SMU’s first gay dean may not lead the parade, but he sure isn’t in the closet

David Chard heads up SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education, started 3 years ago

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

David Chard
David Chard

David Chard wanted to make sure before taking the job as dean of Southern Methodist University’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education three years ago that he wouldn’t be closing himself back into a closet. That’s why he was upfront with administrators about being gay when he applied.

Before even coming to Dallas to interview, Chard asked an SMU faculty member he knew if he should reveal his sexual orientation. She told him SMU administrators all knew he was gay, but that they probably weren’t looking for someone who would be grand marshal of the gay Pride parade.

“So now,” Chard said recently, “I want to be grand marshal of the Pride parade.”

But, he added, he’ll probably take a pass on performing in drag at S4’s Rose Room with Joe Hoselton, the graduate admissions coordinator at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts who performs regularly under the stage name Jenna Skyye.

Although Chard was named the first permanent dean of the Simmons School three years ago, the school just became consolidated under one roof with the dedication of the new Simmons School building on Sept. 24. Before then, Simmons’ education, dispute resolution and counseling, and physiology departments were part of other SMU schools.

Among the various named areas of the new building is the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas Reception Area outside the dean’s office.

“About six to eight months ago, I met with the [GLFD] board and asked if they’d sponsor a fundraising event,” Chard said, explaining how the reception area got its name.

At the time Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas was involved in another project, but GLFD members made plans to raise funds with an event later, nothing their intent on the fund’s website.

Chard said GLFD received an immediate response that included donations from many alumni and faculty, which funded the reception area in time for the building’s dedication.

Chard came to Dallas from the University of Oregon. While Oregon has a reputation for being gay-friendly, he said that part of the country has more of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Chard said SMU has a more welcoming environment, with many more gays and lesbians on its faculty and staff.

SMU made Princeton Review’s list of most homophobic colleges in the country again this year. But Chard doesn’t believe the school deserves that position on the Princeton Review list, calling SMU’s administration very respectful of him and his relationship.

As an example, he said, “My partner is invited to every major event and he receives the spousal gift.”

Chard said the listing is based on student responses, and “Student responses don’t match [SMU’s] policies,” he said.

Chard did acknowledge that the ranking was helpful in demonstrating where community relationships need to be built. He said he has used the school’s rating to encourage participation by other deans in LGBT community events such as the Black Tie Dinner.

He also said that his being a member of the LGBT community has presented opportunities for SMU. The Simmons School’s counseling department provides counseling through Resource Center Dallas. And Chard said that there is a waiting list to participate in that internship program. Once Resource Center has more room in its planned new building, he’ll provide more students for the program, he said.

Resource Center Executive Director Cece Cox said SMU has made “a huge commitment” to RCD, and that the school’s connection to the Resource Center goes further than its counseling program.  Chard hired Resource Center to do diversity training for students training to be teachers and counselors.

He said that all SMU student teaching is done in Dallas. Because Dallas Independent School District has non-discrimination policies in place, it was important for his students to understand diversity issues.

Cox said the relationship with Simmons has expanded to the business school. Resource Center provides training for MBA students to understand LGBT diversity policies at most Fortune 500 companies, including most of the top Dallas-based corporations.

Chard named Cox to the Simmons School’s executive board, he said, because she represents an important group of potential donors.

“She represents gay alumni,” he said. “It’s a community we need to build a relationship with.”

“He’s incredibly innovative,” Cox said. “He’s helped SMU get involved in the community.”

Cox said that community extends far beyond just the LGBT community and that Chard has made important contributions in many areas around Dallas.

The department of dispute resolution based on the Legacy campus in Plano works with local companies such as American Airlines and J.C. Penney. The department of applied physiology works with the area’s professional sports teams and the education department is currently working with Southwest Airlines.

“We’re helping them think about the format they use for pilot training,” he said.

Simmons faculty members serve on planning committee of the upcoming Perot Science Museum that will be built in Victory Park and advised on the Children’s Adventure Garden at Dallas Arboretum.

Chard said that Simmons was never intended to be just another education school.  “We’re here to build community relationships,” he said.

Now that Simmons School is established and settling into its own home, Chard has plans to expand the school’s mission of research and beginning new programs, including a special education program.

He said special education attracts a large number of gays and lesbians to the field and thinks it’s because of the connection to helping those needing the most help.

Chard earned his own Ph.D. in special education. He began his career as a high school math and chemistry teacher. Then he joined the Peace Corps and taught in Lesotho for four years where he met his wife.

Chard joined the faculty of University of Texas, and he and his wife had three children.

After coming out, Chard accepted a position at the University of Oregon. A motivation to move back to Texas was that his children were still here.

Comparing SMU with UT, he said, “SMU is a face-to-face campus. UT is a city.”

His partner of two years recently moved from Boston to Dallas, and Chard said they are just getting settled.

Chard said Dallas pleasantly surprised him. He called the city nice, giving and gracious.

“I found Dallas to be a lot more interesting than Austin,” he said. “Great neighborhoods. The gay community is more active.”

Chard brought one of his daughters to last week’s Pride parade. He said seven students marched in an SMU entry. His daughter suggested they march with them next year.

He said he’s thinking about it — unless he’s the grand marshal.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 01, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

A conversation with Houston Mayor Annise Parker

PARKER IN DALLAS | In her only interview while in Dallas as the honorary grand marshal of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Houston Mayor Annise Parker said she doesn’t live her life just out of the closet, but out on the front lawn. Her city is competing with Moscow for a major petroleum convention, and she plans to meet up with that city’s mayor to tell him what she thinks of his treatment of gays and lesbians in Moscow. Read the complete interview with Parker online at DallasVoice.com. (Photo courtesy Steve Krueger)
Houston Mayor Annise Parker speaks during Dallas Pride on Sunday, Sept. 19. (Photo courtesy Steve Krueger)

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Houston Mayor Annise Parker said she was delighted to be asked to come to Dallas to be Honorary Grand Marshal of the Pride parade. And she was a little surprised other cities hadn’t asked her.

“It’s a little hot outside,” she said soon after arriving in Dallas. “We do our parade at night for a reason.”

Parker said she forgot to bring a hat, but she never wears hats in Houston. Her reason sounded a bit like another Texas Democrat, Ann Richards.

“My hat covers the hair,” she said. “They have to see the hair.”

Unlike many gay or lesbian politicians, she didn’t come out after successfully launching her political career. She said she started as a lesbian activist on the front lines.

“I was debating the nutballs in public,” she said.

Parker came out in high school. In college she founded Rice University’s first LGBT group and began her political career as president of the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

During each campaign, the GLBT Political Caucus and her partner, Kathy Hubbard, have always been included in her literature.

“That way I owned it,” she said. “Kathy describes our relationship as not being out of the closet but being out on the front lawn,” she said.

The election received an overwhelming amount of media coverage.

“It’s unprecedented for an election for mayor of Houston to make the front cover of the Times of India,” she said. “It was difficult to slog through. It was a distraction at the beginning.”

Parker said she doesn’t think most of Texas was as surprised by her election as the rest of the country or the world. She mentioned a number of lesbian elected officials around the state including Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

She attributed her victory to a number of factors. Houston always elects moderate Democrats, she said.

Of the seven candidates running in the general election, she started with the highest name recognition. This was her eighth election and her opponent’s first.

“He made some rookie mistakes,” she said. “He got distracted. He got in bed with the right-wing hate-mongers.”

The week before coming to Dallas, Parker had been in New York and met with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

She said he joked that he was partially responsible for her win. Had he stepped aside, Christine Quinn, the lesbian who heads New York’s city council, would have probably made a bid for office.

“All the gay money across the country would have flown to New York,” she said.

Actually, most of Parker’s donations were local, and while she didn’t have the most money for her campaign, she had a greater number of donations than her six opponents combined.

Parker seems to be settling into her new position.

She strengthened the city’s non-discrimination policies by executive order. Her revisions included gender identity and expression and extended protection to all city-run facilities.

Partner benefits for city employees can only be granted by popular vote in that city. She said she expects that the LGBT community will soon begin collecting signatures to bring that proposition to a vote and said she would like to be able to include Hubbard on her insurance.

Parker said that in effect she is making less than Bill White did as mayor because she has to pay for Hubbard’s health insurance.

With 2.2 million constituents, Parker said she couldn’t be just the gay mayor, but she would continue to use her position to advance LGBT rights when possible. She helps raise money and speaks for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund around the country and said their training was extremely helpful.

And Parker said Houston has benefited from being the largest city in the world with a lesbian mayor. Her recent trade mission to China is an example.

Earlier in the year, Parker was named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most powerful people in the world. She said she never would have made the list had she been “just another white guy.” One of China’s top trade officials was also on the list.

In August, Parker led a trade delegation to China. The Chinese trade official, she said, probably met with her because both were on the list and because of the curiosity factor. Men hold most government positions in China, she said, not out lesbians.

She said that while that was how her being a lesbian has benefited Houston, she can also use her position as a bully pulpit.

She may make a return trip to China where Houston and Moscow are competing to bring a convention to their cities. She said she hopes the mayor of Moscow is there and that Houston wins the convention over his city.

Parker said she plans on calling the Moscow mayor out on his terrible treatment of gays and lesbians. Among other things, he has canceled permits for Pride parades in the city and last weekend had his city’s best-known gay activist arrested.

With the November election approaching, Parker said she is remaining officially neutral in the state’s races.

“To represent my city I have to get along with everyone,” she said.

As mayor of the state’s largest city, Parker said she’s had more contact lately with Gov. Rick Perry than former Houston mayor Bill White.

“But I am absolutely livid that Rick Perry has an attack ad on Bill White that features me,” she said. “I don’t want to be used as a wedge in that campaign.”

Parker said that Perry used a quote of something she said while controller. She said it was not out of context and might have even been impolitic to say at the time. But she described her relationship with White as a good working relationship despite a disagreement on a particular issue at one time during their three terms in office together.

Parker maintains a high popularity rating in Houston and said she thinks her city is getting used to their new high-profile mayor. Among the reasons, she said, is that she is the only mayor of a major American city who hasn’t had to lay off any workers.

Parker did admit just one area where Dallas beats Houston — light rail. However, she said the two cities are working together to get a high-speed rail link built between them.

In January, Parker and Hubbard will celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Parker said one thing Hubbard did not share with her was the parenting gene. It took several years before she convinced Hubbard they should be parents.

They have raised three children together. Their foster son was an openly gay teen who they took in at age 16. Later, they adopted their two daughters at ages 12 and 7. Their younger daughter is 15 now and still at home. Her son, who is now 34, rode in the car in the parade with her.

Houston’s mayors serve two-year terms so Parker will be running for re-election next year.

—  Kevin Thomas

92 entries, 35,000 spectators expected for Pride parade

CLICK HERE TO READ SOME PRIDE SAFETY TIPS FROM LGBT LIAISON OFFICER LAURA MARTIN

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Pride Parade
COLORS OF PRIDE | Resource Center Dallas is one of the many community organizations that usually have a float in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

Between 30,000 and 35,000 are expected to crowd into Oak Lawn on Sunday, Sept. 19, for the 27th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Dallas’ annual LGBT Pride parade that this year celebrates the theme, “One Heart, One World, One Pride.”

Michael Doughman, executive director of Dallas Tavern Guild which presents the parade each year, said this week the parade will include about 92 entries. It will travel the traditional route, with entries lining up along Wycliff Avenue and then moving down Cedar Springs Road to Turtle Creek Boulevard before turning left to wind up at Lee Park.
The Festival in Lee Park takes place at the conclusion of the parade.

Doughman said that members of Youth First Texas, once again the parade beneficiary, will lead the way, carrying the parade banner. They will be followed by a color guard consisting of former military servicemembers from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and then a mounted color guard provided by the Texas Gay Rodeo Association.

Then comes the “VIP section,” which will include grand marshals Paul Lewis and Erin Moore, Houston Mayor Annise Parker as honorary grand marshal, and then local city and county officials, such as Police Chief David Brown, Fire Chief Eddie Burns Sr., members of the Dallas City Council and Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

“We understand that Mayor Parker’s son will be riding in the parade with her, and I think by now everybody knows that [Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Bill White will be walking with the Stonewall Democrats in the parade,” Doughman said.

“I think most of the entries will probably follow our theme this year, which is really all about unity,” he added. “This theme matches the goal of our parade and our community, which is unifying our community and our people.”

Doughman said there is “nothing really new” about the way the parade will happen this year.

“We just work to make it run as smoothly as possible and take out any hiccups or delays. We just want to keep it moving as smoothly and steadily as possible down the road so that the spectators are entertained,” he said.

There will, however, be something new for the Festival in Lee Park. Food services during the festival this year will be handled exclusively by Brinker, the parent company for restaurant chains On The Border, Chili’s and Maggiano’s.

“We really liked the idea of having these recognizable brands out there for the food. We think it is a real step up,” he said. “We think they will do very well, and on top of that, they have agreed to give us a portion of their proceeds to give back to our beneficiary.”

This means there will be a “much larger” food and beer pavilion in the upper part of the park, giving those attending the festival better and quicker service, Doughman said.
Voice of Pride top finishers Mel Arizpe, Laura Carrizales and Juliana Jeffrey will perform during the festival, as will Anton Shaw and her band.

Derek Hartley of “The Derek and Romaine Show” on Sirius XM OutQ Radio will emcee the festival.

Thanks to the economic recession and the ever-increasing costs and requirements of staging the event, finances have created some problems for the parade in recent years. This year, though, things are looking up, Doughman said.

“I think we are OK this year. We had some real struggles in 2008, and last year was still pretty tight because of the economy. But we found some extra sponsors this year, and we did well in raising money during the Voice of Pride competition this year,” Doughman said. “Our main goal each year is to be able to give our beneficiary the amount we have committed to and still be able to pay for the parade and maintain the administrative costs of the Tavern Guild through the rest of the year.”

Doughman said the Tavern Guild doesn’t really generate any revenue until the later stages of VOP and then when the entry fees for the parade start rolling in each year. “So we have to balance everything out to have enough money to cover expenses through the rest of the year,” he said.

“Actually, we are paying a lot of the bills that are due this week, and we will be able to pay the balance of the expenses — things like the cost of added security, renting barricades, cleanup and sanitation costs — right after the parade,” he said.

Doughman noted that the city has recently increased the requirements applicants must meet to get a parade permit, but still the Tavern Guild shouldn’t be looking at any red ink when it is all said and done.

“We won’t be rolling in it by any means. But we did see enough light on the horizon this year to go ahead and invest in new flags and flag holders to put up along Cedar Springs. The old flags were so beat up and faded that we didn’t even put them up last year,” he said.

“We never have an excess of money after the parade because the costs of putting it on are so significant, but we should be OK this year,” Doughman said.

One way the Tavern Guild has cut costs, he added, is by not paying to bring in celebrity guests and performers.

“I think people enjoy the day, whether there are celebrities here or not. We just want to give the people a good parade and a good festival and let them have a great time. That’s why they come out in the first place.”

The 27th Annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Will Phillips speaks at Pride parade

Will Phillips may be only 10 years old, but he is a young man with a lot of courage and a unique voice — and a lot of fans and supporters in his hometown of Fayetteville, Ark.

When it was first announced last week that Will had been named grand marshal of the Northwest Arkansas Gay Pride Parade, right-winger Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, claimed that it was “a form of child abuse” and suggested that Will had been “brainwashed” into supporting LGBT equality, and that he was doing nothing more than “parroting the nonsense he has been told by manipulative adults.”

Well, watch this video of Will speaking at the parade in Fayetteville, and it’s pretty obvious that he definitely has a mind of his own, and that he is perfectly capable of forming his own well-reasoned opinions.

—  admin

Another honor for Constance

Constance McMillen made headlines around the country when she sued officials at her school, Itawamba Agricultural

Constance McMillen

Constance McMillen

High School in Mississippi because they refused to let her wear a tuxedo to her senior prom and take her girlfriend as her date.

The sage of Constance’s prom — including the school’s decision to cancel it altogether and then deciding to let folks sponsor a “private prom,” and winding up with school officials directing Constance and her girlfriend to what turned out to be a “fake” prom while most of their classmates went to a different party across town — has made Constance McMillen practically an LGBT-household name.

Now she’s likely to become even more famous: She has been chosen as one fo the grand marshals for the 41st annual LGBT Pride March on June 27 in New York City, the oldest — and one of the largest — LGBT Pride parades in the country.

McMillen, 18, said: “I never dreamed so many people would support my fight to take my girlfriend to the prom, much less that I’d end up being asked to be a Grand Marshal at NYC Pride. I’m really honored and touched to be asked to be part of this celebration.”

—  admin