Santa vs. homophobes?

OK, so I know Christmas is over now— even if you celebrate all 12 days of it, Christmas is over. And I figure there are at least some folks who don’t want to hear another word about anything to do with Christmas for at least another 10 months.

But when I got an email this morning promoting a new book called Santa Claus Conquers the Homophobes, I decided that a little more Christmas would be ok. Because I had to find out what this was all about. Well, one of the things I quickly discovered is that Santa Claus Conquers the Homophobes is the second book in a series by fantasy/horror fiction writer Robert Devereaux. The first one is called Santa Steps Out: A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups.

First, a little bit about Devereaux: He has written eight novels, one collection of works that includes a novella and several shorter works, and scads and scads of short fiction. His first novel, Deadweight, has been described by a critic as “Stephen King meets splatterpunk” and “American Psycho with a heart.” And goth horror writer Poppy Z. Bright — a trans man whose name is now Billy Martin and a writer whose works often include LGBT characters — said of Devereaux, “I wish I could hope to ever attain one-thousandth the perversity of Robert Devereaux’s toenail clippings.”

For someone like me who is a Poppy Brite fan, that is high praise indeed for Mr. Devereaux.

Then I started reading summaries of Devereaux’s Santa books, both of which are available on Amazon.com.

Now, here’s the quick summary of Santa Steps Out: One day Santa starts remembering that in a past life he was the Greek god Pan, famous for his sexual powers. That leads him to revive his lusty ways, and he ends up having a fling with the Tooth Fairy, who apparently has also been involved with the Easter Bunny. I think that the Easter Bunny gets jealous and tattles to Mrs Claus and things end up with a big showdown between Mrs. Claus and the Easter Bunny.

Then there’s book two, Santa Conquers the Homophobes. In this one, Santa has a new step-daughter, Wendy, who can see the future of specific children, and share with them her visions of what’s to come. Santa and Wendy team up, with a little help from God the Father, to try and prevent the suicide of Jamie Stratton, a gay teen growing up in a homophobic environment who is bullied by homophobic classmates. Apparently, that effort includes Santa and Wendy visiting the bullies to try and get them to mend their bigoted ways, and also to eradicate homophobia entirely

Santa and Wendy also enlist the aid of the “persuasive” Easter Bunny to accomplish their goal, but the Tooth Fairy and her “loathsome imps” are on the other side of the battle, trying to keep Santa and Wendy from saving Jamie while also trying to make homophobia even worse than ever before.

OK. So those books both sound like something I would enjoy reading. And if the plot summaries weren’t enough to convince me, there’s the cover art for Santa Conquers the Homophobes, pictured above left, which depicts a hot, naked woman literally pooping gold. I think that may be the Tooth Fairy. Why are the hot girls who can poop gold always evil?

Anyway, both books are available at Amazon.com, and both books have downloadable Kindle versions. I think I’ll buy them and read them this weekend. If I do, I’ll let you know if you should read them, too.

But there’s one thing I am sure of, even before I read the books: This ain’t your grandma’s Santa Claus!

—  admin

Queen lantern

tube-1Texas native Zimmer Barnes is a real-life crime-fighter, bringing gay bashers to justice in the HBO doc ‘Superheroes’

Last year’s film Kick-Ass saw a high school comic book nerd don an improvised superhero outfit and take to the streets to fight crime (albeit, as the title indicates, getting his ass kicked plenty in the process). This year’s satirical movie comedy Super also saw an ordinary schlub take matters (and a wrench) into his own home-made costumed hands, playing heroic vigilante Crimson Bolt, with a psychotic Ellen Page as sidekick to boot.

However, director Michael Barnett and openly gay producer Theodore James learned that the concept of everyday folk taking to the streets as real-life crime fighters and altruistic guardians of justice isn’t altogether fictitious: There are several hundred real-life superheroes registered in online communities, almost a dozen of whom are profiled in the documentary, Superheroes, which debuts on HBO Monday.

One of the crime-fighters profiled is openly gay Zimmer Barnes, aka Zimmer, a member of the Brooklyn-based “fantastic foursome” New York Initiative (NYI), which is seen in the documentary attempting to bait and get righteous on local homophobes, helping patch up accident victims (Zimmer’s day job is as an EMT) and stop a would-be drunk— and we’re talking seriously wasted —  driver from getting behind the wheel.

Born in Victoria, Texas, in 1988, and having attended high school in Austin between 2003–06, Zimmer moved to Brooklyn in 2009 to form the NYI with roommates T.S.A.F, Z, and Lucid.

Zimmer spoke by phone about being part of the documentary, how this real-life superhero movement started (it was a group of LGBTs!), and whether “it gets better” when you fight back with a costumed alter-ego.

— Lawrence Ferber

tube-2
FETISH FOR JUSTICE | Zimmer, left, teams with other members of New York Initiative, though he refuses to wear a mask — he’s out of the closet, he says, why go back in by pretending to be someone else?

Dallas Voice: When did you first get inspired to become Zimmer the superhero? What triggered the epiphany? Zimmer: I read a news article in 2003 or so about another crime fighter, Terrifica. She’d been date-raped and didn’t want any woman to suffer that ordeal, so she would go into bars and interfere with guys trying to pick up drunk girls. She would get in the way and tell the guy, “This girl isn’t going home with you,” and she would do this in a gold sequined mask and red cape. She’d give that woman every chance she could to get away and in one interview, she said a lot of times girls would say, “I’m not being taken advantage of, I want to do this,” and then she would give them a condom and say, “At least make a bad decision not be a worse decision,” and leave them alone. That was amazing to me. In her spare time she was doing this incredible thing and that really resonated with me, and there were a lot of people doing their own thing in every corner of the world and it was something I wanted to be a part of.

How did you and the NYI become part of Superheroes? We were getting some media requests and turned down a lot of them. But I agreed to sit down with [the producers, Theodore James and Mike Barnett] and they convinced me they had good intentions. We met at a coffee shop in Brooklyn and at one point I left Mike and T.J. to talk amongst themselves, but what they didn’t know was that my NYI colleagues were sitting behind them listening to what they were saying. We learned that even when they had the opportunity to talk behind my back they didn’t say anything negative. So that’s the reason we decided to do the documentary.

What was the actual shooting process like, and what sort of accommodations did you have to make to let them bring cameras along on patrols and fag basher-baiting operations? We weren’t always patient with that process, but Mike was really innovative. His approach and how he was going to shoot these un-shootable scenes, it worked out for the best. There’s something actually called a HeroCam — it’s a waterproof HD cam — I had that on a chest strap for a lot of missions. It’s just about the size of a pager or cell phone. It was a unique experience.

What sorts of things didn’t make it into the documentary and what else is NYI up to these days? A lot of stuff ended up on the editing room floor. We do a lot of outreach to homeless organizations — there’s a tunnel people live underneath in the Bronx and we brought supplies to them, but that didn’t make it in. Because in New York it gets freezing during winter, we try to collect and hoard blankets and medical supplies throughout spring and fall and when it gets cold we try to hand out all that stuff. Today the NYI is undergoing several missions protecting the West Village from muggers and providing self-defense information and outreach to sex workers. We’ve got exciting stuff in the works but I can’t talk about it yet.

How does your being gay fit in to your being a superhero? In the documentary you say something to the tune of you choose not to wear a mask because you don’t want to be closeted.  I don’t think it fits in a huge way. It’s never been a secret. I came out in high school. I didn’t necessarily want to be an embodiment or speak for an entire community but it’s something I’ve never made a secret of.

How would you feel about a gay teen who takes on school bullies and fag bashers a la Kick-Ass instead of just the pacifistic ‘It Gets Better’ approach? While everyone’s situation is different, I strongly recommend to anyone who might be a victim of violence to have a strong education in self-defense. I’ve broken up dozens of fights and defended myself from blows without ever having to throw a punch — so far, anyway. But that doesn’t mean I don’t practice. Speak respectfully and pack a knock-out punch.

Which comic book superhero do you feel is the most inspiring for LGBTs? Chris Claremont’s 1970–80s run on X-Men is a great read for anyone feeling different or an outcast. There’s a lot to be said for geek culture being ahead of the curve, and Claremont really nails it on diversity as a strength, not a weakness. If you want to read greatly written LGBT characters, I highly recommend Ed Brubaker’s and Will Pfeifer’s run on Catwoman as well as Gail Simone’s Secret Six.

Are other LGBT people doing what you’re doing? Yeah, there are. The earliest [superhero group] we know of was actually a gay and lesbian group in San Francisco, the Lavender Panthers. There was a lot of gay bashing going on, and [a gay Pentecostal Evangelist named] Rev. Ray Broshears was being harassed. The police didn’t do anything so they formed their own group and looked around for gay-bashings and handled it. It’s not something I would believe, it sounds like a comic book, but Time Magazine did an article on these guys in 1973. They were around before the Guardian Angels. As far as I know they were the original group.

Do your friends and family know about your alter-ego? I don’t have an alter-ego: Zimmer is my real first name. I don’t have a lot of secrets with friends. My friends are pretty weird. My mother is an attorney and her mother was a police officer, so criminal justice as a career is part of the family. I think my mom was supportive of it.

And boyfriends? I was dating during the course of making the documentary. We broke up and [my work as a ­superhero] was one of the reasons why. They were really worried about what I was doing and the more dangerous aspects.

And what do you want people who watch Superheroes to come away from the experience with? I want people to realize that even a single person’s effort and passion can make a huge impact. There’s something exciting about using your time and energy to help other people.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Texas House committees and pro-LGBT bills

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Legislative Queery

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has finally announced the committee assignments for the 82nd Texas House. As I predicted last month the partisan breakdown of the committee chairs roughly reflects the distribution of party control in the House with 11 Democratic chairs and 25 Republicans (not including the four select and joint committee chairs, all Republicans).

House committees that queer Texans will want to watch very carefully:

Public Education — Will get the anti-bullying bills. Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, scheduled the hearing for HB 1323 (last session’s anti-bullying bill) very late last session, but he did schedule a hearing and the committee eventually voted to send the bill to the floor for a vote of the whole House. Unfortunately, time ran out last session (more info on HB 1323 is here). Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, whose HB 224 is expected to be the water bearer for anti-bullying bills, is on the committee this session.

Public Health – Will get HB 405, which would allow same-sex parents to get accurate birth certificates for their children. Chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst, R-Austin, was visibly moved by testimony last session on this bill. Let’s hope that causes her to schedule it for an early hearing.

Criminal Jurisprudence – Will get HB 604, the repeal of Texas’s unconstitutional sodomy law and HB 172, the study of the effectiveness of the Texas Hate Crimes Act. Chairman Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, has a solid record of voting in the best interest of queer Texans, but repealing the unconstitutional sodomy law, however common-sense, is going to be a hard sell. Plus, with virulent homophobes Wayne Christian, Bill Zedler and Will Hartnett on the committee, it seems unlikely that common sense will beat out bigotry. The Hate Crimes study has a better chance. It made it out of committee last session, but it’s hard to predict what will happen this session.

Insurance – Will get HB 208 prohibiting insurance companies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Chairman John Smithee, R-Amarillo, hasn’t let this bill through in past sessions, and I’d be shocked if he lets it through this session. Smithee takes every chance he can get to hurt queer Texans. He’s not likely to pass this chance up, either.

State Affairs – Will get HB 665, which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This bill, or a version of it, has been filed every session for over a decade, and it never gets a hearing. While new Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, is an immense improvement over old Chairman Burt Solomons, it’s unlikely that this bill will go anywhere.

Now that we have committees, bills are going to start moving left and right. The 82nd regular session of the Texas Legislature is finally getting going!

—  admin

DADT is dead. But opposition lives on

Marshal vows legislation to keep gays out of Virginia’s National Guard; Graham threatens to block START treaty ratification in revenge over repeal of DADT

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

I was wrong. I was very skeptical of the chances of getting “don’t ask, don’t tell” repealed in the lame duck Congress, yet they did it. Yes, Hardy, there is a Santa Clause!

The vote for repeal, which was slightly bipartisan (eight Republicans voted for repeal), was a great holiday surprise. But what comes as no surprise is the vehemence with which opponents vow to fight on, even after they have lost on this one.

Already the voices of hard-core homophobes are chiming in. Virginia Delegate Bob Marshal says he will introduce legislation to prevent openly gay men and women from serving in the Virginia National Guard.

Hatred, especially hatred of LGBT people, dies hard.

Further west, Sen. John McCain, one of the most vocal opponents of the repeal, still laments its passage.

“I hope that when we pass this legislation that we will understand that we are doing great damage. Today is a very sad day,” McCain declared.

Meanwhile, Lindsey Graham is leading the charge for Republicans to block the new START treaty ratification in retaliation for the repeal of DADT. Apparently in Sen. Graham’s eyes, keeping gays out of the military is more important than nuclear disarmament.

Like I said, old hatred dies especially hard.

And then there is Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Amos. Anyone who watched the debate in the Senate was most likely surprised at his strident opposition.

“I don’t want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don’t want to have any Marine that I’m visiting at Bethesda with no legs be the result of any distraction,” he said before the vote.

I guess Gen. Amos figured that Marines are just too delicate to serve next to gay troops, or at least to know which Marines are gay and which are not. I have to wonder how much further his career will go now that the law of the land has changed?

Additionally, some evangelical chaplains have voiced their worries that they will no longer be able to preach. A Pentagon report stated, “Some of the most intense and sharpest divergence of views about ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ exists among the chaplains.”

Most of these concerns are that chaplains would no longer be able to preach that homosexuality is a sin. This little problem is particularly confusing to me since for centuries they have been able to reconcile killing the enemy in battle with the whole, “thou shalt not kill” thing.

Luckily, some chaplains — like retired chaplain Col. Jerry Rhyne — feel differently.

Rhyne has counseled gay troops who struggled with their sexual orientation for years. In an interview with CNN he said, “For me, it was very disheartening. I tried to bring them hope and encouragement to live their life to the fullest and to help them deal with their issues.”

Needless to say, Col. Rhyne supported repeal of the policy.

I hope the voices of dissent will soften after they realize that essentially, nothing in the military will change except that those in the military will be able to concentrate on doing their job. They will no longer be distracted by the witch hunts and investigations that saw more than 13,000 gay men and lesbians discharged.

Gay and lesbian service members will no longer be distracted by trying to conceal their orientation. Military commands will no longer be distracted by spending valuable time and resources looking into every innuendo and allegation.

Contrary to Gen. Amos’ assertion, having openly gay and lesbian troops serving will be less of a “distraction.” Straight troops will not have to wonder who is gay and who isn’t, though I suspect in reality it won’t be an issue. All the service members I know, both straight and gay have told me they know gays and lesbians in their outfits and have never had a complaint against them.

The military will behave like the military, and continue to serve with honor and bravery.

Contrary to what they opponents of DADT repeal believe, gay troops are not going to start having orgies in the showers, and the behavior of troops will still be subject to military decorum. To believe otherwise is just not rational.

I have to wonder if folks like Lindsey Graham and Gen. Amos haven’t been watching too much gay porn?

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 3, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Roberto Alonzo files insurance nondiscrimination measure; no anti-gay legislation reported yet

Rep. Roberto Alonzo

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, has filed one of the earliest pro-equality bills of the 2011 legislative session — and he didn’t even wait outside the clerk’s office for two days to do it.

Alonzo’s HB208, filed Monday, would add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the nondiscrimination provisions of the Texas Insurance Code, according to Equality Texas.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said Wednesday morning that while there’s been a flood of legislation related to immigration and abortion, no anti-gay bills have been logged since the pre-filing period began Monday.

Some feel there is a danger of anti-gay attacks in the biennial session that begins in January, now that Republicans have a nearly two-thirds majority in the House, but Smith reiterated what he told us last week.

“It is untrue to assume that all Republicans are wingnut homophobes,” Smith said. “Some of them are, but I don’t know that there is a will certainly at the leadership level to gay-bash. I think their own polling numbers probably tell them what we see as well, which is that it doesn’t necessarily play well.”

—  John Wright

Houston LGBTs to celebrate anniversary of repeal of ordinance banning cross-dressing

Phyllis Frye

Back when I was in junior high school — the early to mid 1970s — our school had a dress code that prohibited girls from wearing pants with rear pockets. See, pants that had pockets on the back were “boy” pants, and girls weren’t allowed to wear “boy” pants.

Having always been a jeans kind of gal myself, I broke that rule often. And I got in trouble for it more than once.

But obviously, my rural, smalltown junior high school wasn’t the only place that had such rules. Most cities had ordinances that prohibited cross-dressing. My old friend, the late Joe Elliott, told me that in the ’60s when she was a dyke about town, the butch lesbians always had to be careful not to dress too masculine in public, or they would be arrested. And I have heard drag queens talk about how they had to make sure to wear men’s underwear under their dresses to avoid arrest.

These ordinances were usually used by police to justify harassment of “the queers,” especially the transgenders and the butch lesbians. Such was the case in Houston, where next weekend the Transgender Foundation of America will hold an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the repeal of that city’s “no cross-dressing” ordinance.

Lou Weaver, who is on the TFA board, sent out an e-mail Wednesday announcing the event.

“This is not a joke!” Weaver wrote. “At that time women were expected to have their zippers on the side or in the back, otherwise, they were cross-dressing. This led to constant harrassment and several arrests for trans identified women, lesbians and anyone else the vice squad did not approve of.”

Well-known Houston attorney transgender activist Phyllis Frye led the three-and-a-half-year-long battle to get the ordinance repealed, and she will be on hand at the event to “share stories about fighting for transgender rights,” Weaver said. One of those stories is Frye’s account, following, about how they slipped the repeal vote past the homophobes/transphobes:

“On August the 12th, 1980, after several delay-tags that were put on to the repeal ordinance, it was again before Council. At the time, our Mayor was Jim McConn. He was out of town, as was Jim Westmoreland. McConn knew that it was coming up on the agenda, and he had told the Mayor pro tem for that day, Johnny Goyen, that it was alright with him. City Secretary, Anna Russell, waited until Council members Homer Ford and Larry McKaskell were on the phone. When they got on the phone, she immediately handed the repeal to Johnny. You see, the deal is that under council rules if you’re present and you don’t vote no, then it’s an automatic yes vote. Homer and Larry were on the phone. They didn’t even know what was going on. There was only one no vote, and that was Council member Christen Hartung, she was the sole and only no vote. I still hope that somebody will beat her. Homer and Larry went to Johnny about five minutes later, and Johnny says, ‘oh, I didn’t know that was going through.’ The ordinance was repealed and it has remained so to this day.”

The anniversary event will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14, at 604 Pacific in Houston. Everyone is welcome. Food will be provided but bring your own beer and wine.

Today, we celebrate a court victory over Prop 8 in California and move one step closer to eventual full marriage equality in this country. But as you celebrate remember that just 30 years ago, butch lesbians in Houston couldn’t wear zip-up Levis without risking arrest.

So if you are in Houston next weekend, go on over to 604 Pacific on Saturday afternoon and celebrate  a significant historical victory. And if you’re not in Houston, well, take a minute that day to stop and say a silent thank-you to those men and women, like Phyllis, who were willing to stand up and fight the good fight when it was much more dangerous to do so, and win the battles that make it possible for us to live as openly and freely as we do today.

—  admin