Taylor Dayne can’t stop the music

Taylor Dayne can’t stop the music

More than 20 years after she packed the gay bar dance floors with her debut hits, the songstress is still going strong, and says her performance at Black Tie is a ‘win-win’ for her and her fans

Dayne.TaylorRich Lopez  |  Staff Writer

lopez@dallasvoice.com

Helping out LGBT people is nothing new for singer Taylor Dayne.

She can’t quite recall when she knew she was a hit with the gay community: Over the course of her 23-year career in pop music, she’s played venues of all sizes, but she did notice early on how a certain fan base seemed to keep showing up.

“It’s kinda hard to remember, but I would perform very specific shows and then some gay clubs and it dawned on me,” she said.

With an explosive debut, thanks to her platinum selling 1988 debut Tell It To My Heart and the more sophisticated follow-up Can’t Fight Fate a year later, Dayne became a quick force to be reckoned with on the charts.

But her pop hits were just as big on the dance floor, and Dayne was resonating across the queer landscape.

“I’ve had wonderful relationship with gay and lesbian fans for years. I’m so glad to be doing Black Tie because I have a great core of fan base here,” she said. “It’ll be a good show with lots of fun and for a good cause. It’s a win-win.”

Dayne’s performed at gay bars and Pride events in Boston, Chicago and the Delaware Pride Festival. But appreciation of her work in the community was clearly evident in 2010 when she was asked to record “Facing a Miracle” as the anthem for the Gay Games.

“That was quite an honor and then they asked me to perform at the games,” she said. “It was very emotional for me. The roar of the crowd was great.”

Even after two decades, Dayne remains just as committed to music as she was in 1988. She’s embraces her sort of “elder” status in pop music and instead of seeing the likes of Nikki Minaj and Katy Perry as rivals, she enjoys what they are bringing to the landscape of music now.

“I love listening to all the new stuff going on. There is some great talent out there. It’s nice to know I was some inspiration to them, the way ladies like Debbie Harry and Pat Benatar were for me. The cycle goes on,” Dayne said.

But they still push her to keep in the game. She admitted, “I’m pretty competitive that way.”

This year, Dayne released the single, “Floor on Fire,” which made it to the Billboard Dance/Club Charts Top 10.

At 49, Dayne doesn’t show signs of slowing. Along with a rumored second greatest hits album, she recently wrapped up filming the indie movie Telling of the Shoes and she’s a single mother to 9-year-old twins. Juggling it all is a mix of emotions, but her confidence pushes her through.

“I can say I’m a great singer, so when it comes to decisions, I’m fine about recording and performing,” she said. “But I would say I work really hard at acting. It’s nerve-wracking but it’s also amazing. But I’m not a novice at any of this.”

With her children, she doesn’t make any pretenses about the difficulty of being both a musician and a mom — as long as she instills the proper principles in them.

“We don’t try to get wrapped up in small time crap,” she said. “At the end of day it’s about having a good heart and they have great heart.”

It’s likely she’ll show the same at Black Tie.

—  Rich Lopez

Planning Black Pride

Spotlighting events this weekend from seminars to sexiness

pride

YOU ROCK | Adult film actor and entrepreneur Rock Rockafella is one of several African-American porn stars who will appear at Dallas Black Pride events.

 

Two organizations have made Dallas Black Pride into an enhanced experience for the local queer community. DFW Pride Movement puts emphasis on education while Dallas Southern Pride celebrates with several parties.
Here are some of the highlights both have planned for Dallas Black Pride Weekend.

— Rich Lopez

Friday

Third Annual Black LGBT Community Summit
with speakers Cleo Manago and Steve Wakefield. Marriott City Center, 650 N. Pearl St. 1 p.m. DFWPrideMovement.org.

Queerly Speaking:
Black Pride Edition with special guests Kerin Rodriguez and Uriah Bell. Marriott City Center Cambridge Ballroom. 7 p.m. $5. FahariArtsInstitute.org.

Cirque du Freak party
with DJs C. Wade and Unique and adult film star Ty Lattimore. The Brick, 2525 Wycliff Ave. 10 pm.
Sponsored by 7Connection. DallasSouthernPride.com.

The Dom: A Night of Dominance
with DJ Laid Back. Victory Tavern City Grille, 2501 N. Houston St. 10 p.m. $15. DallasHerStory.com.

Him4Him All-Star Friday Pride Boyzz Night Out
with Sex Siren competition. Club Elm and Pearl, 2204 Elm St. 10 p.m. ElmAndPearl.com.

Saturday

HisStory/HerStory: Telling Our Story intergenerational discussion.
Marriott City Center, Plaza A. Noon. DFWPrideMovement.org.

The Ex-Factor.
Q-Roc Ragsdale talks about ex-partners and living in the same community. Presented by Q-Roc.TV. Marriott City Center,  Nice Room. 2 p.m. DFWMovement.org.

TransFormation.
Valerie Spencer discusses trans topics within the black community. Marriott City Center, Champagne Room. 3:15 p.m.
DFWPrideMovement.org.

HIV through the Looking Glass.
Adult stars Ty Lattimore, Rock Rockafella and Remy Mars discuss HIV in the adult film industry. Marriott City Center, Normandy Room AB. 3:15 p.m.
DFWPrideMovement.org.

That’s Not Love, That’s Stupid
is designed to educate participants on relationship issues. Marriott City Center, Nice Room. 3:15 p.m.
Official Dallas Black Pride Tweet and Greet. Marriott City Center Plaza C. 3–7 p.m. DFWMovement.org.

Uncut (Sex and the Modern Man).
GLO TV live taping with Maurice Jamal. Marriott City Center, Plaza A. 3-5 p.m. GLOTVNetwork.com.

Full Throttle Fashion Explosion hosted by Midweek Meltdown. Marriott City Center, Plaza AB. 8–10 p.m. DFWMovement.org.

Her4Her’s Seductive Saturday Femme Figure and Stud Realness Show
featuring guest dancers. Club Elm and Pearl, 2204 Elm St. 10 p.m. DallasSouthernPride.com.

Cirque du Male party
with all-male circus. Presented by 7Connection. J. Pepe’s, 2720 N. Stemmons Freeway. DallasSouthernPride.com.

Sunday

Living Faith Covenant Church
worship service featuring the DFW Pride Movement Gospel Choir. Marriott City Center, Normandy Room AB. Noon. LivingFaithDFW.org.

Family Affair Carnival
is a family-friendly event featuring bounce houses, petting zoo and games. Club Elm and Pearl, 2204 Elm St. 4 p.m. DallasSouthernPride.com

Black Pride Dinner
at Catfish Blues, 1011 Corinth St. from 2–5 p.m.  DFWPrideMovement.org.

Whip My Hair
inaugural gay Pride hair show with DJ Black Cat and MC Sister Ida Mae Watergate. Presented by 7Connection and Tysin and Starr Entertainment. The Brick, 2525 Wycliff Ave. 7 p.m. DallasSouthernPride.com.

The Lipstick Ball 2011
is the official after party with local performer Shemar Collins Dupree. Radisson Hotel, 2204 Elm St. in the grand ballroom. Midnight. DallasSouthernPride.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Pride 2011 • Black Pride: Much more than just a party

DFW Pride Movement has scheduled a full weekend of programs on HIV, relationship issues, trans issues and more, but they didn’t forget the party

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

For many people, when they think of “Pride,” they think of parades and parties. But for DFW Pride Movement/Dallas Black Pride, “Pride” means going beyond the parties to offer a slate of programs and events intended to “move the community forward and empower the people,” DFW Pride Movement Executive Director Derek Spillman said.

“There’s nothing wrong with parties, we just wanted to offer more,” Spillman said of DFW Pride Movement, the local affiliate of the International Federation of Black Prides. “We are not a party promoter. There are party promoters who have chosen to work with us and to hold parties in conjunction with our Black Pride events,” Spillman said. “Our purpose, though, is to have a weekend of programs that focus on the cultural aspects of Black Pride, that focus on social justice and advocacy.”

Spillman said that the theme for this year’s Dallas Black Pride, set for Sept. 39-Oct. 2, is “HisSTORY and HerSTORY,” and events will focus, in part, on combating the spread of HIV/AIDS in the black community.

The host hotel is the Marriott City Center in downtown Dallas, and most of the programs take place there.

This year, Spillman said, Dallas Black Pride organizers wanted to tie in some of its programs with an HIV vaccine trial underway at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and has done so by bringing in a number of speakers who will focus on issues surrounding HIV/AIDS among African-Americans.

In fact, the first major program of the weekend will be the Black LGBT Community Summit on Friday, Sept. 30, featuring keynote speaker Christopher Bates, senior public health advisor to the deputy assistant secretary for health, infectious diseases, and executive director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

The program takes place from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the host hotel.

The programs continue Saturday, Oct. 1, with the Empowerment Series starting with Session 1, from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. It offers attendees a choice between a panel on Lambda

Legal, presented by Lambda’s Southwest Regional Director Omar Narvaez; “TRANScending All Obstacles,” presented by Carter Brown with Black Trans Men; “Financial FREEdom,” presented by Treach Wilson; and “If It’s So Wrong, Why Does It Feel So Right?” presented by Alex Byrd.

Options in Session 2, from 11 a.m. to noon, are “Stonewall Democrats,” presented by Omar Narvaez; “Erotic Play for Men: Serious Business,” presented by Dr. Herukhuit; and “Make

It Last Forever,” presented by the DFW Senators.

The noon special session will be “HisStory/HerStory: Telling Our Story — An Intergenerational Discussion.”

Session 3 will be held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., and will include “Lying and Dying in Denial,” presented by author and poet Uriah Bell; “Sex and HIV Prevention Behind Prison Walls,” presented by Mychael Patterson; “Project Vogue,” presented by Stephaun Blahnik; and “The Ex-Factor: No More Drama — For Real,” presented by Q-Roc TV.

The final session of the day runs from 3:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., and includes panels on “TRANSformation,” presented by Valerie Spencer and Kennedy Davenport; “HIV Through the

Looking Glass,” presented by Deneen Robinson; and “That’s Not Love, That’s Stupid!” presented by Angela Harvey.

The day’s programs wind up with “The Official Dallas Social Affair: Tweet & Greet, Part 2” from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and a live taping of GLO TV’s “UNCUT: Sex and the Modern Man” from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

There will also be a “Greater Than AIDS” photo shoot from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and “The Movement: Full Throttle Fashion Explosion” from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., and parties hosted by a variety of community organizations beginning at 11 p.m.

The weekend concludes Sunday with worship services at noon at Living Faith Covenant Church and Black Pride Dinner at Catfish Blues from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Spillman noted that organizers designed the weekend’s schedule with the intention of reaching out to as many different aspects and interests of the community as possible. He said organizers were especially glad to have adult film stars Deneen Robinson, Ty Lattimore and Rock Rockafella attending to talk about HIV from the perspective of the adult entertainment industry.

“These men will be appearing at some of the parties throughout the weekend also, but their main reason for being here is to talk to people about HIV and AIDS, and how everyone should protect themselves and how everyone should get tested,” Spillman said.

In another effort to encourage people to get tested, he added, everyone who gets tested can get their names entered into a raffle, with the prize being the opportunity to be a VIP guest of the celebrity of their choice at that evening’s parties.

“We want people to have a good time, and we want people to celebrate Pride,” Spillman said. “But we also want people to celebrate our culture and our community, and to learn and expand their thinking. These are the kinds of things we’ve been charged with doing by the International Federation of Black Prides, and these are the things that are important for our future.”

A full schedule and more information on special guests and parties can be found online at DFWPrideMovement.org.

……………………

The ‘Circus’ Circuit Party

Dallas Southern Pride, the Black Gay Pride circuit party held each year on the first weekend in October, returns this year with “Cirque, Cirque! Life is a Circus & We Are Your Ring Masters!” Sept. 29-Oct. 2, with Park Inn by Radisson as the host hotel.

Dallas Southern Pride kicks off Thursday, Sept. 29 with Hip Hop for Pride at Station 4, and continues Friday, Sept. 30 with the All-Star Pride Pre-Ball Party at Elm & Pearl and Cirque du Freak Ball at The Brick.

Saturday’s line-up includes a Grambling vs. Prairie View tailgate party at Level, Elm & Pearl’s Seductive Saturday’s Femme Figure, Cirque du Femme: Strawberries and Chocolate at Level, and Cirque du Male: Party Under the Big Top at The New J. Pepes.

The weekend concludes Sunday with The Official After Party/Lip Stick Ball, presented at the host hotel by Elm & Pearl and Dallas Southern Pride; The Family Affair Carnival at Elm & Pearl; and The “Whip My Hair” Hair Show and After Party at The Brick.

For complete details for all events, go online to DallasSouthernPride.com.
— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Get your Pride on!

DANCING DOWN MARKET | A dancer performs for the crowds along Market Street during the annual gay Pride parade in June 2010 in San Francisco. (Tony Avelar/Associated Press)

North Texas’ largest Pride events don’t happen until September and October, but there are plenty of Pride festivities happening now, from Houston to New York to San Francisco

DRACONIS VON TRAPP  |  Intern
intern@dallasvoice.com

Break out your rainbow flags and spray-on glitter for the month of June, the official national Gay Pride Month. All over the United States folks are setting up their parade floats and getting ready for a month-long Pride celebration.

If you’re in Dallas then you’ll have to wait until September to ride along in the parade, but other major cities from coast to coast — including plenty in Texas — have already started their club parties and street festivals.

The Pride parade and celebration in Dallas was moved to September in the early 1980s to commemorate Judge Jerry Buchmeyer’s ruling that overturned Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code, also known as the state’s sodomy law.

Even though Buchmeyer’s decision was overturned on appeal by the Fifth Circuit Court, Dallasites decided to keep the Pride celebration in September in part to take advantage of cooler temperatures.

Dallas’ annual parade is called The Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, named in honor of the former Dallas Tavern Guild executive parade who was a longtime activist and primary organizer of the parade from the time the Tavern Guild took it over in 1983 until his death in 1995.

This year’s parade is set for Sunday, Sept. 18, and other events on the September Pride schedule include Gay Day at Six Flags and more.

For more information, go online to DallasTavernGuild.org.

Earlier this month, Dallas’ one-time traditional June Pride party, Razzle Dazzle Dallas, was resurrected after several years, coming back as a five-day slate of events culminating with a street party Saturday, June 4, on Cedar Springs. Proceeds benefit several community organizations, and will be distributed Monday, June 20.

Tarrant County Pride Week events were moved to early October several years ago, but following the June 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge, enthusiasm for the celebration regenerated, making the 2011 events — including the parade, the always-popular Pride Picnic and the newly added street fair — the largest in years.

This year the parade, set for 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, is being moved downtown, and the Pride Picnic will be held Sunday, Oct 2, from noon to 6 p.m. at Trinity Park.

Tarrant County Gay Pride Week 2011 begins Sept. 29 and runs through Oct. 9, with the International Gay Rodeo Association bringing its international finals rodeo to Cowtown for the final weekend of Pride week.

For more information, go online to TCGPWA.org.

The Dallas Black Pride celebration — this year presented by DFW Pride Movement and called “HIS-Story and HER-Story” — is scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Author Uriah Bell and adult film star and CEO Rock Rockafella are already confirmed as special guests.

For more information, go online to DFWPrideMovement.org.

June Pride in Texas

But if you are looking for a June Pride celebration close to home, don’t despair.

Collin County has become quickly burgeoning into a gay hotspot in the DFW area and they’re holding their first-ever Pride event this year with the “Come as you are Pride Party” at Aparicio’s Restaurante Mexicano and Sports Bar, 216 E. Virginia St. in McKinney, on Saturday, June 25, from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.

The party is a fundraiser for C.U.R.E., an organization committed to raising funds for and awareness of HIV/AIDS programs and organizations. C.U.R.E.’s next project is to bring to Dallas the largest display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt since the Quilt was displayed in Washington, D.C., in 1997.

For more information go online to CureNTx.org or look for event information on Facebook.

Texas’ largest June Pride celebration happens in Houston, and it all kicks off this weekend with Opening Ceremonies beginning at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 18, at Jones Plaza, followed by the Gay Men’s Chorus’ “Anything Goes” Concert, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Jones Hall. The opening night of Pride winds up with Matt Alber Live at the Hard Rock Café, beginning at 10 p.m.

‘“Divas of Diversity,” the opening of a nationwide comedy show tour, begins at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 19, at The Houston Club.

Midweek, on Wednesday, June 22, you can “Dine With Pride” all day at The Chelsea Grill to help support the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration. Thursday night, June 23, beginning at 10 a.m., head to Meteor Lounge to watch the finals of Pride SuperStar, and on Friday, June 24, you can “Rock the Runway,” beginning at 8 p.m. at South Beach Night Club.

But the biggest of the big Pride events in Houston start Saturday, June 25, with the Houston Pride Festival, a multi-block party in the heart of Houston’s Montrose gayborhood, taking place from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and featuring a wide variety of performers on different stages.

And just as the festival is winding down, the Pride Parade will be gearing up. The parade through Montrose — Texas’ first night-time gay Pride parade, steps off at 8:15 p.m. and the parties carry on through to Sunday.

For all the details, go online to PrideHouston.org.

There’s not a lot of information available yet on Pride in Amarillo, which has been hosting a Pridefest for 20 years. But we do know that another, much smaller group — Repent Amarillo — has its Jesus Fest on the same day every year for the sole purpose of preaching loudly to the Pridefest participants.

El Paso has already held their Pride events for 2011 and have scheduled next year’s events for June 8-12. Galveston and Austin are holding their Pride events later in the year. Galveston’s

Pride is in October with a celebratory block party while Austin’s is in September, kicking off Sept. 10 from noon to 6 p.m. with a Festival in Fiesta Gardens in East Austin.

Pride around the U.S.

The majority of the U.S. still celebrates Pride in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots, where LGBT New Yorkers retaliated against an unjust police raid on a gay hangout in Greenwich Village. After that, resistance efforts took place all over to fight discrimination.

New York

Of course, one of the largest Pride celebrations is in New York itself, and it starts this year with the Rally Pride kickoff at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on Saturday, June 18, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Well-known performers, such as cast members from Broadway’s Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and motivational speakers from the LGBT community will be featured.

Ross “The Intern” Matthews and comedian Christine O’Leary will be M.C.s for the rally, and headline performer is singer Oh Land.

The women-only Rapture on the River event, with DJs Susan Levine and Mary Mac, is being held on Pier 54, 13th St. at the West Side Highway, on Saturday, June 25, from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

New York’s 2011 Pride March is Sunday, June 26, beginning at noon. The parade steps off at the intersection of 36th and 5th streets, and ends at the intersection of Christopher and Greenwich streets.

Grand marshals for the NYC Pride March this year are Dan Savage and his partner, Terry Miller, creators of the It Gets Better Project, the Rev. Pat Bumgardner of MCC New York and The Imperial Court of New York.

The Pride Festival begins at 11 a.m. that day and runs through 7 p.m. It takes place on Hudson Street between Abingdon Square and West 14th Street.

The party winds up with Dance of the Pier, from 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., at Pier 54 in Hudson River Park, 13th Street at the West Side Highway. Wynter Gordon will be on hand for a special early performance, and DJs Lina and Vito Fun back up headliner DJ Ana Paula.

For complete details on NYC Pride, go online to NYCPride.org.

San Francisco

Another of the largest celebrations San Francisco Pride, where they have an astonishingly large number of events.

The prade along Market Street kicks off at 10:30 a.m. on June 26 at Market and Beale streets and ends at Market and 8th in Downtown.

Among the Grand Marshals this year are Chaz Bono and Olympia Dukakis.

The Trevor Project is being honored as National Organizational Grand Marshal. Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black will appear with the Trevor Project.

A large percentage of Pride events have been always 18- or 21-plus, due to their venues, but in San Francisco they’ve got a few youth-appropriate events, including Kidspace Chef, where LGBT families and their kids get to cook together, held at 10:30 a.m. on June 18 at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center (and it’s free).

San Francisco held a Youth Prom on June 10, for youths aged 13 to 20, which was not unlike Dallas’ Gayla Prom that happened in May.

For complete details on SF Pride, go online to SFPride.org.

International Pride

Mexico City

If you are looking to head south for the summer, the Mexico City Pride parade is on Saturday, June 25, from 10 a.m. to noon. The parade is known as Marcha del Orgullo Lésbico, Gay, Bisexual, Transgénero, Travesti, Transexual e intersexual, and this year binational activist Jesus Chairez of Dallas and Mexico City will be on hand for the celebration and will report on it for Dallas Voice.

The parade route begins at the Ángel de la independencia and proceeds to the Zocalo.

For complete details on Mexico City Pride, go online to Orgullo.com.mx

Toronto

Canada’s Pride Toronto holds its official Pride Launch Party on Thursday, June 23, at 8 p.m., with performances by bands The Clicks and Creature.

The Toronto street festival begins on Friday, July 1, with a Trans March in the evening and a Trans Verse stage amongst others, and runs through to 11 p.m. Sunday night, July 3, with entertainment on eight stages.

For complete details on Toronto Pride, go online to PrideToronto.com

So whether you’re getting your Pride on with gay happy hour or marching in a parade, there’s a Pride event somewhere in the U.S. suited just for you, beginning in June and lasting all the way through October.

—  John Wright

Taking a stand for freedom

Russian activist hopes U.S. tour will focus attention on gay rights battle in his country, and that international attention will keep LGBTs there safer

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

A tide of revolution is sweeping the Mideast and Africa right now, proving to the world that citizens can stand up to unfair governments and make a difference. That’s a lesson that Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev has been intent on proving for more than five years, many times at great risk to his own personal safety.

Beginning in 2005, Alekseev has each year organized LGBT Pride celebrations in Moscow where he lives, and each year those celebrations have been banned in city officials there. But Alekseev and his colleagues have forged ahead, each year holding their events anyway.

Alekseev eventually filed suit in the European courts against Russian government officials, claiming that they were violating LGBT human rights by banning Pride events. Last year, the courts ruled in Alekseev’s favor, but last month the government officials asked the courts to reconsider the ruling, and the Moscow mayor vowed to once again ban Pride events planned for May.

Last Sept. 5, Alekseev was arrested at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow as he was preparing to board a Swiss Air flight to Geneva. There was at the time no clear information on who had taken the activist from the airport, why he was taken or where he was being held.

Interfax Belarus news agency reported that Alekseev had sent texts saying he was seeking political asylum in Belarus and was dropping his lawsuits in the European courts. However, friends and associates questioned those reports, saying that such statements were out of character, and helping focus international attention on his situation.

Alekseev finally resurfaced in Moscow, where he told his colleagues he was never in Minsk, never sent the texts and had no intention of dropping the lawsuits.

This month Alekseev, with the help of the Gay Liberation Network based in Chicago, is touring seven U.S. cities in hopes of raising awareness on the ongoing gay rights struggle in Russia. Prior to his visit to Dallas next week, Alekseev answered some questions, via e-mail, for Dallas Voice.

Dallas Voice: What happened that made you willing to put your personal safety on the line to fight for LGBT rights in Russia? Was there a single event or was it a culmination of things?

Alekseev: I never really thought about it, in fact, when I started and even after. If we go back to the origins, there was my dismissal from Russia’s most prestigious university where I was studying for my Ph.D., simply because I wanted to make my research on same-sex marriage issue. The faculty believed that it is not an appropriate topic for the Moscow State University.

But I am a person with principles and they were not able to persuade me to change this topic. So they sacked me. I sued them and I lost in Russia. Well, I had little hope to win. But now the case is pending with the European Court of Human Rights.

Working on this research made me look into activism. Quickly I understood that gay activism did not really exist in Russia. So I thought I could have an impact there. Then I came up with this campaign for Moscow Pride. It quickly became a hot topic for the media because the mayor immediately chose to confront us and try to scare us. But I was still so angry that I could not complete my Ph.D., that not the mayor or anyone else could frighten me.

Everything came very quickly after that. We had the first Pride. It was banned; I was arrested. We managed to put our cause in front of the media and, as a result, in front of the society. That was the aim.

After, we launched several other campaigns on freedom of association, same-sex marriage, the [men who have sex with men] blood ban.

We managed to change one thing: The MSM blood ban was repealed after our actions.

DV: Has there been a specific incident in which you feared for your own life, or the lives of family and close friends?

Alekseev: Russian authorities like to pressure people. Some of our activists were pressured. The police ringed their doors, told their parents that they were arrested while taking part in “illegal actions of faggots” and that next time there could be consequences for them or for their other children. Sometimes, it created dramatic outings.

My family doesn’t really care. My parents are retired. The only thing one could do is cut their $200 a month pension. Not a big deal.

And when police ring our doors or sometimes call by phone, it became my dad’s best moment of the day. He likes to drive them nuts!

As for my own life, of course I had fears. But the more you are in this fight, the less you think about it.

I know that my phone is constantly being illegally [tapped] and that I was followed several times while preparing the Pride events. In May [when Pride is held each year], I have to move from place to place to make sure I am not arrested before the day of the Pride. This has a huge psychological impact.

DV: What happened when Russian officials abducted you from the airport? Why do you think they let you go?

Alekseev: The only aim was to scare me and to pressure me to withdraw our historic case from the European Court of Human Rights, which at that point was in its final stages. Ironically, just two weeks after that, the judges met privately and decided the case in our favor.

During detention, I had to bear every possible verbal insult towards gay people, which was far from being very pleasant. But when I returned and saw all the international solidarity I was amazed. So many people did protests around the world and so many people sent messages of support. At this point, I understood that international LGBT solidarity really exists and that it is not an empty word. But we should realize that it should be expressed not only at such difficult moments but every day in our fight for gay equality. I think this media and international attention saved me then.

DV: What do you hope to accomplish with this visit to the United States?

Alekseev: In short, I’d like to give people a message that wherever they are, they can make a change.

It’s not about supporting a cause by giving money. I don’t come here for that. I don’t need financial support. I have food at home and I don’t need to get paid for the ideal I pursue.

I’d like to explain to people that if all of them stand at the same time, they can really achieve something. American activists are often seen overseas as being self-centered and not interested in international issues. Perhaps this has to do with a fear of being seen as too colonialist.

You know, if 1,000 Americans sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before her trip to Russia in 2009, I doubt she would have quietly dedicated a statue to an American gay poet hand-in-hand with the homophobic then-mayor of Moscow, Luzhkov.

That was very close to the place where weeks before we were arrested for trying to stage our fourth Pride. She made a very good advertisement for him, which was used against us at that time by his PR team. She did not challenge him on his homophobia while she said she cares for LGBT rights and wants to put it forward in her diplomacy. I saw how she cared.

This should not repeat in Russia or elsewhere. I know some usually say “We cannot care for all the world,” but often it’s the same people who care for nobody! When you want to change things, you don’t pick and choose usually. You just follow your instinct.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 25, 2011.

—  John Wright

Get Equal Now threatens to sue American Family Association over boycott of Home Depot

Cd Kirven and her son, Trevor

Get Equal Now has sent the American Family Association a cease and desist letter after the anti-gay, right-wing organization called for a boycott of Home Depot.

Last week, AFA called for a boycott of the home improvement retailer because it sponsored several gay Pride events this year and offers domestic partner benefits to its employees.

Cd Kirven, a Dallas resident and co-founder of Get Equal Now, sent AFA president Tim Wildmon the cease and desist letter after speaking to several attorneys.

“In the process of attacking us, you are attacking our children,” Kirven told AFA.

Kirven said she had been formulating the plan for a while.

“When I heard the tea party calling the NAACP racists, I said, ‘Why can’t the LGBT community do that to the AFA or NOM?’” Kirven said.

She had the letter to AFA notarized and sent return receipt requested. Attorneys advised her to wait for a reply or, without a reply, wait a month, monitor the hate speech on their website and then file a lawsuit.

Several attorneys are interested in pursuing the case, according to Kirven. She said the LGBT community has not taken this approach before.

“I believe enough’s enough,” she said. “When you go after my son, I am going to defend him with every last breath.”

Kirven shares custody of her 5-year-old son, Trevor, with a former partner.

“I don’t want to see another kid commit suicide behind the intolerant behavior of AFA,” Kirven said. “NOM is next. The LGBT community is tired of the verbal and financial abuse of those organizations. Some of us don’t make it through the process. It has to stop. If the government won’t take action, Get Equal Now will.”

Kirven said the AFA says the LGBT community is damaging marriage. If that’s the case, she wondered why Massachusetts and Vermont, which both allow same-sex marriage, have two of the lowest divorce rates.

“We’re not damaging marriage. They’re the ones with a 75 percent divorce rate,” she said of heterosexual couples.

Kirven also filed a complaint against AFA with the Justice Department and has contacted the Southern Poverty Law Center about listing them as a hate group. SPLC lists other groups such as the Family Research Institute in Colorado Springs as a hate group for its anti-gay activity.

Kirven is also encouraging people to send letters to Home Depot thanking them for supporting LGBT families. At Pride events, the company offers family-friendly areas where it gives out balloons to the children.

Here’s the text of Get Equal Now’s letter to the AFA:

“Good evening! I’m seriously concerned about the physical welfare of our childre because of your written and verbal harassment of the LGBT Community. One example of your successful intimidation tactics was American Family Association’s Boycott of the Ford Company in 2005 to 2008. Now you are leading an intimidation campaign against Home Depot.

“In protection of our families and our children, I’m serving American Family Association with a cease and desist order. If this intimidating, manipulative and high-pressure tactics do not stop then we will take the responsibility upon ourselves to protect that right by suing your organization for defamation. The constant attacks of the LGBT community and AFA’s fear mongering has to stop. You promote the damage your organization done to my community and those impatc lead to hate crimes, teen suicides and isolation of the LGBT community. This order demands that you stop the verbal abuse of our community on radio, television and in print.”

The letter to Home Depot is posted as a petition online and can be signed by going here.

—  David Taffet