Parker, Castro speak at Equality Texas brunch

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and Houston Mayor Annise Parker were guests at Sunday’s Spirit of Texas Brunch benefiting Equality Texas.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said he’s hoping the event raised more than $50,000 — the most ever — in its fifth year.

He said the speakers were all inspirational. In addition to Castro and Parker, they included David and Amy Truong, who lost their son, Asher, last September to suicide.

Castro appeared at the brunch a day after being re-elected.

“A newer, younger generation of Texans will understand how important is to … love who you want to love, and marry who you want to marry,” Castro told the audience.

Parker, meanwhile, is just gearing up for a re-election campaign.

“Until we believe we are just as equal, just as worthy, that our cause has an essential rightness to it, we are not going to win the war,” Parker said at the brunch.

“The discussion was on the legislative work and how people’s lives are affected by what policy is,” Smith said.

To read a full story on the brunch, go here.

 

—  David Taffet

‘Lambda Weekly’ moves to drive time

After more than 27 years on the 89.3 KNON-FM schedule as a Sunday show, Lambda Weekly moves to drive time this week. The oldest LGBT radio show in the nation will broadcast Wednesdays at 7 a.m.

From left: David Taffet, Lerone Landis, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Patti Fink

Patti Fink and Lerone Landis host the show with me (David Taffet). Alex Hanselka is the show’s intern and tech guru. John Wright, online editor for Dallas Voice, will be our first drive-time guest this week.

The station features a variety of talk shows during morning drive time including The Jesse Garcia Show on Thursdays at 7 a.m. At 8 a.m., the nationally syndicated Democracy Now with Amy Goodman runs Monday through Thursday and NPR’s Tavis Smiley airs Fridays.

Fink, who is president of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, is excited about the move because of the potential for a much larger audience. Landis has a work conflict but will be in the studio to open the show before running downtown to work and will continue to contribute the entertainment report.

The show is one the the station’s original programs and began broadcasting in August 1983.

Guests on the show include authors, politicians and other people of interest to the LGBT community. Mayor Annise Parker of Houston was a guest last year when she appeared in Dallas for the Pride parade. Counselor Candy Marcum appears regularly to give relationship and other advice. Her next scheduled appearance is in May and coincides with her 25th anniversary. Instead of giving the relationship advice, she’ll be getting some from the crew.

Other guests have included Chaz Bono first on-air appearance as an out lesbian, Charo, Elizabeth Birch, E. Lynn Harris as well as LGBT community leaders from throughout North Texas.

The show features a segment called “Those Darn Heterosexuals,” highlighting stupid things straight people do and heterosexual parent of the week awards for examples of really bad parenting.

This week’s first drive time show with Wright will be a news round-up. They’ll discuss current events including the Obama administration’s decision to stop defending Defense of Marriage, the progress of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal and what was Dave Chaos, station manager of KNON, really thinking when he put us in drive time.

The final Sunday guest was also from Dallas Voice. Life+Styles editor Arnold Wayne Jones appeared this past Sunday for the annual Oscar predictions show. That show can be heard here.

Lambda Weekly, Wednesdays at 7 a.m. on 89.3 KNON-FM

—  David Taffet

Houston Mayor Annise Parker helps dedicate ‘Tolerance’ sculptures inspired by hate crime


Openly gay Houston Mayor Annise Parker and her predecessor Bill White were among those who spoke last week during the dedication of a set of sculptures called “Tolerance,” at a park not far from the city’s heavily gay Montrose neighborhood. The sculptures were inspired by the death of David Ritcheson, a Mexican-American teen who committed suicide in 2007 after being beaten unconscious and sodomized with a pole in a hate crime. CultureMap reports:

The Houston Arts Alliance-commissioned sculptures of kneeling human figures, composed of multi-lingual melded metal letters resting on Spanish boulders, have been installed at the corner of Allen Parkway and Montrose Boulevard, and will soon serve as the locus of Harmony Walk and the Rosemont Bridge.

With the downtown skyline as a backdrop, the sculptures encourage Buffalo Bayou joggers and commuters on Allen Parkway to give pause and consider the city’s dynamic diversity.

Plensa, who said he “grew up in a forest of books,” sees the letter as a beautiful metaphor for human beings.

“When you compare ‘A’ with ‘B’ or ‘C’ with ‘D,’ or other characters, they seem different. But how beautiful when you can put them together and build up words. And words with words, text. And text with text, culture,” he said.

Mosbacher, widow of former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Robert Mosbacher, detailed her involvement with the project, which was sparked by a vicious 2006 hate crime attack against then 16-year-old Latino student, David Ritcheson, who later committed suicide.

—  John Wright

Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund formally endorses Parker in Houston, Hightower in Arlington

Annise Parker at Dallas Pride

Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Arlington City Council challenger Chris Hightower were among eight openly LGBT candidates who received formal endorsements from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund today.

Parker was elected to a two-year term in 2009, making Houston the largest U.S. city with an openly LGBT mayor. Hightower is vying to become the first openly gay council member in Arlington’s history.

The Victory Fund has now endorsed 14 candidates in 2011, including three in Texas. Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns was the first candidate to receive the group’s backing this year.

From GayPolitics.com:

“We are proud to support Mayor Parker. Her success in Houston is proof of the remarkable talent and leadership LGBT Americans have to offer their communities as public servants,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

Parker welcomed the Victory Fund’s backing.

“I am grateful for the early and strong support of the Victory Fund. The Victory Fund is more than just a force for LGBT equality – it educates and equips qualified candidates to excel in public service for the benefit of all whom they represent. I will use the Victory Fund’s support to run a campaign that reaches out to every Houstonian and asks each one to join us in protecting and enhancing what is best about the city we share,” said Parker.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Capacity crowd marks Transgender Day of Remembrance at Cathedral of Hope

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

A capacity crowd filled the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday night, Nov. 21.

Nell Gaither, a steering committee member for GEAR, served as MC. She noted the recent spate of suicides among gay youth. GEAR is the transgender program of Resource Center Dallas.

Among transgender adults, 40 percent have attempted suicide, a rate 25 times higher than among the rest of the community, she said.

She said 20 percent of transgender people had been refused healthcare treatment and even more experience harassment in a medical setting.

Among transgender people of color, 35 percent live below the poverty level.

A portion of the memorial was dedicated to Alexander Allison, a local trans man who committed suicide this year.

Among the speakers were Resource Center Dallas Executive Director Cece Cox.

Cox thanked the transgender community for answering her many questions so she can be a better ally. She also commented on the growing visibility of the transgender community.

“When someone tries to make me feel invisible, it makes me feel ‘less than’ and that doesn’t feel good,” she said.

Former Mayor Pro Tem John Loza said the community needs to do more than just tell LGBT youth that in 10 years it will get better — it also must provide the tools for them to get there.

“But there is reason for hope,” he said.

He listed recent gains the transgender community has made, including the election of the first transgender judge in California and Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment last week of Phyllis Frye as a municipal court judge. He lauded Dallas Independent School District’s new enumerated anti-bullying policy that includes gender identity and expression.

As Aaron Barnes and Dorian Mooneyham read the names of 30 transgender victims of violence, members of the community lit candles and laid red roses on a table. Two of those victims were from Houston.

Mo Snow gave closing remarks. “I don’t want to be the reason my partner is discriminated against,” he said, calling her the most loving person he’d ever met.

For the third year, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas ensemble MosaicSong opened and performed during the ceremony. Voice of Pride winners Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales also performed.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Transgender woman arrested for entering women’s bathroom at Houston library

KTRK reports that a preoperative transgender woman in Houston was arrested last week for using the women’s restroom at the city’s main library.

The woman’s arrest appears to conflict with the city’s nondiscrimination policy, enacted by Mayor Annise Parker earlier this year, which permits people to use restrooms according to their gender identity, regardless of their biological sex.

Tyjnae Moore pleaded guilty to “knowingly entering a restroom of the opposite sex” and spent two nights in jail before being given credit for time served.

Tyjnae Moore

Right-wingers have long used the restroom issue to fight discrimination protections for transgender people. So it’s hardly surprising that the Houston Area Pastors Council is seizing upon this incident, even though there’s no indication that the woman was acting inappropriately. From KRTK:

Earlier this year, Houston Mayor Annise Parker expanded an anti-discrimination executive order that allowed city employees to use restrooms based on their gender identity. But it’s unclear if that order conflicts with existing city statute. It’s one reason why the conservative Houston Area Pastor Council has asked the attorney general for an opinion.

“It’s the sort of legal and moral confusion we fully expected to take place and shows why it’s a bad public policy. It needs to be reversed because there is no legal standard of what gender identity means,” said Dave Welch of the Houston Area Pastor Council. …

The mayor’s office issued a statement Monday evening saying, “There appears to be a misunderstanding regarding applicability of my executive order and we need to clarify that. This is a matter of providing practical solutions in a diverse city. It is not about behavior. Where there is inappropriate behavior, there will be enforcement.”

UPDATE: The Houston-based Transgender Foundation of America issued the below statement late Monday. Also, Darrell Steidley, who is lead counsel in the Nikki Araguz case and a partner in Phyllis Frye’s law firm, debates the issue with Dave Welch of the Houston Area Pastors Council in the video below.

Houston, TX – November 22, 2010 – A young male-to-female transgender library patron named Tyjnae Moore was arrested and taken to jail on November 17 because she, in accordance with the Houston City Ordinance, used the female bathroom at the Jesse H. Jones Library in downtown Houston.  A Houston Library security guard initiated the incident by informing an HPD officer that, “a man [sic] is in the restroom.” The arresting officer took the patron to jail for the alleged offense of violating a State of Texas law which states, “It is unlawful for any person to use a restroom of the opposite sex unless given permission…”

City of Houston Executive Order 1 – 8 and 1 – 20 ensures that all individuals regardless of race, gender identity, nationality or sexuality can have equal access to City restroom facilities. “The arrest should have never happened.” said Cristan Williams, Executive Director of the Transgender Foundation of America. “The City of Houston has given this victim explicit permission to use a restroom consistent with their gender.  This means that the library patron was acting in a manner consistent with both state and local law. Since she broke no law, this is a case of unlawful arrest and imprisonment.”

The victim, a native of Minnesota, states that she will be leaving Texas as soon as she can. She states that this is the second time she has been harassed by Houston police.

—  John Wright

Phyllis Frye becomes Texas’ 1st trans judge

Phyllis Frye

It’s been a historic couple of weeks for the transgender legal community.

On Nov. 2, Victoria Kolakowski became the first transgender trial judge in the nation when she won a seat on the Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court.

Then, just this morning, longtime Houston activist Phyllis Randolph Frye became the first trans judge in Texas, when Mayor Annise Parker appointed her as an associate municipal judge.

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports:

Phyllis Randolph Frye, longtime legal advocate for the transgender community, was sworn in this morning as the state’s first transgender judge. Frye was appointed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker as an Associate Municipal Judge. The city council unanimously approved her appointment, along with a couple dozen other appointments, with little fanfare and no dissent.

The significance of the moment was not lost on Mayor Parker who fought back tears as she welcomed the appointees to the council dais. Council member Sue Lovell who, along with Parker and Frye, fought for years as a citizen to improve the lives of queer Houstonians, beamed as she spoke of how far the three of them have come. Several council members specifically thanked Frye for her willingness to serve.

It was only 30 years ago that Frye risked arrest every time she entered City Hall. At that time the City of Houston and most American cities had ordinances criminalizing cross dressing. Frye defied the law to fight for it’s repeal, which finally happened in 1980.

UPDATE: Here’s an e-mail that came across this afternoon from Frye:

Dear Friends, Family and Neighbors,

With humility, I wish to share that this morning, October 17, 2010, I was sworn to be an Associate Judge for the City of Houston Municipal Courts.  Considering the many and varied discriminations I have borne over the past four decades, this is an honor that has great significance both for me and for the OUT-Transgender community.

For those of you who are not familiar, let me assure you of what this means and what it does not mean.

It means that I an assistant judge for the city courthouse.  I will be scheduled to do night court dockets and weekend probable cause dockets in rotation with other Associate Judges.  And from time to time I will sit as Judge in a trial, substituting for an ill or vacationing Judge.  The types of cases heard in Municipal Court are offenses that can be ticketed in this, the 4th largest city in the nation.  This is a great honor.  I thank Mayor Parker for nominating me and the City Council for unanimously  confirming me through a scheduled Council vote.

(NOTE: Mine is the second position where an OUT-TG has been appointed to a City of Houston position.  The first was Jenifer Rene Pool on the city’s Buildings and Inspections Oversight Commission.  Jenifer has recently announced that she is running for City Council At-Large #2 — the incumbent will be term-limited — in November 2011.  If you desire to wish her well or to send her a contribution, she is at jrpcom@aol.com <mailto:jrpcom@aol.com> .)

(NOTE: Mine is not the first OUT-TG Judgeship.  I think there are a few other  appointed OUT-TG municipal judges across the country.  Last month in California, Vicki Kolakowski was elected to a Judgeship, and I think that she will be sworn in January.  Congratulations to Vicki.)

My being Associate Municipal Judge DOES NOT MEAN that I will give up my “day-job.”

I WILL REMAIN as senior partner of Frye and Associates at www.liberatinglaw.com <http://www.liberatinglaw.com/> .

Our firm will continue to provide a variety of legal services for the LGBT and Straight-Allies community.  And our firm will continue to fight the Nikki Araguz case, of which many of you have followed.

I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more Mayors or other appointive bodies to give OUT-TG lawyers a chance to be appointed to various judicial posts across the nation.  I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more OUT-TG lawyers will run for elected Judgeships.

NEVER GIVE UP!

For more go to http://www.legislativequeery.com/2010/11/trans-pioneer-phyllis-frye-becomes.html
Phyllis Randolph Frye
THE PHYLLABUSTER  <http://www.liberatinglaw.com/>
www.liberatinglaw.com  <http://www.tglegal.com/>
www.tglegal.com
prfrye@aol.com

—  John Wright

Annise Parker tells youth, ‘It Gets Better’

Annise Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s staff has been encouraging her to do an “It Gets Better” video. She took the opportunity to do so during a presentation at the Houston Holocaust Museum on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

The museum presented her with a Guardian of the Human Spirit Award, a platform for acknowledging dedicated Houstonians who have worked to enhance the lives of others and to better humankind.

On its website, the museum listed among the reasons she was given the award was her expansion of the city’s nondiscrimination policies:

One of her early official acts was to issue one of the most comprehensive non-discrimination orders in the nation. The order prohibits discrimination and/or retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity at every level of municipal government, including hiring, contracting and/or access to city facilities and programs/activities.

Her acceptance speech includes her thoughts on the recent rash of publicized suicides by teens who had been bullied. Her office noted the lighting that makes Parker look radioactive. Prior to her appearance, the content of the speech changed several times and it wasn’t until the last minute that Parker decided to include the “It Gets Better” piece and asked that it be recorded.

—  David Taffet

Bill White says LGBT vote ‘absolutely critical’

Democratic challenger says he expects ‘a very close election’ as he works to unseat incumbent Perry

John Wright  | Dallas Voice wright@dallasvoice.com

OPPOSITE SIDES  |  Democrat Bill White, above, has courted LGBT votes in his bid for Texas governor, including making appearances at the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meetings (above). Republican Gov. Rick Perry (below) has courted anti-gay conservatives, suggesting that same-sex marriage hurts job growth.
OPPOSITE SIDES | Democrat Bill White, above, has courted LGBT votes in his bid for Texas governor, including making appearances at the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas meetings (above). Republican Gov. Rick Perry (below) has courted anti-gay conservatives, suggesting that same-sex marriage hurts job growth.

A strong turnout from LGBT voters is “absolutely critical” to his chances of unseating Republican Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, Nov. 2, Democrat Bill White told Dallas Voice this week.

In an exclusive interview, White said he expects “a very close election” and that gay voters in Texas shouldn’t stay away from the polls because they may be frustrated with a perceived lack of progress on LGBT issues in Washington.

White declined a request for a phone interview but agreed to answer questions via e-mail.

“It’s absolutely critical. This will be a very close election,” White said when asked about the importance of the gay vote. “I’m proud of my support in the community and so grateful to all the volunteers who have been raising funds, making phone calls, and knocking on doors to spread the word about the choice we have for the future of our state. This is no time to stay home. Whatever is going on nationally, we have major issues facing our state and need a leader to take them on.”

White, the former Houston mayor, is widely considered a strong LGBT ally, and he appeared in Dallas’ gay Pride parade in September.

White had a gay brother who died several years ago and has said he voted against Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which was championed by Perry.

However, White hasn’t made LGBT issues a major part of his gubernatorial campaign, presumably in part because they might be used by Perry to energize right-wing voters.

Some Democrats seeking statewide office, including Barbara Ann Radnofsky and Hank Gilbert, have published policy statements in support of LGBT equality on their websites.

“Actions speak louder than words, and I have a track record of inclusive leadership,” White said in response to a question about why he hasn’t focused on LGBT issues. “That’s why I’ve received a rare endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign. Rick Perry wants to divide Texans — it’s what we’ve seen from him for decades. He’d rather divide for his personal political purposes than bring people together to get things done. Major corporations in our state, like Shell Oil for example, know that being inclusive makes them more competitive. But Perry recently made some comment saying that Texas’ job growth was somehow tied to the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. What? It just shows you how clueless a professional politician is.”

White was referring to Perry’s comment during a campaign stop in Temple in August, when the incumbent said: “There is still a land of opportunity, friends — it’s called Texas. We’re creating more jobs than any other state in the nation. … Would you rather live in a state like this, or in a state where a man can marry a man?”

Dallas Voice also asked White whether, as governor, he would support or sign bullying legislation that provides specific protections for students based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Texas public schools.

Asher Brown, a gay 13-year-old from the Houston suburbs, committed suicide in September after his parents say he was bullied relentlessly at school. Asher’s suicide was one of several across the country in recent months by teens who were gay or perceived to be gay.

“Asher Brown’s suicide is a heartbreaking tragedy,” White responded. “I’ll support policies that prohibit school and workplace discrimination and harassment of any kind, and I’ll work hard to build an atmosphere of respect in Texas.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Annise Parker on Asher Brown’s suicide

Mayor Annise Parker

Our old friend Michael Petrelis has been making a big deal of the fact that Houston Mayor Annise Parker hadn’t said anything about the suicide of 13-year-old Asher Brown. On Monday, Parker issued the following statement:

“What happened to Asher Brown, his family and friends is a tragedy. This situation is being investigated by the proper authorities, but it is a sign that bullying of any kind can have deadly consequences. It reminds us that young people who are targets of bullying need love and support.”

Asher, who was an eighth-grader at Hamilton Middle School in Cypress in northwest Harris County, is one of six known suicides nationwide over the last few weeks related to anti-gay bullying and harassment.

—  David Taffet