WATCH: Texas state legislators tell LGBT youth, ‘It Gets Better’

Picture 11

Several LGBT allies in the state Legislature have teamed up to make a two-part “It Gets Better” video to encourage queer youth that even in Texas, times are changing.

Lawmakers featured in the video are Rep. Mary Gonzalez, Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, Sen. Wendy Davis, Rep. Mark Strama, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Rep. Rafael Anchia, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, Sen. Kirk Watson, Sen. Royce West, Rep. Chris Turner, Sen. Jose Rodriguez, Rep. Garnet Coleman, Sen. John Whitmire, Rep. Donna Howard, Rep. Justin Rodriguez, Rep. Gene Wu, and Sen. Sylvia Garcia.

The video was made in memory of Asher Brown, a gay Houston teen who committed suicide after being bullied. It was produced by Omar Araiza and Brianna Roberts, with filming and editing by Nathan Burkhart.

Araiza said coming out to his family at 16 was the hardest thing for him because many people in his life has homophobic beliefs. But things changed and he made it through the dark times when he wanted to end his life.

Now, he said he has hope because of the changing attitudes across the state, which was reflected by the strong support for LGBT issues in this year’s legislative session with a record number of pro-LGBT bills filed.

“This change in conversation needs to be made visible to LGBT youth who believe they are alone,” Araiza said. “Because they are supported and cared for by many. These videos are proof that in Texas, we have brave elected leaders willing to stand and support what many call today’s civil rights movement. While Texas may not be on the forefront of civil rights, change experienced here is a sign that full LGBT rights are inevitable.

“Things will continue to get better. We will all make it better.”

Watch the videos below.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Gay S. Texas senior allowed to cross-dress at graduation

Brandon Navarro in his cap and gown.

South Texas high school administrators have agreed to allow a gay senior to wear female clothing at his graduation on June 2.

Brandon Navarro originally planned to skip graduation before a talk with his principal brought permission for him to dress as he felt comfortable, KHOU News reports.

“I honestly consider myself more of a cross dresser,” said Navarro. “There are kids at my school and they are gay, but they keep it under wraps,” he told KHOU.

Navarro attends Waller High School in Waller, Texas, a city about 30 miles northwest of Houston. After skipping prom to avoid problems, Navarro said he dropped his plans to wear a dress and high heels with his long hair after a teacher reminded him of the graduation dress code. The rules require senior males to wear slacks and shirts with their hair above the collar.

Navarro’s mother then got involved and he met with the principal. While he’ll have to leave the earrings and high heels in his wardrobe, he’ll be able to wear a dress under his gown.

Watch the video below.

—  Dallasvoice

Chronicle blogger blames ‘It Gets Better” project for LGBT teen suicides

Kathleen McKinley

Kathleen McKinley

Kathy McKinley is a self-described “conservative activist” who blogs for the Houston Chronicle under the monicker “TexasSparkle.” In a recent post McKinley took the “It Gets Better” project to task for what she believes is their culpability in the suicides of LGBT teens:

“These kids were sold a bill of goods by people who thought they were being kind. The “It will get better” campaign just didn’t think it through. They didn’t think about the fact that kids are different from adults. They handle things differently. They react differently. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE KIDS. You can grumble all day long how unfair it is that straight teens can be straight in high school, and gay kids can’t, but life is unfair. Isn’t the price they are paying too high?? Is it so much to ask them to stand at the door of adulthood before they “come out” publically? Because it may save their life.”

McKinnley’s primary confusion about the “It Gets Better” campaign (other than its name) is the assumption that the goal is to encourage teens to come out of the closet, or encourage them to become sexually active:

“Why in the world would you give teenagers a REASON to tease you? Oh, yes, because the adults tell you to embrace who you are, the only problem? Kids that age are just discovering who they are. They really have no idea yet. The adults tell you to “come out,” when what we should be telling them is that sex is for adults, and there is plenty of time for figuring out that later.”

I would like to encourage Ms. McKinley to watch the “It Gets Better” project’s founder Dan Savages’ video. Please, Ms. McKinley, listen, and tell me if you hear Savage or his partner Terry say anything about teens coming out or having sex. I think what you’ll hear them say is that all of the things that most kids, gay and straight, dream of (falling in love, starting a family, having the support of their parents, co-workers and friends) are possible for LGBT teens. I think you’ll hear them talk about how difficult their teen years were, and about the fears they had that their parents would reject them, that they’d never find success and that they’d always be alone.

Choosing to have sex is one of the most personal decision a person will ever make. For LGBT people, choosing to come out is another. I have not watched all of the thousands of videos from people who have participated in the “It Gets Better” project. It’s possible that there are a few that tell kids to come out right away, or to become sexually active, but I doubt it.

Every video in the project that I have seen has had the same simple message: that the person making it understands how tortuously awful the experience of being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender in Junior and High School can be, but there is a wonderful world of loving, vibrant, successful, engaged LGBT adults out there and if queer teens can just hang on, just for a few years, they can join it. I doubt that any of the contributors to the project think that hanging on for a few years will be easy. I suspect that most of them remember, with excruciating clarity, contemplating ending those temporary years of terror with a permanent solution and that is why they choose to reach out.

I grew up without role models, where people like Barbara Gittings, Bayard Rustin and Harvey Milk didn’t exist . I grew up in a small town where the two men with the pink house were talked about in hushed tones that immediately fell silent when I walked into the room, because it wasn’t appropriate for children’s ears. I grew up in a world where my mother wouldn’t tell me what “gay” meant, where the evening news was turned off if it reported on the AIDS crisis, where I wasn’t given words to describe who I was, and so the only word I could find was “alone.”

I was lucky. My suicide attempt failed.

I was lucky, I survived, and went to college, and found a church that embraced and loved LGBT people. That’s where I met doctors and lawyers and business owners and teachers who were like me. That’s where I met two wonderful women who had built a life together for over 50 years. That’s where I discovered I wasn’t alone and that being gay didn’t mean that i couldn’t have all of those things I’d dreamed of.

That is what McKinley missed in her blog post. In her haste to lay blame on anything other than the overwhelming prejudice perpetuated by schools, churches and governments against LGBT people McKinley missed the fact that kids need role models. In her rush to shove queer teens back into the closet she forgot that human beings need the hope of a better world, lest they give up in despair.

McKinley got one thing right in her post. She titled it “Are Adults Also To Blame For Gay Teen Suicides? Yes.” Adults are to blame for LGBT teen suicides. When adults hide the stunning diversity of God’s creation from their children they create a vision of reality that some of those children can’t see themselves in. When adults tell LGBT teens that they should be invisible then it is all too clear who is to blame when those teens believe them, and take steps to make themselves invisible permanently.

To all the LGBT kids out there: it does get better. There are adults who care about you and want all the wonderful things you dream of to come true, but you have to hang on. If you need to keep who are secret to remain safe then do so. If you need someone to talk to please call the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-Trevor (866-488-7386).

—  admin

FW Mayor Mike Moncrief presents ‘Believing in Youth Award’ to gay Councilman Joel Burns

Joel Burns, right, and husband JD Angle

Last night, I posted a brief blog about Joel Burns being recognized for his anti-bullying efforts by Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, but I didn’t have many details. Now, here are some details for you.

Moncrief presented Burns with the 8th annual “Believing in Youth Award” Thursday night during the Believing in Youth Award Dinner, an event that benefited Santa Fe Youth Services. According to a press release from Moncrief’s office, the award “honors those who take personal responsibility for being a role model and building resiliency in our young people through formal and informal, intentional and unintentional efforts.”

Santa Fe Youth Services is a nonprofit agency that has provided services to youth and families in Tarrant County for more than 10 years.

Burns was chosen as the recipient in recognition of his efforts to combat bullying that gained national attention last October when he delivered an impromptu “It Gets Better” message to LGBT youth during a City Council meeting. Burns, in an emotional address that left many in the council chambers in tears, spoke of his own experience as a gay teen bullied by classmates and how he even contemplated suicide at one point, and how his life has gotten exponentially better in the years since.

A video of his speech went viral on YouTube and within days, the gay Fort Worth council member had been invited to speak on numerous TV shows, including The Today Show and Ellen. In December he went to Austin for a press conference announcing the introduction of anti-bullying bills in the Texas Legislature, and he returned to Austin in March for LGBT Lobby Day to call once again for the legislation to be passed.

Also in March, Burns was invited to attend an anti-bullying summit presented by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

Last month, Burns received a GLAAD Media Award for his efforts.

—  admin

Burns honored for anti-bullying efforts

Fox 4 News is reporting that Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief tonight presented gay Councilman Joel Burns with a special award in honor of his efforts on ending bullying.

Joel Burns

Moncrief said: “I salute Joel’s courage. It takes someone that has a little something extra to be able to share their personal pain in order to benefit others.”

Burns made national headlines last October after video his emotional speech during a Fort Worth City Council meeting about his own experience as a gay teen bullied by schoolmates went viral.

I don’t have any other details about tonight’s award, but I will update this post when I find out more.

—  admin

Gay teen beat up at school; police say its not a hate crime

Rito Osorio, a 16-year-old at Silver Creek High School in Sellersburg, Ind., was beaten up by a classmate last week in a school bathroom as the attacker yelled anti-gay slurs at home. But Sellersburg police refuse to call the attack a hate crime.

The attacker, also 16, was arrested and charged with battery.

Osorio told WHAS Channel 11 that he had never had any confrontations with the boy who attacked him, and when approached him during lunch, tapped him on the shoulder and said “Hey man, we’ve got to talk,” he didn’t think anything of it. Osario followed the other boy into the bathroom where the other boy began punching him and shouting slurs at him as other students watched.

Osario’s nose was broken and he suffered several cuts and bruises. He said the attacker hit him so hard at one point that Osario’s lip ring was jammed into the roof of his mouth, and he will need surgery to have it removed.

But the Sellersburg police chief said it was just a schoolyard fight, not a hate crime, and that the case is closed. But that didn’t satisfy Rito’s mother, Andrea Osario, who said she is afraid her son will be attacked by other students if he returns to school.

Although the WHAS report does not identify Rito Osario as gay, Pam’s House Blend blog said he is openly gay, and that the teen who attacked him said he was angry over rumors that Rito thought he was gay, also.

—  admin

Asher Brown’s suicide inspires ‘Bring Your Gay Teen to Church’ event in Houston

LGBT-affirming churches in the Houston area are participating in “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church” on Sunday, which aims to counter negative messages gay youth often receive from religion. The Houston Chronicle reports:

“We think it’s important for families to know there’s a safe place to go to worship,” said Jim Bankston, senior minister at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. “Families who have gay members want to make sure they feel welcome in church and aren’t bashed in any way.”

Joanna Crawford, a seminary student at the Houston Graduate School of Theology, said the idea came up after the suicide last fall of Asher Brown, a Cypress-area eighth-grader who killed himself after what his parents said were years of bullying and taunts that he was gay.

It is a project of the Houston Clergy Council, formed last year to allow churches to work together on shared concerns.

“None of us knew Asher, but we felt if we could get families into our churches, where they have support, where they feel loved for who they are, not in spite of it, something good could come of that,” Crawford said.

Organized religion has had a complicated relationship with homosexuality.

To see a full list of churches participating and learn more about the event, go here.

—  John Wright

Our most read stories of 2010

Zach Harrington

In this week’s print edition (which, by the way, is now on the streets) we told you how our LGBT Person of the Year, Joel Burns, was inspired to deliver his “It Gets Better” speech after reading about the death of Zach Harrington, a gay teen who committed suicide after attending a City Council meeting in Norman, Okla. Well, our post about Harrington’s suicide also happens to be the single most read post on this website since we launched it in June, with nearly 15,000 page views. Here are the top 10 most viewed posts:

1. Gay Oklahoma teen commits suicide following ‘toxic’ city debate over GLBT history month

2. Trans fit: Chris Bruce proudly and bravely went from 230-lb. male bodybuilder to 180-lb. female fitness guru Chris Tina Foxx

3. 11 arrested in raid at Club Dallas

4. Record 106 gay candidates elected in 2010

5. DeLay, who warned U.S. would ‘go down’ because of gay marriage, is brought down by a lesbian

6. Gay Dallas couple legally weds in Texas, aims to bring ‘e-marriage’ to the same-sex masses

7. Joel Burns responds to Arkansas school board member who encouraged gays to kill themselves

8. Gay porn star Mason Wyler says he has HIV

9. Local chef, reality TV celeb dies

10. Exploring spirituality, Radical Faerie style

—  John Wright

Pearland police say there’s no reason to believe murdered teen Joshua Wilkerson was gay

Hermilo Moralez

Pearland police say they have no reason to believe 18-year-old murder victim Joshua Wilkerson was gay — despite suspect Hermilo Moralez’s claim that Wilkerson made a sexual advance toward him.

Moralez, 19, is charged with murder in the death of Wilkerson, whose partially burned body was found Thursday in an overgrown field.

According to court records, Moralez told Pearland police the pair fought after Wilkerson “began to come on to him in a sexual manner.” But Lt. Oneismo Lopez, a spokesman for the Pearland Police Department, told Instant Tea on Monday that detectives have found no evidence to support Moralez’s claim.

“There’s no indication that he was anything but straight right now,” Lopez said of Wilkerson, adding that detectives have interviewed Wilkerson’s family, friends and some former girlfriends. “What it comes down to, they talked to a couple of girls that he was intimate with. … They did not get any indication that he was gay at all. He [Moralez] probably made it up to minimize his own responsibility, to try to put it off on Joshua.”

If anything, Lopez said, it’s possible that Moralez made a sexual advance toward Wilkerson, although detectives haven’t been able to confirm this.

“We’re looking at all possibilities, and that’s one of them,” Lopez said, adding that the motive for the murder is still unknown.

Services for Wilkerson were held this morning in Houston.

Moralez remains in the Brazoria County jail, charged with murder, failure to identify himself by giving false information to an officer, attempting to take a weapon from an officer and tampering with evidence.

Federal immigration officials have also placed a hold on Moralez, a native of Belize who came to the U.S. 11 years ago. Lopez said no further information was available about Moralez’s immigration status.

“I know that usually when they put a hold on someone like that, that means the person is here illegally,” Lopez said. “We’re not exactly sure what his status is.”

—  John Wright

WATCH: Gay teen defends suspended teacher

Perhaps you’ve heard about the case of Jay McDowell, the high school teacher in Michigan who was suspended without pay after he kicked two students out of class for making anti-gay comments. Dozens of people packed a school board meeting in Howell, Mich., on Monday to express their support for McDowell, and they included 14-year-old Graeme Taylor. Watch Graeme’s remarkable speech to the school board above.

—  John Wright