Anable applying for top spot at HRC

Fairness Fort Worth president knows he is new to the activism game, but says there is no denying his passion for the work

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Tom Anable

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH  — As 2010 came to an end a year ago, longtime CPA and newly minted gay rights activist Tom Anable came to a momentous decision: He decided to sell his accounting business and spend the next year focusing on activism full time.

Now that year is over, and Anable has made another decision that could change his life again: He is applying for the top position at the Human Rights Campaign.

When HRC President Joe Solmonese announced that he was resigning, effective March 2012, Anable said, “My first thought was, ‘I pity the fool who has to try and fill those shoes.’ Now, three months later, I have started the process to apply myself.”

Anable said Thursday afternoon, Jan. 5, that he had sent his resume to the executive recruiting firm hired by HRC to help in the hiring process. Within 30 minutes, he said, he had been called for an in-depth phone interview, after which he was told his resume is being forwarded to the HRC search committee for review.

“I passed step one. Next step will be early February,” Anable said.
For most of his adult life, Anable said, he had focused his attention on his work. He knew he was gay, but he avoided the political and activist side of the LGBT community completely. Then came June 29, 2009, the night that agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and officers with Fort Worth Police Department raided the Rainbow Lounge on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

As the accountant for Rainbow Lounge, Anable was in the bar the night of the raid, checking receipts. What he saw that night left him shaken and scared — and angry. Within days, Anable had stepped across the line into activism and was helping create a new organization, Fairness Fort Worth, that has since helped revitalize the LGBT community in Tarrant County. And Anable spent the last year as Fairness Fort Worth president.

“It’s been a wild 2 ½ years,” Anable said this week.

Anable said that he first began considering applying for the position of HRC president in mid-December after discussions with some HRC board members while he was in Washington, D.C. for meetings.

“They told me I should apply. At first, I thought, no way. But when I read the job description, I realized, hey, I actually am qualified for this job. I actually do meet the qualifications in this job description,” he said.

When he came back home to Fort Worth and discussed the possibility with friends here, Anable said, he got nothing but encouragement in return: “Carol West, Jon Nelson, [Fort Worth Police] Chief Halstead — they all said I should apply.”

Still, Anable said, “It took me at least a week to wrap my head around the idea, to decide whether this is something I really want to do,” he said. “I did a lot of soul-searching about this. It was a very sobering moment for me, an unbelievable moment for me personally, to realize that in just 2 ½ years I have gone from being just a CPA to being an activist and president of Fairness Fort Worth, to the point where I actually feel qualified enough to even think about applying to HRC.”

Anable readily acknowledges that he is very new to the world of activism and nonprofit management, and he acknowledges that he “may not be what they are looking for” when it comes to the HRC presidency.

“But I do believe that I can apply and be seriously considered. I may be new to this, but no one can deny my passion, and this is a passion I have never had for anything in my life before,” Anable said. “Accounting is not something you get passionate about. Doing tax returns is not a passionate calling. But this, activism, this is about passion.”

Anable said that he knows the HRC board has recently completed a strategic assessment to
decide “what kind of leader they want” to bring in to replace Solmonese. “I don’t know what they’ve decided, and I know I may not be it. What are my odds of getting the job? Probably not that good because I haven’t been doing this very long. But I am going to try.

“All I know is that I am going to apply. If I make the first cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ If I make the second cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ And if I get the job, I’ll say, ‘Oh, God!’” he laughed. “But if I do get it, I know I will love every minute of it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

A win-win arrangement

The generosity of Bert Gallagher and Hudson Ferus Vodka is paying off for the new company and for the LGBT community

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Bert Gallagher

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Gay Realtor Brian Bleeker knows how difficult it can be to raise money for a cause. And he knows how difficult it is for someone planning a small-scale fundraiser to find corporate sponsors for those events.

It’s not that companies don’t want to help, Bleeker said. But they plan their budget, including their charitable giving, months in advance, usually too early for those planning smaller or last-minute events to apply. The companies also usually want a lot of information on the event so they can gauge what kind of return they expect on their investment. And that is often information that organizers for smaller events don’t really have.

And then Bleeker met Bert Gallagher, cofounder and co-owner of a relatively new company producing Hudson Ferus Vodka, and that changed. Bleeker said he met Bleeker through a representative for a local liquor distributor, and he invited Gallagher to attend a mixer for the DFW Federal Club.

“It was almost two years ago, and I think he was just really impressed by the amount of time and effort people were willing to put into something we believed in,” Bleeker said.

Gallagher asked to meet with Bleeker and other local organizers, and at that meeting, “He said, ‘What can I do to help?’

Before long Gallagher had joined the DFW Federal Club and the Lambda Legal Liberty Circle, and he was donating vodka to events for those organizations and more.

And although some might be amazed that a straight man is so willing to be involved in LGBT activism, for Gallagher, it’s a no-brainer.

Gallagher and his business partner Doug Jacobson had a publication based in San Antonio before they got into the vodka business, and their first real exposure to HIV/AIDS and LGBT activism came when they were asked to sponsor the Fashion Nation event benefiting AIDS service organizations in that city.

Working with Fashion Nation organizers, Gallagher said, “gave me the chance to see firsthand how events like that can impact people’s lives. We knew then that we wanted to continue to be involved in events like that.” And when he met Bleeker and other activists in Dallas, Gallagher saw a natural extension of that involvement for Hudson Ferus.

“It was so impressive to see how organized the people are, how galvanized they are to make a difference,” Gallagher said. “The work these organizations are doing is really amazing, and that feeling has been reinforced each and every time we have sponsored an event,” he said.

Gallagher and Bleeker said that the sponsorships are definitely a win-win arrangement: Event organizers get the chance to offer free drinks made with a premium vodka, giving those attending events the chance to donate more to the cause; and the folks at Hudson Ferus are seeing their popularity rising steadily in the LGBT community.

“Folks are going in to their favorite bars and asking for Hudson Ferus, and when enough people ask for it, the bars will start stocking it. That’s how we are getting into places,” Gallagher said.

Bleeker noted that he is constantly astounded by the generosity of Gallagher and Hudson Ferus. “He has given away hundreds, thousands even, of bottles of vodka,” Bleeker said.

But for Gallagher, again, it is a no-brainer. “To whom much is given, much is expected. We have been given so much, and this is one way to give back.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

RCD opens new dental suite

United Way provided funding for construction, staffing of new suite being named in honor of Bret Camp

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Bret Camp

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Resource Center Dallas was set to dedicate a complete new suite in its dental clinic on Friday, Dec. 16, and RCD Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox said the new suite is being named in honor of Bret Camp, former RCD associate director in charge of the agency’s health services.

“We wanted to honor Bret’s 16 years with this agency, and his knowledge and service to our community,” Cox said. “We felt naming this dental suite after him was an appropriate way to do that.”

Camp left Resource Center Dallas last summer due to health issues.
The dental clinic is housed within the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic, located on Cedar Springs Road near the intersection with Throckmorton Street.

Cox also noted that the costs of construction for the new dental suite and the cost of staffing it for one year came to $125,000, and was fully funded by United Way of Dallas. Those funds were part of the $225,000 total RCD received from United Way.

“Dental care is one of the highest priority needs” for people with HIV/AIDS who access health care assistance in Dallas County, Cox said, adding that facilities to meet the growing need were lacking.

“With this new dental suite, we can serve more clients and we can get them in for care faster,” Cox said. With the new suite in place, she said, RCD’s dental clinic will be serving about 1,000 clients a year.

As federal funding priorities shift and funding for HIV/AIDS-related services decline, Cox said last month that RCD is among those agencies looking for ways to expand its clinical services beyond just the HIV/AIDS community. But, she added this week, doing so will be a long and complex process.

“When you have a program funded with federal money, you have to keep that segregated, completely separate from your other services,” Cox said. “You can just lump it all together.”

Cox also said that RCD officials are considering whether some services now housed at the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic on Cedar Springs Road will remain at that location after the center moves into planned new facilities at Cedar Springs and Inwood Road. Construction on the new facility, designed by architect James Langford who was trained by I.M. Pei, is set to begin in 2014.

Cox said that a lot of the work of the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic revolves around HIV/AIDS testing and prevention efforts, and that the clinic’s current location in the center of the area traditionally considered Dallas’ LGBT neighborhood is most advantageous to that work.

“Right now, the clinic is located right in the heart of the neighborhood. It is a good location for those services, and that is a historically important site,” Cox said. “We do see some big advantages to continuing to maintain a presence there even after our new facilities are built.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Black Tie Dinner hands out $1.142M

Lemons stepping up as 2012-13 co-chair; Duncan joins staff as development director

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COMMEMORATIVE GIFT | BTD Co-chair Chris Kouvelis shows off the plate presented to each beneficiary along with a check. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Officials with the 2011 Black Tie Dinner on Thursday night, Dec. 15, distributed a total of $1.142 million to 17 local beneficiary organizations and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Although the overall total was down a bit from 2010’s total of $1.15 million, some local beneficiaries received higher individual amounts this year since the number of local beneficiaries dropped from 18 to 17 after AIDS Services of Rural Texas closed its doors in late spring.

As is traditional, half the total proceeds this year — or $571,000 — went to the Human Rights Campaign Fund. Resource Center Dallas was the local organization receiving the largest sum — $63,868.

RCD also received the largest donation to a local beneficiary last year, but that total, at $48,504, was significantly lower than this year.

The percentage of the total proceeds that each local beneficiary receives from Black Tie Dinner each year is determined by a formula based on how many tables and how many raffle tickets each organization sells for the dinner, how many volunteer hours each organization contributes to the dinner and other factors.

Chris Kouvelis, 2011-12 BTD co-chair, said in a statement released Thursday that he and other board members were pleased with the amount given to beneficiaries.

“It’s a thrill and an honor for Black Tie Dinner to be able to distribute these funds,” Kouvelis said. “It is with distribution that the reason for all the hard work done by this wonderful board is realized.”

Kouvelis served his first year as co-chair with Nan Arnold, who stepped down from the post during the check distribution event after two years as co-chair.

Arnold told Dallas Voice this week she was proud to know that during the last two years,“ we were able to increase distribution [to beneficiaries] substantially from the previous three to four years. Being able to give more to our beneficiaries is always a wonderful thing, and of course, that is our No. 1 mission.”

She said she is also very proud of how successful the 2011 dinner was.

“We really changed a lot of things this year. We had a great lineup and we sold out by August,” Arnold said. “We’ve heard a lot of good remarks about the dinner this year, and of course, we always love hearing good things.”

Black Tie officials on Thursday introduced Mitzi Lemons as co-chair for the 2012 and 2013 dinners, and they introduced Margaret Byrne Duncan as the new development director for the dinner.

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PASSING THE TORCH | Outgoing Co-chair Nan Arnold, left, and incoming Co-chair Mitzi Lemons at the Black Tie Dinner check presentation party at the Dallas Museum of Art on Thursday, Dec. 15. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

“I am leaving the board in excellent hands,” Arnold said of Lemons’ selection as the new co-chair. “Chris has been a great co-chair partner and is more than ready to take the reins [as senior co-chair]. And Mitzi has shown remarkable leadership as chair of our business operations committee.”

Arnold continued, “She [Lemons] is the first person to have the opportunity to have served [during the last year] as co-chair elect, so Chris and I have been able to work with her and mentor her all year. There is no doubt they are a terrific team and will lead the board to great things.”

Arnold steps down as co-chair after eight years on the BTD board, saying it has been “an honor and a privilege” to serve.

“I am just humbled to be a small part of a really great community in Dallas and I appreciate the opportunity to do my part to help in any way I can,” she said.

Looking back on her eight years on the board, Arnold said there have been many special moments and memories, but one in particular that stands out in her mind was being able to hand over a “substantial” donation to first-time beneficiary Home for the Holidays following the 2010 dinner.

“They were so excited; there were tears and yells of joy and appreciation,” Arnold recalled. “There were hugs all around. It was wonderful.”

Home for the Holidays, a nonprofit that helps people with HIV/AIDS travel home to be with family, received $24,375 in 2010, an amount that Home for the Holidays President Rodd Gray said earlier this year was a fortune for an organization in which board members often used their own credit cards and bank accounts to cover expenses until they could raise enough money to get reimbursed.

Home for the Holidays did not apply to be a Black Tie beneficiary this year, Gray said, explaining that the 2010 donation was enough to tide them over for some time. “We don’t need the money right now, and we didn’t want to possibly take away money from some other organization that needs it more,” Gray explained.

For Lemons, stepping into the role of Black Tie Dinner co-chair is an exciting opportunity.

“It is an honor I never dreamed I would have the privilege of experiencing, and I know it will be a time in my life that I will always cherish,” Lemons said. “To lead such a remarkable organization that impacts the LGBT community in the way that we do is almost daunting, to say the least. But I know I have the support of my co-chair [Kouvelis] and a truly amazing board and advisory board.”

Lemons has been a Black Tie board member for four years, and worked as a volunteer with the organization for two years before joining the board. She said that she was on the board at Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth when the church first applied and was selected as a Black Tie beneficiary.

When the church was selected as a beneficiary, Lemons said, “I began volunteering with Black Tie and became more and more interested in how the organization works and how it helps so many people.”

Lemons said that during her first year as Black Tie co-chair, she intends to “continue our efforts to educate not only the LGBT community about the mission of Black Tie Dinnner to help our beneficiaries, but also to educate the general public and our sponsors. There are still many opportunities in the North Texas area, and we will work hard to expand our reach.

“Although the 2011 dinner will be a hard act to follow, we are already in full swing working on an amazing 2012 dinner,” she added.

Lemons has been in law firm management for more than 25 years and currently works as a law firm administrator. She and her partner, Dr. Sarah Hardy, have been together for 15 years, and Lemons said Hardy is also “very much a part of Black Tie with her never-ending support of my role on the board and her belief in the Black Tie mission.

“The many hours of work we do as board members to produce the dinner each year would never happen without the devotion of our spouses to what we believe in,” Lemons said.
Duncan said this week that the transition to her new position as development director for Black Tie Dinner has already begun, even though she does not officially take over the position until Jan. 1.

“I am honored to be part of the nation’s largest, most successful single-event LGBT fundraiser,” Duncan said. “That success would not be possible without our extremely dedicated volunteer board of directors.”

Duncan said she became familiar with Black Tie while working for five years with AIDS Arms, one of the dinner’s beneficiary organizations. Because of that, Duncan said, “I have firsthand knowledge of how important Black Tie’s funding is to the LGBT-supportive organizations serving North Texas.”

Duncan said her goal for 2012 is to continue building on the organization’s current success and to find ways to increase the donations Black Tie gives back to its beneficiaries.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

AOC to host new Magic Johnson HIV/AIDs clinic

Gould expects new clinic to open in April, giving HIV/AIDS patients in Tarrant County more options for care

Magic-Johnson

Magic Johnson

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Officials at AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, headquartered in Los Angeles, announced on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, that basketball legend and AIDS survivor Earvin “Magic” Johnson will be lending his name to three new AHF-affiliated healthcare clinics — including one planned at AOC’s Fort Worth facilities.
The other two new AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Centers will be in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Atlanta.

AOC and AHF officials had announced in late September that the boards of the two agencies had signed a letter of intent to develop the Fort Worth clinic.

AOC Executive Director Allan Gould said this week his agency is “very excited” that the clinic being planned here was chosen to be an AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Center.

“It is definitely something we had hoped for, and we are very honored that the Magic Johnson Foundation and AIDS Healthcare Foundation trust us to operate this new clinic,” Gould said. “His [Johnson’s] name will bring an even larger degree of publicity to our agency and to the work we do here. And hopefully, that will open some doors that were not so fully opened to us in the past. This can’t be anything but great news for us.”

AHF is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the U.S., and serves more than 100,000 patients overall in 22 countries. Created in 1987, the foundation generates its operating capital through its own self-created social enterprises, including AHF Pharmacies, thrift stores, healthcare contracts and other strategic partnerships.

Johnson, who was still playing pro basketball in 1991 when he announced publicly that he was HIV-positive, is chairman and founder of the Magic Johnson Foundation. The foundation raises funds for community-based organizations focused on HIV/AIDS education and prevention.

“Magic Johnson is not just an outstanding businessman and a sports legend. He is also a hero to thousands because of the way he lends his name to the fight against HIV/AIDS,” Gould said. “When he stepped up to declare that he was HIV-positive, he did a tremendous amount to help lessen the stigma of AIDS.”

Gould said the most important aspect of the new AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Clinic at AOC is that it will “offer clients a choice.”

“I am not saying anything negative about JPS Healing Wings [HIV clinic] or the Tarrant County Health Department’s AIDS clinic. They do a great job,” Gould said. “But there are still people lining up at both those clinics every day to see a physician and get the care they need. Now there will be a paradigm shift in access to medical care in our region. Now those clients will have a choice.”

He said that the new clinic, “ideally, could see up to a thousand clients a year, once it is staffed. But I think in the first year we will see 400 to 600 patients.

What that will do is lower the number of patients going to Healing Wings and the public health clinic, and shorten those lines, that wait time. This gives those clients another opportunity to access expert, top-of-the-line, cutting edge medical care.”
Gould said the new clinic will occupy about 4,000 square feet of AOC’s facilities at 400 N. Beach St., and that it will include a pharmacy, as well.

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Allan Gould

“This new clinic will offer medical treatment and prescriptions, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay,” Gould said. “That’s a huge element that we will be bringing to the table that has not been previously available” in Tarrant County and surrounding rural counties AOC serves.

Gould said AHF first approached AOC officials about five months ago, and that AOC officials “were really honored” to be considered as the site of a new AHF clinic.

“It is something we have wanted to do for some time,” Gould said. “Having a clinic has long been an integral part of our mission, and when we moved to our new location here on Beach Street, we did so hoping that the additional square footage this new space gives us would give us the chance to have a clinic.”

But even after they were approached by AHF, “we took our time and did our due diligence,” Gould said. “It takes times to figure out if you want to be a federally qualified health care clinic or go a different route. You have to look at all the parameters involved and all the different permits and licenses you have to have. It can become quite daunting.”

Even when they announced the letter of intent in September, he said, details were still being negotiated. That’s why when AHF CEO Michael Weinstein said during his visit to Fort Worth last month that he would love to see the new clinic open on Feb. 14, 2012, “our jaws just dropped to the floor,” Gould said.

“Even under the best circumstances, the process of getting [construction] permits and rearranging the existing offices — opening by Valentine’s Day simply was not feasible.”

Still, Gould said, word of the new clinic is already getting around and “We are already getting resumés for physicians who want to come and run this clinic, from nurse practitioners and others who want to work here.

“This truly is a huge event for Tarrant County,” Gould continued. “I know there are a number of community health care clinics in Dallas, but this will be the first one in our area that isn’t run by a major medical facility. The role that AOC has been trying to foster for some time is now coming to fruition, and that speaks volumes about the respect we have built up.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Lady of letters

Lesbian mystery writer Patricia Cornwell strives to live her life openly and honestly— and lets her characters do the same

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PAT AND KAY | Cornwell has spent 21 years with one woman in her life — her crime-solving medical examiner alter ego, Kay Scarpetta. (Photo courtesy Gina Crozier)

TAMMYE NASH  | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

When you have been with someone for more than 20 years, the relationship can sometimes get stale. You get in a rut, following a routine and doing the same things over and over again. Sometimes, things can get boring.

But Patricia Cornwell knows how to avoid that pitfall; the woman in her life for so long, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, never gets boring — not to Cornwell, and not to the millions of readers who follow Scarpetta’s life through Cornwell’s popular series.

Scarpetta is the forensic scientist first introduced in Cornwell’s 1990 debut novel, Post-Mortem, as chief medical examiner for the state of Virginia. In their 21 years together — January will make it 22 —  Cornwell has written 18 more Scarpetta novels, following the career of the brilliant crime-solving doctor and a supporting cast that includes her husband, FBI agent Benton Wesley, her genius lesbian niece Lucy Farinelli and her longtime associate and investigator Pete Marino.

The latest installment in the series, Red Mist, takes them into yet another of Cornwell’s intricately tangled plots in which Scarpetta and her family face constant danger while trying to weave together disparate clues to solve a mystery and catch the killer.

It may sound formulaic, but Cornwell’s own knowledge of forensic science and the author’s willingness to let her characters, in effect, create themselves and explore the world keep the formula constantly updated.

“The most important thing [in keeping such a long-running series fresh] is when you know what made something work in the first place,” says Cornwell, who will be in Dallas Tuesday for a book-signing. An author has to retain that successful element while at the same time allowing the characters to change along with the rest of the world.

To do that, Cornwell says, “I live very much in the real world. I am always going out and exploring to see what new ideas I can find. … These characters, they live in the same world I live in. In our post-9-11 world in 2011, there’s no similarity now to what was going on in 1988 and ’89 when I was writing Post-mortem. I try to reflect through my characters the same things I am experiencing.”

One constant throughout the Scarpetta series, however, is Cornwell’s attention to detailed (and accurate) science. That’s another “adventure” that Cornwell lives, as well.

Cornwell, 55, started her career as a crime reporter with the Charlotte Observer. She became so fascinated with the science of solving crimes that she left journalism to work as a computer analyst and technical writer in the office of Virginia’s chief medical examiner.

“The first time I stepped foot in a medical examiner’s office, I knew, this is where I want to be,” Cornwell says. She remains “an ongoing student of everything that goes on in forensic science, in medicine and in crime.”

Cornwell’s books have never wanted for LGBT fans, and Cornwell acknowledges that there has always been a segment of her fan base that wanted to see Scarpetta come out as lesbian.

“I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. I think by now, she’s pretty settled in her marriage to Wesley,” Cornwell laughs.

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TWO DECADES OF CRIME | Patricia Cornwell has been with her heroine, Kay Scarpetta, from ‘Post-Mortem’ to the current ‘Red Mist’ with titles like ‘Predator’ in between.

But Lucy is one major out character, a step Cornwell says happened as organically as all of the rest of the character development through the years.

“When I was writing Body Farm, there was this scene where Lucy walks into her aunt’s living room, a teen full of angst who just got a driver’s license.

When I saw her in my mind, I thought, ‘Oh my god, she’s gay,’” Cornwell says. “It was not premeditated. I never try to change any of my characters into something they’re not. I just knew at the time that was who Lucy was. I do that with all my characters, let them be who they are, and it doesn’t matter whether people like it or not.”

Cornwell acknowledges that the gay angle probably cost her some readers but likely gained her some, too, for the same reason.

Lucy Farinelli is fully fleshed out, with good traits and flaws. She is never a villain, but she’s not perfect, either. Cornwell has never tried to turn Lucy into some kind of symbolic representation to promote LGBT rights. Because that’s not who Lucy is. And it’s not who Cornwell is, either.
Cornwell married her partner, Dr. Staci Gruber, in 2006 in Massachusetts, but didn’t really talk publicly about her marriage until about a year later.

“Our relationship was never really secret, and it wasn’t that we just weren’t talking about it [the marriage]. It’s just that people didn’t think to ask about it,” Cornwell says. “But when there became a reason to talk about it, that came easily.”

That reason, she continues, came in 2007 when she started thinking about the thousands of committed same-sex couples who aren’t able to legally marry.

“When you have a committed relationship and live where that relationship is legally recognized, you start to feel very badly that there are so many places where people are not honored that way,” Cornwell says. “You can’t legislate that people should think and feel the same way you do, and I don’t campaign about it. But when I am asked, I speak openly and honestly about it. First and foremost, you have to be honest.

“I think it’s shocking that at a time when we are facing the kind of problems this country has, that people are focusing on issues like this, on who can and can’t get married. It’s just phobic and silly,” Cornwell says. “You can be an example without being on a soapbox. I am not a preacher. I am not a politician, and I wouldn’t be any good at trying to present any kind of message that way. I just live my life very honestly and let that be my example.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Investigation continues into 2nd fatal hit-and-run on Cedar Springs

LGBT liaison officer says police have ‘good information’ from witnesses; Hunt says efforts to improve safety ‘must be expedited’

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ANGELA HUNT

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas police are continuing their investigation this week into the Nov. 25 hit-and-run on Cedar Springs Road that claimed the life of Edward Lee King, 61.

LGBT Liaison Officer Laura Martin said police reports indicate King was crossing from the west side to the east side, in the middle of the 4100 block of Cedar Springs, near the Knight Street intersection, around 10:30 p.m., when he was struck by a dark-colored SUV traveling south.

The vehicle, described by witnesses as possibly a Land Rover or a Range Rover with wraparound taillights, sped off without stopping and turned east on Throckmorton Street.

Martin said police have “some pretty good information” from witnesses and hope to locate the driver of the vehicle soon.

King, known to family and friends as Joe, worked part time at Amico Pizza, located on Cedar Springs near the site of the accident. He was the second person to be killed within a three-block area of Cedar Springs in November.

Wayne Priest, 55, was killed Nov. 3 in a hit-and-run near the intersection of Cedar Springs and Reagan Street.

Martin said that the two incidents in November were the second and third traffic incidents involving pedestrians between the 3800 block and the 4200 block of Cedar Springs this year. The first occurred in January, but Martin said the pedestrian in that incident was not seriously injured, according to reports she had seen.

Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, whose District 14 lines the east side of Cedar Springs Road where both fatalities occurred, said this week that city officials continue to search for ways to improve safety in the high-traffic entertainment district.

Following Priest’s death early in the month, Hunt told Dallas Voice she had asked city officials to “look into exactly what happened and to make recommendations about how we can move forward in making the area safer.”

This week, following King’s death, Hunt said those efforts “have to be expedited. This is obviously a situation that needs immediate attention.”

She said the city is looking at other cities to see how they have addressed the issue of pedestrian safety in similar areas.

“There are a range of issues involved,” Hunt said. “I am no expert. But we have to find an expedited and thoughtful solution.”
Councilwoman Pauline Medrano, who represents District 2 on the west side of Cedar Springs, did not return calls this week seeking comment.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Remembering the fallen and helping others bear burdens

DFW Sisters will once again mark World AIDS Day by taking their Veil of Remembrance into the community for signatures

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NEVER FORGET | Sister MaeLynn Hanzment, left, and Sister Ophelia Nutz handle the Veil of Remembrance from World AIDS Day 2010 with loving care. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Names have power. And for those who have lost a loved one to AIDS, being able to write those names down and know the memories those names evoke will be preserved and treasured in doing so, can be powerful medicine for healing.

The DFW Sisters, Abbey of the Lone Star, will once again give members of DFW’s LGBT community the opportunity to exercise that healing when they take to the streets on World AIDS Day with their Veil of Remembrance.

“It’s our way of honoring those we’ve lost and making sure their memories live on,” explained Sister Ophelia Nutz, mistress of rituals and ceremonies for the DFW Sisters.

The Veil is a plain white cloth that Sister Ophelia will wear attached to her headdress. Anyone who has lost someone to HIV/AIDS is welcome to write that person’s name on the Veil.

The DFW Sisters, a fully professed house of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence elevated by The United Nuns Privy Council in October, created their first Veil of Remembrance last year as they marked their first World AIDS Day as an officially recognized Sisters mission.

“We spent most of the day last year at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth, participating in their World AIDS Day event,” Sister Ophelia said. “They had just lost a fairly prominent community member there to AIDS, and once they found out what we were doing, what the Veil was for, everyone there wanted to sign it.”

After that event, the sisters came back to Dallas, taking the Veil into the bars here.

“People reacted to the Veil as if it weren’t that big of a deal really — until they thought of someone they had lost,” Sister Ophelia said. “But when they were told that they could write that person’s name on the Veil, that they could write down that memory, some people got very emotional. There’s more than one tear stain on that Veil, I promise you. Some people were too emotional to even sign it themselves, so they asked me to write down a name and a date for them.”

This year, she said, the sisters will start the day by taking the Veil to the noon hot meals program lunch at Resource Center Dallas. Then they will head to Fort Worth for World AIDS Day events at the Tarrant County Health Department, before coming back to Dallas to participate in the World AIDS Day events being held in downtown Dallas

The sisters will wind up the night by taking the Veil to the bars in Dallas.

“We’ll just meander, handing out pens and gathering signatures on the Veil,” Sister Ophelia said.

Sister Ophelia said that she wore the Veil throughout the day on World AIDS Day last year, and will do so again this year. But when the sisters head out next Thursday, they will do so with a new Veil, ready for more names and memories.

Last year’s Veil, Sister Ophelia said, was retired at the end of the night, just as this year’s Veil will be.

She said the sisters will start the day by “saying a few words to kind of sanctify the veil, make it ready to hold those precious memories.” And at the end of the night, they will once again gather to honor the memories this year’s Veil will hold.

“Afterwards, in a more private ritual, we will gather to read the names on the Veil and to light candles in their memory,” Sister Ophelia said.

“At the end, we will have a ceremony to fold the Veil and put it away. We take good care of the Veils; we hold them close and dear to us, just like those who signed it hold their lost loved ones close and dear.”

The Sistory

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were born in San Francisco in 1979 when, tired of the monotony of the city’s ever-present “clone” trend, three men donned nuns’ habits (given in 1976 by a convent of Roman Catholic nuns to a group in Iowa called the Sugar Plum Fairies for a production of The Sound of Music, and a year later transported to San Francisco by Ken Bunch, who later became Sister Vicious Power Hungry Bitch) and headed out to the local nude beach on Easter weekend.

By the end of the year, their ranks had grown and they chose the name Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, adopting as their mission statement, “to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt.”

The sisters participated in a variety of activities, from performing their pom-pom routine at the first Gay Olympics (now the Gay Games), to protesting the Three Mile Island nuclear plant to staging a gay disco/bingo fundraiser for gay Cuban refugees.

But by 1981, AIDS had begun to emerge as the LGBT community’s biggest, most devastating threat, even though it wasn’t yet called AIDS. The sisters produced the world’s first fundraiser for an AIDS organization that year, a dog show that featured singer Sylvester as one of the judges.

By 1982, San Francisco was at crisis levels, and two sisters, Florence Nightmare and Roz Erection, both registered nurses, worked with other medical professionals to create “Play Fair!,” a safer-sex pamphlet intended to help curb the spread of “the gay cancer” and other STDs.

As the epidemic grew, the sisters fought harder, doing their best to spread the word not just about preventing AIDS but about LGBT equality in general. But the disease was taking its toll: “In 1984, ’85, the sisters in San Francisco had about 16 members. Within a year, that number had dropped to four, because people were dying so fast from AIDS,” Sister Ophelia said.

“That’s why the sisters always have a purse full of safe sex kits,” she added. “And since the Dallas County health department stopped doing it, we are the only ones in Dallas handing out free condoms.”

More than camp

While many people may think of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as little more than campy entertainment, for the sisters themselves, it is serious business, Sister Ophelia said.

“For a lot of us, for most of us, this is a real calling, a way to give something back to the community,” she said. “This isn’t just something we do for fun. And it’s not something just anyone can do. There’s a whole process you have to go through to be a sister, and we have a packet that everyone who wants to be a sister has to read right at the start that explains the cost, so that they know what is involved.

“There’s just so much more to it than people realize,” Sister Ophelia added. “People just don’t realize everything that goes in to being a sister.”

She points to another “veil” the sisters offer up — the Veil of Shame — as an example of how the sisters serve their community as so much more than just comic relief.

On the Veil of Shame, Sister Ophelia said, the sisters invite people to write down “every hateful, mean thing that has ever been said to them or done to them, to write that down and let it go. We offer to bear that burden for them, and afterwards, we take the veil out and we have a ceremony to burn it, to release all that negative energy and to let that burden go.

“The last time we did the Veil of Shame, I had several people tell me how much easier they felt after writing that stuff down,” she added. “And I have to tell you, to wear that veil, to carry around all that pain — it took everything I had in me not to break down and start bawling my eyes out.”

Even without the Veil of Remembrance or the Veil of Shame, Sister Ophelia said that when the sisters go out in their garb, they often serve as a kind of spiritual advisor and confessor for the people they meet.

“If I go out to a bar in my regular clothes, just as myself, I am not going to have strangers walk up to me and start telling me their problems.

But when we  go out as the sisters, people come up to us all the time and they will tell us their deepest, darkest secrets. And we have to be ready to help them,” Sister Ophelia said.

“We’ve all had what we call ‘a sister moment,’ when something like that has happened to us,” she continued. “Maybe it’s because of the sense of anonymity we have when we go out in our makeup and our habits. I think that maybe that makes it easier for people to approach us. At least, it’s easier for those who aren’t afraid of clowns!”

And despite their camp antics and outrageous makeup and costumes, despite the fact that they are just men looking for a way to give something back to their community, Sister Ophelia said, when someone comes to them in need, whatever the need is, the sisters will answer the call.

“We have to be able to offer them help, to give them resources, to give them somewhere to go to get the help they need,” she said. “After all, that’s why we’re there.”

……………………..

2011 World AIDS Day

A coalition of 15 North Texas AIDS service agencies and other community organizations have joined forces this year to present a joint event commemorating World AIDS Day.

The 2011 World AIDS Day Dallas event will be held Thursday, Dec. 1, from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Main Street Garden, 1900 Main St., in downtown Dallas. It will feature speeches by local community leaders and AIDS activists, performances by the Booker T. Washington High School African Drum Ensemble and The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, and a display of blocks from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Todd Hedrick, chair of the event and a board member with AIDS Interfaith Network, said organizers’ goal for the evening is to “raise awareness and help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in Dallas,” in keeping with the national focus on “getting to zero,” meaning zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

AIDS Interfaith Network took the lead in organizing this year’s events. Partner organizations are AIDS Arms, AIDS Services of Dallas, the Anthony Chisum AIDS Foundation, Booker T. Washington High School, Bryan’s House, C.U.R.E., Legacy Counseling Center, Legal Hospice of Dallas, ONE, Out & Equal DFW, Parkland Health and Hospital System, Razzle Dazzle Dallas, Resource Center Dallas, RESULTS and The Women’s Chorus of Dallas.

Sponsors are AIN, Downtown Dallas Inc., Greater Than AIDS, Texas Instruments, BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, Dallas Light and Sound. ThinkHaus Creative, Avita Drugs, Caven Enterprises Inc., C.U.R.E., Dallas Tavern Guild, Kevin Sloan Studio, Michael Dyess and Bert Burkhalter, Sterling’s Bookkeeping and Tax Service and The UPS Store in Highland Park.

World AIDS Day at CoH
Cathedral of Hope UCC, located at 5910 Cedar Springs Road, will also be holding special World AIDS Day events on Thursday, beginning with a display of 20 panels from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, open that day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Free and anonymous HIV and syphilis testing provided by UT Southwestern Medical Center will be available at the church from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and F.A.C.E. — Faith Acceptance Caring Educating, an HIV/AIDS support group at the church, will host a reception from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., with organizations and resource groups from across the Metroplex invited to participate by having information tables at the reception.

A special worship service based on the “Get To Zero” theme and including a performance by the Turtle Creek Chorale begins at 7 p.m.

World AIDS Day in Tarrant County
The Tarrant County Public Health Department will be holding a World AIDS Day event Thursday, Dec. 1, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the health department offices, 1101 S. Main St. in Fort Worth.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘We must make noise’

Speaking at Black Tie Dinner, deaf activist and actress Marlee Matlin urges LGBT community to never give up the fight

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TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Recalling the barriers she has faced as a hearing-impaired person in a hearing world, and especially as a hearing-impaired actress in the entertainment industry, Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin told the capacity audience at the 30th annual Black Tie Dinner last weekend that “we must make noise as often as we can” to win the fight for equality.

Matlin recalled how she overcame the barrier of her hearing impairment as a child, and later while working in the entertainment industry, with the support of her family and friends.

When critic Rex Reed said that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science members voted Matlin best actress winner in 1986 for her role in Children of a Lesser God, they only did so out of pity, Matlin said it was her old friend Henry Winkler who “reminded me that I could be anything I wanted to be.”

And when she was attacked by a “small but vocal” group of deaf activists for speaking rather than signing the names of the nominees when she presented the 1988 best actor Oscar, Matlin said it was Whoopi Goldberg who told her, “Girl, it’s time to do what’s right for you.”

It was the guidance and friendship she got from them and from other friends and family that helped her defy the critics and overcome the obstacles in her path.

“No one should ever take no for an answer,” Matlin told the Black Tie audience, speaking in sign translated. “We can break down the barriers of prejudice if we work together. Every day, I vow never to give up the fight.”

While tying the fight for LGBT equality to her own battle to overcome prejudice against the deaf and others with physical challenges, Matlin also explained her own personal tie to the LGBT community, other than her role as a lesbian on The L Word: One of her brothers is gay.

When her brother told their parents he is gay, Matlin said, “They said that was OK, as long as he settled down and married a doctor.” Today, she added, her brother and his partner, a doctor, have been together for 26 years.

“We have to make noise,” Matlin continued. “We must all make noise on Twitter, on Facebook. We must make noise to our elected officials, as often as we can. We must fight every day until hate and discrimination are eliminated.”

And, she said, those fighting for equality can’t allow their opponents to set up barriers to deflect them from their goals.

“The only barriers out there for all of us are all up here, in our minds,” she said. “There are those who try to handicap our minds with hate, with fear and prejudice. We cannot let them do that.”

Matlin capped off an evening that included a speech by Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese and entertainment by emcee Caroline Rhea and singer Taylor Dayne.

This was the first year the Black Tie committee has brought in someone to emcee the dinner, and Rhea kept the audience laughing throughout the night. The comedian also helped pump up proceeds for the event by donating two tickets to attend Hugh Jackman’s one-man show now on Broadway with Rhea, and then meet Jackman after the show. Two individuals paid $12,500 each for the tickets.

Dayne and a single back-up singer, performing a mixture of her new songs and her iconic hits, had the audience dancing in the aisles and crowding the edge of the stage, raising their smart phones to take photos and shoot video as Dayne danced and sang.

Also during the evening, gay veteran Eric Alva, a former Marine who was the first U.S. serviceman injured in the invasion of Iraq, was presented with the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award for his work in pushing for repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, gay actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC’s Modern Family was presented with the Media Award, and local advocates Chet Flake and his partner, the late Bud Knight, were presented with the Raymond Kuchling  Humanitarian Award.

In accepting the award, Alva said that although in the days immediately following his injury — he lost a leg when he stepped on a land mine — he wished he would have died, he has since found renewed purpose in advocating for LGBT equality, in the military and elsewhere.

“I just could not resolve the sacrifice I made with the way my country treated me like a second-class citizen,” Alva said. “I’ll stay in the fight with you, and we will stay in the fight together until it’s finished.”

In accepting the Kuchling Award, Flake explained that he and Knight had never consciously decided to volunteer in the LGBT community — “It just happened. And one thing just led to another. When we saw something that needed to be done, we just tried to do it.”

Flake also applauded the progress the LGBT community has made. “Dallas has evolved tremendously,” he said. “Our community has become more respected, because people have become more educated.”

Black Tie Co-chairs Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis noted during the dinner on Saturday that tickets to the events had been sold out since August, the earliest sell-out in the event’s history.

Arnold said this week that final totals have not yet been determined. She said checks will be distributed to Black Tie’s 17 local beneficiaries and to the Human Rights Campaign during a reception Dec. 15 at the Dallas Museum of Art.

—  Kevin Thomas

Big changes ahead for ASOs

AIDS agencies have to look for ways to branch out if they want to survive and thrive under health care reform

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and 20 percent of them are not even aware of it, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And a CDC report released in early August suggests that there are about 50,000 new HIV infections each year.

And yet, federal funding for HIV/AIDS services have remained flat for the last five years — from funding for medical services to research dollars to money for support services — according to Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms Inc.

And that means, Nobles and Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox agreed this week, that the nonprofit, community-based organizations that have been the backbone have to look ahead and keep their options open to remain viable.

Changes in the way that federal funds through the Ryan White CARE Act are distributed — requiring that 75 cents of every Ryan White dollar be used for core medical services — give an edge to nonprofits that operate clinics. And that means that AIDS Arms, which just opened its second clinic last month — is “more competitive at the national, state and local levels,” Nobles said. “With the number of people who are uninsured and living at poverty levels, access to any kind of medical care is a priority. So if you are providing those kinds of services, it does give you an edge.”

Agencies that don’t provide those kinds of services, she added, can get in on that competitive edge by collaborating with those that do.

“There’s really no new money to sustain new agencies,” Nobles said. “AIDS is definitely off the docket in terms of diseases people seem to be concerned about. In fact, any HIV provider across the country who is not considering all their options is in a great deal of denial, and that may well come back to bite them rather severely.”

There’s also health care reform to consider, with several parts of the law passed in late 2010 still to be implemented. That reform, said Cox, is changing the face of community health clinics, like RCD’s Nelson-Tebedo Clinic, and HIV/AIDS service programs.

“Our nutrition program is a good example,” Cox said. “It has really been hammered in terms of federal funds, so we have focused on supporting the program through the community, foundations and corporations. … It is an amazing puzzle we have pieced together, even with cuts in traditional funding streams. But we have managed. We have done the things we felt we had to do.”

And there are more changes coming. Nobles said that if the Ryan White funds survive beyond 2013 when more health care reform measures go into effect, “it likely won’t include any money for outpatient services like we offer” at the Peabody Clinic and the new Trinity Clinic.

“So we have to take a look at what we do best, and we can use our model and globalize it into different areas. We have to become even more sustainable. Diversification of business is key to survival,” Nobles said. “It can’t just be about HIV and AIDS any more.”

Nobles said “serious discussion has been going on at AIDS Arms for at least two years, at the board and staff levels” about how the agency can expand its focus beyond HIV/AIDS and remain viable.

“We have to diversify our business plan. The situation has been serious for awhile and it is becoming even more serious for our board,” Nobles said. “We hope to have, by early 2012, a final business plan in place to move into the future.

“Health care reform is a great thing for a lot of people, but it poses real challenges for the nonprofit sector. You have to stay ahead of the curve, or health care reform will run right over you. We definitely want to stay ahead of that curve,” she continued. “The HIV nonprofit community has the best model of care and support the U.S. has ever seen. That model can be globalized to include care for other disease — heart disease, cancer, diabetes.”

Cox said that staff and board members at Resource Center Dallas also began planning for the changing future some time ago, and its current capital campaign to build a new facility is part of the plan.

“Nobody seems to have all the answers right now. The feds won’t say what they will and what they won’t fund. So savvy business people are already thinking, ‘If this funding goes away, what can we do instead?’” Cox said.

“Everybody feels like the challenge working in the nonprofit sector is that you are always aware there is so much more that needs to be done,” she added. “But doing more requires more space, more staff, more resources. And to have that, you have to build the business in a way that is sustainable. And you have to remember, nobody can do everything.”

Both Cox and Nobles are quick to remind that even though their agencies are “nonprofits,” they are businesses nonetheless, and have to be operated with an eye toward success.

“There has been, and probably still is, the mindset about nonprofits. People expect the nonprofits to be there to provide all these services without caring about costs,” Cox said. “But the fact is, nonprofit or not, these agencies have to be run like a business. You have to anticipate, plan ahead. You have to put the structures in place and you have to invest. We make large investments in our staff and in technology. For-profit business sell stock and they answer to their stockholders. We get our money from our donors, and we have an obligation to let our donors know what we do with their money and to let them know we use it responsibly.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas