Something WICKED this way comes

BiteMarks1rs
BLOOD-SUCKING HUNKS | It could be hard to run from these beefy vampires in ‘Bite Marks,’ a horror comedy starring Dallas native Benjamin Lutz.

Alt-gay gorefest Fears for Queers is back for seconds as vampire director Mark Bessenger presses the flesh

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Mark Bessenger may be the first person to coin the term “horror drag.” The film director, who comes to town Saturday for Dallas’ second annual Fears for Queers Film Festival, ponders over what queer audiences find in horror films. As he sees it, the gays love screams.

“Whether [it’s because] we identify with the monster as an outcast, or because people dress up in all that horror drag, I’m kinda surprised [LGBT-themed horror festivals] are not happening more often,” he says.

Bessenger’s first produced feature, Bite Marks, closes out the one-day fest, following a successful premiere at the San Francisco International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival last week. And even though Fears for Queers isn’t as big, Bessenger is glad organizers Shawn Ewert and Andrew Rose approached him for it.

“It’s like we were made for each other,” he says. “How often do you run into a gay film festival of horror movies? I can’t wait to see how Texans react. And to have it shown at the theater where Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended?  That’s such a bonus.”

In Bite Marks, Brewster, a truck driver (played by Dallas native Benjamin Lutz), is dealing with his sexuality. While on the road, he picks up a hitchhiking gay couple working out some issues of their own. If you think the premise sounds suspiciously like the plot of a gay porn film, you are not alone.

“Even during casting, we were asked if this was a porno,” he laughs. “Without giving too much away, Brewster is hauling a shipment of coffins to a funeral home, but when the GPS misleads them, they find themselves in an abandoned junkyard — and the coffins may not be empty.”

Written to be dark and brutal, Bessenger made changes during talks with his executive producer. Initially, the hitchhikers were straight, but changed to same-sex to broaden the demographic. (How often has that decision been made?) He also changed the tone to more of a horror comedy.

The decisions have paid off. Bessenger’s reaction from the San Fran crowd was enthusiastic.

“The feedback I’ve gotten has mostly been about the comedy,” he says. “I think they responded because of its gay edge and snappy lines. One funny thing was the more conventional horror scares I use, the audience wasn’t familiar with.”

Bessenger was thrilled hearing gasps in the audience and seeing people jump in their seats. Although he says his next film will be straightforward horror, the gay element isn’t lost on him. His approach has been to create the film and then figure in an LGBT aspect. He has no problem being the “gay filmmaker,” as that sensibility will creep into his movies regardless.

“Of course it depends on who I’m making the movie for, but because I am gay, there will likely be that aesthetic,” Bessenger says. “If I had done Avatar or Super 8, there would be something gay in there. Artistically, something of yourself has to seep in even if it’s just a line of dialogue or a reference.”

But making Bite Marks so gay was easier because all the lead actors were out, including Lutz, an SMU grad making his feature film debut. Lutz performed in Dallas with the likes of Kitchen Dog Theater and the Dallas Theater Center, but left for L.A. six years ago. But he’s downplaying his homecoming.

“I am really excited to see it on my home turf,” he says. “I can’t be nervous about reactions. I’ve done my work, it’s up there and there’s nothing I can do.”

But he had some nerves going into the part. Unlike the blue-collar Midwesterner Brewster, Lutz is a Texas boy; he worried if that would hinder his performance.

“I’ve never driven a truck or done certain things Brewster has,“ he says. “I was nervous I wouldn’t have a believable accent, but everything really fell in place. I felt like I was in really good hands with Mark.”

Both Bessenger and Lutz are at work on their next films, and Bessenger for one is excited about the continued growth of LGBT voices in film into something broader. He just wants them to scream as well.

……………………………

Fears for Queers’ lineup

DOA Blood Bath Entertainment teamed with out filmmaker Shawn Ewert and his company Right Left Turn Productions to bring back the second annual Fears For Queers LGBT Film Festival, consisting of feature films and short scarefests — all by queer filmmakers. The films — which all screen Saturday at the Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff — run the gamut from camp to terrifying.

In J.T. Seaton’s feature George’s Intervention, friends of George meet to help him with his addiction to  eating people. Considering George is a zombie, they may have trouble sticking around through the night.

Ann-rose-hang-up-bras

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cupcake, above, is likely the first zombie lesbian musical. The short fits in a chorus line of zombies amid a love story in the suburbs. A lesbian couple moves into Hobart, but the crabby pair of old ladies next door aren’t having it, but beware of that pale-looking mailman.

The Finnish film Metsästysmaata, below, takes two strangers led by a mysterious girl into the deep woods where no one can hear them scream.

Metsa1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lola Rocknrolla is back with cinematic screwballery in the short, I Was a Tranny Werewolf.

Bite Marks, below, closes the fest along with a Q&A with director Mark Bessenger, actor Benjamin Lutz in attendance.

Bite-Marks-movie-[IMG_6063]

Proceeds from the festival benefit Youth First Texas.

Texas Theatre,
231 W. Jefferson Blvd. June 25, 2–7 p.m. $10. DOABloodbath.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 24, 2011.


—  Kevin Thomas

Weekly Best Bets

Friday 05.20

Just don’t poop on the runway
The Four Legged Fashion Collection returns where canines strut couture and then it’s auctioned off. These aren’t your PetSmart sweaters. Designers like Nicolas Villalba and Micheal Simon contributed to the 30-plus collection. Don’t need to dress the doggie? The auction block is filled with other items to bid on, all of which benefits animal rescue groups.

DEETS: Dallas Trade Mart, 2100 N. Stemmons Freeway. 6:30 p.m.
$75. FourLeggedFashion.org

 

Friday 05.20

Prick up your ears
The latest show at 1111 Studio Gallery gives face time to artist Eric Trich. He grabbed a lot of attention as one of the younger artists on the local scene. Seems like he’s come into his own with his new solo show Can You Hear Me Now? The show also features a performance by Sour Soul.

DEETS: 1111 Studio Gallery, 1111 Dragon St. 7 p.m.
$5. 1111StudioGallery.com.

 

Thursday 05.26

Closet cases
MBS Productions’ new comic farce Outrageous Sexy (nekkid) Romp turns the tables on being in the closet. When one half of a gay couple comes to the realization he may be straight, can his drag queen friend Lovely Uranus help him figure it all out? Or does he keep the peace in the closet?

DEETS: Stone Cottage Theater, 15650 Addison Road. 8 p.m.
$18–$22. MBSProductions.net

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 20, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Letting it REGISTER • Pride Weddings & Celebrations 2011

Gift registries can be intimidating. Dean Driver makes them easy

FASHION. PLATE. | Dean Driver knows how to make a tabletop pop — and how to make it easy on you to choose your gifts. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

BY RICH LOPEZ

Perhaps the one wedding tradition same-sex couples might waffle on is signing up for that beg-a-thon, the gift registry. Forget whether to do so (you should); the real question is, where can you find that particular china pattern you once saw in a magazine?

The answer to that question is probably Dean Driver. With his new company, Consilium Lifestyle Collections, Driver makes what could be a daunting (even intimidating) task for same-sex couples possibly the easiest  job out of all the wedding planning.

“I don’t know if the average gay couple feels comfortable going into stores,” Driver says. “They may, but many retailers just aren’t reaching out to gay couples.”

Teaming up with Consilium Creative Marketing, Driver created what may be the first by-appointment source of its kind in Dallas to provide a wedding gift registry for same-sex couples. While the services are for everyone, Driver believes that this personal touch can bring comfort to any gay newlyweds hesitant about how to sign up for gifts. It also gives them a home field advantage when looking for fine tabletop products and more.

“The way we do business is changing, and this has afforded me the ability to do in-home consultations and also wedding registries,” Driver says. “I come to the client with samples to get an idea of their lifestyle and suggest products and can see what will work with what’s already in the home.”

The affable Driver knows his stuff. After working with tabletop industries for years in large markets like New York, he has access to many luxury brands and even unique home products. The usual china and crystal items are no problem, but items like linens and household accessories are more easily available through him.

Driver’s first piece of advice on getting started with a registry: Don’t be intimidated.

“I demystify all that for you,” he says. “That’s what I’m here for. I’ll make it easier for you. And people shouldn’t think that everything offered in a registry costs so much. We do have some unique options that are moderately priced.”

Consilium has only been around for a few months, but it has burst out of the gate with a selection of up to 50 brands, some exclusive to them. And with Driver’s knowledge and background, he can pretty much get anybody anything they want.

“I’m a sort of an expert in tabletops, and I have my finger on the pulse of the industry,” he says. “I go to Paris, to Milan and see all the new patterns. And if you saw a plate in a magazine and brought it to me,  I could pinpoint what it is. When I say anything, I mean anything — and you may be only person in the country to have it.”

Something his company can guarantee is the death of that most dreaded wedding tradition: The return. Once items are selected for the registry, gift givers don’t have to worry about buying an item that’s already been purchased. Instead, the company does gift cards only, which are beautifully packaged for the giver to present.

“This prevents exchanges or duplicates,” he says. “Plus, clients may change their minds and gift cards give them an opportunity to get something else. And it’s a little more green without all that wrapping paper and shipping to worry about.”

Driver and company seems to have gotten rid of all the excuses couples can make to partake in registering for gifts. Being that a wedding is a life-changing event, Driver mostly wonders why not go all out?

“Couples shouldn’t shy away from getting nice things,” he says. “This is the one time to get the nice stuff, so why not? Anything you want, I can get.”

The only caveat — Driver encourages people to use the nice stuff everyday.

“Yeah, don’t pack it away in a cabinet like our parents did,” he says.

Of course, if there’s one thing gays know how to do it’s merchandise.

For more information, visit ConsiliumLifestyleCollections.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas police say 2 men found dead in burned apartment were gay couple, likely were murdered

Two men found dead inside a burned Northeast Dallas apartment early this morning were a gay couple, Dallas police confirmed this afternoon.

The two victims, whose names are being withheld pending notification of their families, were found inside their first-floor unit at the Villa Joya Apartments, 11210 Woodmeadow Parkway, near Ferguson Road and LBJ Freeway.

After responding to a fire call at about 4:10 a.m., Dallas Fire-Rescue crews extinguished the flames before finding the victims — a 59-year-old black male and a 61-year-old white male — inside the apartment. Authorities say the men appeared to have died in a violent attack before the fire was set in an attempt to destroy evidence from the murders.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for DPD, told Instant Tea that detectives have no reason to believe the murders were a hate crime, but he added that the motive is unknown.

“Yes, it does appear that they were in a relationship together, but that does not appear to have anything to do with this case,” Janse said. “It is not being investigated as a hate crime or anything like that.”

According to the Dallas Morning News, neighbors said the older victim was disabled and the other was his caretaker. Neighbors also told the DMN that the victims’ apartment had an alarm and surveillance system and that the younger man would never open the door for someone he didn’t know.

Other news reports also indicate that the suspects likely knew at least one of the victims. Authorities believe one of the victim’s vehicle is missing. Patrol officers are searching for it and hope to find the suspects in it.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates. Below is a report from CBS 11.

—  John Wright

Dallas’ USA Film Festival announces schedule for 41st season (and we’ve got the gay in it)

Dallas’ USA Film Festival kicks off its 41st season with a tribute to bisexual actor Cary Grant and with several gay guests in attendance.

• The centerpiece of the festival is Remembering Cary Grant: An Evening with Jennifer Grant, the actor’s daughter with Dyan Cannon. Jennifer will sign her memoir about her father and host a 55th anniversary screening of To Catch a Thief. Cary, of course, was among the most suave of golden era leading men, but in addition to women has a long romance with cowboy actor Randolph Scott. (April 27)

The Perfect Host — Gay TV icon David Hyde Pierce (Niles from Frasier) will be in attendance for the screening of this psychological thriller, which stars the Tony and Emmy winning actor. (April 27)

Take Me Home — This comedy-drama features Victor Garber (Alias, Milk) who we hope will be among the cast members who may be in attendance. (April 28)

• The Green — A gay couple (Jason Butler Harner, Cheyenne Jackson) are challenged when one is accused of inappropriate behavior toward a student. The filmmakers will be in attendance. (Presented with the support of Equality Texas.) (April 30)

Warriors of the Discotheque — This documentary about the legendary Starck Club, which opened 27 years ago and was radical in its acceptance and tolerance of all lifestyles. (April 30)

 

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Fox 4 on Dallas’ failure to enforce ordinance prohibiting anti-gay discrimination

 

I’m on vacation this week but I couldn’t resist putting this up. Before I left on Friday for an undisclosed location, I got a call from Peter Daut at Fox 4. He wanted me to put him in touch with Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, the local gay couple that filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement. Peter had seen our post on Friday saying that despite 53 complaints file in nine years, the city has never prosecuted a single case under its ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. So I connected Peter with Mark, and above is the result. It’s a good story that brings needed attention to the issue, but I should note that there is a fact error: The report says the case isn’t going anywhere because sexual orientation isn’t a protected class. Not true. Sexual orientation is a protected class in the city of Dallas, and that’s the whole point. There’s an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and people have been filing complaints under it, but the City Attorney’s Office isn’t doing anything with them. Peter is right when he says the complaint isn’t going anywhere. But he’s wrong about the reason why. Also, he should have given us credit.

—  John Wright

Gay couple complains about city’s handling of discrimination complaint against Morning News

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

A few weeks ago we reported that two Dallas council members are reviewing the city’s handling of complaints filed under an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We’re still awaiting the results of that review, as well as the city’s response to an open records request filed by Dallas Voice for statistics related to complaints filed under the ordinance.

In the meantime, a gay couple who recently filed a complaint under the ordinance is complaining about the city’s handling of the matter. Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup filed a complaint against The Dallas Morning News, which refuses to publish same-sex marriage announcements in its Weddings section. The couple claims the DMN policy is a violation of the ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.

In a letter to Beverly Davis, director of the city’s Fair Housing Office, the Walkups said it’s been more than 60 days since they filed their complaint, and they haven’t heard anything from the city. The Fair Housing Office is charged with investigating complaints under the ordinance. Below is a copy of the couple’s e-mail, which they forwarded to Dallas Voice as well as City Councilwomen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano:

Hi Beverly,

It has been over 60 days since we formally filed a complaint against the DMN for discrimination based on our sexual orientation. As you recall, my husband and I had a legal wedding on 12/10/2010 and tried to submit our paid wedding announcement to the Dallas Morning News and we were denied equal access to this public accommodation. Our ad was refused and money refunded based on the Texas ban on SSM.

We reached out to you 30 days ago to seek a status on our case and you told us to “be patient” and we have been. After 60 days, we must say that the lack of any follow-up to our case has been an extreme disappointment. We are a customer of the City of Dallas and your department has not done anything to reach out to us to advise us of any updates about our case.

We expect better service from the people we pay to enforce our laws and there should be no excuse to the lack of follow-up on our discrimination complaint. Please advise when we can expect an update from your department.

Mark & Dante Walkup

—  John Wright

COVER STORY: Larry and KC Jansson found love in the midst of anti-gay ‘reparative’ therapy

How counseling by unqualified therapists and distorted use of a 12-step program brought a young gay couple together at an ‘ex-gay’ camp

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

KC Jansson came out to his parents in ninth grade. His parents sent him to counseling. Then he came out to them again as a high school senior.

“My dad’s a Southern Baptist pastor in Missouri, in a small southern town.” he said. “They said I was either going to be on the streets or do it their way. They were going to pay 10 grand for me to go to this camp.

“I didn’t have a choice but to go there,” he said.

Jansson described the camp as a sort of drug rehab center for being gay. He said he was raised to believe that if he was gay he was going to become an alcoholic and a drug addict and get AIDS and never go to college or love anyone.

INSEPARABLE | People who know the Janssons call them the most perfectly matched, in-love couple they know.

Larry Jansson, on the other hand, lived in Southern California and had very accepting parents.

“I never thought I’d marry a small-town guy,” he said. “There was no God in my family. No church.”

But when he was 18 and still struggling with his identity, Larry started doing theater with a Christian group.

“They started doing their work on me,” he said.

He “got saved,” he said, by a group called Harvest Crusade. But from then until he was 26, he lived a double life.

“I was either hanging out with these people who thought that I was a Christian or I was out totally doing the gay thing without them knowing,” Larry said.

Then he found out about Love in Action, a group in Memphis, Tenn., that does “reparative therapy.” He decided that he was going to figure things out and so spent his entire $10,000 savings to attend.

Larry said he convinced himself, “If somebody says that God is the answer and this can be changed, I want to know for myself.”

So Larry’s parents drove him to the program. But his mother kept telling him he didn’t have to go.

KC and Larry arrived at the facility at the same time. This was KC’s first time away from home and his first time to be around other gay people.

The camp

The two described the restrictions: No cologne. No clothing by Calvin Klein.

“I had a Nintendo Gameboy. I couldn’t keep that, because it would keep me from being focused on God,” Larry said.

“I played piano,” said KC. “I couldn’t play because they said it would distract me from my therapy.”

And although they described the therapy as based on recovery programs used for addictions, the 12 steps they followed were a very distorted version based on shame, the two men said.

For the first three days, they were not allowed to talk and always had to look at the ground. Each person was assigned a “house brother” who had gone through the program. That person, who was gay, had made it through the first three months to the next stage.

“My big brother was more flamboyant than anyone else in the house,” Larry said. “But he was so about Jesus and getting through this.”

The first night there was a meeting with the four new house members and their “big brothers.” Although they weren’t supposed to look at each other, Larry and KC kept making eye contact.

There were no doors on the rooms and each room had three beds. Larry and KC were assigned to share a room.

Bathroom time was limited to 15 minutes. They had to set a timer to make sure no one was spending too much time locked in there doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing.

The next day they went to church. Larry and KC described the church as Prestonwood Baptist-sized, and said all of the members knew who they were. They were escorted to the first row and felt the condemnation of the crowd as they took their seats.

Each morning they would drive down to the church. They would sit in a circle for “Courage, Honesty and Respect” group.

“You would call someone else out for something they did,” said Larry, and the person being accused couldn’t respond for 24 hours.

“I would say something like, ‘KC, you didn’t set your egg timer this morning and we have rules here and I want you to think about that,’” Larry said. “And KC would get fuming red — but he couldn’t say anything.”

KC regarded the rules as a joke. Larry took them very seriously. He wanted to know if these were the rules that were going to turn him straight.

They had group and individual counseling sessions. A woman in Larry’s group said that she was raped and that she didn’t feel comfortable sitting next to a man.

No one there could help her.

KC said his “counselor” was in college but worked at this house unsupervised. Two others were former drug addicts who had gone through 12-step programs themselves. None was a licensed therapist.

“In individual sessions, I was asked to open up about certain things that only a real counselor could deal with,” Larry said. “I now am seeing a true counselor because they opened up these wounds and never closed them.”

At night, the counselors would discuss the group. In the morning they would come to the meeting and tell each one what they could no longer do.

Larry was a dancer and today teaches two dance classes in Plano. He said when he was nervous he’d begin to tap. One morning he was told he could no longer dance.

“That was one of the most devastating things they could do to me,” he said. “It was like waking up one day and finding out I was paralyzed.”

In order to turn the group into “men,” at 6:30 each morning they had to go to the gym because gay people don’t go to a gym.

But they had Larry play basketball.

“We’re in a gym full of hot bodies and muscles,” said Larry. “One day, they had me play basketball. Just because I’m 6’-2” doesn’t mean I can dunk a damn ball.”

But he did it because he wanted the program to work.

LET THEM EAT CAKE | KC, left, and Larry became the Janssons when they married in Connecticut. They later held a ceremony at Cathedral of Hope, followed by a lavish party at the W hotel, complete with a 5-tiered wedding cake. (Photo courtesy Jessica Adkins/Aravaggio Photography)

Building a friendship

During the first three months of the program, KC and Larry developed what they both called a genuine friendship.

Whenever they went anywhere, they had to go in groups of three and always had to be within eye contact of each other. Larry said that if one person needed to go to the bathroom, they all had to go.

After three months, Larry and KC graduated to the second part of the program. Their parents attended an actual graduation ceremony, but they simply continued to the next phase of the program.

KC said he had no choice but to stay because his alternative was to return home to rural Missouri. Larry was still determined to see the program through.

During this period, they were allowed to get a job. Larry went to work for the church, and KC got a job at Radio Shack. But the program still tried to monitor every movement.

“But they’re constantly calling you, constantly e-mailing you,” KC said.

“You have to call your house manager when you leave work and they time you to make sure you get home at the right time,” Larry said.

In this part of the program, they had to work on “trigger trips.” They sent the group of four who had started together to places that might trigger sexual feelings.

Their first trip was to the mall — their first shopping trip in three months.

“I remember walking into that mall and hearing angels,” Larry said.

Larry was given a clipboard and had to write down what triggered them.

One member of the group wanted Godiva chocolate but the other three restrained him because apparently only gay people eat Godiva chocolate.

But the biggest test was when the four walked by Abercrombie & Fitch. Larry said that when the four saw the huge poster of the ripped model in the window, they stopped short and fell on top of one another.

Larry and KC had become best friends and once they graduated and were given more freedom, they began doing things together.

“Any time we were allowed to be alone together, we started doing crazy little date things,” Larry said.

They went to a drive-in movie; “We told them we were going to go to the batting cages,” KC said.

But still nothing happened between them. They were just enjoying each other’s company.

“I never even told KC that I thought he had the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen,” Larry said, “because I thought God wanted something else for me.”

Over the next five months their friendship developed, but without physical contact between them. “No kiss. No hug. No touch,” Larry said.

Then the church secretary was going out of town and asked Larry to walk her dogs and water her plants. KC began to tag along.

“All of a sudden we had this place to go that was a little more intimate,” Larry said.

Then on the way back one evening, they stopped at Sonic.

“I had my leg propped up where the gearshift was and he put his arm on me,” KC said. “And from that point forward, I knew I was in love with him.”

A few days later they were at the church secretary’s house. Larry could tell something was wrong with KC.

When Larry finally convinced him to talk, KC admitted he had feelings for Larry and both agreed that it was wrong.

KC turned his back to Larry, and Larry put his arms around him. And as they sat on the couch with their arms around each other, they told each other that it was wrong.

They drove back to the house where they were living, conflicted and in silence. But later that night, they had to let the dogs out again, so they went back. And that’s when they had sex for the first time.

Larry said KC told him he loved him before they had sex. KC thought it was after.

But KC said he told Larry, “I love you. I want to be with you. We’ll do whatever it takes.”

Leaving the program

They were in the last month of their program. Larry needed to decide what he was going to do. He thought he might return to California, but whatever he did, it would be whatever Jesus had planned for him.

He knew he loved KC also, but couldn’t say it.

“I was the brainwashed one trying to make this work,” Larry said. “I wouldn’t let myself say it.”

He wondered if he should tell someone what they had done.

On the third day after they had sex, they drove around Memphis looking at houses. Larry drove up to a mansion that he had seen and stopped.

“What are we doing here?” KC asked.

“I’m going to get you that one day,” Larry told him and KC started crying.

They said that was the point they knew they would build their lives together.

“We just needed to find a way to get out of there together,” Larry said.

KC had planned to move to Dallas, live with his brother and go to college. Larry signed up to go on a short missionary trip to Dubai.

At the end of the six months, KC left for Dallas and Larry left for Dubai. Larry had spent all of his savings on the program. KC had some money. He took enough to get to Dallas and left the rest in a drawer at the house for Larry to get when he got back from Dubai.

When Larry got back from the Middle East, he returned to Memphis, gathered up his belongings, collected the money KC had left for him, got in his car and headed to Dallas.

He packed and snuck out of the house at 3 a.m. No one from the program ever called him to find out where he was or what happened.

KC’s brother was married with three children and Larry was not welcome there. So KC rented him a room at a cheap extended-stay motel. KC told his brother that Larry was his accountability partner. Accountability partners are friends that help each other not be gay.

Larry drove into Dallas and met KC at a gas station at Frankford and the Tollway.

“We were excited about beginning our life together,” Larry said.

Larry had already gotten a job in Carrollton with Washington Mutual, the company he had left six months earlier in California to enroll in the program.

After three days, KC couldn’t stand being apart from Larry and he moved in with him. He told his brother, he said, who was more extremely religious than his parents.

“Thanks, con man,” his brother told him. “You better get out of my house before my wife gets home.”

Happily ever after

Larry and KC lived in the extended stay hotel, changing hotels several times until they could afford an apartment. Then three months after moving to Dallas, Larry proposed.

For KC’s birthday, the two drove to Galveston. After checking into their hotel, they went to the beach and walked out onto a rock pier.

Larry got down on one knee, took out a ring and said, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”

But before they were able to get married, Larry got a call in the middle of the night that his mother had been killed in car accident. A drunk driver hit his parents and his father was seriously injured as well.

KC recalled the last time he saw Larry’s mother.

“As we were leaving, she said to me, ‘Promise me you’ll take care of him for the rest of your life,’” she said to him.

They waited for the trial of the drunk driver to be finished before getting married. In September 2009 they legally married in Connecticut and then held a ceremony for friends and family at Cathedral of Hope in December. They had 14 attendants and a lavish reception at the W Hotel.

They invited everyone they knew, and a few they didn’t, including the Obamas and Larry’s favorite TV host, Tyra Banks. While the Obamas didn’t respond, Banks sent her regrets but invited them to participate in a show on same-sex marriage, which they did last June.

By the time the wedding in Dallas took place, KC’s brother had divorced his wife. The brothers had become closer and he served as KC’s best man.

The couple took a honeymoon cruise, and now own a house in Frisco and a little Maltese dog. They decided they wanted the same last name. Because they liked the way KC’s sounded better, with the help of attorney Lorie Burch, they legally became the Janssons.

KC is finishing his degree in accounting at UT Dallas and works full-time managing a salon. Larry is the director of marketing for Boys and Girls Clubs of Collin County.

Mention the Janssons to Dawson Taylor, the pastor who married them at Cathedral of Hope, and he just laughs.

He said he’s never met two people who are so perfect for each other and so in love.

And despite having gone through reparative therapy camp, Larry said, “I want everyone to know we’re good with God.”

Taylor agreed and said that their wedding was as much a worship service as a marriage ceremony.

After dealing with Larry’s mother’s death and the subsequent trial, Taylor said, Larry’s family needed a celebration. Family members came from all over the country and Larry and KC reveled in being the source of joy after so much sadness in the family.

Now, life for the Janssons has settled into a normal routine.

In addition to their jobs and school and a happy suburban life in Frisco, both have returned to activities taken away by Love In Action. Larry teaches dance classes. KC plays the piano.

And once KC finishes school, they’ll begin seriously looking into adoption.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

Dallas Morning News bills gay couple $1,034 for wedding announcement it refused to publish

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

After filing a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their marriage announcement under “Weddings,” a local gay couple reports that they received a $1,034 bill in the mail for the unpublished ad.

Mark Reed-Walkup, who filed the discrimination complaint against The DMN after marrying his partner Dante Walkup in Washington, D.C., says he wrote the following to James Moroney III, publisher and CEO of the newspaper:

“Does the DMN always send out invoices to ‘customers’ who placed an ad online but it was never published due to the paper’s discriminatory policies? We just received an invoice today for our December ad that you banned from your paper because our wedding wasn’t ‘really’ a wedding in your eyes. Unbelievable.”

Reed-Walkup says Moroney responded as follows:

“Not a good practice. I’ll take up with sales. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.”

Reed-Walkup also notes that more than 8,000 people have signed a petition launched by Change.org calling on The DMN to publish same-sex marriage announcements under Weddings. He’s hoping to get the petition up to 10,000 signatures.

As for the complaint filed against The DMN, the director of the Fair Housing Office told Instant Tea recently that the city was still in the process of reviewing it. The Fair Housing Office investigates discrimination complaints filed under a 2002 ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. Reed-Walkup maintains that Wedding announcements are a public accommodation.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gay couple burned out of home; trans discrimination study; marriage updates

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A gay couple in Clayton, N.C., was burned out of their home (above) in a possible hate crime on Friday after suffering anti-gay harassment repeatedly over the last year. A neighbor says the couple had their tires slashed, had a gay slur written on their home in marker and received a note with a gay slur in their mailbox telling them to move. Police, however, still aren’t convinced it was a hate crime. Watch a video report here.

2. The largest study ever on discrimination against transgender people showed that 41 percent have attempted suicide, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population. The study, by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, also showed that trans people are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, and that 26 percent said they’d lost a job because of their gender identity/expression. Read more here, or download the full study here.

3. Same-sex marriage updates from Maryland, Rhode Island and Indiana.

—  John Wright