RCD receives Elton John grant

Money targeted at reaching Latino community is believed to be the first grant from the foundation to a Dallas organization

Ruben-Ramirez

STEPPING UP PREVENTION EFFORTS | Community Health Programs Manager Ruben Ramirez will target the Latino community for HIV prevention funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has given Resource Center Dallas a $38,000 grant to be used in targeting HIV prevention efforts within the gay Latino community.
Community Health Programs Manager Ruben Ramirez said this week that the money will allow RCD to expand its outreach and testing program to a population that has seen a dramatic rise in infections.

“The grant will be used to expand the activities we do now and give it more visibility, and then to provide a social support group on a monthly basis,” Ramirez said.

When the organization had city funding, the center provided more testing and social support to the Latino community than is currently available, Ramirez said. The increased programming begins next month.

The Elton John AIDS Foundation generally funds innovative programs that are already successful in reducing the spread of HIV. So rather than create something new, Ramirez said the center will use the money to enhance the outreach that’s already working.

In other target groups, RCD has followed up testing with support groups and social networking that has reinforced the safer-sex and prevention message.

Ramirez said that within the Latino community, he has heard quite a bit of misinformation.

“We’re still seeing the old myths from way back when about how people get HIV,” Ramirez said, adding that he had recently spoken to someone who thought he could get HIV from sipping from the same glass as someone who was positive.

“I was astounded,” he said.

Ramirez said that although information is readily available, language and immigration barriers stand in the way of some people learning about HIV.

“And some folks just bypass the sea of information of HIV information that is out there,” he added.

In addition, those with information don’t necessarily access testing. Ramirez said RCD will collaborate with area bars to provide testing as well as with other groups.

“We’ve worked very well with AIDS Interfaith Network in the past, and the gay LULAC group,” he said.

Ramirez said plans for implementing the grant, which appears to be the first the Elton John AIDS Foundation has made to a Dallas organization and is the largest the foundation has given to an agency in Texas, are still under way.

In 2010, EJAF gave OutYouth Austin $25,000 for its HIV prevention program that included testing that targets those ages 14 to 20.
Metropolitan Community Church of Abilene received $25,000 in 2008 for its drug intervention program for people who are HIV-positive.

EJAF was established in 1992 by the singer and is based in London. John’s husband, David Furnish, is chairman of the foundation.

EJAF supports programs that aim to reduce the incidence of HIV as well as end the discrimination and stigma associated with the disease. Other grants fund direct care for people living with HIV.

Ramirez said that RCD was particularly honored to receive this grant because it was competing with other organizations around the world to get the funds.
The EJAF has raised more than $225 million and funded projects in 55 countries since its founding.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Boy wonder

HITTING THE GUSHER Local entrepreneur Colin Stuckenschneider goes old-school with his web-based dating site. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Not all young folks get their social media in app form, and Colin Stuckenschneider keeps gay chatting web-based with his site BoyGush

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Colin Stuckenschneider is the kind of guy we all get jealous of. Young and smart, like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Stuckenschneider recalls shades of the billionaire entrepreneur that most people will never be. At 22, he’s already sold two online gaming websites, but his latest venture is something else altogether.

“I was very young when I did them,” Stuckenschneider says, “and BoyGush is much more personal because it is a gay website and thus more related to me. I feel like I have more passion to manage this one.”

On March 5, BoyGush.com went live offering a different take on the current crop of smartphone apps — or rather, a nostalgic one. Where only people with high-tech gadgets could access the likes of Grindr and Scruff, Stuckenschneider saw a niche for people who like to surf from a laptop. Since those apps didn’t have an online equivalent, he created his own.

Where Scruff is geared toward bears and admirers worldwide and Grindr is across the spectrum but local, BoyGush targets (duh) a younger crowd. But while phone apps are the apparent wave of the future, Stuckenschneider is hoping to recall the days of chatting a la AOL or Gay.com, but knowing whether that guy is either 236 feet away or three miles.

“I’m really trying to keep away from the social network label,” he says. “You can just log on to chat with boys. It’s already growing a lot bigger though and it seems I’ll have to build up the social networking aspect to keep people’s interest.”

Like the phone apps, the name BoyGush seems to say everything it needs to and he assures that it was by complete accident.

“I wanted one that would grab attention and so I searched for hours on different names,” he says. “I came across word ‘gush’ and it wasn’t taken so I went with it. Nothing obvious came to mind then, but it sounds like a porn site. I guess that’s outta my control.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Words of advice, Stuckenschneider: Sex sells.

Nothing is set in stone for Stuckenschneider right now anyway. He went live but he’s already been making adjustments to the site per the feedback from his friends and site members. What he saw as the winning feature — the chat — was off in the beginning. That drove people away, but after some major revamping, he’s fixed the issue and is in the process of adding new features.

“I’ve been correcting the site since it first opened. I have a long to-do list I’m looking at,” he says.

So far, in addition to taking suggestions from his 400-plus members, he’s been working on a picture rating system, notifications and comments, comprehensible user searches, an easier way to organize profiles and ultimately creating an app version.

This is old hat for the tech expert. At 12, Stuckenschneider found himself fascinated by video games. He wasn’t as interested in a high score so much as how the game was constructed. He read up on programming and began creating his own games.  A virtual dog-sitting game was his first and at 15, he sold it for a grand, but not without making some impressive scratch thanks to a $20 upgrade people bought in to.  He partnered with a friend for the second game based in a fantasy realm.  Soon after, the partner bought him out of it for $2,000. Stuckenschneider was 16.

“I guess that’s a good amount of money for that age,” he laughs.

After graduating from high school, Stuckenschneider had just two goals: “I’ve always had a passion to have my own site and manage that,” he says. “My other goal is that I want to work for Google.”

One down, one to go.

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

—  John Wright

On the heels of Brandon Hilton comes another Dallas glam popster — Chris Sapphire

Chris Sapphire

After posting Brandon Hilton’s newest video last month, I got an e-mail from “Emmy™ Nominated Film, Television and Music Producer J. Michael Brown,” informing me about another local pop singer. According to Brown’s e-mail, Chris Sapphire is a Dallas-based artist and radio/TV personality who just released a new video.

But first, I have to say that Sapphire is also part of the MZLive Internet radio team. Seems a lot like Rational Radio with an apparently higher profile. I checked out the site after reading Sapphire’s bio and checked out the latest webisode. I was kinda stunned when the show opened with Sapphire happily drinking Four Loco. Bad timing for days.

Anyway, Sapphire’s debut video, “Shake Your Ass,” has its catchy moments. Nothing complex, but I could get into the groove a bit. And I dig his Tina Turner momma.

Perhaps Dallas is becoming the home of gay glam pop. Like Hilton, Sapphire does the lip gloss gender-bending glam thing. What’s also similar is their approach to music stardom. Using aggressive social networking and web presence, the two are pushing that into a music career. Now we just have to wait and see where that takes them and subsequently, whether it makes Dallas the glam pop capital of the world.

Hey, we can dream. Watch the video now.

—  Rich Lopez

Look closer • Defining Homes

Buyers and owners alike can always find hidden discounts

By M. M. Adjarian

These days, there’s no denying that anyone who owns, sells or buys property is concerned with the bottom line. With liquidity in short supply and loans more difficult to secure, homeowners and homebuyers are looking for ways to get the most and best for their money. Besides, who doesn’t like a good deal?

With his experience as a Dallas Realtor, Rogers Healy of Rogers Healy and Associates Residential Real Estate, knows what to look for regarding money-saving opportunities for people standing on either side of the property-owning fence.

If a property owner is specifically renovating to sell, taking care of electrical, plumbing, roofing, foundation and window issues should be at the top of any to-do list.

“It’s the stuff that a homebuyer’s going to ask for when they get the house under contract,” says Healy.

Healy advises to do research on how much projects will cost and then to get bids from contractors.

“In the economy that we’re in, people are definitely willing to work for less,” he says.

Just don’t limit searches for bids to the newspapers and telephone book. Consider a modern approach. Healy suggests that social networking is a reliable way to go with the search. Plus, feedback is easily found.

“I think you can catch some great deals on Facebook fan pages and on Twitter as well,” Healy says. “That and also skimming the paper. Places like Home Depot and Lowe’s will compete against each other for your business, meaning they will want you to come to their store for the better deal.”

Realty offices are a surprising resource. After buying your home,  the affair, with your agent doesn’t stop there. Agents and firms can also provide homeowners the names of vendors specializing in renovation materials and services.

Healy’s own firm has a service provider list “of at least three people for everything from aquarium installation to air duct cleaning” that it shares with clients and non-clients alike. The one word of caution Healy has for home renovators is that a project could run double the expected price tag.

“Prepare for it to cost more money than you think,” he says.

Financial flexibility is crucial for those selling their home. Properties stay on the market longer due to the economic situation and seasonal fluctuations. These conditions are creating possibilities for property discounts that come from homeowners willing to sell for a lesser price.

One option would allow the seller to finance a home purchase. Another, which is becoming increasingly popular, is leasing to own the property.

“People who maybe have been burned or don’t have great credit or don’t have a huge amount of liquidity can get on a contract and then have an extended option period which is the lease,” Healy explains. “At the end of the lease, they have the option to apply a percentage of the money they’ve paid as rent as a down payment and purchase the property.”

Neither method of financing provides buyers with discounts, but  offer possibilities for home ownership to more people.

Affordable options and breaks are also offered to veterans, individuals who have owned property for two or more years and first-time buyers.
Or you could just be in the right job at the right time.

“A couple of banks I know of are doing creative financing if the buyer is a CPA, a dentist, an accountant or an attorney,” Healy adds.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Pursuit of appiness

As iPhones become ubiquitous and indispensible, we ask: Has Steve Jobs become the Internet’s gay pimp?

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

iPhone
Hook ‘em Horney | Gay networking programs for the iPhone — including Grindr, PPX To-Go, Fabulis, DList, iDate Gay and Looking4LGBT —have made the hook-up almost too easy. What about buying me a drink first?

When I was first asked to write a story on gay applications for the Apple iPhone, I had no idea I’d turn into such a slut. Who knew what a disproportionate number of gay dating and social networking apps are available, compared to other LGBT program categories (or the same for straight people).

Still, although I’m happily married, I signed up for every gay dating/networking/hook-up site I could find. (Even the apps recommended to me when I contacted Apple fell into this category, so it’s obviously popular.)

With Steve Jobs as my virtual pimp, I’ve experienced plenty of highs, lows, rejected advances and a too-frequent-for-comfort request to wait naked in my pool while somebody sneaks in the back gate to “surprise” me.

Sorry, fellas, my dedication to journalistic research has its limits.

What follows is a catalogue of gay hook-up apps with the advantages and disadvantages discovered during my time as a cyber-whore and ranked on a scale of one to five “hooks.” (Because I’m being paid for this story, I think I’ve been downgraded from mere slut.) But the upside, I met a lot of nice people (guys and girls, when I was pretending to be a lesbian) and these apps do make connecting with people fun, easy … and shockingly time-consuming.

If you’re looking to connect with someone for just coffee or the chance at a delicious morning-after breakfast, download these apps. Best of all, they’re all free. And to MusclMusclMuscl214, if you’re reading this, my answer is “yes.”

Grindr

Grindr is the Kleenex of gay social networking apps — the one everyone knows about and nearly every gay with an iPhone uses, whether he admits it or not. The app loads 100 profiles (200 if you pay a $3 monthly fee) based on a guy’s relative distance to you.

Advantages: Tons of guys to choose from wherever you may roam (it’s the largest all-male location-based network in the world), easy-to-use interface.

Disadvantages: Few options to narrow search. Loading a few guys at a time can be a pain.

Rating: 4 out of 5 hooks

PURPLL

Though more people familiar with Grindr, Purpll was the first gay dating app for the iPhone. Includes local business listings, as well as a gay newsfeed similar to Facebook where you can spy on who became friends with whom … though why anyone would care is unclear. It may be the first, but far from the best.

Advantages: Ability to narrow down photos that are shown; lesbian profiles.

Disadvantages: A “Hot or Not” feature subjects people to being rated as good-looking or not resulting in an overall hotness rating. Beyond useless unless you only want to date guys or gals who are at least 86 percent hot.

Rating: 2 out of 5 hooks

QRUSHR/QRUSHR GIRLS

Everything I love about Grindr is amped up with Qrushr, plus they’ve got a version just for lesbians.

Advantages: Streaming radio (listen to dance music while you prowl!), magazine articles, multiple images per profile, very detailed profile information, fantastic search function.

Disadvantages: Group chat rooms are just plain annoying.

Rating: 5 out of 5 hooks

PPX TO-GO

Wow. If you’re looking for anything related to sex, this is your app. From hookups to paid entertainers, adult shops, peepshows and legal brothers, they’ve left no mattress unturned and no stripper pole unoccupied.

Advantages: Something for everyone. I’m surprised there isn’t a donkey-show-specific search function.

Disadvantages: You have to click on icons from a map, rather than an easier-to-use list or grid of available matches. Also, not too many people signed up yet, especially in Dallas. But give it time, this one could be huge.

Rating: 3 out of 5 hooks

DLIST

The popular DList.com website for gay men and their friends goes mobile.

Advantages: Integrates with the website so all your chatting doesn’t have to be done solely on your phone.

Disadvantages: No search functions at all — it just loads all profiles closest to you.

Rating: 3 out of 5 hooks

LOOKING4LGBT

If there’s such a thing as a homemade app, this one sure looks like it. Ugly interface, terrible logo and, from my tests, only four people in Dallas are on the app. The search options are by age, zodiac sign (what is this, 1972?) and body type.

Advantages: This is the only app I found that actually gave the option to identify as or search for M2F and F2M transsexuals, so it’s refreshingly progressive in that respect. Also appears to be more long-term-relationship oriented because one of the main questions asks whether or not you want children.

Disadvantages: Plenty. It’s rudimentary, clunky and there are very few active users.

Rating: 1 out of 5 hooks

SKOUT/BOY AHOY

These “sister” apps are both free, but to enjoy all the extra services (like sending “gifts” or “wink bombing” multiple people at once to maximize your chances of a response) you’ve gotta have points. And points cost money.

Advantages: Great search function. Narcissists and those truly desperate can be what I call “Featured Meat” (they call it “Look at Me”). Here you bid on prime position to get all the flirts you can handle. Private photos that you unlock for specific people. You know, so you can have naughty pics.

Disadvantages: Unexpected fees everywhere. This is an anything-goes dating app. Gay, straight, bi — they’re all here (unless you download the men-only Boy Ahoy, which features all the same functionality). Not sure that anyone would want their straight co-workers to easily view the sexual proclivities and innermost desires you’ve chosen to list on your profile. And Virtual Gifts are just plain stupid. What ever happened to buying someone a real drink, not an animated one?

Rating: 2 out of 5 hooks

iDATE GAY

The extremely user-friendly interface for both gays and lesbians makes this one a surprise hit. Fantastic search functions and plenty of information available — if only people fill out their profiles extensively.

Advantages: Multiple photos per profile, robust search options, quick-loading of hundreds of profiles.

Disadvantages: Crashes often. More of those stupid gifts that require a point purchase.

Rating: 4 out of 5 hooks

FABULIS

This isn’t a hook-up site in the traditional sense, but that does go on here, too. It’s worth inclusion, though, just because it’s so much fun. It ties in with your Facebook account (required) and allows you to interact with all your Facebook friends who are on Fabulis. You earn points by doing stuff (not paying) and you can use points to increase the worldwide Fabulis ranking of your friends.

Advantages: Area events are listed and friends can see which ones you plan to attend. The popularity contest aspect here is actually fun. How Fabulis are you compared to the rest of the world? Evidently, I’m the 3,012th most Fabulis gay in the village. Let’s get those votes in!

Disadvantages: Not specifically designed for hooking up, so advances could be quickly rejected. (But believe me, even here people are looking for action).
Rating: 5 out of 5 hooks

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas