility for evaluation and eventually was placed in the nursing home.

Thorn said anyone who was aware of the activist’s plight could have called Dallas’ 311 service to report his situation. That would have resulted in his case probably being referred to the

Crisis Intervention Unit, and he would have avoided the trip to jail, she said.

“It shouldn’t have gotten that bad,” Thorn said.

Holt said that as unfortunate as this man’s story is, a nearly complete lack of services in Dallas for LGBT seniors means that he is probably not the only one in such a situation.

“There’s really nothing at all out there for GLBT seniors in this city,” Holt said. “If you’re an older GLBT person here who needs some specific services, you’re really just out of luck.

There are no GLBT-specific shelters, no GLBT-specific services or resources. Oak Lawn United Methodist Church does have a program that helps a lot of people, but it’s not GLBT-specific.”

There are, of course, more general services and resources for senior citizens in the area, and Resource Center Dallas recently became a member of the Community Council of Greater

Dallas, an umbrella organization for Dallas-area agencies on aging. But, Holt stressed, those services are often not educated on the special needs of LGBT seniors and in some instances are outright hostile.

“When I first took this job in 2008, I started just cold-calling all the nursing homes and assisted-living facilities I could find in this area, just to try and get a feel for what people knew about LGBT seniors and their issues and how welcoming they would be,” Holt said. “I got hung up on a lot of times, and I even had some people tell me that they didn’t have any LGBT residents because ‘they grow out of it by now.’ Some just told me, “We don’t have that kind of thing here.’”

It’s attitudes like those, Holt said, that put many older LGBTs in an untenable either-or situation: “They have lived their lives as out LGBT men and women, and now, they face the decision of either going back into the closet and spending the rest of their lives hiding who they are, or they can stay out and face being ostracized, maybe even mistreated, by staff members and other residents at the nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

“It’s just a really, really difficult situation, with no good answers right now,” he said.

Holt noted that the Dallas Area Agency on Aging has recently asked Resource Center Dallas to conduct diversity training for its staff in an effort to increase understanding on LGBT issues. That is a step in the right direction, he said, but there are many more steps that are needed.

“The Resource Center needs a full-time staff person to work on just these issues. I don’t have the time to do that, and the funding for that isn’t there right now,” Holt said. “What we need in Dallas is an activist organization focusing on these [LGBT senior] issues. I don’t think that GAIN will be that organization. But we need one.”

Dallas Voice Senior Editor Tammye Nash contributed to this report.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dobbs resigns 7 Points mayoral post After being indicted on assault charge

His partner claims charges stem from anti-gay bias, say indictment has left Dobbs ‘disgraced’ and ‘financially destroyed’

HAPPIER TIMES | Joe Dobbs, left, and his partner, Michael Tayem, right, celebrate with a supporter after Dobbs was elected in a landslide as mayor of Seven Points.

David Webb  |  Contributing Writer
davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com

SEVEN POINTS — The pending prosecution of gay former Mayor Joe Dobbs by the Henderson County District Attorney has left the official disgraced and financially destroyed, according to his life partner, Michael Tayem.

Dobbs submitted a letter of resignation to the Seven Points City Council late last week, relinquishing his duties as both mayor and chief of the city’s volunteer fire department. According to Joey Dauben, publisher of the EllisCountyObserver.com, some sources are saying that Dobbs was forced out of the volunteer fire department after news broke about the indictments.

Tayem, a former Seven Points police officer who has lived with Dobbs in a committed relationship for several years, said Dobbs was fired from his job as a juvenile probation officer with the Texas Youth Commission in Rockwall after he was indicted on Aug. 19 by a Henderson County grand jury.

Dobbs was indicted on a felony charge of assault on a public servant and misdemeanor charges of official oppression and interference with public duties.

“It’s been horrible,” Tayem said. “It’s left us in ruin and struggling to make ends meet. He was the primary source of income for us.”

Tayem was also indicted on a misdemeanor charge of interference with public duties in connection with the same alleged incident on Aug. 16.

The district attorney reportedly told the grand jury that Dobbs and Tayem had interfered with an investigator from his office who was attempting to serve a subpoena at Seven Points City Hall in connection with an ongoing investigation of Dobbs’ administration as mayor.

Tayem had been on suspension from the Seven Points Police Department since May when a citizen filed a complaint with the Henderson County District Attorney alleging that he was the victim of police brutality at Tayem’s hands.

Through Tayem, Dobbs has declined to be interviewed in connection with the charges pending against him until his attorney advises him to do so.

In a statement relayed through Tayem, Dobbs said he believes the indictments were an act of retaliation because of his complaint to the district attorney three weeks ago that the same investigator had engaged in official oppression against a member of the Seven Points City Council. That council member submitted a written statement detailing what the investigator had said to her, Tayem said.

Dobbs said in the statement he also believes the initial investigation of his administration and the indictments were motivated by anti-gay bias.

“We can’t think of any other reason for it,” Tayem said.

In a telephone interview this week, Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee denied that his office was motivated by anti-gay bias or retaliation.

He noted his office continues to investigate the city of Seven Points in connection with another law enforcement agency, but he declined to identify the agency, which is widely believed to be the FBI because of the federal agency’s presence in the city during a previous mayoral administration.

“That is a patently false statement by him,” said McKee in regard to Dobbs’ claim. “His sexuality has absolutely nothing to do with the investigation.”

McKee said he believes that the evidence in connection with the alleged incident on Aug. 16 merits the indictments.

City Secretary Dru Haynes said in an interview this week that the City Council had called a meeting for Sept. 2 to accept Dobbs’ resignation and to decide what to do next.

“The day-to-day business of the city is going on without interruption,” Haynes said.

Dobbs’ resignation marks the conclusion of his tumultuous tenure as mayor. Controversy began immediately after he was elected in a landslide  more than a year ago.

For almost a year, three members of the City Council who had supported Dobbs’ opponent in the election boycotted council meetings and refused to resign.

With a failure to establish a quorum each month for the City Council to conduct business, Dobbs said he was forced to run the city on his own with the advice of the city attorney. That apparently led to the investigation of his administration by other law enforcement agencies.

After city elections this past spring, the City Council had begun establishing quorums again and meeting regularly.

Dobbs had ran on a campaign of restoring integrity to the city after the former mayor, a municipal judge and a council member were indicted on corruption charges following an FBI investigation of the city.

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

—  Michael Stephens

The right time

Coming out is a personal decision, and each person has to find the right time and the right way for themselves. And while it can still be tough, it doesn’t have to be as tough as it used to be

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

Coming out is still so very hard to do, especially if someone delays doing it for a very long time.

That’s what I learned recently when the 40-something-year-old son of a friend of mine confided to me that he had finally accepted his sexual orientation and now had a boyfriend. He broke the news to me by saying, “I’m involved in a new relationship with someone, and his name is … .”

The ironic part of all this is that my friend, his mother, told me when her son was about 13 years old that she was pretty sure he would be gay. She was an interior decorator, had lived in liberal cities prior to moving to Texas and had quite a few gay and lesbian friends.

I thought that she might be correct in her assessment.

Despite my friend’s worldliness and acceptance of her friends’ homosexuality, she expressed a concern that her son’s life would be much tougher if he indeed turned out to be gay.

We had this conversation about 20 years ago, so her assessment seemed reasonable enough at the time. I had to agree that being gay certainly hadn’t made my life any easier up to that point, especially in light of the raging AIDS epidemic that was killing many of my friends and scaring me to death.

As it turned out, her fears about him being gay seemed to be unfounded. He went off to college, met a girl, lived with her, left her and wound up marrying another girl.

Two of his best friends from high school with whom he grew up went on to come out and live as openly gay. One died of AIDS in the early 1990s.

My friend and I remarked on our surprise about how things had turned out, but we both generally acknowledged that we apparently had been incorrect in our assumptions that he would be gay.

Still, I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. I wondered if he was bisexual.

My friend’s son and his wife had a child, and they moved away from Texas to the West Coast and a much more liberal environment. They seemed happy for a long time, but then my friend began to confide that her son was having emotional problems. In fact, he had become estranged from other members of his family after a conflict with them before he left Texas.

Finally, I heard that he and his wife had separated, then gotten divorced.

At the same time, my friend and I began drifting apart, even though we had been friends for a quarter-century. I noticed her politics were becoming more conservative. She told me that she didn’t think the country was ready for same-sex couples enjoying the right to become married.

I began to realize that her liberal attitudes were only skin deep, and I was disappointed by that.

When my friend’s son told me that he was gay, I promised not to say anything about it to anyone until he had charted his course of action. I did advise him that if he planned to tell his teenage son that I thought he should first tell his ex-wife, who had become his best friend after their divorce.

He also confided to me that when he was a teenager he had fooled around with one of his male friends, and that he had felt guilt and shame afterwards. He told me that after he accepted his homosexuality and began dating other men, it felt natural for him.

After a couple of months, he told his ex-wife. She took the news excellently, telling him that she wanted him to be happy. His son seemed to take it in stride while posing a lot of questions.

The funniest question he got from his son was, “Are you going to start wearing dresses now?”

Then he called his mother and told her, and she admitted that she had known it all of his life. She also began weeping and told him she was concerned that it would make his life much harder.

In an email to me, she said that she was not shocked by his revelation, but it did make her sad. She also expressed surprise that he had told his son.

I’ve always been of the opinion that people come out when it is the best time for them to do so. His personal time table required him to wait about 20 years longer than I did, but that was right for him. He adores his son, enjoys his close friendship with his ex-wife and hopefully will have a good relationship with another man to round out his life.

In short, I’m hoping he proves his mother wrong. It doesn’t have to make life tougher in this day and age.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Orientation or illness?

Despite one reader’s insistence that pedophilia is a sexual orientation — like being L,G or B — most in the community think otherwise

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

T­he very mention of the word pedophilia — defined as the abnormal sexual desire in an adult for children — can spark an emotional and angry response in many people.

I discovered that when I posted a question on Facebook recently seeking comments on what an anonymous reader had previously suggested to me about pedophilia.

The reader advised me that pedophiles comprise a minority group, and that pedophilia is actually a form of sexual orientation, like being gay or lesbian.

The reader reached out to me because I had described the LGBT community as the last minority group that is still considered a politically correct target for discrimination in some quarters. The reader claimed that pedophiles are similarly discriminated against in much harsher ways, and suggested that LGBT activists also engage in the discrimination against pedophiles because they are higher in the pecking order than pedophiles.

In response to a comment I made about his initial complaint, the reader wrote, “You are confusing sexual orientation with criminal activities. There is abundant evidence that most child molesters are not pedophiles (not primarily attracted to prepubescent children), and that most pedophiles are not molesters. I would hope that the people in your community [the LGBT community] would be able to understand the difference.”

Well, I not only did not understand the difference, I was bewildered, to put it mildly.

I asked the reader to send me an email giving me more explanation about his argument, but I never received a response.

So my next step was typical for me when I don’t quite know what to say: I started doing a little research on the Internet.

What I found first was an essay, “The Pattern of Sexual Politics: Feminism, Homosexuality and Pedophilia,” by Professor Harri Mirkin, published in 1999 in an academic journal.

The essay made headlines in 2002, while Mirkin was chairman of the political science department at the University of Missouri’s Kansas City campus, according to a New York Times story.

The essay gained widespread attention because of the sexual abuse scandal that enveloped the Roman Catholic Church. In the essay, Mirkin compared the “moral panic” over pedophilia to the outrage that erupted when the feminist and gay rights movements took hold.

Reaction to Mirkin’s essay, even though it was a few years old, apparently was equally hostile and panic-stricken.

From there I moved on to an essay written for the Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, written in 1989, by Joan A. Nelson, who is listed today as an American Board of Sexology certified sex therapist practicing in San Rafael, Calif. The essay, “Intergenerational Sexual Contact,” gave me a more clinical name for what I was researching and defined it as “any behavior between a minor and someone at least five years older that is perceived by either participant or by society as sexually stimulating or intended to be sexually stimulating.”

It examined both the “adult participants” and the “child participants” in great detail. In one passage it noted, “In the face of age-old taboos and horrors of child abuse, it is hard for educators, research designers and other shapers of social policy to be nonjudgmental about intergenerational sex.”

It goes on to say that scientists should basically approach this type of sexual activity clinically to avoid misleading results. One of the more surprising points made in the essay was that the child participants appeared to sometimes be “indifferent” to the experience rather than traumatized.

Advocates of legalizing sexual relationships between adults and pubescent minors apparently argue that it is usually consensual, it has occurred throughout history and that it causes no harm to the younger partners.

I searched to see if there were any groups actively promoting the interests of people who think they should have the right to engage in sexual activity, but all I found was the North American Man/Boy Love Association. To the best of my knowledge that group and its interests have been condemned by most LGBT activists, law enforcement agencies and mental health professionals, and its small membership has disappeared underground.

I became aware of some advocacy for lowering the age-of-consent laws for sexual activity, but I don’t think those are particularly relevant to the issue of so-called intergenerational sex. Most of what I’ve read concerning that issue appears to be related to teenagers who become involved in consensual sexual relationships with others relatively close to their age.

Finally, armed with this new body of knowledge, I went to Facebook to do my unofficial survey. I asked for input from my friends — and boy howdy, did I get it.

My Facebook friends represent a pretty good cross-section of straight and gay people, conservatives and liberals and people all ages and backgrounds, many of whom are part of our community in some way.

Most appeared to be outraged by the very idea of even considering pedophilia to be a sexual orientation.

One commentator noted that LGBT activists should have had the foresight long ago to “rail against” any classification of our community in terms of sexual orientation, sexual preference or any other sexual terms. In our community, we are building relationships, raising families and doing all of the other things in which our heterosexual counterparts engage.

She asked why we should always be classified in sexual terms, rather than for who we are and what we accomplish?

So I would say in conclusion that I learned a lesson. And to the anonymous reader who thought that our community should be better able to understand pedophilia and be more sympathetic, I’d have to say, “Sorry, but we don’t get it.”

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Overjoyed, yet full of consternation

HATE LIVES ON | Like the Ku Klux Klan that vilified all minorities in its terroristic oppression of people and also operated under the guise of Christianity, today’s militant Christian Rights groups target LGBT people for scapegoating.

UN resolution on LGBT equality is a victory, but also a reminder of how far we have left to go toward equality

DAVID WEBB |  The Rare Reporter

The passage of a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council last month declaring that LGBT people around the world should be afforded equal protections with all other human beings left me overjoyed — yet still full of consternation.

The measure’s passage represented a great victory for human rights advocates who pressed for it. But the very need for such an action underscored how dangerous it is to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in many parts of the world, including the United States of America.

Homosexuality remains illegal in 76 of the globe’s countries, and it is punishable by death in five of them.

In the United States, where the Texas sodomy law — and in effect, all sodomy laws in the country — were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, discrimination and violence against LGBT people continues to run rampant. An analysis of 14 years of FBI hate crime data by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project in late 2010 revealed that LGBT people are more than twice as likely to be violently attacked as Jews and blacks, more than four times as likely as Muslims and 14 times as likely as Latinos.

In a press release by the U.S. Department of State, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called the U.N. resolution an “historic moment to highlight the human rights abuses and violations that LGBT people face around the world based solely on whom they are and whom they love.”

She noted that torture, rape, criminal proceedings and killings are sanctioned all over the world by religions that condemn anyone who does not adhere to traditional heterosexual norms regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

The controversial resolution, which was proposed by South Africa, passed narrowly on a vote of 23 to 19. Although the measure was supported by the U.S. and other Western countries, it was opposed by African and Arab countries where the prosecution and persecution of LGBT individuals is the most severe.

Three countries, including China, abstained from voting.

Reaction to the U.N. resolution from opponents of LGBT rights was telling.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, denounced it as a maneuver in an international agenda to restrict the freedom of churches.

Tomasi claimed the church opposes violence against homosexual behavior and punishment based on a person’s “feelings and thoughts,” but he condemned the measure as detrimental to society and likened laws against homosexuality to prohibitions against incest, pedophilia and rape.

In Ghana, the Rev. Joseph Bosoma of the Sunyani Central Ebenezer Presbyterian Church called on President John Evans Atta Mills to crack down on homosexuality in the country, warning that society was on the verge of a punishment similar to what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah in Biblical times.

The president assured the pastor that the government would take action to check homosexual activity.

Similarly, Alex McFarland of the American Family Association, the group that is sponsoring Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s The Response Prayer Rally in Houston on Aug. 6, declared recently that the world is now in “The Latter Days,” in response to the passage of marriage equality in New York.

He argued that LGBT rights are not the equivalent of human rights.

Soulforce, an LGBT group that monitors conservative religious groups, noted that another host of Perry’s rally, Lou Engle, the leader of The Call, is one of three evangelical leaders in the U.S. who supported the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda.

For three decades, the greatest impediment to the LGBT rights movement has been Christian Rights groups and their leaders who have seized on the concept of a “homosexual agenda” bent on destroying American culture and society. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, declared the fight against LGBT rights to be a “second civil war.”

Some of these Christian Rights groups have earned the distinction of being identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center because they have resorted to crude name-calling and spreading false information about LGBT people in an effort to draw support to their cause.

Like the Ku Klux Klan that vilified all minorities in its terroristic oppression of people and also operated under the guise of Christianity, today’s militant Christian Rights groups target LGBT people for scapegoating.

LGBT people comprise the last minority group left that it is politically correct in some quarters to attack, and Christian Rights groups and politicians like Gov. Perry are making the most of it.

The beginning of this summer marked the 16th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention’s apology to black people for its abominable treatment of that race over the years, and some gay activists, such as Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, petitioned the church group to issue a similar apology to LGBT people.

That, of course, did not happen, but one day perhaps it will.

Until groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, which urges followers to “go the extra mile when witnessing to gay people,” recognize LGBT people as equal, freedom will continue to be a worldwide challenge.

The U.N. resolution was a milestone in that journey to equality, but the road ahead for LGBT people will continue to be a long and difficult one. The U.S., which admittedly is far behind some countries, will likely see success long before LGBT people in some parts of the world feel free.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

The value of an ounce of prevention …

It’s true that after 30 years, treatments are available that can control HIV, but the question is, can we afford the treatments?

DAVID WEBB | The Rare Reporter

Three decades into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, more is known about the disease than ever before. But the future looks as uncertain as ever in terms of how it will be managed in coming decades.

Treatments for HIV infections have radically evolved since the early days when medications like AZT prolonged the lives of some HIV-infected individuals but failed to help others because side effects like nausea and pain caused the patients to quit taking the drugs.

Now, HIV-infected people often appear to be living longer and healthier lives, thanks to the development of the anti-retroviral drugs in the 1990s.

Although healthy appearances often belie the massive, complicated regimens of multiple, often-changing medications to sustain patients, there is no doubt HIV-infected people are enjoying a better quality of life.

Ongoing research by scientists around the world gives hope to the possibility there will someday be a vaccine to protect against HIV and possibly even eradicate it after infection.

Just recently, it was reported that a man suffering from both leukemia and HIV who received a bone marrow stem cell transplant in Germany in 2007 is now HIV-negative. His bone marrow transplant reportedly came from a donor who was immune to HIV, an immunity that some scientists believe exists in about 1 percent of the Caucasian population.

The downside of all this is the enormous cost of HIV treatments when they eventually become available to the public. The bone marrow transplant treatment is incredibly painful, dangerous and expensive, so its widespread use is unlikely.

Billions are already being spent on the delivery of anti-HIV drug cocktails, and those costs are expected to spiral in the next decade to astronomical amounts.

At the same time, all of the major countries in the world are struggling to remain solvent during the worst financial crisis of more than a half-century.

Regardless of what medical treatments become available, the majority of people may not be able to afford them. Millions of people in the U.S. are unemployed and uninsured for health problems they face.

The states and the federal government have long provided health care and other resources for HIV/AIDS patients, but crashing budgets are already placing limits on those programs.

And it’s only going to get worse as governments struggle to make ends meet.

Insurance premiums are rising so quickly in tandem with the rising cost of health care that many companies are struggling to provide benefits for employees. A decade ago, it was common for companies to pay for 100 percent of employees’ health insurance policies, but now it is more common for employers to require 20 percent payments of premiums by employees.

In addition to government cuts, the amounts of money HIV service organizations have been able to raise from the charitable public is almost certainly going to decrease as well. People just don’t have as much income to share with less fortunate people.

For older Americans looking to retire and anticipating the end of their job-afforded health insurance, the availability of medical care through the federal Medicare program is going to be more problematic, as it will be for younger people contracting new HIV infections.

And even if an older American has abundant financial resources to access whatever medical care is available, the truth is that the drug cocktails that have prolonged the lives of younger people just don’t work as well for anyone over 50, according to scientific studies.

It’s hard to believe that the 30th anniversary of the HIV epidemic observed this month was accompanied by a United Nations report that 30 million people have died from the disease, and that 7,000 new infections occur globally every day.

What’s more, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study was released earlier in the month reporting that LGBT students are more likely than heterosexual classmates to engage in risky behavior like alcohol and drug use, which presumably could lead to unprotected sexual activity. It is believed that an estimated 40,000 new infections occur yearly in the U.S., often in people who are unaware of their HIV-positive status.

So three decades into the HIV epidemic, we find ourselves pretty much where we were in the beginning back in 1981 when we realized it was likely a blood-borne, sexually-transmitted disease in most cases. No matter how rich someone is or how old they are, an HIV infection is unaffordable in every way imaginable.

Prevention of an infection is still the best answer for everyone.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Kunkle camp counting on LGBT voters for win

Mike Rawlings, left, and David Kunkle

It might look to some like frontrunner Mike Rawlings has the momentum building for an easy win in the Dallas mayoral runoff, but Kunkle supporters claim they are going to come from behind for an upset victory on June 18.

LGBT political activist Jesse Garcia said there are many “unknown factors” that could lead to a Kunkle victory. Runoffs traditionally produce poor turnouts, and without any South Dallas candidates being on the ballot there will be fewer votes cast from that area where Rawlings did so well in the election, Garcia said. Another unknown is the number of voters that abstained in the election but might vote in the runoff.

In a recent blog post I wrote that Rawlings had received endorsements from many past and present gay officials, and Garcia said that misrepresented where the majority of the LGBT community stands politically. “He only has certain key people, not the whole community lined up,” he said. Garcia added that Kunkle also has major support from LGBT “super activists” who contribute so much to civic affairs.

In fact, an analysis of the election results showed that Kunkle enjoyed strong LGBT support when he came in second behind Rawlings. In the 10 precincts where the most LGBT voters are believed to live, the Dallas Voice analysis showed Kunkle took 44 percent of the vote in those precincts, to Rawlings 37 percent.

Garcia also noted that it is unclear how those people who voted for Ron Natinsky, who failed to make the mayoral runoff and threw his support behind Rawlings, will actually vote. The runoff in District 12 for Natinsky’s former council seat is also on the ballot, so presumably many of his supporters will be returning to the polls, along with District 14 voters that traditionally turn out in large numbers.

—  admin

Anthony, your weiner isn’t that big a deal

The original Weiner photo (above) has been followed by an X-rated one that can be viewed here (NSFW).

After days of hearing about U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, tweeting a picture of his underwear-clad erect penis to a female Seattle college student, I was delighted to finally see what had stirred up all the commotion.

I’m disappointed to report that my reaction to the picture was decidedly anti-climatic as it frankly requires a lot of imagination to visualize anything remotely stimulating about the picture. No offense intended, Anthony, but I’m surprised you would send anything that unimpressive out into the electronic stratosphere. Frankly, I was more interested in looking for a label to determine what brand of underwear you buy.

It would of course been better if Weiner had initially owned up to the picture being one of him rather than suggesting he had somehow been framed, but maybe he was embarrassed to acknowledge that he makes a rather less-than-spectacular impact. I’ve seen more exciting pictures in the International Male clothing catalog.

The truth is that I’ve also seen far sexier images posted on Facebook by some muscular straight men I know. And as far as I what I’ve seen of gay men’s photos on the electronic media, I won’t even go there. I don’t pay quite as close attention to what my straight female and lesbian friends are posting so I won’t comment on that either.

In the end, the ultimate deal is that it’s just not that big of an event. There are a lot of people out there who think it’s just a harmless diversion. I don’t engage in it because at my age I suffer from no illusions about whether anyone wants to see provocative pictures of me.

Weiner, a married man, has confessed now to engaging in inappropriate electronic relationships with six women over three years. This has sparked a debate about whether these type of relationships that involve no physical contact amount to cheating. I’d say that’s between Weiner and his wife, and not really the business of anyone else.

Now a photo is circulating on the Internet that purportedly is one of Weiner’s manhood fully exposed and standing at attention, providing a little more for critics to sink their teeth in, so to speak. Again, I’ve seen more scintillating images in my time, and I don’t know how anyone is going to prove it is him. That is unless of course he goes to confession again. The truth is that literally no one tells the whole truth about their sex lives.

If Weiner was a Bible-thumping conservative preaching against such activities and condemning any type of relations outside of heterosexual marriage, then he would need to be exposed for being a fraud. As it is, I think he’s just doing what millions of other people are doing who are not suffering any repercussions from their activities.

Sometimes people can become obsessed with electronic relationships, including texting, phone sex and viewing porn. I think it only becomes a problem when those activities began to interfere with people enjoying personal relationships with other people. But again, that’s a personal decision that each person must make for themselves.

The bottom line is that I don’t think Weiner should resign. Believe me, Anthony, the image of your you-know-what is going to fade from the scene in a pretty big hurry. It’s just not that memorable.

—  admin

Fighting the normalcy bias

David Webb

Gas pump sticker shock brings home some hard lessons we all need to learn

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

After months of ignoring it, sticker shock at the gas pump has finally registered in my consciousness. And that moment of enlightenment has led me to do a little research about economics.

I now know that I’ve been acting exactly how the experts predict the average consumer will when faced with an unprecedented personal experience.

It all started when I filled up my gas tank at a service station in Oak Lawn the other day, and the tab came to more than $60 for just a few drops more than 15 gallons.

It occurred to me as I drove off that using a credit card at self-service pumps could lead someone to be blindsided in a big way when the monthly bills arrive.

I drive a modest four-cylinder sedan, so I don’t even want to consider what people who drive big gas guzzlers are paying to fill up — not to mention the shock that could be in store for them at the end of the month.

To put things in perspective, I started driving when I was 14 and at that time — I’m talking about nearly a half-century ago — gas cost about 33 cents per gallon. If I’m figuring correctly, I think that’s about a 1,200 percent increase in my lifetime of driving.

Admittedly, talking about price increases that have occurred over a 50-year period, the increase might not seem so radical. But just a little over a decade ago, gas cost less than $2 per gallon. It cost me less than $30 to fill up a similar car’s gas tank back then.

If it were only gas that had increased in price, it might not seem like such a big deal. But everything that we require to go about our daily lives, such as groceries and clothes, has increased just as dramatically.

Even the price of beer, which one needs in order to cope with the stress of all the other high prices, has skyrocketed.

We’ve all been warned for a long time by people who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s that hard times could be coming. But most of us never took those predictions seriously.

After my gas pump experience the other day my research revealed that my delayed awareness of the seriousness of the situation is not abnormal. In fact, it is a condition that is known as “normalcy bias.”

Basically, what that means is that if a person or group of people have never experienced a type of disaster or other traumatic experience, they tend to discount the possibility of it ever occurring.

I assume that’s why — despite the repeated warnings that prices for gas and everything else that depends on energy for its production and distribution would be going through the ceiling — that so many of us have ignored the threat.

It’s clearer to me today than it was a week ago that all of us could be on the brink of making some pretty severe changes in our lifestyle to cope with the economic hardships that appear to be on the horizon. Considering the numbers of people who are unemployed, surviving on food stamps or even homeless, there’s a real crisis out there that most of us just don’t fully comprehend.

What’s really scary is that all of the states and local governments are bankrupt and are quickly becoming unable to help support people who are in trouble. The federal government is in the same shape, and the dollar is losing its value quickly.

An even scarier scenario is that many people live beyond their means and amass big debts that will crush them should they become unemployed or lose a paycheck for any other reason.

Again, someone who has never lost a job or been unable to find one may not realize that it could indeed happen to them as well, according to the “normalcy bias” theory.

One of the examples of “normalcy bias” afflicting a whole group of people reportedly occurred in Germany in the 1930s when Jewish people who had lived in the country for generations failed to realize the dangers they faced from Adolph Hitler and his Nazi Party. These intelligent, affluent, accomplished and sophisticated people simply were unable to comprehend what was about to happen to them.

Some things are out of our direct, individual control as regards what could happen to the economy. But there is something that everyone probably needs to do in troubling times: I now remember financial experts on talk shows recently advising people to get out of debt, stay out of debt, start foregoing some luxuries, build a strong cash reserve to take care of basic needs and fill pantries with nonperishable foods.

Until my moment of awareness at the gas pump the other day, I might have considered such a plan to be a little alarmist, because like most people I know, I’ve never gone without anything. But that could change.

Now, it just seems like good common sense.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for three decades. Email him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

The past comes back to haunt

Political candidates have to be ready to have their pasts scrutinized, as Casie Pierce has discovered

DAVID WEBB | The Rare Reporter

At just about this point during every election cycle, I start to wonder why anyone would ever even want to run for elected office.

Any candidate announcing a political campaign opens themselves up to the most invasive intrusion possible into their personal and professional lives.

The truth is that practically everyone has something in their lives that they would just as soon not become public knowledge, and that might well happen when you run for office.

No matter how long ago something happened and regardless of whether it went unnoticed at the time, someone will either remember it or discover it when the spotlight focuses on a political candidate. And misdemeanor convictions suddenly become a very big deal.

Lesbian District 7 City Council candidate Casie Pierce recently learned that when she went before The Dallas Morning News editorial board and found herself under fire over her misdemeanor criminal record.

The editorial board had obviously done its homework by researching Pierce’s criminal record. It’s really easy to do because the Dallas County District Clerk’s website offers free public access to all criminal and civil records.

On her own, Pierce said she owned up to pleading guilty in 2007 to misdemeanor theft in connection with her former job as executive director of Vickery Meadow Management Corp. The candidate said an audit of expense reimbursements turned up irregularities. The reimbursements were for cash payments she made for contract labor and supplies for maintenance jobs such as painting and minor repairs in connection with public improvements, she noted.

The audit reportedly revealed an absence of substantiating receipts.

Originally, she wanted to go to trial and fight the charge, said Pierce, who was fired from her job in 2005 over the discrepancy. But after two years she was broke and unable to proceed.

It didn’t seem like such a big deal to plead guilty to misdemeanor theft to end the case, she said. Her penalty was a $1,000 fine and a probated 180-day sentence.

What Pierce apparently didn’t realize was that the editorial board would also uncover a DWI conviction in 1997 for a two-year-old offense and a bad check for $20 she wrote in 2008 at a grocery store.

The candidate said she didn’t mention the DWI because it had occurred so long ago, and she didn’t even think about the bad check that she made good for in 2009 when she learned about it from the District Attorney’s collection division.

The Dallas Morning News editorial board, however, did think it was a big deal, and they declined to endorse Pierce over it, even while noting she seemed capable and had some good ideas.

At the same time, The DMN editorial board also declined to endorse the District 7 incumbent, Carolyn Davis, and a third candidate, Helene McKinney.

Having known Pierce as a strong neighborhood leader for more than a decade, I tend to believe her explanation about the theft charge. As regards the DWI and the bad check charges, they’re as common as fire ants in this part of the country.

Sharon Boyd — who is the publisher of Dallasarena.com and can be one of the harshest critics of political candidates and officeholders in Dallas — tells me that she would trust Pierce with her checkbook any day. Pierce will continue to enjoy her support, Boyd said.

Boyd and I often don’t agree on political matters, but in this case we are on the same page. If I still lived in District 7, I would vote for Pierce. And I’ve asked my former neighbors in Parkdale to vote for her on May 14.

Of course the message here is for anyone considering a run for political office to make sure and check their criminal record before they step into the spotlight. There’s no telling what might be waiting to jump on stage with you.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright