Spectrum again seeks LGBT senator at SMU

Members of gay student group speak out after registrar cuts off talks over diversity seat proposal

SEEKING REPRESENTATION  |  Spectrum members, from left, Jessica Barner, Eric Douglas, Danielle Palomo, Breanna Diaz, Jakob Schwarz and Kristen Baker-Fletcher outside an SMU Student Senate meeting this week. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

SEEKING REPRESENTATION  | Spectrum members, from left, Jessica Barner, Eric Douglas, Danielle Palomo, Breanna Diaz, Jakob Schwarz and Kristen Baker-Fletcher outside an SMU Student Senate meeting this week. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK — Progress toward an LGBT Student Senate seat at Southern Methodist University came to a halt last week when the school registrar cut off talks with Karen Click, director of the Women’s Center for Gender and Pride Initiatives.

“I need to put this project on hold for a while, as I don’t have the resources now,” Joe Papari, SMU’s director of enrollment services for student systems and technology, wrote in an email to Click.

Papari couldn’t be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, Feb. 14, members of the LGBTQA student group Spectrum addressed the Student Senate to ask for help in restarting the talks about a Senate seat.

“Show how progressive our campus can be,” Spectrum President Harvey Luna urged the Senate.

Tom Elliott, who now works for the Travis County Democratic Party in Austin,  first brought the idea of an LGBT seat to the Senate in 2009 when he was a senior.

Elliot said when he served on the Senate’s Diversity Committee, it dealt with finding more resources for minorities and better ways to recruit new students from those communities.

He thought that with the negative publicity SMU gets from the Princeton Review rating of the school as one of the 20 most homophobic campuses in the U.S., an LGBT senator would send a positive signal to potential incoming students that while the student body remains conservative and seems lacking in diversity, everyone is actually welcome at SMU.

The Princeton ranking is based on student surveys. In many ways, SMU doesn’t fit the profile of other schools on the list. SMU is the only school on the list with inclusive nondiscrimination policies, domestic partner benefits for employees, sanctioned LGBT student groups and openly gay faculty and staff who are embraced by the administration.

In December 2009, the Student Senate voted against adding the LGBT diversity seat. The vote was 19-19, but a three-fourths majority was needed to pass the resolution that would have then gone to the entire student body for a vote.

But the perception of the school remains one where gays and lesbians are not welcome, according to members of Spectrum who believe that a diversity seat would help change that.

Last year, Spectrum again urged the Senate to add the seat but they again voted it down citing the difficulty in identifying LGBT students and uncertainty about how many students the senator would represent.

“They were concerned with numbers,” said Spectrum member Eric Douglas. “They threw out 150 as a number.”

He laughed at the idea that on a campus with 11,000 students, fewer than 150 would be LGBT.

Senate Secretary Martha Pool said that there’s concern about double representation and questioned all diversity seats.

“Special interests are supposed to have liaisons,” she said. “There’s supposed to be a senator [assigned to] every student group. That way, everyone is fairly represented.”

However, no one from Spectrum who attended the Senate meeting on Tuesday had ever met a senator assigned to their group.

Spectrum member Kristen Baker-Fletcher objected to the idea that a senator who isn’t a member of the LGBT community could represent those students well.

She mocked the idea, characterizing it as, “We have efficient people who can speak for you.”

Spectrum’s activist chair Breanna Diaz said that a diversity senator would represent all LGBT students, not just the few who belong to one of the school’s several gay groups. She said an LGBT representative would bring issues to the Senate that aren’t currently being addressed, including health, mental health and safety.

Diaz said a major concern from last year seems to be resolved. In talks with the registrar, an optional slot could be added to the online student information profiles. Students could indicate their sexual orientation or gender identity on a confidential page. Those who self-identified as members of the LGBT community could vote for the diversity senator but wouldn’t have to belong to a campus LGBT organization.

Several senators asked whether a resolution to the registrar would make a difference.

Spectrum member Jakob Schwarz said, “The only leg the registrar’s office can stand on is that students don’t want it. A resolution by the Student Senate would be an indication of students do want.”

Click wasn’t sure that registration on the campus database was necessarily the answer.

“Is this the one stumbling block?” Click asked, adding that she doesn’t know the answer.

Click said the question of who would vote for the LGBT seat is complicated since a lot of allies attend Spectrum, many LGBT students don’t belong to any of the campus groups, and reaching out to them all is difficult because of the transience of an undergraduate population.

“There’s no easy fix,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

A Sister’s Gift honors volunteers

Brunch recognizes the efforts of women volunteering in HIV/AIDS community

Edwards.Cheryl

Cheryl Edwards

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Sheri Crandall serves dinner at Ewing House once a month, and has been for six years. She is one of 11 women who have volunteered their time to help those living with HIV/AIDS who will be honored at brunch this weekend sponsored by A Sister’s Gift Women’s Center.

A Sister’s Gift provides resources and support for women living with HIV/AIDS. Cheryl Edwards founded the organization in memory of her brother, Ronald Lewis, who died of AIDS in 1995.

A Sister’s Gift will recognize Crandall as “Volunteer — feeding with faith.”

Crandall said she was embarrassed to be honored for simply doing the right thing. When she joined Church of the Incarnation, an Episcopal church on McKinney Avenue in Uptown, people were already involved with the AIDS Services of

Dallas supper club. She’s taken the program to heart and over the years has become friendly with some of the residents.

“Some have been there the entire time,” she said. “Others transition in and out, and others pass away.”

Crandall said that some residents have special dietary needs and the group tries to keep that in mind in preparing a meal that is as healthy as possible. But, she said, if groups didn’t continue serving meals at the facility, some people wouldn’t eat.

Rosemarie Odom will be recognized as a community advocate.

Odom co-founded C.U.R.E., a Collin County-based group that uses panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in HIV education efforts. This week, C.U.R.E. members hung 18 panels at the Anatole Hotel for the Out & Equal conference.

Odom said that she and Roseann Rosetti started C.U.R.E. because the number of HIV cases were increasing and fewer people seemed to know about it.

“People forgot about what happened in the early ’80s or didn’t know about it,” she said, adding that many people who come to see the quilt panels have never seen the quilt before.

The group has had success displaying panels in Plano and Frisco public schools and starting a discussion about HIV, Odom said, noting that, “Everyone wants to take a picture with it and touch it.”

For World AIDS Day, Odom said C.U.R.E. is planning an event in downtown Dallas with AIDS Interfaith Network. They will display panels from the quilt at the brunch.

Gretchen Kelly will be recognized at the brunch as an HIV fundraiser and volunteer patient advocate. For more than 20 years, Kelly has helped raise funds for a variety of agencies including DIFFA, AIDS Services of North Texas, Legal Hospice of

Texas, AIDS Services Dallas and AIDS Interfaith Network.

But rather than talking about herself, Kelly said Edwards should be getting the award.

“She made a promise to her brother,” she said. “She’s worked really hard to make it work. She’s dedicated her life to it.”

Edwards founded A Sister’s Gift after her brother died of AIDS to provide resources and support for women living with HIV/AIDS.

Edwards said the idea for the brunch came several years ago when she was given an award and noticed that she was the only woman being recognized.

She remembered a woman who took care of her brother when her parents were out of town and she said she knew there had to be a lot of other women whose devotion to people with HIV were not being recognized.

“Women’s needs are different from men’s,” she said.

Edwards called one of the primary services provided by A sister’s Gift “navigational counseling.”

“After many women are diagnosed with HIV, most are clueless about where to go and what to do,” she said.
Edwards said the goal is to make sure women with HIV get medical care and stay on their regimen. They provide bus passes to make sure clients can get to doctors appointments.

More than 95 percent of A Sister’s Gift’s clients live below the poverty line. So when possible, they provide grocery assistance and utility assistance.

TOP Event Center, 1508 Cadiz St. Oct. 29 at 11:30 a.m.
$20 online at ASistersGift.org.
$25 at the door.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

New survey on sex in U.S. is biggest since 1994

7% of women, 8% of men identify as GLB, but proportion of adults who’ve had same-gender sex at some point is much higher

DAVID CRARY  |  AP National Writer

NEW YORK — The male-female orgasm gap. The sex lives of 14-year-olds. An intriguing breakdown of condom usage rates, by age and ethnicity, with teens emerging as more safe-sex-conscious than boomers.

That’s just a tiny sampling of the data unveiled Monday in what the researchers say is the largest, most comprehensive national survey of Americans’ sexual behavior since 1994.

Filling 130 pages of a special issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, the study offers detailed findings on how often Americans have sex, with whom, and how they respond. In all, 5,865 people, ranging in age from 14 to 94, participated in the survey.

The lead researchers, from Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion, said the study fills a void that has grown since the last comparable endeavor — the National Health and Social Life Survey — was published 16 years ago. Major changes since then include the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the types of sex education available to young people, the advent of same-sex marriage, and the emergence of the Internet as a tool for social interaction.

Dr. Dennis Fortenberry, a pediatrics professor who was lead author of the study’s section about teen sex, said the overall findings of such a huge survey should provide reassurance to Americans who are curious about how their sex lives compare with others.

“Unless, like al-Qaida, you feel there’s something abnormal about the American people, what these data say is, ‘This is normal — everything in there is normal.”’

The researchers said they were struck by the variety of ways in which the subjects engaged in sex — 41 different combinations of sexual acts were tallied, encompassing vaginal and anal intercourse, oral sex, and partnered masturbation.

Men are more likely to experience orgasm when vaginal intercourse is involved, while women are more likely to reach orgasm when they engage in variety of acts, including oral sex, said researcher Debra Herbenick, lead author of the section about women’s sex lives.

She noted there was a gap in perceptions — 85 percent of the men said their latest sexual partner had an orgasm, while only 64 percent of the women reported having an orgasm in their most recent sexual event.

One-third of women experienced genital pain during their most recent sex, compared to 5 percent of men, said Herbenick, citing this as an area warranting further study.

The study, which began taking shape in 2007, was funded by Church & Dwight Co., the manufacturer of Trojan condoms. Questions about condom usage figured prominently in the study, but the researchers — during a teleconference — insisted the integrity of their findings was not affected by the corporate tie.

Among the findings was a high rate of condom usage among 14- to 17-year-olds. Of the surveyed boys who had sexual intercourse, 79 percent reported using a condom on the most recent occasion, compared to 25 percent for all the men in the survey.

However, the sample for that particular question involved only 57 teens in the 14-to-17 age range. That’s far smaller than the thousands involved in latest federal Youth Risk Behavior Survey last year which calculated condom use among sexually active high school students at 61 percent

Fortenberry nonetheless found the new findings encouraging.

“There’s been a major shift among young people in the role condoms have in their sexual lives,” he said. “Condoms have become normative.”

Another intriguing finding —rates of condom usage among black and Hispanic men were significantly higher than for whites. The researchers said this suggested that HIV-AIDS awareness programs were now making headway in those communities, which have relatively high rates of the disease.

The lowest condom usage rates were for men over 50 — and the researchers said this was worrisome. Although men in that age group are more likely to be married than males in their teens and 20s, other surveys have shown 50s-and-over to be far more open to multiple sexual partners than in the past, raising the risk for disease.

Other notable findings:

• While about 7 percent of adult women and 8 percent of men identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, the proportion of individuals who have had same-gender sex at some point in their lives is higher. For example, 15 percent of the men aged 50-59 said they had received oral sex from another man at some point.

• Among adolescent boys, only about 2 percent of the 14-year-olds — but 40 percent of the 17-year-olds — said they had engaged in sexual intercourse in the past year.

The survey was conducted from March through May of 2009, with the assistance of Knowledge Networks, among a nationally representative sample of adolescents and adults. Once people were selected to participate, they were interviewed online; participants without Internet access were provided it for free.

The researchers said the 1994 survey was compiled through in-person interviews, while the new method — collecting data over the Internet — may help make respondents more comfortable about discussing sexual behaviors.

Dr. Irwin Goldstein, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, noted that the new study came more than 60 years after Alfred Kinsey — also based at Indiana University — published his groundbreaking report, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.”

“Just like then, these papers contain material that is avant garde and often considered off-limits,” Goldstein wrote in a forward to the study. “At a time when we can have nudity on HBO but cannot use the names of our genitals on the evening news, there remains a need to continue research on sexual health.”

—  John Wright