Taken for a ride?

Oak Lawn man says cab drivers were taking advantage of people looking for rides home after Halloween block party

Taxi

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

An Oak Lawn man this week said that taxi drivers at the Halloween Block Party on Cedar Springs Saturday, Oct 29, tried to take him for a ride — but not to where he wanted to go.

Michael Truan and his partner live near the intersection of Maple and Inwood avenues. When the two decided to go to the Halloween Block Party on Cedar Springs on Saturday night, they knew they would be drinking, Truan said, so they decided to do the responsible thing and take a cab to and from the party.

“I usually do take a cab when I go out. I don’t want to drink and drive and get in trouble with the cops, or worse, end up hurting myself or somebody else,” Truan said. “Plus, taking a cab means you don’t have to bother with trying to find a parking place.”

That, and the fact that Truan is a flight attendant, means that he is familiar with taxi cabs.

The fare was $12, and he tipped the driver another $2 for a $14 total. Truan said the driver was friendly and courteous and the trip quick and hassle free — the kind of service he has come to expect from Yellow Cab, the company he always uses.

But when it came time to go home, it was another story altogether.

Truan said about 1:30 a.m., he and his partner decided to leave and walked down the block to the area between ilume and Kroger where cabs were lined up, waiting for fares. He approached the first cab in line, and when he told the driver where he wanted to go, the driver quoted him a flate rate fee of $30.

Angry that the driver was trying to charge him more than twice what the trip to the party had cost, Truan approached the second driver in line, who said it would cost $25, again more than twice the original fare.

The third driver wanted even more — $40 — and the fourth driver in line said he wasn’t allowed to let fares “jump the line.”

Truan said he and his partner finally ended up just walking the nearly two miles home, through a neighborhood not considered to be all that safe for a 2 a.m. stroll.

“I was wearing high-heeled boots, and let me tell you, those boots were not made for walking!” Truan said.

The next day, Truan said, he called Yellow Cab and spoke with a supervisor, who was “sincerely apologetic” and said drivers were supposed to only work “on the meter.” He said he also intended to contact Dallas City Councilwoman Pauline Medrano, in whose district he lives.

When Dallas Voice contacted Yellow Cab for comments, however, the supervisor who answered said that drivers are allowed to “go off the meter,” but wouldn’t comment further.

“If you’re a newspaper, we don’t speak to you guys unless you want to hire a cab,” the female supervisor said. “We don’t deal with you guys.”

But Gary Titlow with the city of Dallas’ public works and transportation department was willing to talk, and his version of what is allowed was a but different.

“They aren’t allowed to do that,” he said of the taxi drivers’ Saturday night fee offers. “The only flat rates allowed are the ones outlined in the city code, and even then, the drivers are supposed to have the meters running.”

The only times drivers are allowed to offer a flat rate fare, according to the city code, are when they are taking passengers from the Dallas Central Business District or the Market Center area to either Dallas Love Field Airport or DFW International Airport, or from one of the airports to the Central Business District or the Market Center area.

The flat rate from the business district or Market Center area to Love Field is $18; the flat rate from Love Field to either of those areas is $15. The flat rate to or from the Central Business District for DFW International trips is $40, and the rate to or from the Market Center area is $32.

City code also allows drivers to offer a discounted rate or charge as long as the driver and the passenger agree in advance and as long as the discounted rate is less than the regular fee.

Titlow also said he would be contacting Yellow Cab officials, and that he was “really surprised” to hear such a complaint about Yellow Cab drivers.
Truan said he was also surprised at what happened.

“I use Yellow Cab all the time, and I have never had a problem with them, but if this happens often, then this crap really needs to stop,” Truan said. “We put a lot of money into this area, and to have those cab drivers try to take us for a ride like that — no pun intended — it’s just not right. I think it’s really B.S. I hope no one else fell for it, but I am sure some people did.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Putting the final touches on Black Tie

Co-chairs hoping for banner year as fundraiser marks its 30th year

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com
With two weeks left to go before the annual Black Tie Dinner, organizers are busy putting the finishing touches on what BTD Co-chairs Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis said this week will be one of the most outstanding events in the dinner’s 30-year history.

“We have a particularly good line up for the dinner this year,” Arnold said. “We are absolutely thrilled to have Marlee Matlin as our keynote speaker this year. And we have an emcee — Caroline Rhea — this year for the first time. I am sure our patrons will be glad they don’t have to listen to me and Chris all night!”

Award-winning actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of television’s Modern Family will be on hand to accept the 2011 Media Award, and singer Taylor Dayne will provide entertainment.

Gay Marine veteran Eric Alva, the first U.S. serviceman injured in the war in Iraq, will receive the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award, and partners Chet Flake and the late Bud Knight will receive the Kuchling Humanitarian Award.

Arnold noted that tables at the dinner sold out in August, “before we even announced that Marlee Matlin would be our guest speaker. We were just ecstatic when we sold out that early. I think that is the earliest date we’ve ever sold out,” Arnold said.

But the co-chairs also pointed out that there is a waiting list available for regular and VIP individual tickets that might become available at the last minute. “Anyone who still wants to buy a ticket can go online to our website, BlackTie.org, and get on the waiting list. Or if you want to talk to someone directly, email Mitzi Lemons at mlemons@blacktie.org,” Kouvelis said.

Arnold added, “We will also accept cash donations from folks who want to support the organization but can’t attend the dinner.”

“Thirty years is a huge milestone, no doubt. But we had a huge retrospective for our 25th anniversary, bringing in past board members and honorees from out of town and looking back at the history of Black Tie, and that wasn’t that long ago,” Arnold said. “So we chose to focus on having a celebration, on looking ahead to 30 more great years. That’s why we chose ‘Shine’ as our theme this year, because we want to shine a light into the future.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

FFW to FWISD: Walk the walk

Advocacy group says school officials need to implement training, enforcement processes

Anable.Tom

Tom Anable

 

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Representatives of Fairness Fort Worth are set to meet next Tuesday, Oct. 25, with Walter Dansby, interim superintendent of the Fort Worth

Independent School District, and FFW President Tom Anable said his organization is hoping to see the district’s plans for implementing training and enforcement processes related to its anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies.

In the past year, the Fort Worth school board has, since the first of this year, expanded the district’s anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression; protections based on sexual orientation were already included.

The board voted in January to include those protections in policies applying to faculty and staff members, and in June to policies applying to students.

LGBT advocates have routinely praised the district for those votes, noting that the changes make the FWISD policies among the most progressive and comprehensive in the state. This week, however, Anable said advocates have become frustrated with the district’s slow progress in implementing training regarding the policies and in enforcing them.

“They are talking the talk, now we want them to walk the walk,” Anable said.

He pointed to a series of recent incidences in Fort Worth schools as evidence that training and enforcement are lacking, including the mid-September furor that erupted over a Western Hills High School student’s alleged anti-gay comments in class.

Dakota Ary told the media that his German class teacher, Kristopher Franks, sent him to the principal after he made a comment to a friend during a classroom discussion, basically saying that as a Christian, he believes homosexuality is wrong.

Franks, however, said that Ary made the comment directly to him, that the comment was not pertinent to any classroom discussion and

Vasquez.Carlos

Carlos Vasquez

that it was part of a pattern of anti-gay comments and behavior aimed at him by Ary and three other students in the class.

Although Ary was initially suspended, school officials rescinded the punishment and cleared his record after Ary’s mother brought in Liberty Counsel’s Matt Krause to represent them and complained to school district officials.

Within days, school officials notified Franks that they were launching an investigation of him based on unrelated charges of inappropriate behavior that had just surfaced. Franks was suspended with pay for the duration of the investigation, but returned to the classroom three days later after the investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Franks still ended up with a “letter of concern” in his file, the lowest form of discipline the district can take against a teacher, and was required to take a course in classroom management.

In an email to school board members dated Oct. 4, Franks also said that the Western Hills High School principal had, on his first day back in class, conducted an in-class evaluation — during the class that includes Dakota Ary — that Franks said was unwarranted and overly harsh. Franks said the principal refused to discipline a student who put on a pink shirt and “a pink lady’s hat” and pranced around the room to mock Franks, even though the principal was in the room when it happened.

Franks also said he learned from other students that the group of students who had been harassing him previously, during the time while he was suspended, were allowed by a substitute teacher to “dress in drag” and make fun of Franks.

Although Franks has since told colleagues the problem had been addressed and settled to his satisfaction, Anable said this week that the fact the harassment was allowed in the first place points to a lack of training and enforcement on the anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies.

In a second recent incident, a secretary at Carter-Riverside High School recently sent a memo through the school’s email system in which she quoted biblical passages supposedly condemning homosexuality while questioning the wisdom of allowing a “gender-bending day” during the school’s homecoming week activities.

“I am concerned that it may cause more confusion with those who are struggling with their own sexuality, which is common for teens,” wrote Victoria Martinez, who works in the school’s internal finance office.

She continued, “As representatives of FWISD, I would hate to think we are partakers of encouraging a lifestyle, which is an abomination unto the LORD, and which may not be acceptable to many parents of our children. We should strive to keep our students’ focus on academics and not what they or others are doing in the bedroom.”

And, Anable said, there have been reports that same-sex couples at the district’s Diamon Hill-Jarvis High School have been disciplined for holding hands at school, while opposite-sex couples holding hands have not gotten in trouble.

Openly gay FWISD Board of Trustees member Carlos Vasquez said Wednesday that he was disappointed that Fairness Fort Worth had decided to go public with its criticisms since, “We have already solved most of the issues and concerns they are bringing up.”

Vasquez said that had “visited with Kris Franks” during the recent Tarrant County Gay Pride Picnic, and that while “there were some concerns on his first day back in the class, those were quickly resolved.”

And Vasquez said that district officials had responded quickly to Martinez’s email, removing it from the email system and reprimanding the secretary.

“As soon as this was brought to my attention, I spoke to Supt. Dansby, the superintendent took care of it immediately,” Vasquez said, adding that Dansby “took the appropriate measures” against Martinez but that he could not elaborate further because he cannot discuss personnel matters.

Vasquez also said that he had not heard of any complaints from Diamon Hill-Jarvis before a call Wednesday from Dallas Voice.

“That’s one of my schools. It’s in my [school board] district,” Vasquez said. “I have already called the principal there and she said she had not heard anything about that, either. She assured me that all the students are being treated fairly.”

Vasquez continued, “I am kind of surprised that [Fairness Fort Worth] felt the need to go to the press with this. Supt. Dansby is working with the LGBT community, he’s working with me on these issues. This is the most open this school district has ever been with the LGBT community.”

But Anable said Fairness Fort Worth is simply trying to let the school district know that the community is watching and expects the district to follow through on its commitments in terms of training and enforcement of the anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies.

“We are not trying to be overly critical. But we do want them to know that we will keep the pressure on,” Anable said. “We have these policies in place, and we want to make sure they are enforced.”

Anable said his organization also wants to make sure that the LGBT community “has a place at the table” as the district continues its search for a permanent superintendent.

Dansby was appointed interim superintendent after former Supt. Melody Johnson resigned in June amid controversy, and the district continues a nation-wide search for a permanent replacement for Johnson.

Anable said the school board “creating a forum/focus group to assist the consultants they’ve hired to conduct the search for a new permanent superintendent, and we want to know if the district intends to include the LGBT community in that focus group,” Anable said. “We’ve made great progress in the schools here in Fort Worth. Now we don’t want to see them bring in someone who will ignore that progress and take the school district backwards on our issues.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

National LCR board ousts Schlein

National organization decharters LCR-Dallas, creates new local chapter; Schlein announces formation of ‘Metroplex Republicans’

Rob Schlein

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Saying that the leadership of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, especially longtime chapter president Rob Schlein, have “engaged in a consistent pattern of behavior that detracts from the mission of our organization,” national Log Cabin Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper announced this week that the previous Dallas chapter has been de-chartered, and a new chapter created.

“After all due consideration and efforts at reconciliation, the [LCR national] board of directors have decided to begin anew, ensuring that our mission of fighting for freedom can be at its strongest in Dallas and across the country,” Cooper said in a statement released late Wednesday, Oct. 12.

Clarke said that a new Dallas chapter has already been chartered and will be led by Thomas Purdy as president and a new board.

Schlein said Thursday, Oct. 13, that he “didn’t see it coming at all. I knew yesterday that something was cooking, and I got the official word this morning.”

Schlein said he believes “the Dallas chapter was kicked out after inviting [GOProud co-founders] Chris Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia to speak at our [upcoming] Grand Old Party.

“We will continue to work on behalf of gay conservatives in Dallas, and the Grand Old Party dinner will go on,” Schlein added. “We are looking forward to putting on a great event with Chris Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia as our guest speakers.”

Barron and LaSalvia, former Log Cabin staffers, started GOProud in early 2009 after leaving Log Cabin because they considered it too centrist.

By last Thursday, Schlein had announced the creation of Metroplex Republicans in an email, saying that he and others in the original Log Cabin Dallas had already been considering disaffiliating with the national organization because of its more centrist views.

He said those members had been prepared to ask the national board for a hearing to “air our grievances” when the national board “pre-empted us” by dechartering the chapter. “A clear majority of our local board wanted a resolution that would keep us under the LCR umbrella. That said, it takes two to tango,” Schlein said.

He criticized the national board for “hand-selecting” Purdy as president of the new chapter rather than waiting “two months for  elections.” And he noted that the local group had started some 30 years ago as “Metroplex Republicans” before affiliating with Log Cabin in 1995.

“This should be seen as an opportunity to grow as we can reach more Republicans in Dallas,” Schlein said. “Our club will continue to welcome those Republicans of all varieties, including gay, straight, black, Hispanic, Asian.”

Purdy, who was on the board of the now-dechartered Log Cabin Dallas chapter, on Wednesday said that the national LCR board felt Schlein had been “leading the Dallas chapter in a direction not congruent with the direction of Log Cabin Republicans as a whole and the national Log Cabin board felt there were no more options in terms of rectifying that  incongruency.”

He said the national board felt that Schlein had refused to adhere to the national organization’s bylaws and follow its direction: “Essentially, the national board of directors has decided to switch out the leadership of the Dallas chapter, and the only means they had of doing that was to decharter the chapter.”

Purdy said “a handful of members” from the previous chapter “chose to pursue a new charter.”

Purdy said his first order of business as president of the newly chartered Dallas LCR chapter will be to “regroup with a new board” and then “draw up some strategic imperatives. … Our main objective for existing is to really foster a more inclusive environment within the Republican Party. That’s where we will focus our efforts.”

While Cooper pointed to “a consistent pattern of behavior” that led to Schlein’s ouster, Schlein said Thursday he believes “the catalyst for dechartering us” was his decision to invite Barron and LaSalvia to speak at the Grand Old Party.

He said “personal rivalries” between the national leaders of Log Cabin and GOProud led the national LCR board to move against him.

Schlein said, “I think it is sad, a real shame, that the two groups that represent gay conservatives can’t work together just because they attack the issues from different perspectives.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Tarrant Pride parade a rousing success, organizers say

Spectators largely ignore anti-gay protestors; police arrest, ticket Kingdom Baptist members for disorderly conduct

FW-parade

ON MAIN STREET | The float carrying members of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association makes its way down Main Street in downtown Fort Worth. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com
FORT WORTH — Organizers of the 30th annual Tarrant County Gay Pride celebration said this week that the events were a rousing success, despite the presence of a relatively small but loud contingent anti-gay protestors at the Oct. 1 Pride parade.

This year the parade was moved from its traditional three block route down South Jennings Street to a seven block stretch of Main Street in downtown Fort Worth. And Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association President Daune Littlefield said she was pleased by the number of spectators who turned out.

“I saw people lining both sides of the street for all seven blocks of the parade route,” Littlefield said. “I know there were definitely more people there than in previous years. I’d say we had maybe three times as many people at the parade as last year. We will definitely be bringing the parade back downtown again next year.”

Littlefield acknowledged that “there were a few glitches” in the parade and the street festival that followed on Main Street near the Fort Worth Convention Center. But she said, “I guess that was to be expected since this was our first year to hold the parade downtown. Next year, it will go even more smoothly.”

Although the Pride Week association had to raise more money to cover the higher costs of moving the parade downtown this year, Littlefield said organizers still came out ahead.

“Money-wise, it was a real success,” she said. “We paid for everything, and we still have money left over, seed money for next year’s event and money for the scholarship fund.

We made a commitment to the community in moving the parade and expanding our celebration that we would create this scholarship to give back to the community. And we will follow through on that commitment no matter what,” Littlefield said.

Littlefield also said that the annual Pride Picnic in Trinity Park — Tarrant County’s original Pride event and long considered its most popular and most successful Pride event — also went off “without a hitch.”

“We had more people there than last year. We usually have around 2,500 people at the parade and this year, I’d say we had at least 3,000,” Littlefield said. “The weather was fantastic and the event was just phenomenal. There was no ruckus, no problem anywhere.”

Littlefield said that she was pleased that spectators there for the parade for the most part ignored the anti-gay protestors, at least some of whom were reportedly with Kingdom Baptist Church, a small congregation out of Venus led by Pastor Joey Faust.

“I was on a float at the end of the parade, and as we moved down the parade route, the protestors kind of moved along with us, shouting nasty things through their bullhorn,” Littlefield said. “But we would just start cheering and yelling, and the crowd would cheer and yell with us to drown them out. I was really glad to see that everybody just ignored them and didn’t engage with them, for the most part.”

Faust and other Kingdom Baptist members also staged protests outside Fort Worth City Hall two years ago during a meeting  in which the City Council approved the addition of transgender protections to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Faust and his followers also confronted activists during demonstrations staged in Fort Worth by Queer LiberAction in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid.

And prior to the Pride parade, Faust sent an open letter, addressed to Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, to area media outlets castigating Price for participating in the parade as one of three grand marshals.

At the end of the parade, the protestors — who had started out standing on Main Street near the Weatherford Street intersection where the parade started — moved down Main

Street to position themselves near the Convention Center in the area near where the street festival was being held. Using a bullhorn, the protestors continued to harangue festival attendees, at one point calling those attending the parade “wild dogs” and “wild animals” who were “parading their perversions in the street,” until Fort Worth police officers ordered them to leave.

Littlefield said she was told that three of the protestors were arrested and another 10 ticketed. But FWPD’s LGBT Liaison Officer Kellie Whitehead said that only two of the protestors were “cash bonded” for disorderly conduct because they were using offensive language over the bullhorns.

Being “cash bonded,” Whitehead explained, means that person arrested on a Class C misdemeanor offense has to pay a set fine, or a portion of that fine, before they are released.

She said her superiors instructed her not to release the names of those arrested, but Whitehead did say she believes those arrested were members of Kingdom Baptist.

Littlefield said she had heard complaints from several people who were upset that the protestors were allowed to stand at the edge of the street festival after the parade for so long — about an hour and a half, she estimated — and harass those attending the event before police forced them to move.

“That’s something we will talk to the police about for next year,” Littlefield said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

New FWPD liaison officer ‘ready for a new challenge’

Officer Kellie Whitehead tapped to take over as LGBT liaison, says she hopes to work more with youth

Whitehead.Kellie

Kellie Whitehead

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Fort Worth Police Department Officer Kellie Whitehead said this week that she sees her new assignment as the department’s liaison to the LGBT community as an exciting next step in her 12-year career with the department.

“I was ready for a new challenge, for something different, and after talking to [former LGBT Liaison Officer Sara Straten] I was very excited about this new opportunity,” Whitehead said.

Whitehead takes over as LGBT liaison from Straten, who had held the position since it was created two years ago in the wake of the

Rainbow Lounge raid. The liaison officer is part of the FWPD’s Public Information Office, and PIO Supervisor Sgt. Pedro Criado said that Straten had chosen to move to a new position “where she can get back to doing hands-on police work.”

Criado said that Whitehead’s previous assignment as a Neighborhood Police Officer had given her experience that will be invaluable in her new role as LGBT liaison.

“The Neighborhood Police Officer program is about community policing. These officers are assigned to work in a specific designated area and to build relationships with the people of that neighborhood,” Criado explained.

“A patrol officer responds to specific calls and has to clear those calls and move on to the next one. The Neighborhood Police Officer is the one who is there, on call 24-7, to follow up on any problems. They are mediators, friends, problem solvers. This program frees these officers up, gives them flexible schedules, so they can work on issues long-range,” Criado added.

That, Whitehead said, is basically the same mission she has now as liaison officer, only instead of working in a specific geographic neighborhood she will be working specifically with the LGBT community city-wide.

Whitehead said that she will continue the work Straten initiated as LGBT liaison, and that she also hopes to expand the position’s outreach.

“I am going to continue to build the relationships that Sara started, and I hope that maybe I can work a little more with the kids in the community. I know there are kids out there who are having a really tough time, and I want to find ways to help them,” Whitehead said.

She said she also hopes to be able to reach out to non-LGBT youth “who have been raised not to be accepting of people who are different from them” and help bridge that gap in understanding and tolerance.

Whitehead, who grew up in Mineral Wells, said that being a police officer had been her dream since she was a child. She said she studied criminal justice in college, but had to leave school to get a job before she got a degree.

She worked as a private prison for a couple of years and then moved on to a job with a security company. It was while working as a security guard in Fort Worth’s hospital district that she began to meet and form relationships with FWPD officers.

She finally was able to join the FWPD in 1999.

Whitehead said she has been open with her fellow officers and her superiors about her sexual orientation since she first joined the police force, and that she has never faced any discrimination from her coworkers.

But now, in her new position as LGBT liaison, “I’ll be more out than ever! But I am ready for it. I have never been ashamed of who I am.”

Whitehead said that her partner and the rest of her family have been “totally supportive” of her move to the liaison position, and that she believes that kind of support is vital to her success as an officer and as community liaison.

“There’s no way you can do this job without your family backing you up, and everyone in my family has been very supportive and encouraging,” she said. “That’s going to make it even easier for me to do the job and do it well. I just want to do everything I can to make things better for the community.”

Thomas Anable, president of the LGBT community organization Fairness Fort Worth, said he is pleased with the way the police department has handled the transition from Straten to Whitehead, and that he looks forward to working with the new liaison officer.

“I think she is very professional and I think she will do a very good job,” Anable said.

And Sgt. Criado agreed. “When Sara Straten took this position two years ago, she hit the ground running,” he said. “And I am certain that Kellie is going to take that ball and just keep on running with it. I think she is going to be great.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Taking Pride to the mainstream

A bigger parade in a new location, expanded schedule of events will help Tarrant County keep Pride going all year round

 

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — LGBT Pride celebrations aren’t new in Tarrant County. But there are definitely a few new things about this year’s 30th annual Pride celebration in Cowtown.

The biggest change is the location — and the day and time — of the annual Pride parade. Traditionally, the parade has been held on Sunday afternoons — the first weekend in October for the last couple of years, before that, at the beginning of June — and it has traditionally traveled down South Jennings Street.

This year, though, the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade moves uptown, starting near the courthouse on Main Street then heading south to disperse at the convention center, just in time for the street festival on Main Street and in General Worth Square.

The annual Pride Picnic, Tarrant County’s original Pride event which has traditionally been held on the Saturday following the parade, this year will instead be held on Sunday, Oct. 2, the day after the parade, again at the Arts Pavilion in Trinity Park.

But it’s not just the days and location that are new for Tarrant County Pride this year, organizers say; there’s also a renewed enthusiasm — a renewed and strengthened spirit of pride.

“There’s a real excitement this year. People are excited about moving the parade and the festival downtown,” said Daune Littlefield, president of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association.

“Yes, there are a few who didn’t want to move the parade, who didn’t want to do anything differently. But there are more who are excited,” she added. “We should have grown more than we have in the last 30 years. We just got too comfortable with doing things the way we had always done them.”

It’s not been an easy task. The new location for the parade offered some logistical problems. And of course, the expanded event requires the Pride association to cooperate more with city officials.

…………………….

Changes

But at the same time, organizers’ big plans made that cooperation easier to come by.

“We’ve been planning this for awhile. In fact, it was about two years ago that we really started to think about moving the parade, making things bigger and better,” said Littlefield.

“One of the main reasons we changed the day and the time of the parade was because it would be easier to get the permits and close the streets downtown and manage the traffic if the parade was on a Saturday morning,” she explained. “And having the parade and picnic all in the same weekend makes it easier to draw in more people from out of town. And the idea of more people coming in from out of town made it easier to get the [Fort Worth] Convention and Visitors Bureau to work with us.”

And the idea of bringing in visitors from out of town also convinced the Sheraton Fort Worth hotel to partner with the committee to offer the Pride Weekend Package, offering visitors a discounted price to stay at the hotel and giving them easy access to the parade, the street festival and the number of educational seminars and entertainment events scheduled to be held at the hotel during the course of the weekend.

Littlefield and Tina Harvey, parade and vendor chair and long-term parade committee member, both acknowledged that the weekend package deal was not as successful this year as they had hoped. But both also believe it will be much more popular next year.

“We may have overdone it a little this year. Our expectations for that part may have been too high,” Harvey said. “But Pride weekend this year is going to be a huge success. People will see how successful it is, how much fun it is, and they are going to want to participate even more next year.”

Already, Harvey said, there are 48 entries registered for the parade on Saturday, which is 10 more than participated in last year’s parade. And 22 vendors, not counting the food and beverage vendors, have signed up for the street festival. That number also doesn’t count the activities available in the kid’s area.

Dianne Dunivan, picnic and merchandise chair and another longtime committee member, said Sunday’s picnic is also flush with vendors, entertainment and a kid’s area.

And both Dunivan and Harvey are quick to point out that they have worked diligently to keep prices as low as possible when it comes to food and drink stands at the street festival and picnic.

“Last year was the first time we charged for the food and the beer. We charged $1 for the beer, but the product cost us $1.08 and we had to pay taxes to the state on top of that. So we actually lost money on that last year. But that was OK, because we wanted to ease into actually charging for it,” Dunivan said.

“This year, the prices are a little higher. It will be $3 for a burger, a beer or wine, $2 for a polish sausage, and $1 for hot dogs or soft drinks. We are doing everything we can to keep the costs under control,” Dunivan said, adding that when it comes to the picnic in the park on Sunday, “We don’t have an exclusive. People can bring in their own stuff if they want. We are offering the food and the drinks as a convenience.

“We just want to make sure people know that everything is being upgraded this year. Everything is better. And, while we were cash-only last year, this year we’ll be able to take credit cards.”

Dunivan and Harvey also both stress that there is no admission fee to the parade, the festival or the picnic. Still, the committee wants to come out ahead in the money department, so they will have cash on hand as they start planning for 2012, and so they can add to the new TCGPW scholarship fund.

“That’s a big thing for us,” Littlefield said. “This year, we said we really wanted to step forward, to be even more family-friendly, and be even more visible, not just in the LGBT community, but in the community overall. Offering a scholarship is part of that.”

The scholarship, she explained, will be awarded to an LGBT person or to the child of an LGBT family. And while she believes that the association will definitely have enough money to cover expenses for this year’s parade and picnic, if there’s not enough left over to add to the scholarship fund, “we’ll just raise more money!”

And they aren’t waiting around to do that either.

…………………….

Pride throughout the year

Littlefield and the Pride committee this year are stressing that in Tarrant County they are no longer going to talk about Pride weekend. From now on, Littlefield said, “We are going to talk about Pride events. It won’t be just one weekend; we’re going to have Pride throughout the year.

“We want to keep up our visibility throughout the year. We want to keep the momentum going,” she said.

To do that TCGPWA is partnering with a variety of organizations and companies to help present and promote events that take the LGBT community out into the community at large, and that help put money in the Pride coffers.

The first such event on the schedule is Tarrant County Pride Day at Cowboys Stadium on Oct. 12. It includes a two-hour tour of the stadium, including the press box, the luxury suites, the Cotton Bowl offices, the Dr. Pepper Deck, the stadium clubs and the field. Plus, each person gets a free photo of themselves at the stadium, and all for just $20 a person.

A portion of each ticket sold, Littlefield said, will benefit TCGPWA.

The association has a similar arrangement worked out with Bass Hall for Joan Rivers’ performance there on Nov. 2, she added, and more such events will be added in the future.
Legacy of the raid

This level of enthusiasm and involvement is, Littlefield acknowledged, something of a new thing in Tarrant County. And it can be traced, at least in part, back to the June 29, 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Fort Worth police and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

While the raid was a horrible thing, Littlefield said, plenty of good things have happened in its aftermath, including the community’s renewed sense of pride and activism.

“What happened that night at the Rainbow Lounge has made us all more aware that even though things are better than they were years ago, bad things can still happen,” she said. “But if you come together and work together, you can make good things come of it in the end.”

Harvey agreed.

“After the Rainbow Lounge raid, our community started speaking out, and the city and the mayor and the police chief really stepped up to work with us,” Harvey said. “Last year, a year after the raid, [Police Chief Jeff Halstead] was the grand marshal of our parade, and he was there for the picnic, along with about 20 Fort Worth police officers. Only about five of those officers were paid to be there, the others were just there to enjoy the day and share it with us.

“When I was younger, that never would have happened,” she continued. “Back then, the cops still raided the bars all the time. The gay people were always getting beat up. But seeing the chief and those officers at the parade and the picnic last year, it was life-changing for me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I didn’t have to worry about being who I am. And this year, the mayor [Betsy Price] is our grand marshal. That’s fantastic.

“When I was young, what I learned was to keep your head down, keep your mouth shut and stay with your own group. That’s not how it is any more. Some people are willing to keep on being second-class citizens, but not me. I want us to walk down Main Street, together. I want people to see us, to see our families.  I want the young people coming up today to see that, and say to themselves, ‘I’m gonna be OK.’ That’s what Pride is about.”

………………………

Tarrant County Pride Schedule

FRIDAY, SEPT. 30
• Noon-10 p.m. Trading Post & Arts Exhibit, Second Floor, Piney Woods Room, Sheraton FW
• 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. “Community School House” Education Sessions, Second Floor, West Room, Sheraton FW
*10:30-11:30 a.m. Samaritan House: Where there is a home, there is hope
* 1:30-2:30 p.m. Healing Wings: 30 years of HIV: Impact on the GLBT Community
* 3-4 p.m. Sessions Break
* 4:30-5:30 p.m. Outreach Addiction Services: Sex: Safety the Gay Way
* 6-7 p.m. Fairness Fort Worth: Grassroots Organizing: The creation of Fairness Fort Worth, Inc.
* 1-3 p.m. QCinema screens “March On!,” documentary screening, Second Floor, Taste of Texas Ballroom, Sheraton FW
* 7:33 p.m. “Strut your Pride” Show, hosted by Imperial Court de Fort Worth/Arlington, Best Friends Club, www.ic-fwa.org
* 8-10 p.m. Open Door Productions presents comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer, Second Floor, Taste of Texas Ballroom, Sheraton FW, limited general seating $25, for tickets visit: OpenDoorProductionstx.com
* Boot Scootin’, Club Reflection
* $300 Balloon Drop, dancers, live DJ, Rainbow Lounge
* Kick it Up Country Night, Best Friends
* 9 p.m. So You Think You Can Sing? Karaoke, Percussions

SATURDAY, OCT. 1
• 10 a.m.-noon “Ride the Rainbow” Pride Parade, Main Street at Weatherford, downtown Fort Worth
• 11 a.m.-2 p.m. AIDS Outreach Center Car Wash benefiting the 20th Anniversary AIDS Walk, Staybridge Suites, 220 Clifford Center Drive, Fort Worth. Contact Jaime Shultety at jaimes@aoc.org or 817-916-5210.
• Noon-6 p.m. Pride Street Festival, General Worth Square, Main and Ninth Streets
Coors Main Stage:
* 12 p.m. Eddy Herrera www.soundcloud.com/eustoliog
* 2 p.m. Eddy Herrera www.soundcloud.com/eustoliog
* 3 p.m. Aurora Bleu, www.AuroraBleu.com
* 4 p.m. Parade Awards
* 5 p.m. Aurora Bleu, www.AuroraBleu.com
• 5-7 p.m. It Only Makes Me Laugh Comedy Showcase, Patio @ Rainbow Lounge
• 6-9 p.m. Cowtown “Pride” Cookout, hosted by Cowtown Leathermen, Club Reflection Patio, www.cowtownleathermen.com
• 7-11 p.m. Threesome, live band, on Patio @ Rainbow Lounge
• 8-10 p.m. Burlesque Show starring Tasha Kohl, Mosaic Lounge (underground), 515 Houston St. entrance on 5th St.
• 8-10 p.m. Fall Fest Events, hosted by NTXCC, Club Reflection Patio, www.ntxcc.org
• 9 p.m. Anton Shaw live, Percussions
• Boot Scootin’, Club Reflection
• 1 a.m. Pride Night $500 balloon drop Best Friends

SUNDAY, OCT. 2
• Noon-6 p.m. Pride Picnic, Trinity Park Arts Pavilion
Bud Light Mainstage Schedule
* 1 p.m. Terry Sweeney
* 2 p.m. Valerie Stevens and Kickback
* 3 p.m. Mallorie
* 4 p.m. To be announced
* 5 p.m. Butch Country
• 2-7 p.m. Afternoon Cookout, Patio @ Rainbow Lounge
• 6-9 p.m. Family Night, Best Friends
• 8 p.m. Pride Karaoke, Club Reflection
• 9 p.m. Karaoke with Pete Day, Percussions
• 11 p.m. Whitney Paige Show, Rainbow Lounge
(For more events throughout the week, go online to TCGPWA.org.)

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Investigation clears gay Fort Worth teacher

Kristopher Franks set to return to work Friday after 4-day leave stemming from allegations of improper behavior

FWISD School board member Carlos Vasquez

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Gay Western Hills High School teacher Kristopher Franks, put on paid administrative leave on Monday, Sept. 26, following allegations of improper behavior, has been cleared of all allegations and was set to return to work today (Friday, Sept. 30).

Franks is the teacher who  became the target of ire from the religious right after he sent a student in his German 1 class to the principal’s office for saying in class that as a Christian he believed “homosexuality is wrong.” The school’s assistance principal then suspended the student, setting off a controversy that made headlines around the country.

That student, freshman Dakota Ary, and his mother enlisted the assistance of Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Krause in fighting the suspension on the grounds that Franks and the school had violated Ary’s right to freedom of speech.

District officials quickly reversed their decision, lifting the suspension.

But Steven Poole, deputy executive director for the United Educators Association of Texas, a teachers union, said Tuesday, Sept. 27, that the allegations leading to Franks being put on leave were unrelated to the incident with Ary.

Franks, who had not spoken to the press previously on the advice of his union representative, said Thursday afternoon that he had just met with Fort Worth Independent School District administrators, who told him the nearly weeklong investigation had determined that the allegations against him were unfounded. He did not elaborate on the substance of those allegations.

Franks also said administrators had given him the option of returning to teach at Western Hills High or transferring to another school in the district.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet what I’m going to do,” Franks told Dallas Voice by phone Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to go back to work tomorrow, and I will talk to my boss [the district’s world languages supervisor], and see what she says and decide what’s the best thing to ­do from there.”

FWISD Board of Trustees member Dr. Carlos Vasquez told Dallas Voice in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 28, that any time allegations are made against a teacher, those allegations have to be investigated, and it is routine for the teacher in question to be placed on paid administrative leave.

Franks said Thursday that he was pleased with the outcome of the investigation, carried out by an independent investigator, and that interim FWISD Supt. Walter Dansby was “very nice” when they spoke.

“I think they did the right thing,” Franks said. “I can go back to work, which is great. But now I just have to figure out how to fix the damage this whole thing has done to my personal life.”

Franks said since the investigation is closed, he is no longer being represented by a union attorney. He has, instead, retained the services of attorney Stephen Gordon to “represent me on any aspects of this whole thing going forward.”

He also indicated that he and Gordon would be discussing what possible actions he might take against “those people who have lied and made false allegations against me.”

While Franks had previously declined to speak to the media, Daokta Ary, his mother and Krause as their attorney went immediately to the press, telling their side of the story in several TV interviews and saying Franks and the school had violated the student’s right to freedom of speech. The case quickly became a rallying point for the religious right.

Krause this week told Dallas Voice that he and his clients are satisfied with school officials’ decision to rescind the unexcused absences the suspension left on Ary’s record, but “we would still like for them [school officials] to completely vindicate him and say that he did nothing wrong. He should never have been written up for an infraction. He should never have been sent to the office, and he should never have been suspended.”

Ary said in  media interviews that he made the comment quietly to a classmate sitting next to him in response to a discussion going on in the class at the time.

Dakota Ary

But Franks told friends shortly after the incident that there was no discussion involving homosexuality at the time, and that Ary made the comment loudly while looking directly at Franks.

Franks also told friends that the comment was only the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about him.

Franks told friends that the harassment by Ary and his friends began several weeks ago after Franks, who also teaches sociology, posted on the “World Wall” in his classroom a photo, taken from the German news magazine Stern, of two men kissing. The photo was ripped off the wall and torn in two at some point during Ary’s class, and Franks told friends he believes that Ary or one of his friends tore up the photo.

During a later sociology class students upset that the photo had been torn up replaced it with a hand-drawn picture, and another student then covered that picture with a page bearing a hand-written biblical scripture from Leviticus calling sex between two men an abomination.

Franks told friends that since that incident, Ary and his friends had continued to make derogatory and harassing comments.

Franks’ friends also said that the teacher, a Fulbright scholar, has been the target of anti-gay harassment for at least the last two years, including having hateful messages left in his classroom and, in one case, having his car vandalized.

FWISD teacher Martin Vann, spokesman for the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. that was formed about a year ago to help protect students and teachers in the district from anti-gay discrimination and bullying, said that Franks told his version of the incident last week, before the current investigation was launched and Franks was required to sign a statement saying he would not discuss the incident with other teachers, administrators, parents or students. Vann said Franks denied getting angry and yelling at Ary, as Ary had said, and reiterated that Ary’s comments were not pertinent to any discussion in the class at the time.

Vann said Franks told him that another student had asked him what the German word for “Christian” was, and how, if he moved to Germany, he could find an English translation of the Bible. That’s when, Franks told Vann, Ary looked directly at him and said loudly that as a Christian, he believes homosexuality is wrong.

It was not, Franks told Vann, a simple statement of belief or opinion but rather an intentional effort to insult and harass the teacher that Ary perceived to be gay.

Krause this week again said that Ary did not direct his remark in class that day at Franks, and that Ary had nothing to do with tearing down the photo of the men kissing.

The attorney also said that Ary told him he did not know to whom Franks was referring when he talked about Ary’s “three friends.”

The Franks case comes in the wake of months of scandal over allegations by teachers that administrators routinely allowed some teachers and administrators to harass and bully students and other teachers, and that teachers who complained often faced retaliation.

Vasquez, who is openly gay, said Wednesday that he believed the Franks investigation would be fair, that he would watch the situation closely “to make sure all the proper procedures are followed,” and that he believed Dansby would handle the situation fairly.

“Considering all the problems we’ve had, I know he [Dansby] will be watching this closely,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez said it is the school district’s responsibility to make sure there is “no harassment in our schools, whether it’s from the teacher to the student, or student to student or even student to teacher. I know that happens, sometimes, too.

“There should be no harassment whatsoever in our schools,” Vasquez , himself a former teacher, said.

Fort Worth ISD has been credited with having one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in the state, having adopted individual policies within the last year to include prohibitions against harassment and bullying, including that based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, for both teachers and students.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Pride 2011 • Black Pride: Much more than just a party

DFW Pride Movement has scheduled a full weekend of programs on HIV, relationship issues, trans issues and more, but they didn’t forget the party

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

For many people, when they think of “Pride,” they think of parades and parties. But for DFW Pride Movement/Dallas Black Pride, “Pride” means going beyond the parties to offer a slate of programs and events intended to “move the community forward and empower the people,” DFW Pride Movement Executive Director Derek Spillman said.

“There’s nothing wrong with parties, we just wanted to offer more,” Spillman said of DFW Pride Movement, the local affiliate of the International Federation of Black Prides. “We are not a party promoter. There are party promoters who have chosen to work with us and to hold parties in conjunction with our Black Pride events,” Spillman said. “Our purpose, though, is to have a weekend of programs that focus on the cultural aspects of Black Pride, that focus on social justice and advocacy.”

Spillman said that the theme for this year’s Dallas Black Pride, set for Sept. 39-Oct. 2, is “HisSTORY and HerSTORY,” and events will focus, in part, on combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in the black community.

The host hotel is the Marriott City Center in downtown Dallas, and most of the programs take place there.

This year, Spillman said, Dallas Black Pride organizers wanted to tie in some of its programs with an HIV vaccine trial underway at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and has done so by bringing in a number of speakers who will focus on issues surrounding HIV/AIDS among African-Americans.

In fact, the first major program of the weekend will be the Black LGBT Community Summit on Friday, Sept. 30, featuring keynote speaker Christopher Bates, senior public health advisor to the deputy assistant secretary for health, infectious diseases, and executive director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

The program takes place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the host hotel.

The programs continue Saturday, Oct. 1, with the Empowerment Series starting with Session 1, from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. It offers attendees a choice between a panel on Lambda

Legal, presented by Lambda’s Southwest Regional Director Omar Narvaez; “TRANScending All Obstacles,” presented by Carter Brown with Black Trans Men; “Financial FREEdom,” presented by Treach Wilson; and “If It’s So Wrong, Why Does It Feel So Right?” presented by Alex Byrd.

Options in Session 2, from 11 a.m. to noon, are “Stonewall Democrats,” presented by Omar Narvaez; “Erotic Play for Men: Serious Business,” presented by Dr. Herukhuit; and “Make

It Last Forever,” presented by the DFW Senators.

The noon special session will be “HisStory/HerStory: Telling Our Story — An Intergenerational Discussion.”

Session 3 will be held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., and will include “Lying and Dying in Denial,” presented by author and poet Uriah Bell; “Sex and HIV Prevention Behind Prison Walls,” presented by Mychael Patterson; “Project Vogue,” presented by Stephaun Blahnik; and “The Ex-Factor: No More Drama — For Real,” presented by Q-Roc TV.

The final session of the day runs from 3:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., and includes panels on “TRANSformation,” presented by Valerie Spencer and Kennedy Davenport; “HIV Through the

Looking Glass,” presented by Deneen Robinson; and “That’s Not Love, That’s Stupid!” presented by Angela Harvey.

The day’s programs wind up with “The Official Dallas Social Affair: Tweet & Greet, Part 2” from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and a live taping of GLO TV’s “UNCUT: Sex and the Modern Man” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

There will also be a “Greater Than AIDS” photo shoot from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and “The Movement: Full Throttle Fashion Explosion” from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., and parties hosted by a variety of community organizations beginning at 11 p.m.

The weekend concludes Sunday with worship services at noon at Living Faith Covenant Church and Black Pride Dinner at Catfish Blues from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Spillman noted that organizers designed the weekend’s schedule with the intention of reaching out to as many different aspects and interests of the community as possible. He said organizers were especially glad to have adult film stars Deneen Robinson, Ty Lattimore and Rock Rockafella attending to talk about HIV from the perspective of the adult entertainment industry.

“These men will be appearing at some of the parties throughout the weekend also, but their main reason for being here is to talk to people about HIV and AIDS, and how everyone should protect themselves and how everyone should get tested,” Spillman said.

In another effort to encourage people to get tested, he added, everyone who gets tested can get their names entered into a raffle, with the prize being the opportunity to be a VIP guest of the celebrity of their choice at that evening’s parties.

“We want people to have a good time, and we want people to celebrate Pride,” Spillman said. “But we also want people to celebrate our culture and our community, and to learn and expand their thinking. These are the kinds of things we’ve been charged with doing by the International Federation of Black Prides, and these are the things that are important for our future.”

A full schedule and more information on special guests and parties can be found online at DFWPrideMovement.org.

……………………

The ‘Circus’ Circuit Party

Dallas Southern Pride, the Black Gay Pride circuit party held each year on the first weekend in October, returns this year with “Cirque, Cirque! Life is a Circus & We Are Your Ring Masters!” Sept. 29-Oct. 2, with Park Inn by Radisson as the host hotel.

Dallas Southern Pride kicks off Thursday, Sept. 29 with Hip Hop for Pride at Station 4, and continues Friday, Sept. 30 with the All-Star Pride Pre-Ball Party at Elm & Pearl and Cirque du Freak Ball at The Brick.

Saturday’s line-up includes a Grambling vs. Prairie View tailgate party at Level, Elm & Pearl’s Seductive Saturday’s Femme Figure, Cirque du Femme: Strawberries and Chocolate at Level, and Cirque du Male: Party Under the Big Top at The New J. Pepes.

The weekend concludes Sunday with The Official After Party/Lip Stick Ball, presented at the host hotel by Elm & Pearl and Dallas Southern Pride; The Family Affair Carnival at Elm & Pearl; and The “Whip My Hair” Hair Show and After Party at The Brick.

For complete details for all events, go online to DallasSouthernPride.com.
— Tammye Nash

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Pride 2011 • 30th annual Tarrant Pride Parade moves to downtown Fort Worth

Organizers say this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever, with parade and street festival on Saturday, and popular Pride Picnic on Sunday, October 1-2

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — The Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade marks its 30th anniversary this year, and organizers with the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association said this week they are going all out to make this year’s event the biggest and best ever.

This year the parade moves from its previous Sunday afternoon time slot to Saturday morning, Oct. 1, along with the street festival that is now in it’s second year. The parade is also changing locations, moving from the traditional route down South Jennings to a more visible downtown route, moving down Main Street from Weatherford Street south to 7th Street.

The parade begins at 10 a.m., and the street festival — which will be set up in General Worth Square, on Main Street between 8th Street and 9th Street — follows immediately, from noon to 6 p.m.

TCGPWA’s popular annual Pride Picnic is doing a little moving of its own this year: It will still be held in Trinity Park, at the intersection of Crestline Road and Foch Street. But this year the picnic is moving from its traditional Saturday time slot to Sunday, Oct. 2, from noon to 6 p.m.

“I think we’re going to have a big turnout for the parade, just for the curiosity factor if nothing else,” TCGPWA Secretary Carla Parry said this week. “We’ve never had the parade downtown before. Having it downtown has never been an option before. So I think there will be a huge crowd there.”

Parry said that planning for the bigger events in the new location has been going very smoothly so far, and “Hopefully, no wrenches get thrown into our works between now and then!”

The expanded activities and downtown route this year mean higher costs for organizers, and the TCGPWA has been working diligently all year to raise the money needed to cover those costs. Parry said this week that things on the fundraising front also appear to be coming along well.

“The fundraising is right on target for where we need it to be,” Parry said. “We are giving out a scholarship this year for the first time, and we would love to bring in over and above the amount we need just to pay for the parade and festival and picnic, so that we could put that extra in the scholarship fund. But we are on par for what we need to pay for everything.

“Actually, all the money from the alcohol and food sales at the picnic on that Sunday comes back to the association, and that is money that we can add to the scholarship fund,” she added.

Parry said that city officials have been “very accommodating” in the process of planning this year’s expanded Pride events and moving the parade and street festival downtown.

She said that while the 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Fort Worth police and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission was “a horrible thing that never should have happened,” she is proud that the city and its LGBT community have used that event as the impetus for improving policies and relationships.

“We’ve made huge strides forward here in Fort Worth since the raid,” Parry said, and those strides are reflected in the city’s attitude toward planning this year’s events.

One very visible sign of that improved relationship will be Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price’s participation this year as one of three Pride parade grand marshals.

Tony Coronado, chair of TCGPWA’s corporate partners and sponsorships committee, said that Price was nominated for grand marshal by Fairness Fort Worth President and TCGPWA member Tom Anable, who also confirmed with Price that she was available and willing to participate in the parade. Her nomination was then confirmed by a vote of the association’s general membership, Coronado said.

Also elected as grand marshals this year are Q Cinema co-founder and activist Todd Camp, and female impersonator Zoe Daniels. Honorary grand marshals are retired Fort Worth

Police Officer Mike Miller and female impersonator Tasha Kohl, aka Jerry Faulkner.

“Our grand marshals this year reflect the present and the future of our community, and our honorary grand marshals were chosen as symbols to remember and honor our past,” Coronado said.

He explained that Miller is considered “our first, unofficial LGBT liaison with the police department.” Faulkner, who brought Tasha Kohl, his longtime and very popular drag alter ego, out of retirement to perform in shows over the summer to raise money for the Pride events, has a history of fundraising for the LGBT community and organizations in Tarrant County and around the Metroplex.

“The female impersonators, the drag queens, have always played a very important role in the [LGBT] community in Fort Worth and Tarrant County,” Coronado said, explaining why the TCGPWA includes them in the grand marshal and honorary grand marshal honorees for Pride each year.

“In fact, our annual Pride Picnic is actually our foundational Pride event here, the first Pride event ever held in Fort Worth, and it was started by drag queens all those years ago who wanted to get the community to come together to relax and have fun,” he said.

Parry said the street festival this year will be larger than the inaugural event last year, with corporate sponsors Coors Light and Coors Distributing Co. of Fort Worth once again donating the Coors Light stage. Local entertainer Aurora Blue headlines the entertainment for the festival, and will be joined in the lineup by a number of other performers.

The festival will feature a kids activity area, including a booth with Fort Worth P.D.’s IdentiKid program, “plenty of vendors” and a number of food and beverage stands as well as organizational and game booths. Entertainment, vendors, informational booths, a kid’s activity area and a games area with volleyball and horseshoes will again be part of the Pride Picnic on Oct. 2, Parry said, along with, of course, food and beverage stands.

Tarrant County Gay Pride officially kicks off Thursday night, Sept. 29, with shows and parties at nightclubs in Fort Worth, and continues through the following week.

For more information about Tarrant County Pride, go online to TCGPWA.org.

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

—  Kevin Thomas