Queering the occupation

LGBTs join movement in Dallas

OccupyDallas

Gay Dallas resident Dave May, who says he lost his ear to cancer because he didn’t have health insurance, marches with Occupy Dallas on Saturday, Oct. 15. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM LAST WEEKEND’S MARCH

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Dave May was self-employed and uninsured when he first noticed a small growth resembling a cut on the inside of his right ear about five years ago.

May was paying out of pocket for annual check-ups, and because his trusted general practitioner repeatedly assured him the growth was eczema — a relatively harmless skin condition — he had no reason to shell out $500 to see a specialist.

But the growth in the bell of May’s ear only got worse, and when he finally went to a dermatologist in 2008, a biopsy determined it was skin cancer.

It turned out to be an aggressive form, and May has since undergone four surgeries at Parkland hospital, including removal of his ear, ear drum and ear canal.

May, now 53, said if the cancer had been caught sooner, his treatment would’ve cost a few thousand dollars — and his ear would be intact. Instead, he estimates the cost to taxpayers in the hundreds of thousands.

“Our national health care policy is just pennywise and pound-foolish,” said May, whose cancer is finally in remission. “Had there been
some type of universal health plan, I would have gone to a dermatologist much earlier.

“I’m not into self-pity,” May said, adding that he’s only broken down once during the entire three-year ordeal. “I don’t feel sorry for myself, but I’ve always strongly believed that health care is not a privilege, but rather a human right.”

May was one of several LGBT people who joined about 400 protesters from Occupy Dallas on Saturday, Oct. 15, for a march from the   group’s campsite at Pioneer Park to the The Crescent in Uptown, site of Goldman Sachs’ local offices.

In some cities, the Occupy movement has included a large and very visible queer presence — with rainbow flags flying high during protests and same-sex couples openly cohabitating inside encampments.

But so far at Occupy Dallas, which began Oct. 6, the LGBT presence has been far more subtle.

Local queer Occupiers and supporters are hoping this will change, however, and those who marched with the group last weekend said they see major parallels between the LGBT equality and Occupy movements.

“It’s all about civil rights,” transgender activist Pamela Curry said as she marched up McKinney Avenue toward The Crescent.

OccupyDallas1

STRUGGLING FOR VISIBILITY | Chaaz Quigley, shown during last weekend’s march, said it’s been a struggle to establish a visible LGBT presence at Occupy Dallas. ( John Wright/ Dallas Voice)

“It’s about the people, not corporate rights,” Curry added, repeating the popular refrain that she’ll believe GOP presidential candidate

Mitt Romney’s claim that “corporations are people” when Texas executes one.

Eric Folkerth, straight pastor of the heavily gay Northaven United Methodist Church in Preston Hollow, noted that the Occupy march came on the eve of Reconciling Sunday in his denomination — which calls for full LGBT inclusion in the UMC.

“They’re both movements about people who are marginalized and often unheard,” Folkerth said as he stood outside The Crescent, adding that he hopes more LGBT people will get involved in the Occupy movement.

Jay Narey, communications director for Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said he didn’t plan to spend the night in Pioneer Park but wanted to show his support for the movement by marching with the group.

“I think they’re bringing much needed attention to the inequality,” said Narey, who wore a T-shirt emblazoned with “SOCIALIST” in large red letters and held a sign that read, “END the CORPORATOCRACY.”

Narey said he was disappointed there weren’t more LGBT people at the march. “They’d rather have a cocktail at JR.’s,” he said.

Bisexual activist Latisha McDaniel carried a sign containing one of the few LGBT references: “Union worker. State worker.

Independent Voter. Queer. Life-giver. Person of color. 99%!!!” it read.

“They’re screwing everybody equally,” McDaniel said. “Every minority in the country is being stepped on by these corporations, by corporate greed.”

Chaaz Quigley, a gay member of the International Socialist Organization, led the entire march for a brief period as it made its way up McKinney Avenue, carrying a sign that read “Socialist Queer!”

Quigley said he’s been the most vocal LGBT participant in Occupy Dallas, having been involved since the organizing stages and spending several nights at Pioneer Park.

But he said it’s been a struggle to establish a visible queer presence within the local movement, and he called on the community to help.

“If we can have people show up in drag, that’s what needs to happen,” Quigley said a few days later at Occupy Dallas’ new camp behind City Hall. “We need to have an incredibly visible presence. We’re not trying to co-opt anything. We’re trying to create real equality.”

For more on Occupy Dallas, visit the group’s website or Facebook page.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Redistricting plan could hurt LGBT voters

Map approved by Dallas council would cost community an ally, put heavily gay neighborhood in homophobic councilwoman’s district

DRAWN OUT | Raymond Crawford, president of the Kiestwood Historical Homeowners Association, refers to the area southwest of Kiest Boulevard and Hampton Road as a “gayborhood.” Under the redistricting plan, Kiestwood would be placed in the district represented by anti-gay Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT | Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Much has been made of the fact that a redistricting plan approved by the Dallas City Council last week could disenfranchise Hispanic voters.

But the redistricting plan, should it be signed off on by the U.S. Department of Justice, could also hurt the LGBT community.

Newly elected District 3 Councilman Scott Griggs said the map approved by the council would effectively cost the LGBT community an ally at the horseshoe because he’s been drawn into District 1, currently represented by Delia Jasso.

Meanwhile, under the plan, heavily LGBT areas of Oak Cliff currently represented by Griggs and Jasso have been drawn into districts that are home to Dwaine Caraway and Vonciel Hill.

“Delia and I have been pretty involved and very supportive of the GLBT community over the years,” said Griggs, who hasn’t indicated whether he’d run against Jasso in 2013 if the plan holds up. “You have two other council members who haven’t shown as much support.

“You are losing an ally,” Griggs added. “Is Dwaine [Caraway] or her [Hill] going to be as open or responsive as Delia and I have been?”

Jasso, who formed a citizens LGBT task force after taking office in 2009, couldn’t be reached for comment this week. But Jasso reportedly supports other Hispanic leaders who plan a lawsuit against the city if the redistricting plan is approved by the justice department.

Led by attorney Domingo Garcia, they allege the plan violates the Voting Rights Act. The plan guarantees that only two to four of the council’s 14 districts would be represented by Hispanics, who account for 42 percent of the city’s population.

Jasso believes she might have difficulty retaining her seat, because the new District 1 would include heavily Anglo areas with high voter turnout, including Kessler Park, Stevens Park and Winnetka Heights.

Openly gay former Councilman John Loza, who’s Hispanic and served on the city’s redistricting commission, agreed.

“I think that map is horrendous, and I’m really hoping that a lawsuit is brought forward based on that map, and I’d be happy to testify against it if and when it happens,” Loza said.

Loza lamented that the redistricting commission spent 95 hours working on the map it submitted to the council. But the council redrew the commission’s map based on what Loza called “a backroom deal,” and the panel’s work went “down the toilet.”

Loza said although his primary concern is Hispanic representation, he’s also bothered by the fact that two of the LGBT community’s strongest allies were placed in the same district.

“I don’t think it’s as unfortunate to the LGBT community as it is to the Latino community, but I think it does both communities a disservice,” he said.

Under the plan, Oak Cliff south of Illinois Avenue is split along Hampton Avenue, with the east side being placed in what would be Caraway’s district and the west side in Hill’s.

Hill is the lone current council member who’s refused to appear at gay Pride or sign a letter congratulating organizers of the event.

Asked in 2009 why she won’t ride in the parade, Hill voiced religious objections to homosexuality, saying she believes that “there are acts God does not bless.”

Raymond Crawford, who is gay and serves as president of the Kiestwood Historical Homeowners Association, refers to the area southwest of Hampton Road and Kiest Boulevard as a “gayborhood.” Crawford counts 15 gay households on his street — Southwood Drive — alone.

Under the redistricting plan, the 400-plus-home Kiestwood neighborhood, currently represented by Griggs, would be placed in Hill’s district.

“The day she [Hill] comes to call to do some door-knocking or to get some votes, whether I’m the president or not, it’s going to be an interesting conversation with Councilmember Hill,” Crawford said this week. “She’ll be in trouble in 2013 based on her previous statements.”

Hill didn’t respond to a phone call seeking comment.

VIEW A MAP OF THE REDISTRICTING PLAN: CLICK HERE

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens