Yen Tan’s gay movie nears funding goal, needs last-minute infusion

This summer, I wrote about Texas filmmaker Yen Tan’s latest feature film, which like his last, is Texas-set and gay-themed. Pit Stop is about a romance between rural gays (one Latino, one Anglo) who begin a relationship, and how it affects and is affected by their small-town lives. Tan was tagged for a fundraising campaign similar to Kickstarter.com called UnitedStatesArtists.org, which helps filmmakers and other artists get the money they need to make their dream a reality. In Tan’s case, the goal was $22,000. So far, he’s accured $20,600 — that’s 94 percent.

It is not, however, enough — and this is a question of winner-takes-all. If Tan doesn’t hit the $22K figure within the next 13 days, he gets none of it. That’s a pretty important $1,400.

Pledges as low as one dollar count, and there are perks depending on what you pledge, from an on-screen credit to a walk-on role. If you go here, you can pledge directly. You have some time, but why taunt fate? And on-screen credit is pretty cool, actually.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Politics and the rutting season

Like wild animals looking to mate, politicians during campaigns make a lot of noise over sex, but the real substance is the diminishment of our sexual freedom

Politicians are strange animals. They hibernate for years at a time, only emerging to participate in the curious ritual known as “campaigning.”

Much like “rutting season” for deer and elk, the politician spends much of the campaign season trying to make as big a show as possible of his prowess.

The culmination of the rutting season ends in showy battles where animals clash their antlers together, making great cracking sounds in the forest.

For the politician, this clashing happens in televised debates where there is much sound and fury and very little substance.

The only reason I say this is because there is an undertone of the whole season that is disturbing.

For elk and deer, it is the season of mating, and only the heartiest males can herd together a sizable group of females to impregnate and then leave.

Habaerman.Hardy.NEW
Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

For politicians it is the season to gather together voters whom they will screw in a metaphorical manner and then abandon, breaking all the pledges they made to their constituents.

OK, so I tortured that metaphor about as much as I can. Here is the point of this whole thing: Both rutting season and campaign season have one thing in common — sex.

For politicians the campaign is the ideal time to focus on the most incendiary topics, and sex is right up there in our society, along with taxes and religion.

The advantage in focusing on sex is it deflects focus from the real issues of the economy, war and jobs.

After all, it’s difficult for the average American to understand the real issues behind the economic problems, job losses and the ongoing wars. But sex? Well, that one is easy.

For politicians, focusing on sex is a slam-dunk. Point to those folks who have sexual preferences that differ from the majority of your voters and you are taking fewer risks.

In a society as sexually repressed as ours, any variance from the perceived norm causes panic, and that can be used to sway votes your way.

It is a sad fact that Americans do not consider sexuality, and more specifically sexual freedom, a basic human right. Because of that, politicians find it easy to whip voters into a frenzy using sex as a campaign issue:

“Ban gay marriage! Stop the homosexual agenda! Stop teaching sex education! End public access to contraception! Stop HPV vaccinations!”

At their root, these issues are all about sex and the discomfort Americans feel even discussing it.

It’s time America grows up and stops behaving like a herd of deer. If we could honestly and thoughtfully address our discomfort in talking about sex, we would go a long way towards becoming a greater nation.

The sooner we accept sexual freedom as one of our basic and sacred human rights, the sooner we will cease being a dysfunctional, adolescent society.

Sexual freedom is the fundamental human right of all individuals to develop and express their unique sexuality. It is nothing to be afraid of, yet politicians and clergy have taken this sacred right and tagged it with incendiary language like “promiscuity” and “immorality.”

It should come as no surprise that they are lying to us. Sexual freedom, like all our rights, is something to be taken seriously. It is the right to express in speech and writing our unique sexuality.

It is the right to obtain medically accurate and inclusive information about sex and sexuality. It is the right to control our bodies and our relationships. It is the right to engage in consensual sexual activity as an expression of who we are as human beings.

It is one of the many gifts we have been endowed with, yet sex is systematically excluded from most discussions of citizens’ rights.

This Friday, Sept. 23 is Sexual Freedom Day. The Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance celebrates this day each year with seminars, conferences and media events. This year the conference takes place in Washington, D.C. at the Pew Charitable Trust Foundation Conference Center and will feature panelists from across the country and around the world.

The idea is to provide a safe space to start talking about sex and human rights.

Elevating the conversation is vital to assuring our rights as LGBT Americans. The sooner we can mature as a country, the sooner issues of sex and sexuality will cease to be tools for use by politicians.

And the sooner we can stop behaving like a herd, the sooner we will cease to be treated like frightened animals.

Maybe then we can concentrate on actually making our country a safer, healthier and better place.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Pledges To Work Towards Marriage Equality

Today Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand appeared on The View where she vowed to work towards marriage equality. A nice round of applause from the audience followed.

(Via – Good As You)

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

FWPD chief hopes to start hate crimes unit

Halstead asks for community’s help in securing funds for special unit, pledges to increase diversity


Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

SEEKING INPUT | Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead listens to one of the more than 50 residents who attended a FWPD Diversity Forum this week. During the forum, Halstead announced plans to seek grants to fund a special unit to investigate hate crimes in the city. (Tammye Nash/DallasVoice)

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead this week reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining a diverse police force staffed by officers who are aware of and sensitive to the special needs and issues of the city’s racially, ethnically and culturally diverse communities.

“We need people like the community to serve the community,” Halstead said during the community forum held Tuesday night, Aug. 31, at the Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods.

“There is strength in diversity, and if the police department doesn’t grow in diversity along with the city, you will see the gap,” Halstead said.

The chief also said he is pursuing grant money the department could use to establish a special unit, or at least an individual officer, dedicated specifically to investigating hate crimes in the city.

Halstead told the more than 50 people gathered for the Fort Worth Police Department Diversity Forum — organized by the department’s public relations department — that the department currently has no one trained to investigate hate crimes, which he said come with a special set of often intense and intensely-sensitive issues.

Hate crimes — such recent incidents of vandalism at a local mosque — “come with a nexus of issues that don’t occur in every crime,” Halstead said, adding that when officers who aren’t trained to recognize and deal with hate crimes can come across as rude and insensitive because “they are not understanding those special issues and the motivation behind such crimes.”

Halstead said that he has a “very narrow window of opportunity that is already closing” to acquire funding for a hate crimes unit, and he asked the community to “help us in moving forward with this.”

He asked that those in the community interested in helping the department by providing the information necessary to prove need for such a unit contact Lt. Paul Henderson, his chief of staff, at 817-392-4241.

Building diversity

Halstead said that he had recently returned from the three-day Consortium for Police Leadership and Equity conference, dedicated to building diversity and equity within police departments.

He said he had been invited to the conference “because of the progress we’re making” in Fort Worth toward those goals. But he acknowledged that the FWPD faces “significant challenges” in maintaining a diverse police force over the next five to 20 years. Some of those challenges, he said, arise out of the deep budget cuts forced on the city by the ongoing economic crisis.

“Some departments have had to sell off whole work divisions to make their budgets. We have had to be very creative to meet the 5 percent cuts the city has asked us to make,” Halstead said. “We are already grossly under-staffed. But we have cut $9 million from our budget without one layoff.”

To do that, the chief said, the police department has “retooled parts of our organization to maximize efficiency in our highest priority services,” but he added that the department has to plan today to meet the needs of future.

“What will our city look like in 20 years? We have to think about that now in our recruitment. We don’t have enough diversity in the department now, and that need will just continue to grow as the city grows,” he said. “We need to see a higher mix of persons to serve our rapidly growing city. You all know people in your communities who would make excellent police officers. We need you to encourage them to pursue this as a career.”

Recruitment officers speaking at the forum said that a group of about 1,450 applicants were that same night taking the civil service exam to join the department, and they “appear to be a very diverse group.”

LINES OF COMMUNICATION | Officer Sara Straten, the Fort Worth Police Department’s LGBT liaison, talks to Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable after Tuesday’s FWPD Diversity Forum. Chief Jeffrey Halstead created Straten’s liaison position following the June 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge, the same incident that prompted the creation of Fairness Fort Worth. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

That group of applicants represented “about 50 percent” of those who had been identified as eligible to apply, according to Sgt. Klein, who said the applicants had been recruited from forums that include LGBT job fairs, military job fairs, church activities, community forums, crime fairs and college and university campuses.

She said that the department has no openings beyond this current class of officer trainees, but that “we feel it is important for the academy staff to stay in contact” with possible future cadets. To that end, academy staff members will continue to attend job fairs and community events, including the upcoming Tarrant County Gay Pride Week parade, block party and picnic, set for early October.

Klein said that possible recruits are not asked about their sexual orientation, so she had no idea how many of those take the civil service exam for the next academy class were LGBT.

However, Sgt. Garcia, another academy staff member, said that FWPD recruiters “interest was great” at a recent LGBT job fair FWPD recruiters attended. “We got a great reception there.And based on the number of e-mails I got afterward, I believe we got a great response” in terms of LGBT people who applied.

The department’s LGBT liaison, Officer Sara Straten, later said she, too, had received a large number of e-mails and phone calls from people in the LGBT community interested in applying for the police force.

Halstead said he believes the response from the LGBT community has come in response to the department’s outreach to the community in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid in June 2009.

“Where else have you seen such a catastrophic event happen, and then seen such good things happen?” Halstead said. “We do have challenges ahead of us, but this department is more open and caring than ever before.”

He continued, “The biggest challenge for any officer is fulfilling the expectations of the job and of the community. Sometimes an officer’s actions can be perceived as rude, but anyone who takes the oath has a personal calling to protect.”

Halstead described an incident that happened to him as a young man living in Miami when an officer there stopped him without cause and assaulted him “just because I had long hair and dark skin and was driving a fancy car,” which the officer saw as a sure sign he was a drug dealer.

That incident, he said, instilled in him the drive to create a police force where such things wouldn’t happen.

“I have zero tolerance for anyone being disrespected” by an officer on his police force, he said. “If you do that, you have violated your oath. Now the challenge for me is to build a police force that provides holistic service, 24-7. An officer can provide great service, even after an arrest has been made.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens