REVIEW: Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan at the Eisemann Center Saturday night

Although I was unable to go, my colleague Chance bravely stepped in to cover the big country concert over the weekend. Actually, he was quite willing to catch Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan as they brought their Grits and Glamour Tour to north Texas on Saturday. Performing at the Eisemann in Richardson, Chance trekked up north to get in on some hoedown action.

Read his take after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

SPOILER: ‘Project Runway’ finale

For those (like me) who sat on tenterhooks during the final innings of a heartbreaking Game 6 last night, there was another series finale of interest to the gay community last night: The Project Runway results.

In a season with more gays than usual, including a final four than included two gay men, the winner ended up being Anya, the Trinidadian designer who entered the show with only four month experience sewing.

Anya was a favorite of mine throughout the season, although when you consider what the series is supposed to be, picking a novice who probably hadn’t even seen the show a year ago seems slightly insulting to those who have labored for years honing their skills … sort of like how illiterate fitness gurus like Denise Austin get paid boatloads for “writing” exercise books while most professional writers eat soup. And gay boy Josh certain had an eye, even if he was sometime a pill. But Anya really did have a stellar season, and if a gay guy couldn’t win, well, she was a nice spoiler.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Final proof of inequities still to fight

Pioneering gay rights activist Frank Kameny died without enough money to pay for his burial

Frank-Kameny

Frank Kameny

Back in the dark ages when I was a teenager, I distinctly remember a conversation my father and mother had after dinner one night. Dad had just returned from one of his many trips to Washington, D.C., and on one of the flights he sat next to a doctor named Frank.

My father, a research scientist and member of dozens of honorary and scientific organizations, noticed that his seatmate was wearing a lapel pin. The pin was a gold “M,” and my dad assumed it was from a fraternal or professional group.

When he asked Frank about it he learned it stood for “Mattachine Society.”

That’s when my father’s voice dropped into a more hushed tone. He told my mother that the Mattachine Society was an organization of homosexuals and he had never imagined those kinds of people organizing.

Well that was in the 1960s and I was still a questioning teenager going through all the angst that a gay boy has when he is still trying to sort out his sexuality. Hearing the mention of the word “homosexual” in such hushed tones let me know in no uncertain terms it was not something polite people talked about, much less wore lapel pins identifying themselves as one.

I have no way of knowing the identity of that man on the airplane, but it is telling that the conversation stuck with me in such detail. Today, I wonder if the “Frank” my dad encountered on the flight from D.C. might have been Dr. Frank Kameny, a pioneer of the gay rights movement.

I will never know, but I do know that Frank’s work has affected me in ways that are profound.

Without the Mattachine Society and people like Frank Kameny, Harry Hay and others, I would not be writing in this publication, and most likely there would be no Dallas Voice.

Equally profound is the other connection I share with Frank — our age. No, I am not an octogenarian. But I am part of an aging LGBT population, and as such, I will most likely face some of the same problems.

Habaerman.Hardy.NEW

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

As the LGBT population ages, threading the maze of social services will most likely become more difficult. Unlike our straight brothers and sisters, we cannot rely on a spouse’s health insurance or, in most cases, on the assistance of our children. We face legal problems of proper power of attorney should we become infirm and even funds for burial when we die.

Dr. Kameny was fired from his U.S. Army Map Service job in 1957. With that firing, any pension or benefits he might have accrued went up in smoke. Not having a family to help with social services and support as he aged, Kameny was dependent on the generosity of organizations like Helping Our Brothers and Sisters (HOBS) and individual friends to survive.

Having given most of his life to fighting for LGBT rights, he was left with little in the way of retirement funds.

Which brings us to today. Dr. Kameny died on Oct. 11, and he left a rich legacy of activism and passion for LGBT rights. Unfortunately, his riches ended at the altruistic level.

His estate contains many historical documents but little in the way of cash. So in order to defray the costs of his funeral, his friends and family have set up a fund with HOBS. There will be a testimonial dinner on Nov. 10 honoring Frank, but in lieu of flowers or tributes, his family requests donations be earmarked for his memorial expenses and given to: Helping our Brothers and Sisters, 1318 U Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009.

You can also contribute through their website at:  HelpingOurBrothersAndSisters.com/donate.html.

Giving Frank a fitting funeral will be a small effort to honor a man who wore his sexuality on his lapel at a time when few people were even willing to talk about it.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Body & Fitness: Dirty britches

Clean for now, muddy buddies Rod Orta, Jeni Maldonado and Brad Bykkonen stretch it out as they train for the grueling DFW Mud Run. Through the same goal, the three with the author found a fellowship that helps get them past the intense training. (Photo by Jef Tingley)

While preparing for the daunting DFW Mud Run, four people found fun, fitness and fellowship with one goal in mind — to finish

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer

A year ago, I thought mud was only reserved for pigs and purifying facials. Never would I have guessed that I would be counting the days to run through 6.2 miles of it while also taking on a series of military-boot-camp-inspired obstacles. But then again, a year ago I never dreamed I would be surrounded by a group of friends with the same motivation — to conquer the mud if only to say we did it.

And on April 9, that’s exactly what we plan to do at a yet-to-be-disclosed location in Tarrant County. The DFW Mud Run is an annual event and one of seven throughout the country. It celebrated its 10th anniversary in North Texas in November 2010 with almost 4,000 attendees. A quick glance at the rules and regulations on the website reveals that this run can be as serious or as silly as you like, but one thing is for sure — you will get dirty. (And not in a Christina-Aguilera-wearing-chaps kind of way.)

Our group of seven runners (growing in number as we peer pressure others) met while working out at Booty Camp. Some were already in shape; others, like myself, were first timers. Somewhere during the months of waking up early, sweating during push-ups and running loops around Lee Park, a new level of friendship formed.

Jeni Maldonado, 29, and the official straight girl of our gay boy mud run group, shares the same sentiments about the camaraderie side effects of working out en mass.

“Through [group training], I have found a true love and passion for physical fitness and made some great new friends. Since starting in May of 2010, I even changed careers and am now a personal trainer focusing on children and childhood obesity.”

Mud runners can compete on the course in a variety of timed events and specified groups made up of all-men, all-women or co-ed teams. Or, there’s a category called DGAP, which stands for Division for Generally Athletic People or “Don’t Give A Poop.” This is our group. DGAP allows runners to wear costumes, run as a group or individually, and to generally enjoy the course as they see fit.

Rod Orta, a 39-year-old East Dallas resident, started working out in groups for almost four years. Since that time, he has formed lasting friendships with his fellow fitness enthusiasts, even going on vacations with them and hosting parties for the group at his home.

A first-time mud runner, Orta says, “I wanted to experience the activity and spend time with friends.” His training plan includes “strength workouts, cardio and a cute outfit.” He’s also quick to pass on helpful hints to his fellow runners. “Wear sensible shoes. No high heels,” he jokes.

The run will also make a first-time experience for 35-year-old Bryan Place resident Mark Doty. Inspired by other friends who have done it, he says it’s just something he has wanted to do. When asked if he had any words of wisdom for would be runners, Doty simply offered ups “Since this is my first time, I would just say ‘pray.’”

Topping off the dirt, the DFW Mud Run boasts more than 30 obstacles. Judging from videos from previous runs these include balance beams, rope swings and plenty of commando crawls. But it’s still not enough to keep Brad Bykkonen, a 39-year-old Highland Park resident, away.
“It sounds like fun,” he says. “I’ve met people who I know I’ll surely be laughing with during our mud run adventure.”

Booty Camp founder Dr. Eric Peay agrees that fitness can lead to friendship. A boot camp he attended in 1998 introduced him to someone who is now his best friend. A more experienced runner, Peay has run 5K and 10K races with a specific goal or time in mind. But this mud run is, “just for the sheer fun of it,” he says.

As for me, I’ll continue to count down the days, train and hope that I can find the perfect pair of combat boots and army fatigues to wear on my inaugural muddy voyage with the hope that the friendships I’ve formed will keep the physical fatigue at bay.

Registration for the April run is still open. For more information, visit DFWMudRun.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Navy says ensign from E. Texas suffered unfair retaliation over anti-gay harassment complaint

A while back we told you about Steve Crowston, the Navy ensign from East Texas who accused his commanders of anti-gay harassment after he received a list of potential call signs that included “Romo’s Bitch,” “Gay Boy,” “Fagmeister” and “Cowgirl.”

Over the weekend, Crowston sent along word that he’d won a victory in his case.

According to Fox News, the Navy’s Inspector General has ruled that Crowston suffered unfair retaliation after filing a complaint about the harassment, in the form of a bad performance evaluation:

Crowston’s complaint named Commander Liam Bruen, 42, who gave the 37-year-old ensign “the “the worst performance appraisal” in his 16 years of service.

The Navy now says at least one of Crowston’s complaints has been confirmed.

“Department of Navy Naval IG substantiates the allegation that the then commanding officer of VFA 136 gave Crowston an unfavorable fitness report in reprisal for a sexual harassment and hostile work environment complaint he filed,” Navy spokesman Lt. Myers Vasquez told FoxNews.com. The Navy did not name Bruen, but FoxNews.com has independently confirmed his identity.

Vasquez said the department has forwarded its findings on to Bruen’s commanding officer, who will decide what, if any, corrective action to take.

Former Judge Advocate General Jeff Addicott says Bruen’s commander will have little choice but to take strong action.

The story goes on to say that the Navy’s investigation of Crowston’s original complaint is ongoing, and no action will be taken against Bruen until it’s complete.

UPDATE: Here’s a statement we just received from Crowston:

“I’m very pleased to see the system get it right with the reprisal investigation. The system needs to get it right the 2nd time around regarding the anti-gay harassment. It should not take this much effort to have what was clearly anti-gay harassment and hazing by senior Navy leadership be substantiated. I hope my efforts in seeking justice will inspire others out there who have been discriminated against because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Adults can not continue to allow anti-gay harassment and bigotry to occur. We, as adults, must show our children that they are individuals who are allowed to live in America without being prejudiced against, retaliated against, or harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Hatred is not okay.”

—  John Wright

Raunchy videos point to bigger problems in Navy, says ensign who alleged anti-gay harassment

Steve Crowston

We received a note Monday night from Steve Crowston, the Navy ensign from East Texas whose allegations of anti-gay harassment against his military superiors remain under investigation by the Inspector General’s Office. But Crowston wasn’t writing to give us an update on his case, which we wrote about back in September. Instead, he wanted to point out some apparent links between his allegations and the lewd video controversy involving Capt. Owen Honors, who earlier today was permanently relieved of his command. Crowston says members of his squadron — who are accused of hazing him with call signs including “Romo’s bitch,” “Gay Boy,” “Fagmeister” and “Cowgirl” — were on board the USS Enterprise when Honors showed the lewd videos. He also says his former commanding officer came up the ranks in the aviation community with Honors. “The Navy has a serious problem on its hands with the aviation community …” Crowston says. Here’s his e-mail:

My former squadron VFA-136 is assigned to the USS ENTERPRISE.  When the aircraft carrier gets ready for deployment and deploys, pilots from VFA-136 are on board the ship. The pilots from VFA-136 would have been on board during the time frame of these videos shot by Captain Honors who was then the XO of the aircraft carrier.

Captain Honors and my former CO from VFA-136 (Commander Liam Bruen) are both F-14 Tomcat pilots who came up the ranks in the aviation community together. Can you tell the CO of my squadron and the CO of the ENTERPRISE act similar as evidenced by their inappropriate behavior! The Navy has a serious problem on its hands with the aviation community, as evidenced by my case with Commander Bruen as CO and Commander Christopher now as the CO of VFA-136 and now Captain Honors, who was then the XO when these videos were shot. Unbelievable!

—  John Wright

‘Gay Boy’ makes D Magazine’s ‘Best in Music’

I was glad to see someone took notice of Farah’s dreamy single “Gay Boy.” I hardly expected it to be the peeps at D magazine, but since it won’t be on my list, props to Christopher Mosley for giving it attention.

The song, which came out back in March, was annoying as hell in the beginning for me, but then her lyrics, or talking rather, grew increasingly clever. How many girls did/do we know like this? All in all, it’s a flash of brilliance with lyrics like How could I dance in these heels?/How could I not?

Thanks for the reminder, Mosley.

LISTEN: “Gay Boy” (or if you have trouble, just go here)

—  Rich Lopez

Gay teen Asher Brown laid to rest in Houston

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle
Cross-posted from Unfinished Lives

HOUSTON — Asher Brown’s uncle told a big gathering of mourners and family supporters on Saturday, Oct. 2 that school bullies “ripped him up and tore him down everyday.”

A crowd of hundreds blanketed a Houston park beside Moore Elementary School to express grief over the death by bullying of 13-year-old gay boy, Asher Brown.

Bright balloons floated in the air as the line of friends patiently waited to sign the memorial book and get a chance to speak to David and Amy Truong, Asher’s parents. His uncle, a Christian minister, MC’ed the memorial service.

”The bullies picked on my nephew because of the way he dressed, how he talked, and the fact he was small. He was a David among Goliaths,” Rev. Truong told the large crowd. ”But Asher’s heart was so big! His heart made him a giant.”

Asher’s school friends, the few who stood by him no matter what, were present and spoke. One of them said there was a “Bully Free Zone” sign at Hamilton Middle School where Asher faced torment every day for being different, for being gay, and for being vulnerable. His friend said that the sign meant nothing. Nothing was done by anyone to protect Asher, himself, or any other target of ridicule at Hamilton. The Truongs had repeatedly tried to get school officials to help their son, but the school basically ignored their calls and emails.

Initially, a spokesperson for the school district denied that any appeals had come to the school about Asher and the severe bullying he was facing there. Now the Cy-Fair Independent School District is acknowledging that “some communication” concerning Asher did indeed come from his parents.

The gay teen shot himself in his Dad’s closet on Sept. 23 after bullying became unendurable for him. When David Truong, Asher’s Dad, found Asher lying on the floor of his closet, he thought at first that his son had fallen asleep reading a book–and then he saw the blood.

Referring to Asher’s six friends who spoke at the outdoor memorial service, David Truong said, “These kids are the true heroes of this whole thing. They are speaking out, and we need to support them.”

Houston City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones told the crowd that she and Mayor Annise Parker are taking this senseless killing in Houston as a “call to action” for passage of a zero tolerance anti-bullying law that will be named “Asher’s Rule” as a fitting memorial to a good boy who just wanted to live his life–though bullies wouldn’t let him.

Many supporters from the LGBTQ community came to show their support for safe schools for all children, and to support Asher’s family.

Asher’s uncle declared that “gay and straight alike are perfect in God’s sight. God doesn’t make any mistakes.” What happened to his nephew was not going to be dismissed as simply a “gay issue.”

”This is a hate issue, and we are not going to rest until all children are safe from hate at school,” he said.

For more photos of the Asher Brown Memorial Service, click here.

Stephen V. Sprinkle is director of field education and supervised ministry, and sssociate professor of practical theology at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.

—  John Wright