A Christmas memory: Sharla’s goodies

This time of year, it’s hard to walk into the office breakroom and not encounter free food: Turkeys, hams, cookies, brownies, popcorn, doughnuts, cupcakes, dropped off by business associates or left over from holiday celebrations held by others in the office. It’s addictive and bad for you but always welcome.

But this year, also a little sad.

I walked into the breakroom a few minutes ago to see an empty container than once housed homemade brownies — none of which I got. I immediately had a pang of anger. “Did Sharla bring by her goodies and everyone get to them before I found out?” I thought for a brief second. And then I remembered: No, she did not. Sharla died last week of brain cancer.

I did not know Sharla well. She worked part-time as a driver for Dallas Voice for many years, though she didn’t spend much time in the office unless she was filling in for her wife, Maryann Ramirez, who for ages was the distribution manager for the Voice. Maryann was (and is!) a strong personality who always seemed tamed by Sharla’s sweetness. Maryann talked so affectionately to Sharla on the phone (her work station was outside for a long time), and about Sharla around the office.

Every Christmas — and truth be told, other holidays too, or for no occasion at all — Maryann would bring in baked goods Sharla had made for all of us. She wasn’t in the office to share them with us; it was a totally selfless gift. And while I always said thank you and tried never to take her generosity for granted, this year it resonates with me especially knowing that era is over. No more treats from Sharla. This is sad for me and everyone else in the office; but I can hardly imagine what it is like for Maryann.

This is a difficult time of year to suffer loss: The holidays magnify everything, and it’s having free time and exchanging gifts is something a lot of people look forward to, so to have that experience cut short is especially heartbreaking (particularly since everyone else around you seems to be so happy). I broke up with an ex with finality on Christmas Eve years ago — that was hard. But to lose a partner like Maryann lost Sharla is unfathomable to me.

It’s easy to get lost in yourself this time of year, to attach too much significance to material things. But I will spent part of my time this season thinking about what I did not get: Sharla’s brownie bars. And that will make the holiday more important to me.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Customer service: Black Tie edition

I own several tuxedoes plus some nice patent leather shoes, so I rarely rent formalwear anymore. But I had a nice experience at Al’s this week.

One of my tuxes lost a button — the black-satin-wrapped kind. Unlike many suits, which sew “reserve” buttons into the lining, none of my tuxes have extras. I don’t know the first thing about sewing on buttons even if they do. I was  bummed.

But I decided to take a hail Mary: I brought the coat into Al’s on Oak Lawn and asked whether they might have any buttons that matched. The lady behind the counter said, “I’ll look.” She took the coat back with her and emerged a few minutes later with a button that looked like a dead ringer. “That’s perfect!” I said. She snatched it up and said, “Give me a few minutes.” She emerged later with the button, sewed beautifully onto my coat. Exactly what I needed.

“What do I owe you?” I asked, expecting a $20 fee for parts, labor and instant turnaround.

“Nothing,” she said. “Just remember us if you need anything.” (She even offered to re-sew a loose button on another coat I had with me!)

That’s good customer service. Especially for someone who wasn’t even a customer.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Scenes from today’s rally outside North Dallas High School in support of Andy Moreno

If you turn on the local TV news tonight, you’ll undoubtedly see coverage of today’s rally outside North Dallas High School in support of Andy Moreno, the transgender girl whose principal decided she wasn’t fit to run for homecoming queen. A dozen or so protesters from Queer LiberAction gathered on a street corner in front of the school at about 3:30 p.m. As the bell rang a few minutes later and students poured down the front steps, QL organizer Elizabeth Pax yelled through a megaphone for those who support Andy to join the protesters. Hundreds of students swarmed the street corner, cheering and chanting as Moreno stood alongside Pax looking on. Crews from several local TV stations, as well as from CNN and MTV News, were on hand. The protesters and students, including Moreno, eventually marched up and down Cole Avenue yelling things like “Who’s queen? Our queen!” as police and school officials watched nearby. We’ll post a full story and video from the rally shortly. More pics below.

UPDATE: We’ve posted our story here.

—  John Wright

Joel Burns begs teens contemplating suicide: Give yourself a chance to see life get better

Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns, right, and his husband, J.D. Angle

I have known Joel Burns for almost 10 years — several years longer than he has been on the Fort Worth City Council.

My wife and I met Joel and his husband, J.D. Angle, through mutual friends back when Joel and J.D. still lived in their beautifully restored home in the same East Fort Worth neighborhood where my wife and I and our children lived. I saw them then as the perfect couple: happy, handsome, healthy men with a beautiful home and great jobs. I knew they had great things ahead of them.

Then they moved to another beautifully restored older home in an historic neighborhood just south of downtown Fort Worth, and Joel ran for City Council. I was so happy when he was elected, because I believed that not only would Joel be a good representative for his constituents in District 9, but that he would also be a good representative for the LGBT community.

I think the fact that no one even stepped up to oppose Joel when he ran for re-election in 2009 shows that his constituents, overall, believe he is doing a good job on the City Council. But last night — Tuesday, Oct. 12 — during the weekly Fort Worth City Council meeting, Joel proved without a doubt that he also represents his LGBT community, and he proved why it is so important to have openly LGBT elected officials at all levels of government.

At each council meeting, council members are given a few minutes each at the start of the meeting to make announcements and to recognize people from their districts who have done something outstanding. Last night, Joel took his time to talk about the recent suicides of several LGBT youth — and to tell his own very personal and very powerful story.

After recounting the stories of several young men who have taken their own lives in recent weeks after being subjected to anti-gay bullying and harassment, Joel told his fellow councilmembers and those in the council chambers that he was about to tell them something he had never told anyone before — not even his parents or his husband. And then, struggling through his own tears, he told them of the day when he was a 9th grader at Crowley High School and a group of older teens accosted him and “roughed him up.”

“They said that I was a faggot, and that I should die and go to hell where I belonged. That erupted the fear that I had kept pushed down, that what I was beginning to feel on the inside must somehow be showing on the outside. Ashamed, humiliated and confused, I went home. There must be something very wrong with me, I thought, something I could never let my family or anyone else know,” he recalled.

Joel broke down then, and acknowledged that he couldn’t actually bring himself to read aloud the next couple of sentences he had written that described his own near suicide attempt. “I, don’t want my mother and father to have to bear the pain of having to hear … hear me say the …” He couldn’t finish the sentence.

When he regained his composure enough to continue, Joel said: “So I will just say, and I will skip ahead, I have never told this story to anyone before tonight. Not my family, not my husband, not anyone. But the number of suicides in recent days have upset me so much, they have just torn at my heart. And even though there may be some political repercussions for telling my story, the story is not just for the adults who might choose or not choose to support me. The story is for the young people who might be holding that gun tonight. Or the rope. Or the pill bottle. You need to know that the story doesn’t end where I didn’t tell it on that unfortunate day. There is so, so, so much more.

“Yes, high school was difficult. Coming out was painful. But life got so much better for me. And I want to tell any teen that might see this: Give yourself a chance to see just how much better life will get. And it will get better. You will get out of the household that doesn’t accept you. You will get out of that high school, and you never have to deal with those jerks again if you don’t want to. You will find and you will make new friends who will understand you. And life will get so, so, so much better.”

Joel then talked about all the happy memories that fill his life now, from the first time he ever saw his future husband, to the day he asked J.D. to spend his life with him, to winning his first election to just a few days ago when he sat with his father after his father came out of surgery, and his father told him how happy he was to have Joel there with him.

He said: To those who are feeling very alone tonight, please know that I understand how you feel, that things will get easier. Please stick around to make those happy memories for yourself. It may not seem like it tonight, but they will. And the attitudes of society will change. Please, live long enough to be there to see it.”

Joel ended by encouraging anyone who needs help or resources to deal with the issue of LGBT teen suicide to contact TheTrevorProject.org or to call him directly at 817-392-8809. “And you can call me, and I will get you whatever resources you need,” he promised.

As Joel finished, his fellow councilmember and friend Kathleen Hicks led the rest of the council and those in the council chambers in a standing ovation for Joel and his courage. I think he deserves a standing ovation from all of us, as well. Because last night, Joel Burns did us all proud, and maybe — just maybe — he helped save someone’s life.

Watch video of Joel’s speech to the council below:

—  admin

I have puppies on the brain today; you benefit

This morning I formally adopted my new dog, Gulliver, a lab/terrier mix who, at four months, is as gentle and well-behaved as my wily older dogs. This picture is Gulliver and me a few minutes ago — he already is more popular in the office than I am.

As any pet owner knows, once you get a new addition to the family, you become a bore — talking and thinking of nothing but your new four-legged companion. So when I had to leave him for a while today in the care of a colleague to attend the dedication of the Annette Strauss Artists Square, I ended up showing everyone I knew a picture of him (just like I did for you just now).

One friend I met at the dedication who I bored with assertions of his cuteness told me about a video called “dog prayer” that she thought I would enjoy. I did. So here it is. Keep in mind, I am not a religious person, but even I respect the devotion showed by this ol’ hound.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This photo from Dallas Pride didn’t make our slideshow, but now we can’t stop staring at it

Dallas Voice contributing photographer Chuck Dube shot an amazing slideshow for us at last Sunday’s Dallas Pride festivities. The slideshow is pretty large at 250-plus photos, so it takes a few minutes to load, but it’s definitely worth a look if you haven’t already checked it out. Anyhow, Chuck shot far more than just the 250 photos he sent us, of course, and on Thursday we posted a link to his website for those who like us can’t get enough of his work. Which is where we found this gem that Chuck had been holding back. We understand why he may have thought it wasn’t appropriate, but after all, what else really says gay Pride like a rainbow-colored Speedo with an iPhone tucked into it, a tattoo on the lower abdomen, a pierced navel and a bottle of vodka?

—  John Wright

WATCH: From the series about local drag queens that was canned by The Dallas Morning News

We’re not sure where GLBT Dallas got ahold of this video, but we hear it’s actually been floating around YouTube for some time. Anyhow, it’s a segment that was put together by The Dallas Morning News a few years back, about Jenna Skyy, aka Joe Hoselton.

The video was slated to be part of a DMN project about drag queens in Dallas — artists who are leaders in their community — but for some strange reason the series was abruptly canned by editors.

Hoselton, who’s drag persona was not yet a household name at the time, told us a few minutes ago that he felt the video was “good and thoughtful” and “came from a good place with the journalist,” but it “sucked that DMN never ran it.”

When we asked why the newspaper canned the project, Hoselton said, “[Because] it was about them homosexuals and their immorality. … They didn’t feel it was family friendly. The journalist told me.”

Can you imagine?

—  John Wright