Transgender center launches intersex group

When a baby is born the first question most people ask is “is it a girl or a boy?” The doctor takes a look at the baby’s genitals, if they see a penis the child is declared a boy, if the see a vulva the child is called a girl. But sometimes a child’s anatomy is not that clear cut, and sometimes the genetics, physiology or anatomy of person is more complex than the penis=boy, vulva=girl equation. The umbrella term “intersex” is used to describe people whose physical bodies, hormones or chromosomes lie between the male and female ends of the spectrum.

According to the Intersex Society of North America somewhere between 1 in 1,500 and 1 in 2,000 babies born in this country have genitals that fall between the strict male/female dichotomy. Additionally, several genetic conditions exist where people who may appear strictly male or strictly female have chromosomal combinations other than XX or XY, a combination of XX and XY, or the chromosomes associated with one gender and the body associated with another. With so many intersex people walking around, there is a fairly good chance that you know one.

But according to “Koomah,” the founder of the group, very few spaces exist for intersex people to talk about their lives. “Most of the social and support groups that I’ve encountered are online,” says Koomah. “I’ve encountered a handful of people both in and outside of [Houston's] Transgender Center that are intersex-bodied but didn’t know anyone else who was. When I mentioned I was and spoke with them more in depth about my experience it seemed to be a great relief that their experience isn’t the only one.”

Koomah realised that their was a need for a group that would allow the intersex community to talk about their experiences. This realization led to the founding of the Transgender Centers Intersex group, which will have its first meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7 pm at the Center (604 Pacific). The group is designed as an informal get-to-gether for those with intersex bodies and their spouses.

Koomah explains that while the transgender and intersex communities share many experiences the terms are not interchangeable. “While some intersex people do identify as transgender and some may choose to transition, sometimes the experience of being intersex is different,” says Kumayama. “Being intersex in childhood is radically different than the experience of other non-intersex folks, explaining your body to doctors can be scary, and making choices on things like transition or relationships are easier when you have people whom you share similar experience to talk with.”

—  admin

Local Briefs

‘Friends of the Library’ group meets

The Friends of the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Library, a newly-formed group to support and advise the library and archives at Resource Center Dallas, will hold its first meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, at the center, 2701 Reagan St.

In addition, librarian Sandy Swan has announced that the library will be closed the week of Jan. 18 for minor remodeling.

For more information or to participate as a member of the Friends of the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Library, contact Swan at 214-540-4451,

GAIN sets career changes program

GAIN — GLBT and Aging Interest Network will meet Thursday, Jan. 20, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan St., for a program on “Reinvent Yourself — Strategies for a Successful Career Change,” presented by Bill Blalock. The program will include a question-and-answer period and hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served. Call 214- 528-0144 or e-mail gain@rcdallas.org for more information.

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

—  John Wright

Beloved, gay UT professor retires after 39 years

Guy Howard Miller

Guy Howard Miller taught history and religious studies since 1971

JOSHUNDA SANDERS  |  Austin American-Statesman
(via the Associated Press)

AUSTIN — Anyone looking for “an exhibit of Jesus pop culture gloriousness” has to look no further than Guy Howard Miller’s office, says Lindsey Carmichael, one of his estimated 10,000 former students.

The University of Texas professor who taught history and religious studies there since 1971 typically sipped a Diet Dr Pepper in his Garrison Hall digs after class amid an abundance of Jesus-themed refrigerator magnets, mouse pads and framed pictures.

“My ex-wife said it was Jesus-infested,” Miller said matter-of-factly.

Now that Miller, 69, has retired — his last class was Dec. 3 — he will have to find a place for his turn-of-the-century Jesus pictures and growing collection of Ben-Hur artifacts. For his former students, the bigger problem will be finding someone as colorful and as engaged in his profession.

Carmichael, 25, is among those who refer to themselves as “Millerites,” and she said she considers Miller more of a friend than a former professor.

Like others who have had a class with him, Carmichael says she still remembers what he said to her class during their first meeting: “Now kids, Dr. Miller is gay. Now, Dr. Miller also loves Jesus. And if you happen to have a problem with that, there’s the door.”’

“Religion for him is not a cultural assumption; it’s fluid and constantly evolving,” she said. “I’m going to be grateful to him for the rest of my life. Now that he’s retired, the university will never be quite as bright a place.”

Miller’s attentiveness is legendary. At the beginning of each semester, he would tell his students that he really wanted to meet them and would hold frequent office hours to get to know them, he said.

“I will have seen about 60 to 70 percent of the class by the end of the term,” Miller said.

He also held a number of administrative roles at the school, and his vision helped shape the Department of Religious Studies, which in 2011 will enroll its first graduate students. He created one of his most innovative classes, “Jesus in American Culture” — a multimedia course he started with a grant from UT’s Tech Services in 2005, complete with full-length video, audio recordings and transcripts available online.

He wrote “The Revolutionary College: American Presbyterian Higher Education, 1707-1837 ” and has contributed to several other books.

Miller is small in stature, but his voice and presence loom large. He has a mischievous twinkle in his eye even when he’s talking about potentially dry topics like the differences between Protestants and Catholics. He favors tweed jackets with button-down shirts in blue or canary yellow.

Miller was raised Southern Baptist in Graham with five sisters.

“I was the first to go to college,” he said. “I thought I’d be a laborer or a butcher like my father was.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1964 and a master’s in history in 1966 from what is now the University of North Texas. After earning a doctorate in American intellectual history from the University of Michigan in 1970, he taught for a year at Hope College in Michigan before moving to UT.

The Rev. Marcus McFaul, who leads Highland Park Baptist Church, took three courses with Miller from 1980 to 1984.

“The greatest gift I got as a student of Dr. Miller’s is the appreciation of critical thought, and his animated description of religious thought made history come alive. Howard Miller is what put me on to the love of American religious thought. It allowed me to get the larger picture and still retain an affinity to a particular tradition, ” McFaul said.

Overhearing this, Miller said, “Marcus has done what I wish I could have done — which is remain a Baptist.”

Miller said the Southern Baptist church that he grew up in was “a very different denomination than the very conservative denomination that emerged after the conservatives purged liberals and moderates in the ’80s and ’90s.” He left the church in the 1960s because he disagreed with some aspects of Baptist theology and “more important, with its opposition to the civil rights movement.”

In Austin, he joined an Episcopal church for a few years but stopped attending because he grew tired of his sexual orientation being a problem, he said. He said he no longer attends a church, but if he returned to one, it would be a moderate Baptist church like McFaul’s.

Miller has received most of the university-wide and College of Liberal Arts teaching awards, including the largest undergraduate teaching award at the school, the $15,000 Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship.

“If I do have a calling, it’s to teach the gospel of liberal arts, not the Gospel of Jesus,” Miller said.

—  John Wright

F.A.C.E. offers HIV-positive a shoulder to lean on

HIV/AIDS support group at Cathedral of Hope celebrates its 1st anniversary with a World AIDS Day event that includes Quilt panels

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Todd Faulk

A year ago, Todd Faulk created an HIV/AIDS support group as part of the Cathedral of Hope outreach ministries. But it’s not a Bible study, and it’s not a religious group.

Faulk notes that he’s not a licensed counselor, and he’s not a pastor. The group is there to help people living with HIV feel better about themselves.

Still, Faulk said, he felt — and he had heard others say — that as the largest LGBT church in the area, Cathedral of Hope should offer an HIV support group.

Such groups were more common in the early 1990s, before drugs that helped control the virus became available. But Faulk saw a need. He said people had questions, especially young people.

When Faulk volunteered to become the face of the group, he turned that word into an acronym for Faith, Acceptance, Caring, Educate.

He said that the goal was support and information, not fellowship, so before calling the first meeting, he looked for some curriculum. He couldn’t find any, so he turned to area professionals.

Faulk knew Legacy Counseling Center Executive Director Melissa Grove because he turned to Legacy when he was first diagnosed a dozen years ago. So he approached her, and Grove provided him with a number of topics for meetings and referred a number of people to the group.

“They’ve done a fantastic job,” said Grove said of F.A.C.E. “Any person going to the group would be welcomed with open arms.”

She said that while Legacy provides individual counseling and therapeutic groups, and other AIDS service organizations offer other services, F.A.C.E.  fills a void.

“A support group doesn’t need to be led by a licensed professional,” she said.

Grove raved about the job Faulk has done. Before the group began, she worked with him on facilitating skills and how to create a safe environment.

“If a leader can’t do that, people won’t talk,” she said.

She said it was important for Faulk to recognize when someone might need something more than a support group, and over the past year they have referred people back and forth from her therapy to his support.

Dr. Nick Bellos and his nurse practitioner, Stephanie Shoemaker, usually attend two sessions a month to answer medical questions.

“We’re there in case people have questions about their drugs,” said Bellos.

He said they especially discuss side effects.

“We tell folks what’s out there and available,” he said.

Bellos also provides information about clinical trials in the area. Recently he gave the group information on life expectancies and co-morbidities, discussing HIV-related diabetes and hypertension.

His job isn’t diagnosing at the group, but if Bellos hears something that sounds like it needs to be examined, he sends the group member to his doctor.

Bellos complimented Faulk on the way he runs the group.

“He does a great job keeping the group on track,” Bellos said. “He makes sure everyone has an opportunity to speak.”

Faulk said some people attend a few meetings, get what they need from the group and move on. Others have become regulars. And while the goal is to help people with HIV live better lives, the death of one member soon after F.A.C.E.  formed reminded everyone of how serious HIV can be.

“He developed spinal meningitis and died in less than a week,” Faulk said. “His family didn’t even know he was positive.”

That left the man’s partner with the job of explaining the illness to the family.

Since then, that member’s mother has attended, first for support after her son’s death and then to help others come out to their families as HIV-positive and, when necessary, as gay.

Other parents have participated to get information and to support their HIV-positive sons. Parents from out of town have attended and left with confidence that their child was getting the support needed, Faulk said.

In addition to coming out and medical issues, Faulk said group members have dealt with a variety of other related topics, like “eating habits, how the food you’re eating affects your medication.”

Faulk said someone might mention that he has a reaction when he eats a particular food. And another group member will say he has noticed a similar reaction.

“I call that the ‘me, too’ factor,” said Grove. “It’s very important in decreasing isolation.”

Faulk said those sort of things are important because living with HIV requires a lifestyle change. He said he learned in the group that regular antacids block the body from properly absorbing HIV medications. He said his doctor gave him something to use instead.

“We talked about a recent study that showed that cocaine actually increases the amount of HIV in the body by lowering the immune system,” Faulk said.

Other topics have included acceptance, setting goals, the importance of physical activity, positive thinking and getting away from a “woe is me” feeling.

World AIDS Day marks the one-year anniversary of F.A.C.E., as well as the 10th anniversary of the John Thomas Bell Tower. F.A.C.E. helped coordinate the World AIDS Day event at the Cathedral.

The Rev. Paul Tucker, who was the Cathedral’s first AIDS chaplain, will lead the service. He is now a pastor at All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church in Minneapolis.

The Turtle Creek Chorale will perform.

Panels from the quilt will be on display in the International Peace Chapel and HIV testing coordinated with Resource Center Dallas will be available throughout the day.

Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. Dec. 1 at 7:15 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens