Tom Anable’s family, Fort Worth police chief release statements on his death

The family of Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable reacted to his loss in a statement Monday through family spokesman Paul Valdez.

The statement mentions the shock of Anable’s sudden death after he took his own life this weekend, but focuses on the advocacy work that he’d held so dear since becoming an “accidental activist” after the Rainbow Lounge led him to pursue LGBT equality in Tarrant County and beyond.

“As we mourn his tragic death, we must always remember and celebrate what he accomplished, not only for Fort Worth and Dallas, but on a national stage for both advocacy and empowerment. He taught us about moving forward and making a difference,” the statement reads.

“Tom was a beautiful soul, with a heart of gold, and we are devastated by his loss. Though we may never fully understand his death, our family has chosen to celebrate his life and the amazing legacy he leaves to us all.”

Anable’s death has been ruled suicide by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. He died from a gunshot wound to the head. He was 58.

Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead also released a statement Monday, saying he was “very saddened to hear the news about Tom.”

“Tom was a personal friend, a trusted colleague, and an inspiration. His advocacy for the LGBTQ community opened many eyes, including my own,” Halstead said. “Tom worked passionately to improve police department’s ‘hate crime’ policies and investigative protocols.”

Fairness Fort Worth, which Anable helped launch and has led since June 2010, played an integral role in mending the relationship between the police department and the LGBT community after the Rainbow Lounge raid.

“The Fort Worth Police Department is forever indebted to Tom for bridging the gap and strengthening our enduring commitment to work together for fairness and equality,” Halstead said in the statement.

A candlelight vigil honoring Anable will be held at the Rainbow Lounge at 7 p.m. Wednesday. A memorial service will then follow at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth.

Read the full statements below.

—  Dallasvoice

Gay Republican wins Tarrant County precinct chair race

William Busby, a 20-year-old Republican active in Fort Worth politics, won his precinct race Tuesday night against a longtime chair.

Busby won in South Fort Worth’s precinct 4256. He said he decided to run because the current chair has served for more than a decade and has rarely attended important events and committee meetings in the past year.

While open about his sexuality, Busby said he won the race without his opponent running an anti-gay campaign, despite few gay Republicans being open in his political circles.

“I’m pretty much one of the few,” he said, adding that his stronger presence in the party will help change any anti-gay attitudes. “I think it helps to bring openness to the party.”

Busby is one the few openly gay Republicans elected in Tarrant County, if not the first. And while he won with seven votes in a race that garnered 17 total votes, he said the impact was still important.

Dallas GOP leader Rob Schlein won his North Dallas precinct chair race after beating Homer Adams by five votes.

Schlein said Tuesday night that he was the first openly gay Republican to win contested primary in Texas, but gay Dallsite Paul von Wupperfeld said about a dozen gay Republicans were elected in contested precinct chair races in the early 90s in Travis County.

Von Wupperfeld said he served as a precinct chair in Travis County in the 90s and served on the platform committee in Travis County in 1990 and 1992. He was also elected as a delegate to the GOP state conventions in 1990, 1992 and 1994 and served as the state chairman of Log Cabin Republicans.

Von Wupperfeld moved to Dallas 16 years ago and is now a Democrat. He said Schlein was not even he first openly gay Republican elected in the county, as three men in the 90s were elected in Dallas County – Stan Aten, Keith Pomykal and P.D. Sterling. And while Schlein is the first openly gay Republican elected in at least 10 years, von Wupperfeld said it doesn’t reflect a changing, more inclusive Republican Party.

“The GOP in Dallas County is gone,” he said. “When they take all the hate language out of the platform and stop running anti-gay candidates and campaigns, maybe there’s change. Just electing one gay candidate is nothing.”

—  Dallasvoice

Veasey touts vote against marriage amendment, says LGBT community is “galvanized” behind him

State Rep. Marc Veasey addresses the crowd at a Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats meeting July 9. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

With 13 days left until early voting for the runoff begins, it’s crunch time for both state Rep. Marc Veasey and former state Rep. Domingo Garcia to gain voters in the other’s county.

Both Veasey and Garcia were scheduled to speak at the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats meeting Monday night, but Garcia was unable to attend at the last minute.

Instead, Bexar County Democratic Party Chair Choco Meza spoke briefly on his behalf.

Meza, who lives in San Antonio but was in the area visiting family, said she wanted to come speak on Garcia’s behalf because she’s known him most of her adult life. She said she wouldn’t give up time with her family to speak to strangers “if I didn’t believe so strongly like I do about Domingo.”

She reminded the audience that Garcia was “in the forefront in any legislation regarding LGBT issues when he served in the Legislature” from 1996 to 2002, where he voted for a hate crimes bill that includess sexual orientation in 2001.

State Rep. Marc Veasey then spoke to the large crowd of about 50 people amid cheers and applause. A large majority of the audience was sporting Veasey campaign stickers.

Veasey was the top vote-getter in the primary, winning Tarrant County and coming in second in Dallas County.

Veasey said he couldn’t have come so far without the help from supporters in Tarrant County and the LGBT supporters from the county.

“It’s because of you and your belief in me and you being willing to stand up for my record, and that’s why we ran such a good strong campaign the first round,” he said.

Highlighting that he won a precinct in Dallas with the most LGBT families, he said he was gaining momentum among Dallas County voters to secure a win on July 31.

“The LGBT community has really galvanized behind me and I’m really proud of that,” he said. “I want to know that not just because of that but because it’s the right thing to do, that when I go to Congress that you can always count on me to be a strong advocate on the issues that are important to your families and to your community.”

In closing, he reminded the audience of his freshman year in the state House in 2005, when he voted against an amendment to the Texas Constitution banning same-sex marriage and civil unions when others representatives walked out of the vote or voted with Republicans.

“I’ll never forget that day,” he said. “I saw people that quite frankly that shouldn’t have done it, but I saw people walk off the House floor because they didn’t want to take that vote.

“I never skip votes and I can promise you that when those votes that are important to the LGBT community come onto the United States House floor, that I will be there fighting for you.”

A debate between Veasey and Garcia will air tonight on KERA at 10 p.m. with encores played at 7:30 p.m. Friday and noon Sunday. It will also play on KERA 90.1 FM at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Watch the debate below.

Watch The Texas Debates: Congressional District 33 on PBS. See more from KERA Specials.

—  Dallasvoice

Fort Worth’s Betsy Price won’t sign marriage pledge; N. Texas still has no mayors on list

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price in the Tarrant County Pride Parade last year.

In case you missed it, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price issued a statement the other day saying she doesn’t plan to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. Although Price is a Republican, she expressed support for the LGBT community during her campaign last year and served as grand marshal of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade in October. On the marriage pledge issue, however, Price is a taking similar tack to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings:

“I remain focused on the business of the City of Fort Worth,” Price said in a statement. “The issue of same sex marriage is one for the state, not local government.”

Six Texas mayors have now joined about 100 others from across the U.S. in signing the pledge in support of same-sex marriage, according to Freedom to Marry. But none of those six is from North Texas, which is kinda sad. After all, Dallas-Fort Worth is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S., so you’d think we’d have a least one name on the list. As it stands, Bexar County is leading the way in the Lone Star State with three mayors who’ve signed the pledge: Julian Castro of San Antonio, Bruce Smiley-Kalff of Castle Hills (pop. 4,202) and A. David Marne of Shavano Park (pop. 1,754). The other three mayors from Texas are Annise Parker of Houston, Joe Jaworski of Galveston and Lee Leffingwell of Austin.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for coverage of tonight’s protest outside Dallas City Hall and Saturday’s meeting between Mayor Rawlings and LGBT leaders. I’ll also do my best to keep you updated on Twitter, where someday I hope to have 1,000 followers.

—  John Wright

Help Tarrant DA’s office help a family in need

The Castro-Martinez family: father Joel, mother Avigail, and sons Joel and Eliel

Just a little more than a year ago life changed irrevocably for Joel Castro-Mares, Avigail Martinez-Baez and their two sons, Joel and Eliel. Now, employees of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office want to do something to help  this family that can no longer help themselves. And you can help, too.

A little more than a year ago, Avigail was expecting her and Joel’s third child. Their daughter, who would be named Genesis, was going to be born any minute. About 2 a.m. on Nov. 21, 2010, in need of some last-minute supplies, Joel and Avigail put their sons into the family’s Chrysler Sebring, and the family headed to the store.

But as they passed through an intersection on McCart Avenue, on Fort Worth’s south side, a drunk driver in an SUV ran a red light and slammed broadside into the family’s car. The drunk driver then fled the scene, but a Fort Worth Police officer who saw the accident was able to give his fellow officers enough information about the SUV that they were able to track down the driver while the first officer stayed at the scene of the accident with the gravely injured family of four.

When officers found the drunken driver at his home, he first tried to run out the back door. When they caught him, he sang the theme song to the TV show COPS as they handcuffed him and put in the police car.

Meanwhile, the members of the Castro-Martinez family were clinging to life – except for Genesis, the family’s as-yet unborn daughter. Her life was ended before it even had a chance to begin. She was killed in the crash.

The two young boys suffered serious injuries. Joel had fractured ribs and several lacerations. Eliel suffered a laceration to his liver. Their father Joel was so severely injured that he was unable to work for six months after the accident.

But Avigail was the surviving family member with the most serious injuries. Not only did she lose her unborn daughter, she suffered bleeding in her brain and in her lungs, and spent six months on life support — unresponsive and unaware of anything going on around her. Now, Avigail remains confined to a wheelchair, and she will be for the rest of her life, unable to care for herself or her family.

So this year, the employees of the Tarrant County DA’s office are adopting the Castro-Martinez family in an effort to give them a special Christmas. A statement from the DA’s office explained: “We want to help make their life a little easier by taking care of some of their important necessities” like a new wheelchair for Avigail, making their house wheelchair accessible, installing a shower chair and railings for Avigail and helping out with groceries.

“We also want to give the Castro-Martinez family a special Christmas,” the statement continued. “Our plan includes putting up a Christmas tree and lights and buying gifts for the two boys.”

And here’s where the rest of us come in. The DA’s Office is looking for donations — donations of in-kind items, like a new wheelchair, shower chair and shower railings for Avigail; cash donations that can be used to purchase necessities for the family, and donations of time and effort from people willing to help repairs and upgrades to the family’s home. Here’s the list of needed items:

In addition to a wheelchair, shower chair and shower railings, Avigail needs adult diapers, size medium, and sweat pants and sweat shirts, size small. Joel the father needs pants in a size 34 waist, and XL shirts. The children, Joel and Eliel, need pants in children’s sizes 5 and 6, shoes in children’s sizes 10 and 12 and jackets in children’s sizes 5 and 7. The DA’s Office also wants to be able to donate toys for the two boys for Christmas. Joel, now 5, asked Santa for a Nintendo Wii or an Xbox game system. Eliel, who is 4, asked Santa for a bike. They both said they like playing with cars and trucks.

I know that we have plenty of people here in our own LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities that need our help this holiday season. I am not saying we should ignore them. But I just think we should remember that we don’t have to restrict ourselves to just helping our own. When you get right down to it, we’re all in this together, after all.

But in the end, I guess, it doesn’t matter WHO you help. What matters is THAT you helped. And if you want to help the Tarrant County DA’s Office in helping the Castro-Martinez family, you can do that by dropping off in-kind donations in the conference room of the DA’s office’s third floor misdemeanor section, 401 W. Belknap, or by contacting Ashlea Deener by email at abdeener@tarrantcounty.com or Bryan Hoeller by email at bphoeller@tarrantcounty.com to make a cash donation or to volunteer to help with repairs.

—  admin

LGBT allies Kathleen Hicks, Marc Veasey to seek new congressional seat; Joel Burns not running

A federal court in San Antonio today released a map of proposed new congressional districts for Texas.

The proposed map from the court (the North Texas section is shown above) includes four new congressional seats resulting from reapportionment. One of the seats is a minority-majority district in eastern Tarrant County that is likely to be won by a Democrat. The district is 66 percent black or Hispanic.

Shortly after the court released its map, Fort Worth City Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks announced that she plans to run as a Democrat for the new District 33 congressional seat. Hicks, whose district includes the Rainbow Lounge, was an outspoken supporter of the LGBT community in the wake of the police raid of the gay bar in 2009.

“The Federal Court in San Antonio has released new proposed maps for the 2012 Texas Congressional Elections,” Hicks said on Facebook moments ago. “District 33 has been drawn within Tarrant County and includes much of the City of Fort Worth. Today, I am announcing my intent to seek a place on the ballot with the Texas Democratic Party for this Congressional District, pending a final map from the court.”

Read more on the proposed map from the Texas Tribune.

UPDATE: Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, who lives in District 33, confirmed he is not running for the seat. Burns said he’ll instead endorse State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who apparently plans to run against Hicks in the primary:

“To all who’ve called in the last hour, I am NOT running for new 33rd Congressional District announced this morning,” Burns wrote. “[Husband] J.D. [Angle] and I both are proud to announce our endorsements of Rep Marc Veasey in his 1st run for Congress. I believe in Marc & know he will be a great Congressman & the best choice for Fort Worth & Arlington.”

Veasey is also a strong LGBT ally. He has repeatedly sponsored a bill backed by Equality Texas calling for a study on implementation of the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act. Veasey also had an openly gay chief of staff, and he gave an impassioned speech on the House floor earlier this year against an anti-gay bill.

—  John Wright

Safe haven

For 10 years, Gay-Straight Alliances in Fort Worth schools have given LGBTQ and their straight friends a place to go for support and safety

GATHERING | Rebecca Cooper, front center, opens her classroom at Southwest High School to LGBT students and their friends looking for someplace where they feel safe enough to talk openly, and where they can find friendship and support from others like them. (Andrea Grimes/Dallas Voice}

ANDREA GRIMES  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

It’s been 10 years since two high school boys started the first Gay-Straight Alliance club in Tarrant County at Fort Worth’s Southwest High School, and membership is way, way up.

This year, on any given Friday, dozens of kids show up to Rebecca Cooper’s classroom in a cramped, low-ceilinged portable building to do what a lot of kids do — braid each other’s hair or practice gymnastics in the grass outside.

But they also do what a lot of kids will never have to do: trade phone numbers so that when they come out to their family, they’ve got a place to go and a support group if the conversation ends in a fight, or worse — homelessness or even a suicide attempt. (An estimated 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBTQ, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.)

Between the hair braiding and the back flips, Gay-Straight Alliance clubs save lives. It’s as simple as that.

Southwest High School sponsor Rebecca Cooper says she’s seen it with her own eyes: GSAs serve as safe spaces where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning students can feel empowered rather than intimidated.

“Because there’s a lack of fear [at GSAs],” says Cooper, students are confident in sharing their own personal experiences to help their peers.

At a meeting, says Cooper, you might have a kid who says, “I thought about suicide three days ago.” But “before you know it,” she says, “You’ve got six, eight, 10 kids around him, like swoosh. They’re going, ‘Here’s my phone number, I’ve been there.’”

Anti-bullying efforts have moved to the forefront of the national conversation in the past couple of years, thanks in part to high-profile campaigns like Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project, which inspired Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns to tell his own story, during an October 2010 City Council meeting of contemplating suicide after being bullied.

But every week — and every night, and every day, really whenever a student needs a help or a hug or a sounding board — since December, 2001, students in Fort Worth’s Gay-Straight Alliances have been telling each other that it gets better, that there’s someone out there who cares.

As of this year, there are three active GSAs in the Fort Worth Independent School District: Southwest High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance, Western Hills High School’s Q-Status and Paschal High School’s G.L.O.W. (Gay, Lesbian or Whatever), with two more inactive high school groups seeking sponsors.

Cooper estimates that up to 70 percent of her club is straight. The unity and cooperation between straight and non-straight students is part of what makes the simple existence of GSA’s so impactful.

Not only are GSAs safe spaces for LGBTQ students, they also build rapport and trust between the LGBTQ community and the straight majority.

“Straight people want to be part of the change,” says Western Hills’ Q-Status President Italia Salinas, a junior. “You don’t have to be gay to help others have respect and support.”

Often, hurtful and hateful speech comes out of what English teacher Marvin Vann calls anti-gay individuals’ sense of a “mandated right” to denounce homosexuality because of their religious beliefs. He says Gay-Straight Alliances help give strength to students who might otherwise feel swamped and surrounded by Christians with “loving” messages — like the employee who told Italia Salinas’ friend she was going to hell for being a lesbian.

Last year, recalls Salinas, a school employee — not a teacher — told a friend of hers that she’d go to hell because of her sexuality.

While Salinas and her friend were walking down the school hallway one day, an employee asked the two girls where they were headed. When they talked about going to a Q-Status meeting and explained what it was, the employee asked Salinas’ friend if she went to church. She said she did, a Catholic church.

Salinas remembers the employee, someone they’d laughed and joked with since their freshman year, telling her friend, “I love you, but being gay is not okay, and I care about you so I don’t want you to go to hell for doing that.”

Salinas says her friend was “in shock” that a school employee would say such a thing to a student.

Cooper says she’s had to correct other teachers who would tell students it’s not okay to be gay — teachers who didn’t even realize that Cooper herself was gay.

Tensions between teachers, administrators and school employees have heightened in Fort Worth over the years, so much so that Sharon Herrera, an out lesbian herself, was brought in to teach training seminars and handle complaints.

But, as reported by the Fort Worth Weekly, Herrera was perhaps too good at her job.

Her position was eliminated at the beginning of this year, and although she’s still an employee of the district, she’s no longer conducting the seminars and handling the multitude of complaints that came across her desk, which included instances of anti-LGBTQ bullying as well sexual and racial harassment.

Everything, it seems, has gone silent. But that doesn’t mean everyone’s problems have been solved.

Herrera says that quality training that is LGBTQ-specific is vital in Fort Worth, and programs like their “It’s Not Okay” campaign, launched in June of 2010, simply do not address LGBTQ issues in a meaningful way — or at all.

Instead, it is often left up to the more-than-capable students to stand up for themselves when something goes wrong. That’s one of the wonderful things about GSAs, say participants: They get to learn real-world activism in high school.

This year, Italia Salinas says, Q-Status has not been allowed to make public announcements and hang signs in the hallways, ostensibly because they’re a non-academic group. However, a conservative Christian extracurricular group for boys at the school has been able to do those things.

Salinas and her group will have to actively fight to get their school to respect the Equal Access Act, which guarantees that if one extra-curricular club has access to school resources, all of them must.
Nine students from Fort Worth ISD marched in the city’s recent gay Pride parade, and when the Dallas Voice stopped by Southwest High School to talk to their Gay-Straight Alliance, the room positively lit up when the march was brought up.

Hands shot into the air, attached to squirming bodies, each student anxious to talk about the amazing feeling they got from being accepted in an adult space.

In fact, says Western Hills’ Q-Status teacher sponsor Bernardo Vallarino, showing kids that the LGBT community is more than just dance clubs and drugs — something he was exposed to very early on as a young man — is an integral part of what GSAs do for students.

In forming GSAs, he says, “it creates a right way of learning about the LGBTQ community that doesn’t include drugs, alcohol or inadequate sex.” The biggest take-away from GSAs, says Herrera, is that they prevent bullying and, again, save lives because of their specific focus on the needs of LGBTQ students.

Inclusivity, says Herrera, is not enough; LGBTQ kids need programs tailored to their specific challenges — challenges that are made ever more apparent every time the local news reports on yet another bullied teen’s suicide.

Southwest junior Ryan McCaleb says being gay “is the way we live, think, breathe.” But because of the social stigma and pressure from religious and conservative students and teachers, he says, “You’re the talk of the school, and everything that’s said comes back times 10.”

The Gay-Straight Alliance is a place where kids understand what that feels like — that unique feeling of shame and pain that LGBTQ kids deal with, especially LGBTQ kids in conservative cities like Fort Worth, and that their straight friends want to help alleviate. As president of Q-Status, Italia Salinas says her GSA “gives [her] hope for humanity,” that hatefulness and bullying can be prevented before it begins.

Vallarino says that in 10 years of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in FWISD, some goals may have shifted. Last year, they successfully focused on getting written policies in place against workplace and schoolharassment and supporting equal treatment, while this year they’re hoping to get a GSA in every high school and middle school.
………………………………….

MISSION STATEMENTS

• Q-Status: “Q- Status is a group built on the human differences of its members, a safe place where everyone is welcome and no one is turned away. Our focus is centered on the education of our members and the community around us. We thrive by making new friends and by accomplishing our goals of informing and educating others of the cultural and legal inequalities faced by many groups including the homosexual community and their families. Everyone is welcome (heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, questioning, confused, curious, etc.)”

• LGBTQ Saves (district-wide): “LGBTQ  S.A.V.E.S. (Students, Administrators, Volunteers, Educators Support) fosters the well-being of LGBTQ K-12 students, administrators, volunteers and educators in Tarrant County by eliminating discrimination, bullying and retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. S.A.V.E.S. is an autonomous, all-volunteer group and not affiliated with any local school districts.”

• Southwest High School GSA Vision Statement: “The Gay-Straight Alliance GSA at Southwest High School is a student-led and -organized club that aims to create a safe, welcoming and accepting environment for all youth regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The GSA brings together gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered and questioning (GLBTQ) youth with their straight peers to address issues such as bullying, harassment, discrimination and bias. GSA allows youth to build coalitions and community that can work towards making a safer school environment for all people. Motto: Come as you are.”

But ultimately, “One thing that has never changed is that GSA’s are a safe haven.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Tarrant Country Pride Picnic today at Trinity Park

The more the merrier

Head to Trinity Park Arts Pavilion today for a good ol’ fashion picnic, but with gay people. Live entertainment, games, family and pet friendly events and even food and drink make up the annual Tarrant County Pride Picnic. Yeah, this is what a picnic should be. All that’s missing is a shirtless William Holden.

DEETS: Trinity Park Arts Pavilion at Crestline Road. Noon. TCGPWA.org

—  Rich Lopez

Taking Pride to the mainstream

A bigger parade in a new location, expanded schedule of events will help Tarrant County keep Pride going all year round

 

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — LGBT Pride celebrations aren’t new in Tarrant County. But there are definitely a few new things about this year’s 30th annual Pride celebration in Cowtown.

The biggest change is the location — and the day and time — of the annual Pride parade. Traditionally, the parade has been held on Sunday afternoons — the first weekend in October for the last couple of years, before that, at the beginning of June — and it has traditionally traveled down South Jennings Street.

This year, though, the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade moves uptown, starting near the courthouse on Main Street then heading south to disperse at the convention center, just in time for the street festival on Main Street and in General Worth Square.

The annual Pride Picnic, Tarrant County’s original Pride event which has traditionally been held on the Saturday following the parade, this year will instead be held on Sunday, Oct. 2, the day after the parade, again at the Arts Pavilion in Trinity Park.

But it’s not just the days and location that are new for Tarrant County Pride this year, organizers say; there’s also a renewed enthusiasm — a renewed and strengthened spirit of pride.

“There’s a real excitement this year. People are excited about moving the parade and the festival downtown,” said Daune Littlefield, president of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association.

“Yes, there are a few who didn’t want to move the parade, who didn’t want to do anything differently. But there are more who are excited,” she added. “We should have grown more than we have in the last 30 years. We just got too comfortable with doing things the way we had always done them.”

It’s not been an easy task. The new location for the parade offered some logistical problems. And of course, the expanded event requires the Pride association to cooperate more with city officials.

…………………….

Changes

But at the same time, organizers’ big plans made that cooperation easier to come by.

“We’ve been planning this for awhile. In fact, it was about two years ago that we really started to think about moving the parade, making things bigger and better,” said Littlefield.

“One of the main reasons we changed the day and the time of the parade was because it would be easier to get the permits and close the streets downtown and manage the traffic if the parade was on a Saturday morning,” she explained. “And having the parade and picnic all in the same weekend makes it easier to draw in more people from out of town. And the idea of more people coming in from out of town made it easier to get the [Fort Worth] Convention and Visitors Bureau to work with us.”

And the idea of bringing in visitors from out of town also convinced the Sheraton Fort Worth hotel to partner with the committee to offer the Pride Weekend Package, offering visitors a discounted price to stay at the hotel and giving them easy access to the parade, the street festival and the number of educational seminars and entertainment events scheduled to be held at the hotel during the course of the weekend.

Littlefield and Tina Harvey, parade and vendor chair and long-term parade committee member, both acknowledged that the weekend package deal was not as successful this year as they had hoped. But both also believe it will be much more popular next year.

“We may have overdone it a little this year. Our expectations for that part may have been too high,” Harvey said. “But Pride weekend this year is going to be a huge success. People will see how successful it is, how much fun it is, and they are going to want to participate even more next year.”

Already, Harvey said, there are 48 entries registered for the parade on Saturday, which is 10 more than participated in last year’s parade. And 22 vendors, not counting the food and beverage vendors, have signed up for the street festival. That number also doesn’t count the activities available in the kid’s area.

Dianne Dunivan, picnic and merchandise chair and another longtime committee member, said Sunday’s picnic is also flush with vendors, entertainment and a kid’s area.

And both Dunivan and Harvey are quick to point out that they have worked diligently to keep prices as low as possible when it comes to food and drink stands at the street festival and picnic.

“Last year was the first time we charged for the food and the beer. We charged $1 for the beer, but the product cost us $1.08 and we had to pay taxes to the state on top of that. So we actually lost money on that last year. But that was OK, because we wanted to ease into actually charging for it,” Dunivan said.

“This year, the prices are a little higher. It will be $3 for a burger, a beer or wine, $2 for a polish sausage, and $1 for hot dogs or soft drinks. We are doing everything we can to keep the costs under control,” Dunivan said, adding that when it comes to the picnic in the park on Sunday, “We don’t have an exclusive. People can bring in their own stuff if they want. We are offering the food and the drinks as a convenience.

“We just want to make sure people know that everything is being upgraded this year. Everything is better. And, while we were cash-only last year, this year we’ll be able to take credit cards.”

Dunivan and Harvey also both stress that there is no admission fee to the parade, the festival or the picnic. Still, the committee wants to come out ahead in the money department, so they will have cash on hand as they start planning for 2012, and so they can add to the new TCGPW scholarship fund.

“That’s a big thing for us,” Littlefield said. “This year, we said we really wanted to step forward, to be even more family-friendly, and be even more visible, not just in the LGBT community, but in the community overall. Offering a scholarship is part of that.”

The scholarship, she explained, will be awarded to an LGBT person or to the child of an LGBT family. And while she believes that the association will definitely have enough money to cover expenses for this year’s parade and picnic, if there’s not enough left over to add to the scholarship fund, “we’ll just raise more money!”

And they aren’t waiting around to do that either.

…………………….

Pride throughout the year

Littlefield and the Pride committee this year are stressing that in Tarrant County they are no longer going to talk about Pride weekend. From now on, Littlefield said, “We are going to talk about Pride events. It won’t be just one weekend; we’re going to have Pride throughout the year.

“We want to keep up our visibility throughout the year. We want to keep the momentum going,” she said.

To do that TCGPWA is partnering with a variety of organizations and companies to help present and promote events that take the LGBT community out into the community at large, and that help put money in the Pride coffers.

The first such event on the schedule is Tarrant County Pride Day at Cowboys Stadium on Oct. 12. It includes a two-hour tour of the stadium, including the press box, the luxury suites, the Cotton Bowl offices, the Dr. Pepper Deck, the stadium clubs and the field. Plus, each person gets a free photo of themselves at the stadium, and all for just $20 a person.

A portion of each ticket sold, Littlefield said, will benefit TCGPWA.

The association has a similar arrangement worked out with Bass Hall for Joan Rivers’ performance there on Nov. 2, she added, and more such events will be added in the future.
Legacy of the raid

This level of enthusiasm and involvement is, Littlefield acknowledged, something of a new thing in Tarrant County. And it can be traced, at least in part, back to the June 29, 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Fort Worth police and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

While the raid was a horrible thing, Littlefield said, plenty of good things have happened in its aftermath, including the community’s renewed sense of pride and activism.

“What happened that night at the Rainbow Lounge has made us all more aware that even though things are better than they were years ago, bad things can still happen,” she said. “But if you come together and work together, you can make good things come of it in the end.”

Harvey agreed.

“After the Rainbow Lounge raid, our community started speaking out, and the city and the mayor and the police chief really stepped up to work with us,” Harvey said. “Last year, a year after the raid, [Police Chief Jeff Halstead] was the grand marshal of our parade, and he was there for the picnic, along with about 20 Fort Worth police officers. Only about five of those officers were paid to be there, the others were just there to enjoy the day and share it with us.

“When I was younger, that never would have happened,” she continued. “Back then, the cops still raided the bars all the time. The gay people were always getting beat up. But seeing the chief and those officers at the parade and the picnic last year, it was life-changing for me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I didn’t have to worry about being who I am. And this year, the mayor [Betsy Price] is our grand marshal. That’s fantastic.

“When I was young, what I learned was to keep your head down, keep your mouth shut and stay with your own group. That’s not how it is any more. Some people are willing to keep on being second-class citizens, but not me. I want us to walk down Main Street, together. I want people to see us, to see our families.  I want the young people coming up today to see that, and say to themselves, ‘I’m gonna be OK.’ That’s what Pride is about.”

………………………

Tarrant County Pride Schedule

FRIDAY, SEPT. 30
• Noon-10 p.m. Trading Post & Arts Exhibit, Second Floor, Piney Woods Room, Sheraton FW
• 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. “Community School House” Education Sessions, Second Floor, West Room, Sheraton FW
*10:30-11:30 a.m. Samaritan House: Where there is a home, there is hope
* 1:30-2:30 p.m. Healing Wings: 30 years of HIV: Impact on the GLBT Community
* 3-4 p.m. Sessions Break
* 4:30-5:30 p.m. Outreach Addiction Services: Sex: Safety the Gay Way
* 6-7 p.m. Fairness Fort Worth: Grassroots Organizing: The creation of Fairness Fort Worth, Inc.
* 1-3 p.m. QCinema screens “March On!,” documentary screening, Second Floor, Taste of Texas Ballroom, Sheraton FW
* 7:33 p.m. “Strut your Pride” Show, hosted by Imperial Court de Fort Worth/Arlington, Best Friends Club, www.ic-fwa.org
* 8-10 p.m. Open Door Productions presents comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer, Second Floor, Taste of Texas Ballroom, Sheraton FW, limited general seating $25, for tickets visit: OpenDoorProductionstx.com
* Boot Scootin’, Club Reflection
* $300 Balloon Drop, dancers, live DJ, Rainbow Lounge
* Kick it Up Country Night, Best Friends
* 9 p.m. So You Think You Can Sing? Karaoke, Percussions

SATURDAY, OCT. 1
• 10 a.m.-noon “Ride the Rainbow” Pride Parade, Main Street at Weatherford, downtown Fort Worth
• 11 a.m.-2 p.m. AIDS Outreach Center Car Wash benefiting the 20th Anniversary AIDS Walk, Staybridge Suites, 220 Clifford Center Drive, Fort Worth. Contact Jaime Shultety at jaimes@aoc.org or 817-916-5210.
• Noon-6 p.m. Pride Street Festival, General Worth Square, Main and Ninth Streets
Coors Main Stage:
* 12 p.m. Eddy Herrera www.soundcloud.com/eustoliog
* 2 p.m. Eddy Herrera www.soundcloud.com/eustoliog
* 3 p.m. Aurora Bleu, www.AuroraBleu.com
* 4 p.m. Parade Awards
* 5 p.m. Aurora Bleu, www.AuroraBleu.com
• 5-7 p.m. It Only Makes Me Laugh Comedy Showcase, Patio @ Rainbow Lounge
• 6-9 p.m. Cowtown “Pride” Cookout, hosted by Cowtown Leathermen, Club Reflection Patio, www.cowtownleathermen.com
• 7-11 p.m. Threesome, live band, on Patio @ Rainbow Lounge
• 8-10 p.m. Burlesque Show starring Tasha Kohl, Mosaic Lounge (underground), 515 Houston St. entrance on 5th St.
• 8-10 p.m. Fall Fest Events, hosted by NTXCC, Club Reflection Patio, www.ntxcc.org
• 9 p.m. Anton Shaw live, Percussions
• Boot Scootin’, Club Reflection
• 1 a.m. Pride Night $500 balloon drop Best Friends

SUNDAY, OCT. 2
• Noon-6 p.m. Pride Picnic, Trinity Park Arts Pavilion
Bud Light Mainstage Schedule
* 1 p.m. Terry Sweeney
* 2 p.m. Valerie Stevens and Kickback
* 3 p.m. Mallorie
* 4 p.m. To be announced
* 5 p.m. Butch Country
• 2-7 p.m. Afternoon Cookout, Patio @ Rainbow Lounge
• 6-9 p.m. Family Night, Best Friends
• 8 p.m. Pride Karaoke, Club Reflection
• 9 p.m. Karaoke with Pete Day, Percussions
• 11 p.m. Whitney Paige Show, Rainbow Lounge
(For more events throughout the week, go online to TCGPWA.org.)

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Pride 2011 • 30th annual Tarrant Pride Parade moves to downtown Fort Worth

Organizers say this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever, with parade and street festival on Saturday, and popular Pride Picnic on Sunday, October 1-2

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — The Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade marks its 30th anniversary this year, and organizers with the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association said this week they are going all out to make this year’s event the biggest and best ever.

This year the parade moves from its previous Sunday afternoon time slot to Saturday morning, Oct. 1, along with the street festival that is now in it’s second year. The parade is also changing locations, moving from the traditional route down South Jennings to a more visible downtown route, moving down Main Street from Weatherford Street south to 7th Street.

The parade begins at 10 a.m., and the street festival — which will be set up in General Worth Square, on Main Street between 8th Street and 9th Street — follows immediately, from noon to 6 p.m.

TCGPWA’s popular annual Pride Picnic is doing a little moving of its own this year: It will still be held in Trinity Park, at the intersection of Crestline Road and Foch Street. But this year the picnic is moving from its traditional Saturday time slot to Sunday, Oct. 2, from noon to 6 p.m.

“I think we’re going to have a big turnout for the parade, just for the curiosity factor if nothing else,” TCGPWA Secretary Carla Parry said this week. “We’ve never had the parade downtown before. Having it downtown has never been an option before. So I think there will be a huge crowd there.”

Parry said that planning for the bigger events in the new location has been going very smoothly so far, and “Hopefully, no wrenches get thrown into our works between now and then!”

The expanded activities and downtown route this year mean higher costs for organizers, and the TCGPWA has been working diligently all year to raise the money needed to cover those costs. Parry said this week that things on the fundraising front also appear to be coming along well.

“The fundraising is right on target for where we need it to be,” Parry said. “We are giving out a scholarship this year for the first time, and we would love to bring in over and above the amount we need just to pay for the parade and festival and picnic, so that we could put that extra in the scholarship fund. But we are on par for what we need to pay for everything.

“Actually, all the money from the alcohol and food sales at the picnic on that Sunday comes back to the association, and that is money that we can add to the scholarship fund,” she added.

Parry said that city officials have been “very accommodating” in the process of planning this year’s expanded Pride events and moving the parade and street festival downtown.

She said that while the 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge by Fort Worth police and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission was “a horrible thing that never should have happened,” she is proud that the city and its LGBT community have used that event as the impetus for improving policies and relationships.

“We’ve made huge strides forward here in Fort Worth since the raid,” Parry said, and those strides are reflected in the city’s attitude toward planning this year’s events.

One very visible sign of that improved relationship will be Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price’s participation this year as one of three Pride parade grand marshals.

Tony Coronado, chair of TCGPWA’s corporate partners and sponsorships committee, said that Price was nominated for grand marshal by Fairness Fort Worth President and TCGPWA member Tom Anable, who also confirmed with Price that she was available and willing to participate in the parade. Her nomination was then confirmed by a vote of the association’s general membership, Coronado said.

Also elected as grand marshals this year are Q Cinema co-founder and activist Todd Camp, and female impersonator Zoe Daniels. Honorary grand marshals are retired Fort Worth

Police Officer Mike Miller and female impersonator Tasha Kohl, aka Jerry Faulkner.

“Our grand marshals this year reflect the present and the future of our community, and our honorary grand marshals were chosen as symbols to remember and honor our past,” Coronado said.

He explained that Miller is considered “our first, unofficial LGBT liaison with the police department.” Faulkner, who brought Tasha Kohl, his longtime and very popular drag alter ego, out of retirement to perform in shows over the summer to raise money for the Pride events, has a history of fundraising for the LGBT community and organizations in Tarrant County and around the Metroplex.

“The female impersonators, the drag queens, have always played a very important role in the [LGBT] community in Fort Worth and Tarrant County,” Coronado said, explaining why the TCGPWA includes them in the grand marshal and honorary grand marshal honorees for Pride each year.

“In fact, our annual Pride Picnic is actually our foundational Pride event here, the first Pride event ever held in Fort Worth, and it was started by drag queens all those years ago who wanted to get the community to come together to relax and have fun,” he said.

Parry said the street festival this year will be larger than the inaugural event last year, with corporate sponsors Coors Light and Coors Distributing Co. of Fort Worth once again donating the Coors Light stage. Local entertainer Aurora Blue headlines the entertainment for the festival, and will be joined in the lineup by a number of other performers.

The festival will feature a kids activity area, including a booth with Fort Worth P.D.’s IdentiKid program, “plenty of vendors” and a number of food and beverage stands as well as organizational and game booths. Entertainment, vendors, informational booths, a kid’s activity area and a games area with volleyball and horseshoes will again be part of the Pride Picnic on Oct. 2, Parry said, along with, of course, food and beverage stands.

Tarrant County Gay Pride officially kicks off Thursday night, Sept. 29, with shows and parties at nightclubs in Fort Worth, and continues through the following week.

For more information about Tarrant County Pride, go online to TCGPWA.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas