Another day, another list of queer cities written by someone out of state who clearly doesn’t understand just how awesome Houston is. This one from Jezebel.com uses internet search results to determine the most “Lesbianish” cities in America. Two Texas cities make the grade: Austin at 10th and Houston at 18th (so Houstini’s Dallas Voice overlords can take their rainbow colored tower and stick it where the sun don’t shine).
From the Jezebel.com article:
“Houston’s the largest city in the country with an openly gay mayor, the 12th most populated-with-gays US city and it’s also just one of the largest cities in the country, period. A string of unseemly governors have no powers against Houston’s thriving community and legendarily enormous Pride parade. Chances, one of the largest lesbian bars in the world, recently shut down; but there’s still drinks to be had at places like Blur, The Usual and F Bar and additional queer activities happening at the Houston LGBT Youth Center, The Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Houston’s LGBT film festival, QFest. Houston’s Rice University has a healthy queer community as well.”
“You have cocktail forks… and use them!” “You’d trade it all for a date with an ice skater.” These are just some of the assessments the Gaydar Gun can make when aimed at the people to detect the precise degree of their queerness (“No more guessing!” it promises) on the rainbow scale, from Rob Halford to Liberace’s poodles. A piece of novelty amusement, the Gaydar Gun is a great toy for parties, conversation starter while people watching and just a good source of bitchy comments. (You can even switch the sex of the target to make sure the shade you’re throwing is gender-appropriate.)
Retails online at GaydarGun.com and other sites for $30.
Robert L. Camina, the North Texas filmmaker who has been putting together a documentary about the June 2009 raid on Fort Worth’s Rainbow Lounge for two years, has scored a coup: He has tapped TV icon Meredith Baxter to narrate.
Raid of the Rainbow Lounge has been in the works since almost as soon as the raid — which took place, ironically, on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City that sparked the modern gay rights movement. The raid galvanized the gay community in Fort Worth and beyond. The completed film runs 102 minutes and will receive its premiere in Cowtown in March.
Baxter, who came out as lesbian in 2009, has been an Emmy-nominated TV star for 35 years, best known for playing the mom on Family Ties. She released a memoir this fall and was recently in Dallas for the Out & Equal conference.
History relies on historians, whether the formal history of the academic or the informal history of grandpa’s stories, someone must tell the tale for the story to live on. The straight world has many formal institutions designed to maintain its story, from museums to archives to oral history projects the stories of straight people are well documented and preserved.
Queer history, on the other hand, is far more fragile. As a community we have a habit of separating ourselves by generations and the documents of our recent past, the fliers, t-shirts and pamphlets, are often seen as ephemeral trash, rather than important historical documents.
Several institutions have been created to try to preserve that history, including the Botts Archive, the Gulf Coast Archive, and archives at the University of Houston, Rice University and the Transgender Foundation of America. These desperate efforts have joined together to form the Houston Area Rainbow Collective History (Houston ARCH), a coordinated effort to preserve and document LGBT History in Houston.
Of course, any great organization needs a great logo, and that’s where Houston ARCH is reaching out to the public for help. Through January 5 you can submit your design via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Designs must contain the name “Houston ARCH,” and may spell out the acronym, also designs should be be scalable, work both in color and black and white, and be suitable for print and online reproduction. Designers should take care that their submissions are not confusable with logo’s of similarly named organizations.
So far only two proposals have been submitted and loaded to the Houston ARCH website for comment. Final voting for the design will take place January 25 at the regular Houston ARCH meeting.
Anyone who grew up in or just around the 1960s knows who Peter Max is; I saw his artwork on my parents’ Beatles covers and even a Bicentennial-era postage stamp. One of his Lady Liberty posters — signed by him and personally inscribed to me — adorns the Dallas Voice office walls. So it wasn’t a difficult decision to say “yes” when he offered to design the cover of our publication with an exclusive rainbow print,just in time for his appearance in North Texas. This is a collectors’ edition, my friends. It’s a little bit of history in your hands. Thanks, Max!
On Wednesday the Houston City Council confirmed Mayor Annise Parker’s appointment of Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Kris Banks to the Independent Police Oversight Board. The Oversight Board provides a way for Houstonians to have input into allegations against police officers involving use of excessive force, discharge of firearms, serious bodily injury or death or mistreatment of citizens. The Board also makes recommendations on recruitment, training and evaluation of police officers; and considers community concerns regarding the Department. Houstini talked with Banks about his new role:
[Houstini] Why have you agreed to serve on the Oversight Board?
[Banks] I believe the Oversight Board performs an important and vital function that benefits all involved. Police officers are granted extraordinary powers over their fellow Houstonians. They can, under legally sufficient circumstances, detain people against their will, walk into other people’s homes without their permission, and even use physical force to make people comply. We grant police officers these powers because they are necessary for the officers to do their jobs. However, with these great powers come great responsibility, and the Oversight Board exists as a check on those powers, thereby protecting the public against the very rare officer who uses her or his powers irresponsibility or excessively. It also benefits the police department. With the assurance that the Board is providing oversight, members of the public can be more confident of the police department, and form a better working relationship with officers.
[Houstini] What do LGBT Houstonians who have concerns about police behavior need to know about the mission of the Oversight Board?
[Banks] Historically, the LGBT community has had concerns about very broad and obvious police harassment, like bar raids. Incidents like these still occur (see Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth), but they tend to not be the focus of issues that exists between the LGBT community and the police department. Concerns between the community and the police department now tend to be over specific incidents that sometimes come to light and sometimes do not. That being said, the IPOB will review internal police investigations for complaints of excessive force, any discharge of a firearm, any time there is a death or serious injury, or any matter the police chief refers to us. We make recommendations, and the chief has ultimate discretion. What I want to highlight here is that a complaint has to be made for the IPOB to have any role. Complaints have to be sworn, either by the complainant, or, if the complaint is anonymous, by the person taking the complaint.
LGBT Houstonians should also know that I take my role as a community representative very seriously. I will not only take my perspective as an LGBT Houstonian to the police department, I will also take the knowledge I gain back of police procedure back to the community. For instance, I mentioned anonymous complaints above. In the training I have received so far, I learned that organizations can be deputized to take anonymous complaints (LULAC and the NAACP are both deputized). Anonymous complaints are, unfortunately, a big concern for our community. Whether because our congress has failed to pass job protections, family concerns, or any other personal reason, there are still many, many people in the closet. But being in the closet does not mean that a person is not protected. I will learn more about the deputizing community groups and take that back to organizations in our community like the Caucus, Community Center and Transgender Foundation so they can begin that process (as a caveat, I do not have a full list of deputized organizations and any of these organizations may already be deputized).
FORT WORTH — Fort Worth Police Department Officer Kellie Whitehead said this week that she sees her new assignment as the department’s liaison to the LGBT community as an exciting next step in her 12-year career with the department.
“I was ready for a new challenge, for something different, and after talking to [former LGBT Liaison Officer Sara Straten] I was very excited about this new opportunity,” Whitehead said.
Whitehead takes over as LGBT liaison from Straten, who had held the position since it was created two years ago in the wake of the
Rainbow Lounge raid. The liaison officer is part of the FWPD’s Public Information Office, and PIO Supervisor Sgt. Pedro Criado said that Straten had chosen to move to a new position “where she can get back to doing hands-on police work.”
Criado said that Whitehead’s previous assignment as a Neighborhood Police Officer had given her experience that will be invaluable in her new role as LGBT liaison.
“The Neighborhood Police Officer program is about community policing. These officers are assigned to work in a specific designated area and to build relationships with the people of that neighborhood,” Criado explained.
“A patrol officer responds to specific calls and has to clear those calls and move on to the next one. The Neighborhood Police Officer is the one who is there, on call 24-7, to follow up on any problems. They are mediators, friends, problem solvers. This program frees these officers up, gives them flexible schedules, so they can work on issues long-range,” Criado added.
That, Whitehead said, is basically the same mission she has now as liaison officer, only instead of working in a specific geographic neighborhood she will be working specifically with the LGBT community city-wide.
Whitehead said that she will continue the work Straten initiated as LGBT liaison, and that she also hopes to expand the position’s outreach.
“I am going to continue to build the relationships that Sara started, and I hope that maybe I can work a little more with the kids in the community. I know there are kids out there who are having a really tough time, and I want to find ways to help them,” Whitehead said.
She said she also hopes to be able to reach out to non-LGBT youth “who have been raised not to be accepting of people who are different from them” and help bridge that gap in understanding and tolerance.
Whitehead, who grew up in Mineral Wells, said that being a police officer had been her dream since she was a child. She said she studied criminal justice in college, but had to leave school to get a job before she got a degree.
She worked as a private prison for a couple of years and then moved on to a job with a security company. It was while working as a security guard in Fort Worth’s hospital district that she began to meet and form relationships with FWPD officers.
She finally was able to join the FWPD in 1999.
Whitehead said she has been open with her fellow officers and her superiors about her sexual orientation since she first joined the police force, and that she has never faced any discrimination from her coworkers.
But now, in her new position as LGBT liaison, “I’ll be more out than ever! But I am ready for it. I have never been ashamed of who I am.”
Whitehead said that her partner and the rest of her family have been “totally supportive” of her move to the liaison position, and that she believes that kind of support is vital to her success as an officer and as community liaison.
“There’s no way you can do this job without your family backing you up, and everyone in my family has been very supportive and encouraging,” she said. “That’s going to make it even easier for me to do the job and do it well. I just want to do everything I can to make things better for the community.”
Thomas Anable, president of the LGBT community organization Fairness Fort Worth, said he is pleased with the way the police department has handled the transition from Straten to Whitehead, and that he looks forward to working with the new liaison officer.
“I think she is very professional and I think she will do a very good job,” Anable said.
And Sgt. Criado agreed. “When Sara Straten took this position two years ago, she hit the ground running,” he said. “And I am certain that Kellie is going to take that ball and just keep on running with it. I think she is going to be great.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.
The trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., had more to do with a family reunion than finding a good destination for gay travelers. After all, Myrtle Beach is a pretty lazy, conservative town in the perennial Red State, one where teenaged spring breakers and families gather to enjoy the warm surf and the resort-town appeal of seafood and beachcombing and overpriced cocktails. Queer travelers can hit one of the three gay bars, all within blocks of each other — Club Traxx, Time Out! and the Rainbow House (a lesbian club).
But the weekend I arrived , just by coincidence, it turned out to be Gay Pride.
Keep in mind, the gay community in Myrtle Beach is small, so “Gay Days,” plural, felt more like Gay Day, singular: One major event and then life as usual in Coastal Carolina.
The major event, though, was an ambitious one: Gathering members of the LGBT community and their allies to form a “human rainbow flag:” People signed up to wear a pastel-colored T-shirt and arrange themselves in the traditional configuration. A few others wore black, forming the flagpole.
The entire event was threatened by showers late Friday and early Saturday, but despite a slightly muddy field, nearly 200 people turned out, huddled closely on a muggy afternoon, while a photographer flew above in a helicopter.
Numbers weren’t uniform; there were too many reds and too few purples; but the effect was one of a flag waving in the breeze.
In order to do the shoot, members faced each other before bending forward to allow the broad field of their shirts to form the colors. Directly across from me stood Elke Kennedy, a resident of Greenville in the Upstate. Elke and her husband established SeansLastWish.org, raising awareness of anti-gay violence, after their gay son was beaten to death and his killer spent less than a year in jail.
Elke spoke at a rally following the photoshoot, and dozens in attendance listened to her recount her son’s harrowing attack and death before two drag queens performed and a DJ spun dance hits. People started to file out after a while, off to the beach, or the clubs, or even the boardwalk, where the Texas Star-like Skywheel gives great views of the beach … and sits next door to the campily named souvenir shop the Gay Dolphin.
The latter was always may favorite place when I was growing up; you’d think my parents would have caught on sooner.
At last!!! Old Navy stores at Park Lane and the Galleria finally got a shipment of those Pride T-shirts in on Tuesday — a little behind schedule — but they’re selling like hotcakes. In fact by this afternoon they’d run out already, but both stores said they’ll be getting more shirts in on Thursday to satisfy the prideful public of Dallas. The shirts are selling for $13.50 a pop, and one employee advised me to get in early if I wanted one. Ten percent of the proceeds benefit the It Gets Better Project.
Although Dallas seems to be a fan of getting its Pride on with these stylish Old Navy tees, one group isn’t so thrilled: the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission.
“Old Navy is promoting a lifestyle that is in complete rebellion against God,” the CADC’s Dr. Gary Cass told OneNewsNow.com. “Rather than just focusing on giving good products to their customers, they want to use their products now to advocate for a very controversial topic, much less a very immoral and very deadly topic. Unfortunately we have to do the hard work of communicating our outrage, our frustration — and then following that up with some kind of practical expression such as taking your business elsewhere.”