Judge rules against ‘gay conversion’ therapists, upholds NJ ban on practice

Christie-Credit-Bob-Jagendorf-300x243

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

NEWARK, N.J. — A federal judge on Friday said New Jersey’s law prohibiting therapists from trying to turn gay youth straight does not violate free speech or religious protection, the Associated Press reported.

Gov. Chris Christie signed a ban on the controversial practice, known as gay conversion therapy, in  August. California was the first, and the only other, state to ban the practice. A federal appeals court upheld the state’s statute in August.

—  Steve Ramos

Keller church drops Boy Scout affiliation

KellerA Catholic church in Keller will stop sponsoring a Boy Scout troop in 2014 when a policy allowing gay Scouts goes into effect — mostly because, he admits, many Catholic priests are pedophiles.

Monsignor James Hart, the pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, cited his experience working with the Fort Worth Diocese and the lawsuits against pedophile priests as his reasoning — what he called a “very sad involvement in the various lawsuits filed against the Diocese for violations against the moral law in times past.”

He said these incidents “destroyed lives and caused many to lose their faith.” He blamed the crimes on priests “with a same-sex orientation.”

And he pointed out that those men had “taken an oath of celibacy in the service of a higher good.”

Because these priests had sex with young boys, the pastor concludes, obviously gay teens will have sex with each other.

“Given the facts of this known past, which as a Priest has broken my heart, do you honestly expect me to believe that when the time comes in the life of the Boy Scouts of America that there are 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 year old boys put together in overnight situations, some of whom with a self-professed same-sex orientation and attraction, that nothing undesirable is going to happen?” he said.

—  David Taffet

New poll shows majority of Americans oppose Boy Scouts’ ban on gays

BoyScouts_Blog

In a new Washington Post and ABC News poll, a majority of respondents favor the Boy Scouts’ proposed resolution to admit gay Scouts but not leaders.

Meanwhile, of the 1,008 adults surveyed from May 1 to 5, 63 percent support admitting gay Scouts while 56 percent of respondents oppose continuing to ban gay Scout leaders.

The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and Scouts for Equality founder, said the results are encouraging and the group will work with supporters over the next two weeks before 1,400 members of the BSA’s national council vote on the compromise.

“Today’s Washington Post/ABC News poll demonstrates that there is overwhelming support in this country for the Boy Scouts of America’s effort to end discrimination within its organization. 63 percent of adults agree with Scouts for Equality that it is time that all scouts be treated as equal,” Wahls said in a statement. “This is why over the next two weeks leading up to the historic vote on May 23rd, we will work with our partners and over 11,000 members to do everything we can to make this a reality. The poll also demonstrates that the majority of Americans agree that while is this is a critical step, this fight cannot and will not end until every scout, scout leader and parent are welcome making BSA the strongest it has ever been.”

The poll also found 68 percent of people support NBA star Jason Collins’ decision to come out. And 55 percent support allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

—  Anna Waugh

On 1-year anniversary of Asher Brown’s death, his parents call for a moment of silence tonight

Asher Brown
Asher Brown

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Asher Brown’s death.

Asher, a gay 13-year-old from the Houston area, took his own life in response to bullying at school.

Asher’s parents, Amy and David Truong, have recorded a video calling for a moment of silence at 8 p.m. today in honor of Asher and other victims of bullying, as well as their families.

Watch the Truongs’ video and read a statement from Equality Texas below.

—  John Wright

Cubs to make ‘It Gets Better’ video

Associated Press

CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs have agreed to make a video for an anti-suicide campaign geared toward gay youth.

The Cubs announced Friday that they’ll make a video for the “It Gets Better” campaign when they return from their current 10-game road trip.

The Cubs are the second professional sports team to participate in the campaign. The San Francisco Giants released a video this week.

Seattle writer Dan Savage launched the “It Gets Better” project last year amid several highly publicized suicides by gay teenagers. It provides messages of hope to counter the despair of bullied or rejected teens.

Cubs owner Laura Ricketts is urging other professional sports organizations to make their own videos.

Ricketts and “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks headlined the team’s float at last year’s Chicago Gay Pride Parade.

—  John Wright

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

Latter gay saint

Steven Fales’ one-man show ‘Confessions of a Mormon Boy’ skewers his religious upbringing, but his real mission is to show gay youth that it really does get better

THANK YOU JESUS Fales says there’s something sexy about Mormon boys. We concur.

MORMON BOY
Eisemann Center, 2352
Performance Drive, Richardson. Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m.  $25­–$150.
EisemannCenter.com
…………………

Steven Fales knows something about growing up gay in the church. A sixth generation Mormon, he married and had two children before coming out. And along the way, got heavily into the sex trade and drugs.

But Fales also knows something about turning his life around — and turning his experiences into something original. He’s in town for a one-night-only performance of his hit one-man show, Confessions of a Mormon Boy, presented in conjunction with Youth First Texas.

Before his return to Dallas, Fales talked to us about how his play has become a trilogy and why, excommunication aside, he’s still on a spiritual quest.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

…………………

Dallas Voice: Obviously, you grew up Mormon and that influenced your show. What was the path from your experience to the stage? Steven Fales: I’m one of those Brokeback Mormon train wrecks where the children were the blessing. But I wouldn’t even have children if it weren’t for the Mormon machine — and I wouldn’t have material for my show!

I have an MFA in acting [from Brigham Young University] and did a lot of Shakespeare and musicals and then my life fell apart. I just intuitively knew I needed to write about it. The first version was back in November of 2001, and it just grew and grew. Confessions had a nice run off Broadway so I spun off Missionary Position which is very well on its way to being complete and just did a benefit staged reading of Who’s Your Daddy? All of a sudden, you have a trilogy. All three 90-minute plays will be done in repertory in Fort Lauderdale next spring. My “Mormon Conquests.”

I read a recent study that said Salt Lake City is, as a percentage, one of the gayest cities in the nation. What do you think accounts for that? Here are some theories. A lot of Mormons went out there and were an isolated gene pool for a while so you might have a genetic factor there. Mormonism is the extreme expression of patriarchy [which may attract gay people]. The amount of gays in that system reminds the system just how unbalanced it is. My excommunication, that’s [an example of how] Mormons try to erase all evidence that they also created it.

Also, to live that good, perfect, Mormon life takes gay people. It takes gays to be charismatic preachers and sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. To go on your mission at 19, you had to be a virgin. Many straight guys had fooled around but the gays had suppressed it. My own adolescence was delayed. I can’t tell you how many Mormon missionaries I served with in Portugal came out later.

It makes sense that a play like this would succeed in cosmopolitan cities, but what about smaller towns? Have you been surprised at how well it does in unexpected places?  It finds its audience everywhere. I’ve been wildly successful in Salt Lake City and smaller places. I think it’s the Mormon thing, too.

Yeah, what is it about good Christian boys gone gay that we find so fascinating, especially Mormons? It’s a curious piece of Americana. It’s easy to make fun of them and they’re hot! You wanna corrupt them because of it. The juxtaposition of virginity and sexuality is too delicious.

Do you think it’s ex-churchgoing gays who come or ones who still feel connected to their religious roots? My queer spiritual community definitely finds me, but straight people burned by their religions or ostracized by the church of their birth also find the show. This is my effort to find where we fit in as gays and lesbians. There’s a lot of anger in the gay community toward religion and I want to reclaim our spirituality as gay men. It looks different than we were told, but it’s there for us.

I take on Mormonism and the sex industry — how I descended into escorting and crystal meth and how I reclaimed myself after that. It’s not just about religion — there’s a secular part too. It’s a gay everyman story.

For the performance this week, you’ve teamed up with Youth First Texas. What led you to do that? Chris-James Cognetta contacted me and I’ve never played Dallas so this is the perfect opportunity. I’m hoping the show will give these youth an example of not playing victim even when you have every right to be one. I’ve had two cousins who committed suicide, and there was a slow, steady suicide track that I was on when I was selling myself and using meth. I want to help our youth not go down that path. With the suicides we’ve been having, we need to give kids the tools to deal with this. Your parents might say this and your church may do that, but you don’t need to buy into that.

Do you consider yourself still a Mormon or a Christian? Are you religious or just spiritual?  They excommunicated me and I saw how false much of the doctrine was. I don’t believe in golden plates or that Joseph Smith was more spiritual than you or me. I like to say I’m no longer a Latter-day Saint but something about me will always be Mormon. My people settled Utah and I celebrate the culture, but I do not endorse the doctrines, such as support Proposition 8. I did convert to become an Episcopalian about three years ago — I felt I needed a new church to bash.

How’s that working out for you? Great! They’ll take anyone. You can believe anything and I love coffee hour; I love the music; I love trying to listen to things that will help me. I think on a spiritual path, you do need a few guides, even if it’s Deepak Chopra or reading a few books. I think science and religion are both a quest to uncover the mystery of what God is. We’re all searching for truth. I think it shows a way to essentially love other people. We’re all interconnected. We should act that way.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Capacity crowd marks Transgender Day of Remembrance at Cathedral of Hope

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

A capacity crowd filled the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday night, Nov. 21.

Nell Gaither, a steering committee member for GEAR, served as MC. She noted the recent spate of suicides among gay youth. GEAR is the transgender program of Resource Center Dallas.

Among transgender adults, 40 percent have attempted suicide, a rate 25 times higher than among the rest of the community, she said.

She said 20 percent of transgender people had been refused healthcare treatment and even more experience harassment in a medical setting.

Among transgender people of color, 35 percent live below the poverty level.

A portion of the memorial was dedicated to Alexander Allison, a local trans man who committed suicide this year.

Among the speakers were Resource Center Dallas Executive Director Cece Cox.

Cox thanked the transgender community for answering her many questions so she can be a better ally. She also commented on the growing visibility of the transgender community.

“When someone tries to make me feel invisible, it makes me feel ‘less than’ and that doesn’t feel good,” she said.

Former Mayor Pro Tem John Loza said the community needs to do more than just tell LGBT youth that in 10 years it will get better — it also must provide the tools for them to get there.

“But there is reason for hope,” he said.

He listed recent gains the transgender community has made, including the election of the first transgender judge in California and Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment last week of Phyllis Frye as a municipal court judge. He lauded Dallas Independent School District’s new enumerated anti-bullying policy that includes gender identity and expression.

As Aaron Barnes and Dorian Mooneyham read the names of 30 transgender victims of violence, members of the community lit candles and laid red roses on a table. Two of those victims were from Houston.

Mo Snow gave closing remarks. “I don’t want to be the reason my partner is discriminated against,” he said, calling her the most loving person he’d ever met.

For the third year, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas ensemble MosaicSong opened and performed during the ceremony. Voice of Pride winners Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales also performed.

—  David Taffet

Chely Wright answers the call

The country music star and out lesbian may be busy with a new album and tour, but she always makes time for her new-found passion for advocating for LGBT equality

Rich Lopez  |  Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Chely Wright
Chely Wright

When Chely Wright came out this summer, the buzz in the music industry was mixed. But as it turned out, she did it at precisely the right time.

Combining her star power with advocacy, Wright has become the face of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network and an outspoken advocate for her new-found community. She has stepped up to the plate and used her stature to focus attention on LGBT issues.

The buzz around Wright’s coming out was quickly eclipsed by head-grabbing issues like same-sex marriage rulings, “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the rash of gay youth suicides and bullying.

Still, Wright interjected herself into the conversation and people listened, while other gay celebrities were being supportive, but perhaps less vocal. For her efforts, Wright will be awarded the 2010 Media Award at this weekend’s Black Tie Dinner.

“This is what I felt like I was supposed to do, and it would be wrong of me not do this,” Wright said recently of her work in the community.

Black Tie Dinner co-chairs Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold said that Wright was the unanimous choice for the Med Award this year. As the year progressed, Wright’s work with LGBT youth and her public profile narrowed the choices tremendously until she became the decisive choice.

“The breadth of her activity immediately upon coming out was definitely a factor. She faced issues head on and she’s made an incredible impact in reaching Middle America,” Guillard said.

Wright has most recently chosen to become involved in addressing the seemingly skyrocketing rate of bullying and LGBT youth suicides. Her work with GLSEN helped launch the Safe Space Campaign for schools to provide outright support to gay students and end anti-gay harassment and bullying. She joined a panel of celebrities on Larry King Live calling attention to the issue — which she stressed isn’t new.

“What’s going on now is not a shock to me. The problem isn’t a fresh one. It’s just that now, we have the mainstream media’s attention,” Wright said.

She quoted Kathy Griffin from that panel, agreeing with the comedian that bullying is based in homophobia stemming from a bigger picture that paints a distinct portrait to both straight and gay communities. “I hadn’t thought about it until she said

something amazing. She called it ‘trickle-down homophobia,’ where gay issues and headlines meet. DADT is denied, marriage denied and we’re constantly told we’re ‘less than,’” Wright said. “Not only bullies are hearing that, but young gay people are too.”

And that gives LGBT youth a bleak outlook on their future, while at the same time emboldening the bullies, Wright said.

“We can tell people not to bully, but when mandates are coming down against our rights and headlines show that, how can we expect them not to, when Congress is doing it blatantly?” Wright asked.

When she wrote her autobiography Like Me, Wright’s publishers balked at the chapter on hate crimes. She fought Random House for the chapter to be included, despite them telling her it was too dramatic. In the end, Wright won and the chapter, “Hate Crimes are Down?,” foreshadowed the current issue of harassment.

“If you push a young LGBT person to the point where they take their own lives, it’s a hate crime. If you get them to kill themselves, that’s a hate crime. You aren’t connecting dots that are too far apart and now it’s horrific that it’s come to past,” Wright said.

Wright focused on the Rutgers student Tyler Clemente, who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge after his roommate recorded him having sex with another man and streamed it online.

Chely Wright
SHE CAN RELATE | Chely Wright says that after spending years hiding her sexual orientation to protect her career in country music, she understands the anguish that young people struggling with their sexual orientation sometimes feel.

Wright said she faced a similar fear of being outed in the middle of her conservative country music career.

“I know what he felt like and it ripped my heart out,” she said of Clemente. “When you don’t want anyone to know that secret, the thought that runs through your mind is to jump, or pull the trigger. I couldn’t bear someone in control of my timeline for that secret,” she said.

Wright has been open about her faith as well, which brings a fairly new facet to the openly gay celebrity. Where most might dismiss religion as a hindrance, Wright seems to want to let people know that being gay and being religious are not mutually exclusive.

But at the same time, she said it is religion that is responsible for so much bigotry.

“Churches are not being held accountable. They tell young people they are damaged goods,” Wright said. “They tell them not to shoplift, which is a question of morality and making the right decision. But when they tell them not to be gay, that sets them onto a path of self-loathing and hatred and it’s contrary to a healthy life.”

Along with GLSEN and the Human Rights Campaign, Wright has given her support to the nonprofit organization Faith in America, which works to counteract the discrimination by religious communities toward the LGBT community.

“When you tell a kid he can’t be that way, it’s just a problem. We have got to hold churches accountable,” Wright repeated. “Really, you can be a good Christian and a gay person,” she said.

Arnold sees how Wright’s passion led to the board’s decision to honor her with the award.

“She is setting a wonderful example for people of all ages right now in this critical time. She’s appreciated the community and we appreciate what she’s doing for it,” Arnold said.

With her political advocacy, it’s easy to forget what Wright does best. She is still making music, but now balances what she loves to do and what she’s called to do.

“At the root of what I do, I like to sing and make records,” Wright said. “But we do the most damage as humans with words. And I’m compelled to support kids as they turn into grownups and help them keep their heads on straight.”

So to speak.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Shawn of the deadly

Homo and horror collide as out filmmaker Shawn Ewert slices his way into the movies

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

SCARED (NOT) STRAIGHT | Shawn Ewert has wrapped up his second short film with his first feature in sight. (Arnold Wayne Jones | Dallas Voice)
SCARED (NOT) STRAIGHT | Shawn Ewert has wrapped up his second short film with his first feature in sight. (Arnold Wayne Jones | Dallas Voice)

For some people, every day is Halloween.

The monsters and nightmares stick around all year long and they are just fine with that.

Definitely Shawn Ewert is. Actually, if it wasn’t for those nightmares, he might be out of his profession as a horror film director.

“If I’m working around the house, I’ll throw in any scary movie for the background,” he says. “It’s just another day.”

When a “cool aunt” showed him A Nightmare on Elm Street, it scared him like it should any 5-year-old. Now 32, he admits he can’t get enough of it. So he decided to turn his photography work into filmmaking.

“I love film in general but because of that, horror has special place for me,” he says. “I watched a lot of Hitchcock growing up. He wasn’t going for gore — he was all about story. That’s what it is for me. If I don’t care about story, I don’t care about the film.”

In junior high, his writing began to manifest as his outlet for his “freakiness:” No one read his stuff for fear they would freak out. In the back of his mind, though, he wondered what his stories would actually look like.

“I knew those stories would be so much cooler if I could watch,” he says. “All I thought was how could I make this on the screen. I’d love to show to somebody someday the way I see all this in my head.”

Ewert rolls his eyes at the thought of reminiscing over high school. Like many gay youth, they weren’t the best of times for him. He came out to a select few, but was publicly outed by the girl he dated. Still, Ewert came out relatively unscathed — even in a Mesquite high school.

But his second family was in the horror film fan community, and it’s there he found solace and even acceptance. Unlike comedy or musicals, there isn’t an actual community of fans, but those who like scary movies — who really like them — come together and Ewert found a home. When he began his coming out process on his own terms, he found acceptance among his brethren.

“For me, the horror community is pretty accepting,” he says. “Horror fans can connect to so many other people that it’s almost a family atmosphere. In that group, you’re less of a freak and that made it easier to come out to those people.”

Fast-forward to June 2010. Ewert’s production company, Right Left Turn Productions, screened his short Jack’s Bad Day at the first Fears for Queers film festival in Addison. The one-day event featured all gay filmmakers in the horror genre.  His 20-minute film is about a serial killer who comes up short in his murderous proclivity. Ewert calls it a horror-comedy.

“The stuff we’ve made so far has been tongue-in-cheek,” he says. “There’s a certain comedy to Jack’s Bad Day. All his victims die right before he kills them. What it would it mean for a serial killer to have that kind of day?”

He’s wrapping up his second short The Sleepover, a 10-minute-long film that leaves the comedy out in favor of sheer fear. “Oh gosh, it’s a horrifying story about a serial killer of little girls,” he says.

So where’s the gay stuff? Ewert doesn’t see things that way. Although he’s gay and a filmmaker, his films aren’t going to “be gay” just because he is. Got it?

“The problem I have with most LGBT films is the filmmakers make them as gay as possible without much of a story,” he says. “They make films that are so narrow just to fit one community. I want to see the gay community in my films. I also want to have appeal to everyone. And I don’t write gay-centric necessarily, but I do have a script I couldn’t stop writing.”

That would be his latest short, Out Come the Wolves, and it’s both scary and topical. Ewert’s first gay horror piece is about one kid’s revenge on bullies. But Wolves is also personal to him because his own run-ins were far scarier than any movie.

“I used a lot of language in the film that if someone were to say to me and I would be pretty upset,” he says. “When a truckload of guys once chased and threatened me, it was my first dose of reality that they could literally take someone’s life. That made its way into this film. This is revenge for me.”

He’s taking baby steps with his short films, but his first full-length feature is in sight. Ewert has scripts and ideas ready to put on camera. If he runs out of ideas, well,  all he has to do is go to sleep.

“Almost everything I’ve done has come out of a dream, or as close to a dream as I can remember,” Ewert says.
Or maybe he means nightmare.

For more on Ewert’s films, visit RightLeftTurnProductions.com.

…………………………………….

Scary gay

Horror filmmaker Shawn Ewert knows his scary movies. He also knows what’s so gay about many of them. He breaks down some of his favorites for us here.

The Hunger - “David Bowie is in the film. Oh, and the really hot romance between Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve.”

The Lost Boys – “They only wanted Michael as part of the crew. The girl — secondary.”

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 – “I keep this in a special place with the coming out story and so much homoeroticism.”

Fright Night – “Evil Ed’s ostracism from the rest of the kids, finds a “home”/acceptance with a sexy older man/vampire.”

Interview With the Vampire – “OK, really? Do I have to spell this one out?”

Psycho – “Overbearing mother, issues with women, liked to stuff things. Gay.”

Dracula - “ Oh, Vlad totally had it bad for Jonathan Harker”.

Night of the Creeps – “Yeah, at the end he gets the girl, but only after his “roommate” is killed by one of the phallic aliens that gets you by going through your mouth.”

— R.L

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas