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

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

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

—  Kevin Thomas

Teacher accuses TC College of discrimination

Gill says English Department chair at Northeast Campus told her the state and the school ‘do not like homosexuals’

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill
Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor

HURST — Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill filed suit Wednesday, Sept. 7, against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that she was denied the opportunity to apply for a permanent, full- time teaching position there because of the English Department chair’s bias against what he perceived her sexual orientation to be.

Tarrant County College adopted a nondiscrimination policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation on March 9 of this year.

Frank Griffis, director of public relations and marketing for Tarrant County College, said it “would not be appropriate” for school officials to comment on pending litigation. He also said school officials had not yet been served with papers and therefore had not read the complaint.

Gill said she had worked as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year at the Northeast Campus. But when the position was to be made permanent, English Department Chair Eric Devlin refused to allow her to apply for the permanent position.

Gill said when she complained about Devlin to Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell, he initially seemed to side with her, but after speaking to Devlin, Howell refused to communicate further with her. Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Both Devlin and Howell are named as co-defendants in the lawsuit.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Upton, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher.

Gill and Upton held a press conference Wednesday to announce that the lawsuit had been filed earlier that morning in U.S. district court in Fort Worth. The press conference was held at a Hurst hotel located just a few blocks from the Tarrant County College campus where Gill had taught.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, and statements Gill made during the press conference, Gill was first hired on a full time, temporary basis as an English professor on Aug. 21, 2009. A little more than a month later, at the end of October, a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes.

The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

On Nov. 9, however, Devlin called Gill into his office and told her the student had accused Gill of “flirting” with female students. Gill denied the accusations, noting that there was always another teacher in the class at the same time.

That’s when Devlin responded with “a lengthy diatribe about homosexuals and how the Texas public views them,” according to the complaint. Gill said Devlin went on to say that Texas is a conservative state and TCC is a conservative school, and that “Texas and Tarrant County College do not like homosexuals.”

Gill continued to teach at TCC, receiving high praise and compliments from students and staff alike, including from Devlin. Then in May 2010, she and other full-time temporary professors were told by Howell that all seven temporary full- time positions were being made permanent, and that they were being re-designated as adjunct faculty until the permanent positions were filled.

Gill said Howell also encouraged her and the other temporary professors to apply for the permanent jobs. Gill applied for all seven but was the only one of the seven temporary professors not hired for the permanent positions. Gill said that she was, in fact, not even allowed to interview for any of the positions, even though her experience and credentials were as good as or better than those who were hired.

Gill said she met with Howell and told him about Devlin’s anti-gay comments and refusal to allow her to interview for the permanent positions. She said Howell promised her to discuss the situation with Devlin immediately, but that he never got back in touch with her.

She said she also got no response when she tried to discuss the situation with the vice president and president of Tarrant County College.

Gill continued to teach as an adjunct professor at the campus through December 2010, although, she said, Devlin’s attitude toward her became “even more hostile.”

And she said that although she was originally assigned classes for the 2011 spring term, as she was preparing for those classes she discovered she had been removed as the professor. When she inquired about the status of the class, Gill said, she was told that Devlin had specifically instructed that those classes be taken away from her.

Upton said that Devlin and Howell violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution by refusing to allow Gill to apply for the permanent teaching position. He said Gill’s suit is asking that she be allowed to complete the application process and that she be compensated for the time she has been unemployed.

Gill, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Arlington, said she would love to get a teaching job with TCC, and while she would prefer to work at another campus, she is willing to go back to the Northeast Campus and work again in Devlin’s department.

“I worked hard. I earned it,” Gill said of the permanent position. “I have nothing to be ashamed of. If it [her working in Devlin’s department again] would be awkward for anyone, I think it would be awkward for him [Devlin] because he is the one who was in the wrong.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Tarrant AIDS agencies take a hit

AOC faced with nearly $300,000 in funding cuts as client load increases; Planning Council trying to track funds from defunct ARRT

Allan Gould

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor

Tarrant County largest AIDS service organization has found itself facing nearly $300,000 in federal funding cuts as it prepares to start its 2011-2012 fiscal year. And the area as a whole, while not seeing cuts as deep as had been feared, will be seeing fewer federal dollars than before.

Cuts at AOC
Tarrant County AIDS Outreach Center Executive Director Allan Gould said this week that his agency had been told in March that even though AOC was at that time receiving only part of the Ryan White Part A funds for which it had been approved, “we were told to go ahead and spend based on last year’s budget, and that we would get level funding [equal to the previous year] through Ryan White.”

But last week, Gould said, “six months into it, we found out that there would be some substantial cuts. That’s when we realized there is about $290,000 that we were expecting that we won’t be getting.”

And that, Gould said, is in addition to some $300,000 the agency had already known was being cut.

“We are adapting the budget, and we will survive. But it’s tough,” Gould said. “We are looking at what we’re doing, looking at what we feel are the absolute necessities and what areas can take the financial hit.

“Our fiscal year [started Thursday, Sept. 1] and we had a solid budget. Now we are having to reconfigure our budget and start over. We already knew we had to cut $300,000, and we did that. We had a solid budget. Now we have to cut another nearly $300,000,” he said. “It’s really going to hurt. We have been able to go back and balance our budget. But I can’t remember any time when we have had to try and do so much with so little.”

Under the reconfigured budget, Gould said that the agency’s case management programs would be cut by 40 percent, going from seven case managers to four. The three positions being lost will be cut through attrition, he said.

Despite the fact that proper nutrition has been proven to be pivotal in maintaining optimum health for people with HIV/AIDS, AOC is being forced to cut its nutritional therapy program by 50 percent, Gould said.

“Despite how important it is to the clients’ good health, nutritional therapy is not considered medically necessary,” he said.

AOC’s other programs, Gould added, are taking a 12 percent cut across the board.

At the same time funding is being slashed, Gould said, AOC has been taking on more and more new clients as other AIDS service organizations in the area have been forced to close.
“Over the last two years, we have absorbed quite a few new clients from other agencies,” he said, pointing to the Tarrant County AIDS Interfaith Network, which closed in 2009, to the Catholic Charities’ decision to end its Lady Hogan Project and to the closure last month of AIDS Resources of Rural Texas, which had offices in Weatherford and Abilene.

Jamie Schield

AIDS Outreach folded the TCAIN clients into its programs in 2009, taking over the network’s primary program, the Geisel-Morris Dental Clinic for people with HIV/AIDS. AOC also absorbed some of the Lady Hogan Project clients, and Gould said at least some of the ARRT clients have turned to AIDS Outreach for help as well.

He explained that when AOC took over TCAIN in 2009, “at the same time we were approached by ARRT about taking over their services in Weatherford and Abilene, too. But we were not in a position to be able to do that at the time.”

Although talks between the two agencies continued, Gould said, AOC officials had recently told those at ARRT that AOC probably would not be able to assume the other agency’s programs any time soon.

But since ARRT closed its doors at the end of August, Gould acknowledged, AIDS Outreach has been left with no choice other than to try and find ways to help those ARRT clients now left without resources.

“We immediately absorbed about 150 clients from ARRT’s Weatherford office,” Gould said, “on top of the 85 or so from the Lady Hogan Project and the 300 or 400 from TCAIN. We had about 1,600 clients before. Now we have around 2,000.

“That was a huge jump for us to make [in client load], and we only got a little extra money from those other agencies. We were able to make it work, but just barely. But with these recent cuts in federal funding, it’s going to be much more difficult,” he said. “There will be instances, I am afraid, when someone comes to us for help, and we are just going to have to say no.”

Gould acknowledged that he wasn’t surprised to see federal funds cut again, but he was surprised by how deep the cuts were.

“I am still in shock that they expect the programs to continue operating at current levels. It’s an almost surreal atmosphere,” he said. “We are constantly being asked to do more for more people, but do it with less funding and less manpower. And we have to do it under continual threats of even more cuts.”

Although he is “dismayed and frustrated” by the cuts — and by the level of political infighting and negativity he sees coming from Congress today — Gould said AIDS Outreach will continue to provide services to the HIV/AIDS community.

“The bottom line is, this is reality, and we are going to have to work with what we have. We have to be diligent in our expectations of help from the federal government, and we have to be prepared about what our next steps are,” he said.

“But we will not go away. And we won’t change our mission just to chase the dollars. We are prepared to make the adjustments we have to make to remain viable for the long run.”

N. Central TX HIV Planning Council

The closing of ARRT is also causing some headaches over at the North Central Texas HIV Planning Council, which allocates federal and state funding in Tarrant, Parker, Hood and Johnson counties.

Although the cuts there were not as drastic as had been expected, “it’s still a decrease in funds for the area,” Planning Council Coordinator Jamie Schield said.

“It’s not as bad as we thought. Originally, we thought we were looking at about $520,000 in cuts. But it turned out to be just $185,000” in Ryan White Part A funds, Schield said.

“And this is the first year that the federal government has given us the money in five different parts. It makes it hard for planning, hard for the agencies to work and to get the contracts out,” Schield added. “I guess they had some problems in Washington. The money is just not out yet.”

Schield and Planning Council HIV Grants Manager Margie Drake this week explained federal funding dispersed through the Ryan White HIV Treatment Modernization ACT — previously the Ryan White CARE Act — is divided into Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D funds.

Part A funds come directly from the federal government to the Planning Council to be dispersed among local AIDS service agencies. Part B funds go from the federal government to the state government and then to the Planning Council.

Part C funds are focused on medical treatment, and Part D funds are focused on women, children and youth with HIV/AIDS.

HOPWA funds are focused on housing people with HIV/AIDS.

The council also disperses money from the state to HIV/AIDS services, Drake said.

“All these categories have lots of overlap, but there are different amounts, different reporting requirements and different disbursement rules,” Drake said. “Tarrant County is one of the few places in the nation that actually has a planning council, and that gives us more knowledge, more control to make sure we are not duplicating services. It lets us focus the money where it’s needed most.”

However, the $395,000 in Part C funds that went to ARRT’s Weatherford and Abilene offices were not under the council’s control, and Schield said his agency is now left wondering what will happen to those funds.

“They got $395,000 total for the two service areas, and they got about half of that up front,” Schield said. “Now that ARRT has closed its doors, we don’t know what the feds are doing with the remainder of those funds that had been allocated for the current year. We want to apply for those Part C funds in the future, and the Tarrant County Commissioners [on Wednesday] gave us permission to do that.”

The problem is, Tarrant County is likely to be faced now with former ARRT clients seeking the services they lost, and money to provide those services is in short supply.

“We definitely think that there will be clients coming here [to Tarrant County] looking for help, especially those clients that went to ARRT’s Weatherford office,” Drake said.

“We can only serve maybe a third of those clients with the money we have. We don’t know what the federal government is going to do with [ARRT’s remaining Part C funds], and we’ve got clients right now that need care. We are doing the best we can to put a bandage on the situation and make sure no client goes without the services they have to have.”

Schield added, “Coordination of services and funding is really pretty good out here. We do that well. But the problem now is that we need to keep the money here where it’s needed.

“Our biggest thing now is to keep that [ARRT Part C] money here in the community. It’s a very urgent issue on our end to get some answers from the federal government about where that money is going, so we can plan on our end to make sure our clients here get what they need,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Tarrant Pride fundraising kicks into high gear

PRIDE 2010 | The Rev. Carol West was one of the grand marshalls for the 2010 Tarrant Pride Parade.

TCGPWA still about $15,000 short of goal to pay for picnic, 30th annual parade set for downtown

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

FORT WORTH — With less than two months to go until the 30th annual Tarrant County Pride Week steps off through downtown Fort Worth on Oct. 1, the Tarrant County Gay Pride Week Association still needs to raise more money to pay for a bigger, better parade and the Pride Picnic planned for the following Day in Trinity Park.

Since the Rainbow Lounge raid in June 2009, Fort Worth’s LGBT community has been re-energized and more active and organized. The 2010 parade, which followed the traditional route down Jennings Avenue on the city’s south side, was the largest, by far, in recent memory, and included a new feature, a street party on Jennings before and after the parade.

But this year, as the community’s presence and influence has grown, and to mark the event’s 30th anniversary, TCGPWA organizers decided the parade should be even more high profile, moving the event to downtown Cowtown.

“We’re taking it to Main Street America” this year, said Duane Littlefield, president of TCGPWA.

This year’s parade has also been moved to a Saturday morning instead of a Sunday afternoon.

The parade begins at 10 a.m. on Oct. 1, and will move down Main Street in the heart of the downtown district. The street festival will follow, beginning at noon at General Worth Square, and lasting til 6 p.m.

The Pride Picnic, previously held on the Saturday following parade Sunday, this year will be held the next day, from noon to 6 p.m.

But this bigger, better Pride celebration costs money. The budget for the parade and picnic weekend is $25,000, a significant increase from the previous budget of $6,600 according to Tony Coronado, TWGPWA corporate partner and sponsorships committee chair.

And unlike the Dallas Pride parade each September that is staged by a professional organization, the Dallas Tavern Guild, the Fort Worth events are mounted completely by a volunteer community organization.

Coronado said the committee has so far raised about $10,000 of the total needed. But is confident that upcoming fundraising events can make up the difference — as long as the community turns out to support them.

On Aug. 20, TCGPWA is holding a benefit garage sale, and on Aug. 21, “The Diva Show” starring local drag legend Tasha Kohl begins at 8 p.m. at Best Friends Club. Three additional shows are planned at Best Friends through September, including a pageant, that will all help bulk up the Pride celebration coffers.

In addition, Coronado said that most groups that will participate in the parade have not registered yet. Parade entries cost $50 for an eco-friendly or walking group, $75 for a non-profit and $125 for a standard entry which may be a car, float or a truck.

Groups have until Sept. 15 to register.

Coronado said the association has lined up some sponsors, the majority of whom are “providing in-kind services,” Coronado said. That list includes Coors, which will supply the main stage for the festival.

But, Littlefield added, “We could always use more sponsors.”

She said that another way to contribute is to purchase the weekend package available on the TCGPWA website. The Sheraton Fort Worth Hotel & Spa is the host hotel and the weekend includes lunch at Billy Bob’s in the Stockyards, a film screening at the Water Gardens and excursions to the museums in the city’s Cultural District.

“Buy into that package,” Littlefield urged. “It will help tremendously.”

She said the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau has been “gung ho supportive” in helping the association plan and promote Pride weekend.

The downtown route is about four times the length of the old parade route, and Littlefield said that requires more announcing stations and more police. And for the first time, the Fort Worth parade will use barricades to keep spectators on the sidewalks, adding another expense.

More volunteers are also needed this year for set-up, clean up and logistics, which also adds to the price.

Newly elected Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price will be one of the grand marshals for this year’s parade, and Billy Moon — grand marshal of the first Pride parade in Fort Worth 30 years ago — will be one of the honorary grand marshals. Tasha Kohl has also been named honorary grand marshal.

Coronado said the Pride Week association named Kohl as an honorary grand marshal in part as a shout-out to the city’s female impersonators who are the ones who started the Pride picnic and who have always been an integral part of the fundraising efforts for the parade and other activities.

Because this year’s parade is taking place downtown, the parade will be more accessible to Dallasites making the trip across the Trinity for the parade by train.

On Saturday, the TRE leaves Union Station in downtown Dallas at 8:49 a.m. and arrives at the Fort Worth Intermodal Center (the next to last stop) at 9:44 a.m. That station is three blocks from the parade route.

The parade begins at the Tarrant County Courthouse on Weatherford Street at 10 a.m. proceeding down Main Street to 7th Street. The festival that begins at noon will be on Main Street from 8th to 9th streets near the Water Gardens. The Intermodal Center is on Jones Street at 9th Street.

Volunteers can sign up on line. Forms for parade entries are also available at

—  John Wright

Who decides what’s medically necessary?

Mara Keisling

Trans advocate says trans health benefits are about what medical treatments are necessary, not about cost or personal beliefs

TAMMYE NASH  | Senior Editor

Say the phrase “transgender health benefits,” and most people immediately think insurance coverage that pays at least some of the costs of sexual reassignment surgery. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

The problem, said National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling, is that issues of medical treatment are being made by accountants rather than by doctors. And trans-phobia is playing a role in too many of those decisions.

Neither the city of Dallas, the city of Fort Worth, Dallas County nor Tarrant County offer fully inclusive health care benefits for their employees. But they are not alone.

According to reports, when city officials in Portland, Ore., voted unanimously earlier this month to offer transgender health care benefits, the city became only the third local government in the nation to do so. San Francisco city and county — one combined government — was first, and Oregon’s Multanomah County was second.

In the business world, the odds are a little better for trans employees looking for adequate insurance coverage. According to the Human Rights Campaign, in 2009, 22 percent of the Fortune 100 companies offered trans-inclusive health benefits, while such benefits were offered by 7 percent of Fortune 500 companies, and 3 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies.

Still, those numbers are dishearteningly low. And sometimes, even when a trans person thinks they are covered, insurance companies — whether in an attempt to cut costs or out of anti-trans bigotry — will find a way to deny claims.

“A lot of insurance plans exclude what they call ‘transition-related care,’” Keisling said. “That can mean a lot of different things, but they all have similar implications.”

“Transition-related care” can be divided into two parts, Keisling said: the costs directly related to gender reassignment surgery, and the other treatments and services that are related, things like checking hormone levels, lab tests, and mental health services associated with the transition process.

“Even someone who has fully transitioned probably still needs to get her hormone levels checked on a regular basis. And insurance companies will deny those claims by saying they are ‘transition-related,’” Keisling said.

This is also the issue of sex-specific care, she continued. After transitioning, a trans woman will qualify for regular mammograms, but not for regular prostate exams — which she still needs, too.

And a lot of trans men face similar difficulties, Keisling said. “A trans man might need a pap smear or some other kind of gynecological care, and they are often told no, insurance won’t cover that,” she said.

She described another case in which a trans man was told by his doctors that he was facing serious gynecological problems and needed to have a hysterectomy. Because he was trans, however, insurance wouldn’t pay.

“Insurance said, ‘No. We don’t pay for sex-change operations. The doctors said this is transition surgery. This is a medically-necessary procedure.’ But they wouldn’t pay,” she said.

But in some cases, the discrimination is even more blatant.

“The insurance for federal government employees specifically excludes coverage for the costs of [gender reassignment surgery], but there have been a number of cases where that was used to exclude coverage of any type for transgenders,” Keisling said.

“I know of a federal employee who was told insurance wouldn’t pay for care for her son’s broken arm because she was transgender. Another trans woman who was anemic and needed transfusions was told insurance wouldn’t cover the treatments because she had ‘transsexual blood,’” she said.

“The list goes on and on. I know another trans woman who was playing for a woman’s softball team and broke her arm during a game,” Keisling continued. “She went to the hospital, had the X-rays and got her arm set. Then the insurance company turned around and denied the claim. They said if she weren’t transsexual, she wouldn’t have been out there playing for a women’s team and she wouldn’t have broken her arm.”

When it comes to these “really egregious stories” that are “so clearly wrong,” Keisling said, the victims can hire lawyers and get remedies through the courts. Still, she said, “You have to know what to do, how to get things fixed.” And court cases aren’t cheap, either.

Still, things do seem to be changing for the better, at least when it comes to federal employees, Keisling said. Federal officials recently issues a letter to employees stressing that when it comes to the exclusionary language in the insurance policy, “surgery means just that — surgery, not pre-operative care or post-operative care. And they stressed that this isn’t a change. They aren’t just now saying that. That has always been the rule. They just want to make sure people know the rule and follow it.”

Officials with the Veterans Administration also sent a similar letter regarding insurance coverage for transgender veterans.

But the message doesn’t seem to be filtering down to lower levels of government. For instance, mayoral runoff candidates in both Dallas and Fort Worth have said that when it comes to the question of health benefits for transgender city employees, they have to study the issue more before deciding where they stand. And for three of them — Mike Rawlings and David Kunkle in Dallas and Betsy Price in Fort Worth — it comes down to a question of costs.

Jim Lane, the other Fort Worth mayoral candidate, said at a recent candidate forum that as it had been explained to him in terms of Vietnam veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome: In the 1970s, most people dismissed claims of post-traumatic stress. But as medical science has advanced, post-traumatic stress has become acknowledged as a serious problem that requires medical-necessary treatment.

That, Keisling said, is what it all comes down to: What is medically necessary? And who gets to answer that question?

“We want the insurance to cover things that are medically necessary. We are not asking them to cover things that are not medically necessary,” she said. “Boob jobs are not in the medically necessary category. Electrolysis treatments, fertility treatments — those things are not medically necessary.”

Gender transition, though, is different. And, Keisling said, the American Medical Association agrees.

“The American Medical Association has said that transition-related health care is medically necessary. It is not experimental. It is not optional. It is medically necessary,” she said. “And we don’t want insurance companies deciding what is medically necessary. We don’t want city council members deciding what’s medically necessary. We want doctors making those decisions.”

The issue of cost, Keisling said, should not be an issue at all.

In fact, according to HRC’s website on transgender health care, “the annualized costs to the employer of providing insurance coverage for transgender-related care are typically minimal” and even “negligible for medium-sized to larger employers.”

The HRC website notes that the best available data on cost comes from the city of San Francisco and San Francisco County, and only limited data is available even then, since trans benefits are a relatively recent occurrence there.

“The cost of services per employee per year was minimal, with costs per insured per year averaging between $0.77 and $0.96: less than a dollar per year per enrollee,” according to information on the HRC website, which is based on the report San Francisco Transgender Benefit: Actual Cost and Utilization (2001-2006). “The precise number of claimants is uncertain since for most years the data is reported by claim and not by claimant. Thus the average dollars per claimant per year ranged between $3,194 and $12,771. The average five-year cost per claimant was between $15,963 and $63,853 for the period from 2001-2006.”

Keisling said, “Does it cost money to offer these benefits? Sure. But the truth is, it will save more money in the long run. With the proper benefits, people get to be healthy, physically and mentally, and that has an undeniable impact on the quality of the work they do.

“The real problem is that when people think of transition and treatment for transgenders, they think of it as something dirty,” Keisling added. “But it’s not dirty. It’s not shameful. It’s just like any other kind of medical care. This is about medical treatments that are medically necessary and that’s it. That whole debate over ‘medically necessary’ is done. It’s over.

“Now the businesses are starting to fall in line, and even the federal government. Now it’s time for the cities, for the counties to get on the stick and start offering their employees the benefits they deserve.”

—  John Wright

FW Mayor Mike Moncrief presents ‘Believing in Youth Award’ to gay Councilman Joel Burns

Joel Burns, right, and husband JD Angle

Last night, I posted a brief blog about Joel Burns being recognized for his anti-bullying efforts by Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, but I didn’t have many details. Now, here are some details for you.

Moncrief presented Burns with the 8th annual “Believing in Youth Award” Thursday night during the Believing in Youth Award Dinner, an event that benefited Santa Fe Youth Services. According to a press release from Moncrief’s office, the award “honors those who take personal responsibility for being a role model and building resiliency in our young people through formal and informal, intentional and unintentional efforts.”

Santa Fe Youth Services is a nonprofit agency that has provided services to youth and families in Tarrant County for more than 10 years.

Burns was chosen as the recipient in recognition of his efforts to combat bullying that gained national attention last October when he delivered an impromptu “It Gets Better” message to LGBT youth during a City Council meeting. Burns, in an emotional address that left many in the council chambers in tears, spoke of his own experience as a gay teen bullied by classmates and how he even contemplated suicide at one point, and how his life has gotten exponentially better in the years since.

A video of his speech went viral on YouTube and within days, the gay Fort Worth council member had been invited to speak on numerous TV shows, including The Today Show and Ellen. In December he went to Austin for a press conference announcing the introduction of anti-bullying bills in the Texas Legislature, and he returned to Austin in March for LGBT Lobby Day to call once again for the legislation to be passed.

Also in March, Burns was invited to attend an anti-bullying summit presented by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

Last month, Burns received a GLAAD Media Award for his efforts.

—  admin

Making a better world, one step at a time

John Boeglin

John Boeglin repays the help he gets as a client at AOC by also being a volunteer at the agency

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor

FORT WORTH — John Boeglin, first diagnosed with AIDS in 1989, has been a client of Tarrant County’s AIDS Outreach Center off and on since 1991.

But Boeglin doesn’t just go to the center for help for himself; he helps others in turn by volunteering at AOC. And he has taken his volunteerism a step forward by looking for — and finding — ways to help the agency go a little more green.

“I have volunteered in different parts of AIDS Outreach, and I had volunteered in the food pantry for about four years when I started thinking that there was a real need for us to start incorporating recycling into all of our events,” Boeglin said.

So he took the initiative of coordinating with the city to get recycle bins at the agency and has been leading AOC’s recycling efforts in the three years since then.

“It’s not very profitable. But at least we are helping the environment. We can now take all the cardboard and plastic and aluminum that comes through here and recycle it, instead of having it all end up in a landfill somewhere,” he said.

He added, “I have always been cautious about my own carbon footprint, about the impact I have on the environment. I was always riding a bicycle everywhere. I didn’t even have a car until my father passed away.”

Boeglin has also been a big supporter of AOC’s annual AIDS Walk, both as a walker and as a volunteer who helps set up on the day of the event, and then take everything down and put it away when it’s over.

“I’m usually there from the first thing in the morning until that night when it’s all done,” he said. “And I have walked in the AIDS Walk for at least 10 years now.”

Boeglin said he volunteers with and walks in the AIDS Walk, now in its 19th year, because “it helps earn money to pay for the services that we need. And with all the cuts the government has made since 2000, that money has become a real necessity.

“This agency probably wouldn’t make it without the money from the AIDS Walk,” he continued. “Because of all the changes made by the previous administration [under President George W. Bush], people can’t even get on disability now. A lot of people wouldn’t be able to make it without the programs at AIDS Outreach Center.”

Boeglin said he first started doing volunteer work “primarily because there wasn’t a lot else to do. Those of us who were diagnosed in the 1980s and early ’90s, we found out we were sick and so we started planning for the end of our lives. Then all of a sudden, we realized we weren’t dying.

“So we tried to go back to work, but we either couldn’t get jobs at all, or we couldn’t get jobs that would actually pay the bills,” he said. “So we found ourselves sitting around our apartments with nothing to do. That’s how it happened with me. So I started volunteering.”

Boeglin said he volunteered with the Healing Wings program at JPS Hospital and then later at AIDS Outreach when the program moved. He has also volunteered with Q Cinema and has been involved with Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats. He has been politically active as well, once getting a scholarship that allowed him to fly to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress on behalf of the AIDS Drugs Assistance Program.

He said he has lobbied the Texas Legislature on HIV and LGBT related issues, too.

“Sometimes, you can get a little burned out when you stay in one place, doing one thing for too long. So I avoid the burnout by going from one place to another,” Boeglin said. “After I had volunteered at the food pantry [at AOC] for several years, it started to get really difficult. When you start losing so many people, it gets hard. You come in and even though you know they’re gone, you keep looking for them, keep waiting to see them. It’s hard.”

That was one reason, he said, that he chose to work with Q Cinema. “I needed to do things that let me see more people that are affected by HIV instead only seeing people who are infected with HIV. I needed that change of pace,” he explained.

Boeglin has a lot of hobbies, too, that help keep him busy and healthy. He is a writer and an artist and works in wood crafting. He also likes to attend Scarborough Faire and sci-fi conventions, and will be volunteering at an upcoming convention here in North Texas.

Boeglin said his interest in sci-fi conventions grew out of a fascination with science and with space that began when he was a child and sat with his grandfather to watch as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

“Did you know that it was protease inhibitors developed during experiments on the space shuttle that led to the use of the ‘drug cocktails’ in the 1995 that have helped people with AIDS live better and longer?” Boeglin asks. “They were able to grow these protein crystals large enough in space with zero gravity to be able to see how they would affect how HIV is able to enter cells. And millions of us are alive today because of those experiments they did on the space shuttle in 1995.”

While some people may joke about the sci fi convention fans and the separate world they sometimes seem to live in, Boeglin sees a kind of nobility in that world that gives him hope for a better future in this one.

“The conventions and the fans, there’s a very, very good sense of community there, just like there is here at AIDS Outreach,” Boeglin said. “It makes me believe that someday that altruistic future [of the sci-fi world] may really someday come true, because people care enough to be here, to be at the AIDS Walk and participate in it — the ones who don’t have to be there, but are there anyway, and the ones who struggle to be there and make a difference. It gives me hope.”

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

—  John Wright

AUDIO: Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos on gay Democrats

Dan Ramos on Stonewall Democrats, homosexuality by gharman

Daniel Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, has been doing a great job keeping us posted on the Dan Ramos situation. If you’ll remember, Ramos is the chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party who recently compared gay Democrats to “termites” and the “fuckin’ Nazi Party.” Just today, the San Antonio Current posted some audio from the interview in which Ramos’ originally made his anti-gay comments — in response to Ramos’ allegations that the newspaper misrepresented what he said. Also, after the jump are several statements condemning Ramos forwarded by Graney over the last few days, including from state representatives, a Congressman, the San Antonio mayor and the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats.

—  John Wright

Walking to remember

FAMILY BUSINESS | One reason Kelly Smith works at the Tommy’s Hamburgers on Camp Bowie, owned by her parents, is that her job there gives her plenty of time to volunteer with AIDS Outreach Center. (Tammye Nash/DallasVoice)

For Kelly Smith, volunteering at AOC and participating in the AIDS Walk is a family affair — in more ways than 1

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor

When she was growing up, Kelly Smith always thought of her uncle, Brad, as more of a brother and friend than an uncle.

“He was my dad’s only brother. He was a chef, a great cook, and when my parents opened up Tommy’s Hamburgers, he helped them out a lot,” Smith said. “He was only 10 years older than me, and I grew up hanging out with him and his friends.”

But then AIDS struck, Kelly said, “and I lost Brad. I’ve lost his partner, and I’ve lost all of his friends but one. It was devastating.”

But before he died in 1994, Brad Smith introduced his niece to Tarrant County’s AIDS Outreach Center and the agency’s annual AIDS Walk. In the years since, the bond between Kelly and that agency has grown ever stronger, giving her an opportunity, she said, to honor the memories of her uncle and friends by helping those still living with HIV.

“I did the AIDS Walk with Brad in 1992 and 1993 before he died in 1994. Then by the mid-90s, I started getting more involved. I became a team captain and started getting other people to walk with me.”

But Kelly didn’t limit her involvement to the AIDS Walk: She joined the center’s board of directors three years ago and is now vice president of the board.

Still, the AIDS Walk holds a special place in her heart.

“It’s my passion. It’s my calling. I truly love it,” she said. “This year is my fourth year to be co-chair of the walk, and it’s going to be the best one ever.

READY, SET WALK | Participants in the 2011 AIDS Outreach Center AIDS Walk get ready to set out from the Fort Worth Community Arts Center on the 5K course. This year, the walk moves back to its roots in Trinity Park. This is Kelly Smith’s fourth year as AIDS Walk co-chair.

“My partner, Holly Edwards, works for Luke’s Locker, and now Luke’s has come on as a walk sponsor. It’s always so much fun to be part of the walk, but it’s even better now because this is something that we do together,” Kelly said.

Supporting the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities has always been something of a family affair for the Smiths, starting with her parents, who own Tommy’s Hamburgers.

They first opened the restaurant in 1983 in an old Texaco station in Lake Worth. The second location opened 19 years ago on Green Oaks, and nine years ago the third location on Camp Bowie — where Kelly usually works — opened its doors.

Tommy’s has long been a meeting place for LGBT community groups, like Stonewall Democrats of Tarrant County, and a sponsor for events like AIDS Walk.

That support obviously grew out of the family’s love and support for Brad and Kelly, but it may have been kick-started by some people’s response to news of Brad’s HIV-positive status.

“We had a lot of people back then calling and saying things like, ‘Do all of you have AIDS?’ People were so confused about AIDS, about what it was and how it was spread,” Kelly recalled.

Kelly went to college first at Texas Wesleyan then graduated from Texas Christian University. She taught school for a few years, but then decided what she really wanted to do was return to the family business. And now she is in charge of marketing and buying for Tommy’s Hamburgers.

“It’s certainly never boring around here,” Kelly said. “I love working with my family and meeting the customers. But what I really love about this job is that it gives me the time to do volunteer work at AIDS Outreach Center.”

And that volunteer work is really about family, too: “There’s a great group of people at AIDS Outreach, like a family,” Kelly said. “It’s a group of people all coming together with one goal — to get services to the people who need them.”

Right now, that group is all coming together to kick off the agency’s 25th anniversary year with a successful 19th annual AIDS Walk. And although the walk accounts for only a relatively small percentage of AIDS Outreach Center’s overall budget, Kelly said it is one of the agency’s most popular annual events.

“This is the one fundraiser we do that everyone can participate in. You can bring your children. You can bring your pets. It’s just a lot of fun for everyone,” she said.

Kelly is getting close to her own 20th anniversary with AIDS Outreach, and that’s a long time to work or volunteer in the world of AIDS — burnout is often an issue.

But not for Kelly Smith.

“Things have changed over the years,” she said. “People are more receptive to donating to the cause and being involved. But at the same time, some things haven’t changed. People are still getting infected.

“Just recently, I reconnected with an old friend I hadn’t seen in awhile,” she continued. “He told me he is positive. On the one hand, it made me feel good that he felt comfortable enough with me, that he trusted me enough to tell me something so personal. But on the other hand, it was very hard to hear that someone else I know, a friend who is such a wonderful guy, has HIV.

“I was feeling safe again, I guess. And then my friend tells me he is infected. It just drives me more, makes me want to do more and work harder,” Kelly said. “I won’t stop. I can’t stop. Until there’s a cure, I’ll never stop.”

The 19th annual AIDS Outreach Center AIDS Walk will be held Sunday, April 3, beginning at the pavilion near 7th Street in Fort Worth’s Trinity Park. The event begins at 1 p.m., and the walk steps off at 2:30 p.m. Pre-registration is $25, available online at Registration the day of the walk is $30 and starts at 12:30 p.m. at Luke’s Locker, 2600 W. 7th St.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Walking into the future

READY, SET, WALK | AOC Executive Director Allan Gould and AIDS Walk Coordinator Penny Rowell are hoping this year’s fundraising walk will be the best yet. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

AOC’s 2011 AIDS Walk will kick off the agency’s 25th anniversary year

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor

Tarrant County’s AIDS Outreach Center marks its 25th anniversary this year, and a number of events are already scheduled to celebrate. The first of those is the center’s 19th annual AIDS Walk, set for Sunday, April 3.

Walk Coordinator Penny Rowell said this week organizers are working to build this year’s walk into the biggest and best ever to help celebrate the center’s milestone anniversary.

In the beginning

AOC Executive Director Allan Gould has been involved with the center in some capacity practically since its inception in 1986 as the Fort Worth Counseling Center.

“I was working for Radio Shack then, and the folks from the counseling center came to Radio Shack and asked for help in getting the computers and phone systems and so on set up. I have been an active participant since then, either as a volunteer or a board member or an employee,” Gould said.

That first year, Gould said, the counseling center saw only nine people, but “it was the beginning of an outreach and an effort to supply something [help for people with AIDS] that was sorely lacking then in Tarrant County.”

In the beginning, the agency focused on getting volunteers — “mainly counselors and social workers and attorneys” — to offer services for people with AIDS, he said.

“Back then, there were no AIDS tests. People were only being diagnosed when it was really too late. There were no drugs to keep them alive,” Gould recalled. “I used to keep a record of all the people I knew who died of AIDS. But when the list reached 300 or so, I just stopped recording the names.

“I couldn’t do it anymore; it was just too devastating,” he said.

“It was the immediacy of that moment, of seeing people getting sick and dying so quickly, that caused our community — the GLBT community — to unite and create this organization to reach out and try and give some comfort to those who were dying all around us,” Gould continued.

“There wasn’t much we could do, other than offer them counseling and legal help to get their affairs in order. But we did what we could.”

In 1988, the center changed its name to Community Outreach Center and received its first public funding — a grant from the state that allowed the agency to hire its first actual employees, a counselor and Thomas Bruner, its first executive director. The newly-renamed center focused its efforts then on offering counseling to those with AIDS and on educating the public about the disease and how to avoid contracting it.

The name changed again in 1992 when the agency became the AIDS Outreach Center. Although today there’s nothing unusual about that name, at the time it was a controversial move.

“It was necessary to include ‘AIDS’ in the organization’s name. Including it directly addressed the needs we were trying to meet in the community and made sure people knew exactly what we were doing,” Gould said. “But at the same time, it shocked a lot of people. There was still a lot of discrimination happening, a lot of bias and bigotry against people with AIDS.

“That name change was a double-edged sword in a lot of ways,” he added. “It put us out there and made it easier for the people who needed us to find us, but at the same time, it caused a lot of people who had supported us to kind of withdraw, especially in the African-American and Hispanic communities.

“They just didn’t want to be associated with an organization that had ‘AIDS’ in its title,” he said.

Gould said that withdrawal by some previous supporters caused the agency’s donations to drop, and it took some time to rebuild the center’s funding.


Attitudes toward the AIDS epidemic and the needs of those with HIV/AIDS have changed over the years, and so have the center’s services.

“Our mission hasn’t changed so much as it has evolved,” Gould said. “We still have the same services we started out with — although most of the legal assistance is contracted out to Legal Hospice of Texas now — but we have continued to add services.”

The center’s counseling services today are “second to none,” and the center is top on the list of agencies to which Tarrant County MHMR refers clients with HIV seeking help, Gould said.

Among the first services to be added was social and medical case management, followed by outreach, education and prevention programs.

“The Nutrition Center came next, and it grew out of the efforts of Sandy Lanier, the wife of Dr. Bob Lanier,” Gould said. “She truly believed that good nutrition was the key to good health for people with AIDS — for everybody, really — and she literally started going around to the markets and grocery stores, getting them to donate food.

“Then she would put those donations in the back of her station wagon and drive around finding people who needed the food,” Gould said. “What she was doing eventually morphed into a more structured format and finally became our food pantry, which is one of our most used programs.”

The most recent evolution came in September 2009 when Tarrant County Interfaith Network merged into AIDS Outreach Center, adding the Guisel-Morris Dental Clinic to the center’s arsenal of services.

At the same time, AOC moved from its longtime home in a cramped and dingy space in Fort Worth’s hospital district to spacious new quarters on North Beach Street.

“That merger and the move was a big drain for us,” Gould said. “We had anticipated that it would take about half a million dollars to pay for it all, and we had gotten enough pledges, enough commitments from people to cover it.

“But then the recession hit, and a lot of those pledges didn’t come through, and we found ourselves with a real cash flow problem,” he continued. About six months ago, we realized we had to make some adjustments, and we ended up laying off four employees and cutting one to half time.”

The agency was able to absorb the duties of those missing employees into other remaining positions and in doing so, realized “a huge and immediate savings of about $130,000 a year,” Gould said.

And now that the economy has begun to recover, he said, so has AOC. Since the new fiscal year began last September, Gould said, the center has seen “a much larger outreach from individual donors than in recent years,” along with a larger outreach from corporations and foundations.

So even with what is expected to be about a 6 percent cut across the board in federal and state funds looming, AOC is able to maintain its $4.5 million budget and keep offering its programs. Gould said the center now serves about 2,000 clients annually on an ongoing basis, although “not every client uses every service we offer.” Two of the most widely-used services are the dental clinic, with about 900 active clients, and the nutrition center, with about 700 clients annually.

The Walk

The goal for this year’s AIDS Walk is $110,000 to $115,000, and while that doesn’t cover a huge portion of the agency’s overall budget, the funds are important. And just as important is the opportunity the walk presents to reach a wider audience with the center’s message of awareness and prevention.

Rowell said she is encouraged by the fact volunteers helping organize the walk are coming largely from a younger generation that “is more aware of HIV and AIDS than any other generation,” and that these young people are taking the message to a new audience.

“It’s opening a dialog with a new and larger demographic,” she said.

Rowell said she is also counting on some changes in this year’s walk to help bring in a new crop of walkers and volunteers.

“We moved the walk back to Trinity Park this year” instead of starting and ending at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center with a route that circled the Botanical Gardens, she said.

This year, the walk starts at the pavilion off 7th Street, then circles through the park to I-30 and back to the pavilion. The event begins at 1 p.m., and the walk itself steps off at 2:30 p.m. Anna DeHaro, Sunday morning radio host with KEGL radio station, will emcee the walk and will have Gould as a special guest on her radio show that same day.
Cooks Children’s Hospital is sponsoring the Kids Corner with special activities for the younger participants, and the Human Society will be at the walk with pets available for adoption. There will also be vendor booths set up near the pavilion.

Pre-registration is available for $25. Registration the day of the walk will be $30, and starts at 12:30 p.m. at Luke’s Locker, located nearby at 2600 W. 7th St. Luke’s Locker, Rowell said, is a sponsor for this year’s walk and has been extremely helpful in organizing the event.

She said the store specializing in gear for runners has “done a lot of advertising for us online and at every event they have participated in recently.”

Anyone who pays a registration fee will receive an AIDS Walk T-shirt. But those who bring in at least $100 more will get a canvas tote bag and a T-shirt. Those who raise at least $250 extra get the shirt, the bag and one raffle ticket, while those who raise at least $450 get all that plus one more raffle ticket.

Items donated for the raffle range include concert and theater tickets, dinners and more. Rowell said organizers are also working with representatives from the Texas Rangers baseball team to get a raffle prize donation from the championship team.

“We’re still looking for vendors and sponsors, and anyone who is interested can call me for information,” Rowell said. She can be reached at 817-916-5224 or by e-mail at

Looking ahead

Gould said this year’s AIDS Walk — as well as a May 5 open house and the June 25 “Evening of Hope” gala — are just a few of the signs of the great things to come for AIDS Outreach Center.

“We are looking at the future, looking at ways to round out our programs to take a more active role in the overall care, medically speaking, of people with HIV and AIDS in Tarrant County,” Gould said, “We are always looking at new ways to serve and grow, and there are great things to come.

“Over the last 25 years, we have made some dramatic strides forward in offering services and programs to our community,” he added, “and this agency is poised to be here well into the future.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright