FAMILY LIFE: The changing face of ‘family’

Today’s LGBT youth have options available that the gays and lesbians of yore would not have dreamed possible

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

What a difference a few decades and the evolution of new generations can make in society, particularly when it comes to the development of a new community.

When I first moved to Dallas in the summer of 1969 — just a few months short of my 21st birthday — I found a community of people that heretofore I had only read about in literature. It was by accident that I landed in Oak Lawn, because I just as easily could have rented my first apartment in any other area of the city.

As I started navigating the neighborhood, going to the grocery store and going about the other mundane aspects of my life, I began noticing some very interesting people. It wasn’t long before I realized that I had stumbled upon something new and exciting.

The LGBT community as we know it today was in its infancy. There were a few gay men’s bars, at least one lesbian hangout, some drag shows, cliques of gay people working at downtown department stores and hippy festivals in Lee Park where LGBT people celebrated openly with young, liberal straight people.

In those days, I didn’t see a lot of same-sex couples living together. I occasionally became aware of older same-sex couples who had lived together for long times in homes. But for the most part I only met other single people like myself, living in apartments.

There were a lot of people living together as roommates, but from what I could tell there were few commitments in these arrangements.

It was the days of indiscriminate sexual activity, practiced by gays and straights alike.

I quickly found a place for myself in the community, and I became a part of a family of gay and straight people who socialized together. There were a couple of married straight people in the group, a divorced woman with a child, several gay and straight men and other people who drifted in and out of the network over the years.

This was a time when people realizing they were gay often chose not to reveal it to their birth families. Many people who felt isolated developed relationships with groups of people who gave them the support they needed to recognize and accept who and what they were.

Many other groups of people that I encountered seemed to consist primarily of families of gay men or lesbians. It seemed to me that lesbians tended to be more likely to couple than gay men at that time. I was unaware of any same-sex couples raising children in the early 1970s.

That early model of friends-as-family was one that served me well, and for some reason I’ve never much wanted to become involved in a committed relationship with a partner. Despite a couple of half-hearted tries over the years, that still holds true for me today.

But it has changed drastically for many other people since the launch of the gay rights movement with the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City in 1969.

Legal challenges to state laws restricting marriage to heterosexuals began in the early 1970s and the fight for marriage equality has progressed to the point that same-sex marriage is legal in six states in the country now, plus the District of Columbia.

Information gleaned in part from the 2000 U.S. Census and published by the Williams Institute in “Census Snapshot” in December 2007, reveals that an estimated 8.8 million LGBTs lived in the U.S. in 2005. In 2005, there were 776,943 same-sex couples in the U.S., compared to 594,391 in 2000, according to the report.

The census information makes it clear that LGBT people live in every county in the U.S., whereas in the early years openly gay people seemed to be mostly a big-city phenomenon.

Of these same-sex couples living in the U.S. in 2005, 20 percent were raising children under the age of 18, and an estimated 270,313 of the U.S.’s children were living in households headed by same-sex-couple, according to the report.

An estimated 65,000 of the U.S.’s adopted children reportedly lived with a lesbian or gay parent.

Clearly, in the 40-plus years since the start of the gay rights movement, all of the characteristics of LGBT life have changed dramatically. Young people are often quicker to acknowledge and accept their sexual orientation, and there is a whole array of options that were unavailable to previous generations of LGBT people.

When young LGBT people think about their lives and relationships today, it’s probably in terms of dating, finding the right person, living together, getting married and even raising children. If anyone had told me 40 years ago that I would see such developments in my lifetime, I would have thought they were crazy.

But that’s how it is today, and it makes me wonder what sort of decisions I might have made about my life if so much had been available to me when I was young.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at

—  John Wright

Queer4Gays YouTube channel is 1st to feature youth from entire LGBTQIA spectrum

Just a couple weeks ago a new YouTube channel, Queer4Gays, was launched for the purpose of featuring LGBT youth perspectives on queer issues. The channel includes high school-and college-age youth from the entire LGBTQIA spectrum (now I know my ABCs …).

There have been other similar channels, but this is the first LGBTQIA collaboration and has already garnered attention from other gay media.

The way Q4G works is, each youth posts a video once a week on a certain day. They answer the “question of the week” and then give a little update on their life. Questions answered so far have been about gender preference upon reincarnation and what degree youths been in control of the course of their lives. There are also a few silly, fluffy questions to answer, such as the existence of “gaydar.”

I, your rambling transgentleman, am featured on the Queer4Gays channel on Fridays with another transman. (Watch my introductory segment above.) Some days of the week are called “Double Days,” where two people post on one day.

The channel also does promotional videos, such as taking part in the “It Gets Better” project and their own take on the “Yes, I’m Gay” project with “Yes, I’m LGBTQIA,” a video compilation of the youths from all letters in the alphabet soup giving examples of their likes, dislikes, and behaviors that may or may not be stereotypical of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Each youth featured on the channel is humorous and unique in their own way, coming from all backgrounds and experiences. Questions can be suggested and as always, subscribers are appreciated.

—  admin

Give ‘Em Heel Urban Jungle Fashion Show at the Rose Room

Don’t be fashionably late

The fashion show is the largest annual fundraiser event at YFT that is 100% youth-designed and 100% youth-led.  All proceeds go directly to youth-designed and youth-led programs and activities at YFT.  The show will feature clothing designs by students and up-and-coming designers as well as entertainment in between the lines!  Non-alcoholic “mocktails” and snacks will be available at the bar.” — from Youth First Texas website.

DEETS: The Rose Room, 3911 Cedar Springs Road (inside Station 4). 6 p.m. $10 suggested donation for adults; $5 for youth.


—  Rich Lopez

Senate OKs 2 Equality Texas-backed bills targeting bullying, suicide in same day

Rep. Garnet Coleman

When was the last time the Senate passed two bills backed by Equality Texas in one day? Probably never.

Earlier we told you that the Senate voted unanimously this afternoon to approve HB 1942, an anti-bullying bill by Rep. Diane Howard, R-Arlington, that is Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s session.

Tonight, the Senate voted 28-3 to pass a suicide prevention bill by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston.This is the bill that was originally called Asher’s Law in honor of Asher Brown, the 13-year gay youth from the Houston area who took his own life last year in response to bullying at school.

Neither bill in its final form contains specific references or protections for LGBT youth. But the fact is that if they did, they wouldn’t have had any chance of passing the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports on Coleman’s bill:

HB 1386, the teen suicide prevention bill by Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) has passed the Texas Senate on a 28 to 3 vote. The bill instructs the Texas Department of State Health Services to develop resources designed to prevent teen suicide, including mental health counseling, crisis prevention tools and suicide prevention eduction. Schools would then have the option of implementing those programs, but would not be required to do so.

The Senate Education Committee made some substantial changes to the bill the House sent over, most notably adding provisions that prohibit a child from seeking counseling without their parent’s knowledge. For queer teens who may not be out to their parents this is a particularly cruel change that may prevent some kids who need help from seeking it. Since the Senate version of the bill is different than the House version the House must concur with the changes. If they do not a “conference committee” of 5 House members (appointed by the Speaker of the House) and 5 Senators (appointed by the Lieutenant Governor) will be formed to to work out a comprimise between the two versions.

When he laid out the bill in the Senate Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), the bill’s Senate sponsor, made what he called a “suicide pact” with the rest of the Senate to oppose any attempt by the conference committee to allow students to receive anonymous counseling. By tradition the Senate sponsor of House bills is one of the chairs of the conference committee so Ellis will be in a position to keep his pact.

Considering Ellis’ commitment (however much his choice of words may be in poor taste) and the ticking clock of a session that has less than a week left in it Coleman may choose to simply concur with the changes the Senate made and send the bill to the Governor’s desk for signing.

—  John Wright

TX Senate unanimously OKs anti-bullying bill

Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington

The Texas Senate voted 30-0 this afternoon to approve HB 1942, a bipartisan anti-bullying bill from Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, that has become Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s legislative session. Because there was a technical correction to the bill in a Senate committee, it now goes back to the House, which has already approved it, for a concurrence vote. From there, it’s on to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk. Although the bill doesn’t provide specific protections for LGBT youth, Equality Texas says in its fact sheet on HB 1942 that it would do the following:

• Amends the Education Code to allow staff development to receive training in the prevention, identification and reporting of and response to bullying.

• Provides for the transfer of the bully to another classroom or campus upon the discretion of the board of trustees. Currently, if a student wants to get away from the person who bullied him or her, the victim has to move to another classroom or campus.

• Mandates that the State Board of Education, “in consultation with the Texas School Safety Center” amend the health curriculum to “include evidence-based practices that will effectively address awareness, prevention, identification and resolution of and intervention in bullying and harassment.”

• Includes the definition of bullying in Chapter 37 (Discipline) of the Texas Education Code for the first time.

• Definition of bullying includes an “expression through electronic means”.

• Definition of bullying applies to “conduct that occurs on school property, at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, or on a vehicle operated by the district […]”

• Expands the definition of bullying to include actions “Exploits an imbalance of power between the student perpetrator and the student victim through written or verbal expression or physical conduct[…]”

• Mandates that each board of trustees of each school district adopt an anti-bullying policy that:

1. prohibits retaliation against anyone “who in good faith provides information concerning an incident of bullying […]”;
2. establishes a procedure for notifying a parent or guardian of the victim and the bully;
3. “establishes the actions a student should take to obtain assistance and intervention in response to bullying […]”;
4. “sets out the available counseling options” for the victim, witness to an incident of bullying or the bully him/herself.
5. “establishes a procedure for reporting an incident of bullying, investigating a reported incident of bullying, and determining whether the incident of bullying occurred […]”

—  John Wright

Point Foundation honors Tyler Clementi with scholarship named after him

The Point Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships for LGBT students, this week announced the creation of a new scholarship named after Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old gay Rutgers University student who committed suicide last fall after his roommate and another student secretly videotaped him having sex with another man and posted the video online.

Tyler Clementi

Clementi’s death, on Sept. 22, was one of a string of gay teen suicides that sparked a national conversation over anti-LGBT bullying and prompted a number of highly-visible campaigns against bullying.

According to a press release from The Point Foundation, the foundation created the scholarship “with the cooperation of Clementi’s parents, Joe and Jane, to honor his memory and to further the efforts to end the bullying that many LGBT youth face within education environments.” A statement attributed to Joe and Jane Clementi said: “Our son Tyler was a kind and gentle young man who enjoyed helping people. This scholarship will help college students and it will raise awareness of young people who are subject to abuse through malicious bullying — and so it will help people in Tyler’s memory.”

The Point Foundation has already set aside funds for the Tyler Clementi Scholarship, and will accept donations in his name from the public and current Point Foundation supporters. Donations can be made online at or by phone at 866-33-POINT.

—  admin

President’s 2012 budget ‘could have been worse’

President Barack Obama

Although Obama’s proposal isn’t everything LGBT and HIV leaders want, they say it is better than what is likely to come out of the House

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

There was relatively little for the LGBT and HIV communities to complain about in the proposed Fiscal Year 2012 budget released by President Barack Obama on Monday, Feb. 14. And given the president’s proposed five-year freeze in non-essential domestic spending, there were some sighs of relief.

Not that everything is hunky dory. There is no increase for the federal government’s program to fight bullying and LGBT youth suicide. Some HIV funding doesn’t keep up with the numbers of people needing help. And there was a significant slash to Community Development Block Grants, upon which many LGBT community health centers rely.

And the budget statements released with the proposed dollar figures had a healthy dose of bureaucratic double-speak. A three-page fact sheet specific to HIV programs says the budget “authorizes HHS to transfer 1 percent of HHS domestic HIV program funding (approximately $60 million) to support cross-cutting collaborations in areas such as increasing linkages to care and developing effective combinations of prevention interventions.”

But overall, community leaders seem pleased with the proposal.

David Stacy, deputy director of the Human Rights Campaign, said he’s generally pleased with President Obama’s proposal.

“In a budget where the president is proposing a five-year spending freeze, it’s great to see the administration is able to recognize HIV/AIDS as a priority for funding and to provide at least modest increases,” said Stacy. He also said HRC is also pleased to see modest increases in the budget for the Department of Justices for implementation of the new federal hate crimes law.

Lorri L. Jean, co-chair of Centerlink, a national organization of centers around the country which provide health services and other programs to the LGBT and HIV communities, said even the five-year freeze is not as scary as it sounds.

“The freeze in discretionary spending is at a level that is already much higher than under the previous administration,” said Jean. And with the tough economic climate in recent years, she said, LGBT centers “have taken our share of hits.”

But Jean said she thinks the federal government, under the Obama administration, has become more sophisticated in how it distributes program money.

“Instead of spreading money around a wide array of funders, some of which can’t produce results,” said Jean, “the federal government has gotten better at choosing organizations that can deliver.

“As worried as I am about all of it,” she continued, “it’s different now with our community than under the Bush administration. We’ve got an executive branch that is open to and significantly supportive of LGBT concerns being included in the funding streams. The difference is like night and day.”

Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of The AIDS Institute and one of about 40 HIV and LGBT leaders briefed about the budget at the White House on Monday, said he was pleased with the budget.

“We realize the resources of the federal government are severely constrained, therefore, under today’s fiscal environment, we are pleased the president has maintained his commitment to HIV/AIDS programs and even proposed some minimal increases,” Schmid said. “While the proposed funding levels are far from what is needed to provide the necessary care and treatment for people with HIV/AIDS or to significantly reduce the number of new infections, The AIDS Institutes appreciates the budget requests and now urges the Congress to show a similar level of support.”

Log Cabin Republicans are a stark exception to the LGBT and HIV communities’ relative comfort level with the president’s proposal. R. Clarke Cooper, Log Cabin’s national executive director, criticized the proposal for failing to cut more.

“Our nation is at a breaking point and the president’s budget proposal simply isn’t a serious response to the challenges facing our country today,” Cooper said.  “The American people are facing a federal debt of over $14 trillion dollars, and the president needs to join with Congress to make significant cuts.”

Interpreting the budget proposal

Obviously, interpreting budget proposals is as much art as it is math. And understanding a budget proposal requires seeing not only the number of dollars the proposal puts forth but also how that number compares with the current fiscal year.

The complication this year is that Congress has yet to finalize its budget for Fiscal Year 2011, so budget figures put forth for FY 2012 are being compared against budget figures approved for FY 2010.

Here are some of those numbers for the LGBT and HIV communities:

• Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students — this is a consolidation of several programs, including the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program headed up by openly gay Assistant Secretary Kevin Jennings in the Department of Education. Programs under this office are addressing such issues as anti-gay bullying and suicide among LGBT youth. The budget proposal for FY 2012 is $365 million, which represents no increase from FY 2010.

• Suicide prevention — Funding for suicide prevention work under the National Institutes for Health call for a significant increase, from only $2 million in FY 2010 to a proposed $18 million in FY 2012. Not all this research is specific to LGBT-related suicide.

• AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) — this program, to help low income people with HIV to obtain life-saving medications, is being increased by $105 million over FY 2010. With more than 6,000 people on waiting lists to receive such assistance, notes Schmid, the increase is “far from what is adequate.”

“If we have long wait lists now, just imagine what the situation will be like next year with no increases in funding,” added Schmid.

• Community Development Block Grants — Jean, who is co-chair of Centerlink, an organization of more than 200 LGBT community health centers around the country, says “a lot” of centers depend on this funding and the president’s proposal to slash 7.5 percent of that funding (from FY 2010 levels) “will have an impact,” she says.

• AIDS Prevention — the proposal calls for increasing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention budget by $58 million to support the National HIV/AIDS Strategy goal of reducing HIV infections.

• Breast cancer research — the president’s budget estimates spending about $778 million on breast cancer research in FY 2012. This is a slight increase over FY 2010’s $763 million.

• AIDS research — the president’s proposal calls for $3.2 billion to be spent on HIV/AIDS research in Fiscal 2012. This compares to $3.1 billion expected to be spent in FY 2011.

• Hate crimes law enforcement — the Fiscal Year 2012 budget calls for a $2 million increase over FY 2010 in the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service which is mandated with enforcement of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

What’s to come

“Things certainly could have been much worse,” said HRC’s David Stacy, “and they probably will be much worse once Congress begins its deliberations.”

The House and Senate budget committees will now begin to hold hearings to examine various aspects of President Obama’s proposal and will begin drafting a “budget proposal” for Congress to approve.

House Republicans have indicated they believe even deeper cuts are necessary in domestic spending, and LGBT and HIV leaders are clearly concerned about what will happen to the president’s proposal once the Republican-dominated House begins its deliberations.

“I am more worried about what Republicans in the House might do,” said Jean.

Schmid said the Republican proposals for deeper cuts will “seriously exacerbate the crisis” in ensuring that people with HIV infection and low incomes can receive lifesaving medications. He noted that Republicans call for no increase in ADAP funding and are still trying to eliminate an increase of $25 million appropriated for FY 2011.

Michael Ruppal, executive director of The AIDS Institute, issued a statement Tuesday, Feb. 15, saying The AIDS Institute “urges the Congress to reject those reckless cuts and consider the long term human and societal impacts of their decisions.”

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

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

—  John Wright

Quite possibly the best pitch to listen to one gay singer’s Christmas tunes

This pitch by out singer Darren Stewart-Jones was one of the best things we saw all week. He’s in a bit of a quandary with his two new Christmas releases. As it turns out, they are the same two songs that are going to be  released by a singer with a much higher profile. So he offered the reasons why LGBT Christmas music lovers should pick his tracks over (or maybe along with) a certain pop star’s.

Subject: Kylie or me…

So, I decide to officially release two Christmas tracks on iTunes this year. A week later, international gay icon Kylie Minogue does the same. And by the same, I mean the exact same two Xmas carols, out of all of the fucking Christmas songs out there. Anyway, I took the liberty of doing some comparison shopping for you. Happy Holidays!

“Santa Baby”
Why you should buy my version…
1.       My version is gay. I mean, the song has always been a little gay but my version is sung by me, a gay man, to Santa, a kind of gay daddy bear, if you will. If you sing along, you don’t have to pretend to be a girl.

2.       Inspired by the It Gets Better project, proceeds from my version go to Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans youth charities, including the LGBT Youth Line here in Canada.

3.       My home-made video on YouTube features naked guys and is really hot!

Why you shouldn’t buy hers…
1.        She is already rich.

2.       Plenty of people will download her version even if you don’t.

3.       She can really grate on your nerves sometimes. Admit it.

“Let It Snow”
Why you should buy my version…
1.       I won’t be making any money from Santa Baby because it is all going to charity so if you download Let It Snow, I actually get some cash.

2.       You really feel a need to support independent, gay artists.

3.       I grew up in Canada so when I sing about snow, I know what I am talking about.

Why you shouldn’t buy hers…
1.       She is already rich.

2.       Plenty of people will download her version even if you don’t.

3.       She is from Australia. What the fuck does she know about snow?

Happy Holidays from Darren Stewart-Jones

Baby Gumm Productions

His cursing isn’t very Christmas spirit-like though. After sampling his music snippets on iTunes, you can compare with these clips of Minogue singing her versions here and find more information about her Dec. 7 holiday release.

—  Rich Lopez

Joel Burns begs teens contemplating suicide: Give yourself a chance to see life get better

Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns, right, and his husband, J.D. Angle

I have known Joel Burns for almost 10 years — several years longer than he has been on the Fort Worth City Council.

My wife and I met Joel and his husband, J.D. Angle, through mutual friends back when Joel and J.D. still lived in their beautifully restored home in the same East Fort Worth neighborhood where my wife and I and our children lived. I saw them then as the perfect couple: happy, handsome, healthy men with a beautiful home and great jobs. I knew they had great things ahead of them.

Then they moved to another beautifully restored older home in an historic neighborhood just south of downtown Fort Worth, and Joel ran for City Council. I was so happy when he was elected, because I believed that not only would Joel be a good representative for his constituents in District 9, but that he would also be a good representative for the LGBT community.

I think the fact that no one even stepped up to oppose Joel when he ran for re-election in 2009 shows that his constituents, overall, believe he is doing a good job on the City Council. But last night — Tuesday, Oct. 12 — during the weekly Fort Worth City Council meeting, Joel proved without a doubt that he also represents his LGBT community, and he proved why it is so important to have openly LGBT elected officials at all levels of government.

At each council meeting, council members are given a few minutes each at the start of the meeting to make announcements and to recognize people from their districts who have done something outstanding. Last night, Joel took his time to talk about the recent suicides of several LGBT youth — and to tell his own very personal and very powerful story.

After recounting the stories of several young men who have taken their own lives in recent weeks after being subjected to anti-gay bullying and harassment, Joel told his fellow councilmembers and those in the council chambers that he was about to tell them something he had never told anyone before — not even his parents or his husband. And then, struggling through his own tears, he told them of the day when he was a 9th grader at Crowley High School and a group of older teens accosted him and “roughed him up.”

“They said that I was a faggot, and that I should die and go to hell where I belonged. That erupted the fear that I had kept pushed down, that what I was beginning to feel on the inside must somehow be showing on the outside. Ashamed, humiliated and confused, I went home. There must be something very wrong with me, I thought, something I could never let my family or anyone else know,” he recalled.

Joel broke down then, and acknowledged that he couldn’t actually bring himself to read aloud the next couple of sentences he had written that described his own near suicide attempt. “I, don’t want my mother and father to have to bear the pain of having to hear … hear me say the …” He couldn’t finish the sentence.

When he regained his composure enough to continue, Joel said: “So I will just say, and I will skip ahead, I have never told this story to anyone before tonight. Not my family, not my husband, not anyone. But the number of suicides in recent days have upset me so much, they have just torn at my heart. And even though there may be some political repercussions for telling my story, the story is not just for the adults who might choose or not choose to support me. The story is for the young people who might be holding that gun tonight. Or the rope. Or the pill bottle. You need to know that the story doesn’t end where I didn’t tell it on that unfortunate day. There is so, so, so much more.

“Yes, high school was difficult. Coming out was painful. But life got so much better for me. And I want to tell any teen that might see this: Give yourself a chance to see just how much better life will get. And it will get better. You will get out of the household that doesn’t accept you. You will get out of that high school, and you never have to deal with those jerks again if you don’t want to. You will find and you will make new friends who will understand you. And life will get so, so, so much better.”

Joel then talked about all the happy memories that fill his life now, from the first time he ever saw his future husband, to the day he asked J.D. to spend his life with him, to winning his first election to just a few days ago when he sat with his father after his father came out of surgery, and his father told him how happy he was to have Joel there with him.

He said: To those who are feeling very alone tonight, please know that I understand how you feel, that things will get easier. Please stick around to make those happy memories for yourself. It may not seem like it tonight, but they will. And the attitudes of society will change. Please, live long enough to be there to see it.”

Joel ended by encouraging anyone who needs help or resources to deal with the issue of LGBT teen suicide to contact or to call him directly at 817-392-8809. “And you can call me, and I will get you whatever resources you need,” he promised.

As Joel finished, his fellow councilmember and friend Kathleen Hicks led the rest of the council and those in the council chambers in a standing ovation for Joel and his courage. I think he deserves a standing ovation from all of us, as well. Because last night, Joel Burns did us all proud, and maybe — just maybe — he helped save someone’s life.

Watch video of Joel’s speech to the council below:

—  admin

Vigils planned in wake of 4 gay-bullying suicides

Asher Brown

Vigils are reportedly being planned around the country for the weekend of Oct. 9-10 to honor and remember the four youth who’ve recently committed suicide in response to anti-gay bullying and harassment. Those youth are Asher Brown, 13, of Houston; Seth Walsh, 13, of Tehachapi, Calif.; Billy Lucas, 15, of Greensburg, Ind.; and Tyler Clementi of New Jersey.

A conference call is planned for Thursday night, Sept. 30 to coordinate the vigils. We’ll have more info as soon as it becomes available.

—  John Wright