Let’s hear it for Laura Lee Bishop!

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Laura Lee Bishop

Laura Lee Bishop is a pop/CW singer from Gilmer, Texas, who records on the Tommy Boy/AM:Racket label. As you can see from the video above, she is a pretty young woman with a really nice voice who, like other young female pop/CW singers, likes to sing about finding “A Real Man.”

So you probably wonder why I am writing about her here on Instant Tea, the blog for Dallas Voice, the LGBT newsmagazine. Simple: I want to say thanks to Ms. Bishop for the way she schooled at least one East Texas bigot on the issue of hate crimes.

It all started when a man named Elliott Dean wrote a letter, titled, “Must Get It Out,” to his local newspaper, The Gilmer Mirror, expressing his disdain and disgust for those gays and lesbians who insist on living out in the open, and not hiding their sinfulness away so that he and other God-fearing folk don’t have to see it.

I’m not gonna reprint the whole letter here. You can follow the link and read it for yourself. But here’s just a small taste: “Now look, I don’t care if you want to sleep with your dog or mule. I just don’t care; it is none of my business. The trouble is you keep making it my business. You continue to bring it into my living room.”

(Just for the record, neither I nor any of my friends — LGBT or straight — have ever expressed any desire to sleep with a dog or a mule or any other kind of animal. And I can tell you for sure that I have no intention of ever taking anything into Elliott Dean’s living room; that’s one of the very last places I’d ever want to be. And if he is talking about LGBT people on the TV, well, I am pretty sure even he can figure out how to use the remote long enough to change the channel or even turn the TV off.)

After he got through explaining how God ordained marriage as between one man and one woman, and exactly what the Bible says, Mr. Dean went on to talk about “One more thing: hate crimes.” He asked, “Is that one of those oxy somethings?” and went to explain how crime is crime, and how he should have the right to hate whoever he wants, no matter what color their skin is.

And if that weren’t enough, Elliott Dean added one more subject: use of “the N word.” He just can’t understand why some black people would be upset by the use of that word. Sticks and stones may break bones, Mr. Dean reminded us, but words can’t hurt. I mean, surely if somebody told him he is an ignorant racist bigotted asshole, he wouldn’t even blink an eye.

Ok. So I am really not the least bit surprised that the local newspaper in a very small East Texas town would get a letter to the editor like Mr. Dean’s. And I am not surprised that the newspaper would print that letter. But I do admit — and yes, this is probably a kind of prejudice on my behalf — I was surprised that the very first comment written in response was one that so efficiently took Elliott Dean to task for his uneducated, ill-informed bigotry. I was even more surprised when I realized that the young woman who wrote the response was an up-and-coming singer looking to make a career in CW music. Folks like that have always tended to steer clear of such controversy because of the damage it might do to their careers.

But Laura Lee Bishop apparently had no such qualms. “I find it sad I must explain the definition of a hate crime and how it is different from other crimes, but it appears after Elliot Dean’s many years on this earth, he failed to grasp the concept,” her response started out. After explaining exactly why a hate crime is not just like any other crime, the young singer told Dean, “You look extremely foolish. Please educate yourself. You are far too old to have missed the boat on this one. Next time you write one of your little letters, you should do a some research and make sure you understand what you’re talking about.”

So Bravo Laura Lee Bishop! You go, girl! I am going to be watching your career from here on out, and yeah, I’ll buy your music, too. Thank you for having the guts to stand up for what’s right.

And by the way, let’s hear it for Laura Lee Bishop’s sister, Rachel, too. When someone using the name “Gilmer Pride” responded by threatening to boycott Laura Lee’s music, sister Rachel let ‘em have it:

“Why don’t you quit hiding behind your fake name on here and say who you are? Not only are you a bigot, but you are also a coward. Someone with your ignorance wouldn’t know good music so, yes, she passes on giving a damn whether the likes of you listens to it. The amount of ignorance in Gilmer is outstanding.
Love,
Rachel Anne Bishop, daughter of the late David Bishop and badass attorney, Karen D. Bishop, sister of the amazing talent, Laura Lee Bishop — Are you jealous much?”

—  Tammye Nash

16 LGBT rights organizations express grief over Michael Brown death

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An undated photo of Michael Brown, an 18 year old black killed by a police officer, in Ferguson, Mo.

Sixteen LGBT organizations signed onto an open letter decrying the tragic murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18 year old black man killed by a police officer this week in Ferguson, Missouri. The accounts ofd the incident of the events, but it’s a sobering reminder, according to the August 12 letter, of the all too familiar experience of harassment and violence toward marginalized communities.

Among them are the Human Rights Campaign, Soulforce and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The 16 organizations denounced the brutality and called on “the national and local media to be responsible and steadfast in their coverage of this story and others like it — racialized killings that have marred this nation since the beginning of its history.” See a copy of the letter here.

The St. Louis suburb has been in turmoil following his death. Numerous leaders and organizations have called for investigations amidst the ongoing anger and violence sweeping the city. Attorney General Eric Holder said he has opened an investigation.

 

—  James Russell

Queer Index ranks 35 gay-friendly U.S. cities. So how does Dallas do?

IMG_1746The Queer Index is a survey of the 35 most LGBT-friendly cities in the U.S., based on 32 publicly available data and 16 “lifestyle metrics.” The top three are pretty much what you’d expect: Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco. But how does Dallas fare?

Not so well, actually. Our hometown didn’t even crack the top 35 — and neither did Texas city Houston and Arizona’s Phoenix (all three are in the top 10 population cities in the U.S.). Indeed, the city farthest south on the list was Denver, Colo. — hardly a stalwart of ol’ Dixie.

Rounding out the top 10 are Des Moines, Iowa (No. 4), Chicago (5), Seattle (6), Albany, N.Y. (7), Rochester, N.Y. (8), Denver (9) and Madison, Wisc. (10).

Of course, the metrics themselves are fairly arbitrary. For instance, one of the 16 “key lifestyle metrics” is “availability of hookups;” a separate one is “availability of casual sex.” I’m not sure “sluttiness” and “friendliness” are comparable, but there you have it.

There were some interesting statistics, such as the highest percentage of single lesbians are in Memphis, that Boston has the highest number of anti-gay hate crimes and that more than 2,000 same-sex “casual encounters” are posted on Craigslist every day in NYC alone.

The survey was undertaken by a new media company called Vocativ; you can read the entire index here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas County DA Watkins announces LGBT Task Force

Prosecutors will go through sensitivity training to ensure better communication with the LGBT community

Craig-Watkins

EQUALITY | Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins announced Friday he established an LGBT Task Force that will help his office better communicate with the community. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Steve Ramos  |  Senior Editor

In a move that demonstrates the growing LGBT influence in public policy, the Dallas County District Attorney’s office has created a task force that will address how that office interacts with the community.

“Several months back, I took the opportunity to meet with leaders in the LGBT community and discovered there was a communication gap between many law enforcement agencies and the LGBT community,” Dallas County DA Craig Watkins said. “I was disappointed to hear that many victims of domestic violence or hate crimes were afraid to speak out because they feared lack of a law enforcement response.”

The task force, comprised of attorneys, an investigator, a senior caseworker and a spokesperson was established to ensure there is communication between the DA and the community, Watkins said. He added that it goes into effect Friday.

Cece Cox, Resource Center CEO, said there have been times when the community has faced discrimination and bias from law enforcement and legal institutions dealing with hate crimes and family violence. But she is hopeful that the task force will help eliminate that problem.

“The task force, along with the liaison positions that currently exist at Dallas Police Department and the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office, is a positive step toward ensuring that LGBT persons will be treated with dignity and respect,” she said, “and that hate crimes against them will be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted.”

Watkins’ office isn’t without an LGBT presence. His community relations consultant, James Tate, is out, and he contributed to the dialogue that created the task force.

“I had an ongoing discussion with the DA, telling him how important it is for us (LGBT) to be heard and that there are people who are apprehensive about reporting crimes,” Tate said. “With the creation of the task force and other initiatives the office is planning, it makes me feel incredibly proud to work with such a progressive and maverick leader.”

The task force’s operations will begin with an initial sensitivity training for all prosecutors in the DA’s office, with additional future training for new prosecutors. Ellyce Lindberg, chief of intake and grand jury, will conduct the training.

“Mr. Watkins’ new initiative is just one more of his innovative steps toward protecting and respecting victims of crime,” Lindberg said. “It comes at an ideal time in his administration due to his new electronic case management system, which is soon to be implemented.”

Lindberg added that there never has been a systematic way to track the kind of cases inherent to the LGBT community, but with the ability to electronically manage cases, those that have been designated as part of the task force initiative will be better monitored.

As of press time, the DA’s office didn’t have the statistics available that would indicate how critical the lack of communication has been, but Watkins affirmed he’s prepared to correct it.

“As Martin Luther King Jr. stated, ‘A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’ and this Task Force will assist in ensuring that members of our community receive protection from criminal harms, regardless of their orientation or identity/expression,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 7, 2014.

 

—  Steve Ramos

Dallas stats missing from FBI hate crime report

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The FBI released its 2012 hate-crime statistics, but figures for five of Texas’ largest cities are missing.

Fort Worth reported 14 incidents, but there are no statistics for Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso or Austin. FBI spokeswoman Katie Chamount said Texas as well as New Jersey missed the publishing deadlines. Complete figures should be available in January.

Nationally, 5,796 hate crimes were reported with 1,135 of them based on sexual orientation.

At first glance, the report shows Texas had a significant drop in hate crimes. A comparison shows 1,089 bias-motivated crimes in California, compared to only 60 in Texas.

Chamount explained there are two reporting systems. Across Texas, 65 agencies, including Fort Worth, used one system and those incidents were reported in the national figures. Of Fort Worth’s 14 reported incidents, three were based on sexual orientation. Lewisville reported two and Rowlett had one based on sexual orientation.

Highland Park, Flower Mound, Frisco and Rockwall as well as DFW Airport reported there were no bias-related crimes in their jurisdictions.

In addition to sexual orientation, the hate-crime categories include race, religion, disability and ethnicity/national origin.

Texas Department of Public Safety also reports hate crime statistic. The DPS report contains information the FBI has not received, but the agency expects to have it in January.

DPS reported 170 incidents. Of those, 53 were anti-LGBT, the second largest group after race. Although that number is three times what the FBI reported, it’s still low compared to California or the 741 bias-motivated incidents reported by New York.

DPS lists 30 hate crimes reported by Dallas, 17 by San Antonio, 13 by Houston, 6 by Austin and 4 by El Paso.

—  David Taffet

Tennessee man beaten in alleged anti-gay hate crime

imagesA Paris, Tenn., business owner told police that during an alleged robbery, assailants beat him while calling him anti-gay slurs and then wrote one on his forehead with a permanent marker before he was knocked unconscious.

WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tenn., reported on Thursday that 32-year-old Joe Williams, the owner of Healthy Thyme, was robbed of $1,500, and the store was set on fire. Williams told The Paris Post-Intelligencer that a man had entered the store earlier that day and asked him about his “sexual preference.” The man told Williams he couldn’t shop at the store if the owner was gay.

Williams told police a man later entered the store through the employee’s entrance, asking for something to help his sick daughter, according to the Post-Intelligencer. Williams recommended a product, and when he reached down to get it, the man allegedly began beating him.

Paris Police Sgt. Michael Ramos reported Williams had a “homosexual word written in black across his forehead.”

The police report also indicates two other men, both wearing ski masks and black jackets, joined the first man in hitting Williams. Williams told officers he was hit until he was unconscious, and when he woke up, he saw the men pouring gasoline near the front of the building.

Williams barricaded himself in the store’s office and then went next door to call police after he saw the robbers leave the business.

“I just fear for my life,” Williams said. “I’m to the point now where I’m worried to even go outside. I live my life as a gay man and wasn’t ashamed of it, and I just feel that I was targeted for that for that reason.”

—  Steve Ramos

Straight Nebraska man attacked after defending gay friends

Ryan Langenegger

Ryan Langenegger

OMAHA — A straight man is recovering from injuries he sustained after being attacked for protecting his gay friends.

Ryan Langenegger told WOWT-TV he and his two friends, Josh Foo and Jacob Gellinger, were at a restaurant when three men began to harass them. Gellinger was in drag.

“We were eating, and there was three guys watching us, and one of them stepped up and was a foot or two away from my friend [Gellinger], and he just kept saying, ‘Should I? Should I?’” Langenegger said.

The men told Gellinger he was disgusting, using “more colorful language.” When Langenegger and his friends decided to leave the restaurant, the three men followed them. Langenegger said they prevented them from getting in their car.

“I stepped in and said, ‘Hey, we aren’t looking for any trouble’, and as I’m talking to him, one of his friends from the corner of my eye comes up and hits me in the face, and I stand up, and he also swings at my other friend and misses, and I just look at him and say, ‘Why? There’s no reason for this.’’

Langenegger has facial bruises, two chipped teeth and a large gash on his forehead. He said taking the punch “was worth it to stick up for my friends.”

Surveillance camera footage and credit card information could be used to identify the assailants.

—  Steve Ramos

From South Africa to East Texas, we must stand against injustice

Screen shot 2013-06-17 at 11.29.54 AMWhy would I, a gay black man from the piney woods of East Texas, choose to fight for justice on behalf of a woman from a South African township who is believed to have been murdered for being a lesbian activist? Because I, too, have lived with hateful prejudice.

Why should I dwell on injustices occurring in a place I’ve never been, to a person I never met? Because if I don’t, no one will.

Noxolo Nogwaza was a 24-year-old black South African lesbian LGBT rights activist who was brutally beaten, raped and stabbed to death in 2011. Three years later, no progress has been made in investigating her murder and Noxolo’s killer(s) have not been arrested or brought to justice.

She was a mother, soccer fan and an activist with the Ekurhuleni Pride Organizing Committee that aims to empower and inform LGBT people and combat hate crimes against them.

Despite the risks of being “out” as a lesbian, Noxolo lived a full and assertive life. She chose activism despite knowing homophobia and hate crimes against LGBT individuals are common in many parts of South Africa, where taunts, insults and threats are often part of an inescapable reality. Furthermore, in the last five years, there have been at least 10 cases reported of rape followed by murder of LGBTI individuals in South African townships.

I first learned about what happened to Noxolo from Amnesty International. Through their annual global letter-writing campaign Write for Rights, Amnesty inspired hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world to demand justice for Noxolo. LGBT people face such violence everywhere: Whether they live in a small town in Texas, New York City or South Africa. Here in the U.S. I witnessed and experienced the violence and pain faced by many LGBT individuals around the world.

While generally society is becoming more accepting of LGBT individuals, there still remains much stigma, including in my own black community. Some contend that homosexuality contradicts traditional Christian beliefs, family values and gender roles and that it “goes against what it means to be black.” Perhaps I feel compelled to tell people about Noxolo because I feel connected to her through that shared feeling of alienation by people in a close-knit community. As black people, as gay people, we all experience the same struggle for inequality.

It is important that together as a global community we counter the prejudices that are deeply ingrained in our culture. It is important to understand the universal nature of discrimination and adhere to an obligation to speak out against these injustices regardless of geographic barriers. We are all responsible for each other.

Noxolo was a black woman and a lesbian. She was a mother and a soccer fan. Her assault and murder are unspeakable, and her family should not have to wait a minute more for justice. It’s up to you and me to stand together and fight as a collective force against injustices, refusing to accept the status quo set forth before us by bigotry and intolerance. If we don’t, no one will. If we do, powerful things will happen.

Kendrick Perkins is a college student at Stephen F. Austin State University and an activist with Amnesty International USA.

—  John Wright

‘Fag’ spray-painted on front door of gay Oak Lawn resident’s condo

The victim’s door

A gay resident of the Tanglewood Condominiums on Cedar Springs Road reports that someone spray-painted “Fag” on the front door of his unit Sunday night (photo above).

The resident, who asked that his name be withheld, told Instant Tea he was hosting a get-together that evening and one of his guests noticed the graffiti as they were leaving.

The resident said whoever is responsible for vandalizing his door also spray-painted “Pussy Ass” on a vehicle in the parking lot of Tanglewood, which is not gated.

The vehicle belonged to someone who was visiting another Tanglewood resident. The owner of the vehicle called police and filed a report listing the damage to their vehicle at $1,500.

The resident whose door was spray-painted said he went to bed before police arrived on Sunday but planned to follow up by filing his own report and providing photos to police tonight. He said he was able to easily remove the spray-paint from his door, but has never before experienced anything similar in seven years living at Tanglewood.

“Everyone that lives there knows it’s a gay neighborhood, and we’ve never had any problems with tenants or homeowners,” the resident said. “I just think it’s someone stupid and trying to get attention. I don’t think it’s really motivated by dislike of homosexuals. That’s just my opinion; I could be wrong. We’re hoping that it’s isolated and a one-time thing, but we definitely want to report it and get the word out in case it happens at adjacent complexes or other buildings.”

—  John Wright

Equality Texas issues statement in response to Clarendon hate crime

Equality Texas issued the following statement this afternoon in response to the hate crime involving a death threat that was painted on a gay couple’s porch in the Texas Panhandle:

Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers should not have to live in fear in their own home simply because of their sexual orientation. No Texan should ever have to live in fear of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

The Clarendon Enterprise recently published an advertisement from the Clarendon Church of Christ entitled “The Homosexual Movement.” In the ad, Minister Chris Moore erroneously equates homosexuality with pedophilia and polygamy.

Clarendon Church of Christ Pastor Chris Moore is entitled to his own beliefs, and his freedom of speech is protected by the United States Constitution. However, it is a fact that when people teach or preach homophobia and anti-gay rhetoric, it can inflame people to the point of violence.

Equality Texas urges Donley County Sheriff Charles “Butch” Blackburn to conduct a thorough investigation of this bias-motivated incident. Anyone with information about this crime should contact the Donley County Sheriff’s office at 806-874-3533.

—  John Wright