National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: Know Your Status

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) delivered sobering news about the incidence of HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM).  In a study of 21 major cities, they found that one in five men who have sex with men is infected with HIV, and nearly half (44%) of those men are unaware of their infection.

This information is particular relevant today, National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  These numbers are a harsh reminder that the silence must be broken.  It is critical for gay men to know their own HIV status – and the status of their partners. For young gay men, such questions are increasingly important. CDC’s latest statistics revealed that for HIV positive men under the age of 30, almost 63% were unaware of their status.

Earlier this year, the administration released the first ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  One of its key themes was that the “United States cannot reduce the number of HIV infections nationally without better addressing HIV among gay and bisexual men.”  It is the same theme that our community has voiced for over three decades, and it has finally gained traction. The strategy and federal implementation plan set specific goals to increase HIV diagnosis rates among MSM over the next five years.

We are thrilled to hear that last week the Department of Health and Human Services announced that million in additional resources would be allocated to funding this strategy.

One of the most powerful prevention tools – one we can all use today – is knowing your status.  The CDC recommends that MSM of all ages get tested for HIV at least annually, or more often (every three to six months) if they are at increased risk (e.g., those with multiple or anonymous sex partners, or who use drugs during sex). Achieving those goals begins with each of us. Take the test, know your status, share it with your partner.

Locate a testing site near you or text your zip code to KNOWIT (566948)

For additional information, Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) at the University of California San Francisco has compiled informational resources for HIV-related risks and staying safe. These fact-sheets are available in both English and Spanish.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  John Wright

CANADA: Website Fights Tax Exempt Status Of Exodus International

The website Slap Upside The Head says that the “ex-gay” group Exodus International, which recently lost its tax exempt status in New Zealand, does not deserve that status in Canada either.

All registered charities operating in Canada must provide what the Canada Revenue Agency calls a “public benefit.” This is a long legal definition that I can’t claim to fully understand, but, of particular note, a charitity’s activities must be “regarded as valuable by the common understanding of enlightened opinion,” and such value “must be weighed against any harm that may arise from the proposed activity and a net benefit must result.” Since homosexuality is not a recognised disorder by any respected medical organisation, it’s questionable as to what benefit could come out of trying to treat it as one. Moreoever, the consensus in the medical community is that all attempts to treat homosexuality as a disorder may cause serious psychological harm. With no clear benefit, and demonstrable harm from Exodus’ actions, I think there’s a strong case to argue that Exodus’ activities do not meet Canada’s criteria for charitable status.

If you are a Canadian citizen, please consider visiting the site’s action page, which includes email addresses and phone numbers for the compliance department of Canada’s Revenue Agency. This movement is in its early stages and the site’s authors are seeking legal and medical experts willing to testify that the “ex-gay” movement is doing real demonstrable harm to the citizens of Canada.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Status Report: 2010 Emmy Awards

EMMY CHRIS COLFER JANE LYNCH X390What to know what’s happening with stars like Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch at the 2010 Emmy Awards? Click here for updates.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Partner denied sick leave by AT&T

Bryan Dickenson, left, and Bill Sugg hold hands in Sugg’s room at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson on Wednesday, Jan. 27. (Source:John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Despite 100% rating from HRC, company won’t allow gay man time off to care for ailing spouse

JOHN WRIGHT  |  News Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Bryan Dickenson and Bill Sugg have been together for 30 years.

For the last 12 of those years, Dickenson has worked as a communications technician for Dallas-based AT&T.

After Sugg suffered a debilitating stroke in September, Dickinson requested time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act to care for his partner.

But AT&T is refusing to grant Dickenson the 12 weeks of leave that would be afforded to a heterosexual spouse under the act.

As a result, Dickenson is using vacation time so he can spend one afternoon a week at Sugg’s bedside at a rehabilitation facility in Richardson. But Dickenson fears that when his vacation runs out, he’ll end up being fired for requesting additional time off to care for Sugg. Dickenson’s attorney, Rob Wiley of Dallas, said he initially thought AT&T’s refusal to grant his client leave under FMLA was just a mistake on the part of the company. Wiley said he expected AT&T to quickly rectify the situation after he sent the company a friendly letter.

After all, AT&T maintains the highest score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks companies according to their treatment of LGBT employees. And just this week, HRC listed AT&T as one of its “Best Places to Work.”

But AT&T has stood its ground, confirming in a statement to Dallas Voice this week that the company isn’t granting Dickenson leave under FMLA because neither federal nor state law recognizes Sugg as his domestic partner.

“I really couldn’t be more disappointed with AT&T’s response,” Wiley said. “When you scratch the surface, they clearly don’t value diversity. I just think it’s an outright lie for AT&T to claim they’re a good place for gays and lesbians to work.”

Wiley added that he’s disappointed in HRC for giving AT&T its highest score. Eric Bloem, deputy director of HRC’s workplace project, said Thursday, Jan. 28 that he was looking into the matter. Bloem said a survey for the Corporate Equality Index asks companies whether they grant FMLA leave to same-sex couples, and AT&T replied affirmatively.

“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, so I don’t really want to make an official comment on it,” Bloem said.

Walt Sharp, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company has “a long history of inclusiveness in the workplace.”

“There are circumstances under which our administration of our benefits plans must conform with state law, and this is one of those circumstances,” Sharp said in a written statement. “In this case, neither federal nor state law recognizes Mr. Dickenson’s domestic partner with legal status as a qualifying family member for a federal benefit program. There is no basis for this lawsuit or the allegations contained in it and we will seek its dismissal.”

Sharp didn’t respond to a request for further comment.

Wiley said Sharp’s statement doesn’t make sense. No law prohibits the company from granting Dickenson an unpaid leave of absence, which is what he’s requesting. Wiley also noted that no lawsuit has been filed, because there isn’t grounds for one.

The federal FMLA applies only to heterosexual married couples, Wiley said. Some states have enacted their own versions of the FMLA, requiring companies to grant leave to gay and lesbian couples, but Texas isn’t one of them.

Wiley said the couple’s only hope is to somehow convince the company to do the right thing, which is why he contacted the media.

“At some point in time this just becomes really hateful that they wouldn’t have any compassion,” Wiley said of the company. “I think the recourse is to tell their story and let people know how AT&T really treats their employees.”

Through thick and thin

This isn’t the first time Dickenson and Sugg have endured a medical crisis.

Sugg, who’s 69 and suffers from congenital heart problems, nearly died from cardiac arrest shortly after the couple met in 1980.

At the time, Dickenson was a full-time student and didn’t have car. So he rode his bicycle from Garland to Parkland Hospital in Dallas every day to visit Sugg in the intensive care unit.

In an interview this week at the rehab facility, Sugg’s eyes welled up with tears as he recalled what a Parkland nurse said at the time – “If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what the hell love is.”

“And sure enough, it was,” Sugg said over the whirr of his oxygen machine, turning to Dickenson. “As long as I have you, I can get through anything.”

Dickenson said in addition to visiting Sugg each Wednesday afternoon, he wakes up at 7:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings so he can spend the day with Sugg at the rehab facility.

This past Christmas, Dickenson spent the night on the floor of Sugg’s room.
“That would have been our first Christmas separated, and I just couldn’t bear that, him being alone on Christmas,” Dickenson said.

The worst part of the whole ordeal was when he had to return to work after taking 13 days off following Sugg’s stroke, Dickenson said. Sugg didn’t understand and thought his partner had abandoned him for good.

“He called me over and over every night, begging me to please come see him,” Dickenson said. “And I said, ’Honey, you don’t understand, I had to go back to work to save my job.’

“That’s what really hurts about what they’ve put me through, not my pain and anguish, but his,” Dickenson said.

Dickenson said it was 3 a.m. on Sept. 22 when he rushed Sugg to the hospital. Doctors initially said it was “the worst sinus infection they’d ever seen,” but within 48 hours Sugg had suffered a stroke affecting his cerebellum.

Sugg lost the ability to swallow and his sense of balance. He’s still unable to walk and suffers from double vision.

Because he wasn’t out as gay at work, Dickenson initially told supervisors that his father was sick.

When he returned to work after 13 days at the hospital, Dickenson explained that his domestic partner was ill and he needed more time off. His supervisor managed to get him an additional 30 days of unpaid leave.

In the meantime, Dickenson phoned the company’s human resources department and asked whether he’d be eligible for leave under FMLA, which allows 12 weeks (or about 90 days) per year. Dickenson said he was told that since he lives in Texas, he wouldn’t be eligible.

Dickenson filled out the FMLA forms anyway and sent them to the company, but he never got any response.

When Dickenson returned to work, he asked to be reclassified as part-time employee, so he could spend more time with Sugg. His supervisor refused and told him his best bet was FMLA leave, even though he’d already been denied.

That’s when Dickenson contacted Wiley.

Sugg is scheduled return to the couple’s Garland home from rehab in about a week, but he’s still on a feeding tube and will require nursing care. With any luck, he’ll someday be able to walk again.

Sugg bragged that he was able to drink his first cup of coffee last week, and he’s looking forward to getting back to his hobby of raising African violets.

Dickenson said he knows of at least seven medical appointments he’ll have to arrange for Sugg once he returns home. He said his vacation time likely will run out by April, and he fears that if he loses his job, the medical expenses will eventually cause him to go broke.

But Dickenson, who’s 51, said he’s committed to taking care of Sugg, even if it means living on the street someday.

“When it runs out, I’ll be fired, and it really hurts to be in a situation like that, because I’ve worked very hard for AT&T,” Dickenson said. “We suffer now, but maybe other people in our shoes in the future, if they work for AT&T, they won’t suffer like we do.”

—  John Wright

Readers Voice Awards – Travel


RIGHT AT HOME: Owner Wayne Falcone polished a gem of Oak Lawn history by rescuing and reinventing the Daisy Polk House. – DANIEL A. KUSNER/Dallas Voice

BEST BED AND BREAKFAST


Daisy Polk Inn
2917 Reagan St., Dallas.
214-522-4692
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
Daisy Suite and Reagan Suite: $150 a night.
Dickason Suite: $129 a night.
DaisyPolkInn.com

The Daisy Polk Inn is every bit the grand dame that its namesake was. Built in 1904 and fully restored by 2002, the home was first owned by, who else, Daisy Polk — an “up and coming” star (according to the Dallas Press) of the Dallas opera scene who also taught at Hockaday School for Girls and passed away in 1980.

She lived at the Reagan Street address for 60 years. The gorgeous arts and crafts home now belongs to local pharmacist Wayne Falcone, who purchased the property in 1996. He lovingly restored it to its natural and historically correct beauty with the help of Dallas antiques expert and interior designer Gerald Tomlin.

Once the home was granted historical status and licensure to become a bed and breakfast, Falcone decided to open its doors to the public.

Guests can rent any one of the three rooms or the whole place if they prefer. Unlike typical B&Bs. Falcone turns over the keys to his guests, and they have the place to themselves until morning, when breakfast is served. And breakfast at the Daisy Polk Inn is no simple affair. From the china to the home-baked goodies, it is a lavish meal that guests won’t soon forget.

— Jenny Block

 



BEST ROMANTIC GETAWAY
New Orleans, La.
Convention and Visitor’s Bureau:
NewOrleansCVB.com
Visitor’s bureau LGBT focus:
NewOrleansOnline GLBT

 

A little more than two years ago, most of America seemed to have written off New Orleans — it was destined to become a modern-day Atlantis, swallowed up by the sea and passed away into legend.

But the residents of the Crescent City would have none of that. They persevered, rehabilitating the city as quickly as possible and welcoming back tourists — especially gay tourists — with enthusiasm. (It helps that the French Quarter, the center of gay life, is above sea-level and was largely spared when the levees broke.)

Certainly bachelor revelers into great partying and easy hookups don’t have to find a reason to frequent the Big Easy other than Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence, but the city’s old antebellum charm makes it a romantic getaway for couples, too.

For exploring together, there’s the fabulous architecture, much of it spared from the hurricane: elaborate wrought iron, ethereal churches, sprawling plantations on the outskirts (including one, Houmas House, where “Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte” was filmed).

Then there’s the food, an essential component whenever lovers get together. Creole and Cajun cuisine, from rich cream sauces to spices that can shoot steam from your ears, dominate, but the French influences extend all the way to the café au lait and beignets. And is there anything more romantic than a boat ride along the Mighty Mississip?

So yes, New Orleans is a great party town for solos, but we love to go there as pairs. After all, even couples know how to party.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

 


BEST AIRLINE
American Airlines
Corporate headquarters: 4333 Amon Carter Blvd., Fort Worth, Texas.
817-963-1234, 800-321-2121
Mon.-Sat. 24 hrs.
aa.com or American Airlines Rainbow

 


BEST NATIONAL ONLINE TRAVEL SITE
Travelocity
Corporate headquarters: 3150 Sabre Drive, Southlake, Texas.
888-872-8356
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
Travelocity.com

BEST LOCAL ONLINE TRAVEL SITE
Best Gay Cruises
P.O. Box 59994, Dallas.
972-241-2000
Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
BestGayCruises.com


BEST BUDGET HOTEL CHAIN
La Quinta
Corporate headquarters: 909 Hidden Ridge, Suite 600, Irving, Texas.
800-642-4271
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
LQ.com


BEST LUXURY HOTEL CHAIN
Hilton Hotels
Eight hotels in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
800-774-1500
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
Hilton.com


BEST DALLAS HOTEL
W Dallas-Victory
2440 Victory Park Lane, Dallas.
888-625-5144
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
WHotels.com/Dallas


BEST AIRPORT SHUTTLE SERVICE
SuperShuttle
SuperShuttle local office: 3010 N. Airfield Drive, Suite 100, DFW Airport, Texas.
With service to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas Love Field and Fort Worth Meacham International Airport.
800-258-3826
Sun.-Sat. 24 hrs.
SuperShuttle.com

BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY
Rainbow Ranch
1662 Limestone County Road 800, Groesbeck, Texas.
888-875-7596
Sun.-Thu. 8 a.m.-8 p.m.,
Fri.-Sat. 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
RainbowRanch.net

BEST LOCAL TOURIST DESTINATION
Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
411 Elm St., Suite 120.
214-747-6660
Tue.-Sun. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.,
Mon. noon-6 p.m.
JFK.org

BEST LOCAL TOURIST TRAP
West End Historical District
214-741-7180
DallasWestEnd.org

BEST VACATION SPOT TO GET LAID
Palm Springs, Calif.
Palm Springs tourism bureau:
Palm-Springs.org


BEST EXOTIC DESTINATION
Hawaii
Official tourism site: GoHawaii.com

‘GET ME OUT OF HERE!’ DESTINATION
Jamaica
Visitor Web site: ComeToJamaica.com

These articles appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 21, 2008

—  admin