Good question

Lesbian writer Abby Dees wrote her book more for straight friends of gays than for gays themselves

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Author Abby Dees. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Abby Dees wrote Queer Questions Straight Talk from her own experiences while learning about how others perceived gay people. The book, with “108 frank & provocative questions it’s OK to ask your lesbian, gay or bisexual loved one,” was imagined as a gift from gays to their straight parents, family or friends, to put them at ease about what being gay means — and to see that others have had the same questions. But Dees has also heard of gay people using the book to ask each other questions as a party game. But she can see it used as a part of a sensitivity training session, as well.

While she discusses the topics briefly, the book is a collection of questions, not answers. And she starts out with the basics: “Do you think you were always gay or lesbian or bi?” Comedian Carol Leifer submitted that one; others were collected by e-mail and through Facebook.

Dees found was that virtually all of the questions were things she’d heard before — everything from “Does this mean I’m not going to be a grandmother?” to “Are there any real lesbians like the ones on The L Word?

She mostly avoids sexually graphic questions and steers the conversation to “What’s your perfect date like?” (A response of “Dinner, good conversation and a movie, what’s yours?”) is more likely to help someone understand similarities than vast differences.

“What’s the most challenging thing about having a relationship with someone of the same sex?” she asks. Her own answer is that she would find it more challenging to have a relationship with a member of the opposite sex because of vastly different interests of men and women.

Dees says that her relationship with her mother has always been good and her mom edited the book. But reading the questions prompted them to have more discussions.

“She’s very proud of this book,” Dees says. “She went from ‘happy with you honey’ to a PFLAG mom who outs me every opportunity she gets.”

Dees describes her evolving relationship with her mother as more than a 20-year process. The questions in this 100-page book are meant to start a series of conversations, and were not meant to be raced through in one quick session.

The toughest section of the book to write, she says, deals with religion. She wrote it first and then went back to it last to lighten the tone. She admits that for the person whose only reference is that if you’re gay, you’re going to hell, this book might not help. But for others, “Do you feel you can be [gay] and go to heaven” might be a good starting point for a conversation.

She stressed that there are no right or wrong answers. And you don’t need to be an expert to answer these questions. “‘I don’t know.’ is a really good answer,” she says.

— David P. Taffet

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Stuff That Makes a Gay Heart Weep: A Definitive Guide to the Loud & Proud Dislikes of Millions by Freeman Hall (2010, Adams Media)
$14; 216 pp.

How many fashion faux pas does someone have to endure before everyone understands that plumber’s butt and muffin tops are not acceptable? Don’t those people look in mirrors before they leave the house? Do you need to rent a plane and sky-write “Wear pants that fit?” It’s enough to make you scream or want to break down in public — but you hate that.

But that’s not the only thing that you hate. There are dozens more, as you’ll see in Stuff That Makes a Gay Heart Weep.

So somebody gives you a bottle of cheap booze or wine. Or you got tacky home décor for Christmas. These kinds of things make you want to simply crawl into a fetal position until it all goes away … and they’re all throughout this book.

Justin Bieber: Now he really makes you want to bawl your eyes out. So does Richard Simmons and a certain Mama Grizzly with lipstick. The Kardashians — sniff. Guidos and Guidettes — pah! And that Angelina Jolie and Hugh Jackman are not gay? Waterworks.

If this book doesn’t make you weep from laughter, there’s something wrong. It’s absolutely hilarious.

With his signature snarky sense of humor and his feel for the absurd, author Freeman Hall pokes fun at kitschy, faddish, everyday things, places and people that practically beg to be ridiculed. There are more than 200 entries so hilariously, awfully tragic that you don’t have to be gay to want to break down in tears, even if you’re a guilty party (though it doesn’t hurt). And once you’re done reading, you almost have to come up with your own “Stuff List.”
Wrap yourself in your Snuggie because you need a good laugh out loud. Stuff That Makes a Gay Heart Weep is an absolute scream.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

San Antonio activist Roberto Flores dies at 75

Roberto Flores, left, and his husband Dan Graney were together for 36 years.

Roberto J. Flores, a longtime San Antonio activist who was the first openly gay chair of the Bexar County Democratic Party, died Thursday, Sept. 2 at 75. Flores was co-chair of Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, and his widower, Dan Graney, is president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus. QSanAntonio reports:

Flores was a Democratic Party precinct chair in Bexar County from 1999 to December of 2009, when he was elected the first openly gay County Chair of the Bexar County Democratic Party on an interim basis and served in that capacity until May of this year. He has been a delegate to every Texas Democratic Convention since 2000. He also has many years experience as an election judge.

Flores was a member of the Board of Directors of Equality Texas, a singing member of the Alamo City Men’s Chorale and member of the Alamo Business Council and the Rainbow Garden Club. For the past three years, he has been a faculty member of the GLBT sensitivity training for cadets in the San Antonio Police Academy. On October 15, 2009, Flores and Graney celebrated their 35th anniversary by getting married in a civil ceremony in Vermont.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

—  John Wright