Houston one of 21 most “Lesbianish” cities according to Jezebel.com

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.”

—  admin

“Religion in the 2012 Election” at Rice

Leonard Pitts

Leonard Pitts

Growing up, I was taught that there were two topics it was important to avoid in polite conversation: politics and religion (ironic since my career thus far has included working for churches and blogging about politics). Increasingly, it seems, it’s impossible to talk about one of those topics without bringing up the other. That intersection (some might say collision) is the topic for “Religion in the 2012 Election” a free public symposium this Wednesday, January 25 at  James A. Baker III Hall at Rice University (6100 Main) from 1 to 4:30 pm.

The symposium includes speakers on a variety of topics including religion and immigration, Islamophobia, religion and science, abortion and LGBT equality. Speakers include John Green, a senior research adviser at the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life; D. Michael Lindsay, author and president of Gordon College; Pulitzer-winning columnist Leonard Pitts; Anna Greenberg of the national public opinion research firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and scholars from the James A. Baker III Institute and Rice University.

Pitts will also appear at Congregation Emanu El (1500 Sunset) Wednesday evening at 7 pm for a special presentation sponsored by The Texas Freedom Network. Tickets to Pitts’ speech are $20 and may be purchased at tfn.org/symposium.

The symposium kicks off with a panel discussion focusing particularly on the various ways religious issues and candidates’ beliefs are influencing the 2012 presidential race. All panels are free and open to the public, but registration is required. Visit tfn.org/symposium to register. “Religion in the 2012 Election”  is co-sponsored by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, the Rice University Religion and Public Life Program and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, a public policy research and civic education organization based in Austin.

—  admin

Houston ARCH seeks public submissions for new logo

Houston ARCH proposed logos

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 billyhoya@billyhoya.info. 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.

—  admin

SMU gets 4 stars for gay-friendliness

The group Campus Pride has given Southern Methodist University 4 out of 5 stars in its LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index. This stands in stark contrast to the Princeton Review’s ratings, which ranked SMU among the 20 most gay-unfriendly campuses in the country.

Karen Click, director of the SMU Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives, said of the Campus Pride rating, “What we’re doing, we get graded very high on.”

Click said Campus Pride is helpful with suggestions, and a faculty and staff LGBT group began as a result of a comment from last year’s survey.

She said that with housing, for example, other campuses offer to match a gay person with an LGBT-accepting person. SMU doesn’t offer that service yet.

Princeton Review bases its score entirely on student surveys. Campus Pride looks at school policies and activities. But in student life, the group gave SMU 5 stars. Below is the breakdown of SMU’s rating from Campus Pride:

—  David Taffet

A conversation with Houston Mayor Annise Parker

PARKER IN DALLAS | In her only interview while in Dallas as the honorary grand marshal of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Houston Mayor Annise Parker said she doesn’t live her life just out of the closet, but out on the front lawn. Her city is competing with Moscow for a major petroleum convention, and she plans to meet up with that city’s mayor to tell him what she thinks of his treatment of gays and lesbians in Moscow. Read the complete interview with Parker online at DallasVoice.com. (Photo courtesy Steve Krueger)
Houston Mayor Annise Parker speaks during Dallas Pride on Sunday, Sept. 19. (Photo courtesy Steve Krueger)

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Houston Mayor Annise Parker said she was delighted to be asked to come to Dallas to be Honorary Grand Marshal of the Pride parade. And she was a little surprised other cities hadn’t asked her.

“It’s a little hot outside,” she said soon after arriving in Dallas. “We do our parade at night for a reason.”

Parker said she forgot to bring a hat, but she never wears hats in Houston. Her reason sounded a bit like another Texas Democrat, Ann Richards.

“My hat covers the hair,” she said. “They have to see the hair.”

Unlike many gay or lesbian politicians, she didn’t come out after successfully launching her political career. She said she started as a lesbian activist on the front lines.

“I was debating the nutballs in public,” she said.

Parker came out in high school. In college she founded Rice University’s first LGBT group and began her political career as president of the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

During each campaign, the GLBT Political Caucus and her partner, Kathy Hubbard, have always been included in her literature.

“That way I owned it,” she said. “Kathy describes our relationship as not being out of the closet but being out on the front lawn,” she said.

The election received an overwhelming amount of media coverage.

“It’s unprecedented for an election for mayor of Houston to make the front cover of the Times of India,” she said. “It was difficult to slog through. It was a distraction at the beginning.”

Parker said she doesn’t think most of Texas was as surprised by her election as the rest of the country or the world. She mentioned a number of lesbian elected officials around the state including Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

She attributed her victory to a number of factors. Houston always elects moderate Democrats, she said.

Of the seven candidates running in the general election, she started with the highest name recognition. This was her eighth election and her opponent’s first.

“He made some rookie mistakes,” she said. “He got distracted. He got in bed with the right-wing hate-mongers.”

The week before coming to Dallas, Parker had been in New York and met with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

She said he joked that he was partially responsible for her win. Had he stepped aside, Christine Quinn, the lesbian who heads New York’s city council, would have probably made a bid for office.

“All the gay money across the country would have flown to New York,” she said.

Actually, most of Parker’s donations were local, and while she didn’t have the most money for her campaign, she had a greater number of donations than her six opponents combined.

Parker seems to be settling into her new position.

She strengthened the city’s non-discrimination policies by executive order. Her revisions included gender identity and expression and extended protection to all city-run facilities.

Partner benefits for city employees can only be granted by popular vote in that city. She said she expects that the LGBT community will soon begin collecting signatures to bring that proposition to a vote and said she would like to be able to include Hubbard on her insurance.

Parker said that in effect she is making less than Bill White did as mayor because she has to pay for Hubbard’s health insurance.

With 2.2 million constituents, Parker said she couldn’t be just the gay mayor, but she would continue to use her position to advance LGBT rights when possible. She helps raise money and speaks for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund around the country and said their training was extremely helpful.

And Parker said Houston has benefited from being the largest city in the world with a lesbian mayor. Her recent trade mission to China is an example.

Earlier in the year, Parker was named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most powerful people in the world. She said she never would have made the list had she been “just another white guy.” One of China’s top trade officials was also on the list.

In August, Parker led a trade delegation to China. The Chinese trade official, she said, probably met with her because both were on the list and because of the curiosity factor. Men hold most government positions in China, she said, not out lesbians.

She said that while that was how her being a lesbian has benefited Houston, she can also use her position as a bully pulpit.

She may make a return trip to China where Houston and Moscow are competing to bring a convention to their cities. She said she hopes the mayor of Moscow is there and that Houston wins the convention over his city.

Parker said she plans on calling the Moscow mayor out on his terrible treatment of gays and lesbians. Among other things, he has canceled permits for Pride parades in the city and last weekend had his city’s best-known gay activist arrested.

With the November election approaching, Parker said she is remaining officially neutral in the state’s races.

“To represent my city I have to get along with everyone,” she said.

As mayor of the state’s largest city, Parker said she’s had more contact lately with Gov. Rick Perry than former Houston mayor Bill White.

“But I am absolutely livid that Rick Perry has an attack ad on Bill White that features me,” she said. “I don’t want to be used as a wedge in that campaign.”

Parker said that Perry used a quote of something she said while controller. She said it was not out of context and might have even been impolitic to say at the time. But she described her relationship with White as a good working relationship despite a disagreement on a particular issue at one time during their three terms in office together.

Parker maintains a high popularity rating in Houston and said she thinks her city is getting used to their new high-profile mayor. Among the reasons, she said, is that she is the only mayor of a major American city who hasn’t had to lay off any workers.

Parker did admit just one area where Dallas beats Houston — light rail. However, she said the two cities are working together to get a high-speed rail link built between them.

In January, Parker and Hubbard will celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Parker said one thing Hubbard did not share with her was the parenting gene. It took several years before she convinced Hubbard they should be parents.

They have raised three children together. Their foster son was an openly gay teen who they took in at age 16. Later, they adopted their two daughters at ages 12 and 7. Their younger daughter is 15 now and still at home. Her son, who is now 34, rode in the car in the parade with her.

Houston’s mayors serve two-year terms so Parker will be running for re-election next year.

—  Kevin Thomas

Annise Parker has high approval rating despite bad economy and not being a media whore

David Taffet will have a full interview with Houston Mayor Annise Parker — who was in Dallas on Sunday for Pride — in this coming Friday’s Dallas Voice.

But for now, we point you to this story from KHOU Channel 11 about a recent poll showing that a solid majority of Houstonians approve of Parker’s job performance thus far.

Parker became the first openly gay person elected mayor of a major U.S. city last year.

In the poll conducted by Rice University, 14 percent rated Parker’s job performance excellent, 42 percent rated it good, 27 percent rated it fair, and only 6 percent rated it poor, with the remainder (11 percent) undecided.

The story notes that Parker’s approval rating is slightly lower than former Mayor Bill White’s was at the same point in his tenure. But it suggests that this is due to the bad economy and the fact that Parker doesn’t seek out media attention.

“What was interesting was how many people couldn’t rate her,” said professor Bob Stein, 11 News’ political analyst. “But in fairness, this is not the kind of mayor that looks for the press coverage and publicity that Mayor (Bill) White did.”

Parker tells KHOU that while she has no regrets about the job, the most difficult thing thus far has been visiting a fallen Houston police officer’s family in the hospital.

Again, for a full interview with Parker, see Friday’s Voice.

—  John Wright

Bill White’s daughter at Havana tonight

Elena White

OK, so it’s not quite Chelsea Clinton at JR’s a few years back, and Texas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White himself is set to march in the gay Pride parade in a few days. But first his daughter, Elena, will appear at Havana on Wednesday night at the monthly meeting of Dallas’ gay LULAC chapter. From LULAC #4871 President Jesse Garcia:

Elena White is a rising junior at Rice University, where she is studying Economics and Energy Studies. At Rice, Elena helped found Owl Microfinance, a non-profit microfinance organization that makes loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. President Clinton chose Owl Microfina…nce as one of twelve organizations out of over a thousand to award a special honor at the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference.

Elena has spent her free time engaged in community issues. She was a counselor at Talento Bilingue, a Latino Cultural Arts Center. She also worked as an administrator and math teacher at Breakthrough Collaborative, Houston’s summer middle school for promising students from underfunded educational backgrounds.

In 2008, Elena spent a year working for King’s Academy in Jordan, a boarding school that attracts students from all over the Arab world and beyond. As a Junior Fellow, Elena was a resident advisor, coached swimming, interned in the Development Office, and mentored students.

Let’s welcome this active community member to Dallas!

The meeting will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Havana, 4006 Cedar Springs Road.

—  John Wright