Meredith Baxter to narrate Camina doc about Rainbow Lounge raid

Robert L. Camina, the North Texas filmmaker who has been putting together a documentary about the June 2009 raid on Fort Worth’s Rainbow Lounge for two years, has scored a coup: He has tapped TV icon Meredith Baxter to narrate.

Raid of the Rainbow Lounge has been in the works since almost as soon as the raid — which took place, ironically, on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City that sparked the modern gay rights movement. The raid galvanized the gay community in Fort Worth and beyond. The completed film runs 102 minutes and will receive its premiere in Cowtown in March.

Baxter, who came out as lesbian in 2009, has been an Emmy-nominated TV star for 35 years, best known for playing the mom on Family Ties. She released a memoir this fall and was recently in Dallas for the Out & Equal conference.

You can view a teaser trailer of the film here.

—  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

LGBT history and the evolution of the media

For years, mainstream press ignored the LGBT community. Thankfully, LGBT media filled the gaps

David-Webb

David Webb The Rare Reporter

Editor’s note: October is National Gay History Month, and as the month begins, Rare Reporter columnist David Webb takes a look at the role the media — both mainstream and LGBT — has played in preserving our history.

If an LGBT person went into a coma a decade or so ago and came out of it today, they likely wouldn’t be able to believe their eyes when they recovered enough to survey the media landscape.

There was a time not so long ago when gay activists literally had to plead with or rant at editors and reporters at mainstream publications and television stations to get them to cover LGBT events. Even editorial staffs at alternative publications often dismissed political and cultural events in the LGBT community as unimportant to the majority of their audience.

Editors and reporters at traditional media outlets who happened to be members of the LGBT community often steared clear of gay issues to fall in line with the prevailing policies set by the publishers in the newsroom . Often, they were deep in the closet, or if not, just afraid to challenge the status quo.

I know all this to be true because as late as the early 1990s, I was engaged in legendary battles with my straight editor at an alternative publication who only wanted two or three “gay stories” per year. After the first quarter of one year I heard the editor telling another writer that I had already used up the newspaper’s quota for gay stories for the whole year.

This long-standing scarcity of coverage opened the door for the launch of gay newspapers to fill the void and the thirst for information that was coming not only from LGBT people but also straight allies, straight enemies and the non-committed in the gay rights movement.

After about two decades of working for the mainstream media and later at the alternative publication for a few years, I moved to a gay newspaper. Upon hearing about it, my former editor advised me that the job sounded “perfect” for me.

At the gay newspaper, I not only covered LGBT issues, but I also liked to scrutinize and comment on the coverage or lack thereof I observed in mainstream publications. It was, at the time, a dream job for me. I was flabbergasted to learn that no one at the newspaper had obtained a media pass from local law enforcement officials nor received official recognition at local law enforcement public relations departments.

What gay activists and enterprising journalists had come to realize was that straight people were just as interested in what our community was doing as we were. I also realized that elected and appointed public officials, civic and religious leaders, law enforcement officials and most others love media coverage, and the fact that it was a gay publication featuring them didn’t much matter at all.

As a result, gay publications across the country were providing coverage that gay and straight readers couldn’t find anywhere else. And those newspapers were flying out of the racks at the libraries, municipal buildings and on the street in front of the big city newspapers as fast as they disappeared from gay and lesbian nightclubs.

What it amounted to was that gay publications were enjoying a lucrative monopoly on LGBT news and, in the process, helping LGBT communities to grow strong in major urban areas.

It’s amazing how long it took the powers that be at the giant media companies to figure out what was going on, but they eventually did.

I would love to say that a social awakening was responsible for the new enlightened approach to LGBT issues by the mainstream media, but alas, I fear it was more motivated by dollars and cents. Publishers began to realize that those small gay publications were raking in lots of advertising revenue from car dealers, retail stores, real estate agencies and many other businesses where the owners knew LGBT people spent money.

Today, you can hardly turn on the television or pick up a newspaper or magazine without hearing or reading about something related to LGBT news or gay and lesbian celebrities and politicians. When I fired up my laptop today, I received an e-mail from the Huffington Post directing me to a story written by Arianna Huffington announcing new features that included the debut of “HuffPost: Gay Voices,” a page that will compile LGBT news stories together each day for the convenience of the readers.

With the power of the Internet and its capacity for documenting and archiving news stories, information about the LGBT community for both the present and the past will always be at our fingertips, except for those three decades between about 1970 and 2000 when the mainstream media couldn’t be bothered with us because they had no idea what a force we would one day become.

For information about that period of time we are going to have to scour the coverage of gay newspapers and magazines published before the days of the Internet, read fiction and non-fiction published by LGBT writers and encourage older members of our community to share their recollections in written and oral form.

It’s vitally important to the history of our culture that we not lose those stories, and it’s largely thanks to our communities’ own publications that we won’t.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Gay-rights foes try to play the victim

Anti-LGBT groups now claim they’re the ones being bullied

DAVID CRARY  |  Associated Press

NEW YORK — As the gay-rights movement advances, there is increasing evidence of an intriguing role reversal: Today, it is the conservative opponents of that movement who seem eager to depict themselves as victims of intolerance.

To them, the gay-rights lobby has morphed into a relentless bully, pressuring companies and law firms into policy reversals, making it taboo in some circumstances to express opposition to same-sex marriage.

“They’re advocating for a lot of changes in the name of tolerance,” said Jim Campbell, an attorney with the conservative Alliance Defense Fund. “Yet ironically the tolerance is not returned, for people of faith who don’t agree with their agenda.”

Many gay activists, recalling their movement’s past struggles and mindful of remaining bias, consider such protestations by their foes to be hollow and hypocritical.

“They lost the argument on gay people, and now they are losing the argument on marriage,” said lawyer Evan Wolfson, president of the advocacy group Freedom to Marry. “Diversions, scare tactics and this playing the victim are all they have left.”

He added: “There’s been a shift in the moral understanding of people: that exclusion from marriage and anti-gay prejudice is wrong. Positions that wouldn’t have been questioned in the past are now being held up to the light.”

Among the recent incidents prompting some conservatives to complain of intolerance or political bullying:

• Olympic gold medal gymnast Peter Vidmar stepped down as chief of mission for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in May following controversy over his opposition to gay marriage. Vidmar, a Mormon, had publicly supported Proposition 8, the voter-approved law passed in 2008 that restricted marriage in California to one man and one woman.

• After coming under fire from gay-rights groups in April, the Atlanta-based law firm King & Spalding pulled out of an agreement with Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to defend the federal ban on same-sex marriage.

• In New York, state Sen. Ruben Diaz, a Democrat from the Bronx, New York City, contends he has received death threats because he opposes legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. The alleged threats were cited last week by the New York State Catholic Conference, which also opposes gay marriage.

“We are unjustly called ‘haters’ and ‘bigots’ by those who have carefully framed their advocacy strategy,” wrote the conference’s executive director, Richard Barnes. “The entire campaign to enact same-sex marriage is conducted under a banner of acceptance. … Yet behind that banner of tolerance is another campaign — of intimidation, threats and ugliness.”

• Apple Inc. recently withdrew two iPhone apps from its App Store after complaints and petition campaigns by gay-rights supporters.

One app was intended to publicize the Manhattan Declaration, a document signed in 2009 by scores of conservative Christian leaders. It condemns same-sex marriage as immoral and suggests that legalizing it could open the door to recognition of polygamy and sibling incest.

The other app was for Exodus International, a network of ministries which depict homosexuality as a destructive condition that can be overcome through Christian faith.

In both cases, gay activists celebrated the apps’ removals, while the apps’ creators contended their freedom of expression was being unjustly curtailed.

“The gay-rights groups have shown their fangs,” wrote Chuck Colson, the Watergate figure turned born-again Christian who helped launch the Manhattan Declaration. “They want to silence, yes, destroy those who don’t agree with their agenda.”

Exodus International president Alan Chambers, who says he changed his own sexual orientation through religious counseling, said he was alarmed by the aggressive tactics of “savvy gay activists.”

“We have seen individuals, ministries and even private corporations that dare to hold to a biblical worldview on sexuality bullied into a corner,” Chambers wrote in a blog.

However, Wolfson said the Exodus app deserved to be removed. “They were peddling something that’s been repudiated as crackpot quackery.”

The campaign that pressured King & Spalding to withdraw from the Defense of Marriage Act case was criticized by a relatively wide range of commentators and legal experts, not just conservative foes of gay marriage.

“To think it’s a good idea to attack lawyers defending unpopular clients; I don’t have words for how stupid and wrong that is,” said Wendy Kaminer, a lawyer and writer who formerly served on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union.

However, the gay-rights activists involved in pressuring King & Spalding were unapologetic.

“If we made it such that no law firm would defend the indefensible, then good for us,” said Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s vice president for communication. “When you have people talking about the fact that it’s no longer politically correct to be anti-equality, it’s a show of progress.”

Sainz said it was important for activists to pick their targets carefully.

“We understand there are goodhearted Americans in the middle who are still struggling with these issues,” he said. “Different activists have different ways of getting to the same end, and some of those are bound to make certain people feel uncomfortable.”

Though same-sex marriage is legal in only five states, it has for the first time gained the support of a majority of Americans, according to a series of recent national opinion polls. For some gay activists, this trend has fueled efforts to make their opponents’ views seem shameful.

“Their beliefs on this issue are very quickly becoming socially disgraceful, much in the way white supremacy is socially disgraceful,” wrote Evan Hurst of the advocacy group Truth Wins Out. “They are certainly entitled to cling to backwoods, uneducated, reality-rejecting views, … but their ‘religious freedom’ doesn’t call for the rest of us to somehow pretend their views aren’t disgusting and hateful.”

However, some gay-rights supporters see the public opinion shift as reason to be more magnanimous.

“The turn we now need to execute will be the hardest maneuver the movement has ever had to make, because it will require us to deliberately leave room for homophobia,” Jonathan Rauch, a writer and guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, wrote recently in The Advocate, a gay-oriented newsmagazine.

“Incidents of rage against ‘haters,’ verbal abuse of opponents, boycotts of small-business owners, absolutist enforcement of anti-discrimination laws: Those and other `zero-tolerance’ tactics play into the ‘homosexual bullies’ narrative,” Rauch wrote. “The other side, in short, is counting on us to hand them the victimhood weapon. Our task is to deny it to them.”

As ideological foes spar over these issues, the American Civil Liberties Union is confronted with a delicate balancing act. Its national gay rights project battles aggressively against anti-gay discrimination, but, as a longtime defender of free speech, the ACLU also is expected to intervene sometimes on behalf of anti-gay expression.

For example, the ACLU pressed a lawsuit on behalf of the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church, which has outraged mourning communities by picketing service members’ funerals with crudely worded signs condemning homosexuality. The ACLU said the Missouri state law banning such picketing infringes on religious freedom and free speech.

Some critics, such as Wendy Kaminer, have contended that the ACLU now tilts too much toward espousing gay rights, at the expense of a more vigorous defense of anti-gay free speech.

However, James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s gay rights project, said the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protects free speech but comes into play only when a government entity is seen as curtailing speech rights, which did not occur in the Vidmar or King & Spalding cases.

“What we have there is simply the push and pull in public policy discourse … which is sometimes rough and tumble,” Esseks said. “Being stigmatized for expressing unpopular views is part of being in a free society. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Robert George, a conservative professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and one of the co-authors of the Manhattan Declaration, shared Esseks’ view on the often sharp-elbowed nature of public debate in America.

“Democratic politics is a messy business and sometimes it’s a contact sport,” said George, a co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, which campaigns against same-sex marriage. He suggested that those who hold cultural power, in academia, the media and elsewhere, inevitably are going to try to impose their viewpoints.

“The power to intimidate people, to make them fear they’ll be called a bigot or denied opportunities for jobs, only works if people allow themselves to be bullied,” George said. “Conservatives who make themselves out to be victims run the risk of playing into the hands of their opponents, suggesting that their opponents’ cultural power is so vast that there’s no way it can be resisted.”

To professional free-speech advocates, such as Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, the gay rights vs. free expression cases are fascinating and often difficult.

“It’s very volatile — it requires you to parse the issues very closely,” she said. “I’m of the school of thought that you should know your enemy. You need to know what people are thinking.”

—  John Wright

Get your freak on

x-men-first-class-DF-22342_22352_R2_rgb
VIRTUALLY NORMAL | Xavier (James McAvoy, top) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) team up to fight a common enemy in the smart, savvy prequel ‘X-Men: First Class.’

Mutants-as-metaphors? The pro-gay message is unmistakable in ‘X-Men’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

2011 is becoming the summer of supers. And it is a Marvel.

We’ve already had Thor, and before July is over, we’ll have Green Lantern and Captain America. But it will be remarkable if any manage to outdo X-Men: First Class. More than a kiddie version of an established franchise, this prequel has the scope of a Bond film and touches on serious issues like Nazi camps, nuclear annihilation and homophobia. First Class is that rarest of summer movies: A socially conscious superhero comic.

In 1944, pre-teens Erik Lensherr and Charles Xavier are leading vastly different lives. Charles lives in a castle on Long Island with his wealthy family, using his psychic powers to carve out an academic career. Meanwhile, Erik finds his ability to control metal with his mind is put to sick use by a Nazi doctor Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) while his family is butchered in a concentration camp.

Eighteen years later, Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender) team up, united in their efforts to stop Shaw (himself a mutant of intimidating power) from starting WWIII, in a sophisticated good cop/bad cop routine where they recruit new young mutants to join their cause.

The X-Men have been about outsiders not fitting in since the comics debuted in the 1960s, but it has been since the film series started in 2000 that the obvious parallels between mutant and gay have been most apparent. That’s true even in First Class, set long before the gay rights movement began.

“I didn’t mean to out you,” one character says to a secret mutant, who justifies not telling his boss by saying, “You didn’t ask, I didn’t tell.” “I’m not the only one who is different,” one confesses tearfully. There’s just no way that’s a coincidence.

Especially not with Matthew Vaughn directing. The last four X-Men movies have been directed by capable but quick-to-go-commercial directors, but Vaughn is a savvy, thoughtful director who composes more than he stages. Vaughn has an artist’s ethos, as he proved with his debut feature, Layer Cake, and demonstrated subsequently with the smart, edgy actioner Kick-Ass last year. His style oozes classic craftsmanship (one scene, set in a bar, generates incredible tension as Tarantino did in a similar set piece in Inglourious Basterds, though in an abbreviated version).

There’s an efficiency of storytelling, couched within the conventions of the superhero “origins” format, that’s admirable. It took George Lucas three full films to explain what circumstances made Darth Vader who he was; Vaughn does it in two hours. Of course, Lucas was hamstrung by having to use Hayden Christensen as the conduit for telling that story; First Class benefits from Fassbender’s sexy bravado as Magneto.

For the film — for the series — to work, you need to like Magneto a little to understand how he became a villain. Fassbender is sympathetic and reckless, and when he finally begins to believe in how the cause of mutants must supersede those of humanity, it’s difficult not to detect traces of Larry Kramer and ACT UP! in his passionate, separatist radicalism. It’s enough to make you wanna hold up a sign saying “Mutant and proud.”

Bacon is an unusual but effective choice as the supervillain, though January Jones, in a sexy, Bond-Girl-with-Balls cheesecake performance, more than holds her own.

Ultimately, it’s the message of being virtually normal — that is, redefining the baseline for what normal is — that makes the entire X-Men franchise resonate so strongly with modern, enlightened audiences. That’s especially true here. First Class is just that … in every sense.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Was Gingrich glitter-bomb an embarrassment to the gay rights movement or just plain fabulous?

As you’ve quite possibly heard, anti-gay GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was glitter-bombed by a gay activist Tuesday, during a book-signing prior to a fundraiser for the right-wing Minneapolis Family Council. Watch video of the incident from the AP below.

Clayton M. McCleskey, a contributing writer for the Dallas Morning News, writes on the newspaper’s Opinion Blog that he thinks the incident was “an embarrassment to the gay community and to the gay rights movement”:

If gay rights activists take issue with Gingrich’s less-than-enlightened stance on gay rights, then there are many ways for them to raise the issue. Taking a bag of glitter and dumping it on Gingrich’s head is not one of them. That was a cheap shot. If the goal is to show that gays should be treated like the normal folks they are, is it all that productive to bring glitter into the debate?

According to Andrew Belonsky at Death+Taxes, the glitter bomb was not only productive, it was “fabulous”:

ACT-UP’s members enacted the most sensational and compelling of all gay protests: in 1987, they sprawled out at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway to demand more access to newly developed AIDS drugs, and that same year hung their famous “Silence Equals Death” banner in front of Ronald Reagan’s White House. Seventeen years later, ten nude ACT-UP activists protests the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

Though some of the group’s protests were grim, they all effectively employed a blithe spirit, catapulting them onto front pages around the nation, and the world. So too has Erickson’s stunt, which will hopefully inspire more imaginative and playful protests that capture the nation’s attention.

What do you think?

—  John Wright

Before we was fab

 

40 YEARS OF GAY | ‘Stonewall Uprising,’ above, tracks the gay rights movement; ‘American Family,’ below, revisits the original reality TV series.

PBS gets its gay on (retro-style), revisiting Stonewall and the Louds

Watching documentaries like The Stonewall Uprising almost always make me feel anger more than Pride. At least at first. That’s because they wisely use old footage of news reports and instructional videos to let you know what the temperament of the nation was at the time. It’s easy to laugh at the outdated ideas about pot in Reefer Madness; it’s quite another to hear Mike Wallace explain how the concept of a “happy homosexual” is insane. After all, it’s a sickness that ruins lives. Like syphilis. “Homosexuals may appear normal” warns one cautionary narrator, but you shouldn’t be fooled.

It’s angering because we’re not talking about the Dark Ages, but America as recently as the mid-1960s. We still fight myths every day from the right, but it’s dispiriting knowing that, back then, this bigotry was mainstream.

But Pride does wind its way in during this doc, airing this week (and again in June) as part of the American Experience series on PBS, when the queers and queens finally fight back at the Stonewall Inn on a sweltering summer night in 1969. The resulting march — and movement — are still with us.

The filmmakers spend surprisingly little time on the actual uprising (there’s little photographic evidence of it). Rather, they lay the groundwork for the need for gay liberation, culling stories from actual witnesses to the riot (and, most unexpectedly, former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, who has never been very open about being gay). Instead of simply explaining a moment in time, The Stonewall Uprising does something greater: It forces us to reevaluate what Pride is and why we still have, and still need, to march ever so often, and it reminds us how fragile our rights are, and how hard-fought they were by some very heroic gay people.

Less than five years after Stonewall, television had its first openly gay recurring character — and he wasn’t acting. When An American Family aired in 1973, it basically invented what we now call reality TV, following not attention hungry publicity whores like the Kardashians or the Hogans or the Gottis, but an upper middle class Southern California family named the Louds.

Lance Loud was only 20 and living the gay life in New York when the 12-part series first aired, showing Americans a world never seen on TV — and no doubt giving gays in middle America a belief, long before Dan Savage said it, that it does get better.

KERA World will rebroadcast the entire series in two marathons this weekend — something that hasn’t been done in 20 years. Like some of the news shows in The Stonewall Uprising, there are outmoded techniques and assumptions that make it look dated, but if you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to look past the fashions and the cheesy graphics and think instead about how some things haven’t changed (family is still awkward about gay stuff) and some things, mercifully, have.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

The Stonewall Uprising airs on Ch. 13 April 25 at 9 p.m.; An American Family airs on Ch. 13.2 April 24 and again April 25 from 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

—  John Wright

Save our history, before it’s too late

HISTORIC MOMENT | Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller poses with gay former Councilmen Ed Oakley, left, and John Loza, during previous gay Pride festivities in Lee Park. Miller was the first Dallas mayoral candidate to acknowledge the LGBT community in a speech to a mainstream audience, but bits of our history like that will be lost unless we do something now to preserve them

Dallas has one of the most vibrant LGBT communities in the U.S., but unless we do something soon, the history of this community will be lost

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

Despite its stellar, well-known rise to prominence over the past four decades, Dallas’ LGBT community might find itself hard-pressed to document its glory days in coming years.

We apparently are forgetting our history as fast as we live each new day. So many people have either died, moved away or both that the number of people who remember what happened in Dallas after the birth of the gay rights movement in June 1969 are dwindling daily.

That was illustrated recently when former city Councilman Ed Oakley, Dallas’ best-known gay politician, called the current mayoral election and the candidates’ solicitation of the LGBT vote a “watershed” moment. Actually, we had already passed that milestone in the 2002 mayoral election when all of the candidates aggressively vied for the LGBT vote.

It was in that campaign cycle that former Mayor Laura Miller took the microphone during a campaign speech before a general audience and acknowledged Dallas’ LGBT community. It was the first time for a Dallas mayoral candidate to publicly acknowledge our community’s existence before TV cameras, reporters and a mixed audience.

But now — less than a mere decade later — those enormous gains were almost lost to the collective memory of Dallas’ LGBT community.

My point is not to criticize Oakley for failing to remember what happened, but to stress the need for better documentation of our social and political history. No definitive record of the history of LGBT Dallas exists, and that makes it really difficult to know for sure what did or didn’t happen in Dallas since New York City’s Stonewall Riots kicked off the gay rights movement.

If we don’t remember where we’ve been and what we’ve done, are we prepared for where we need to go in the future?

Dallas’ LGBT community is fortunate to have a publication like the Dallas Voice that has chronicled the events of almost three decades, and the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Library in the John Thomas Gay and Lesbian Community Center that contains Johnson’s personal collection of gay magazines, newspapers and other literature dating back to World War II — before most people in the community were born.

Johnson, who is in his 80s now, has written a short history of Dallas that focuses more on events that preceded the Stonewall Riots. He also has given talks about Dallas’ LGBT history that provide a fascinating glimpse into what life was like for LGBT people struggling to live their lives in an oppressive time that most of us have never experienced.

My own research of The Dallas Morning News’ archives reveals that in the 1950s the district attorney’s office aggressively pursued gay people in their homes during private parties. People were literally arrested for same-sex dancing in those days.

We can’t afford to forget that our lives today are literally blessed in comparison to what the people before us experienced. We can’t ever let politicians forget that our lives matter, and that we will never go back to the old days of subjugation.

And don’t ever forget that there are still many people around who would like to see our community dissolved and powerless. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, is one of the biggest proponents of just such a movement to discredit and render us politically powerless.

That’s why it is important to document our history, to show young people in our community what we accomplished and to show our detractors that we’ve fought many battles in the past and that we will do it again if necessary.

Perhaps, it could be a collaborative effort, with many writers who lived through the times reflecting on what happened.

We’ve certainly got the talent and the resources in Dallas to document our history. The idea has been tossed around before, but apparently nothing has ever came of it. Isn’t it time that we did it?

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright

Stonewall Dems of Dallas responds to Ramos

Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, sent over the below resolution responding to recent statements by Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos, who last week compared gays to “termites” and Stonewall to the “Nazi Party.” As we noted this morning, Ramos followed up with another anti-gay rant in which he said being gay is “not natural” and compared it to being born with a polio leg. Narvaez said the resolution was approved unanimously by Stonewall’s members at Tuesday night’s meeting:

Whereas, the Texas Democratic Party Platform supports action against all forms of discrimination and specifically calls for the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community; and

Whereas, the honor of serving as County Chair in the Democratic Party in the State of Texas is accompanied by the solemn responsibility to uphold the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution without equivocation; and

Whereas, the Bexar County Democratic Chair Dan Ramos has gone on record describing the gay-rights movement as “very sinister”, the Stonewall Democrats as “termites” that “managed to get their people in key positions” in the Bexar County Democratic Party, and other reprehensible characterizations; and

Whereas, the unanimously elected Texas Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie and many Dallas County Democratic Party officials have publicly called upon Bexar County Democratic Chair Dan Ramos to apologize or resign to no effect; and

Whereas, it is incumbent upon us as both Democrats and staunch defenders of equality for all people under the law including the LGBT community; therefore be it

Resolved, that the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas County join the chorus of voices from San Antonio, Rio Grande Valley, Houston, Austin and elsewhere in this great state of Texas to call for the resignation of Dan Ramos as Bexar County Democratic Party Chair.

—  John Wright

Recession, lack of progress on LGBT issues took toll on advocacy groups in 2009, report says

Thirty-nine of the largest LGBT equality groups saw their revenues fall by an average of 20 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Movement Advancement Project, a Denver-based think tank. According to a CQ Weekly article about the report posted on Congress.org, the groups’ combined revenues fell from $202.7 million in 2008 to $161.3 million in 2009, falling short of total expenses by $4.3 million:

Final revenue figures for last year are not yet available, but the report says the 39 groups responded to a bad 2009 by slashing their budgets last year to $135.4 million, 21 percent lower than in 2008. Among the groups participating in the survey were stalwarts of the gay rights movement such as the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“The revenue drop reflects two things: the economic climate and some frustration at the pace of change in 2009,” says Ineke Mushovic, the Movement Advancement Project’s executive director. She expects that the burst of policy gains in late 2010 and early 2011, combined with a recovering economy, may create a better picture when the report is next updated.

Below are some other key findings listed in a press release about the report. Download the full report by going here:

• The 39 participating organizations’ combined 2009 expenses of $165.6 million are only half of the combined annual expenses of just the 10 largest organizations working to oppose LGBT equality ($333.1 million).

• Many organizations are scaling back their programs in order to align with available resources. Combined 2010 budgets ($135.4 million) are down 18 percent from 2009 expenses ($165.6 million).

• General financial health remains strong. Organizations have good and rising average working capital (a measure of cash reserves), declining but still-healthy liquidity ratios (funds to cover current obligations), and steady cash and net assets (which speaks to institutional durability).

• Movement groups are highly efficient in their fundraising and programming operations, with all 39 participants exceeding the efficiency standards of both the American Institute of Philanthropy and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. An average of 79 percent of expenses is spent on programs and services, 9 percent on management and general expenses, and only 12 percent on fundraising.

• Less than 4 percent of all LGBT adults in the U.S. donated $35 or more to these LGBT organizations. While organizations are generally effective at retaining smaller donors (those giving $35 or more) year over year, the number of larger donors (those giving $1,000 or more) is dropping and not easily replaced.

• The staffs of participating organizations are diverse, roughly mirroring the broader U.S. population: 32 percent identify as people of color (12 percent African American, 12 percent Latino/a, 7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander and 1 percent Native American or other). Also, 46 percent are women and 6 percent identify as transgender.

—  John Wright