LGBT history and the evolution of the media

For years, mainstream press ignored the LGBT community. Thankfully, LGBT media filled the gaps

David-Webb

David Webb The Rare Reporter

Editor’s note: October is National Gay History Month, and as the month begins, Rare Reporter columnist David Webb takes a look at the role the media — both mainstream and LGBT — has played in preserving our history.

If an LGBT person went into a coma a decade or so ago and came out of it today, they likely wouldn’t be able to believe their eyes when they recovered enough to survey the media landscape.

There was a time not so long ago when gay activists literally had to plead with or rant at editors and reporters at mainstream publications and television stations to get them to cover LGBT events. Even editorial staffs at alternative publications often dismissed political and cultural events in the LGBT community as unimportant to the majority of their audience.

Editors and reporters at traditional media outlets who happened to be members of the LGBT community often steared clear of gay issues to fall in line with the prevailing policies set by the publishers in the newsroom . Often, they were deep in the closet, or if not, just afraid to challenge the status quo.

I know all this to be true because as late as the early 1990s, I was engaged in legendary battles with my straight editor at an alternative publication who only wanted two or three “gay stories” per year. After the first quarter of one year I heard the editor telling another writer that I had already used up the newspaper’s quota for gay stories for the whole year.

This long-standing scarcity of coverage opened the door for the launch of gay newspapers to fill the void and the thirst for information that was coming not only from LGBT people but also straight allies, straight enemies and the non-committed in the gay rights movement.

After about two decades of working for the mainstream media and later at the alternative publication for a few years, I moved to a gay newspaper. Upon hearing about it, my former editor advised me that the job sounded “perfect” for me.

At the gay newspaper, I not only covered LGBT issues, but I also liked to scrutinize and comment on the coverage or lack thereof I observed in mainstream publications. It was, at the time, a dream job for me. I was flabbergasted to learn that no one at the newspaper had obtained a media pass from local law enforcement officials nor received official recognition at local law enforcement public relations departments.

What gay activists and enterprising journalists had come to realize was that straight people were just as interested in what our community was doing as we were. I also realized that elected and appointed public officials, civic and religious leaders, law enforcement officials and most others love media coverage, and the fact that it was a gay publication featuring them didn’t much matter at all.

As a result, gay publications across the country were providing coverage that gay and straight readers couldn’t find anywhere else. And those newspapers were flying out of the racks at the libraries, municipal buildings and on the street in front of the big city newspapers as fast as they disappeared from gay and lesbian nightclubs.

What it amounted to was that gay publications were enjoying a lucrative monopoly on LGBT news and, in the process, helping LGBT communities to grow strong in major urban areas.

It’s amazing how long it took the powers that be at the giant media companies to figure out what was going on, but they eventually did.

I would love to say that a social awakening was responsible for the new enlightened approach to LGBT issues by the mainstream media, but alas, I fear it was more motivated by dollars and cents. Publishers began to realize that those small gay publications were raking in lots of advertising revenue from car dealers, retail stores, real estate agencies and many other businesses where the owners knew LGBT people spent money.

Today, you can hardly turn on the television or pick up a newspaper or magazine without hearing or reading about something related to LGBT news or gay and lesbian celebrities and politicians. When I fired up my laptop today, I received an e-mail from the Huffington Post directing me to a story written by Arianna Huffington announcing new features that included the debut of “HuffPost: Gay Voices,” a page that will compile LGBT news stories together each day for the convenience of the readers.

With the power of the Internet and its capacity for documenting and archiving news stories, information about the LGBT community for both the present and the past will always be at our fingertips, except for those three decades between about 1970 and 2000 when the mainstream media couldn’t be bothered with us because they had no idea what a force we would one day become.

For information about that period of time we are going to have to scour the coverage of gay newspapers and magazines published before the days of the Internet, read fiction and non-fiction published by LGBT writers and encourage older members of our community to share their recollections in written and oral form.

It’s vitally important to the history of our culture that we not lose those stories, and it’s largely thanks to our communities’ own publications that we won’t.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

More on Out@NBCUniversal

In  last week’s cover story, I talked with members of the Dallas chapter of the affinity group Out@NBCUniversal, a collective of LGBT employees and straight allies. In it, they talk about how the network has been a sort of work-topia for queer employees and how diversity is encouraged without reservation.

Due to space constraints I couldn’t get more in from members Lauren Wheat and Matthew Simpson, but they had a lot to say about what the group means to them. Simpson, with NBC strategic marketing, and his partner Murad Kirdar, both work for the company. Simpson talked about his reasons for joining the group.

“I joined for a couple of reasons,” Simpson said. “First, I felt it was important for me, as an openly gay employee, to represent Dallas-Fort Worth within the larger footprint of Out@NBCUniversal. While there are thousands of members all across the country, from New York to Los Angeles, the DFW chapter was fairly young and had so much potential to make a difference. Getting involved was the best possible way to for me to help elevate the visibility of the Chapter and learn how other Chapters work to attract, recruit and retain great LGBT talent.

“Second, I’d have to say my partner of 17 years, Murad. While we didn’t meet at NBCUniversal, we now work just 50 feet from each other. As you know, Murad is co-chair of the DFW chapter and I was very excited to see him step up and embrace a leadership role. His excitement, passion and desire to lead on LGBT issues in the community is the reason so many LGBT and straight ally co-workers have joined the chapter.”

—  Rich Lopez

‘Milk’ screenwriter Dustin Lance Black hopes LGBT Texans respond to video challenge

Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black is trying to get the word out all over about his latest endeavor — especially to his one-time home state of Texas.

“I think this project is so important,” the Milk screenwriter told Dallas Voice this week. “People need to hear the stories of our LGBT brethren and straight allies from all areas. If you wanna change minds, you have to intro yourself and tell your story.”

Which is what he’s calling for people across America to do for the Courage Campaign’s Testimony initiative. And the former San Antonian hopes some Lone Star State peeps will get on board.

—  Rich Lopez

‘Ally Empowerment’ tour coming to Dallas

LGBT advocates have long said that the greatest weapon we have in our arsenal when it comes to the battle for LGBT equality is coming out, letting our friends, families and co-workers know that we are LGBT and thereby putting a familiar face on what for many people was a frightening unknown. We cannot win the battle by ourselves; we are in the minority and we need our non-LGBT allies on our side.

With that in mind, Out & Equal Dallas-Fort Worth is bringing the “Out & Equal National Tour on Ally Empowerment” to Dallas on Tuesday, June 21.

David Hall

The day-long session will be held in the South Campus Auditorium at Texas Instruments, 12500 TI Blvd.

According to a press release from Out & Equal DFW: “This multi-city tour features education of and for straight allies, helping to understand the experience, needs and roles that allies can play in our companies and our employee resource groups. This event is especially helpful for executive sponsors, human resource and diversity professionals and ERG members, both LGBT and non-LGBT alike.”

The day begins with Ally Empowerment Training, led by corporate diversity trainer and college instructor David Hall, from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. (fee for this portion is $30 per person), followed by a reception and afternoon program from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The reception and afternoon program are free and open to all.

To register online or to see a map of the location, go here.

For more information about Out&Equal and the Ally Empowerment tour, go here.

—  admin

District 14 Dallas City Council race splatters mud; incumbent Angela Hunt defends record

The race for the District 14 City Council seat pitting three-term incumbent Angela Hunt against openly gay political newcomer James Nowlin has gotten down and dirty.

One of Nowlin’s supporters recently ran a full-page ad attacking Hunt in Dallas Voice (shown above), blaming the incumbent for everything from potholes on Lemmon Avenue to a loss of city funding for HIV/AIDS services. The ad, paid for by Steven Graves, also claims Hunt has been either late or absent from 80 percent of City Council meetings and that she had requested a review of council salaries in hope of getting a raise.

Then in the comments section of a Viewpoints column endorsing Hunt, Nowlin supporters took aim at Hunt, her supporters, the writer (yours truly) and anyone else who happened to stumble into the fracas. The supporters claimed Hunt had not been a strong advocate for the community and challenged anyone reading their comments to prove otherwise.

In a telephone interview today, Hunt said that she did not want to engage in a mudslinging contest with Nowlin and his supporters, but she did maintain that she has been an outspoken advocate for the community and a dedicated public servant.

“I’m proud of my record,” said Hunt, who notes that she not only shows up at community events but participates fully. “I think it is important for straight allies to have a voice and speak out in support of the community. I’ve done that. I get up on stage and speak and let my voice be heard.”

—  admin

WATCH: Press conference in Austin with Asher Brown’s parents

Asher Brown’s parents, David and Amy Truong, are working to make sure other children in Texas are protected from bullying.

At the Capitol building in Austin on Monday, March 7, they joined Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman to speak about bullying and then met privately with several key senators and representatives. Garnet Coleman announced that he renamed his bill Asher’s Law with the Truongs’ permission.

Asher’s bill would mandate the development of “a comprehensive suicide prevention program for implementation in public junior, middle and high schools,” provide training for teachers, counselors, nurses administrators and other staff who regularly interact with students and mandate a report to the legislature on implementation of the program.

About 350 people from around the state including a large number of straight allies lobbied legislators throughout the day.

Sorry for some of the shaky photography. I was photographing with one hand and video recording with the other.

—  David Taffet

Activists gather from across Texas to lobby for anti-bullying legislation and more

David and Amy Truong (standing, center) lobbied with 350 LGBT activists and allies from across the state in Austin

About 350 people gathered to lobby for anti-bullying legislation among other bills that would benefit the LGBT community. Among those at lobby day were David and Amy Truong, parents of Asher Brown who committed suicide in September, and Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns.

The day was organized by Equality Texas along with 58 partner organizations from across the state. From Dallas Youth First Texas, Resource Center Dallas, Hope for Peace and Justice and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce were among the participating organizations.

Not all of the partners were specifically LGBT groups. Atticus Circle is a group founded in 2004 as a place for straight allies to organize for LGBT family rights.

First United Methodist Church on Lavaca Street across from the Capitol hosted Equality Texas for breakfast, a lobby day training session and lunch.

At a press conference on the Capitol steps, Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston announced that he refiled his anti-bullying bill as Asher’s Law. State Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio spoke about his Freedom from Workplace Discrimination Act, which would ban discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

The Truongs spoke about stopping bullying. Amy Truong said that no parent should go to work in the morning and come home to find police tape around their house. Along with Burns, they met legislators who are key to moving the bills through the House and Senate.

—  David Taffet

SHOW CANCELED: Win tix to Free Energy on Tuesday at the Loft

UPDATE: I just received word that due to the weather, tonight’s Free Energy show has been canceled.

The peeps at The Loft offered us two pairs of tickets to give away for Philadelphia indie rockers Free Energy show on Tuesday night. Yes, we know, random. But it turns out the band is super gay friendly and even recorded the song “Hope Child”, below, for the “It Gets Better Project.” We like when those straight allies go above and beyond.

But the giveaway is a bit different. Instead of e-mailing, you gotta tweet in. They just wanna try something new and personally, more of you need to get on the Twitter bandwagon. Just saying. First follow @dallasvoice and then tweet to enter by 3 p.m. Tuesday for your tickets. Good luck!

—  Rich Lopez

A chance to welcome back 2 straight guys who just pedaled to Austin and back for your rights

Justin Snider, left, and Chris Linville, during their first training ride to Austin.

The other day we told you about two straight allies from Dallas, Chris Linville and Justin Snider, who are training for a cross-country bicycle ride next year to raise money for the Human Rights Campaign.

Linville and Snider are currently wrapping up their first training ride, a four-day, 400-mile trek from Dallas to Austin and back.

Carl Andrews, of HRC’s DFW Federal Club, informs us that there will be a brief ceremony to welcome the pair back at 7:45 p.m. today at the Vendome, at Lemmon Avenue and Turtle Creek Boulevard. But if you can’t make it, you can at least send them an e-mail thanking them. For more info, go here.

—  John Wright

Record 106 gay candidates elected in 2010

Construction company executive Jim Gray was elected mayor of Kentucky’s second-largest city, Lexington.

From Staff and Wire Reports

A record number of openly LGBT candidates have been elected to public office in 2010, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

“There is no sugar-coating the loss of so many of our straight allies in Congress, but we can be proud that our community continues to expand its voice at all levels of government in America,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. “Out public officials are having a sizable impact on the local, state and national debates about LGBT equality. Increasing their numbers is a vital part of a long-term strategy to change America’s politics and make our country freer and fairer for everyone. We will continue to focus on training committed, qualified candidates, and we will work hard to get them elected to public office.”

At least 106 of the group’s record-breaking 164 endorsed candidates were winners as of Wednesday morning, the Victory Fund said.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise came in Lexington, Kentucky, where openly gay construction company executive Jim Gray won election as mayor. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported the news shortly after the polls closed at 6 p.m. Gray has been serving as the city’s vice mayor and defeated incumbent mayor Jim Newberry.

The paper said the campaign has been one of the most expensive in the city’s history and only the second time a sitting mayor has been defeated. The ballot in Lexington does not indicate party affiliation. According to results published by the Herald-Leader, Gray won with 53 percent of the vote, to Mayor Jim Newberry’s 46 percent. The Herald-Leader noted that Gray lost a bid for mayor in 2002, when his sexual orientation was not public. Gray came out before running successfully for an at-large seat on the Urban County Council.

In another southern state, North Carolina, openly gay candidate Marcus Brandon of High Point won his first-time run for state representative and, in doing so, becomes the state’s first openly gay legislator. According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Brandon also becomes only the fifth openly gay African-American elected to a state legislature anywhere in the country. As of 10:30 Tuesday night, three hours after polls closed, the state Board of Elections showed Brandon with 70 percent of the vote, compared to Republican Lonnie Wilson. The race was to represent North Carolina’s District 60, which encompasses Guilford County in the middle of the state. Brandon told the News-Record newspaper of Greensboro that his sexual orientation was not a secret but that “This is not something I wanted to take over my campaign.”

“Nobody in a year-and-a-half ever asked me about my sexuality,” Brandon said, in an Oct. 15 blog by an editorial writer in which the paper noted his race was one of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s “Ten Races to Watch” this year.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank won re-election to a 16th term as Massachusetts congressman from the 4th District. Frank won against an aggressive Republican challenger, Sean Bielat, who had a surge of out-of-state funding in the final days of the campaign to fuel a flood of campaign literature and robo-calls. While Frank’s re-election was considered predictable, the margin of victory represents a significant drop in support for Frank. Frank garnered only 54 percent of the vote Tuesday, dropping well below his previous lowest re-election take of 68 percent in 2008. The returns almost guarantee an even tougher re-match against Bielat in 2012.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) won re-election to a seventh term with 62 percent of the vote, down just a few points from her previous re-election margin. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) won a second term with 56 percent of the vote.

Providence, Rhode Island’s openly gay mayor, David Cicilline, won his bid to represent the 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House. The win will make him the fourth openly gay member of the Congress. With all precincts counted, Cicilline had secured 50.6 percent of the vote, compared to Republican John Loughlin’s 44.5 percent, and 4.9 percent for two other candidates.

In Connecticut, openly gay health care advocate Kevin Lembo appears to have won his race for the state comptroller’s seat, taking 52 percent of the vote to Republican Jack Orchulli’s 44 percent. The win makes Lembo the only openly gay candidates to win a statewide race Tuesday night.

Laurie Jinkins has won her bid to the Washington State House, and becomes its first openly lesbian state lawmaker.

And Victoria Kolakowski appears to have won election as a judge on the Superior Court of Alameda County, California, becoming the first transgender trial court judge in the country.

But there were losses, too.

Two openly gay candidates lost their bids for seats in the U.S. House. Democrat Ed Potosnak, a teacher and businessman, lost his bid to unseat Republican incumbent Leonard Lance in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional district. Potosnak had been given very little chance of winning in his first run, but still pulled in 40 percent of the vote. And Steve Poughnet, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., garnered 40 percent in his first run for Congress against incumbent Republican Mary Bono Mack.

Two openly gay candidates for lieutenant governor lost as the head of their tickets fell to defeat. Steve Howard lost as the number two person on the Democratic ticket in Vermont. And Richard Tisei lost as part of the Republican ticket in Massachusetts, where incumbent Democratic governor Deval Patrick won re-election with 49 percent of the race, against Republican Charlie Baker’s 42 percent, and Independent Tim Cahill’s 8.

And openly gay Republican Ken Rosen appears to have lost his bid to represent Michigan’s 26th District in the state house. At 11:23 Tuesday night, early results showed Rosen with 44 percent of the vote, trailing Democrat Jim Townsend who has 53 percent.

© 2010 Keen News Service

—  John Wright