Ex-Dallasite’s Rainbow Chronicle website rates people, places according to gay-friendliness

Travis Lowry

Former Dallas resident Travis Lowry recently launched a national website for the LGBT community to rank professional businesses, events, venues and even public officials based on their LGBT-friendliness.

Rainbow Chronicle allows people to search for businesses and people by zip codes and major cities, but visitors must register to post a review or to comment, Lowry said.

The site has roughly 4,500 frequent users with about 800 sustained users, who Lowry said visit the site about every three days.

The site can be used to find a place to take a same-sex date without awkwardness or to preview an upcoming event. But Lowry said he also wanted to give a voice to people who interact with pubic officials, especially since many conservative areas never see LGBT issues discussed at election time.

“Local leaders play a huge part in people’s lives,” Lowry said. “It’s really, really hard to find voting records, so having computer-generated reviews based on the people who interact with them is helpful.”

—  Anna Waugh

Dan Savage: Every time a gay youth commits suicide, our enemies celebrate

Dan Savage speaks at the University of North Texas on Tuesday. (Patrick Hoffman)

DANIEL VILLARREAL  |  Contributing Writer

DENTON — “Every time LGBT bullying kills a kid, Tony Perkins gets up from his desk and dances a jig,” sex-advice-columnist-turned-LGBT youth advocate Dan Savage said of the anti-gay Family Research Council president during Savage’s keynote speech at the 12th Annual University of North Texas Equity and Diversity Conference on Tuesday.

“Every LGBT youth suicide for them is a victory, a rhetorical and moral victory,” Savage added.

When some LGBT teenagers come out to their parents, Savage said, the parents do “what the Christian right tells them to do”— cut them off financially and emotionally, disown them, turn them out into the streets or send them to camps meant to “turn them straight,” often repeating the lies spread by so-called Christian groups like the Family Research Council — which say that LGBT people are child-molesting sexual predators whose mere existence threatens families and the very survival of the planet (a line uttered by the Pope just this last month).

Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, hoped to counteract the lethal effect of such anti-LGBT attitudes when they started the It Gets Better (IGB) video campaign in September 2010. They thought that user-created videos encouraging LGBT youth to keep living might stem the epidemic of bullying-related LGBT suicides that killed 10 teenage boys that month alone.

As the number of user-uploaded videos for IGB quickly rose from 200 in the first week to the current count of more than 30,000 videos (viewed more than 40 million times internationally), Savage came to realize that IGB had effectively placed an LGBT youth support group in the pocket of every teenager with a cell phone — no matter their geographic location or their family’s prejudices.

But while applauding the program’s success in potentially saving lives and giving children hope that their parents might one day accept them as other parents in IGB videos have, Savage admitted to the crowd made up mostly of students that the It Gets Better project can’t end bullying.

“[However, that] does not excuse or preclude us from doing more …” Savage continued, “from confronting bullies, from holding schools and teachers and preachers and parents responsible for what they do or don’t do or fail to do for LGBT kids in pain.”

That’s why Savage’s project has supported Sen. Al Franken’s Student Non-Discrimination Act as well as the efforts of groups like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, the Trevor Project and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“[The Trevor Project] is there to talk kids off the ledge,” Savage said, “GLSEN is there to make sure there are fewer kids in our schools climbing out onto that ledge and the ACLU is there sue the crap out of schools that push kids onto that ledge.”

Citing studies from the University of Illinois and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Savage said rates of teenage suicide (LGBT and straight) and sexual violence against girls is much higher in schools where anti-LGBT bullying is tolerated — in short, that anti-LGBT bullying makes schools unsafe for everyone. And yet the religious right continues to oppose campaigns against anti-LGBT bullying as “indoctrination.”

Quoting Johann Hari, a writer with UK-based The Independent, Savage said:

Being subjected to bullying and violence as children and teenagers makes gay people unusually vulnerable to depression and despair. The homophobes then use that depression and despair to claim that homosexuality is inherently a miserable state – and we shouldn’t do anything that might “encourage” it.

However, Savage asserts that he isn’t hostile to religion, citing his good relationship with his Catholic father and the fact that his last act of love for his mother as she lay dying in an Arizona hospital bed was to find a priest to initiate her last rites.

But instead of letting kids act out the violence of their adult role-models who bash gays at the pulpit and the ballot box, Savage called on school members to actively oppose anti-LGBT bullying and on liberal and more progressive Christians to stop “the complicit silence … aiding them and abetting [the religious right] in their crimes.”

—  John Wright

‘Wicked Haute’ to raise funds for LGBT Youth Scholarship

Wicked HauteThe LGBT community has rallied behind the message that “It Get’s Better” in an effort to prevent teens from hurting themselves during their vulnerable adolescent years. Sometimes those difficult years are followed by the heartbreak of missed opportunity as kids without parental support, or whose academic record is less than stellar due to the pressures of bullying and harassment, struggle to pay for college. One local group is working to change that.

The PFLAG/HATCH Youth Scholarship Foundation hosts ‘Wicked Haute’ (pronounced ‘wicket hot’), Thursday, October 27 at F Bar, 202 Tuam Street. The fundraiser, which starts at 9 pm, benefits the foundation’s scholarship programs and features a “wickedly haute” fashion parade modeled by former scholarship recipients. The entertainment is coordinated by Ty Blue, FBar’s Director of Entertainment and includes plus show-stopping performances by vocalists, drag stars and dancers. Additionally, raffle tickets are available (1 for $10 and 3 for $20) for a 40 inch flat screen and other great prizes.

For the people behind the foundation, which is 100% volunteer driven, their efforts are a labor of love. “Whether you want to volunteer your time or donate your money, PFLAG HATCH Youth Scholarship Foundation is a solid investment in our LGBT Youth,” says foundation president Linda Enger. “I have been involved since 2003, and I have had the benefit of seeing our recipients complete their college education, and give back to the LGBT Community. This is a WIN WIN!”

The PFLAG/HATCH Youth Scholarship Foundation was born out of a collaboration between its two namesake organizations (Parents and Family of Lesbians and Gays and the Houston Area Teach Coalition of Homosexuals), both of which were independently raising funds to send LGBT kids to school. In 1999 they joined forces and created a separately incorporated charity with both parent organizations lending financial and volunteer support. In the last two years the Foundation has distributed over 1 million dollars to LGBT students.

There is no cover charge for the event, but a $10 donation is suggested. For information on sponsoring Wicket Haute, including information on the special VIP area email rkshipman@gmail.com

—  admin

WATCH: Joel Burns 1 year later

Today is the one-year anniversary of gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns’ “It Gets Better” speech. It’s also Bullying Awareness Day in the city of Fort Worth. To mark the occasion, below is video of Burns speaking at the University of North Texas last week, reflecting on how the speech has changed his life.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Joel Burns, Fort Worth City Council proclaim Bullying Awareness Day

The other day we told you the city of Fort Worth was set to proclaim Bullying Awareness Day on Oct. 12, which will mark the one-year anniversary of gay Councilman Joel Burns’ “It Gets Better” speech. Courtesy of the city’s YouTube channel, below is video of Burns addressing the council on Tuesday morning and reading the proclamation. A press release from Burns’ office, along with the full text of the proclamation, is after the jump.

—  John Wright

FW to proclaim Bullying Awareness Day

Joel Burns

Oct. 12 is the one-year anniversary of openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns’ legendary “It Gets Better” speech. (In case you’re wondering, as of this posting, the video had 2,664,269 views on YouTube.) To mark the occasion, the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday will proclaim Oct. 12 as Bullying Awareness Day, according to a press release from Burns’ office:

On October 12, 2010, Councilman Burns used his personal time at a city council meeting to speak to citizens, parents and educators about their responsibility as adults to end bullying. His message also included a personal plea to those youth who were considering suicide to stick around for a life that will get better and a message of hope to empower youth to speak out and stand up for anyone who might be experiencing bullying. Subsequently, the video of Councilman Burn’s speech went viral and garnered international attention. To continue the conversation about bullying and the effects it has on children, and ultimately the city as a whole, the City of Fort Worth is proclaiming October 12, 2011 Bullying Awareness Day to encourage its citizens to do their part in ensuring that all children have a safe, caring and respectful place to feel safe, learn and socialize.

—  John Wright

Rangers spokesman says team won’t consider making ‘It Gets Better’ video until after playoffs

On Thursday I came across this excellent piece by Karen Ocamb, news editor at the LGBT magazine Frontiers, about what the Los Angeles Dodgers’ “It Gets Better” video means to her. Ocamb recalls how she once met the gay son of iconic former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who later refused to acknowledge that his son was gay and had died from AIDS. Ocamb said she’s harbored ill feelings toward the Dodgers ever since — and almost didn’t post the teams’ “It Gets Better” video on her blog, LGBT POV.

“Then I watched it,” Ocamb writes. “Since I don’t watch Dodgers baseball, I don’t know who these guys are. The HuffPo identifies them as coach Don Mattingly, James Loney, Matt Guerrier, Jamey Carroll, A.J. Ellis, Rod Barajas and Hiroki Kuroda saying, ‘you are worthy,’ and ‘you’re not alone, we’re on your side’ in English, Spanish and Japanese.

“I suspect they know about the legendary Tommy Lasorda and may know that Tommy Lasorda Jr. was gay and died of AIDS,” Ocamb writes of the Dodgers who appear in the video. “But whether they do or not doesn’t matter. I was moved by their sincerity – and dare I say – it got better for me seeing how the Dodgers had changed.”

Ocamb’s moving piece prompted me to again reach out to John Blake, executive vice president of communications for the Texas Rangers, to find out whether the team has made a decision about filming an “It Gets Better” video. If you’ll recall, when asked about an “It Gets Better” video last month, Blake told Instant Tea the team was “considering our options and the timing of any initiatives.”

The Rangers begin the playoffs this afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays in Arlington.

“I really have nothing new to report,” Blake said in an email Thursday evening. “We plan to look at what the best approach may be once the playoffs conclude.”

Watch the Dodgers’ “It Gets Better” video below.

—  John Wright

Queer Music News: R.E.M. announces breakup; Brandon Hilton releases new video

The big music news of the day is R.E.M.’s announcement that they are “calling it a day.” On their website, the band posted this note followed by comments from band members:

“To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.”

Queer frontman Michael Stipe had this to add:

“A wise man once said–’the skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave.’ We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it.

“I hope our fans realize this wasn’t an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.

“We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It’s been amazing.”

Interestingly enough, the band had released their last album, Collapse Into Now, just this past March. The album was a smart collection of tracks that both showed outstanding maturity for the band as well as a renewed raucous energy that reminded of their early days.

Now, after 30 years, the band is no longer.

—  Rich Lopez

More on Out@NBCUniversal

In  last week’s cover story, I talked with members of the Dallas chapter of the affinity group Out@NBCUniversal, a collective of LGBT employees and straight allies. In it, they talk about how the network has been a sort of work-topia for queer employees and how diversity is encouraged without reservation.

Due to space constraints I couldn’t get more in from members Lauren Wheat and Matthew Simpson, but they had a lot to say about what the group means to them. Simpson, with NBC strategic marketing, and his partner Murad Kirdar, both work for the company. Simpson talked about his reasons for joining the group.

“I joined for a couple of reasons,” Simpson said. “First, I felt it was important for me, as an openly gay employee, to represent Dallas-Fort Worth within the larger footprint of Out@NBCUniversal. While there are thousands of members all across the country, from New York to Los Angeles, the DFW chapter was fairly young and had so much potential to make a difference. Getting involved was the best possible way to for me to help elevate the visibility of the Chapter and learn how other Chapters work to attract, recruit and retain great LGBT talent.

“Second, I’d have to say my partner of 17 years, Murad. While we didn’t meet at NBCUniversal, we now work just 50 feet from each other. As you know, Murad is co-chair of the DFW chapter and I was very excited to see him step up and embrace a leadership role. His excitement, passion and desire to lead on LGBT issues in the community is the reason so many LGBT and straight ally co-workers have joined the chapter.”

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Someone from Arlington has filmed an ‘It Gets Better’ video, but it ain’t your Rangers

Former UTA standout Hunter Pence

The Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays have become the latest Major League teams to release “It Gets Better” videos, prompting us to again contact the Texas Rangers to find out if or when the organization plans to follow suit.

“To my knowledge, there are no updates. Thank you,” said John Blake, the Rangers executive vice president for communications, in a response to our email on Monday.

Which, presumably, means the Rangers are still “seriously looking at [their] options.” (In case you’re wondering, the Change.org petition calling for the Rangers to make an “It Gets Better” video has now expired, but not before amassing 2,780 signatures.)

Anyhow, while we’re awaiting the Rangers decision, we figured we’d go ahead and point out that North Texas native Hunter Pence, who played at UTA and Arlington High, appears in the Phillies “It Gets Better” video, which you can watch below. And just to underscore the fact that it really does get better, we’ve even thrown in a few more pics of Pence’s recent strip tease at a charity fashion show.

—  John Wright