So what if being gay IS a choice?

Despite some activists’ outrage over actress Cynthia Nixon’s recent comments, it doesn’t really matter how we became LGBT

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

After four decades of watching people struggle to keep up with the politically correct standard of the day in discussing LGBT life, I’m beginning to think it’s time for everyone to relax a little.

I reached that decision this week when I read about activists getting in an uproar over Cynthia Nixon, an actress who starred in Sex and the City, telling the New York Times Magazine she preferred being gay to straight because she had lived both types of lives. Her remarks created a furor among those who demand we frame all of our speech in a way they think best advances the LGBT rights movement. A few days later Nixon softened her stance in a Daily Beast interview by saying she was a bisexual by no choice of her own, presumably in an effort to quell the controversy.

Frankly, Nixon’s first remarks in the New York Times Magazine article made sense to me, and so did her later remarks about believing she never made a conscious decision to be a bisexual. It’s just that I regretted she felt compelled to revise what she had said earlier to appease her critics. I got what she meant the first time without her follow-up explanation, and I imagine most other enlightened people did as well.

Cynthia Nixon
Cynthia Nixon

Nixon, who gave birth to two children with a male partner, probably did make a choice to live a gay life when she became sexually involved with a woman. If someone is attracted to both the opposite and the same sex, there probably does come a point when the individual might need to make a choice in terms of permanent or semi-permanent partnership.
Certainly Nixon ought to be the best judge of what happened in her own life, so what’s wrong with her telling the truth as she sees it?

Nixon noted correctly that many LGBT activists shudder every time they hear the word “choice,” “preference” or “lifestyle” because they fear it supports conservative religious arguments that homosexuality is a perversion practiced by degenerates who get their kicks out of being wicked. As the theory goes, that gives credence to the evangelists’ claims that bisexuality, homosexuality and gender variance can be cured by the administration of a good dose of Bible verse in quantities sufficient enough to scare the holy bejesus out of the sinner.

As we all know, that doesn’t work. Actually, even most straight people realize that won’t work because most of them have also suffered the wrath of the evangelical community in condemnation of some aspect of their lives, such as the urge to masturbate or engage in sexual activity before marriage. In reality, the only ones who truly believe a pack of Bible thumpers can transform a person’s sexual orientation are people who are lying about it, have been brainwashed into believing it or are just too ignorant to understand scientific research.

Decades of scientific evidence make it clear that every aspect of a person’s physical and mental makeup — which certainly includes sexual orientation — comes about as a result of heritable genes and the impact of sex hormones on the brain and other body parts of the developing fetus.

In his 2011 book Gay, Straight and the Reason Why, neuroscientist Simon LeVay outlines decades of scientific studies that all point to the same conclusion: In essence, people are what nature made them.

LeVay, who served on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, has pointed this out in various articles and books he has authored over the years. The results of a scientific study LeVay published in Science in 1991 showing marked differences in the brain structures of gay and straight men is credited with helping spur the two-decade wave of scientific research aimed at determining a biological basis for sexual orientation.

What the body of scientific evidence does for most reasonable people is confirm what common sense had already told them. There’s just no way certain people with obvious mental and physical characteristics could have been anything other than what they became — namely gay, lesbian or transgender.

With others in the LGBT community it’s a little trickier because they display either few or none of the obvious characteristics identifying them as anything other than straight. Environment might have played some role in their development, but again the scientific evidence points to biological factors. What’s more the individuals usually report experiencing feelings since their earliest recollections that set them apart from heterosexual people.

Still, the unpredictability of humans makes it impossible to categorize all people. Some members of the community undoubtedly did feel an attraction to the LGBT lifestyle and chose to embrace it for that reason. The very size and the diversity of the world’s LGBT community is so staggering that if we come across some people who are merely practicing free will, it shouldn’t be so surprising.

That’s why I liked Nixon’s earlier remarks that it didn’t matter how people came to be a part of the LGBT community. As she said, it doesn’t matter how each and every person got here, and words will never sway the opinions of bigots and opportunists. It will require life experiences — such as coming to realize they have a child or grandchild who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender — to hopefully educate them about the realities of life.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has reported on LGBT issues for three decades for the mainstream and alternative media. He can be reached at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Gypsy’ in her soul

B’way legend and gay icon Patti LuPone brings her powerful pipes to Dallas

concerts-1ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

You might not have seen her name above the title on a movie or welcomed her every week into your house via the boob tube, but when it comes to the stage, there are few contemporary performers who rival Patti LuPone.

“I’m not a movie actress — I think I’m a hard sell in the movies,” LuPone says matter-of-factly. (She is, however, about to shoot a film in New Orleans, playing  J-Lo’s mom.) While the Juilliard-trained actress has met her greatest success in musical theater, it’s her acting chops that have transformed songs like “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” (from Evita — her first Tony Award) and “Rose’s Turn” (Gypsy — her second Tony). The latter was a career highlight: The most ferocious role for a woman ever written for an American musical. Two years after it closed, she’s still happy to talk about it.

“It was great,” she beams. “Arthur [Laurents, the director and writer] assembled a spectacular cast — we really were a triumvirate. I don’t think you can act alone. You need partners on stage.”

That the production took place “was really done as a tribute to Arthur’s partner of 50 years, Tom Hatcher,: she says. “Tom had just died, and he’s the one who told Arthur to do West Side Story and Gypsy. Arthur agreed to do it basically to keep him alive. He wanted it to be different than the last one and really have an acted show.”

Although the entire principal cast won Tonys, Laurents did not.  “How could the director not win!” LuPone says, voice filling with outrage. You sense it’s such emotional readiness that has made her a Broadway icon.

LuPone brings that legendary power to the stage of the Meyerson this week, with what she calls a “piano and voice only” concert (no orchestra), titled Gypsy in My Soul. “It’s a collection of songs including some showtunes,” she says.

When an actress so identified with certain composers, especially Stephen Sondheim, performs in concert, she can run the risk of being compelled to perform songs that no longer interest her. That’s simply not the case with LuPone.

“Songs never become old hat to me, “ she says categorically. “Because audiences want to hear one, so I do one — not even because I have to; I want to. If they are really good songs you want to sing them.”

LuPone has, in one venue or another, run through almost the entire Sondheim repertoire: Mama Rose, Passion, Company, Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd (another Tony nomination — “I actually got rotator cuff problems from carrying around that tuba”). Really, only two have eluded her.

“I wanted to play Desiree [in the revival of A Little Night Music, which closed earlier this year on Broadway]. I contacted Trevor [Nunn, the director], who didn’t contact me back,” she says, with a sting. “Really the last Sondheim role for me is the Witch in Into the Woods, which I was originally offered! After it left San Diego they offered it to me; I said I d like to play Cinderella, so I came in and auditioned for that. Then they said, ‘We still want you to play the Witch.’ Then negotiations fell apart.”

Her resume is littered with shows — some huge hits, some personal triumphs.

“I loved Women on the Verge,” she says of her last Broadway venture, which closed quickly last year (though not before landing her a sixth Tony nom). “I think there’s a lot of creativity [on Broadway] now, but I’m sick and tired of the spectacles. My biggest complaint is the sound level: I’d rather be brought to the stage than pushed back in my seat.”

And she’s always looking ahead. “Mandy [Patinkin] and I are coming to Broadway for nine weeks [soon], then we will go out on the road both together and separately. Then there’s stuff happening that I can’t say because I’m not supposed to,” she teases.

You might expect she’d find a pace more suitable for a 62-year-old, but LuPone denies that the demands of eight shows a week wear her out.

“I have Italian peasant energy,” he says. “Even at my age, there is this abundance of energy, especially songs that are physically demanding. I am exhilarated by them.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Gov. Perry to break anti-gay boycott of CPAC

Gov. Rick Perry

Where is the outrage?

According to multiple reports, Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry has accepted an invitation to speak at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February, thereby breaking a boycott of the conference by socially conservative groups over the inclusion of the gay group GOProud as a participating organization.

“Happy to announce that Governor Rick Perry is confirmed to speak at CPAC 2011,” the conference announced last week on its Facebook page.

According to the Washington Times, groups boycotting this year’s conference include the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, the Center for Military Readiness, the American Family Association, the American Principles Project, the Liberty Counsel and the National Organization for Marriage:

“The base-line reason is that homosexuality is not a conservative value,” said Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association’s director of issue analysis. “It’s the conservative PAC, not the libertarian PAC.”

Of course, these same groups and their members have historically been among Perry’s biggest supporters, and he’s been among their strongest anti-gay allies. But now that Perry is considering running for vice president, he’s apparently willing to throw them under the bus in exchange for a high-profile speaking engagement. What’s next, accepting an award from Log Cabin Republicans? Taking a gay lover? Wait, maybe he’s already done that.

Anyhow, we’ve left a message with the governor’s press office to try to find out what in the hell he was thinking, but we haven’t heard back.

Again, we ask, where is the outrage?


—  John Wright

Top 10: FW changes continued in wake of Rainbow Lounge

Rainbow.Lounge
FROM PROTEST TO PARTY | The Rev. Carole West, left, and David Mack Henderson, right, both of Fairness Fort Worth, are shown with Chief Jeffrey Halstead during a barbecue at the Rainbow Lounge on June 28 to mark the one-year anniversary of the raid. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

No. 8:

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When the Fort Worth Police Department  and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage raided the Rainbow Lounge on June 28, 2009 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion — it sparked outrage around the world and enough headlines to fill newspapers for the rest of the year.

But the story didn’t end with 2009, as repercussions from the raid continued this year.

Publicity from the raid undoubtedly helped punch up business for the Rainbow Lounge, enough so that by January, the bar’s owner, J.R. Schrock, announced that he had a second bar — Percussions — in the works, as well as a third club and possibly a fourth.

In February — despite acknowledgments from both TABC and FWPD that the raid should never have happened — officials with the Fort Worth city attorney’s office said they were going ahead with efforts to prosecute those arrested in the raid, including Chad Gibson, the young man who suffered a lasting brain injury while in TABC custody.

One of Fort Worth police Chief Jeff Halstead’s first acts after the raid was to appoint openly gay officer Sara Straten as his department’s first full-time liaison to the LGBT community.

On June 28, as a way of highlighting the progress the city had made in the year since the raid and improved relations between the police department and the LGBT community, Rainbow Lounge held a party attended by Halstead, Straten and many of the officers who patrol the area in which the bar is located.

Despite the progress though, in July anti-gay forces packed the City Council chambers to once again protest the council’s vote the previous November to amend Fort Worth’s nondiscrimination ordinance to offer protections to transgenders and other initiatives proposed by the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.

At the end of the public comments section of the meeting, Mayor Mike Moncrief told the crowd that while “there is room for all of us” in Fort Worth, “What’s in the Bible or what isn’t in the Bible, that’s not our job. Our job is to maintain the quality of life in our city, and that’s what this [diversity] training is all about.”

As the year continued, more examples of the changes in the city emerged: The police department reached out to the LGBT community in looking for new recruits. Halstead announced plans to start a hate crimes unit. The annual Tarrant County gay Pride celebration expanded, adding a block party and holding a parade and picnic far larger than in years past.

In September, the council quietly approved adding domestic partner benefits for lesbian and gay city employees, and in mid-November, the city attorney’s office announced that all charges against those arrested in the raid were being dropped.

Perhaps one of the most welcome results of the Rainbow Lounge raid, however, was the emergence and continued growth of Fairness Fort Worth.

Formed quickly in the wake of the raid to offer assistance to witnesses who wanted to testify during investigations into the raid, the group has morphed into an active LGBT advocacy organization complete with officers and a strategy for the future — filling a void that has long existed in Tarrant County’s LGBT community.

— Tammye Nash

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

—  Kevin Thomas

In defense of Fort Worth’s response to the Rainbow Lounge raid

Jon Nelson

By Jon Nelson  |  Fairness Fort Worth

I read with interest the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle’s commentary contrasting the Atlanta outcome with Fort Worth’s after raids at gay bars in each city. He concludes that “Factors contributing to the non-resolution of the Fort Worth police raid may include a less-than-robust defense of bar patrons by the Rainbow Lounge ownership at the time of the bust, and the less aggressive approach Fort Worth gay leaders employed to bring the city and the police department to account.”

The headline contrasts the $1 million settlement with none in Fort Worth. Although the Rev. Sprinkle doesn’t mention this as a contrast, I’ll deal with it anyway. The Atlanta suit was filed by a private attorney on behalf of 19 patrons of the club and no such lawsuit has yet been filed in Fort Worth .The LGBT community formed Fairness Fort Worth at the outset and stepped forward to represent the community. The injustice experienced was against the patrons and not the bar owner nor any employees of the bar. This contrasts sharply with the facts in Atlanta where the police targeted both the bar and its patrons.

The Rev. Sprinkle’s one striking contrast is his belief that the Fort Worth Police Department has never issued an apology and Atlanta has. I have attended at least three meeting where Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead has publicly apologized; the last one was in front of the Rainbow Lounge at a news conference held on Nov. 5, 2009.

The Rev. Sprinkle writes that there has been a “non-resolution” of the raid on the Rainbow lounge. Let me share with you what has happened since the raid and, in the words of the Rev. Sprinkle, “You be the judge”:

—  admin

‘Drag Race’ contestants named; none from Texas

OK, everyone knows the best drag queens between the coasts — maybe including them — are in Dallas. So how come none of the new season’s RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants are from the Lone Star State? It’s an outrage!

Well, we can take comfort in knowing that it means we didn’t have to give up any of our talent for a few weeks of filming … and it makes it easier to meow about who deserves to go.

Two (Mariah and Phoenix) are from Atlanta (Ru’s hometown), two from L.A. (Raja and Venus D-Lite), one (Yara Sofia) from Puerto Rico like last season’s Jessica Wild, with the remaining seven scattered around the country. Get ready to watch these girls lip synch … for their lives.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gold’s Gym franchises respond to Bob Rowling’s donations to group backing anti-gay candidates

Earlier we told you about the LGBT community’s apparent outrage over Highland Park billionaire Robert Rowling’s contributions totaling $2 million to the Karl Rove co-founded American Crossroads, which is working to help elect several anti-gay candidates this election cycle. Well, the reaction has been swift from four Gold’s Gym franchises in the San Francisco area, which announced today that they’re severing ties with the brand over the contributions. Via The Huffington Post, here’s a statement from Don Dickerson, director of operations for Gold’s Gym Bay Area:

We were as surprised by [CEO] Mr. [Robert] Rowling’s action as anyone but because our company believes in and lives up to the ideals of equality for all we are going to take the following actions:

1: Our contractual obligation with Gold’s Gym expires on September 15th, 2012 and on or prior to that date (our legal counsel is reviewing our options) we will leave the Gold’s Gym brand. It is a major initiative to create a new brand and leave Gold’s Gym which has been our identity for over 20 years but we will begin that process today.

2: For every dollar we pay Gold’s Gym in franchise fees we will donate an equal or greater amount to LGBT charities. While we donate much more than this to charities and community groups that support the LGBT community we want to make a commitment to match or exceed this amount until our relationship with Gold’s Gym can be severed.

3: Our management and staff will continue to support LGBT causes in every way possible and we will use our business as a platform to fight for change and equality for everyone. We have always taken great pride in being a leader in the LGBT community and we will continue to.

Also, Gold’s Gym International released a statement to The Huff Po saying Rowling’s contributions were totally independent from the company. Rowling serves as CEO of the ownership group for Gold’s Gym, TRT Holdings, which also, as we noted before, owns Omni Hotels. Below is an excerpt from the Gold’s Gym International statement, which you can read in its entirety here:

Gold’s Gym did not make a donation to American Crossroads (or any other political organization) and in no way supports anti-gay causes. Quite the contrary, the Gold’s Gym family has been strong supporters of the LGBT community over the years. This includes supporting PRIDE events, sponsoring LGBT media outlets and donating to various LGBT charities in the communities we serve.

Clearly these folks recognize that their customer base is heavily LGBT, and they’re worried about the response to Rowling’s donations. Stay tuned. On Tuesday, we’ll see if we can talk to some representatives from Gold’s Gym locations in North Texas. Who ever said boycotts, or at least the threat of them, doesn’t work? Are you listening, Mr. Rowling?

—  John Wright

Local gay vet: Time to regroup, refuel, attack again on DADT

Veterans and active servicemembers express outrage and frustration but will use this time to regroup

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Dave Guy-Gainer
Dave Guy-Gainer

Gay current and former servicemembers from North Texas expressed frustration and outrage over this week’s vote in the U.S. Senate that halted progress on a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

But they vowed to continue fighting the military’s 17-year-old ban on open service, in hopes the Senate will take up the measure again during the lame duck session that follows November elections.

The Senate voted 56-43 on Tuesday, Sept. 21 to move forward with debate on the 2011 Defense spending bill that includes a provision to repeal DADT, but the margin fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.

Dave Guy-Gainer, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant from Tarrant County and a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, chalked up Tuesday’s vote as a lost battle, but said the war won’t end until the policy is history.

“Now is the time to regroup, refuel and attack again,” Gainer said. “We’ll see this scenario again in December and again and again until repeal happens. It will happen. Between now and then, the voices of our community and our allies must become louder and more incessant than ever before. This is not a political issue — this is a discrimination issue. After 17 years we cannot give up now. We are still alive in the Senate and in the courts.”

Two weeks before the Senate vote, a federal district judge in California declared DADT unconstitutional, but the U.S.

Justice Department, which is defending the policy, hasn’t said whether it will appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon review of the impact of DADT repeal is due Dec. 1.

Kevin, an active-duty gay Marine from North Texas whose name is being withheld to protect him from being outed under DADT, called on  President Barack Obama to issue an executive order ending discharges under DADT until the policy can be repealed — either legislatively or judicially.

Currently stationed overseas, Kevin is a member of OutServe, an underground network of actively serving LGBT troops. Kevin’s partner is also on active duty.

“This was a huge letdown, and has made me just about completely lose faith in our government,” Kevin said of Tuesday’s vote. “But we at OutServe are standing by our word, we are not going to give up the fight.

“I would also encourage the American public to still stay on their congressmen and senators, call them and tell them to repeal this unjust policy,” Kevin said. “This is human lives that this policy is affecting.”

Danny Hernandez, a former Marine from Tarrant County who was discharged under DADT and now works with SLDN, said he was in the Senate gallery when Tuesday’s vote took place.

“The Senate continues to play games with the lives of thousands of servicemembers,” said Hernandez, a graduate of Texas A&M University who hopes to one day return to the Marines. “There were GOP senators who voted not to represent their constituents, but to follow party lines even though they support the repeal of DADT. A vote against the bill is one thing, but a vote against the opportunity to bring it up for debate is shameful.

“I am remaining optimistic and hoping that this will pass during the lame duck session at the end of the year,” Hernandez added. “It would be nice to see politics placed aside as well as for the support of all our men and women in uniform.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

For the record, we're backing the closeted independent over the Tea-bagger in Florida

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist is the Republican governor of Florida who decided to run for U.S. Senate but, because he was considered a “moderate” — Horrors! He shook hands with Barack Obama! — in the Tea Party-crazed GOP of today, he decided instead to run as an independent.

In a poll conducted earlier this month for three Florida newspapers, likely voters put Crist at a statistically insignificant but notable lead for the seat against former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Why, you might ask, should gays in Texas should care what politicians in Florida have to do with our lives. And the answer is, Crist is pretty much certainly gay.

His homosexuality was pretty well documented in “Outrage,” director Kirby Dick’s documentary about hypocrisy in the halls of politics. “Outrage” didn’t really reveal anything new under the sun, but it did agglomerate the facts in one place for a number of politicians who take anti-gay stances while remaining in the closet (more or less) themselves.

Crist’s defection from the GOP could be pretty big news, if only because, if not tethered to right wing of American politics, Crist might feel comfortable coming out officially, which is always a good thing for our community. On the other hand, as “Outrage” pointed out, Crist doesn’t exactly have a stellar record on supporting gay rights, has fiercely fought the gay label (despite documentation) and in general just seems like a turncoat. Still, given a choice between the Tea Party-backed Republican or Crist, it’s an easy call for me.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gay activist protests evangelical preacher's fine for hate speech

Tatchell
Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell is, arguably, the United Kingdom’s most visible, most vocal and most recognized LGBT rights activist. He has been a gay activist since the early 1970s. He is the co-founder of the United Kingdom’s OutRage! and is known for protesting against the U.K.’s former law criminalizing homosexuality, and against the Church of England and the Catholic Church, among other issues. He was arrested in Moscow for participating in a gay Pride event that had been banned by the mayor, and he even tried — twice — to perform a citizen’s arrest on anti-gay Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

In other words, you wouldn’t ever expect to see Tatchell taking sides with an anti-gay evangelical Christian preacher. But that’s just what he’s doing.

Shawn Holes, a Baptist street preacher from New York, has been fine more than $1,500 for an incident earlier this month in Glasgow, Scotland, when he stood on a street corner telling passersby that, “Homosexuals are deserving of the wrath of God — and so are all other sinners — and they are going to a place called hell.”

Holes admitted in court that he breached the peace by “uttering homophobic remarks” that were “aggravated by religious prejudice.”

But Tatchell says that Holes was not inciting violence against gays, that the punishment is way out of line, and that officials should concentrate on prosecuting real hate crimes instead of wasting time and money prosecuting people like Holes.

Tatchell said: “Shawn Holes is obviously homophobic and should not be insulting people with his anti-gay tirades. He should be challenged and people should protest against his intolerance. However, in a democratic, free society it is wrong to prosecute him. Criminalisation is not appropriate. The price of freedom of speech is that we sometimes have to put up with opinions that are objectionable and offensive.”

Tatchell also said he would have gone to court to testify on Holes’ behalf if he had known about the case in time.

The prosecution of Shawn Holes for preaching his personal religious beliefs is a prime example, unfortunately, of justthe kind of thing that right-wingers here in the U.S. warned of when they were speaking out against the federal hate crimes law. Their religion teaches them that homosexuality is sinful, and as long as they do not advocate violence against LGBT people, they have the right to believe what they want and talk about their beliefs to others.

And we in the LGBT community have to remember, if we try to abridge the free speech rights of our opponents, then we are putting our own free speech rights in jeopardy.

As Evelyn Beatrice Hall — or was it Voltaire? — once said: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

—  admin