Spirit of Giving: MCCGD’s coat drive for the homeless

EDITOR’S NOTE: As the holiday season kicks into high gear, the LGBT community of North Texas once again is responding in a variety of ways to help out those who are less fortunate.

This week Dallas Voice profiles five events intended to raise funds or other donations for a number of different causes. But the community’s good will doesn’t end with these events.

If you know of an individual, business or organization that is holding or participating in a charitable holiday event or effort, email the information to editor@dallasvoice.com.

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Colleen-Darraugh

Colleen Darraugh

This year for the sixth year, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas is collecting coats for the homeless.

The first delivery will go to clients of AIDS Interfaith Network, said the Rev. Colleen Darraugh, MCCGD pastor. Of people with AIDS in Dallas, that organization’s clients are among the most at-risk and most likely to be homeless, she said.

Darraugh said that the annual coat drive has expanded this year to include sweats, hoodies and socks.
“A dry pair of socks can make all the difference,” she said.

The church kicked off its holiday season of giving by participating in Saturday Night Live at AIN, in which a group prepared a weekend supper for clients and provided  entertainment. After dinner, the 27 volunteers sent AIN’s clients home with bags of granola bars, apples and oranges in addition to leftovers.

Darraugh said the need is so great, members of the church by themselves can’t provide everything AIN’s clients need.

“So we’re asking people to ask neighbors and co-workers to contribute,” she said.

They are collecting items every Sunday at the church at 1840 Hutton Drive #100 in Carrollton.

Anyone who would like to help with delivery is welcome to join. Darraugh said they have a borrowed horse trailer that they expect to be filled with items. After stopping at AIN near downtown Dallas, they will distribute items to people living on the street.

But Darraugh said the need doesn’t end at Christmas, and the church will continue collecting items to make a January delivery as well.

She said that especially those not staying in a shelter often lose what little they have when they leave their items unattended.

To arrange to make a donation during the week, to participate in the delivery of items to the homeless or for more information, call the church at 972-243-0761.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

COVER STORY: The social network

LGBTs and straight allies don’t just have a job at the NBC Universal network, they have a haven

Rich Lopez  |  Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Dallasites know NBC here simply as Channel 5. The big five logo is the place Dallas goes to for must-see TV, Jane McGarry or Saturday Night Live. Most people only see NBC as a channel for entertainment and news, and that is perhaps as it should be.

But look a little closer and you’ll see that the network is also a company that celebrates its diversity, and here in Dallas, the year-old group Out@NBCUniversal has thrived in its short tenure.

“From gay, straight, lesbian — everybody is different in this chapter. This is a very welcoming company and our mission is simple,” said member Murad Kirdar. “Across the hubs, we are working to attract and retain LGBT employees and make this a place where they want to work.”

With just a year and a half under its belt, the Dallas chapter is the newest of currently eight hubs across the country.  As a whole, Out@NBCUniversal is a 25-year-old employee affinity network and also one of the oldest groups of its kind in corporate America.

Among those regional hubs, 1,400 members make up Out at large.

The Dallas hub
There wasn’t a real reason that a hub didn’t exist in Dallas earlier. It just took the initiative of NBC 5 employee Patric Alva to get it going.

Once that proverbial ball began rolling, the group flourished immediately.

“I had met Murad and other LGBT employees and even straight people who considered themselves allies,” Alva said. “I thought, ‘Why not take advantage of this opportunity?’ I thought it was interesting to see the other hubs. So one day it came down to getting it going and rolling.”

“[NBC] was excited when Patric wanted to start this. Once people participated and it became an active hub, it was overflowing with people wanting to join,” Kirdar added. “We do have our jobs and I do find this takes a lot of extra work, but it’s worth it.”

Alva said that not only queer and ally employees were encouraging the group, but that the higher-ups were making efforts to be visible in their support. At the group’s kickoff event at Hotel Zaza, upper management and the station’s general manager all showed up.

This only strengthened Alva’s commitment to the chapter.

Alva and Kirdar speak ebulliently about their work environment and how their company embraces diversity. It’s obvious, even over the phone, the pride they take in how NBC strives to provide healthy surroundings for its employees.

Andrea Krause, coming from a straight perspective, feels the same.

“I can’t ever imagine putting on the conservative hat. I was hesitant that you should have to portray any type of charade, but the minute I walked in, I noticed the diversity,” Krause said.

“Additionally, the company promotes bettering yourself and sponsored me in going to get my MBA,” she added. “I did have intentions on leaving the company but as I came back, I am even more aware how grateful I am to work in these types of surroundings.”

Regardless of identity, each member clearly has his or her own story that adds to the texture of the group. And Kirdar had his own to tell.

“My partner of 17 years works here, too,” he said.

Kirdar and Matthew Simpson worked in Los Angeles, but Kirdar was slated to be transferred to Dallas. The difficulty of that is easy to imagine, but Simpson soon found himself here in Dallas as well, and for the reunited couple, Dallas is far more exciting and hopeful.

At the highest levels
There is that need for quality diversity within most, if not all, high profile corporations. NBCU’s newly-appointed executive vice president and chief diversity officer, Craig Robinson, reports to NBCU CEO Steve Burke, assuring that the network’s intentions of maintaining a high level of diversification reaches to the top of the corporation.

And Robinson, named EVP in August, has an impressive resume with the company, not only as the GM of KNBC in Los Angeles, but also in his active status in  such groups as Asian Pacific-Americans, Black Professionals Alliance and the Out@NBCU groups.

“Craig has been actively involved in many of our diversity programs and his understanding of our company, its people and its culture will be invaluable as we continue our work to establish NBCUniversal as a leader in this area,” Burke said in an August 2011 edition of NBCU Employee Spotlights.

Lauren Wheat, left, Matthew Simpson and partner Murad Kirdar, center, and Patric Alva, right.

 

 

What they do
So what does the group actually do?

Out@NBCUniversal does have its fun social events, fostering fellowship among members. But the group also strives to make an impact on both the community and their coworkers. Whether it’s rainbows or diapers, the Dallas chapter keeps building up its efforts.

As one of its first organized efforts, the group collected 3,500 diapers in a drive for Captain Hope’s Kids, a local nonprofit meeting the needs of homeless children in Dallas.

Other community projects included volunteering at holiday dinners provided by the Resource Center of Dallas and assisting in chaperoning the Gay Prom this past spring — among other efforts.

“This year we were involved with the Trevor Project. The effort to eradicate bullying of all types in schools is making waves one step at a time. Sometimes it is unfortunately a part of home life,” member Lauren Wheat said.

“For NBCUniversal to be a part of the movement that gets the message out that ‘It Gets Better,’ is such an emotional and empowering moment,” Wheat said.

“This year we also increased our membership base with outreach events hosted at our two offices.  Getting to meet and see more people interested in the organization is very exciting,” Alva said.

This is what Alva envisioned.

“First of all, the people that work here are fabulous. Second, this is not just going to clubs and dancing ’til 2 a.m. The group can give back and serve the LGBT community,” Alva said. “That’s been a big positive and educational experience and a big driving factor for me.

“It’s not ‘Kumbaya.’ Plus, our company allows us to meet during work hours. Being that we’re all very limited with personal time, it’s a win-win,” he said.

But perhaps its significant high mark was the group’s celebration of National Pride this past June. NBCU recognized the event across the board and on June 2, MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts led a global initiative by teleconference where media outlets everywhere could participate and hear all the different stories of different LGBTs and allies from the different NBC families.

The local group held its own inter-office celebration and with the teleconference, the chapter’s membership doubled.

Queer Utopia?
It’s as if a queer utopia exists, the way these members describe both the company and the group. There isn’t any hint of anyone just saying “the right thing” or maintaining certain demeanor about their workplace.

These men and women — straight and gay — have that one thing all queer Americans want: recognition, only here it’s at work.

“For my partner to work here and be able to give me a hug and it’s not a big deal — I love that,” Kirdar said. “It feels here like we’re all within this one family.”

Alva added, “I just want people to know, first, that we exist and we’re putting our name out there to work with other organizations. And for me, that involvement starts here.”

Without pause, Krause said she knows what Out@NBCUniversal means not just for her, but for the company.

“I don’t think it’s about sexuality,” she said. “There’s no façade. We’re a bunch of people who want to be cohesive and interested. To work for an employer that allows people to be themselves and impact perhaps some of the best years of their lives, it’s wonderful. And my employer promotes that!”

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NBC employees come together for “It Gets Better”

The Out@NBCUniversal group at NBC all created their own “It Gets Better” video, which was released in April this year. The video is a collective of employees from all over.

Being a television network, the production is stellar and the stories are both uplifting and tear inducing. Without any sense of pandering, the employees strike an optimistic chord that will likely ring true with troubled youth as well as with anyone in search of themselves. The clip also features MSNBC reporter Thomas Roberts.

The video references The Trevor Project for anyone considering suicide or simply in need of help.

One woman sums up her message nicely by saying, “’Cause you can’t have a rainbow without a little bit of rain, so just hold on.”

Watch the video online at DallasVoice.com.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

On his toes

IMG_0467From ‘Black Swan’ to ‘Billy Elliot,’ Fort Worth’s Kurt Froman lives to dance

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

When you step into a room with Kurt Froman, you’re so struck just by this gay man’s boyishly handsome face, it crosses your mind the only thing better than chatting with him is if there were two of him. And, to an extent, there are.

Froman, a Fort Worth native, is an accomplished dancer and choreographer. And so is his twin brother. They even pursued the same dream: Leaving Cowtown as teenagers to attend the School of American Ballet in New York.

DANCE 10 LOOKS… 10 | Fort Worth native Kurt Froman, above at the Winspear, has the daunting task of keeping the ever-pubescing cast of Billys, left, in tip-top dance form. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

 

But for this Froman at least, the similarities end there. Even though they used to dance together, Froman has never felt competition with his twin  —“I always think we are so obviously different,” he says — though he admits having a doppelganger who was equally proficient at the same endeavor put him through “a delayed adolescence. We did everything together.”

At least until 2002. That’s when Kurt “left school to do Movin’ Out on Broadway.”

The dance musical, directed and choreographed by Twyla Tharp, was a huge hit and helped Froman establish his break out. Since then, he’s done more Broadway (Pal Joey), TV (Saturday Night Live — he played a Versace boy) and, most notably, the film Black Swan, in which he played the male dancer’s understudy and served, behind the scenes, as associate choreographer. His principal responsibility: Teaching Oscar winner Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis how to move like ballerinas.

“I am a huge fan of Darren Aronofsky,” he says of Black Swan’s director. “To get to work alongside him and [Portman and Kunis] was an amazing undertaking.” (He even had input into the script, developing a dancer who is losing their grip.)

But Billy Elliot, which opens next week at the Winspear as part of the Lexus Broadway Series, represents something new for him: His first national tour.

“When I heard it was coming to Broadway, I sent [them] a reel,” Froman says. “I said, ‘This is a show I definitely want to be a part of.’”

Based on the 2000 film, it tells the story of a working-class British boy who, at the height of unease during the Thatcher regime, makes the unpopular decision to study ballet — something that does not sit well with the men in his community, and gets him labeled a sissy. Elton John co-wrote the songs, including “Expressing Yourself,” an anthem to individuality. The show won 10 Tony Awards in 2009, including the first-ever threefer, with all the boys who alternated playing Billy sharing the best actor trophy.

As resident choreographer, Froman’s job is a daunting one. Most people who travel with shows as a director or choreographer merely keep the vision accurate and help replace the occasional actor whose contract ends. (Froman also understudies the Older Billy role.) But this Billy has five Billys. It’s not just that the role is physically demanding; it’s that all of the boys are at incipient puberty and grow out of the role quickly. Still, teaching the kids is sometimes easier than the adults.

“There’s no ego there,” he says. “They have everything to learn and nothing to unlearn. They need me to make them look the best they can.”

Even if the kids are easier to work with, Froman is still tickled to be touring with Broadway diva Faith Prince in a featured role.

The one-two punch of Billy and Swan this year, though, has been eye-opening for Froman. He sees the depth to both, from “the neverending mindfuck of being a great dancer always subject to being replaced by someone younger [in Swan]” to the passion that drives Billy, Froman can personally relate to what’s being portrayed. Now that he’s in his 30s, many dancers younger than he are coming up the ranks. So, his work with Billy aside, he’s looking forward.

There’s still a lot more he’d like to do: “I’m excited for the next phase of my life, what’s next on the horizon,” he says. “I’d like to have kids.”

And maybe, like Billy, they’d be as interested in dance as Dad.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Remember when Victoria Jackson was funny?

USED TO BE FUNNY | Victoria Jackson speaks during a tea party rally in Buffalo, last year (David Duprey/Associated Press)

Well she isn’t anymore, and she definitely isn’t as ‘Christian’ as she claims to be, either

HARDY HABERMAN | Flagging Left

I am older than I think — at least that is what I found out when I made the comment that I remembered Victoria Jackson when she was funny. My companions at lunch looked at me blankly and said, “Who?”

Years ago Jackson was the comedienne who “killed” on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show when she did handstands and recited poetry. She was the personification of the blond airhead doing what might have passed as “talent” in a beauty pageant.

She was very funny then, and it launched her career, which included a gig on Saturday Night Live for several years.

Lately, Ms. Jackson has gained notoriety by her rants denouncing the romantic kiss between actors Chris Colfer and Darren Criss on Glee.

Her diatribe against homosexuality, delivered in her trademark squeaky voice, sounds almost like a joke — until you find out that she claims to be a devout Christian.

So, I have no problem with her saying whatever she wants about fictional characters on Glee, or for that matter expressing her views on what is right and what is wrong in general.

My problem is her declaration that she is a devout Christian.

As someone who calls himself a Christian, I figure I have a little skin in this game, and frankly, I am sick and tired of the hijacking of one of the world’s great religions by a bunch of loud-mouthed bigots.

The Fred Phelps and Victoria Jacksons of this world have given my religion a really bad name. Heck, I even have a straight friend who has stopped calling himself Christian and now prefers “follower of Jesus,” since that makes clear the distinction between him and the hate-filled voices that dominate the media.

Victoria Jackson is just the latest person that somehow figures that the collection of books and stories that we have come to call the Bible were handed down from on high, written in 17th century English prose.

They claim to take every word as the literal word of God, and as such, the scripture for them is a handy rulebook to gaining a seat in heaven.
Jackson herself says, “Basically, the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin.”

Though the word “homosexuality” was unknown until the 19th century, Jackson like so many of her ilk indeed re-interpret the “literal word of God.” They selectively twist it to their own ends.

While wearing her acrylic and cotton blend fabrics, and most likely eating pork and shellfish, she forgets other verses that would declare her an abomination, no interpretation needed.

Now, I am not a theologian — far from it — but I do understand a few basic truths about trying to condemn people you don’t like using Bible verses. It’s dangerous and, quite frankly, about as close to blasphemy as I can imagine.

To try to take the feeble words of people who tried to wrestle onto paper something so great they could not even speak its name, and to then say that those few words were the end-all-and-be-all of the divine? Well, that belittles both the scriptures and God.

It is equally silly to just dismiss humankind’s struggle to find the meaning of existence as merely superstition and myth. Just because a story isn’t literally true doesn’t mean there isn’t an abundance of truth beneath the words.

Who can’t see the lessons behind the fables of Aesop or the poetry of Homer? That same truth exists in the parables of Jesus and the stories of the Patriarchs.

For that matter it exists in the recitations of the Prophet Mohammed, in the tales of the Gita.

So, let me just make myself clear. I am a Christian; I am gay; I am politically liberal and sexually more than a bit kinky.

Why am I telling you this? Because I don’t want people like Victoria Jackson to be defining what it means to be a Christian.

Let this be my personal witness, and you can take it or leave it. But I really prefer you consider it. Think about what you believe; don’t just mouth the words.

Rabbi Hillel, one of Judaism’s great teachers, who lived around 30 BCE, was asked to give his full understanding of the Torah while standing on one foot. He is quoted as saying, “Do not unto your neighbor what you would not have him do unto you; this is the whole Law; the rest is commentary.”

Sounds like something another Rabbi named Jesus said, doesn’t it?

In one recent interview Victoria Jackson stated, “This culture is affecting our children and making them run away from Jesus Christ.”

I say no, Ms. Jackson. Our culture is not the reason. It is the intolerance and bigotry of people like you claiming to be Christian that is making children run away from Jesus.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 1, 2011.

—  John Wright

‘Victoria Jackson’ hates ‘The Little Mermaid’

Surely by now you have heard about former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson’s rant about the gay kiss on Glee last week. If you missed it, here’s the folks from Showbiz Tonight interviewing her about comments she made on her blog calling the kiss “sickening.”

Now, let’s lighten the mood a little bit and check out this video, posted on YouTube by someone who apparently does not agree with Ms. Jackson, called “Victoria Jackson Speaks Out Against The Little Mermaid.” Watch it after the jump.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: GLAAD slams SNL commercial; UT study on gay cheating; civil unions in Illinois

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. GLAAD is outraged over a Saturday Night Live spoof commercial for “Estro-Maxxx,” which the organization says mocked the lives of transgender people. If the commercial were the least bit funny, we’d accuse GLAAD of not having a sense of humor. GLAAD is demanding that the commercial be pulled from Hulu and all future airings of the show. At the same time, the controversy ensures that thousands of smart people who don’t watch SNL because it’s not funny will see the commercial, which is above.

2. Half of men would forgive their female partner for cheating with another woman, while only 21 percent of women would forgive their male partner for cheating with another man, according to a study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. This could mean  straight guys are more forgiving and tolerant of homosexuality than straight women, or it could mean they’re just pigs who see a lesbian affair as an opportunity for a three-way.

3. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will sign a civil unions bill today, in a ceremony that’s expected to draw a capacity crowd of about 900 gays. Meanwhile, a Wyoming House committee voted down a civil unions bill on Friday.

—  John Wright

AIDS Interfaith facing fundraising shortfall

Steven Pace

In October, members of the staff here at Dallas Voice spent one Saturday night participating in AIDS Interfaith Network’s Saturday Night Live program, providing an evening meal to some of the agency’s clients who might have otherwise not had a hot meal over the weekend. It was an excellent opportunity for us to see firsthand some of AIN’s outstanding programs, not to mention, to personally meet some of the wonderful people AIN serves.

So today when I opened an e-mail from Steven Pace, AIN’s executive director, and saw that the agency is in need of funds — quick — I knew I wanted to pass the information along here on Instant Tea in hopes of helping the agency meet their goal.

AIN has less than a week — until Monday, Nov. 15 — to hit the $10,000 goal, and when Pace sent the e-mail yesterday, the agency was still $3,000 short.

You might be able to donate only a small amount, and you think that your little gift wouldn’t really matter. But Pace points out, “Thanks to a generous grant from The Moody Foundation, your gift of $50, $100, or even $250 will be matched dollar-for-dollar.”

So every little bit counts, and it can count double.

Pace adds: “Everyday at AIN we see the impact that generous donors like yourself make in the lives of those we serve. From a hot meal or a ride to a doctor’s appointment for a client living with HIV/AIDS, to valuable prevention education for those at risk, your support matters.”

Go here to contribute.

—  admin

Leslie Jordan aims for ‘DWTS’ fame (or infamy)

Just who does that good ol’ gay Southern boy Leslie Jordan think he is? Apparently, he thinks he’s Betty White. Hence the push from the Emmy Award-winning Will & Grace star, Sordid Lives cover boy and frequent Dallas visitor (we last profiled him here) to be one of the contestants on the next season of ABC’s reality competition series Dancing with the Stars. Jordan first began his campaign about two years ago, but with the rise of Facebook — which led to the surprisingly successful bid to get Betty White as host of Saturday Night Live (making her the oldest host in the 35-year history of the show) — Jordan is trying for viral enthusiasm. So far, Jordan’s Facebook page has a respectable 2,400 “likers,” but you know we can do more. So, if you’re on Facebook, click here to become a fan and let all your friends know. Jordan might not be the first openly gay dancer, but he’ll no doubt he the most fun.

Arnold Wayne Jones

—  Dallasvoice