Dallas celebrates Harvey Milk Day on Cedar Springs

About 150 people joined a Harvey Milk Day celebration that began with speakers and performers at the Legacy of Love monument on Oak Lawn and was followed by a march down Cedar Springs Road and a reception at Sue Ellen’s. The event was organized by Hope 4 Peace & Justice.

—  David Taffet

Activists plan 2nd annual Dallas Harvey Milk celebration May 26

Participants hold candles as they listen to speakers Tuesday, May 22, during Dallas’ first-ever Harvey Milk Day celebration at the Legacy of Love Monument. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Participants hold candles as they listen to speakers May 22, 2012, during Dallas’ first-ever Harvey Milk Day celebration at the Legacy of Love Monument. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Dallas activists are having a Harvey Milk celebration again this year.

The event will include speakers, music and a staged reading of “Dear Harvey” by Patricia Loughrey, which will be the first time the play has been staged in Dallas in any form.

GetEQUAL TX regional coordinator Daniel Cates, who is directing it, said he hopes to mount a full production later in the year.

“This is a beautiful piece and one that I am excited to bring to Dallas,” he said in a statement. “Harvey’s message of hope is one that all people, LGBT and not, should hear. This will be an inspiring evening.”

“Dear Harvey” is an ensemble piece created though interviews with people who actually knew Milk, his personal and political writings, newspaper stories and letters written to him from across the nation.

The cast includes the the Rev. Carol West of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, Lynn Walters, executive director of Hope for Peace and Justice, Jeffrey Harper, Mark Calloway, Todd Whitley and Alan Dudley of the Cathedral of Hope Theatre Ministry, and local activist Natalie Johnson.

The 2nd annual event planned by GetEQUAL TX and Hope for Peace and Justice will be 7 p.m. Sunday, May 26, at Cathedral of Hope’s Interfaith Peace Chapel.

“It is important for us to celebrate and remember our history as LGBT people. No one is going to tell our story for us, we have to do it ourselves. We owe it to younger generations to let them know where they come from and how far they can go,” Cates said.

Tickets to the Dallas Harvey Milk Celebration are available here for a suggested $15 All proceeds benefit programs of Hope for Peace and Justice and GetEQUAL TX.

—  Anna Waugh

Tonight, Dallas will host its 1st-ever birthday celebration for one-time resident Harvey Milk

It’s Harvey Milk Day (he would have been 82 today), and if you haven’t already read our cover story on Milk’s time in Dallas, you should. We’ve also posted a preview of this weekend’s Harvey Milk Day Conference in Austin. But first, right here in Dallas, GetEQUAL TX will host Big D’s first-ever Harvey Milk Day Celebration on Tuesday night.

The event begins at 8:30 p.m. at the Legacy of Love Monument, at Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road. People are encouraged to bring candles or other light sources, as Milk is remembered through song, poetry and speeches.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, said the Harvey Milk Day Celebration was born out of his desire to remember and celebrate the LGBT community’s history.

“Especially in places like Texas, our government is not going to do it for us, so we have to be responsible to preserve and tell our own story, and Harvey Milk was a huge part of that,” Cates told Instant Tea. “He’s our Martin Luther King. That’s really sad that most schoolchildren across the country have no idea who he is.”

Cates said he expects a small gathering Tuesday night but hopes the event will grow in future years.

“Harvey Milk Day hasn’t celebrated outside of California really anywhere until the last three or four years,” he said. “It’s an idea that’s starting to catch on. No one’s going to tell our story for us. We need to do that ourselves.”

—  John Wright

Dustin Lance Black, Leo, weigh in on ‘J. Edgar’

You can read my review of J. Edgar here, but check out this interview by Chris Azzopardi with J. Edgar screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and actor Leonardo DiCaprio:

No milk for Dustin Lance Black — the 37-year-old filmmaker who says he feels 10 years older today — on this recent morning in a suite at a Beverly Hills hotel. Instead, the screenwriter is nursing a hangover after the premiere J. Edgar, with a bottle of water, joking that “it just means more honest answers; the filter’s down.”

Even without the last drops of Jack and Cokes flushing from his system (proof: lots of bathroom breaks), Black’s always spoke his mind. It’s how the writer has become one of the most admired LGBT activists of our generation, passionately speaking out on hot topics like Prop 8, being a lapsed Mormon and curious dinners with Taylor Lautner (more on that later).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

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

Fops & freaks

‘The Temperamentals’ makes Hay of gay Pride; ‘Earnest’ errs with irony

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

stage-1

MAKING HAY | Gay rights pioneer Harry Hay (Gregory Lush, left) embraces his inner diva to the dismay of his lover Rudy (Montgomery Sutton) in Uptown’s thoughtful ‘Temperamentals.’ (Photo by Mike Morgan)

“Temperamental” was a code name in the 1940s and ‘50s for a gay man, like “friend of Dorothy” or “confirmed bachelor.” It was a way for one gay man to know he was talking to another outside a bar, and without wearing a green carnation as in Oscar Wilde’s day. The way American soldiers until recently lived in fear of being outed under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the entirety of the gay community lived in the post-War period.

That is, until Harry Hay came along. Hay started The Mattachine Society, the first gay rights group, two decades before anyone had heard of the Stonewall Riots. He took the bold step of signing his name to his founding principles, coming out, albeit in a limited media environment, at a time when being labeled as gay was career suicide, no matter what your profession.

He may, however, be the gay hero you’d never heard of. The Mattachine Society eventually failed, a noble first volley in a war that has not yet been won. But it and Hay deserve a lot of credit they too often don’t get; like Niccolo Tesla, they were upstaged by the Edison-like sparkle of Pride marches, Harvey Milk and the rainbow flag.

…………………

With The Temperamentals, about Hay’s triumphant effort (now at the Kalita courtesy Uptown Players) Jon Marans has masterfully crafted a work with a highly cinematic flavor. Scenes jump about quickly, like fast-cut editing, taking us from the bedroom of Hay (Gregory Lush) and his lover, fashion designer Rudy Gernreich (Montgomery Sutton) to the soundstages of Hollywood where closeted director (and Judy Garland spouse) Vincente Minnelli (Paul J. Williams) lends his checkbook but not his name to the cause.

But Marans’ real victory is in capturing the textures of gay life 60 years ago with a subtle, almost literary flair. You feel the prickly hesitation when a gay man asks for Rudy’s last name, and the self-hating aversion to seeming “too femme.” There’s a conspiratorial aura that feels absolutely authentic: Hay and his compatriots were conspirators, lurking in the shadows because that’s where society insisted they reside. The bravery it took to turn on the light astonishes you even today.

Director Bruce C. Coleman and multimedia designer Chris Robinson convey the cinematic quality with minimal sets and extensive use of video components both to place us in a host of settings and suggest their nature (a seedy urinal speaks volumes), as well as provide historic context with vintage photographs, although that can get heavy handed, especially a montage at the end which, while gratifying, goes on too long. (Coleman seems devoted to the notion, why suggest something when you can spell it out in capital letters.) Still, the abstractness of the production gives it an airy, timeless sensibility.

The cast is solid — Williams, Kevin Moore and Daylen Walton all succeed in multiple roles — with Lush holding the center steady as he escorts us through the halls of gay history.

If it sounds as though The Temperamentals is more educational than entertaining, that’s unfortunate; it is both. If you want to feel a real sense of gay Pride, watch how a few men paved the way.

…………………

Nobody captured the grandeur and foolishness of society as pungently and affectionately as Oscar Wilde. He was a living paradox, someone who turned a satiric eye on the superficiality of the upper classes, yet passionately and unapologetically loved everything about them. “How useless are people who have no actual jobs!” he seemed to say. “Why can’t I be one?”

stage-2

WILDE TIME | WingSpan’s production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ aims for irony. (Photo by Lowell Sargeant)

The apotheosis of his social manifesto is The Importance of Being Earnest, a comedy of manners so sharply wrought that more than a century later, it seems as fresh and witty as a Jon Stewart bit. The script overflows with wordplay and repartee as Ernest Worthing (Andrew Milbourn) confides in his chum Algernon (C. Ryan Glenn) that although he intends to marry Algy’s cousin Gwendolen (Lisa Schreiner), with the approval of her abrasive mother, Lady Bracknell (Nancy Sherrard), his name is not, in fact, Ernest but Jack. This seemingly minor fib sets off a cascade of adventure and verbal slapsticks involving mistaken identity, money, sex and … well, just about everything. It’s a great play.

But WingSpan Theatre Company’s production, now at the Bath House Cultural Center, is not a great version. The dialogue is intact, and two performances in particular (the lovely Schreiner and Jessica Renee Russell as the comely young Cecily) capture the capricious, exuberant drama of silly people involved in silly behavior with very serious consequences perfectly; by the time Act 3 arrives, they are at full comic gallop, and the men eventually almost catch up with them.

Alas, that’s almost too late. The first act is saddled with an ugly set that lacks the requisite glamour of the era, and heavy, ill-fitting costumes that look like someone pulled them off the windows at the Von Trapp household, added a clunky bodice and washed their hands of further responsibility.

Another drawback is Sherrard’s interpretation of Lady Bracknell. The character, one of the funniest in all literature, is an imperious matriarch whose institutional arrogance rivals the monarchy itself. She cannot conceive that she is ever wrong — even when one of her beliefs directly contradicts another belief — because to acknowledge a mistake would be to undermine the social hierarchy.

But Sherrard plays her not as an aloof, self-justifying matron but as a sarcastic social climber. Seeing the first smirking roll of her eyes hits you like a 2×4 to the noggin: Is Lady Bracknell being… ironic? It hardly seems possible — she is a woman entirely bereft of irony. It’s as if she’s been modernized and lost her way entirely.

Still, there’s the music that is Wilde’s gift for the bon mot. There would never have been a Frasier without an Earnest, so if you’ve never seen a production before … well, even mediocre Wilde is better than none at all.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Harvey Milk’ screens tonight at UUC of Oak Cliff

Got Milk?

The First Tuesday Social Justice Film Festival screens the Oscar-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, tonight at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff. We might have all seen the compelling Milk, but get the real stuff in this film that details of the first elected gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The event is co-sponsored by the Dallas Peace Center

The film festival strives to present socially relevant films with a discussion following.

DEETS: UU Church of Oak Cliff, 3839 W. Kiest Blvd. 7 p.m. Free. FirstTuesdayFilms.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Black defends ‘J. Edgar’s’ gay content

Last week, I wrote about a report that Clint Eastwood was getting snippy at questions about the “gay side” of his biopic J. Edgar, about the closeted FBI director. The script was written by Oscar winning writer Dustin Lance Black (right), who has had some success with gay profiles (Milk). Well, now Black goes on the record to the film’s defense. In Next magazine, he says this:

“I wrote this with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine company, and there was never any limitation in terms of where I could or should go except they were very interested in finally figuring out the truth about Hoover. We all wanted to find out what really happened. What was his sexuality. What did it look like. I wanted to get to the truth of his political work and the things that deserve applause and things that were heinous. The gay stuff was only ever going to be a third of it. It’s not Milk, but it’s there. When I finished a draft I liked, and think I got to what the truth is, it’s a story that reflects what gay life was like pre-Stonewall, which was very different from what it looked like for Harvey Milk. That’s the script Clint and the studio read and I’ll tell you what — not only did Clint and the studio never cut or change a word, they never had a note about it. Clint said some things that were so incredibly moving that he understood the struggle young gays go through today. If anything, Clint made it even more human and universal.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Will we let our gay language die off?

Polari — a mixture of Italian, Romany and Yiddish with some backward-spelled English sprinkled in — is a unique piece of the history of LGBT culture

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

CAMP
DOLLY OMI PALONES | The Austin Babtist Women know how to camp it up. Have you ever told someone about the “campy” drag show you saw at the club? Or maybe you recommended that “butch” lesbian mechanic who did such a great job repairing your car? If so, then you have spoken Polari.

It almost knocked my ogle fakes off my eek when I aunt nelled that the bona omis and palones at Cambridge University reported Polari was in danger of dying out. Without Polari, cackle about that fantabulosa trade you vardered — you know. the omi with the vogue in his screech and the bona basket? — would never be the same.

Before you go blaming the editor for that previous unintelligible paragraph, I assure you it was mostly proper English with a smattering of Polari sprinkled in to make it understandable only by those in the know.

Polari (from the Italian parlare, “to talk”) is an old slang language that was used by actors, circus and carnival folk and the gay subculture of Brittain. It comes from a strange mix of Italian, Romany and Yiddish, with a few odd backward-spelled words added here and there.

Though it started in England, many words color the vernacular still used today in our own LGBT culture.

The term “camp” is Polari for “exaggerated.” Our expression “rough trade” also descends from this slang.

It was a colorful way for gay people to communicate without being overheard in potentially unfriendly surroundings.

But why should I care if this archaic slang dies out or not? Well, Polari is part of our heritage, every bit as much as the Stonewall Riots and Harvey Milk.

Next time you hear someone use the terms “chicken” for a younger man, or “butch” for a masculine woman or man, they are using elements of Polari. If you have ever admired a “basket” or “zhooshed” your hair, you are using remnants of that near-dead language that have seeped into our daily lexicon.

It might seem like a small thing, but I find myself fascinated with it and feel the LGBT community and culture will be a little poorer if it fades away.

So in the interest of proving the linguists at Cambridge University wrong, I offer a compiled list of useful Polari words:

Ajax — close by
Aunt nells — ears
Auntie nelly fakes — earrings
Basket — the bulge of a man’s crotch
Batts — shoes
Bijou — small
Bod — body
Bona — good
Bungery — bar, pub
Butch — masculine
Camp — effeminate or exaggerated
Capello — hat
Carsey — toilet
Chicken — young boy
Charpering omi — policeman
Cottage — public restroom
Cottaging — do the math!
Crimper — hairdresser
Cove — friend
Dish — attractive male backside
Dolly — pretty, pleasant
Drag — clothes, esp. women’s clothes
Eek — face (abbreviation of ecaf which is face backwards)
Feele — young
Feele omi — young man
Naff — bad
Ogle — eye
Ogle fakes — Glasses
Omi — man
Omi palone — effeminate man
Palone — woman
Palare — to talk
Riah — hair (backwards)
Slap — makeup
Troll — walk or wander or cruise
Vada — to walk or wander
Vogue — cigarette
Walloper — dancer
Zhoosh — fix or tidy up.

Now go out and troll off to some bona bijou bungery and palare with your coves.

If you are interested in more details on Polari, check out Paul Baker’s book, Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

HRC accused of ‘spitting in face’ of Milk’s memory

Cleve Jones, others criticize organization’s plans for ‘Action Center’ at site of slain gay rights leader’s Castro Street store

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — On the surface, the new tenant at the storefront where Harvey Milk waged his historic political campaign would seem like the last organization to anger people in the gay community.

The Human Rights Campaign, the United States’ largest gay rights lobbying group, wants to open up an information center and a gift shop in the building that would pay tribute to the slain gay rights leader.

But Milk’s friends and admirers are so incensed at the group taking over the slain San Francisco supervisor’s stomping grounds that they would rather see a Starbucks there, underscoring the tensions that exist within the various factions of the gay rights movement.

The organization is a frequent target of criticism from gay rights activists who consider its mainstream, “inside the Beltway” style ineffective. They believe the organization’s philosophy of incremental progress in the gay rights movement runs completely counter to the uncompromising message of gay pride championed by Milk.

“It’s spitting in the face of Harvey’s memory,” said AIDS Memorial Quilt founder Cleve Jones, who received his political education at Milk’s side in the 1970s.

“What’s next? Removing the Mona Lisa’s face and replacing it with the Wal-Mart smiley face?” asked Bil Browning, the founder of a popular gay issues blog.

The Washington-based nonprofit organization announced last week that it was moving its San Francisco “Action Center” and gift store into the site of Milk’s old Castro Camera.

It’s a historic site in the gay rights community. A sidewalk plaque outside that marks the spot’s historical significance and encases some of Milk’s ashes is a popular stop for visitors making pilgrimages to San Francisco gay landmarks.

In the 32 years since Milk was assassinated at City Hall along with Mayor George Moscone, the building has housed a clothing store, a beauty supply shop, and most recently, a housewares emporium.

HRC President Joe Solmonese said the new location will stock items bearing Milk’s words and image, with a portion of the proceeds going to a local elementary school named in Milk’s honor and the GLBT Historical Society. The organization also plans to preserve a Milk mural the previous tenants installed, Solmonese said.

“People are rightly protective of the legacy of Harvey Milk, and we intend to do our part to honor that legacy,” Human Rights Campaign spokesman Michael Cole-Schwartz said. “Bringing an LGBT civil rights presence to the space that has previously been several for-profit retail outlets is a worthwhile goal.”

Not according to activists like Jones and Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter who won an Oscar for Milk — the 2008 Sean Penn movie about the first openly gay man elected to a major elected office in the U.S.

During his life, Milk railed against well-heeled gay leaders he regarded as assimilationists and elitists — Black devoted two scenes in Milk to the subject. Some of the leading activists he crossed swords with went on to launch the Human Rights Campaign, which sometimes is criticized for focusing on lavish fundraisers and political access at the expense of results, Jones said.

“He was not an ‘A-Gay’ and had no desire to be an A-Gay. He despised those people and they despised him,” he said. “That, to me, is the crowd HRC represents. Don’t try to wrap yourself up in Harvey Milk’s mantle and pretend you are one of us.”

The Human Rights Campaign has been struggling to regain its credibility with gay activists who favor a more grassroots approach since at least early 2008, when the group agreed to endorse a federal bill that included job protections for gays and lesbians, but not transgender people.

The disillusionment grew later that year with the passage of a same-sex marriage ban in California. Although HRC donated $3.4 million to fight Proposition 8, the devastating loss provoked young gay activists to take to the streets and to question the organizing and messaging abilities of established gay rights groups.

Since then, HRC has been accused of taking too soft an approach with President Barack Obama and the Congress that until last month’s election was controlled by Democrats. To some, the group’s failings were epitomized by the U.S. Senate failure last week, for the second time this year, to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the U.S. military.

Black said HRC’s failure to talk to anyone close to Milk before it leased the Castro Street storefront demonstrates that it is out of touch. He and Jones think the space would be put to better use as a drop-in center for gay and lesbian youth, or if HRC partnered with another local nonprofit to ensure its sales benefit San Francisco.

“If any LGBTQ political organization is to move into Harvey’s old shop, there is a higher standard to be met, because such a move begs comparisons,” Black said. “Because it has become a tourist destination, whoever moves in that’s a political organization is in some way adopting Harvey as their own.”

HRC creative director Don Kiser understands the concerns and says he is open to suggestions, but thinks the criticism is overstated. The group obtains about one-third of the new names on its mailing lists from visitors to its retail stores in San Francisco, Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Washington. Each tourist who goes in to buy a Harvey Milk T-shirt or an HRC tote bag is a potential activist, Kiser says.

“They live in small towns in Texas and flyover states. Those are the people we need to help find the spirit that Harvey Milk had,” he said. “If they can go back and take a little of the spirit the Castro has, we will see sea changes.”

—  John Wright