GLBT History Month’s 1st icon is gay ex-Marine from Texas who lost leg in Iraq war

For the fifth consecutive year, the Equality Forum presents GLBT icons for each day of October, to mark GLBT History Month. And this year’s first icon is Texas’ own Eric Alva of San Antonio, who was the first casualty of the Iraq war. Alva, a Marine staff sergeant, lost his leg when he stepped on a land mine three hours into the ground invasion in 2003. But it wasn’t until after Alva returned home — and had been visited by President George W. Bush in the hospital and appeared on “Oprah” — that he came out as gay and become a spokesman for the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” From our story on Alva in April 2007:

He says it wasn’t until one night last fall that it came to him. He had always wanted to help people, but wasn’t sure how.

“I would always talk about it, but it was more words just coming out of my mouth because I never did anything about it,” he says.

After Alva’s partner, whom he met after returning from Iraq, pleaded with him to do something before his notoriety wore off, Alva decided to e-mail HRC.

“I said, ‘I don’t know how I may help you, but the story is I am a gay Marine,’” Alva recalls.

A few days later, HRC returned his call. Then, after U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., announced plans to reintroduce the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” they called again.

“They called and said, “‘Eric, we need you now,’” Alva says. “I knew that what I was about to do was a huge sacrifice on my part. But I needed to tell people that this is the way the country should be.”

Of course, more than three years later, “don’t ask don’t tell” remains in place. So perhaps it’s fitting that Alva is the first icon of this year’s GLBT History Month. We haven’t heard much from him lately, but according to the Equality Federation, he’s working on his master’s degree in social work.

—  John Wright

Farewell to ‘Dr. Laura’ as radio hosts calls it quits

As right-wing radio talk show host announces plans to end show, Dallas actvist looks back a decade to another protest against her

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

AGAINST THE DOCTOR’S ADVICE
AGAINST THE DOCTOR’S ADVICE | Dallas activist John Selig helped organize this protest in April 2000 outside the Channel 11 studios in Dallas which aired “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger’s television show. Thanks in large part to the protests over Schlessinger’s anti-gay comments, advertisers shied away from what turned out to be a short-lived program. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Right-wing radio host “Dr. Laura” Schlessinger announced this week that she would end her talk show when her contract runs out later this year.

The advice show host gained notoriety in the 1990s with statements that included calling gays and lesbians “biological errors” and blaming Mathew Shepard for his own murder.

Rafael McDonnell worked at KRLD at the time, and he said this week that Dallas made her career.

The Dallas talk radio station was the first to broadcast Schlessinger’s show outside Los Angeles. After its success here, McDonnell said, the program was syndicated nationwide. Dallas remained Schlessinger’s top market for years, and at her peak, she was heard on more than 450 stations. She ranked second in listeners after Rush Limbaugh.

McDonnell recalled Schlessinger’s visit to the station.

“Station employees were instructed not to look at her, not to talk to her, not to have any interaction with her,” he said, unlike with other celebrities who visited the station.

In 2000, Schlessinger was offered a TV contract. Local Dallas activists worked to keep her off local television.

Dallas activist John Selig was one of the creators of StopDrLaura.com, a website that MoveOn.org still uses in its training as a model of successful activism.

Selig laughed at the current publicity surrounding Schlessinger and said he hadn’t thought much about “the fake doctor” in years.

Schlessinger has a PhD in physiology, not in counseling, psychology or anything related to that. She claims that her advice is based on morality and is not psychological. She holds no degrees in ethics, religion or theology either.

Selig got involved in StopDrLaura after attending a protest in Los Angeles outside Paramount Studios, the producer of her TV show.

“Dr. Laura” Schlessinger

“Dr. Laura” Schlessinger

When he got back to Dallas, he organized a protest at Channel 11 that was signed to air the show that fall. He said that after the success of the Dallas protest, 35 other cities held demonstrations at their local Dr. Laura affiliates.

“Our goal was never to get her off AM radio,” Selig said.

He said AM talk radio was filled with right-wing talk shows, but their group felt that television presented a new threat, especially to LGBT teens who would take her message to heart.

“She went way overboard with us and she went way overboard again this time,” Selig said, referring to a call to Schlessinger’s radio show last week that received national attention and has led, apparently, to the end of her radio career.

In that call, an African-American woman called to talk about her white husband’s friends and family members who make racist comments in front of her.

In her answer, Schlessinger used the “N” word 11 times and advised the woman she was being too sensitive, and that if she was so sensitive about such things, she shouldn’t have married outside her own race.

When the caller became angry and tried to reprimand Schlessinger for her language, Schlessinger replied, “Don’t N-double-A-C-P me.”

Although she apologized for using the “N” word, Schlessinger never addressed the rest of her comments. Earlier this week, she announced she was leaving radio because she wanted to regain her First Amendment rights.

Selig had a different view.

“What she wants to do is to speak and not be accountable for her words,” Selig said.

John Selig
John Selig

Selig said that the current campaign to let Target know about the LGBT community’s disapproval of their political donation to a homophobic candidate is the same kind of effort he helped launch against Schlessinger in 2000.

At that time, Selig contacted a number of Schlessinger’s advertisers back then and convinced them to drop their support of her show. A number of those advertisers pulled their money from her radio program as well.

Weak advertising sales contributed to the early demise of the TV show.

Selig said he learned from StopDrLaura that when a company like Target spends money to harm the LGBT community, they need to be held accountable.

Selig said he learned from the fight against Schlessinger that there’s no use calling a company’s customer service line.
“Call media relations or investor relations,” he said. “Those numbers are always listed — and they’ll listen.”

In her announcement that she was quitting radio, Schlessinger acted bewildered at the LGBT community’s continued disdain for her.

On “Larry King Live” this week, she called committed same-sex relationships “a beautiful thing and a healthy thing.”

But in 2000, in addition to blaming Shepard for his own murder, Schlessinger said a vast majority of gay men are pedophiles. She also called gays and lesbians “sexual deviants” and said that people should keep their children away from gay relatives.

Her “biological error” comment was one she repeated on the air often.

Schlessinger, however, denied that she engaged in anti-gay speech.

“Unless I have hallucinated, I have never made an anti-gay commentary,” she said on her show.

Selig had some advice this week for the talk show host. He said Schlessinger should take some advice from the title of one of her own books: “Stop Whining.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Time delay

Trans man Lucas Silveira hits the road with The Cliks — a year late

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

TRANS AMERICA | Lucas Silveira and The Cliks make up for lost time with their nationwide tour.

Last summer, Toronto rock trio The Cliks released Dirty King. Coming off strong buzz from their 2007 album Snakehouse and the public approval of high profile bands like The Cult and Cyndi Lauper, the band was on the rise. With King, their sound matured yet still offered the grit of garage rock.

But the band imploded soon after, leaving trans frontman Lucas Silveira with a new album on his hands and a major setback.

“The band on King left and that put a halt in touring and getting the album out there,” Silveira says. “That wasn’t great for the album taking off after its release.”

But The Cliks was always Silveira’s project. He was disappointed that bandmates Morgan Doctor and Jen Benton departed before touring, but he rallied and is on the road with a new incarnation, hoping fans haven’t forgotten the album he’s now supporting. He’ll find out Thursday when their tour brings them to Dallas.

“This is the tour I wanted to do when the album came out,” he says. “It would have gone a lot better then. But now, I have to rekindle the need and reconnect with fans.”

So far Silveira has found his audience has stuck around, especially his most loyal of all: the queer fans. Gaining notoriety as perhaps the first FTM trans rocker, Silveira garnered attention from big gay media like The Advocate and Out, and his band was tapped by Lauper to play on the True Colors Tour. But with a reputation for a killer live show and an evolving sound, The Cliks are transcending the trans curiosity and finding a real place in rock music.

“We still have a lot of queer fans and from that root, it’s really grown into a very diverse audience,” he says. “It’s something I’m very proud of. We have 60 year-old straight fans amid 30-something queer women. It’s so interesting.”

Silveira knows he won’t escape the trans label as, at least, a first impression, but he embraces the responsibility of artistic evolution, proving that he and The Cliks are here for the music. He’s seen the novelty wear off enough to attract and keep a non-gay audience, but he’s willing to meet them halfway.

“Queer artists have to work that much harder to prove their music can be accessible outside of queer audiences,” he says. “For the rest of my career, I’ll always be seen as the first trans mainstream music guy. If I allow that to predict my career, I won’t be successful. I’ll just continue to do what I do and be honest and open. People can take it or leave it.”

Silveira admits that when he’s at his unhappiest, his music flows out.  But he was thrilled at being named Sexiest Man in Canada by music magazine Chart Attack — or at least, had a good laugh.

“When I found out, I giggled. But I was happy to be nominated because it legitimized me as a rock male musician. And then I won! I thought this is hilarious if nothing for the fact that a trans man won.”

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New Voices returns to COH

New voicesRarely do you expect a church concert with the following disclaimer: “Some language not suitable for all audiences.” I mean, as a gay-welcoming congregation, the Cathedral of Hope realizes its parishioners can’t always be pristine angels — a curse word might leak out here and there.

COH and Club 119 Productions brings back New Voices, a songwriter showcase benefiting the COH AIDS Crisis Fund featuring a cast of fresh-faced singers. Pastor Rusty Baldridge assures this isn’t going to be a service — hence the disclaimer. “Just think of it as a cabaret, but without the tables and chairs — and liquor.”

— R.L.

Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. $10. CathedralOfHope.com.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas