Remembering the fallen and helping others bear burdens

DFW Sisters will once again mark World AIDS Day by taking their Veil of Remembrance into the community for signatures

11.25.11-DV-Cover-(small)

NEVER FORGET | Sister MaeLynn Hanzment, left, and Sister Ophelia Nutz handle the Veil of Remembrance from World AIDS Day 2010 with loving care. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Names have power. And for those who have lost a loved one to AIDS, being able to write those names down and know the memories those names evoke will be preserved and treasured in doing so, can be powerful medicine for healing.

The DFW Sisters, Abbey of the Lone Star, will once again give members of DFW’s LGBT community the opportunity to exercise that healing when they take to the streets on World AIDS Day with their Veil of Remembrance.

“It’s our way of honoring those we’ve lost and making sure their memories live on,” explained Sister Ophelia Nutz, mistress of rituals and ceremonies for the DFW Sisters.

The Veil is a plain white cloth that Sister Ophelia will wear attached to her headdress. Anyone who has lost someone to HIV/AIDS is welcome to write that person’s name on the Veil.

The DFW Sisters, a fully professed house of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence elevated by The United Nuns Privy Council in October, created their first Veil of Remembrance last year as they marked their first World AIDS Day as an officially recognized Sisters mission.

“We spent most of the day last year at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth, participating in their World AIDS Day event,” Sister Ophelia said. “They had just lost a fairly prominent community member there to AIDS, and once they found out what we were doing, what the Veil was for, everyone there wanted to sign it.”

After that event, the sisters came back to Dallas, taking the Veil into the bars here.

“People reacted to the Veil as if it weren’t that big of a deal really — until they thought of someone they had lost,” Sister Ophelia said. “But when they were told that they could write that person’s name on the Veil, that they could write down that memory, some people got very emotional. There’s more than one tear stain on that Veil, I promise you. Some people were too emotional to even sign it themselves, so they asked me to write down a name and a date for them.”

This year, she said, the sisters will start the day by taking the Veil to the noon hot meals program lunch at Resource Center Dallas. Then they will head to Fort Worth for World AIDS Day events at the Tarrant County Health Department, before coming back to Dallas to participate in the World AIDS Day events being held in downtown Dallas

The sisters will wind up the night by taking the Veil to the bars in Dallas.

“We’ll just meander, handing out pens and gathering signatures on the Veil,” Sister Ophelia said.

Sister Ophelia said that she wore the Veil throughout the day on World AIDS Day last year, and will do so again this year. But when the sisters head out next Thursday, they will do so with a new Veil, ready for more names and memories.

Last year’s Veil, Sister Ophelia said, was retired at the end of the night, just as this year’s Veil will be.

She said the sisters will start the day by “saying a few words to kind of sanctify the veil, make it ready to hold those precious memories.” And at the end of the night, they will once again gather to honor the memories this year’s Veil will hold.

“Afterwards, in a more private ritual, we will gather to read the names on the Veil and to light candles in their memory,” Sister Ophelia said.

“At the end, we will have a ceremony to fold the Veil and put it away. We take good care of the Veils; we hold them close and dear to us, just like those who signed it hold their lost loved ones close and dear.”

The Sistory

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence were born in San Francisco in 1979 when, tired of the monotony of the city’s ever-present “clone” trend, three men donned nuns’ habits (given in 1976 by a convent of Roman Catholic nuns to a group in Iowa called the Sugar Plum Fairies for a production of The Sound of Music, and a year later transported to San Francisco by Ken Bunch, who later became Sister Vicious Power Hungry Bitch) and headed out to the local nude beach on Easter weekend.

By the end of the year, their ranks had grown and they chose the name Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, adopting as their mission statement, “to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt.”

The sisters participated in a variety of activities, from performing their pom-pom routine at the first Gay Olympics (now the Gay Games), to protesting the Three Mile Island nuclear plant to staging a gay disco/bingo fundraiser for gay Cuban refugees.

But by 1981, AIDS had begun to emerge as the LGBT community’s biggest, most devastating threat, even though it wasn’t yet called AIDS. The sisters produced the world’s first fundraiser for an AIDS organization that year, a dog show that featured singer Sylvester as one of the judges.

By 1982, San Francisco was at crisis levels, and two sisters, Florence Nightmare and Roz Erection, both registered nurses, worked with other medical professionals to create “Play Fair!,” a safer-sex pamphlet intended to help curb the spread of “the gay cancer” and other STDs.

As the epidemic grew, the sisters fought harder, doing their best to spread the word not just about preventing AIDS but about LGBT equality in general. But the disease was taking its toll: “In 1984, ’85, the sisters in San Francisco had about 16 members. Within a year, that number had dropped to four, because people were dying so fast from AIDS,” Sister Ophelia said.

“That’s why the sisters always have a purse full of safe sex kits,” she added. “And since the Dallas County health department stopped doing it, we are the only ones in Dallas handing out free condoms.”

More than camp

While many people may think of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence as little more than campy entertainment, for the sisters themselves, it is serious business, Sister Ophelia said.

“For a lot of us, for most of us, this is a real calling, a way to give something back to the community,” she said. “This isn’t just something we do for fun. And it’s not something just anyone can do. There’s a whole process you have to go through to be a sister, and we have a packet that everyone who wants to be a sister has to read right at the start that explains the cost, so that they know what is involved.

“There’s just so much more to it than people realize,” Sister Ophelia added. “People just don’t realize everything that goes in to being a sister.”

She points to another “veil” the sisters offer up — the Veil of Shame — as an example of how the sisters serve their community as so much more than just comic relief.

On the Veil of Shame, Sister Ophelia said, the sisters invite people to write down “every hateful, mean thing that has ever been said to them or done to them, to write that down and let it go. We offer to bear that burden for them, and afterwards, we take the veil out and we have a ceremony to burn it, to release all that negative energy and to let that burden go.

“The last time we did the Veil of Shame, I had several people tell me how much easier they felt after writing that stuff down,” she added. “And I have to tell you, to wear that veil, to carry around all that pain — it took everything I had in me not to break down and start bawling my eyes out.”

Even without the Veil of Remembrance or the Veil of Shame, Sister Ophelia said that when the sisters go out in their garb, they often serve as a kind of spiritual advisor and confessor for the people they meet.

“If I go out to a bar in my regular clothes, just as myself, I am not going to have strangers walk up to me and start telling me their problems.

But when we  go out as the sisters, people come up to us all the time and they will tell us their deepest, darkest secrets. And we have to be ready to help them,” Sister Ophelia said.

“We’ve all had what we call ‘a sister moment,’ when something like that has happened to us,” she continued. “Maybe it’s because of the sense of anonymity we have when we go out in our makeup and our habits. I think that maybe that makes it easier for people to approach us. At least, it’s easier for those who aren’t afraid of clowns!”

And despite their camp antics and outrageous makeup and costumes, despite the fact that they are just men looking for a way to give something back to their community, Sister Ophelia said, when someone comes to them in need, whatever the need is, the sisters will answer the call.

“We have to be able to offer them help, to give them resources, to give them somewhere to go to get the help they need,” she said. “After all, that’s why we’re there.”

……………………..

2011 World AIDS Day

A coalition of 15 North Texas AIDS service agencies and other community organizations have joined forces this year to present a joint event commemorating World AIDS Day.

The 2011 World AIDS Day Dallas event will be held Thursday, Dec. 1, from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Main Street Garden, 1900 Main St., in downtown Dallas. It will feature speeches by local community leaders and AIDS activists, performances by the Booker T. Washington High School African Drum Ensemble and The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, and a display of blocks from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Todd Hedrick, chair of the event and a board member with AIDS Interfaith Network, said organizers’ goal for the evening is to “raise awareness and help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in Dallas,” in keeping with the national focus on “getting to zero,” meaning zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

AIDS Interfaith Network took the lead in organizing this year’s events. Partner organizations are AIDS Arms, AIDS Services of Dallas, the Anthony Chisum AIDS Foundation, Booker T. Washington High School, Bryan’s House, C.U.R.E., Legacy Counseling Center, Legal Hospice of Dallas, ONE, Out & Equal DFW, Parkland Health and Hospital System, Razzle Dazzle Dallas, Resource Center Dallas, RESULTS and The Women’s Chorus of Dallas.

Sponsors are AIN, Downtown Dallas Inc., Greater Than AIDS, Texas Instruments, BlueCross BlueShield of Texas, The Women’s Chorus of Dallas, Dallas Light and Sound. ThinkHaus Creative, Avita Drugs, Caven Enterprises Inc., C.U.R.E., Dallas Tavern Guild, Kevin Sloan Studio, Michael Dyess and Bert Burkhalter, Sterling’s Bookkeeping and Tax Service and The UPS Store in Highland Park.

World AIDS Day at CoH
Cathedral of Hope UCC, located at 5910 Cedar Springs Road, will also be holding special World AIDS Day events on Thursday, beginning with a display of 20 panels from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, open that day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Free and anonymous HIV and syphilis testing provided by UT Southwestern Medical Center will be available at the church from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and F.A.C.E. — Faith Acceptance Caring Educating, an HIV/AIDS support group at the church, will host a reception from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., with organizations and resource groups from across the Metroplex invited to participate by having information tables at the reception.

A special worship service based on the “Get To Zero” theme and including a performance by the Turtle Creek Chorale begins at 7 p.m.

World AIDS Day in Tarrant County
The Tarrant County Public Health Department will be holding a World AIDS Day event Thursday, Dec. 1, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the health department offices, 1101 S. Main St. in Fort Worth.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

At Day of Remembrance tears give way to hope

Jo Jones at DOR

Houston City Council Member Jolanda Jones reads the name of Rani Shahu of India who was found strangled in her home.

Houstonians observed the Transgender Day of Remembrance last Saturday night at Farish Hall on the University of Houston Campus. Organized by the Houston Transgender Unity Committee, the memorial service recognized those across the globe who’ve lost their lives due to anti-trans violence.

Speakers at the event included transgender activist and recent city council candidate Jenifer Rene Pool, County Judge Steven Kirkland, Victory Fund Board Member Bryan Hlavinka and Fiona Dawson and Allyson Robinson of the Human Rights Campaign. Houston Independent School Board Member Anna Eastman told of her personal journey to better understand the trans community, and the struggle she experienced to pass HISD’s trans-inclusive nondiscrimination policy.

“When I was running [for school board] people I knew who mostly got it were still afraid of things like gender identity and gender expression and what was that going to mean about where someone was going to go to the bathroom,” said Eastman. “Instead of thinking how do we provide a safe dignified place for that human being they were thinking about themselves and how it made them uncomfortable.” Eastman thanked Houston area transgender activists Jenifer Rene Poole and Monica Roberts for their work in passing the nondiscrimination policy.

Eastman also spoke about the recent controversy created when her fellow school board member Manuel Rodriguez distributed an anti-gay flier during his re-election campaign. “We saw in our recent election that people have a lot to learn,” said Eastman. “We still have a journey to go on.” She added that the large number of people who came to speak to the board about the flier gave her hope. “What I relized at our last board meeting is that we created a safe space for that outrage to be voiced, by kids, by straight allies who are employees of our district, by gay parents who are employees of our district and it was just a really painful thing but it was also pretty amazing and beautiful.”

As always the Day of Remembrance ended with the reading of the names of those killed due to anti-trans violence. Each name was read by one of six readers, along with the date of death, the cause of death, and an exhortation to those in attendance to remember the victim.

As the pain and terror of those horrific deaths swept over the audience, occasionally punctuated by gasps of shock, the introductory words of Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, hung in the air, reminding all of why this night is important.

“Do not let any of these deaths be in vain. Not only should we honor the lost here, but we should honor them every day by being the voice they no longer can. Stand up, stand strong, stand together.”

—  admin

Council member Jones to be first cisgender reader at Houston Day of Remembrance

Jolanda Jones

Jolanda Jones

Houston City Council member Jolanda Jones is scheduled to be the first cisgender reader in the history of Houston’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, one the events sponsors, says that Jones was originally approached to be a speaker at the event because of her advocacy for trans children, but that she requested to read instead.

“I begged to read, I begged them,” corrects Jones, “they asked me if I wanted to speak and I begged them to read instead because it’s profound and it touches you. I think it’s better to read because it’s important.”
Jones said she was particularly moved at last year’s Day of Remembrance by the story of 17 month old Roy A. Jones who was beaten to death by his babysitter for “acting like a girl.” “I was so touched when they read about the baby that was killed,” said Jones, “the readers tell the story.”

Jones led efforts this year to encourage local homeless youth provider Covenant House to adopt a nondiscrimination policy that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. She used her position on City Council to threaten to cut Covenant House’s funding unless they addressed accusations of discrimination. That threat persuaded the organization to overhaul their policies and begin regular meetings with community leaders to discuss their progress in serving LGBT youth.
The Houston Transgender Day of Remembrance is Saturday, November 19, from 7-9:30 pm at Farish Hall on the University of Houston Campus.

—  admin

Troy Sands Remembrance Party at Dallas Eagle with Tony Moran

And the beat goes on

Earlier this year, DJ Troy Sands passed away due to cancer. Through the years, he made both an impact and an impression with his music and DJ skills at The Brick in its former location on Maple. He grew his name by being one of the first DJs to headline parties and events outside of Dallas. DJs such as Blaine Soileau and Chris Cox have seen him as their inspiration for their musical perspectives. Before passing on, Sands deejay-ed at the Dallas Eagle. In honor of his life and his musical gifts to the club scene, the Eagle  hosts the DJ Troy Sands Remembrance Party which also benefits some of his favorite organizations. DJ Tony Moran steps in to headline the night, but this is truly Sands’ night.

DEETS: Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave. 10 p.m. $10. DallasEagle.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Best Bets • 11.04.11

Friday 11.04

TonyMoran

Tony Moran

Coma tones
Our favorite San Antonio lesbi-centric rock trio is back. Girl in a Coma are on the road supporting their fourth album, Exits and All the Rest. Fusing rock,

punk and Tejano, GIAC has stayed true to its brand while still showing growth each
time out. As always, watch out for
singer Nina Diaz’s vocal
onslaught. It’s glorious.

DEETS: Prophet
Bar, 2548 Elm
St. 8 p.m. $15.
ProphetBar.com.

…………………….

Friday 11.04

And the beat goes on
We all know Tony Moran is one heck of a DJ, but he proves it in heaps as he headlines the music for the Troy Sands Remembrance Dance Party, in honor of the late DJ who made quite the impact on both the local and national dance music scenes. Donations are suggested to benefit Sands’ favorite charity, the Parkland Foundation.

DEETS: Dallas Eagle.
5740 Maple Ave.
10 p.m. $10.
DallasEagle.com

…………………….

Thursday 11.10

Deck the halls with some ‘Tuna’
The people of Tuna, Texas suffer through yard-decorating contests and a theater production gone awry in A Tuna Christmas. Is it bad to laugh through it all to forget our own holiday trauma?

DEETS:  Casa Manana,
3101 West Lancaster Ave.
Fort Worth.
Through Nov. 20. $50–$70.
CasaManana.org.

—  Kevin Thomas

Local briefs • 10.14.11

RCD hosts ‘The 5 Factor’

Resource Center Dallas, in partnership with Dallas Modern Luxury, presents the third annual “The 5 Factor” event on Thursday, Oct. 20, at eM the venue by Marc, 1500 Dragon St. in Dallas.

“The 5 Factor” event recognizes five of Dallas’ finest in areas such as cuisine, fashion, media and literature.

This year’s “5 Factor” honorees are journalist and award-winning author Jenny Block; Emmy Award-winning journalist Ron Corning, who recently joined WFAA Channel 8 as the host of News 8 Daybreak; Dallas restaurant owner Monica Greene of Monica’s Aca Y Alla in Deep Ellum and BEE in Oak Cliff, who recently began providing commentary on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars for WFAA; award-winning fashion designer Prashi Shah who created her own label, Prashe, and recently opened a showroom in Dallas’ Design District; and Bronwen Weber, executive chef and general manager of Frosted Art Bakery and Studio in Dallas who is perhaps best known to many for her appearances on television’s Food Network Challenge programs.

The evening will be hosted by Angela Betasso, with state Rep. Eric L. Johnson and his wife as co-chairs and last year’s honorees serving as the honorary host committee.

General admission is $50 per person, available online at The5Factor.org. Proceeds benefit the programs and services of Resource Center Dallas.

…………………………….

GLAAD holds ‘Get Amped’ 5K

The local chapter of GLAAD presents Get Amped, a 5K run/walk on the Katy Trail on Thursday, Oct. 20, in conjunction with similar chapter events around the country.
Check-in begins at 5:30 p.m. at the American Airlines Center.

The starting gun goes off at 7 p.m. The celebration takes place at the finish line, also at the arena, at 9 p.m.

An after-party takes place at 9:30 p.m. at the Round-Up Saloon.

Each runner has a goal of raising $250. The money raised will benefit the national organization.

……………………………

VNA holds Service of Remembrance

The Visiting Nurse Association will host a Service of Remembrance on Sunday, Nov. 6, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Preston Hollow United Methodist Church, 6315 Walnut Hill Lane in Dallas.

The event is open to the public and will feature special music, readings and the opportunity to light a memorial candle.

Attendees of all faiths are welcome to attend the service.

For more information call Sue Rafferty, bereavement coordinator with the Visiting Nurse Association, at 214-689-2922

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

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Homeless transgender woman Jennifer Gale sings ‘Silent Night’ on the eve of her death

A photograph of Jennifer Gale is shown lying on the ground at a memorial service following her death. The broom symbolized her being swept off the streets of Austin. The service was held at the Homeless Memorial and Tree of Remembrance on the shore of Lady Bird Lake.

Two years ago tomorrow, homeless transgender woman Jennifer Gale died on the streets of Austin — from a heart attack likely caused in part by the extreme cold. Gale was a perennial political candidate who ran for Dallas mayor in 2007. She slept on the streets because the only shelter for women in Austin, run by the Salvation Army, wouldn’t house her according to her gender identity, which would have forced her to sleep and shower with men. Gale’s death prompted changes in Dallas, where the city’s homeless shelter, the Bridge, subsequently adopted a policy under which it houses people according to their gender identity. Gale was an activist and a regular speaker at City Council meetings in Austin, where she also ran for office. On the eve of her death, she stood before a City Council committee and sang “Silent Night.” This morning, the Austin City Council honored Gale by playing video of the rendition. Watch by going here and fast-forwarding to the 1:20 mark.

—  John Wright

Scenes from First Wednesday

The DFW Sisters light the Christmas Tree on the patio of TMC.

There was plenty going on last night, from a World AIDS Day event at the Cathedral of Hope to the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Mixer at Maggiano’s. But @GetRichInDallas and I stayed true to our roots — and his wine addiction — as we hit up the strip for First Wednesday and the Christmas Tree Lighting. It was, quite frankly, a sparsely attended event, and the “Sexy Santa” wasn’t quite what we expected. But the wine — well, the chardonnay at least – flowed freely from upstairs at Union Jack, as the likes of the Oak Lawn Band and Mel Arizpe performed on the TMC patio. In short, a good time was had by all, especially those who like wine and cookies. A few more pics below.

—  John Wright

Another World AIDS Day event: DFW Sisters to tour Metroplex with Veil of Remembrance

From the DFW Sisters:

Join us as we tour the Metroplex with our Veil of Remembrance. We will start in Fort Worth at the Tarrant County Public Health Carnival and Fair. We will arrive in Dallas around Happy Hour and tour the strip with a few other stops along the way. If you have trouble finding us, please check with us on FB or send us a message.

One of the Sisters will be wearing the Veil of Remembrance. We welcome you to write the names and any memories you have of loved ones who have passed. We will take the veil and make it a part of our House archives where we will guard and protect the memories you have entrusted to us.

For a list of other World AIDS Day events in North Texas, go here.

—  John Wright

Black Friday Remembrance

When most hear the term Black Friday, many think of this being the semi-official first shopping day of the holiday season. For me, Black Friday has a second meaning…a year ago Black Friday, my friend Christine died by suicide.

I can’t help but think about bipolar conditions and Kelly Moyer’s message on how to treat our peers in community. And, of course, I can’t help thinking of the importance of family.

If there is a hereafter — a heaven for kind, loving, and thoughtful souls — I’m sure Christine is there.

She’s in my thoughts today, and my thoughts for her are warm remembrances.

May she rest ever peacefully.

~~~~~

Further reading:

* Ms. Magazine Blog: I Remember Christine Daniels on Transgender Day of Remembrance

~~~~~

Related:

* Pam’s House Blend tag: Christine Daniels
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin