Get your kink on

This weekend, it’s time to get kinky and retro.

Glory Hole is a not-for-profit fetish event production company (which also has a kink/fetish performance troupe, called the Gloryhole Girls), with beneficiaries like the John Thomas Gay and Lesbian Community Center and other LGBT and kink charities. It was founded in part by Lillith Grey, an artist, activist, burlesque dancer and college instructor in the sex-positive community (she’s also partner to reigning Ms. Texas Leather Synn Evans).

Friday is Glory Hole’s ’70s Porno Party. “It’s going to be phenomenal,” Grey says. “We have live music, The Foxxy Love Show, community vendors, a private portrait photographer, a voyeur room, a full dungeon, hot DJs, and a catered fondue bar, as well as a no-cash raffle.” (One donated non-perishable food item gets you one raffle ticket.)

The location is sent to members the day of the party, and the parties are BYOB with a very strict no-photos policy. Security and safety are paramount at these events. Costumes are highly encouraged. “RIsque is A-OK,” is Grey’s motto.

Because it’s a members-only event, you need to join in time for the party (no applications are accepted at the door — if you can even find the door). To register by 6: p.m. Friday, visit GirlsGoneGloryhole.com.

— J.B.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

In Dallas, Scott Pelley ‘pressed the establishment on issues affecting gay men and AIDS’

Scott Pelley

The announcement that former Dallasite Scott Pelley will replace Katie Couric as anchor of the CBS Evening News is a good thing for the LGBT community, according to pioneering gay activist William Waybourn.

Pelley, a San Antonio native and Texas Tech graduate, spent 11 years in Dallas at KXAS-TV and WFAA-TV from 1978-1989, according to Wikipedia.

Waybourn, the former president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance who now lives in Virginia, had this to say about Pelley in an email to Instant Tea this afternoon:

“Scott Pelley was one of those reporters in Dallas who pressed the establishment on issues affecting lesbians and gay men and AIDS,” Waybourn said. “He interviewed me, Bill [Nelson] or John [Thomas] on a regular basis, always pushing questions that brought attention to our issues of the day.”

—  John Wright

COVER STORY: Leaving a lasting legacy

Although his years as leader of the largest LGBT church in the world weren’t without controversy, there’s no denying Michael Piazza has left a lasting impact on North Texas

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

It’s not often that the Rev. Michael Piazza gets caught at a loss for words. But as he walked through Cathedral of Hope’s columbarium recently, he simply touched the marble covering the ashes of the late activist John Thomas, gently caressing the name plate without saying a thing.

Then he turned to the other memorial plaques, many of which originally hung on the outside wall of the old Metropolitan Community Church, the building that is now the Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

He pointed to one and asked if I knew him. We told each other stories about some of the people whose names hang there in remembrance. Most died of AIDS-related illnesses.

For Piazza — who is moving to Atlanta where he will take over as senior pastor of Virginia Highland Church on March 1 — leaving these people may be the hardest part of leaving Dallas. He worries that the memory of some of them will be lost.

Piazza knows Cathedral of Hope — the church known as Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas when he became senior pastor in 1987 — will be in good hands and he’s proud of the institution he helped to build.

But he still feels a great sadness at leaving behind the names in that memorial garden — the friends, church members, community leaders whose funerals he performed — at one point, as many as a dozen of them in a week.

Piazza served as senior pastor and then dean of Cathedral of Hope for 23 years. Currently, he is president of Hope for Peace & Justice and he co-founded and co-directs the Center for Progressive Renewal, an organization that trains leaders to build new and revitalize old churches within the United Church of Christ, the denomination Cathedral of Hope joined in 2006.

David Plunkett, Piazza’s assistant for the past nine years, was hired by Virginia Highlands Church to become director of church life. Last year, Plunkett moved from his position at Cathedral of Hope to become executive administrator for the Center for Progressive Renewal. He has served as Piazza’s principle proofreader for his last five books as well as most of his articles and sermons.

Piazza said that he couldn’t get his job done without Plunkett. But Plunkett downplayed his role and said he simply makes it appear that Piazza is in two places at the same time.

GOOD PARTNERSHIP | The Rev. Jo Hudson, left, said that the time she spent working with Piazza “has been a gift in my life.”

From Atlanta, Piazza will continue to co-direct the Center for Progressive Renewal. The Rev. Cameron Trimble, the other half of that team, is based there.

Piazza said that Trimble’s strength is creating new congregations while his is turning around declining congregations. Their goal is to spread the liberal UCC denomination, strongest in the northeast, across the south.

After a year of travel in his new position, Piazza said it became obvious that they needed a base of operations. Virginia Highlands, without a pastor for two years, provided that opportunity.

While his new church is large, its congregation has become quite small, something Piazza sees as a wonderful challenge.

Founded in 1923 as Virginia Highland Baptist Church, the congregation designated itself an inclusive congregation in 1993, withdrew its membership from the Southern Baptist Convention, affiliated with the more liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and then joined the Alliance of Baptists in 1996.

In 2002, while maintaining its Baptist affiliations, the church joined UCC.

Piazza admitted there was something quite delicious about becoming the pastor of a church that once belonged to the denomination that blocked Cathedral of Hope’s membership in the Greater Dallas Community of Churches.

While First Baptist Church of Dallas still publicly denounces homosexuality, it’s former pastor, W.A. Criswell, used to denounce Piazza personally and Cathedral of Hope in general by name from the pulpit.

That doesn’t happen anymore, Piazza said, and he counts that as part of his legacy.

Ask those outside the church about Piazza’s accomplishments and they’ll mention buildings — the original Cathedral, the John Thomas Bell Wall, the Interfaith Peace Chapel and the as-yet-unbuilt, Philip Johnson-designed, new Cathedral.

Ask those who’ve worked with him or have been longtime members and one word is repeated — vision.

NEW BEGINNING | Piazza, center, celebrates the consecration of Cathedral of Hope’s new sanctuary in 1992 with then associate pastors the Rev. Carol West, left, and the Rev. Paul Tucker.

Annette and Pat, who asked that their last names not be used, were on the board of the church when Piazza was hired and were the first couple in Dallas to meet him in person.

“We picked him up from the airport,” said Annette.

Piazza had flown in from Jacksonville where he was pastor of an MCC that he nurtured from 28 members to 270 in a short time.

“He was a visionary for the church,” Annette said. “He saw potential in us. He took worship to a different level.”

She said that as soon as Piazza got to Dallas, he demanded quite a bit from the congregation: Services would start on time; dress was more respectful, and while church was a great place to meet people, it wasn’t for cruising.

Annette said those steps led to the growth that led to the new cathedral.

“The church wouldn’t be what it is today if he wasn’t there at that time,” she said.

The Rev. Carol West, now pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, calls Piazza her mentor. She was the first woman licensed and ordained under him.

While acknowledging their sometimes-stormy relationship, she said, “I think Mike is a visionary. My belief is he took this community to a place they were ready to go.”

She said that when he arrived in Dallas in 1987 in the middle of the AIDS crisis, the LGBT community was doing nothing but taking care of people with AIDS.

“He [Piazza] always had a vision of the community having more,” West said. “He helped our community get our voice.”

She called him a model for many pastors and thanked him for getting her to her current position.

Cathedral of Hope’s current senior pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson, called Piazza “one of the best and most creative preachers I’ve ever known.”

She, too, remarked on Piazza’s clarity of vision for the church from Day One.

“He gave them courage and direction,” she said. “He made the church a visible sign of hope.”

Piazza said he did three things when he first arrived that helped the church become what it is. The first he called “big worship.”

He said when he arrived in Dallas, the church was already doing enthusiastic, joyous services well. He helped make it bigger but also made sure it was visitor friendly.

Visitors needed to be welcomed and the service had to be easy to follow, Piazza said. That included simple things like a service bulletin that was done well.

But the congregation also needed a sense of community, a sense of intimacy, Piazza believed. To accomplish that as the church grew, small groups were formed to keep people engaged.

“That way it didn’t matter how big we became,” he said.

The third component was community service, and that, Piazza said, gained the church respect.

“This church gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.

Piazza related a story told by the Rev. Paul Tucker, who is now senior pastor at All God’s Children MCC in Minneapolis, about a conversation he overheard at a diner in Oak Lawn.

“We were in the paper for something like air conditioning Maple Lawn Elementary School’s gym. These two old codgers were sitting behind Paul reading the paper, and they were talking about the church. One said, ‘I don’t know about this queer stuff, but that church does more good than any other church in this city.’”

One of the programs Piazza started soon after he arrived was a weekend hot meals program for neighborhood children. The area around the church on Reagan Street was very poor and children who were fed in school during the week were going hungry over the weekend.

“Men in wheelchairs with AIDS would come to feed those children,” he said. “This church became respectable.”

So respectable and even admired that even Criswell had to stop denouncing Piazza and the church from the pulpit. Groups like the KKK stopped picketing them. The council of churches approached Piazza and begged the church, to join. Piazza refused because by that time, the church had nothing to gain from council membership.

Controversy

But as the church grew, so did controversy. As the congregation raised money to build the new cathedral designed by Philip Johnson, allegations of financial mismanagement arose.

The national Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (the denomination now just known as MCC] was called to audit the Dallas church’s records.
But Cathedral of Hope’s budget was larger than the denomination’s, and the denomination was unequipped to deal with the controversy, Piazza said.

One woman who didn’t like the way the church was being managed filed a complaint of financial mismanagement against Piazza. At the time the board was overseeing financial management, not Piazza.

Because the denomination didn’t have the staff to look into the allegations, MCC hired private investigators. The investigation dragged on for months, until finally, the cathedral’s board of directors had had enough. The board members called a congregational meeting, and the congregation voted by a 90 percent margin to leave MCC.

Piazza looks back now at the conflict with a philosophical eye. He said that much of it was rooted in theology, although that never got named.

For years, the cathedral had been moving away from MCC, which Piazza said is rooted in much more conservative theology.

He said that part of the 10 percent voting against leaving were simply people who had been a member of MCC for decades.

But Piazza admits missing the significance of the vote at the time.

As they voted to leave MCC, they also elected Piazza as the pastor of the newly independent church by the same 90 percent, an overwhelming vote of confidence by any standard among churches of any denomination.

“If I didn’t piss off more than 10 percent of the congregation after being here for 17 years,” he said, that was a great accomplishment in itself. “It was one of the greatest affirmations of my life — and I missed it entirely.”

When Piazza thinks now about mistakes he’s made over the years, he quotes Michael Jordan, who said, “I missed 9,000 shots and that’s why I succeeded.”

In other words, the church moved forward by always taking chances.

Piazza said that sometimes they hired someone who turned out to be a mistake, but other times they took chances and hired people like Tucker and West, who he called heroes.

“But sometimes, you just have to make mistakes and you learn from them,” Piazza said.

Plunkett called innovation part of Piazza’s legacy. He said that he started attending services at Cathedral of Hope via the Internet while he was living in Reno.

“Television was extremely expensive,” Plunkett said, so Piazza broadcast services on the Internet.

He was ahead of the curve and his worship style came through on line.

“I felt connected to a larger community,” Plunkett said, even though he lived in a smaller city with nothing comparable to Cathedral of Hope.

Family in transition

Once Piazza decided to take the position in Atlanta, several things fell into place. He and his partner, Bill Eure, put their house on the market and had an offer the next day from the first person that looked at it.

Eure works for American Airlines, but works from home and does not need to be in Dallas for his job.

LOOKING FORWARD TO A NEW CHURCH HOME | Michael Piazza said his partner Bill Eure, left, withdrew from his involvement in Cathedral of Hope when Piazza resigned from his position there, and that Eure is looking forward to beginning an active church life with Virginia Highland Church.

Piazza said that when he stepped aside at Cathedral of Hope, Eure also withdrew from the congregation. Virginia Highlands gives him a place to begin an active church life once again.
Together they raised two daughters with the girls’ mother.

Their older daughter graduates from Booker T. Washington High School in May and will be in college next year. Their younger daughter is a junior at Townview Talented and Gifted. She’ll finish the year in Dallas and the family is deciding whether she’ll transfer next year.

Eure will remain with them in Dallas for another couple of months until the house sale closes.

Hope for Peace and Justice

The future of Hope for Peace and Justice is undecided.

Piazza writes Liberating Word, the daily communication sent to 13,000 subscribers. He described the writing as a job no one else wants and one that he can continue from Atlanta.

But day-to-day management in the Dallas office will pass to someone else, he assumed.

The board is meeting this month to discuss what direction that organization will take after Piazza’s move. Its Art for Peace and Justice division also recently lost its director, Tim Seelig, who moved to San Francisco to become director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

Coincidentally, Seelig and Piazza also arrived in Dallas at the same time.

Many of the Art for Peace and Justice events take place at the Interfaith Peace House so moving the group to San Francisco with Seelig was not feasible.

“You can’t replace Tim,” Piazza said. “He has such a unique place in the community.”

Piazza said that that group would reinvent itself.

Seeing the end

Cathedral of Hope will continue to change and flourish, he said.

Someday, he said, the Johnson cathedral may be built. He said that no cathedral has ever been built by a congregation alone. It takes an entire community.

“We’ve always framed it as either it happens or it doesn’t happen,” he said. “We were always really clear that if the larger community doesn’t decide to participate in it, it just won’t happen. We just don’t have the resources ourselves.”

But he said the church continues to work at building relationships with people who do have the resources.

READY TO BUILD | The Rev. Michael Piazza speaks at the 1990 groundbreaking ceremony for the church’s current facilities.

“We’ve done a piece of it and I think that’s really important,” he said.

Piazza said that when he hired Hudson as pastor, he knew, “My time here is limited.” She became the local pastor and he knew that if things worked well, she would become his replacement.

For the first two years, she worked for him. Then they switched roles.

“While she was a great pastor,” Piazza said, Hudson had never managed a multi-million dollar budget. She agreed to become the senior pastor if he stayed to help manage the church finances.

So for the next two years, he worked for her. During that time, he phased himself out. For the past year, he has had no official affiliation with the church even though his office has remained in the Peace House, which is attached to the building.

“It’s good timing for me to not be here anymore,” Piazza said. “It’s time for this place not to be haunted by my ghost.”

Hudson said that Piazza’s life has been devoted to working for justice for the LGBT community and fighting for what’s right for all people.

“Working with Michael has been glorious, creative and exciting,” she said. “Our time together has been a great gift in my life.”

She said she hopes he’ll be remembered in Dallas for single-handedly saving people’s lives.

“The work he will be doing at Virginia Highland Church will be an incredible new chapter in his life,” Hudson said.

Piazza said he runs into people at the grocery store regularly who ask him the next time he’ll be back to preach and he thinks, “I don’t work there anymore.”

But he said the transition was so gradual, “that even this congregation doesn’t know. They just think I’m off traveling.”

Many people hoped that Piazza would give a final sermon before leaving for Atlanta, but he said they’ve already transitioned. He compared that to a Texas funeral, more popular when he first arrived in Dallas, where they reopened the coffin at the gravesite after the funeral service.

“So someday I’ll come back and preach,” not in six months, but maybe in a year or two, he said. “For me, this has been a long goodbye already. We don’t need to make it any longer.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

World AIDS Day commemorated at CoH

John Thomas Bell Tower

In addition to being World AIDS Day, today marks the 10th anniversary of the John Thomas Bell Tower at the Cathedral of Hope, which has become a landmark along Inwood Road.

Panels from the AIDS quilt including one remembering Thomas, the first executive director of the AIDS Resource Center, will be on display at COH’s new Interfaith Peace Chapel all day.

A service will be at 7:15 p.m. in the main building, conducted by the Rev. Paul Tucker, who was the first AIDS chaplain hired by the church when its current facility opened.

—  David Taffet

Honoring our saints on All Hallows Eve

People like Bill Nelson, John Thomas, Bill Hunt and others are no longer with us now, and although we have a long way to go to gain full equality, it was their courage and daring that won the freedoms we already have today

Activists such as, from left, John Thomas, Bill Nelson and Bill Hunt may be gone now, but they should never be forgotten.
Activists such as, from left, John Thomas, Bill Nelson and Bill Hunt may be gone now, but they should never be forgotten.

Like many of our holidays, Halloween bears scant resemblance to the holy day from which it evolved. Oct. 31 is the eve of the day the church historically has celebrated as All Saints Day. Like many church holidays, this one was deliberately set to co-opt the pagan celebration of harvest called Samhain.

Neither of those days have much relevance to how our community now observes Oct. 31, though. Still, perhaps this is a good time for us to remember some of our “saints” of the past who at times terrorized the general population with their outrageous demands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Our movement was begun officially with the Stonewall “Riots.” That story often gets told without noting that those who first resisted police oppression and brutality were mostly poor, people of color, drag queens and transsexuals.

They were our heroes. I’ll call them saints, since most of them are now dead.

The summer of 1969 was a long time ago, and it was on the far side of an epidemic that made saints out of too many of our heroes.

When I first came to Dallas in 1987, we often took to the streets. It seemed that every time I turned around William Waybourn, then president of the Dallas Gay Alliance, would call me and say, “Get your collar [clergy shirt] on and meet us at ______. We need you to speak about ______.”

I usually would follow Bill Nelson or John Thomas or Bill Hunt or some of the other heroes who spoke up for us. They are all saints now, and, somehow, I think each of them would appreciate being remembered on Halloween/All Hallows (saints) Eve.

Dallas is a very different city today. We have had openly gay city council members, school board trustees, county commissioners and an out, lesbian Latina sheriff.

Although it was 10 years ago, it seems like only yesterday that some heroes and saints were at City Hall until 2 in the morning fighting the Dallas Policy Academy’s dismissal of Mica England because she was a lesbian.

Many of those faces from that night are gone, but so is the city’s policy of discrimination.

Some of them were the same faces who went to the courthouse to protest against Judge Jack Hampton who gave a lighter sentence to Richard Lee Bednarski because the men he murdered were gay. On more than one occasion, we went to Parkland hospital because people who were dying of AIDS were forced to wait as long as 18 hours to receive care.

Folks like Howie Daire and Daryl Moore and so many others knew that they weren’t fighting for themselves, but for those who would survive them.

Recently, one of my best friends turned 50. He is one of the longest-term survivors of HIV/AIDS in the country. I give thanks for him and his health every day, and I also try to give thanks for those who now survive in our hearts and memories.

If we fail to appreciate those who went before us and made such great sacrifices for us all, then we are arrogant and cynical souls.

When the AIDS crisis was at its worst and it seemed we were holding funerals every other day, I began to think I was losing my mind.

I’d drive through the crossroads and raise my hand to wave at a friend, only to recall that it couldn’t be them because they had died.
I wonder though … .

Maybe I am crazy, but when I walk those streets today, I’d swear that some of those folks are still there. Maybe I’m the only one they haunt, but I hope not. I hope we all hold their memories so dear that it is almost like they are still with us.
So, dress up and join the parade this Halloween. It will be audacious and fun to take to the streets and party like free women and men.
Just remember that your freedom was won by heroes, many of whom are now saints. And don’t forget to wonder for whom you should be a hero and, eventually, a saint.

The Rev. Michael Piazza is president of Hope for Peace & Justice, a nonprofit organization that is equipping progressive people of faith to be champions for peace and justice. He also serves as co-executive director of the Center for Progressive Renewal, which is renewing progressive Christianity by training new entrepreneurial leaders, supporting the birth of new liberal/progressive congregations, and by renewing and strengthening existing progressive churches. He served the Cathedral of Hope for 22 years, first as senior pastor and later as dean.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

LGBT archives grow with artifacts and pics

Archives gives glimpse into the history and development of Dallas’ vibrant LGBT community

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Morgan Fairchild, left, Faye Dunaway, right, present William Waybourn with a check for $50,000
MOMMIE DEAREST | Morgan Fairchild, left, Faye Dunaway, right, present William Waybourn with a check for $50,000 to help found the AIDS Resource Center. (Courtesy Phil Johnson Library)

Resource Center Dallas has been archiving the history of the LGBT community of Dallas since Phil Johnson donated his own collection to them in the 1990s.

Johnson had saved every issue of the Advocate, This Week in Texas and Dallas Voice since the magazines were founded. He also had clipped articles about the LGBT community from the Dallas Morning News and the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald since the 1940s.

The center recently received several new donations to add to the collection Johnson began.

Blake Wilkinson and Rick Vanderslice donated items from Queer LiberAction that will make one of the most stunning visual displays when the center has more space to display them, officials said. QL’s kissing booth, Milk box, megaphone, signs and fliers document a resurgence in activism that included a response to the Rainbow Lounge Raid.

When Cece Cox became executive director of the Resource Center, she found a bill the city sent to Gay Urban Truth Squad, a direct action protest group from the early 1980s that was Dallas’ version of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power). The bill was for clean up after a protest on a plaza outside the convention center near City Hall.

Hundreds had gathered outside a political fundraiser where President George H.W. Bush was speaking for the largest AIDS protest that had been held in Dallas. Protesters chalked outlines of bodies on the sidewalk and wrote the name of someone they knew who had died of AIDS.

Those attending the fundraiser had to walk over those “bodies” as they left their event.

The bill listed charges of $81 for an electrician and $100 to powerwash the sidewalk. A note to pay with DGA funds is initialed by John Thomas, executive director of Resource Center Dallas at the time.

Cox has the bill framed in her office.

William Waybourn, who was one of the founders of Dallas Gay Alliance and the foundation that became Resource Center Dallas, also recently donated a number of pictures to the center from its early days.

Resource Center spokesperson Rafael McDonnell told the story — told to him by Waybourn — of how the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic received its initial funding after Waybourn spoke to Dr. Mathilde Krim, founder of the American Foundation For AIDS Research, about the lack of medical services for persons with AIDS in Dallas.

“The best thing we can do for someone with AIDS is get someone a bus ticket out of here,” Waybourn told her.

Together with the AmFAR’s founding chair Elizabeth Taylor, the organization donated $100,000 to start the clinic.

Paul von Wupperfeld recently donated a letter that he sent to George W. Bush’s campaign advisor, Karl Rove. In it, he asked Rove to help secure a meeting to encourage Bush to support hate crime legislation.

Other archive acquisitions include a Cheer Dallas megaphone and uniform. That group performed through the 1990s and were featured in a scene in the 1995 film “Jeffrey.”

Because of the enormous amount of documents and artifacts, much of the archives are kept off premises. To arrange to see or to use any of the collection, contact librarian Sandy Swann at Resource Center Dallas.

She said researchers working on master’s theses have contacted her about using documents.

“We had an English grad student studying drag performance in the DFW area,” she said. “He went back looking at old ads in the Voice, Texas Triangle and TWT.”

She said when Cathedral of Hope recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, she helped by providing material from the original Circle of Friends, the church’s founding group.

The archive also proved helpful to groups in the recent battle with DART over nondiscrimination based on gender identity, Swann said.

The Phil Johnson Library, Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan Street. Mon., Wed. and Thurs. 10 a.m. –6 p.m.; Tues. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.;  Fri. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., and Sat. noon–4 p.m. Contact Swann for more information.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

New gay Dallas artifacts: A letter from Log Cabin to Karl Rove, QL’s kissing booth and these pics

Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell informs us that RCD has made some notable acquisitions of late for its Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Library. For example, McDonnell said activists Blake Wilkinson and Rick Vanderslice recently dropped off some Queer LiberAction memorabilia, including a megaphone and the group’s patented kissing booth. Also, some recovering ex-Log Cabin Republicans provided a copy of a letter they wrote in the 1990s to Karl Rove, then an advisor to Gov. George W. Bush (we’re dying to read this). And finally, McDonnell sent over the below photos he took of photos that came in from William Waybourn, a pioneering Dallas gay-rights activist who now lives outside of Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, many of these items will have to be placed in storage for the time being due to space concerns. But McDonnell says Waybourn’s pics are slated for display at the Center. After the jump, we’ve posted a few a more of them along with Waybourn’s descriptions.

This is a photograph I took of John Thomas in the mid-1990s. He loved it, saying it captured the essence of who he was. Later, when AIDS began to take its toll on him, John wanted it used as his “official” photo because he was concerned that people wouldn’t remember how he looked before AIDS, and not as someone ravaged by the disease. On a side note, I asked John, Bill Nelson, Mike Richards or others appearing in the media on behalf of lesbian and gay issues to look presentable, e.g. wear coats and ties, etc. John and Charlotte Taft, then Dallas’ most “out” lesbian, were always media outstanding role models, skewing people’s impression of what they thought “activists” looked and sounded like.

—  John Wright

Cece Cox named new ED at Resource Center Dallas

Equality Texas extends offer to ED candidate while YFT puts search on hold for the summer

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

NEW DIRECTOR | Cece Cox assumes her new duties as executive director of Resource Center Dallas on Saturday, July 3.

Resource Center Dallas on Thursday, July 1 announced that Cece Cox has been named as the new executive director of the organization, replacing Mike McKay, who resigned in April to take the position of chief of operations in the Volunteer Recruitment and Selection Division for the Peace Corps.

RCD board chair Reid Ainsworth sent an e-mail to staff on Thursday, announcing Cox would become the new executive director of the organization.

Cox already works at the center as associate executive director of GLBT Community Services. She assumes her new position on July 3.

“I cut my teeth as a baby activist in this building,” Cox said.

She has been active in the LGBT community since the early 1990s when she started a local chapter of GLAAD. She was later president of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

Cox has also worked as director of development and marketing for the Turtle Creek Chorale.

Cox was instrumental in coordinating support on the Dallas city council to include non-discrimination based on sexual orientation for city employees and the inclusion of sexual orientation in 1995 in DART’s employment policy.

Cox received her law degree in 2004 and after a short period of working for a private law firm, took the position at the community center.

“I missed my community terribly,” Cox said of why she returned to community activism.

She said she always thinks about the history of the community center.

“Before John [Thomas] died, he told me, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t stop.’”

Thomas was a founder and original executive director of the center.

Cox sees her immediate goals as serving the increasing number of people with HIV and working locally to achieve equal rights for the LGBT community.

“And I’m going to get us into that new community center so we can serve more people,” she said. “There are lots of opportunities for us to engage and get our community the rights we deserve.”

Resource Center Dallas was one of three high-profile LGBT organizations searching for new executive directors over the past few months, along with Equality Texas and Youth First Texas.

Equality Texas may be at the end of its search process for a new executive director after the board met Thursday and decided to extend an offer to a candidate.

Paul Scott stepped down as executive director of Equality Texas in January to become executive director of AIDS Services of Austin. Scott preceded McKay as executive director of Resource Center Dallas.

Judith Dumont left Youth First Texas in June to assume a position at Eastfield College but it is unlikely the organization will begin looking for a replacement for her until fall, officials said.

On Thursday, July 1, the boards of Equality Texas and the Equality Texas Foundation met jointly by phone to approve and extend an offer to a candidate to become the organization’s new executive director.

Interim executive director Chuck Smith said an announcement should be made next week when the candidate accepts the offer.

Equality Texas began its nationwide search for a new executive director on Jan. 8. At the time of the announcement, the goal was to have a new director in place by May 15, but the interview process took longer.

Smith said he’s looking forward to going back to his position as deputy director and getting a day off.

“It certainly has been a rigorous and thorough process,” he said. “We’ve seen many strong candidates.”

Smith said he expects the new director to be in place during the summer, long before the start of the new legislative session in January 2011.

When fully staffed, Equality Texas has six full-time positions. In addition to the executive director vacancy, the position of director of development is also open.

Smith said it made sense to wait until the new director was hired and for that person to select the new development team.

He said the work of the organization has continued on schedule. The political action committee will be making endorsements in legislative races through the summer.

Political director Randall Terrell, who was recently in Dallas for the DART vote on nondiscrimination, said he is already planning for the January legislative session.

YFT board chair Cathy Gonzalez said that the organization would staff activities and programs with volunteers through the summer. She said some volunteers would be given job titles and responsibility for supervising other volunteers.

“It will get us through the summer,” Gonzalez said.

The board met this week for the first time since Dumont resigned.

“In the fall we’ll convene a search committee,” Gonzalez said. “We need someone with a counseling or social service background.”

But she said they weren’t ready to start accepting resumes.

“That wouldn’t be fair to applicants,” she said, since they wouldn’t be looking at them through the summer.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Remembering friends on World AIDS Day

John Thomas

John Thomas was the first executive director of Resource Center Dallas — AIDS Resource Center, Gay and Lesbian Community Center, AIDS Food Pantry, Nelson-Tebedo Clinic. John sang with the Chorale and helped found the Women’s Chorus. John was an officer of DGLA. In the 80s and 90s, there was little John Thomas wasn’t involved in with our community.

John died in 1999.

The gay and lesbian community center and the bell wall at Cathedral of Hope are both named for him.

—  David Taffet