Stonewall protests Ramos, whom Richie says is ‘in desperate need of mental health services’

Members of Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio protested Thursday outside a fundraiser that Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos was scheduled to attend. Ramos didn’t show up, but other Democrats who did condemned Ramos for his recent remarks comparing Stonewall Democrats to termites and Nazis. At a press conference earlier Thursday, Ramos refused the many calls for his resignation and repeated some of his previous anti-gay statements:

Singling out the Stonewall Democrats, Ramos said “they have infiltrated the Bexar County party, much like termites infiltrate your house. They’re trying to destroy what has been around for a long time,” he said. …

Ramos said he supports gay rights — including marriage — but said “I don’t regret anything” about assailing the Stonewall Democrats. Ramos apologized to anyone offended by his remarks, but he rehashed several of controversial statements involving gays.

“I don’t care if they marry each other. That’s not my private business. I do care when they adopt kids that are already traumatized and are coming from orphanages and stuff. And then they wake up in the morning and say, ‘What? My mama is my daddy also?’ That’s my heartburn,” Ramos said.

Also Thursday, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie, one of the many who’ve called for Ramos’ resignation, said he believes the party’s Bexar County chair is “in desperate need of mental health services.”

“I don’t know Mr. Ramos all that well personally,” Richie told Sirius OutQ’s Steve Newman. “If this had only happened one time and he had made a sincere apology, then I might feel differently. But after having had the opportunity to do that, he’s only exacerbated the situaion and made it worse. In my humble opinion, Mr. Ramos is in desperate need of mental health services.”

Listen to the full interview here, and watch a video report about the protest here.

—  John Wright

Coleman introduces ‘Asher’s Law’

Asher Brown, left, and Rep. Garnet Coleman

Today as LGBT citizens from around the state converged on Austin to lobby lawmakers on LGBT issues, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Democrat from Houston, introduced “Asher’s Law,” a bill that would “help protect our children before they are terrorized and traumatized both physically and mentally,” according to a press release from Coleman’s office.

Before this session of the Texas Legislature even began, Coleman had prefiled HB 1386. Asher’s Law — HB 2343 — is identical to that earlier legislation except that Coleman renamed it in honor of Asher Brown, a gay 13-year-old from Houston who committed suicide last year after enduring relentless bullying from his classmates and peers.

Coleman said that he renamed the legislation with the permission of Asher’s parents, Amy and David Truong. Coleman said, “The Truongs are acting with grace and courage. They are allowing a tremendous personal tragedy be a catalyst for change in state statute. We should honor them.”

Coleman said that Asher’s Law, if passed, would direct the Department of State Health Services and the Texas Education Agency to implement a program to recognize students at risk of emtoional trauma or committing suicide, intervene effectively and refer students to mental health services if necessary. The bill would require school districts to report incidents of harassment and bullying to the TEA annually and to train district employees on preventing bullying and harassment. It also addresses harassment and discrimination by school district employees toward students and other employees.

In addition, Asher’s Law gives school districts the option of transferring a bully, instead of current practice which is to transfer the student being bullied.

Coleman has filed similar bills in every legislative session since 2003. Prior to that year, he supported similar bills filed in each session by then state Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt, a Dallas Democrat.

—  admin

Garnet Coleman files suicide prevention bill that would ban anti-LGBT bullying, discrimination

Rep. Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has filed a bill that he says is designed to prevent future tragedies like the suicide of Asher Brown, a gay 13-year-old who took his own life last year in response to bullying at school.

Coleman’s HB 1386, filed today, calls on the state to develop a comprehensive suicide prevention program for middle, junior and high schools. The bill would also ban anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in public schools.

“This is a heartbreaking public health threat which we need to address,” Coleman said in a press release. “I’m sick of nothing happening. We need to protect our children before they are driven to suicide or become severely and emotionally ill.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that a school is a safe learning environment for all children,” Coleman added. “Our children should focus on their studies, not worry about verbal and physical threats from their peers.

“Too many young lives are being taken because of intimidation and countless more are at risk,” he said. “This tragic loss of life is completely preventable.

“Current policy unjustly continues to punish the victim. We need to change that.”

The bill is similar to one Coleman has filed in every legislative session since 2003.

To read the full text of HB 1386, go here. We’ve posted Coleman’s press release after the jump.

—  John Wright

AIDS Outreach gets SMART

Fort Worth agency offers alternative to ‘12-step’ addiction programs that’s tailored to gay men with HIV

Tammye Nash | Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Addiction recovery programs aren’t one size fits all.

That’s why AIDS Outreach Center recently started a new program, SMART, according to Shawna Stewart, the agency’s director of mental health services, and Leslie Guditis, the therapist heading up the new program to help the agency’s HIV-positive clients overcome addictions to alcohol and drugs.

Self Management and Recovery Training — or SMART — is intended as an alternative to “12-step” programs, Stewart said. But they stressed they aren’t suggesting SMART is “better than” 12-Step programs. “It’s just different,” Stewart said. “It’s another option for people who haven’t had success with other programs.”

Although AIDS Outreach recently had to close its Arlington offices and cut staff due to budget constraints, SMART will continue. Stewart said it’s funded with a special grant through the federal Ryan White CARE Act. The grant pays for Guditis’ part-time position to administer the program.

SMART, Guditis said, is different because “it doesn’t come from a disease model. It doesn’t label. You don’t go to a meeting and stand up and say, ‘I am an alcoholic.’”

Instead, the SMART program “teaches more about taking responsibility and looking at why one drinks or uses drugs or has any addiction, like an addiction to sex, eating. And when you know the ‘why,’ you can manage that ‘why’ instead of just saying, ‘I will never do it again.’”

“This program is about teaching an individual the tools that hopefully last a lifetime, rather than saying go to a meeting every day or every week,” Guditis said.

The 12-step programs “come from a disease model,” the therapist said. “I am not bashing any other programs. But I do think that this is a more positive way to look at addiction.”

Stewart believes this different model for recovery could be more effective for some of AIDS Outreach’s clients, many of whom are gay, because it doesn’t include reliance on a higher power. Many gays and lesbians and many people with HIV, she said, have had bad experiences with religion. So the idea of relying on a “higher power” may be less effective for people who may have felt rejected by God, she suggested.

Although she said she doesn’t necessarily believe SMART would work better for LGBT people or those with HIV in general, Guditis does think it would work better for some of them.

“I think LGBT and people with HIV sometimes already have a lot of shame, and this [SMART] is all very positive,” Guditis said. “It helps people feel like they have control over their lives. What we are trying to do is empower people.

“People with HIV feel powerless in a lot of ways, and this is really a self-esteem-building program,” she continued. “I went to a [SMART] meeting [not specific to people with HIV or LGBT people], and the people in the meeting were so proud of their ability to be in control of the choices they make. They were proud to feel like they do have a choice. I saw people’s chests almost swell with pride in being able to manage their behavior.”

Guditis also noted that despite the acronym, a person doesn’t need to be “smart” to succeed in the program. “The techniques are very simple and pretty well spelled out,” Guditis said. “This is a kind of psycho-education type program. People don’t just talk about their problems or a binge over the weekend. It’s a more positive and supportive, a mutual learning environment. There are no sponsors, no hierarchy. It’s a setting of equals with a facilitator managing the discussion. That is my job, to be the facilitator.”

Another difference from a 12-step program is that SMART doesn’t require abstinence, Stewart and Guditis said.

“Abstinence is promoted, but if someone comes to a meeting and they have been using, they are still welcome in,” Guditis said. “We work from that place to manage the behavior, and not try to make them feel shamed for using. We talk about emotions, triggers for addictive behavior. People take pride in being in control of their behaviors.”

Guditis, who recently received a doctorate in family therapy from Texas Women’s University, spent the month of June training in the SMART program. She held the first SMART session at AIDS Outreach on July 6. “We initially wanted to have three SMART groups each week, but we are starting with one, each Tuesday. We want to have at least two groups a week, though,” Guditis said. “We will add more as we see the need.”

The sessions at AIDS Outreach, she added, are only for the agency’s clients. If the program proves effective at AIDS Outreach for alcohol and drugs, it could eventually be expanded to include those fighting other addictive behaviors, too.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 9, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens