GayBingo tonight at the Rose Room

GayBingo 2.0

Before heading out to 2012’s first GayBingo, check out our online interview with new director Johnny Humphrey. He tells us some of the changes that are going down with this new version and they all sound good. Then, bust out that bingo marker and take no prisoners when your number comes up.

DEETS: The Rose Room (inside S4) 3911 Cedar Springs Road. 6 p.m. $25. RCDallas.org.

—  Rich Lopez

Iconic LGBT activist Ray Hill files for Texas House seat

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

Long time Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill filed paperwork this week to run for the 147th Texas House seat against incumbent Garnet Coleman, D – Houston. The iconic (and iconoclastic) Hill said that he and Coleman agree on many issues but that he had “some issues  that aren’t on the table in Austin.”

Specifically Hill has concerns with the legislature’s approach to criminal justice issues. “The Texas legislature is a serial world class red-necking competition,” says Hill. “What they are doing on criminal justice is wrong and it doesn’t work… we need a serious rethink.”

Coleman has a strong history of supporting LGBT legislation. For the last three sessions he has attempted to pass anti-bullying legislation that would require school districts to report instances of bullying using an enumerated list of motivating characteristics that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, he has also filed legislation to remove the the crime of “homosexual conduct” from the Texas penal code (a law that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), to equalize age of consent laws in Texas and to add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime law. In the 82nd legislature earlier this year Coleman authored seven pieces of legislation designed to create greater equality for LGBT people, including the first ever filing of legislation to standardize change of gender marker procedures for the transgender community and the first effort to repeal the state’s constitutional prohibition against marriage equality.

Hill recognizes Coleman’s historic contributions, “The incumbent and I agree on a lot of issues,” says Hill, “but we don’t tell young gay people ‘if you work real hard and go to school and do your best you can grow up to have straight friends in Austin who like you.’ No, we tell them ‘if you work hard they can grow up to be Mayor of Houston, or City Supervisor of San Francisco.’”

When asked why the community would be better served by him than Coleman, a 20 year legislative veteran, Hill replies “I understand how government works. A freshman legislator can’t do anything more than irritate, but that’s about all any member of the minority party can do. On that level the incumbent and I are on the same level… I think we need somebody obnoxious [in the legislature] who’s going to purposefully rub the cat hair the wrong direction.”

Since being elected to the legislature for the first time in 1992 Coleman has been unopposed in 5 of his 9 primary reelection bids. No primary challenger to Coleman has pulled more than 21% of the vote.

—  admin

NYPD arrests 5th suspect in deadly hate crime

Associated Press

NEW YORK — New York City police have arrested a fifth suspect in the suspected hate crime beating death of a teenager after a birthday party.

Police say 18-year-old Anthony Collao died Monday after he was taken off life support.

The suspects showed up Saturday at a party that had been advertised on Facebook, and refused to pay the cover charge.

Police say they flashed gang signs, yelled anti-gay slurs and scrawled epithets on the walls in red marker. Collao was severely beaten.

The fifth suspect, who’s 17 years old, was arrested Wednesday on charges of manslaughter and assault as hate crimes.

Four suspects were previously arrested and charged with manslaughter and assault and are being held on bail.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gay couple burned out of home; trans discrimination study; marriage updates

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A gay couple in Clayton, N.C., was burned out of their home (above) in a possible hate crime on Friday after suffering anti-gay harassment repeatedly over the last year. A neighbor says the couple had their tires slashed, had a gay slur written on their home in marker and received a note with a gay slur in their mailbox telling them to move. Police, however, still aren’t convinced it was a hate crime. Watch a video report here.

2. The largest study ever on discrimination against transgender people showed that 41 percent have attempted suicide, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population. The study, by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, also showed that trans people are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, and that 26 percent said they’d lost a job because of their gender identity/expression. Read more here, or download the full study here.

3. Same-sex marriage updates from Maryland, Rhode Island and Indiana.

—  John Wright

Top 10: Bus driver’s plight led to trans protections at DART

No. 5:

View all of the Top 10

Ever since Democrats took over the Dallas County courthouse in 2006, judges here have been routinely granting gender-marker changes — court orders that allow transgender people to obtain driver’s licenses and other forms of ID that match their appearance.

Needless to say, this has been a critical development for the transgender community, but as it turns out, even with Democrats in power, gender-marker changes don’t always go smoothly.

In one controversial case uncovered by Dallas Voice in February, an employer tried to intervene in family court to challenge an employee’s gender-marker change, prompting a Democratic judge who was considered a strong LGBT ally to overturn her decision to grant it.

The employer was Dallas Area Rapid Transit, the judge was Lynn Cherry, and this newspaper’s report about the case prompted an outcry from LGBT advocates.

After all, if DART was willing to intervene in family court to challenge an employee’s gender-marker change, would the agency do the same if it didn’t agree with a divorce settlement or a child custody arrangement?

DART offered no good explanation as to why it had sought to intervene in the case, leaving the LGBT community to believe the decision was fueled by bigotry and transphobia. And LGBT advocates demanded that the agency redeem itself by adding gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy.

The employee in the case, a longtime DART bus driver who asked not to be identified, said the agency’s decision to challenge her gender-marker change was the culmination of years of discrimination and harassment on the part of the agency.

DART had added sexual orientation but not gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy in 1995.

After meetings between representatives from DART and Resource Center Dallas, the proposal to add gender identity appeared to be on a fast track for approval when it unanimously cleared a committee in April.

But suddenly in May, despite the fact that the amendment had been under review for months, the agency’s Board of Directors voted to table it so they could seek more information about the definition of gender identity.

Then, following a 30-minute, possibly illegal closed-door session in mid-June, the board hastily approved new language that effectively gutted the proposal.

The new language said the agency wouldn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity, “except to the extent permitted by federal and/or Texas law.”

Because there are no federal or state protections for LGBT workers, legal experts said the new language would’ve not only undermined the trans protections, but also rescinded DART’s sexual orientation protections from 15 years ago.

The LGBT community was outraged anew and even more galvanized than ever over the issue.

Claude Williams, an LGBT ally on the DART board, accused the agency’s attorneys of “duping” board members into supporting the new language. Incidentally, it was these same attorneys who’d sought to challenge the employee’s gender marker change.

Finally, on June 22, Williams and other allies on the DART board put forth a motion to remove the language that would’ve gutted the proposal, and to approve it as previously written — with both gay and transgender protections in tact.

Faced with immense pressure from the LGBT community, the board unanimously approved the motion — and received a standing ovation from what was the largest LGBT audience to attend a government meeting in North Texas since Fort Worth City Council meetings in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid.

— John Wright

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

DART accused of transphobia

Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee’s gender-marker change last year

John Wright | News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

TRANS FRIENDLY? | Judge Lynn Cherry, right, is shown alongside drag performer Chanel during Stonewall Democrats’ 2008 holiday party at the Round-Up Saloon. A few months later, Cherry ruled against a transgender DART employee and overturned a gender-marker change. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

DART stands accused of bigotry and transphobia after attorneys for the local transit agency intervened in family court last year to challenge a gender-marker change granted to an employee.

According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.

As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria — including documentation from licensed medical personnel — since the Democratic sweep of 2006.

The DART employee, who’s name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency’s human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.

But DART’s attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART’s objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.

“Where does this stop when an employer can start interfering with your personal life and family law decisions?” said longtime local transgender activist Pamela Curry, a friend of the DART employee who brought the case to the attention of Dallas Voice. “She was devastated. This should be a serious concern to a lot of people — everybody — and I just think this story needs to be told.”

Judge Cherry, who received Stonewall Democrats of Dallas’ Pink Pump Award for her support of the group last year, didn’t respond to messages seeking comment this week.

Morgan Lyons, a spokesman for DART, noted that Cherry reversed her order before the agency actually filed its motion for a rehearing. However, Curry alleges that DART’s attorneys met with Cherry privately and pressured her into reversing the order.

As is common with gender-marker changes, the case file has been sealed, but Dallas Voice obtained copies of some of the court documents from Curry.

In their motion for a rehearing, DART attorneys Harold R. McKeever and Hyattye Simmons argued that Texas law grants registrars, not judges, the authority to amend birth certificates. They also argued that birth certificates could be amended only if they were inaccurate at the time of birth.

“It’s not a DART issue, it’s a point of law,” Lyons told Dallas Voice this week, in response to the allegations of bigotry. “The lawyers concluded that the birth certificate could not be altered by law, unless there was a mistake made when the birth certificate was completed, and again, the judge changed the order before we even wound up going into court with it.”

Asked about DART’s LGBT-related employment policies, Lyons said the agency’s nondiscrimination policy includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. The agency, which is governed by representatives from Dallas and numerous suburbs, also doesn’t offer benefits to the domestic partners of employees.

Lyons didn’t respond to other allegations made by Curry, including that the agency has fought the employee’s transition from male to female at every step of the way.

Curry, who helped the employee file her pro se petition for a gender-marker change, said the employee has worked for DART for more than 20 years and has an outstanding performance record.

The employee began to come out as transgender in 2003 and had gender reassignment surgery more than three years ago, Curry said. Curry said DART supervisors have at various times told the employee that she couldn’t have long hair, couldn’t wear skirts to work and couldn’t use women’s restrooms at work.

The employee has responded by showing up at work in her uniform so she doesn’t have to change and using public restrooms on her bus route, Curry said.

Supervisors have also told the employee she can’t talk to the media and can’t join political groups, such as Stonewall Democrats, Curry said.

“She’s intimidated and she’s scared,” Curry said. “One supervisor even suggested to her that if she doesn’t lay off it, they will mess up her retirement.”

Elaine Mosher, a Dallas attorney who’s familiar with the case, also questioned why DART intervened. Mosher didn’t represent the employee in the case but has handled gender-marker changes for other clients.

Mosher said the employee’s gender doesn’t have any bearing on her ability to do her job at DART.

“My argument in any gender marker matter is, the birth certificate was wrong, that’s why they had to go through the transition surgery, in essence to put them in the correct gender,” Mosher said. “All I can tell you is that it seems strange to me that DART would care one way or another what the gender marker of anybody that works for them is.”

Moster added that she believes someone at DART may have been “freaked out” by the employee’s transition from male to female and developed a “vendetta” against her.

“I wish I had a good explanation for why [DART got involved] other than the fact that I know there are people out there who are utterly blind and prejudiced for no other reason than they are,” Mosher said. “I compare it to some of the nonsense African-Americans had to live through in the ’60s.”

Mosher also said she’s “very surprised” that Cherry reversed the order granting the gender marker change.

Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats, said she’s heard “bits and pieces” of the story but isn’t sure of all the facts.

Moore said in response to her questions about the case, Cherry told her she couldn’t talk about it because it’s still within the timeframe for a possible appeal.

“Lynn is a longtime supporter of Stonewall and I would think she would be fair in the case,” Moore said. “I’m confident she’s an ally to this community.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.

—  admin