What’s Shakin’ – People Empowering People happy hour, Chaz Bono takes on the National Enquirer

1. People Empowering People is a collaboration between The Men’s Group, a social group for African-American gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men, and TMG One Voice, The Men’s Group’s co-ed counterpart.  PEP’s monthly happy hour tonight at F Bar (202 Tuam) provides a casual social setting open to all regardless of ethnic background, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression and an opportunity to mix and mingle with the fabulous men and women of both organizations.  The festivities kick off at 6 pm.

2. Joe My God has a copy of the Cease and Desist letter sent by lawyers for Chaz Bono to the National Enquirer. Seems the tabloid ran a story in this week’s issue claiming that Bono’s gender transition has shortened his life expectancy to 4 years.  The Enquirer article quotes the opinion of Dr. Patrick Wanis, identified as a medical doctor specializing in transgender health issues.  The problem?  According to Bono’s lawyers not only is Wanis not an expert on trans health issues, he’s not a medical doctor.

3. Today is the last day to early vote in the Houston Municipal election, but if you miss this opportunity you can still cast your ballot at your precinct voting location on Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

—  admin

How ’bout DADT?

Memoir about being gay in the Army resonates with timeliness, vivid prose

booksThey’ve become familiar sights: Auditoriums filled with uniformed, spine-straight soldiers on their way to deployment, or smiling men and women, arms full of family, on their way home. No matter what auditorium they’re in, no matter which small town or big city, you can bet that the first group is wondering what the second group has seen.

They may never know, though, because much is buried and more is classified. But military secrets aren’t the only secrets kept in times of war. In The Last Deployment, you’ll learn one of them.

Bronson Lemer was “probably the last person anyone expected to join the military,” he writes. But as the oldest of six children, he wanted to get away from North Dakota, and the Army “happened to be at the right place at the right time.”

Lemer was still in high school when he joined the National Guard; five years later, on Jan. 20, 2003, his cell phone rang. Though he was months away from getting out of his Guard obligation and was “tired” of service, Lemer learned that he was being deployed. What he calls his “horrible decision” to join the National Guard was turning into something he never thought he’d have to worry about: Lemer was a gay soldier under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

In going to Iraq, he knew he had to learn to rely on his fellow soldiers, and vice versa. He tried to relax as he traveled with them to Colorado and, later that spring, to Kosovo, then to Iraq. Lemer went along with the jokes, the girlfriend talk and the adolescent behavior. He participated in anything that banished the boredom of guard duty, cleaning duty, outhouse duty. He emailed a former love and longed for home.

As a few months’ tour of duty stretched into a year, Lemer began to notice something: Deployment was taking its toll on everybody. The men and women who left the States were not the same people who came home from Iraq. And neither was Lemer.

Over the past decade, you’ve undoubtedly seen lots of TV and read many words about the war in Iraq. But just wait until you get your hands on The Last Deployment. Lemer’s memoir of being a gay man in the military is half-sassy, half sad with a few heart-pounding moments though no blood and guts. His story moves between idyllic memories of his growing-up and warm feelings for his bunkmates and co-soldiers, while readers are also placed in the center of the boredom of waiting, the frustration of not knowing and the dismay of hiding in order to be accepted. Lemer’s is a wonderfully descriptive, wryly humorous, heart-crushing story, and I couldn’t put it down.

With the repeal of DADT effective this month, this is timely and definitely worth a read. If you love a soldier, your country, or both, The Last Deployment is a book you’ll want to tell everybody about.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Miss LifeWalk tonight at the Round-Up

Walk this way

Not often do we get to see both men and women compete in drag pageants together, but Miss LifeWalk is different that way. Everyone can make a run for the tiara, but the goal is to raise funds for AIDS LifeWalk and the amazing things they do. But for real, these contestants are still gonna do all they can to snag the crown.

DEETS: Round-Up Saloon, 3912 Cedar Springs Road. 6 p.m. AIDSLifeWalk.org/Miss-LifeWalk.

—  Rich Lopez

Weekly Best Bets • 07.15.11

Friday 07.15

FIT for a queen
The Festival of Independent Theaters (FIT) returns with an inspired schedule of shows including works by Steve Martin and David Mamet. We’re curious though about The Madness of Lady Bright with Larry Randolph, about an aging drag queen’s descent into madness.

DEETS: Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Drive. Through Aug. 6. $12–$16.
BathhouseCultural.com.

………………………..

Sunday 07.17

Walk this way
Not often do we get to see both men and women compete in drag pageants together, but Miss LifeWalk is different that way. Everyone can make a run for the tiara, but the goal is to raise funds for AIDS LifeWalk and the amazing things they do. But for real, these contestants are still gonna do all they can to snag the crown.

DEETS: Round-Up Saloon, 3912 Cedar Springs Road. 6 p.m.
AIDSLifeWalk.org/Miss-LifeWalk.

………………………..

Thursday 07.21

Givin’ up the Love
We don’t have to rely on Chelsea Lately or America’s Dumbest Criminals to get some Loni Love up in here. The comedian brings the laughs with her signature sass and we’re all the better for it.

DEETS: The Improv, 309 Curtis May Way, Arlington. Through July 24. $17–$20.
Improv.com.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Is this Bud for us? New Budweiser ad appears to support gays in the military

Budweiser has released a new military-themed ad that some folks are saying is also a “pro-gays-in-the-military” ad.

The ad starts off with a soldier calling another guy and saying, “Hey man. I’m coming home.” Then in a split-screen, continues with scenes of the soldier making his way home while the other guy goes about planning and organizing a welcome home party, and then being the first one to step forward and hug the soldier when he gets home.

If it is a “gay” ad, it isn’t, well, flamboyantly gay. And that’s perfectly fine, since there are many, many, many LGBT people out there — including many of our men and women in uniform — who are definitely not flamboyantly gay themselves. We deserve to have our diverse community portrayed (and honored and celebrated) realistically in all our diversity.

Is this a gay ad? Did Budweiser mean for it to be a gay ad? Huffington Post has a poll up, and readers there are pretty evenly split, with 33 percent saying it is totally gay, 25 percent saying no way it’s gay, and 41 percent saying probably not but I can see why some folks think it is.

And AfterElton.com points out that “if you substituted a woman for [the guy the soldier calls first], it would read pretty much exactly like a heterosexual relationship.”

Only Budweiser knows for sure, of course. But — again, as AfterElton notes — this is a mega-big company with some pretty experienced advertising folks working for them, and do you really think they would let something so very obviously possibly gay slip through inadvertently?

Watch the ad yourself (below) and see what you think. All I know for sure is that I don’t drink beer of any kind, but if I did drink beer, I think I’d probably drink Bud.

—  admin

John McCain doesn’t want whoever manages Sarah Palin’s Twitter account to think he’s gay

Sen. John McCain

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, the leading opponent of the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” now says he will do everything he can to make it work. The Hill reports:

McCain signaled that he had made peace with the lame-duck bill to do away with the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian service members, of which he had been an outspoken critic.

“I think I have to do everything I can to make sure that the [impact on the] morale, retention, recruitment and battle effectiveness of the military is minimized as much as possible,” McCain said on Fox Business. “It is a law and I have to do whatever I can to help the men and women who are serving, particularly in combat, cope with this new situation. I will do everything I can to make it work.”

Who knows for sure what’s behind McCain’s change of heart, which is just the latest in his series of flip-flops on the issue. But we’d be willing to bet that it’s politically motivated on some level.

Of course, we could also speculate that his wife, Cindy, finally got to him. Or that he saw Sarah Palin’s retweet the other day and set out to again prove that he’s not gay. In any case, he remains firmly atop our Top 10 RINFs, which is a companion to this list.

—  John Wright

Bigot of the Day: Texas Rep. Mike Conaway

Rep. Mike Conaway

Despite a Pentagon study that recommends just the opposite, Texas Republican Congressman Mike Conaway continues to spew right-wing propaganda by suggesting that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” will force the military to build separate living facilities for gay and lesbian troops. Conaway also says he thinks DADT is currently working “unless you intend to make sexuality your No. 1 issue when you wake up in the morning.” Which, of course, is precisely what Conaway is doing. From the San Angelo Standard Times:

“You’re going to accommodate folks’ preferences as to whether or not they want to be in the same sleeping arrangements or bathroom facilities, all those kinds of things,” Rep. Mike Conaway, a Republican from Midland, said Monday. …

“Apparently their housing arrangements are not set up in that direction,” Conaway said. “And if you have to segment them further from what they are just between men and women, then you’re going to have to provide additional facilities that weren’t provided before. …

“I think my final conclusion was it’s a policy that’s currently working unless you intend to make sexuality your No. 1 issue when you wake up in the morning,” he said.

We’re not sure why the Standard Times is even bothering to publish this crap at this point, but at least the story goes on to note that Conaway is dead wrong:

The Pentagon study released Nov. 30 on the effect of a repeal recommended that “the Department of Defense expressly prohibit berthing or billeting assignments or the designation of bathroom facilities based on sexual orientation.”

Commanders would retain authority to alter those assignments or accommodate concerns about privacy on a case-by-case basis, the study said.

“Most concerns we heard about showers and bathrooms were based on stereotype,” the study said.

The study also indicated 70 percent of military members surveyed believed doing away with the policy would have mixed, positive or no effect.

—  John Wright

Good question

Lesbian writer Abby Dees wrote her book more for straight friends of gays than for gays themselves

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Author Abby Dees. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Abby Dees wrote Queer Questions Straight Talk from her own experiences while learning about how others perceived gay people. The book, with “108 frank & provocative questions it’s OK to ask your lesbian, gay or bisexual loved one,” was imagined as a gift from gays to their straight parents, family or friends, to put them at ease about what being gay means — and to see that others have had the same questions. But Dees has also heard of gay people using the book to ask each other questions as a party game. But she can see it used as a part of a sensitivity training session, as well.

While she discusses the topics briefly, the book is a collection of questions, not answers. And she starts out with the basics: “Do you think you were always gay or lesbian or bi?” Comedian Carol Leifer submitted that one; others were collected by e-mail and through Facebook.

Dees found was that virtually all of the questions were things she’d heard before — everything from “Does this mean I’m not going to be a grandmother?” to “Are there any real lesbians like the ones on The L Word?

She mostly avoids sexually graphic questions and steers the conversation to “What’s your perfect date like?” (A response of “Dinner, good conversation and a movie, what’s yours?”) is more likely to help someone understand similarities than vast differences.

“What’s the most challenging thing about having a relationship with someone of the same sex?” she asks. Her own answer is that she would find it more challenging to have a relationship with a member of the opposite sex because of vastly different interests of men and women.

Dees says that her relationship with her mother has always been good and her mom edited the book. But reading the questions prompted them to have more discussions.

“She’s very proud of this book,” Dees says. “She went from ‘happy with you honey’ to a PFLAG mom who outs me every opportunity she gets.”

Dees describes her evolving relationship with her mother as more than a 20-year process. The questions in this 100-page book are meant to start a series of conversations, and were not meant to be raced through in one quick session.

The toughest section of the book to write, she says, deals with religion. She wrote it first and then went back to it last to lighten the tone. She admits that for the person whose only reference is that if you’re gay, you’re going to hell, this book might not help. But for others, “Do you feel you can be [gay] and go to heaven” might be a good starting point for a conversation.

She stressed that there are no right or wrong answers. And you don’t need to be an expert to answer these questions. “‘I don’t know.’ is a really good answer,” she says.

— David P. Taffet

…………………..

Stuff That Makes a Gay Heart Weep: A Definitive Guide to the Loud & Proud Dislikes of Millions by Freeman Hall (2010, Adams Media)
$14; 216 pp.

How many fashion faux pas does someone have to endure before everyone understands that plumber’s butt and muffin tops are not acceptable? Don’t those people look in mirrors before they leave the house? Do you need to rent a plane and sky-write “Wear pants that fit?” It’s enough to make you scream or want to break down in public — but you hate that.

But that’s not the only thing that you hate. There are dozens more, as you’ll see in Stuff That Makes a Gay Heart Weep.

So somebody gives you a bottle of cheap booze or wine. Or you got tacky home décor for Christmas. These kinds of things make you want to simply crawl into a fetal position until it all goes away … and they’re all throughout this book.

Justin Bieber: Now he really makes you want to bawl your eyes out. So does Richard Simmons and a certain Mama Grizzly with lipstick. The Kardashians — sniff. Guidos and Guidettes — pah! And that Angelina Jolie and Hugh Jackman are not gay? Waterworks.

If this book doesn’t make you weep from laughter, there’s something wrong. It’s absolutely hilarious.

With his signature snarky sense of humor and his feel for the absurd, author Freeman Hall pokes fun at kitschy, faddish, everyday things, places and people that practically beg to be ridiculed. There are more than 200 entries so hilariously, awfully tragic that you don’t have to be gay to want to break down in tears, even if you’re a guilty party (though it doesn’t hurt). And once you’re done reading, you almost have to come up with your own “Stuff List.”
Wrap yourself in your Snuggie because you need a good laugh out loud. Stuff That Makes a Gay Heart Weep is an absolute scream.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Key findings and full text of Pentagon report on ‘don’t ask don’t tell’

For your afternoon reading, below is a copy of the Pentagon report on “don’t ask don’t tell” that was released just moments ago, as well as a copy of the Support Plan for Implementation. And here’s a summary of the key findings from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (for another summary, go here):

When asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with a co-worker who they believed was gay or lesbian, 92% stated that the unit’s “ability to work together” was “very good,” “good,” or “neither good nor poor.”

• When asked about how having a service member in their immediate unit who said he or she is gay would affect the unit’s ability to “work together to get the job done,” 70% of Service members predicted it would have a positive, mixed, or no effect.

When asked “in your career, have you ever worked in a unit with a co-worker that you believed to be homosexual,” 69% of Service members reported that they had.

• In communications with gay and lesbian current and former service members, the CRWG repeatedly heard a patriotic desire to serve and defend the Nation, subject to the same rules as everyone else.

The CRWG is convinced that our military can do this, even during this time of war. They do not underestimate the challenges in implementing a change in the law, but neither should we underestimate the ability of our extraordinarily dedicated Service men and women to adapt to such change and continue to provide our Nation with the military capability to accomplish any mission.

The CRWG found “the risk of repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell to overall military effectiveness is low.”

The CRWG believes this to be the “largest, most Comprehensive review of a personnel policy matter which the department of defense has ever undertaken.”

DADTReport FINAL Hires)

DADTReport SPI FINAL 20101130(Secure Hires)

—  John Wright

Out dance artist Brian Kent releases new video for ‘I’ll Find a Way’

I have to admit I didn’t know who Brian Kent was until today’s email. Very little digging showed me that this guy’s been making dance music for the past five years with singles and remixes here and there with a full-length release, Breathe Life, in 2008. He told Popnography earlier this year, that his newest single, “I’ll Find a Way,” is a tribute to his grandmother.

The new single is called “I’ll Find a Way” and is dedicated to his 89-year-old grandmother who recently found herself facing breast cancer. “I was inspired by her confidence and I was just amazed that she just kept finding a way to get through everyday. In this day and age whether it’s cancer, relationships, money…everyone is just trying to find a way and move forward,” Kent says.

The video for the song was just released yesterday. “Way” might be a tad too positive affirmation for some, but it is catchy and I did like the video. It reminded me somewhat of both the NOH8 and Bully Suicide Project campaigns and says a whole lot in the span of three minutes and some change. And how can you go wrong when men and women end up topless by the end?

—  Rich Lopez