REVIEW: ‘Tennessee Queer’

TNQrIn 1967, some schoolyard bullies at Smythe High School in rural Tennessee, seeing a fellow student they decide is “queer as a three dollar bill,” set out to bash him in a schoolwide event. Then in 1972, a new set of kids plan the same. And again 1976. And 1983. And …

The history of using the locker room wall as a clearinghouse for hatred finally ends in 2014 with a conscientious principal who paints over it. But not all progress is so easy.

Tennessee Queerwhich plays for a single showing tonight at the Texas Theater at 7 p.m. — tracks the long journey for gay Jason (Christian Walker) who happily escaped Smythe to the lights of NYC. When he returns home for an intervention, he’s surprised to find it’s for him — not to cure the gay away, but to get him to move back to town and live with his supporting family who accept him unconditionally.

This indie film — low-budget but lovingly made — is a sweet-natured comedy with heart … I know, a cliche when it comes to gay cinema, but not a bad one. It’s about the real stresses of dealing with well-meaning family members, whether gay or straight. But politics and religion enter into the story when a politician (clearly closeted) tries to run for mayor on a “morality” campaign and shows the town isn’t as progressive as it seems.

“Smythe is still Smythe, and being gay is the worst possible thing to be,” the principal tells Jason. It would be nice if he could help make things better for the students.

If a little two-dimensional and sitcom-y, Tennessee Queer has a positive message about tolerance, and tackles gay pride in a creative and entertaining way. Especially for those who grew up in small-town Southern culture, it resonates as a hopeful story of acceptance … even if less ideal than the reality.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Children’s Theater shows “it gets better”

In tomorrow’s edition, I have a review of the Dallas Children’s Theater’s production of The Secret Life of Girls, an hour-long drama about bullying among 14-year-old girls. Though the piece doesn’t directly address gay-bashing, it does show in stark and disturbingly realistic ways how the orbits of clique-ish girls form, and the dangers of it. (On opening night, Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns participated in the talk-back that follows.)

The play, though, is only one part of a larger program at DCT, that continues this weekend at the Baker Idea Institute, which has as its theme “It Gets Better.” In addition to Girls, there will be a one-day teen summit on Saturday, (starting at 9:30 a.m. and running until 6:30 p.m.), as well as a staged reading of the play The Transition of Doodle Pequeno, pictured, which deals with gender identity issues. (You can read an interview with the playwright on TheaterJones.com, here.)

For more information on the summit, visit BakerIdea.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

UPDATE #2: Apology letter for State Fair incident

 

—  David Taffet

Anti-gay tirade ruins family’s State Fair outing

STATE UNFAIR | Dondi Morse, left, and Latisha Pennington say they attended the State Fair of Texas with their seven-year-old daughter and were verbally attacked by one vendor.

Haltom City lesbians say vendor’s verbal gay-bashing left their 7-year-old daughter in tears

UPDATE: Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America has sent an apology to the couple and the man in the booth who verbally attacked the couple has been removed from the fair.

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

When Latisha Pennington and Dondi Morse of Haltom City took their 7-year-old daughter to the Texas State Fair last weekend, they just wanted to have a fun day seeing the animals and trying out the fair’s famed array of fried treats.

But the women said this week their plans were ruined when one vendor verbally gay-bashed them in front of their daughter, leaving the little girl in tears and forcing the family to cut their outing short.

Although Pennington acknowledges that it isn’t hard to look at her and know she is a lesbian, that same isn’t true for her partner. And the two of them weren’t doing anything that day to attract attention; they weren’t holding hands and they certainly weren’t kissing or engaging in any kind of public displays of affection.

“We were just there to have fun with our daughter,” Pennington said, adding that PDAs “just aren’t our style.”

But that wasn’t enough to ward off some unwanted attention from the men at the booth for the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America.

Pennington said she and Morse and their daughter had just left one of the animal buildings when she heard a man call out to them. He said, she recalled,

“Hey, come here, come here. I got something for you. Got a couple of questions.”

The women noticed that the man was one of several at the booth that were giving away T-shirts and visors so they decided to go over and see what was being offered.

Each man in the booth was holding a sign that said, “What would you take for $1 million?” And the man who called them over did indeed have a question for them: “Would you take $1 million for your right eye?”

Pennington said she closed one eye, and the man asked her what she was doing. She told him she was just checking to see how well she could see out of one eye before she answered.

She said the man laughed at her answer. But his next question was no laughing matter: “Would you take $1 million for your soul?”

That’s when Morse jumped into the conversation, telling the man that if he was trying to engage them in a religious debate, they weren’t interested in going further.

Pennington said the man assured them he wasn’t interested in a religious debate either. But his next statement proved otherwise. That’s when the encounter began to turn ugly.

Pennington said he asked them, “What do you think will happen to your soul when you die?” Then he answered his own question with, “I know what’s going to happen to your soul. You’re going to hell for being a homosexual.”

The man then began “slinging biblical quotes at us” that supposedly condemn homosexuality. And as his harangue continued, their daughter began to cry, prompting the mothers to get her away from the booth and the man there as quickly as possible.

“We were at the booth no more than two minutes,” Pennington said, adding that the first thing to go through her mind was, “Oh, wow! Nothing like this has ever happened to us before.”

Besides just ruining their family outing with his remarks, Pennington said she questions what sort of family values the man who accosted them thought he was teaching her.

They tried to calm their daughter, Pennington said, but she continued to cry, asking Morse, “Mommy, why are you going to hell?”

The couple soon decided that they needed to leave the fair as quickly as possible to get their daughter to a safer environment where she could begin to calm down.

Pennington said they contacted state fair officials immediately to complain. On Wednesday, she said, they had heard back from State Fair Director Kelly Pound, who offered the family free tickets to return another day.

But Pennington said that while she appreciates the offer, she and Morse feel their daughter was too traumatized by the encounter to risk a return visit to the fair this year.

Pennington also said she doesn’t think just offering the family free tickets was an adequate response, and that she worries that other families could be attacked and other children traumatized by the man’s anti-gay tirades, even if they aren’t LGBT families.

Pennington suggested that fair officials should remove the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America and their booth from the fair. Sue Gooding, a spokeswoman for fair officials, said Thursday, Oct. 6, that while the group wouldn’t be asked to leave the fair, such behavior violates fair policy and will not be tolerated.

“That’s not the way we expect our vendors to act,” Gooding said, adding that vendors are expected to stay in their booths and should not call people over.

She said that Pound had gone to the booth already to have a discussion with the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship after the incident was reported, letting them know that “We’re not going to put up with this.”

Gooding said that while “the conversation went well,” Pound may decide to have a second conversation with the group before this weekend, when some 200 people have indicated on the “Gay Day at the State Fair” Facebook group page that they will be attending the fair on Saturday, Oct. 8.

Fairgoers who would like to visit the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association of America will find its booth outside the Pan Am Arena located behind the Cotton Bowl, on Nimitz Avenue.

………………………

The FGBMF

For more information on the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship in America,
go online to fgbmfamerica.com/wordpress. According to the website, the group’s
mission is:

“• To reach men everywhere for Jesus Christ, taking particular note that in many instances men can reach others of their same social, cultural or business interests more readily than anyone else.

“• To call men to God: to help men become born again, baptized in the Holy Spirit, operate in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and take the Good News to the nations.

“• To mentor young men who have never had positive male role models by being a spiritual father to them.

“• To provide a basis of fellowship among all men everywhere: by creating a fellowship not directly associated with any specific church, but cooperating with all denominations and inspiring our members to be active in their respective churches.

“• To bring about a greater measure of unity and harmony in the Body of Christ; where members are united in a common effort to spread the Good News and to be in full fellowship and submission to the true Head of the church . . . the Lord Jesus Christ.”

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

—  John Wright

Sally Kern points to Dallas Voice as source of evil

Our good friend, Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern, has a new book coming out called The Stoning of Sally Kern: The liberal attack on Christian conservatism-and why we must take a stand.

Poor Sally. The liberal media is attacking her. And just who is this liberal media? Well, she clearly identifies it as us. Here’s a quote from her book:

“Publications such as Dallas Voice and The Advocate ran on line articles commending my opponent and bashing me.”

Well, if quoting her in context is bashing, we’ll take full credit.

Here’s what she said:

“I honestly think it’s the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat.”

The “it” she was talking about is homosexuality. And that wasn’t some off-handed comment. It was part of a state proclamation that other state elected officials condemned.

And just to make sure she wasn’t misunderstood, she also said:

“Here in America we’ve had what maybe three known real big terrorist attacks on our nation. But every day our young people especially, all of us, but our young people especially are in a sense bombarded with the message that homosexuality is normal and natural.”

We also pointed out that Kern’s district is adjacent to the one where the Oklahoma City bombing took place. People from her district were killed. But gays are a bigger threat.

Here’s my interview with her opponent, Brittany Novotny. I’m not sure that I “commended” Novotny. I merely reported that the New York Times said she had a chance to win. I quoted the candidate calling her opponent an extremist. And Kern would have had the same opportunity if she returned a phone call.

I can’t wait to read the entire book so we can do some more Kern-bashing.

—  David Taffet

Right-wing lawmaker says Legislature doesn’t have time to remove sodomy ban from books

Wayne Christian

The Austin American-Statesman has a story today about legislation aimed at removing Texas’ unconstitutional sodomy ban from the books. (It makes you wonder, why doesn’t The Dallas Morning News report on stuff like this?)

Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code, which outlawed gay sex, was struck down as unconstitutional eight years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the statute remains on the books, and those who want to remove it say its continued presence “creates a climate favorable to bullying, gay-bashing and hate crimes,” according to the Statesman.

Take, for example, the incident a few years back at Chico’s Tacos in El Paso, in which two gay men were threatened with sodomy charges for kissing in public. No, we’re not kidding.

Democratic State Reps. Jessica Farrar and Garnet Coleman have introduced identical bills that would remove 21.06 from the books, but the bills are almost guaranteed to go nowhere in the Republican-monopolized Legislature.

Why? Well, the real reason is that many conservative lawmakers believe sodomy should still be a crime. The Statesman fails to point out that the state GOP platform calls for the recriminalization of sodomy. But naturally these right-wing lawmakers are too chicken shit to come out and say this, so they’ve come up with another excuse: We simply don’t have enough time!

From the Statesman:

As of January, Republicans hold 101 of the 150 seats in the Texas House , a supermajority that allows them to easily control legislation. Last session, the House was almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

The GOP domination is also reflected in the Criminal Jurisprudence committee, which would be the first to vote on Farrar’s or Coleman’s bill . A Democrat chairs the committee, but Republicans — including Wayne Christian, the most recent president of the Texas Conservative Coalition — outnumber them two-to-one.

Christian said he had not looked at the bills in detail, but that the time it would take them to go through committee probably would not be worth the outcome — especially in a session where lawmakers are wrestling with major issues like redistricting and filling a multi-billion-dollar budget hole.

So there you have it, folks. Christian doesn’t believe gays should be allowed to fill each other’s holes, so he’s claiming the Legislature is too busy filling the budget hole. Or, to phrase it another way, Christian is preoccupied with filling his own hole.

Funny how the Texas Legislature always seems to find time to TAKE AWAY people’s civil rights.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Another attack in a bar; this time it’s a lesbian who’s injured — and then arrested

Laura Gilbert says after she was beat up by patrons of an Opelika, Ala., bar because she’s gay, sheriff’s deputies there arrested her instead of her attackers.

Back on Jan. 28 we told you about John Skaggs, a 52-year-old gay man who was beaten with a pool cue in a Shreveport bar by another man who allegedly said he was going to beat Skaggs up because Skaggs is gay. The suspect in that case, 32-year-old William Payne, has been arrested and charged with attempted second-degree murder and the commission of a hate crime.

In that case, the owner of the bar, Tim Huck, told KLSA 12 television news the attack was unprovoked and was “totally 100 percent a hate crime for his sexual orientation.”

Now comes word from Opelika, Ala., about another gay-bashing in a bar, only this time the victim was a lesbian. And this time, law enforcement officers who arrived at the scene arrested only the woman who’d been beat up.

Laura Gilbert, 25, told WRBL 3 News that she had gone to The Villa outside Opelika with her friend from high school, Sheila Siddall, to celebrate Siddall’s birthday by singing karaoke. Gilbert said she felt uncomfortable as soon as she walked into the bar and people began staring at her, but she stayed because she didn’t want to ruin Siddall’s birthday celebration.

Later, when Gilbert and Siddall started to leave the bar, they were confronted by a woman who started a fistfight that moved outside and grew to include about 12 people, including two men. Siddall called 911 on her cell phone, but when sheriff’s deputies arrived they arrested only Gilbert. Siddall said the officers refused to even listen to her’s and Gilbert’s side of the story and were “over there cutting up with the ones who did it [beat up Gilbert].” New reports also indicated that the only person who suffered any injuries was Gilbert.

Gilbert is charged with disorderly conduct and public intoxication.

Sheriff Jay Jones said that had deputies been told the fight was a hate crime, they would have reported it as such, and said they did not get information for the report from Gilbert and Siddall because the two were too intoxicated. When asked why the deputies did take statements from others at the scene who were also intoxicated, James said the deputies did the best they could.

Gilbert and Siddall have both since filed separate reports about the fight, but Gilbert told WRBL that she still hasn’t been contacted by officials.

Alabama does have a hate crime law, but it does not include sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

—  admin

WATCH: FCKH8 bashes back against gay bashing — what took so long?

While other causes are a little more on the sentimental side, I have to say the FCKH8 campaign has gotten my attention in under three minutes. Cursing kids shooting the middle finger — hilarious! Proceeds from the sales of their merch benefit the Trevor Project. T-shirts emblazoned with “Don’t B H8n on the Homos” among other clever items are too good to pass up. I’m digging the hoodie, although purple isn’t my color.

The campaign released its latest video on Sunday and while it’s fun to watch, it is so NSFW.

—  Rich Lopez

LGBT advocate vows to work with GOP in Texas House, says LGBT equality ‘not a partisan issue’

Log Cabin Dallas president urges not to just automatically assume Republican lawmakers are anti-gay

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Log Cabin Dallas President Rob Schlein
NO ASSUMPTIONS | Log Cabin Dallas President Rob Schlein believes there are Republicans in the Texas House who will support certain LGBT issues.

Republicans across the country rode a wave of voter unrest into office at all levels on Election Day, and that includes the Texas House of Representatives, where Democrats lost 23 seats, giving Republicans a two-thirds majority.

In a state where the GOP party platform calls for the sodomy law to be reinstated and for anyone performing a same-sex wedding to be jailed, that Republican landslide seems — at least at first glance — to be a disaster for the LGBT community.

But Chuck Smith, deputy director for Equality Texas, said this week that Republicans are likely to have far too many pressing issues piled high on their plates when the Legislature convenes in January to spend any time on anti-LGBT measures.

“These legislators are going to be too busy trying to balance the budget,” Smith said. “Gay bashing is notgoing to rise to the level of anyone’s top priority.”

And Rob Schlein, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, suggested that Democrats shouldn’t be too quick to judge GOP lawmakers as anti-gay, anyway.

“It’s a little early to be prognosticating about what’s going to happen,” Schlein said. “I would recommend that these activists not be so quick to project that all these Republicans are so anti-gay. You don’t know that. Just take a deep breath and deal with the landscape as it exists today. Get your issues together, find out who can stand behind them, and move ahead with them one at a time.”

Smith said that when the 2011 legislative session opens, there will be 100 Republicans and 50 Democrats in the Texas House, compared to the 2009 session when there were 77 Republicans and 73 Democrats.

Of those 150 lawmakers, 37 will be new to the Legislature, and of those six will be Democrats and 31 will be Republicans. Of those 31 Republican newbies, Smith said, “only four made any mention at all of being pro ‘traditional marriage’ or pro ‘family values’ in their campaigns or on their websites.”

Those four, Smith said, were Erwin Cain in District 3, Connie Scott in District 34, Four Price in District 87 and Kenneth Sheets in District 107.

Cain, whose website says he believes “that marriage is between one man and one woman,” owns a real estate investment company. He defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Homer by a 15-point margin. Cain lives in Como, and attends First Baptist Church in Sulphur Springs.

District 3 encompasses the suburban and rural area north and east of Dallas, including Paris, Sulphur Springs and Mt. Pleasant.

In District 34, Scott defeated Democratic incumbent Abel Herrera by an 8-point margin. On her website, Scott said she supports “preserving family values” and that she opposes gay marriage. She co-owned and operated a small pipeline construction company for 10 years, and now lives in Robstown. She is a member of River Hills Baptist Church.

District 34 encompasses primarily Nueces County, including Corpus Christi, on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Four Price, who swamped Democratic candidate Abel G. Bosquez by a 58-point margin in District 87, described himself on his website as “pro-family/pro-life,” and said he opposes gay marriage. He is an attorney and co-managing shareholder in Irwin, Merritt, Hogue, Price & Carthell, P.C.

District 87 is located in the Texas Panhandle, with Amarillo — where Price lives — on the district’s southern edge.

Sheets defeated LGBT ally and Democratic incumbent Allen Vaught by 5 points in District 107, located on the west side of Dallas County. Sheets’ website describes him as “supporting pro-life and pro-traditional marriage policies.” He wrote, “I also believe the definition of marriage should always remain as the union between one man and one woman.”

Sheets is an attorney who served in the Marine Corps in Iraq, and he is active in the St. Thomas Aquinas community.

Despite their inclusion of anti-gay stances on their websites, Smith said, “None of them ran campaigns on supporting bullying in the schools or bashing gay people. Like everyone else, they focused on the economy, jobs and the deficit.”

Smith said, “The turnover we saw [Tuesday night] was based on the economy and on jobs and on spending. Certainly, it was sad to see any of the members with whom we have had good working relationships in the past not be re-elected.

“But equality should be a non-partisan issue, and we will be looking to work with” lawmakers of both parties.”

Smith said Equality Texas’ No. 1 priority in 2011 will be anti-bullying legislation, and that he believes there are Republicans in the state House who will support such a measure.

“We have to pass this bill so that not one more child is ever left to feel hopeless and consider taking their own lives,” Smith said. “We had bipartisan support for [Rep. Mark] Strama’s anti-bullying bill in 2009, and I think we can have that support again in 2011. This is a child welfare issue, and not one more child should die before the state of Texas deals with it.”

Schlein said he also believes there are Republicans in the House who will support anti-bullying measures, including District 108 Rep. Dan Branch, who defeated gay candidate Pete Schulte by 32 points to be re-elected.

Schlein said he had spoken with Branch’s campaign coordinator, telling him that there are “some real problems in the gay community than can be solved, things like hospital visitation and passing property between partners.

“And he told me they had been looking at the bullying issue. So I think we should approach them and start there.”

Schlein also agreed with Smith that the budget would be everyone’s top priority.

“I don’t think denying gays any rights is really high on the agenda for Republicans. Actually, I am hearing more and more activists within the party saying that the [anti-gay elements of the state platform are] hurting us, and we need to fix it. I am hearing them say the party needs to be a lot more open to minorities,” Schlein said. “I just think people need to not be so quick to judge. That hurts our chances of being successful when you just do that automatically.”

Smith and Schlein also both said they believe that moderate Republican Joe Straus is likely to be re-elected as speaker of the House, despite Warren Chisum’s plans to run for the position. Chisum, who represents District 88 in the Panhandle and lives in Pampa, has in the past often spear-headed attempts to pass anti-gay legislation, including bills that would have prevented lesbians and gays from being foster or adoptive parents.

“I think Strauss will win it again, even though a lot of the Republican activists are hoping for someone more conservative. Strauss seems to be a pretty pragmatic guy,” Schlein said.

Even if Chisum were to win the speaker’s seat, Smith predicted, “we would still come back to the budget deficit being the No. 1 issue. He [Chisum] still wouldn’t have any more time to deal with the kinds of social issues he is on record as supporting.”

Despite his pledge that Equality Texas will work with House Republicans, Smith acknowledged that the LGBT community did lose a number of allies in the midterm elections — and those could have been prevented if Democratic turnout had been higher.

“Twenty-two seats in the House flipped from Democrat to Republican, and 10 of those 22 flips were decided by less than 2,000 votes,” Smith said.

In North Texas, three allies of the LGBT community — Kirk England, Robert Miklos, Paula Pierson and Allen Vaught — lost by narrow margins, he noted.

“If there had been just a little bit more turnout, those flips wouldn’t have happened,” Smith said. “It all comes down to people not taking voting seriously.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

If Rick Perry is so ‘fed up,’ why doesn’t he leave?

We weren’t lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Gov. Rick Perry’s new book, Fed Up!, so for now we’ll just have to rely on other media outlets around the state who’ve posted excerpts. Thus far, we haven’t seen any examples of overt gay-bashing by Perry in the book, but we did notice what we’re sure is one of many major factual issues, so we thought we’d go ahead and issue a clarification. According to the Austin American-Statesman, Perry writes the following in Fed Up:

“If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don’t come to Texas. If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay 
 marriage, don’t move to California.”

This quote is really a variation on something Perry said several years ago, when asked what he would tell gay and lesbian veterans returning from Iraq who wanted to wed: “If there is some other state that has a more lenient view than Texas, then maybe that’s a better place for them to live.” In other words, Perry’s message to gay people is, “If you don’t like how we treat you in Texas, move somewhere else.” And his message to straight people is, “If you hate gay people, move to Texas.”

If Perry really believes that people should only live in states where they agree with all the laws, then we suppose he’s entitled to his opinion. But at the very least, we think he should get his facts straight.

Same-sex marriage isn’t legal in California, governor, and it hasn’t been since November 2008, when voters approved something called Proposition 8. Sound familiar? Yes, marriage was legal briefly during the summer of 2008, and the constitutionality of Prop 8 is currently being challenged in federal court. But no, same-sex marriage is not legal in California, so ultimately your statement doesn’t make much sense. Perhaps what you meant to say was, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t move to Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont or the District of Columbia.”

Also, if you really hate the federal government so much, governor, we’d suggest you consider moving to a country that’s more in line with your views. We hear Iran is nice.

—  John Wright