Celebration of Love Gala raises funds for Lesbian Health Initiative

The scooter's way cuter in pink, sorry Liz

The Lesbian Health Initiative of Houston is celebrating Valentine’s Day a little early with their Celebration of Love Gala Saturday, Feb. 11. at the Double Tree Hotel downtown (400 Dallas Street). The 10th annual gala is the 20-year-old organization’s major fundraiser of the year.

This year the gala features comedienne Susanne Westenhoefer, who claims to be the “first openly-gay comedian to appear on television” (yep, she was out before Ellen).  Dorothy Weston, co-founder and CEO of The Rose (a breast cancer prevention and treatment organization) will be honored  for her years of service. In addition the evening includes dinner, dancing, a silent auction and the raffling of a pink Vitacci 50cc Retro Scooter. LHI executive director Liz James is particularly excited about the raffle even if she didn’t quite get her way on the prize. “I wanted it to be a black scooter, as I’m a bit on the butch side,” said James, adding that more “femme” forces in the organization prevailed and a pink scooter was selected instead.

Regardless of the color of the scooter, the Celebration of Love Gala promises to be a fun filled night, not just for sapphic romantics, but for anyone looking for a valentine’s date night that supports a good cause. Tickets for the black tie affair start at $100 and can be purchased at lhihouston.org. Doors open at 6 pm.

—  admin

“Gen Silent” explores challenges facing the elderly LGBT community

Gen Silent PosterThere are almost 38 million LGBT Americans over the age of 65. This number is expected to double by 2030. Yet in a Fenway Institute study fifty percent of nursing home workers said that their co-workers are intolerant of LGBT people. That collision of a rapidly aging queer population and a nursing home system ill-prepared to serve them is explored in Gen Silent, a documentary showing at the GLBT Cultural Center (401 Branard) on Thursday, January 26, at 6:30 pm.

Gen Silent, from award-winning director and documentary filmmaker Stu Maddux, follows six LGBT seniors as they struggle to make decisions about their twilight years. These seniors put a face on what experts in the film call an epidemic: gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender seniors so afraid of discrimination in long-term health care that many go back into the closet.

Gen Silent startlingly discovers how oppression in the years before Stonewall now leaves many elders not just afraid but dangerously isolated and at risk on not receiving medical care. The film shows the wide range in quality of paid caregivers –from those who are specifically trained to make LGBT seniors feel safe, to the other end of the spectrum, where LGBT elders face discrimination, neglect or abuse, including shocking bed-side attempts by staff to persuade seniors to give up their “sinful” lifestyles.

This free screening will be followed by a call-to-action and panel discussion with some of Houston’s GLBT senior leaders.

View the trailer for Gen Silent after the break.

—  admin

Wine walk on Cedar Springs kicks off Pride

The September Cedar Springs Wine Walk takes place on Wednesday, Sept. 7. The theme is Pride.

“We’re expecting a large crowd to kick off Pride at this week’s First Wednesday Wine Walk,” said Scott Whittall, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association.

Purchase a wine glass for $10 and then visit any of the participating stores and businesses from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Glasses can be purchased by Buli Cafe and Hunky’s.

Many of the stores are running specials. Everything is 30 percent off all day at Skivvies. At Nuvo, all purchases over $20 are 20 percent off. OutLines is offering 25 percent off all shorts, tank tops and swimwear. Union Jack is awarding double UJ points all day and sales in various store departments.

Restaurants and bars are also offering drink and food specials, including half-price appetizers at Black Eyed Pea.

Have your wine card stamped at any six participating locations and become eligible for a Scavenger Hunt special. Prizes have been donated by many of the street’s merchants.

TABC rules do not allow anyone to carry wine between locations. Remember to finish your glass before going back out on the sidewalk.

Whittall said to check the Cedar Springs Facebook page throughout the day as more merchants add specials.

—  David Taffet

Immigrant Punk & SuZanne Kimbrell perform at Pizza Lounge

No Palin/Trump slice tonight

Local lesbian rockers Immigrant Punk, pictured, and SuZanne Kimbrell turn up the volume on dinner tonight. They perform a double bill in Exposition Park tonight. It’s a tough call between them and the Mavs, but a win-win either way.

DEETS: Pizza Lounge, 841 Exposition Ave. 8 p.m. Facebook.com/ImmigrantPunk

—  Rich Lopez

News: Tron, Utah, Antoine Dodson, Double Rainbow, Zac Efron

Road Utah Senate president wants to repeal the state's LGBT anti-discrimination laws.

RoadCar crashes on to George W. Bush's lawn in Dallas: "Though officials initially classified the incident as an “executive threat” that summoned the attention of more than a dozen police cars, police and Secret Service officers concluded that the crash was accidental."

Castor RoadOne of many disappointing elements of Tron: Legacy. "At a moment when people around the country are celebrating the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the film also serves as a poignant reminder that the gays who remain the most marginalized may not be the ones who are "butch" enough to serve but the ones who aren't."

RoadWatch: Antoine Dodson performs holiday song "Chimney Intruder".

RoadDavid Mixner on yesterday's 'DADT' signing.

RoadParents of Tyler Clementi to sue Rutgers: "Joseph and Jane Clementi, parents of Tyler Clementi, filed notice Friday. They must wait six months to file the lawsuit over their son's Sept. 22 death, which became the rallying point of a national outcry over the bullying of gay people."

RoadZac Efron's buzz cut.

RoadChart: The rise an fall and rise of "gay".

Dadt RoadWoW looks back to June '96.

RoadEnrique Iglesias releases sexually provocative video.

RoadIn the wake of defeat of Pennsylvania anti-discrimination bill, towns are doing it on their own: "Allegheny County state Rep. Dan Frankel's bill attracted a record 71 co-sponsors, including two Republicans, and even passed narrowly out of the State Government Committee. But it again died at the end of the most recent legislative session. Some local municipalities and counties are acting in the absence of legislative action. So far 18 have passed their own local human relations ordinances, and about a dozen are actively considering it."

RoadJamaica: Student flees dorm after students spread video in which he says he's gay. "The tape, which made its rounds on the campus in late November into early December, was about 30 minutes long and involved the student sharing deep secrets and fantasies with the boy he thought was his new-found friend."

Doublerainbow RoadTwitter goes nuts for L.A.'s double rainbow.

RoadWATCH: Trailer featuring Colin Farrell and Jim Sturgess in The Way Back.

RoadLondon, Ontario community backtracks on censorship of gay art.

RoadJersey Shore's Ronnie gets a doctor's exam.

RoadWill Catholics rejoice the repeal of 'DADT'? "The fact that the gay and lesbian soldiers who were willing to give their lives for their country were unable even to admit their presence within the military, seems about as far as you can get from any reasonable definition of 'respect,' to quote the Catechism.  How respectful is it to say to someone: 'You cannot say that you are here with us.') Much less it is treating them with 'sensitivity and compassion.'  How compassionate is it to tell a soldier: 'Feel free to sacrifice your life; just don't expect us to admit that you're here'?"


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Double Rainbow in Bronx Tornado?

I watched this popular YouTube video of an EF-1 (86–110 mph) tornado in the Bronx two days ago after photographer Jo Ann Santangelo mentioned to me her partner had just come up from the subway to discover the aftermath. Jo Ann had traveled through Picher, OK on her way to my mother’s ranch to do a photo shoot so that I might be included in her project featuring gay and lesbian servicemen and women who were discharged for being gay. We had begun chatting and she said, “Hey, I traveled through Picher, Oklahoma and what the heck happened to that town?” I explained the double disasters that befell Picher, and that it had been flattened by an Oklahoma EF-4 (166–200 mph) tornado, and because it was a superfund clean up site poisoned by lead and zinc mining, the authorities thought it was finally time to make Picher a ghost town. Believe me, that town with its chat piles and demolished buildings is an eerie sight to behold.

Back to why I thought this video of the tornado was interesting was that I scanned some of the comments on this tornado video and found it amazing how many people were commenting on the photographer’s perceived sexual orientation as possibly being gay. I watched the video again and I think I detected one of them exclaim, “Get inside, girl!” at 0:36 but not exactly sure. By reading the comments I was interested to note there was just as much commentary and controversy on the potential of them being gay as the amazing footage from a high rise building of an actual tornado in Brooklyn, NY, where tornadoes rarely form!

Two gay guys in Brooklyn, NY? Uh, not so uncommon. A tornado in Brooklyn, NY? Extremely uncommon! I’m not naive about the fact the comments on YouTube videos are not known for their serious nature and valued more for their comedic potential and less for their sensitivity. I just don’t know if I would bother debating whether or not the two guys in the sprawling metropolis of NYC who filmed the tornado were gay?




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright

That Time Alan Cumming Went With Grandma to an X-Rated Double Feature

When I was about 12 my granny took me to the pictures in Inverness to see a double bill of David Essex films – That'll Be the Day and Stardust, both of which were X-rated. She somehow persuaded the man at the box office to let us in. I think she just wanted to see the film and I was with her – she was a bit nuts but she was great really, she just went with the flow. I remember being incredibly excited. There was a scene on his wedding night when David Essex shags a bridesmaid in the back of an Escort van. David Essex was very pretty but I think what I liked was the noisy messiness of the sex act. It was lusty and passionate and all, "Excuse me, could you just move that spanner?" It wasn't all glossy, like everything I'd seen before; it was very British and ordinary, people roughing it, the way I kind of thought it probably would be in real life. It was quite sexy for a 12-year-old boy. Also, it obviously stayed with me because there's a line Essex said in the film that I still say, kind of as a joke, when directors are chancing it with you and want you to get up really early and work too hard when you're really tired. Like David, I always say: "I'm an artist, not a machine."

—Alan Cumming, making so much sense of, well, Alan Cumming [via]


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Queerty

—  John Wright

Partner denied sick leave by AT&T

Bryan Dickenson, left, and Bill Sugg hold hands in Sugg’s room at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson on Wednesday, Jan. 27. (Source:John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Despite 100% rating from HRC, company won’t allow gay man time off to care for ailing spouse

JOHN WRIGHT  |  News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years.

For the last 12 of those years, Dickenson has worked as a communications technician for Dallas-based AT&T.

After Sugg suffered a debilitating stroke in September, Dickinson requested time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for his partner.

But AT&T is refusing to grant Dickenson the 12 weeks of leave that would be afforded to a heterosexual spouse under the act.

As a result, Dickenson is using vacation time so he can spend one afternoon a week at Sugg’s bedside at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson. But Dickenson fears that when his vacation runs out, he’ll end up being fired for requesting additional time off to care for Sugg. Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter.

After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its “Best Places to Work.”

But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner.

“I really couldn’t be more disappointed with AT&T’s response,” Wiley said. “When you scratch the surface, they clearly don’t value diversity. I just think it’s an outright lie for AT&T to claim they’re a good place for gays and lesbians to work.”

Wiley added that he’s disappointed in HRC for giving AT&T its highest score. Eric Bloem, deputy director of HRC’s workplace project, said Thursday, Jan. 28 that he was looking into the matter. Bloem said a survey for the Corporate Equality Index asks companies whether they grant FMLA leave to same-sex couples, and AT&T replied affirmatively.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, so I don’t really want to make an official comment on it,” Bloem said.

Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company has “a long history of inclusiveness in the workplace.”

“There are circumstances under which our administration of our benefits plans must conform with state law, and this is one of those circumstances,” Sharp said in a written statement. “In this case, neither federal nor state law recognizes Mr. Dickenson’s domestic partner with legal status as a qualifying family member for a federal benefit program. There is no basis for this lawsuit or the allegations contained in it and we will seek its dismissal.”

Sharp didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

Wiley said Sharp’s statement doesn’t make sense. No law prohibits the company from granting Dickenson an unpaid leave of absence, which is what he’s requesting. Wiley also noted that no lawsuit has been filed, because there isn’t grounds for one.

The federal FMLA applies only to heterosexual married couples, Wiley said. Some states have enacted their own versions of the FMLA, requiring companies to grant leave to gay and lesbian couples, but Texas isn’t one of them.

Wiley said the couple’s only hope is to somehow convince the company to do the right thing, which is why he contacted the media.

“At some point in time this just becomes really hateful that they wouldn’t have any compassion,” Wiley said of the company. “I think the recourse is to tell their story and let people know how AT&T really treats their employees.”

Through thick and thin

This isn’t the first time Dickenson and Sugg have endured a medical crisis.

Sugg, who’s 69 and suffers from congenital heart problems, nearly died from cardiac arrest shortly after the couple met in 1980.

At the time, Dickenson was a full-time student and didn’t have car. So he rode his bicycle from Garland to Parkland Hospital in Dallas every day to visit Sugg in the intensive care unit.

In an interview this week at the rehab facility, Sugg’s eyes welled up with tears as he recalled what a Parkland nurse said at the time – “If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what the hell love is.”

“And sure enough, it was,” Sugg said over the whirr of his oxygen machine, turning to Dickenson. “As long as I have you, I can get through anything.”

Dickenson said in addition to visiting Sugg each Wednesday afternoon, he wakes up at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings so he can spend the day with Sugg at the rehab facility.

This past Christmas, Dickenson spent the night on the floor of Sugg’s room.
“That would have been our first Christmas separated, and I just couldn’t bear that, him being alone on Christmas,” Dickenson said.

The worst part of the whole ordeal was when he had to return to work after taking 13 days off following Sugg’s stroke, Dickenson said. Sugg didn’t understand and thought his partner had abandoned him for good.

“He called me over and over every night, begging me to please come see him,” Dickenson said. “And I said, ’Honey, you don’t understand, I had to go back to work to save my job.’

“That’s what really hurts about what they’ve put me through, not my pain and anguish, but his,” Dickenson said.

Dickenson said it was 3 a.m. on Sept. 22 when he rushed Sugg to the hospital. Doctors initially said it was “the worst sinus infection they’d ever seen,” but within 48 hours Sugg had suffered a stroke affecting his cerebellum.

Sugg lost the ability to swallow and his sense of balance. He’s still unable to walk and suffers from double vision.

Because he wasn’t out as gay at work, Dickenson initially told supervisors that his father was sick.

When he returned to work after 13 days at the hospital, Dickenson explained that his domestic partner was ill and he needed more time off. His supervisor managed to get him an additional 30 days of unpaid leave.

In the meantime, Dickenson phoned the company’s human resources department and asked whether he’d be eligible for leave under FMLA, which allows 12 weeks (or about 90 days) per year. Dickenson said he was told that since he lives in Texas, he wouldn’t be eligible.

Dickenson filled out the FMLA forms anyway and sent them to the company, but he never got any response.

When Dickenson returned to work, he asked to be reclassified as part-time employee, so he could spend more time with Sugg. His supervisor refused and told him his best bet was FMLA leave, even though he’d already been denied.

That’s when Dickenson contacted Wiley.

Sugg is scheduled return to the couple’s Garland home from rehab in about a week, but he’s still on a feeding tube and will require nursing care. With any luck, he’ll someday be able to walk again.

Sugg bragged that he was able to drink his first cup of coffee last week, and he’s looking forward to getting back to his hobby of raising African violets.

Dickenson said he knows of at least seven medical appointments he’ll have to arrange for Sugg once he returns home. He said his vacation time likely will run out by April, and he fears that if he loses his job, the medical expenses will eventually cause him to go broke.

But Dickenson, who’s 51, said he’s committed to taking care of Sugg, even if it means living on the street someday.

“When it runs out, I’ll be fired, and it really hurts to be in a situation like that, because I’ve worked very hard for AT&T,” Dickenson said. “We suffer now, but maybe other people in our shoes in the future, if they work for AT&T, they won’t suffer like we do.”

—  John Wright