LOCAL BRIEFS: Stonewall voter registration drive, Lone Star Ride Casino Night

Stonewall holding voter registration drive

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas will be at JR’s Bar & Grill, 3923 Cedar Springs Road, on Sunday, July 30, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to register new voters. The registration table will be next to the Cedar Springs entrance.

Those registering to vote only have to fill out a short form that asks for name, address and some form of identification, such as a driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.

LSR hosting Casino Night

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS hosts its fourth annual Casino Night on Thursday Aug. 4, from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. The event is hosted by Audi Dallas, 5033 Lemmon Ave., and tickets are $50 in advance and $65 at the door. The ticket price includes cocktails and appetizers as well as enough chips to get started at the tables.

Players can spend their winnings on silent auction items when the tables close.

For more information, call 214-460-4887.

LGBT bereavement support group starting

VITAS Innovative Hospice Care in Fort Worth will offer its next grief support group, intended specifically to meet the needs of LGBT people who have lost a loved one, beginning Wednesday, Aug. 1, at Agape Metropolitan Community Church, 4615 East California Parkway.

The group, to be led by the Rev. Teri Lubbers, will continue to meet each Wednesday in August.

To register or for more information, call the VITAS Bereavement Department at 817-870-7070.

Marine to speak at RCD

Justin Elzie, the first U.S. Marine discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 1993 after coming out as gay on ABC’s World News Tonight, will appear at a book signing and meet-and-greet event Saturday, July 30, at 2 p.m. at Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan St.

Elzie was the first Marine to challenge DADT in federal court and after winning his lawsuit, he was reinstated and went on to serve four years as an openly gay Marine.
After coming out, he was recommended for promotion and served as platoon sergeant.

Elzie will be signing copies of his memoir, Playing by the Rules, on Saturday at RCD. The event is open to the public, and a limited number of copies of Elzie’s book will be available for purchase.

—  John Wright

LSR Journal: A family affair on bikes

TWO GENERATIONS | Regina Watson, left, and her son Ivan formed Team Mother and Son to participate in the Lone Star Ride. (Photo Courtesy of Regina Waston)

Regina Watson and her son Ivan are looking forward to their first year together as Lone Star Ride cyclists

M.M. ADJARIAN | Contributing Writer

Regina Watson rides a mountain/road hybrid; so does her son, Ivan. Where their individual tastes in bicycles are concerned, the apple clearly does not fall far from the tree.

This year, the pair are joining forces to participate in the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS as Team Mother & Son.

Regina lives in Weatherford and manages the toy section at a department store. Ivan lives in Fort Worth and works as a Wells Fargo banker.

Ivan was the first to volunteer for the LSR in 2002. He signed on to do route marking, the duty he carried out for several years after.

“I wanted to give back to the community and get involved in something worthwhile,” he says of his reason for volunteering.

Regina joined to support her son, who also happens to be HIV-positive. The first time she volunteered was in 2005. But as luck and foul weather would have it, she and Ivan both pulled out of the ride that year because of Hurricane Rita and the delays it caused.

Six years later, mother and son have come together again to participate in LSR, only this time as cyclists. It will be a year of firsts for both: Regina will finally have a chance to take part in the event from which she withdrew in 2005 and Ivan will take to his bicycle, a silver carbon copy of the gold-colored one his mother owns.

Mother and son eagerly await taking to the streets on their bikes for this year’s ride. But Ivan does have fond memories of the time he spent on the route crew and the friendships he formed with people he worked with then, largely under cover of darkness.

“We didn’t really get to participate much in the actual ride because we were out there on the job [hanging up signs, marking turns and highlighting road hazards] most of the night,” says Ivan. “But on the last day of the ride, we got to enjoy some of the event and I got to see the way riders come together. I was really impressed.”

Rider camaraderie was in fact the very reason Ivan decided to pedal — rather than spray-chalk — his way through another Lone Star Ride.

“They’re high-energy, caring and compassionate people,” he observes, “who are just fun to be around.”

And who don’t lack for any sense of humor.

“They give you stickers to pee” when you stop at pit stop, says Ivan, beginning to chuckle.

His mother is immediately infected by her son’s laughter.

“It’s a reward for peeing,” she giggles. “You’re staying hydrated, so you’re getting rewarded with stickers.”

Regina pauses to catch her breath.

“I think it’s the goal for some people to get covered in stickers from all the different pit stops,” she adds with a grin.

The Watsons are more than aware that as cyclists riding in the hot Texas sun, they will experience not only thirst, but also the muscle aches and pains that so often come with a rigorous physical workout. But both — and especially Regina — are looking forward to the massages that will be available at every pit stop and to all riders who want them.

“They sound really nice,” she says dreamily. “So do the people who give them to you.”

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

—  John Wright

LSR Journal: A different kind of biker

As moto crew chief for Lone Star Ride, Deanie Sewell takes her job of keeping cyclists safe very seriously

M.M. ADJARIAN | Contributing Writer

It takes all kinds of people — and all kinds of bikes — to make up a Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS.

Most riders prefer bikes that are lightweight — lean and fast. But others prefer something with a little more heft and horsepower.

Deanie Sewell is one such participant. She wouldn’t dream of taking to the road on anything other than her Honda Shadow 750 motorcycle.

Sewell, an accountant, has been with the LSR as a member of the motorcycle — or “moto” — brigade since the ride began in 2001. She and her fellow bikers patrol the event route to ensure that their cycling counterparts travel in complete safety at all times.

“If bicyclists need help getting across an intersection, [the crew] will be their eyes looking behind them,” she says. “And if we see a rider out on the road having problems, we can usually stop and get to them quicker than a vehicle.”

Sometimes, though, what’s called for is more along the lines of a pep talk. And brigade members are more than happy to slow down for a spell and oblige.

“You can ride right next to someone and give them a little encouragement,” says Sewell, who also serves as crew chief.

She adds, “Those cyclists really become your own; you get to know a lot of them out there, riding and watching out for them.”

Sewell knows very well how difficult cycling can be. She rode in the 1999 Texas Tanqueray AIDS Ride, a 300-plus-mile event that traveled across Texas and ended in Dallas.

“I rode all four days [of the TTAR] so I can say I did it. But after that, motorcycling was looking pretty good,” Sewell admits with a grin.

The moto crew chief and her merry band of bikers also help maintain route visibility. With cans of spray chalk carefully packed alongside the rest of their “road survival” gear, they make sure that all road markings — and especially the turns, which riders can easily miss — are clearly marked.

“We have a route-marking crew that goes out and marks the route,” Sewell explains. “After cars have driven over the chalk on the road, sometimes the markings can get a little faint. So we stop and re–mark them.”

Being able to cruise around for two days on her Honda in the company of other motorcycle enthusiasts is just one of the reasons Sewell loves her job. Another is being able to participate in the mass ride–in that closes each day of the event.

“On both days, we wait for the last rider,” Sewell says. “Then we follow that person in [with all kinds of] fanfare. And then on Sunday, the last day, we get into formation and, with horns honking and lights flashing, we bring all the riders in for closing ceremonies.”

Like so many other LSR volunteers, Sewell has compelling reasons for getting involved. She’s lost several close friends to AIDS and knows others who live with the disease.

“Most recently, I had another friend who moved back to Texas and who will be a client at the AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth. And I want to make sure that we can get additional funding that’s unrestricted and can be used for clients [like him],” she says.

What’s kept her coming back year after year, however, transcends any personal stakes she may have. For Sewell, the ride represents a manifestation of what’s possible when people put aside ego and selfishness and work together for a common purpose.

“‘If you are too busy judging people,’” says the moto crew chief, quoting Mother Teresa, “‘then you don’t have time to love them.’ And on this ride, there’s no judgment, there’s no us and them, there’s none of that at all.

“For two days, everybody is taking care of everybody else — and that’s just the way the world should be.”

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

—  John Wright

LOCAL BRIEFS: Gaybingo marks 10th anniversary: LSR sets Casino Night

Gaybingo marks 10th anniversary

Resource Center Dallas marks the 10th anniversary of its monthly Gaybingo fundraiser on Saturday, July 16, in the Rose Room at S4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road. Doors open at 5 p.m. and games start at 6 p.m.

The theme for the evening is “Gaybingo Live!” and a number of special guests from previous events will be on hand to help celebrate the anniversary.

Hosts are Jenna Skyy, Patti Le Plae Safe and Asia O’Hara, and featured performers are the BVDs (Bingo Verifying Divas and Dudes).

The cost is $25 for 15 games of Bingo, including 10 regular games and five speciality games.

For advance tickets, go online to RCDallas.org. Advance ticket holders get in first when the doors open.

LSR sets Casino Night

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS will present its fourth annual Casino Night on Thursday, Aug. 4, from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Games include craps, blackjack and hold ’em poker.

The event will be hosted by Audi Dallas, 5033 Lemmon Ave., and tickets are $50 in advance and $65 at the door. Admission includes cocktails and appetizers as well as enough chips to get started at the tables.

Players can spend their winnings on silent auction items when the tables close. The auction items include a $250 Aveda gift certificate, a $500 personal training package and more.

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS is a two-day cycling trip through and around the Dallas/Fort Worth area set for Sept. 24-25. LSRFA offers a number of routes, ranging from a one-day, 45-mile ride to a two-day, 180-mile ride.

LSRFA is an independent, non-profit organization that benefits AIDS Services of Dallas, AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County and Resource Center Dallas, and has donated nearly $2 million to the three beneficiary agencies since 2001.
For more information, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

Speakers set for trans summit

HOUSTON — Dr. Paige Schilt and Meghan Stabler have been announced as keynote speakers for the third annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit scheduled for Aug. 12-13 at the University of Houston.

Schilt, former director of national communications for Soulforce, will speak Aug. 12. She teaches English, communications and gender studies at Southwestern University, where she also recently served as interim assistant dean of multicultural affairs.

Schilt is a contributor to The Bilerico Project blog where she writes about trans family life.

Stabler, scheduled to speak on Aug. 13, is a nationally recognized trans spokeswoman and political activist. She has appeared on television, radio and in print media around the world to discuss LGBT and political issues.

Stabler, a past president of Pride Houston, an active leader on the Human Rights Campaign board of directors and AIDS Foundation, is a senior director at CA Technologies.

Josephine Tittsworth, chair of the committee organizing the summit, said the committee is “very excited” to have “two of our most outstanding leaders” speaking at the event.

Committee member Lou Weaver said that Schilt and Stabler are “some of our most dynamic community activists” and “some of our most knowledgeable experts on the trans community.”

FW church to protest Response

Members of Fort Worth First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ voted unanimously during a congregational meeting on Sunday, July 10, to endorse plans by some church members to protest Gov. Rick Perry’s day-long prayer event set for Sunday, Aug. 6, in Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

The event, called “The Response,” was arranged by the governor as a day of praying and fasting over the “crisis” the country faces.

It is being financed by the anti-gay American Family Association, which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

It is the AFA’s connection to the event that has the members of the Fort Worth church and others most upset.

Phil Barnett, a lay leader with the Fort Worth church, said the AFA has “used hate speech disguised as the gospel of Jesus Christ, causing pain and suffering to GLBT people as well as people of faith traditions outside of Christianity.”

Protest organizer and church deacon Marvin Vann added, “We certainly respect the governor’s call to pray and fast for the welfare of our country, but we strongly object to doing that in collusion with a group that engages in hate speech and, therefore, misrepresents the gospel.”

Organizers said 15 to 20 people from Fort Worth First Congregational Church are expected to travel to Houston to protest Perry’s “Response” event, and they expect to be joined there by people from other churches around the state.

Protesters intend to be gathered outside the stadium as “Response” attendees arrive that morning, and will “protest via posters, flyers and silent witness.”

—  John Wright

LSR Journal: Watching her ‘baby’ grow

As first LSR event manager, Janie Bush is proud of her role as the event’s ‘mother’

M.M. ADJARIAN | Contributing Writer

Janie Bush calls the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS her “baby,” a term that suggests deep affection for the event.

But get to know her and you’ll see that “baby” isn’t just a figure of speech. It’s a word that identifies the Trinity River Foundation office manager for what she is — the birth mother of the Lone Star Ride.

Conception wasn’t a solo act for Bush; she had help from a few men she names as Ride “fathers.”

The first was Larry Townsend, who, like Bush, had been affiliated with the LSR’s predecessor, the Texas Tanqueray AIDS Ride. His profound disappointment at how little money TTAR had raised for its beneficiary agencies mirrored Bush’s own.

“So we put together a proposal and said, ‘We can do this,’” recalled Bush. “[After talking] with Don Maison at AIDS Services of Dallas and Mike McKay, who was the AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County executive director at the time, we kicked [the proposal] back and forth and decided to go for it.”

Bush then took over as the first Lone Star Ride event manager in 2001, a position she held for five years. Like all new “mothers,” the ardor she had for her “newborn” was boundless; and so she signed on as the first rider, only to discover she’d bitten off more than she could chew.

“[I had no] clue what the LSR was going to be like,” she laughed. “I thought I’d have plenty of time to train in addition to creating the Ride. And then I found I had no time to get on my bike for the event.”

Her background as an investment banker and non-profit professional made her the ideal person to guide the LSR through its sometimes-turbulent infancy and early childhood. That Bush had also been a witness to the deaths of numerous friends afflicted with AIDS served as her own painful private goad.

“I lost my first two friends in 1987 when they were still quarantined at the hospital,” she said. “It was pretty horrific.”

During Bush’s tenure, not a single penny — whether earned or spent — ever went unaccounted for, she said. Her hard working ways and tightfisted fiscal conservatism put the organization on solid financial footing in short order.

At the same time, both traits also became the focal point for some good-natured personal ribbing.

Remembered Bush, “I was pretty well known for only getting a few hours of sleep in the last couple of weeks prior to Ride, because I would stay in the office until really late. So the first night [after a ride], I would fall into a very deep sleep at camp.”

One year, a few participants decided to play a joke on her.

“More often than not, I would sleep in my car because the seats reclined,” she said, clearly enjoying the memory. “Some of the riders and crew went out to my car and totally wrapped it in toilet paper and caution tape. They were waiting with cameras for me when I woke up.”

Here Bush began to chuckle. “[After I came out,] they said to me, ‘We spent our own money to buy the toilet paper. It’s not ride TP!’”

Although she retired as event manager in 2006, Bush has continued to nurture the Ride in less direct — but no less impactful — ways; a child may grow up, but a mother always remains a mother.

“I’m [always] available to answer questions,” said Bush. “And [new event manager] Jerry Calumn and I have spent a lot of time talking about stuff. As long as we continue to increase the amount of money brought in and stay somewhat steady with the ridership, [I’ll be glad].

“But I would absolutely love to see him blow that out of the water,” she added.

Pride, and a certain wistfulness, characterize the way Bush describes what she and her LSR colleagues have done to help her “baby” find its way in the world. It’s an experience on par with childbirth — or even volunteering on behalf of the Ride, for that matter.

“Every muscle in your aches, including muscles you didn’t know existed,” she said. “And then you forget it. And then you’re ready to do it again.”

—  John Wright

LSR Journal: A barroom promise worth keeping

David Smith

LSR much deeper than a dare for rider representative — even if it started that way

M.M. ADJARIAN  |  Contributing Writer

If there’s one thing David Smith has learned, it’s this: Never underestimate the power of a barroom promise made in the presence of a friend with a videophone.

Thanks to both — the promise and the incriminating recorded evidence — Smith had all the incentive he needed to sign up for the 2010 Lone Star Ride.

Not that Smith wouldn’t have signed up for the Ride … eventually. But as it so happened, the person who recorded the IT consultant’s vow was in the process of training for the event himself.

“And I said, ‘You know, I might like to do that one of these days,’” recalls a grinning Smith. “That’s when he made me commit to it.”

His reasons for participating in the Lone Star Ride go much deeper than simply wanting to follow up on a dare, though. He’s seen firsthand just what the funds raised through the event can do for people in need of  HIV and AIDS services.

“I’ve had numerous friends over the years who’ve come in contact with the three [agencies the Ride benefits],” he says. “And I’ve seen through them a lot of what the LSR does for the community.”

Smith is also a man of conscience. He came out in the late 1990s, just as the worst of the AIDS epidemic had passed. By contrast, his partner, who’d been out since the late 1980s, had directly witnessed the devastation AIDS had wrought in the gay community.

“I see the emotion in his eyes when he talks about losing [so many] of his friends to the [disease],” says Smith, his voice breaking. “And so I feel like since I wasn’t there to see that, this is my way of giving back.”

He also believes that the LSR is an important symbol, especially for LGBT youth and young adults. Despite the great strides medical researchers have made in combating the AIDS virus, the epidemic continues.

“When you see advertisements for HIV medicines in magazines today,” he remarks, “you always see very healthy people. But in the ’90s, you’d see people moving past the bars down Cedar Springs with walking canes or in wheelchairs. [Twenty-somethings] have no idea what it means to have to go through that.”

Prior to joining the LSR in 2010, Smith had been one of the many casual cyclists you often see riding around White Rock Lake on any given day. He has since traded in his $200 bicycle for the leaner, meaner road bike he initially borrowed from the LSR Locker, but which he now owns.

Participating in the Ride for just one season has also converted Smith into a committed LSR volunteer: He is now LSR’s rider representative. Part of his work involves counseling new cyclists, especially those feeling uncertain about their ability to do the event.

Says Smith, “People ask me, ‘How can you ride 40, 50 or 60 miles — that’s just too far!’ But if you’ve ever ridden your bike once around White Rock Lake, which is just shy of 10 miles, you [begin to] realize just how easy it is to do.”

As the LSR rider rep, Smith also leads individuals and groups on unofficial training rides.

“One of the things I learned along my training path was that if I’m riding with somebody, it’s easier than if I’m riding by myself,” he explains. “Their energy pulls you along and yours pulls them along.”

And that energy is crucial, especially for new riders who haven’t attempted long distances before.

“There’s a [back-and-forth] mental argument you end up having with yourself,” Smith says. “It goes something like this: ‘No, you can’t give up’ and,  ‘It’s too far.’ But if you push, you do get there.”

Smith pauses and smiles. “And then you realize — wow, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org. If you are interested in talking to David about the ride or want to schedule an unofficial training session, you can contact him at david@davidsmith71.com.

—  John Wright

LSR Journal: Finding the route to success

Richard Treat has been with LSR since the beginning, as a rider and route planner

M.M. ADJARIAN | Contributing Writer

As one of the first “route architects” of the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, Richard Treat can tell you that one of the most crucial elements in route planning is variety.

He can also tell you that he’s one of the proud and hardy few able to say that he’s ridden in all 10 of Lone Star Rides.

A veteran of the 1999 and 2000 Texas Tanqueray AIDS Rides organized by Palotta TeamWorks, Treat jumped at the chance to become involved in the Lone Star Ride, which emerged from TTAR’s controversial ashes.

“[TTAR provided] a limited percentage of return to its beneficiaries,” Treat says. “And the beneficiaries felt they could do better if they took it upon themselves to conduct their own event. I had at that point expressed an interest in becoming involved in the [LSR] steering committee, and my role ended up being route planning.”

In the beginning, the routes took cyclists from Fort Worth to Dallas or Dallas to Fort Worth. While riders could never be sure from year to year of the actual roads that would comprise the ride, they could always be assured of one thing: Diversity.

Says Treat, “It was always a challenge to come up with a good route. [It would have to have] scenic elements to it, preferably on lesser-traveled roads. [And it] would also have to have a physical challenge to it in certain spots.”

Starting in 2009, the more or less straight-line trajectory of the route changed. Now each day of the ride begins and ends at the American Airlines Training Center in Fort Worth, on Hwy. 360, just south of Hwy. 183. One leg of the ride typically takes place in Tarrant County and the other in Dallas County, giving the route a figure 8 shape.

It’s a mild twist of irony that Treat has traveled down a varied life road himself. The self-described “war baby” was born in Fort Benton, Mont., one year before the formal surrender of Japan in World War II.

“Right after graduation from high school [in Billings, Montana], I decided to go to Abilene Christian to do my bachelors. And that’s how I got to Texas,” he says.

From Texas, Treat’s path wound through Mexico, Columbia and Argentina, where he did church work for almost nine years.

He then returned to Texas and became a New Testament translation consultant for an organization in Fort Worth. From there, he migrated into a position at Verizon and later, one at Marcus High School in Flower Mound, where he taught Spanish.

He has now retired from teaching in public schools.

Although Treat has participated in other charity rides — such as the MS 150 — LSR is especially close to his heart.

“[I do it for] friends who are HIV-positive [or who] have died,” he explains. “I’m committed to the work of the agencies involved [in putting together the LSR].”

After a moment’s reflection he also adds, “I myself have also been a recipient of services that [the agencies] perform with community.”

Treat points out that unlike the Texas Tanqueray AIDS Ride that preceded it, the Lone Star Ride began as a local event in which every dollar earned went straight to the beneficiaries. Now the goal is to make the LSR a larger event. But to do that, it will need, in part, to draw more mainstream cycling enthusiasts from the Metroplex.

“I think a lot of people in the cycling community perceive it as a gay event, and there’s perhaps a certain amount of stigma [attached to the LSR] for that reason,” Treat observes.

Still, the Lone Star Ride is growing, albeit slowly. Any apparent obstacles it encounters along its own path are simply part and parcel of a bigger, more important journey.

“It’s just the challenge of the route,” Treat says.

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

—  John Wright

Lone Star Ride Journal: The cycling bard

Valerie Skinner has, for 8 years, put the poetic coda on the end of the annual Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS

M.M. ADJARIAN | Contributing writer

Valerie Skinner loves to tell stories. And for eight of the last 10 years, she has harnessed her talents to write the narrative poems that have become a staple of the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS closing ceremonies.

Indeed, her efforts have become so much a part of the ride experience that for many, to imagine the event concluding without Skinner reciting her poetic coda has become unthinkable.

The LSR’s “cycling bard” is also the administrator and vice president of the Holloway Family Foundation, which helps individuals who — through illness, age or disability — cannot help themselves. For the first six years of LSR, the HFF was the presenting sponsor; since then, it has become a stalwart contributor.

“[In1999], Mike McKay, then executive director of the AIDS Outreach Center, talked with me about whether our family foundation would be interested in sponsoring this new event,” Skinner recalls. “We were already [donating to] the three targeted beneficiary agencies [AIDS Outreach Center, AIDS Services of Dallas and the Resource Center of Dallas]. So of course I thought it was a fantastic idea.”

Skinner had no intention of doing more than offer financial assistance through the organization that her parents, Graham and Carolyn Holloway, had established in 1994. However, her attitude changed drastically after she attended the first LSR closing ceremony in 2001.

“The energy and excitement of the crew and the riders and everybody that was participating — it was overwhelming,” says Skinner. “I don’t really even have the right adjectives to describe what a powerful experience it was. And I just thought, ‘Wow! I don’t just want to be an outsider, I want to be involved in this.’”

Her enthusiasm piqued, Skinner promptly bought a bicycle and began to train to do the full ride, which typically averages 175 miles over two days. But between her duties at the Holloway Foundation and the demands of her four-child, three-dog household, she was unable to cycle more than a minimal amount for an LSR “marathoner” — just 20 to 30 miles a week.

Despite always finishing dead last (or very close to it), Skinner prides herself on having peddled almost every mile. She does admit, though, to having used the LSR sweep truck one year to cover five miles she simply could not manage.

“I was so far behind,” she explains, “that I knew it would detrimentally affect other people in the ride.”

Being consistently among the “LSR laggards” never bothered Skinner. If anything, her dogged slowness and ability to evade LSR sweep trucks when she’s just a few miles shy of ride’s end — but also late to the finish line — have gained her notoriety.

“I don’t try to do it on purpose. I just call it playing my diva card,” says the rogue cyclist. Or her poet’s card. Jotting down the lines of verse she will read at the LSR closing ceremonies, after all, takes time.

For Skinner, being part of the LSR isn’t only about participating in a worthy cause. It’s also about spending time with what she calls her “ride family” and having fun, even under what can sometimes be very trying circumstances.

She remembers a time when she and an old college chum were cycling along an open stretch of road during the 2005 LSR. The weather was hot and unbearably humid; it was a day that had chased everyone else indoors.

“We [were passing by] this farm and there was this methane gas from these cows,” she says. “And it was just the nastiest thing. We [wanted] to throw up. We were so sick [and] hated each other for being out there.”

Then rain from a sudden storm soaked both women to the bone.

“We started bobbling and then she fell under me and I fell into a ditch,” Skinner laughs. “It sounds silly, but it was one of the most crazy fun experiences ever. I don’t know how, but we finished. And [what with] the pictures we have and everything else, it was a great memory.”

Skinner is definitely not your average rider. But listening to her talk about her experiences, you get the impression she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to Lone StarRide.org.

—  John Wright

LSR Journal: 10 years-plus of riding to fight AIDS

Derwin Hall

Derwin Hall likes the athletic side of LSR, but what he loves most is the chance to give back to the community

M.M. ADJARIAN  |  Contributing Writer

At 41, Derwin Hall is a man in the prime of life. But with a full decade’s experience under his belt as a Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS participant, he is — at least in LSR terms — an “old timer.”

For nine of those 10 years Hall, a Merck pharmaceuticals community liaison and HIV/AIDS educator, has been a cyclist. The one year he didn’t ride, he served as a delivery driver, bringing food and water to the LSR pit crew members.

As an event, Hall says, the Lone Star Ride speaks to his earliest love: Sports.

“I’ve been athletic my entire life,” Hall says. “[I had] college scholarships in track and field. I was a [sprinter].”

Hall first participated in the final Texas Tanqueray AIDS Ride in 2000, the year before the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS organization held its first event. A gallant thrift store 10-speed took him the full distance — 325 miles — between Houston and Dallas.

The memory of an HIV-positive man Hall dated in the early 1990s help stir him to become involved with both rides. That relationship rocked Hall’s world; what he learned about the disease and those who live with it changed him forever.

“Because of [this man] and my love for him, I ended up volunteering and then working in the HIV field,” he recalls. “Every job I’ve ever had [since] in my adult life has been with AIDS service organizations.”

The LSR is one ride Hall says he would never not do. What the event stands for is what keeps him coming back year after year.

“[The Lone Star Ride gives] dollars to agencies that provide services to the population that has been impacted by a devastating disease,” he explains. “And since [fighting HIV/AIDS] has been my passion and career pursuit, that’s why I’m here.”

Hall’s commitment to Lone Star Ride has not stopped him from finding other ways to give back, not just to the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities, but to the community as a whole.

“I’ve done a number of local rides that may not be HIV/AIDS specific,” he says. “They can be for multiple sclerosis, they could be for cancer. They could be for anything.”

Hall’s penchant for helping others is clearly visible in how he approaches LSR itself. For example, when it comes to some of the event’s notoriously difficult hill climbs,  Hall has made it a point to assist the less nimble among his fellow riders rather than peddle and pump to the top and continue on alone.

“I’ve turned around, gone back down and helped coach and motivate other riders that might be struggling a little more to get up the hill,” he says. “It’s not a race, [after all]; it’s a ride.”

For all that Hall has given to the LSR as a fundraiser, volunteer and “hill climber’s angel,” he has also gotten help himself during the course of this event. One year, this most seasoned of riders found that somewhere along his path, he’d somehow taken a wrong turn.

“Although I was lost,” Hall says somewhat sheepishly, “people were out there looking for me. [They] eventually found me and got me back on the right track.”

With so much support available to LSR participants regardless of who they are, it’s no wonder that Hall loves the event as much as he does.

“I have seen people of all races, all ages, all sizes, heights and weights doing this bike ride. So it’s not just for the physically fit. It’s for those interested in giving back to the community.

“Or,” he adds, a warm and knowing humility inflecting his voice, “those who just want to be challenged.”

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

—  John Wright

FEEDBACK: Incident at fundraiser a stark reminder of how far we have to go

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Tuesday, June 28, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Dallas Voice and a host of HIV/AIDS service organizations in Dallas-Fort Worth will sponsor a public forum at Cathedral of Hope’s Interfaith Peace Chapel, AIDS @ 30: A Community Forum. Then on Friday, July 1, Dallas Voice will publish a special issue marking the 30th anniversary of AIDS, also exploring where we stand today in terms of prevention efforts, treatments and development of a vaccine, and where those efforts are headed.

This week, Dallas Voice received the following letter from Donnie Pangburn that makes it clear, no matter how far we’ve come in the battle against HIV/AIDS, we still have a very long way to go, even when it comes to educating our own community.

Officials at LOGO were contacted and given an opportunity to respond to the following letter. By press deadline on Wednesday, June 15, they had not responded.

The June 11 Weenies and Martinis event at Jack’s Backyard was produced by Team Dallas Voice to benefit Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS. Team Dallas Voice accepted the offer by the producers of LOGO’s A-List Dallas to participate and film the event.

Appalled by lack of HIV knowledge

I went to Jack’s Backyard to a going-away party for a friend on Saturday, June 11, and soon realized there was a fundraiser raffle going on to support HIV/AIDS services through the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS. Of course, it made the evening more enjoyable to me as not only have I been a volunteer at Resource Center Dallas for years and have donated a lot of time and money to the cause — not only with our community, but with organizations in Africa as well — I am also HIV-positive myself and therefore know first hand the daily struggles that anyone with HIV faces.

It is my understanding that cast members of LOGO’s A-List Dallas were there at the event to sell raffle tickets.

One of the A-Listers, Phillip Willis, approached me and my friends and asked us to donate $20 for some raffle tickets. I instantly reached into my pocket and gave him $20. I asked Phillip what they were raffling off, and he stated, “It doesn’t matter; it’s for a good cause. It’s for all those poor, sad, old people.”

I asked whom he was referring to, and he just winked and said, “You know — them.” I replied, “No, I don’t. Who are you referring to?” He said, “You know, those ones who have AIDS.” My response to him was, “I am HIV-positive, and I’m not poor or sad.”

His mouth just dropped open, and he just walked away without saying another word.

I chose then to approach the Lone Star Ride table and, in tears and anger, asked who was in charge. I explained to him exactly what happened. I was immediately dismissed and told, “Well, if you want to go talk to the cast member, Phillip, he’s around.”

That’s all he had to say.

I took his advice and approached Phillip and said, “I’d like to introduce you to my friends.” I then proceeded to educate him on his lack of tact and knowledge. He instantly replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, and I never said that.”

He attempted to leave, but I told him I wasn’t finished speaking. I once again tried to educate him, but he didn’t want to have anything to do with it. So he chose to walk away, without saying another word — no apology, nothing.

I am hurt, and I am furious that Phillip Willis was so incredibly uneducated and full of disregard — and he was there to represent an organization in our GLBT community and to represent himself as an upstanding citizen of the GLBT community of Dallas.

I am also extremely upset at LOGO, who obviously did not do their homework in choosing the cast members for their show.

Please know that regardless of how this hurts me personally or how angry I am, this is not about me. This is about the increasing number of men between the ages of 18 and 25 who are contracting HIV in our community. According to my doctor, it is spreading like wildfire. Something needs to be done.

If my letters, conversations and emails prevent just one person from contracting HIV, then I’ve done my job.

Donnie Pangburn, Dallas

A response from LSR

As president of the board of Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, I would like to thank Donnie Pangburn.

There are specific, definable moments in our lives when an event, a trigger, compels us to no longer be silent and instead, speak out. The comment made to Donnie about people with HIV/AIDS at our Weenies & Martinis event on June 11, was just such a definable moment.

Those words changed everything for him. Instead of simply getting angry, he got busy.

This experience for Donnie and for all of us at Lone Star Ride is a painful reminder that this kind of ignorance and discrimination still exists, as unbelievable as we wish it were 30 years into the fight against HIV/AIDS.

We are outraged by Donnie’s experience, as everyone should be. The fact that these statements were made, not just by a member of our community, but by a person who was attending an LSR event to help raise money for HIV/AIDS, is unfathomable to us.

As a gay female, who has lost many friends and been involved with HIV/AIDS causes, I thought everyone in the gay community knew and cared about HIV/AIDS. I thought our own community would be the place that people living with HIV/AIDS would be safe from the discrimination and stigma. Boy, was I wrong.

According to the prevention program at Resource Center Dallas, it believed that a quarter-million Americans have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and are not aware of it. More than 40,000 Americans are infected with HIV every year.

Gay men, bisexual men and heterosexual men who have sex with men account for more than half of new HIV infections. In Dallas County, we continue to see an increased infection rate in people between the ages of 13 and 25, as well as those over the age of 45.

Although we have made a great many strides in education about and treatment of HIV/AIDS, it is apparent that there is more to be done. There is still a segment of society, even in our own community, that clings to the myth that, “It can’t happen to me.” It is not until we have experiences like this or encounter personal tragedy, that we are willing to change our attitudes and behaviors.

If you, too, are incensed by what Donnie experienced, join him. Do something. Donate time or money — anything. Just please, get educated.

Know your risk, know your status, and above all, make smart choices. If you need help or information, contact one of the local AIDS services organizations.

I would like to personally express my gratitude to Donnie and others like him that continue to speak out against this type of discrimination and strive to erase the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

Laura Kerr, president, Board of Directors,
Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS

—  John Wright