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

Arlington police now calling vandalism of lesbian couple’s SUV an anti-gay hate crime

Our Anna Waugh is headed to Arlington this morning, where police reportedly will hold a press conference to announce they’ve identified five suspects in a string of 10 incidents of vandalism that occurred Sunday, June 10. As we’ve reported, the incidents included one in which the words “FAGGOT” and “QUEERS” were spray-painted on the SUV of a lesbian couple, which led Instant Tea to ask whether it was being treated as an anti-gay hate crime. Ten days later, the answer is yes, as police say they believe “that some victims were targeted based upon their sexual orientation and, as such, this incident will be reported on the Uniform Crime Report as a hate crime based upon prejudice and bias that we believe existed when the offenses were committed.” Tom Anable, president of the LGBT advocacy group Fairness Fort Worth, is also slated to speak at the presser. We’ll have a full report later, but for now here’s what APD is saying:

The Arlington Police Department was alerted to several graffiti offenses on Sunday, June 10, 2012, that targeted a West Arlington neighborhood. These offenses generated media attention and concerned law enforcement officials.

A press conference will be held Wednesday, June 20, 2012, at 10 a.m. at Arlington Police Headquarters at 620 W. Division Street in the Police Office of Communication. The conference will address the criminal episode that occurred along with investigative process which led to the identification of five suspects.

Acting Police Chief Will Johnson will speak about the police response to the hostile messages left in an Arlington neighborhood and describe how the investigation progressed so quickly, including the community outreach efforts that helped bring this investigation to its proper conclusion. The Arlington Police Department believes that some victims were targeted based upon their sexual orientation and, as such, this incident will be reported on the Uniform Crime Report as a hate crime based upon prejudice and bias that we believe existed when the offenses were committed.

The President of Fairness Fort Worth, Thomas R. Anable, will also be in attendance at the press conference to speak briefly about the dialogue that occurred between the Arlington Police Department and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

—  John Wright

PHOTO: Vandals spray-paint anti-gay epithets on lesbian couple’s SUV in Arlington

Vandals spray-painted anti-gay epithets on a lesbian couple’s vehicle and on other vehicles in the same block in Arlington on Saturday in an apparent hate crime, according to David Mack Henderson of Fairness Fort Worth:

Many of you may have seen the enclosed photo circulating online today. Fairness Fort Worth would like to update our community on what actually occurred and also what steps have been taken since. Yesterday, a lesbian couple in Arlington, TX, discovered their car had been vandalized with large spray-painted anti-gay epithets. Sadly, they weren’t alone. Other cars of non-LGBT residents on the same block were also vandalized with sexually derogatory language.

The same-sex couple is grateful for community support and wants you to know that the Arlington Police Department responded in a timely and professional manner. Further, Acting Police Chief Will Johnson has indicated he is willing to engage in dialogue with FFW to assure continued cooperation. The APD also has at its disposal other law enforcement resources that may prove helpful regarding this particular crime.

If there is a silver lining for the same-sex couple – it’s that they are very encouraged by the support of their neighbors on the block who abhor what all of the victims are going through as much as the LGBT Community does. FFW will update you further as circumstances warrant.

Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable added this in an email:

FFW is in contact with Arlington police and victims through local representatives. The victims were contacted by Arlington police at the initiation of the police department and were not the only victims on the street who received sexually oriented vandalism. The other victims were not members of the LGBT community.  The LGBT victims are currently satisfied with the timely and professional response of the police. The neighborhood has been extremely supportive of the victims.  FFW will reach out to Arlington police and put them in touch with the DOJ to assist in reviewing their hate crimes policies and procedures, but all is progressing in a very acceptable manner.

A spokeswoman for Arlington police couldn’t immediately be reached Monday morning. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more.

—  John Wright