Olympian effort

Fair_Play_460x470_courtesy_Akashic_BooksAs we begin the Rio Games, we consider the progress of gays in sports

Conventional wisdom says that the locker room is the last closet. The sports world is seen as unwelcoming, anti-gay, left behind in a pathetic time warp while the rest of America hurtles forward, embracing LGBT issues, rights and people.

Conventional wisdom, says Cyd Zeigler, is wrong.

That’s the driving force behind his new book, Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports. A cofounder of Outsports — since 1999, the go-to website for news, photos and resources about gay athletics — Ziegler has written more coming-out stories than any American journalist.

For nearly two decades, Zeigler has chronicled the journeys of NBA and NFL players; college and high school athletes, and coaches, umpires, sportswriters. After hundreds of interviews and follow-ups, he’s convinced that the real story is just how accepting teammates, fans and even opponents are when a gay sports figure comes out.

In fact, Zeigler says, he cannot recall one instance in which negative reactions outweighed the positive ones.

Want proof? In the two years he spent writing Fair Play, Zeigler kept adding new stories and experiences. As soon as one edit was done, another famous athlete came out, another team or league took a big step forward, or another ally stood up for LGBT rights. Finally, Zeigler said, “Stop! Let’s print it!”

The book’s 12 chapters cover a wide swath of gay sports issues. Headings include “Young Athletes Are Why There Will Never Be a ‘Gay Jackie Robinson,’” “Straight Guys Look Too” and “Fallon Fox Is the Bravest Athlete in History.”

The first chapter is “John Amaechi and Tim Hardaway’s ‘Tipping Point’ Moment.” It’s about the NBA player’s coming-out experiences — specifically, what happened afterward. Former All-Star Tim Hardaway told a Miami radio audience that he “hated” gay people. Furthermore, he said, they should not be part of the locker room.

Reaction was swift — and anti-Hardaway. Zeigler calls it “the day the homophobes lost the culture war in sports.”

The American culture war continues, of course. It plays out in politics, most recently in North Carolina where legislators hastily passed a “bathroom bill” to address a non-existent problem with trans people.

michaelsam1In sports, Zeigler calls Michael Sam’s experience “chilling.” After coming out in college — and earning awards for his play — the University of Missouri football star was unable to catch on with any NFL team.

In a chapter titled “The Big Lie of the Big Five,” Zeigler tackles the prevailing belief of executives of the major sports leagues that any professional athlete who came out would create an unwelcome, unacceptable “distraction.”

“I’ve been to the Super Bowl,” Zeigler writes. “It’s a distracting mess. The media is ever-present. The host city is overrun with fans, celebrities, major corporations, and parties, from dawn to dusk. If a team’s front office cannot handle the attention a gay athlete might bring, it is woefully ill-equipped to win a world championship.”

Zeigler makes clear that sports owners and executives are out of step with the times. He counters every Michael Sam-non-signing story with many more counterintuitive ones. (Counterintuitive, that is, unless you’ve been paying attention — as he has — to what’s really going on in the sports world.)

michaelirvin

ZIegler’s Out magazine interview with former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin is considered a watershed in paving the way for LGBT understanding in mainstream team sports.

Zeigler’s favorite story might be retired Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin’s. The NFL Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl champion came out as the brother of a transgender person or drag queen (he’s not sure). He supported same-sex marriage, and said he’d have no problem with a gay teammate.

Then — as part of Zeigler’s interview for a cover story with Out magazine — he enthusiastically posed shirtless.

Like the Amaechi and Hardaway moment, Zeigler calls the Irvin story a “game-changer.” So was a follow-up interview with the NFL Network, when Irvin connected his support for LGBT issues with his own experiences as an African American. “Equality for all means equality for all,” he said simply.

Zeigler admits that at times he himself has fallen into the trap of putting most athletes in boxes where they don’t belong. Writing Fair Play has helped him realize that much of the sports world is further along than many people realize.

He hopes it will reach a wide audience. Review copies were sent to mainstream media. They’ve been interested in it — further evidence that sportswriters also understand the importance of, and advances sweeping through, the LGBT sports world.

Meanwhile, the coming-out stories keep coming. Zeigler proudly recounts the story of a young athlete who read Fair Play the moment it appeared on Kindle. He showed it to his parents, to help them understand his experiences.

“I wish more people could see what I see,” Zeigler says. “There is nothing more powerful — for an athlete or teammates — than coming out.”

And no one has seen or described more great coming out stories than Cyd Zeigler.

—Dan Woog

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2016.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Go! Athletes acquire new mentorship

GoGrowing up in suburban Chicago, Chris Mosier had no FTM athletic role models. There were none at Northern Michigan University either, where, among many other activities, Mosier edited the school paper, performed as the Wildcat Willie mascot, led a service organization and played intramural sports.

But very quietly, Mosier has become the first openly trans man on a U.S. men’s national team (triathlon). His event — the run-cycle-run sprint duathlon — takes an enormous amount of time and energy.

His full-time job is assistant director of housing at a New York City-area university. But Mosier still manages to serve as executive director of GO! Athletes, a national LGBT student-athlete network. It’s an unpaid post, but he devotes many hours a week to it.

Now he’s taken on another task. GO! Athletes is rolling out a new and novel mentorship program. And Mosier is in charge.

The initiative was two years in the making. The rising number of openly gay athletes has had a snowball effect. More and more competitors (and coaches) are also considering coming out.

When an athlete comes out — particularly a big name — he or she is inundated with emails, texts and letters. There are plenty of congratulations … and lots of requests for advice.

“There’s a lot of informal mentorship going on,” Mosier notes. “We want to provide more structure and guidance to the process. And we want to make sure people can provide mentorship in manageable ways.”

The aim is to connect LGBT athletes (and coaches) with others — ideally, in their own sport or geographic area, and similar sexual, gender, racial and ethnic identity  — who can help them deal with issues of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The need is profound. According to a January 2014 report by MENTOR, 89 percent of at-risk LGBT youth have never had a formal mentor — and 37 percent have never had any mentor at all. The figures are undoubtedly higher for LGBT athletes, because traditionally boys and girls in sports have had fewer role models than those in other activities. Thus, they are less likely to reach out for help — and less likely to have others reach out to them.

A 2012 report by Campus Pride found that one in four LGBT student-athletes in college are “pressured to be silent about their sexual identity among teammates, coaches and other athletes.” They are three times as likely to experience harassment, compared to non-athlete peers. The report also found that they are unlikely to believe their administration or athletic department would support them.

Last year, GO! Athletes secured a grant to develop a pilot mentorship program, in the Delaware Valley. This year, the LGBT Sports Coalition gave its own funds, to build on those first steps.

GO! Athletes examined a variety of mentorship program, in and outside the gay community. They hired a consultant who had done mentorship work at the University of Pennsylvania.

They had to answer plenty of questions: Who would be mentored? How would mentors be trained? How would mentors and mentees be matched, and communicate? How would confidentiality be assured? Legal issues? How would the program be assessed?

It was a time-consuming process, particularly for an all-volunteer group. Finally, though, the mentorship program is a reality. GO! Athletes is publicizing it through social media, and with outreach to athletic directors and athletic conferences, and through LGBT centers on college campuses.

Mentors are in the process of being trained. They’re learning how to ask open-ended questions. How to assess the situation at a school or campus that may be very different from their own. And how not to force any one particular outcome.

“The intention is not to get everyone to be out,” Mosier notes. “It’s just to talk through any situation a [protege] may be facing, with someone who understands what they’re going through. And to provide options.”

There is no age limit, though most proteges are in high school or college. Mentors and proteges attending the annual LGBT Sports Coalition summit in Portland, Oregon each June will have the opportunity to meet face to face – if they haven’t already – at a GO! Athletes-sponsored reception.

Mentor applications have poured in from around the country. If there’s one common thread among the men and women hoping to become mentors, Mosier says, it’s this: “I wish I’d had a mentor. That would have been a game-changer for me.”

Chris Mosier knows that feeling well from his own life. Which is why, today, he’s mentoring GO! Athletes’ very remarkable arena of mentors.

To learn more about the mentorship program, and apply to be a mentor or protege, click on www.goathletes.org/mentorship.

This week, in our print edition, we list some notable 2015 developments in the culture, including sports. Look for it online and in racks Friday.

— Dan Woog

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Out coach Chris Burns blazes a new path

ChrisBurnsGrowing up in Merrimack, N.H., Chris Burns’ life revolved around basketball. He’d played it since age 6, and loved the team camaraderie, individuality, creativity and freedom of the sport. But then he was cut from his middle school team.

Just 4-feet-11-inches in ninth grade, he scrapped his way onto the freshman squad. Then he grew “like a foot” over the summer. “Everything came together for me,” he recalls.

He made the Providence College team, then transferred to and played at nearby Bryant University. After graduation Burns played for Albany of the Continental Basketball Association, then semi-pro around the Northeast.

When his playing days were over, he wanted to stay in the game. In 2009 he joined the Rhode Island College staff as an assistant coach. Today he’s in his fourth year as an assistant at Bryant, his alma mater.

So far, a fairly typical story. But Burns is a bit different from any other Division I men’s basketball coach: He is the only one who is openly gay.

His first realization that he might be gay came as a sophomore or junior in high school. Like many athletes, he had a tough time reconciling his feelings with his self-image.

“I had never been physical with a guy. I dated a cheerleader. But when I was by myself, I knew who I was attracted to,” Burns recalls.

“I thought I needed to keep up my image with females. But that was never what I wanted.”

At the end of high school, Burns met Anthony Nicodemo, a high school basketball coach in New York. Though living nearly 200 miles apart, they found ways to spend time together. Their relationship was strong and deep — and closeted. For several years, no one knew their secret.

The two men did not use the “g”-word, even with themselves. “We talked about being the best man at each other’s wedding,” Burns says.

Had he not been playing basketball, he notes, his coming-out process might have been quicker and easier. In the locker room, he was surrounded by fear. “I didn’t want anyone to know,” he says. “I was going through my own slow personal journey. I wasn’t ready to tackle emotions. It was more comfortable for me to suppress my feelings.”

Eventually, Burns began venturing out. He and Nicodemo went to gay bars in New York. They made gay friends. Both became more comfortable in their own skins.

“I was living the way I wanted,” Burns says. At 30 years old, “it felt ridiculous that I had been afraid to go out, that I constantly looked over my shoulder and monitored my social media.”

His first steps out of the closet were risky. At first, he simply stopped worrying about what he said. Then he realized he had to do more. He told family members and non-basketball friends.

Two years later he told Bryant’s associate athletic director he was gay. It was a spontaneous coming-out gesture, and his reaction was “great.”

Burns told others, and then his head coach. His reaction was “who cares?” But he did warn Burns about “not risking my profession.”

So — even though the comment had been made from a position of caring – Burns’ coming-out process stalled. For a year and a half, he stayed in a self-imposed basketball closet.

“I agonized,” Burns says. “I wanted to get on with my life, but I didn’t know what that meant. If I came out, would I hurt the other coaches, my players, or me?”

Two months ago, Burns decided to take the leap. He told the other Bryant coaches, then the Bulldogs’ three captains.

Those players were the hardest. “I was all emotional,” he says with a slight laugh. “After talking to my parents, friends and staff, I was scared of these 20-year-olds.”

He told them he might have to quit. “No! We need you here!” they said.

And that was that. Burns told the rest of the team shortly thereafter. There were hugs and heartfelt comments. No one said a negative word. He’s treated the same as before. In fact, Burns says, some bonds are even stronger.

He hangs out in the same locker room he knew as a player. It’s a comfortable place for everyone.

One thing has changed: Burns takes time every day to plow through the “ridiculous amount” of emails, texts, even letters he’s received. They’ve come from conference rivals, other basketball players and coaches, plus young kids and 70-year-olds he’s never met.

All say how proud they are of him.

“Everyone has this idea that sports people are close-minded,” Burns says. “That idea is as outdated as the one that homosexuality should be demonized. Sports people have evolved as much as everyone.

“People are just people. It’s overwhelming to see.”

— Dan Woog

The Dallas Lonestar Basketball Association is the local gay basketball team.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Rugby: Why the world’s roughest sport is also the most gay-friendly

Ruggers

If you’re looking for a stereotypical macho sport, you don’t have to search further than rugby. A full-contact sport — without much protection — it’s got everything: brutal tackling. Dirt and mud. Plenty of parties.

But here’s the interesting thing: Those post-game festivities include both teams. Players sing bawdy songs — but with plenty of mutual admiration. Winners and losers gather together, showing respect on both sides.

That respect for opponents — for everyone in the rugby world, really — is one reason that the sport is so gay-friendly. Referee Nigel Owens came out in 2007, nearly a decade ago. Player Gareth Thomas came out in 2009; he was soon voted the most influential gay person in the U.K. There are other gay professional ruggers too.

The first gay rugby team — London’s Kings Cross Steelers — was founded 25 years ago. Today, there are more than two dozen gay rugby clubs. Some are in places you’d expect. Others might surprise you.

The Nashville Grizzlies were formed in 2006. In the decade since, spokesman Thomas Hormby says they’ve been treated well by every straight team they’ve met — even those from rural Tennessee and Alabama. “We talk a lot about brotherhood on the pitch,” he says. “We’ve always been embraced by our brothers, no matter what their views are off it.”

So it should not come as a surprise that USA Rugby — the sport’s national governing body — has taken a lead in the fight against homophobia. Last month the organization signed a “memorandum of understanding” with International Gay Rugby, formalizing a partnership to promote a diverse, inclusive environment at all levels of the game.

The announcement follows a similar agreement in March. At that time, IGR said it would collaborate with World Rugby on “the promotion of equality and inclusivity” around the globe.

The agreement with USA Rugby specifically ensures that American players are provided with the tools and education necessary to combat discrimination, whether based on sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation or identification.

“USA Rugby recognizes the right of any player, official, coach and spectator to be involved in rugby without bullying, discrimination or exclusion of any kind, and celebrates the differences that make its members unique,” the official statement said.

International Gay Rugby is one of the most active LGBT sports associations on the planet. Its 56 members clubs in 15 countries receive developmental support and resources. IGR clubs play each other (and straight clubs), and host regional, continental and global tournaments and events celebrating diversity and inclusion in the rugby community.

The flagship event is the Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament. Named after the gay rugby player who was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001 — and who helped lead the resistance against the hijackers that crashed the plane in Pennsylvania, before it could be flown into the Capitol or White House — the next competition is set for May 22–29, 2016. There will be 1,500 players, on 45 teams. The tourney will be played in Nashville — the first time ever in the Mid-South, and the first time since 2010 it has been held in the U.S. The Grizzlies are hosts.

The upcoming tournament marks nearly 15 years since Mark Bingham’s heroism. At the time, the idea of a gay rugby player was novel. But as the world realized what transpired on board the plane that horrific morning, one athlete’s sexuality seemed far less important than the sense of purpose — and teamwork — of all the passengers who stormed the cockpit.

That camaraderie seems to be an important aspect of what makes rugby such an appealing sport to all who play it — gay and straight.

But just because the Grizzlies’ experience has been so positive — and even though both USA Rugby and World Rugby are committed to inclusion and diversity — work remains to be done.

There are still pitches where anti-gay slurs are used. Some ruggers still resent gay athletes. That’s why the official statements from governing bodies — and the educational efforts that follow — are so important.

The anti-discrimination policies are also intended to encourage straight players to step up as LGBT allies. They won’t be the first. The coming-out announcements of gay players so far have been met with strong support from teammates, as well as opponents.

Of course, Hormby notes, plenty of gay rugby athletes have not yet come out. “We want to make our environment safe for everyone,” he says. “We want this to be the most inclusive sport in the world.”

So don’t be surprised when you hear stories about rugby — one of the most macho sports in the world — embracing its gay side. Who knows? There may soon be a post-game drinking song about it too.

—Dan Woog

Editor’s note: North Texas fields two gay rugby teams. They are the Dallas Diablos and the Lost Souls.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Ex-UT coach wonders if she was forced out because she’s a lesbian

On Tuesday I speculated that Bev Kearney, who resigned last weekend as women’s track coach at the University of Texas over an affair with a student-athlete 10 years ago, may have been treated unfairly by the school because of her sexual orientation. In other words, while the relationship was clearly inappropriate — a fact which Kearney herself acknowledges — would she have been forced to step down if she were a Hall of Fame male coach who’d won six national championships and whose affair with a female athlete was brought to light a decade later?

Coincidentally, just as I was posting my item, Kearney was appearing on CNN’s Starting Point, where she would essentially go public with the same question.

“Is it because I have a disability? Is it because I’m black? Is it because I’m female? Is it because I’m successful? Is it now because of my sexual preference?” Kearney asked CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. “I had to finally come to embrace not knowing why, and I had to embrace it because the more you try to figure out why, the harder it is to forgive.”

—  John Wright

Eye candy of the day: Ben Cohen

Just in time for our summer sports edition, a little treat for fans of gay-friendly rugby star Ben Cohen, from the photoshoot for his new calendar. I’ve met Cohen; he really is as dreamy as he appears. Sigh. And check out our stories about a local gay Olympic torchbearer, a new gay basketball league & more.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Inaugural season starts Saturday for Dallas Gay B-Ball Association at Reverchon

Last month, I posted how there’s a new game in town as the Dallas Gay Basketball Association was forming and signing up members. Organizer Steven Coleman called me up yesterday to tell me that Saturday will be the first game day of their inaugural season. For the next seven weeks, the DGBA takes over every Saturday afternoon at Reverchon. And with an impressive number of members to boot.

“We’ve had 42 people sign up,” Coleman says. “So right now, we have six teams of seven.”

They have capped membership for now to avoid being overwhelmed, but that’s a healthy way to start the first season.

Coleman says that an additional two weeks will play after the season for playoffs. The hope is to start a summer league, but right now, the focus is on getting the word out about tomorrow.

The DGBA plays from 2–5 p.m. at the Reverchon Rec.

 

—  Rich Lopez

DVD review: “KickOff” (2011)

Kickoff (2011), starring Jay Brown, David Chrysanthou, Jason Maza, Rebecca Joerin; directed and written by Rikki Beadle Blair. Now available.

If the Bad News Bears were gayer, more British and about football (nay, American soccer), you’d have KickOff. This light-hearted sports romp mixes and matches stereotypes with some actual touching moments and plenty of slow-mo shots of shirtless boys in shorty shorts in the story of a fuchsia-clad gay football team, Platoon, accidentally paired against the big, bad heterosexual team, the Reapers. Best line: “There’s no such thing as a meterosexual, they’re just a homosexual who I ain’t met yet.”

Worth a rent? Yes

Rating: ***1/2

— Jef Tingley

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Five queer alternatives to the Super Bowl

Yes, Yes… I know… plenty of gay men enjoy football, are fans even, and there are lots of LBT fans as well, but if you’re like me you greet all the hoopla over the Super Bowl with a resounding “meh.”

So if you’re looking for a way to avoid a (morning) afternoon (and evening (seriously, how long are football games supposed to be?)) of indecipherable sports jargon, over-hyped commercials and disproportionate passion for the accomplishment of moving dead pig parts 300 feet here are some alternatives with a decidedly queer bent you might enjoy (don’t worry, you can Tivo Madonna’s half time show):

1. ¡Women Art Revolution at The Museum of Fine Arts

Starting from its roots in 1960s in antiwar and civil rights protests, the film ¡Women Art Revolution details major developments in women’s art through the 1970s. The Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston presents this documentary at 5 pm on Sunday at the The Museum of Fine Arts’ Brown Auditorium Theater (1001 Bissonnet). Artist Lynn Randolph and U of H art history professor Jenni Sorkin will be on hand to provide insight into the film

!W.A.R. features Miranda July, The Guerilla Girls, Yvonne Rainer, Judy Chicago, Yoko Ono, Cindy Sherman, and countless other groundbreaking figures. Tickets are $7 and are available at mfah.org.

2. The Rape of Lucrecia at Houston Grand Opera

Written by gay composer Benjamin Britten and scored by Ronald Duncan, The Rape of Lucrecia is set during the decline of the Roman Empire. When a group of soldiers unexpectedly returns home to Rome they find that their wives have all been unfaithful, with the excpection of Collatinus’ wife Lucretia. Later that night the king’s son, Prince Tarquinius, accepts a drunken dare to seduce Lucretia. After she rebuffs his advances Tarquinius forces himself on her spurring Collatinus to rebellion against the king.

The dialogue of the Opera (which is in English by the way) is punctuated by two choruses, one male and one female, who engage the audience in the emotional responses of the male and female characters respectively.

The Rape of Lucretia plays at the Houston Grand Opera (510 Preston) at 2 pm on Sunday. Tickets start at $38 and may be purchased at HoustonGrandOpera.org.

4. The Drunken City at the Rice University, Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts

“The city’s like a monster, like a sleeping dragon or some dark creature in the night that cracks open an eye, and whispers dark dangerous dark ideas into your ear.”

The Drunken City is populated by thoroughly unpleasant people, the kind of loud sequin-wearing party girls who can immediately turn a hip bar passe and the men who hunt them. Marnie, the alpha-female and soon-to-be bride, has taken her co-worker bridesmaids out on the town for a ladies night. Seriously inebriated, they soon run into Frank and Eddie. Frank quickly takes a shine to Marnie, despite her girlfriends objections. Eddie, on the other hand, isn’t interested in any of the girls but seems to know their shared boss quite well (if you catch my drift). The play is sprinkled through with warnings about human desire and the dangers of consumption.

The Drunken City is presented by the Rice University College of Visual and Dramatic Arts at Hamman Hall on the Rice Campus (6100 Main) at 3 pm. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door or by calling 713-348-PLAY .

Steve Bullitt as Hay and Mitchell Greco as Gernreich

4. The Temperamentals at Barnvelder Movement/Arts Complex

The off-Broadway hit The Temperamentals, by Jon Marans, explores the events surrounding the founding of the Mattachine Society, one of the first “gay rights” groups in America (although the Society for Human Rights has it beat by a quarter of a century). The story centers on Harry Hay (Steve Bullitt), a communist and Progressive Party activist and his lover Rudi Gerneich (Mitchell Greco), a Viennese refuge and costume designer. Set in the early 1950′s in Los Angeles, the play is an intimate portrayal of two men who created history and the epic struggle they overcame.

Sunday’s curtain for the Celebration Theater produced play is at 3 pm at the Barnvelder Movement/Arts Complex. Tickets are $30 and may be purchased at buy.ticketstothecity.com.

5. Closing Night of Bring It On: The Musical at Theater Under the Stars

Bring It On: The Musical finishes up its run at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts (800 Bagby Suite 300) on Sunday. Theater Under the Stars (TUTS) presents this musical re-imagining of the 2000 film with a matinee at 2 pm and an evening showing at 7 pm.

Two rival cheer-leading squads are out for the national championship, and neither is going to give up without a fight. The ensemble for the show features some of the nation’s most skilled competitive cheerleaders led by Taylor Louderman and Adrienne Warren as the leaders of the rival squads.

Tickets start at $24 and are available on-line at TUTS.com, by phone at (713) 558-TUTS (8887), or in person at the Theatre Under The Stars Box Office (800 Bagby).

—  admin

The good, the bad & the ‘A-List’

These arts, cultural & sports stories defined gay Dallas in 2011

FASHIONS AND FORWARD  |  The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DMA, above, was a highlight of the arts scene in 2011, while Dirk Nowitzki’s performance in the NBA playoffs gave the Mavs their first-ever — and much deserved — world title. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

FASHIONS AND FORWARD | The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the DMA, above, was a highlight of the arts scene in 2011, while Dirk Nowitzki’s performance in the NBA playoffs gave the Mavs their first-ever — and much deserved — world title. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

A lot of eyes were focused on Dallas nationally in 2011 — for good and bad — but much of what made the city a fun place last year has specific queer appeal. CULTURE The rise of the reality TV star. 2011 was the year Dallas made a big splash across everyone’s television sets — and it had nothing to do with who shot J.R. (although that’s pending). From the culinary to the conniving, queer Dallasites were big on the small screen. On the positive side were generally good portrayals of gay Texans. Leslie Ezelle almost made it all the way in The Next Design Star, while The Cake Guys’ Chad Fitzgerald is still in contention on TLC’s The Next Great Baker. Lewisville’s Ben Starr was a standout on MasterChef. On the web, Andy Stark, Debbie Forth and Brent Paxton made strides with Internet shows Bear It All, LezBeProud and The Dallas Life,respectively.

‘A’ to Z  |  ‘The A-LIst: Dallas,’ above, had its detractors, but some reality TV stars from Big D, like Chad Fitzgerald, Leslie Ezelle and Ben Starr, represented us well.

‘A’ to Z | ‘The A-LIst: Dallas,’ above, had its detractors, but some reality TV stars from Big D, like Chad Fitzgerald, Leslie Ezelle and Ben Starr, represented us well.

There were downsides, though. Drew Ginsburg served as the token gay on Bravo’s teeth-clenching Most Eligible: Dallas, and the women on Big Rich Texas seemed a bit clichéd. But none were more polarizing than the cast of Logo’s The A-List: Dallas. Whether people loved or hated it, the six 20somethings (five gays, one girl) reflected stereotypes that made people cringe. Gaultier makes Dallas his runway. The Dallas Museum of Art scored a coup, thanks to couture. The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk not only featured the work of the famed designer, but was presented the designs in an innovative manner. Nothing about it was stuffy. Seeing his iconic designs in person is almost a religious experience — especially when its Madonna’s cone bra. Gaultier reminded us that art is more than paintings on a wall. (A close runner-up: The Caravaggio exhibit in Fort Worth.) The Return of Razzle Dazzle. ­­There was speculation whether Razzle Dazzle could actually renew itself after a near-decade lull, but the five-day spectacular was a hallmark during National Pride Month in June, organized by the Cedar Springs Merchant Association. The event started slowly with the wine walk but ramped up to the main event street party headlined by rapper Cazwell. Folding in the MetroBall with Deborah Cox, the dazzle had returned with high-profile entertainment and more than 10,000 in attendance on the final night. A Gathering pulled it together. TITAS executive director Charles Santos took on the daunting task of producing A Gathering, a collective of area performance arts companies, commemorating 30 years of AIDS. Groups such as the Dallas Opera, Turtle Creek Chorale and Dallas Theater Center donated their time for this one-of-a-kind show with all proceeds benefiting Dallas’ leading AIDS services organizations. And it was worth it. A stirring night of song, dance and art culminated in an approximate 1,000 in attendance and $60,000 raised for local charities. Bravo, indeed. The Bronx closed after 35 years. Cedar Springs isn’t short on its institutions, but when it lost The Bronx, the gayborhood felt a real loss. For more than three decades, the restaurant was home to many Sunday brunches and date nights in the community. We were introduced to Stephan Pyles there, and ultimately, we just always figured on it being there as part of the fabric of the Strip. A sister company to the neighboring Warwick Melrose bought the property with rumors of expansion. But as yet, the restaurant stands steadfast in its place as a reminder of all those memories that happened within its walls and on its plates.  The Omni changed the Dallas skyline. In November, The Omni Dallas hotel opened the doors to its 23-story structure and waited to fill it’s 1,000 rooms to Dallas visitors and staycationers. Connected to the Dallas Convention Center, the ultra-modern hotel is expected to increase the city’s convention business which has the Dallas Visitors and Conventions Bureau salivating — as they should. The hotel brought modern flair to a booming Downtown and inside was no different. With quality eateries and a healthy collection of art, including some by gay artists Cathey Miller and Ted Kincaid, the Omni quickly became a go-to spot for those even from Dallas. SPORTS The Super Bowl came to town. Although seeing the Cowboys make Super Bowl XLV would have been nice for locals, the event itself caused a major stir, both good and bad. Ticketing issues caused a commotion with some disgruntled buyers and Jerry Jones got a bad rap for some disorganization surrounding the game. But the world’s eyes were on North Texas as not only the game was of a galactic measure, but the celebs were too. From Kardashians to Ke$ha to Kevin Costner, parties and concerts flooded the city and the streets. The gays even got in on the action. Despite crummy weather, the Super Street Party was billed as the “world’s first ever gay Super Bowl party.” The ice and snow had cleared out and the gays came out, (and went back in to the warmer clubs) to get their football on. The XLV Party at the Cotton Bowl included a misguided gay night with acts such as Village People, Lady Bunny and Cazwell that was ultimately canceled. The Mavericks won big. The Mavs are like the boyfriend you can’t let go of because you see how much potential there is despite his shortcomings. After making the playoffs with some just-misses, the team pulled through to win against championship rivals, Miami Heat, who beat them in 2006. In June, the team cooled the Heat in six games, taking home its first NBA Championship, with Dirk Nowitzki appropriately being named MVP. The Rangers gave us faith. Pro sports ruled big in these parts. The Mavericks got us in the mood for championships and the Texas Rangers almost pulled off a victory in the World Series. With a strong and consistent showing for the season, the Rangers went on to defend their AL West Division pennant. Hopes were high as they handily defeated the Detroit Tigers in game six, but lost the in the seventh game. Although it was a crushing loss, the Texas Rangers proved why we need to stand by our men.

— Rich Lopez

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens