The Advocate gives a shout out to Little Rock but again snubs Dallas on Gayest Cities list

Little Rock, Ark.

The Advocate today posted its third annual list of the 15 “Gayest Cities In America,” which the national LGBT publication admits is totally subjective. The goal of the list seems to be giving props to some of the smaller, lesser-known gay-friendly cities, and the point-scoring criteria include things like number of softball teams that competed in the gay softball world series, transgender protections, and number of combined concerts by Gossip, the Cliks and the Veronicas since 2009.

I’d have to check with Rich Lopez on the concerts, but it looks like Dallas lost points for things like not having a gay bookstore, not having on out elected city official and not having a WNBA team.

Anyhow, according to the Advocate’s criteria, Salt Lake City is the Gayest City in America. And, having lived in Utah for three years, I can tell you from a good deal of firsthand experience that this designation is not entirely untrue.

The only Texas city to make this year’s list is Austin at No. 13, and Dallas, Houston and San Antonio didn’t even get honorable mentions. But the news is not all bad for our region, as I-30 neighbor Little Rock came in at No. 11. Little Rock? Yes, Little Rock. Here’s what the Advocate says:

The River Market District is the main gay area, and many businesses that don’t advertise as specifically LGBT are friendly and open. The compact city has Backstreet (1021 Jessie Rd.) and U.B.U. (TheAquarium.bizland.com) for the over-18 crowd, and those of legal drinking age can check out SixTen Center Street Bar, TraX, Miss Kitty’s/Saloon (all three at TraxNLR.com). But not all LGBT life happens in a bar: According to GayChurch.org, nine of the city’s churches advertise as LGBT-friendly. Amen!

—  John Wright

PIC OF THE DAY: Mormon church flier warns against ‘cross-gender dressing’ for Halloween

Via my Facebook friend Michael Westley of Salt Lake City (I lived in Utah for three years), above is an actual flier that was posted on doors by a local LDS Stake Center (a division of the Mormon church).

—  John Wright

Salt Lake police investigate attacks on gay men

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Police say they don’t know yet whether a pair of attacks that seriously injured two gay men were hate crimes, but Utah’s gay community has called for a stop to the violence.

“Anytime there’s an allegation of something like that we consider all aspects of the case,” police Detective Cary Wichmann said. “But until a detective is able to determine it’s a hate crime, there’s no way to say.”

The two attacks occurred Aug. 26 near the downtown nightclub Club Sound, which holds gay-themed events each Friday. Dane Hall, 20, said he heard someone shout gay slurs at him just before he was struck from behind and knocked to the ground.

In the second attack, club owner Tom Taylor said he was leaving the nightclub when a bloodied man who lived nearby asked for help. Taylor said the man was sleeping on a couch in his boyfriend’s apartment when a group of men broke in, beat him and then chased him onto the street.

“They were close in time and location, but there’s not initial indication that (the attacks) were related,” Wichmann said.

Hall said he saw four men over him as he was repeatedly punched in the face. One attacker stomped on his head, he said. “My cheek bone was shattered.”

He lost six teeth and fractured his jaw in three places. Doctors found a chip of his jawbone jammed into his brain, said Hall.

“I never thought this would happen here,” Hall said. “My physical appearance will never be the same.”

The man that Taylor helped was not identified. Taylor said he was looking at security camera footage from the club to see if either attack or the alleged assailant were recorded.

“We can’t let these kinds of things not get taken care of,” Taylor said.

If police determine either attack was motivated by anti-gay sentiments, the police chief would become involved in the investigation because such crimes are taken very seriously, Wichmann said.

Meanwhile, the state’s gay community called for a halt to the violence.

Activist and Utah Pride Center board president Nikki Boyer said it’s hard to understand what motivates a person to beat someone because they are gay.

“We’re gaining acceptance,” Boyer said. “But there’s still so much hate and bigotry. I don’t have an answer. None of us do.”

—  John Wright

Roseanne as SLC gay Pride grand marshal

Roseanne Barr-slash-Arnold-slash-nothing has been pretty upfront about her personal history, being abused while growing up in conservative Salt Lake City. She’s certainly been a pioneer for gay issues over her long career, from her Roseanne sitcom, where she routinely featured gay characters and had a famous prime-time same-sex kiss with Mariel Hemingway. (Sara Gilbert, who recently announced her split from her partner, was one of the stars of the show before coming out.)

On the next episode of her new show, the reality-based quirkcom Roseanne’s Nuts, Roseanne returns to SLC to serve as grand marshal of the city’s gay Pride parade, stoking the flames of the attendees with her fiery rants about equality and revisiting old memories.

The episode, called “Homecoming Parade,” airs Friday at 9 p.m. on Lifetime, with replays throughout the week.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Bigots are so unreliable!

Despite news reports indicating otherwise, no one spoke Tuesday night at the Fort Worth City Council meeting to air disapproval of Councilman Joel Burns “It Gets Better” speech last month. Tuesday’s meeting lasted into the wee hours, as the council dealt with several controversial issues. The only person who referenced Burns’ speech during “Citizen Presentations,” which came after midnight, spoke in support of it. Linda Sandoval Foley said she’s been a special education teacher since 1964.

“Bullying and harassment, whatever the reason, is not only injurious to the person who is bullied, but to the bully themselves,” she said. “Parents and community often offer a model to kids as to what is acceptable and give both tacit and implicit approval to bullying behaviors. But equally present is a capacity for acceptance and understanding, and expectations for appropriate behavior toward people who are different from you in any way, whether it’s the color of your eyes, or whether you’re tall and skinny, awkward and clumsy, whatever. Yes, it does get better. But we need, our kids need, the support and involvement of their parents, their teachers and all the other adults who are in their lives. And I thank Councilman Burns for his statement, and I do appreciate his life experience, and I do look forward to it being better for all our kids.”

Earlier, during councilmembers’ reports, Burns also referenced his “It Gets Better” speech, saying he had a lot of announcements but none of them were likely to make YouTube. “But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important,” he said.

Among other things, Burns went on to congratulate the TCU football team for its victory last weekend over Utah, saying it was the only time he’s ever wished he was in Salt Lake City. Burns also congratulated those from Fort Worth who received awards during Saturday’s Black Tie Dinner: the Rev. Carol West (Kuchling Humanitarian Award) and American Airlines (Elizabeth Birch Equality Award).

—  John Wright

BYU student tells truth about why Mormons backed Prop 8; student newspaper axes letter

ABC 4 in Salt Lake City reports that a senior at Brigham Young University recently wrote a letter to the editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Universe, saying Mormons should be honest about whey they supported Prop 8. Cary Crall told the TV station that his letter was initially rejected, then turned into a full-blown op-ed, then pulled from the newspaper’s website and labeled offensive:

Crall wrote that Mormons ought to be honest about the real reasons they put so much time, money and effort into passage of Prop 8. After reading the decision of the federal judge in the Prop 8 case, he concluded there is little rational basis for many of the arguments for Prop 8. So if such arguments were not the real reasons for their support, then what? “The real reason,” he wrote, “is that a man who most of us believe is a prophet of God told us to support the amendment.”

“If the real reason for supporting the amendment is a privately held religious opinion and belief in a prophet — that a prophet is telling us to do it — then we need to be honest about that and take the consequences,” Crall told ABC 4. “I think the Mormon community owes that kind of introspection to the rest of the world for our actions in Proposition 8.”

Read Crall’s full letter at PoynterOnline.

—  John Wright

Utah GOP taps gay man for state Senate race

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Republican Party has chosen the head of the Utah Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian political organization, to run in a state Senate race.

The Deseret News reported Thursday, Sept. 2 that Melvin Nimer will replace Republican Nancie Lee Davis for the District 2 seat in heavily Democratic Salt Lake City. Davis was disqualified for failing to file a campaign finance disclosure statement with the lieutenant governor’s office.

Choosing Nimer could help Republicans’ chances against Democratic State Sen. Ben McAdams. The person who previously held McAdams’ seat was the only openly gay member of the Senate, although Scott McCoy was also a Democrat.

A 60-year-old accountant, Nimer, said he offers voters “a voice at the Republican table” in a GOP-dominated Legislature. He did not, however, take issue with the way the district has been represented.

“As good as Sen. McCoy was and Sen. McAdams is, being Democrats, they don’t have as much influence as a Republican would have,” Nimer said.

Nimer has been openly gay for 15 years, but said it’s not clear whether that will give him an edge with voters.

“Definitely, I’ll have that card to play, if you will,” Nimer said. “Luckily, it’s a fairly liberal district.”

McAdams said Nimer’s entry into the race doesn’t change his campaign plans. Recent campaign finance reports shows McAdams has raised $47,000.

McAdams said his track record on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues speaks for itself. He has already secured endorsements from McCoy, Equality Utah and others in the LGBT community.

—  John Wright

Indecent ‘Proposition’

For documentarian Reed Cowan, a gay man raised Mormon, taking on the LDS church became a different kind of mission

STEVEN LINDSEY | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com




CHANGING FOCUS | Cowan saw a bigger story when his film about Mormon gay youth kicked out of their homes opened up to a world of prejudice by the LDS church detailed in ‘8: The Mormon Proposition.’




Proposition 8: Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Getting a movie into the Sundance Film Festival is an honor in itself, but unexpected consequences always follow. For some, it’s fame and fortune.

For Reed Cowan, director of 8: The Mormon Proposition, it was death threats — a result that was especially surprising since the movie he ended up making was not the one he set out to film.

“I was raised in Utah in the Mormon church and to know that other young Mormon kids were being kicked out of their homes after coming out really pained me,” says Cowan on a recent trip to Dallas. “Ninety percent of the kids on the street in Salt Lake City in the dead of winter are gay kids. I thought, I have a camera and I can shine the light on that. So we started out to do a film about that.
“Then Proposition 8 began to bubble.”

Cowan planned his movie to touch on the initiative though he never anticipated Prop 8 would pass. Then the vote happened.

“So many of us woke up the next morning just feeling like, are you kidding? If we can’t win California, we can’t win anywhere. So many of us — gay or lesbian or people sympathetic to LGBT causes — were sickened by it,” he says. “In a figurative sense, if we were in a battle, I felt like I was sucker-punched and I looked around at my feet to see what stones I had to throw.”

As a response to the vote, Broadway singer-actor Sam Harris recorded a video blog that caught Cowan’s attention.

“He was so incensed because he’d just gotten married and was working to adopt a child and he did this vlog that was so eloquent and so beautiful,” says Cowan. “My God, here’s an artist who’s taking his resources, his music, his talent, his voice and he’s doing something about it the very next morning! What do I have at my arm’s length? I have a camera. I have friends who can edit. So that’s what I began to do.
It’s been an incredible journey.”

The film began sending shockwaves through the church before it was even completed. But perhaps the most amazing development for Cowan was the amount of information that was dropped in his lap — literally, as the box of documents that is one of the movie’s smokingest guns.

“A young man who worked in the LDS church archives came out of the woodwork and approached me directly. [His] father is very high up in the Mormon church and he was allowed access to things that most people aren’t.”

Cowan’s informant learned that high-ranking Mormons put together an internal study about gay and lesbian issues.

“It was 1,500 pages he copied and took off with. I have every one of them,” Cowan says. Those documents have since been submitted as evidence in the trial challenging Prop 8, which began closing arguments this week.

Cowan’s own life has faced destruction on multiple occasions, many directly attributable to his Mormon upbringing. When Cowan was doing his missionary work (which brought him to North Texas), he genuinely believed what he was preaching and he believes even now that many people within the church aren’t motivated by hate.

“Prop 8 wasn’t done with malice. Bigotry isn’t often done with malice. As one of the people who was in my film said to me, ‘But we do it with a smile,’” he laughs. “We do it with a smile! You don’t have to have malice and desire to go slash somebody’s throat to actually do things to destroy their lives.”

After getting married and having a son, Cowan’s wife left him and he finally came out. Today, he has adopted two children with a partner, Greg Abplanalp, whom he’s known since elementary school.

“In high school we had a relationship and one night in our small Utah town I was beaten almost to death, almost Matthew Shepard-style, where they stood over me in disgust, where they had taken me to finish me off. I lived, but my dad was so afraid that he sent me on a mission and told me I was never to talk to that boy again,” Cowan says. “And I didn’t for 13 years.”

Cowan even was counseled by a church leader to write a letter to Abplanalp condemning him, which he reluctantly did.

After reparative therapy, aversion therapy, visualization therapy and other approaches to “cure” him failed, Cowan approached another leader for guidance. That’s when he was told to marry a woman; it didn’t last long.
“I had been divorced a year, had my first relationship, got my heart broken,” he says. “I believe in karma and the person who’d broken my heart kind of just dumped and ran. I thought I was obviously experiencing the pain I caused somebody else.”

He learned that Abplanalp lived two blocks from him while he was married. Cowan wrote him an apology and they decided to meet. The two reunited and began raising Wesley, the boy born from Cowan’s marriage. Two years later, Wesley died in an accident.

“Greg saved my life after the death of my son. He’s the reason we built 25 schools in Africa for AIDS orphans in my son’s name. That’s why I fight,” he says of his decision to make the movie.

“Life taught us we’re braver and stronger and smarter than we ever thought we were,” he says. “But our little boys deserve to know that we’re a family and that the U.S. government sees us as a family and that if they’re going to define families by marriage, which I have my issues with, and give benefits to families that are married, then by damn, my kids deserve that. My kids deserve the same thing.”
It’s a fight he’s willing to pursue even though some want to stop him. Which is where the death threats come in.

“You wouldn’t believe the letters I’ve gotten from religious people,” Cowan says. “Three days ago, a guy calling himself ‘Christian4life’ wrote, ‘God took your son away from you because you’re a faggot. And your son would’ve had a horrible life and that’s why he died.’”

So many people bring his son’s death into their hate-filled letters that he’s made the agonizing decision to move his son’s body to a private grave.
But the film has generated positive feedback, too.

“I’ve had letters from gay people in their 70s that say, ‘Finally you lanced the wound, thank you.’” he recalls. “I’ve had gay kids as young as 12 and 13 contact me. I’ve had religious people say, ‘Thank you, you helped me see things differently.’”

His goal for the film is simple: A complete and total separation of church and state in our country.

“This movie is ultimately for the voter. Look at what happened with your sacred vote. Look at how the blurring of lines between church and state resulted in your sacred vote being used to achieve the objectives of a religion. And look at the danger of becoming a theocracy in history. Do we want a democracy or theocracy?” Cowan asks.

Ultimately, though, he hopes his film brings about change.

“Gay people are tough. We’re resilient. We learned to be from the time we’re in school. Most of us survive, God rest the ones who don’t,” he says. “We lay our own lives down and give our days in the service of kids who are growing up gay to make it better for them.”

………………………………………..

Infuriating brilliance

Reed Cowan’s emotionally charged and ultimately enraging documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition opens today at the Angelika Film Center, almost two years to the day after the first legal gay marriages occurred in California. It’s a fitting release date for a film that so candidly and energetically explores the LDS church’s role in reversing the decision to recognize same-sex marriages.

His 80-minute film delves into the bowels of the church to uncover a history of bigotry and exclusion. Cowan, who was raised Mormon and persecuted for being gay, frequently sought for the Mormon church to tell its side of the story, though he was mostly refused.

Cowan’s connections gained him access to hundreds of pages of private documents as revolting as they are incriminating. 8 is powerfully inspirational and should prompt every LGBT viewer to action, no matter where they previously fell on the subject of gay marriage. Even when it’s at its hardest to watch during scenes of overt condemnation and reenactments of the covert torture of homosexuals within the Mormon church, the revelation of such raw hatred and destruction is impossible to shake.
— S.L.

4 stars
Opens today at Angelika Mockingbird Station.

This article appeared in the National Pride edition in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice