Top 10: N. Texas helped mark AIDS anniversary

AIDSat30

HOLDING VIGIL | Hundreds gathered for a commemoration in downtown Dallas on World AIDS Day.

No. 5

In 2011, the world marked three decades of AIDS. It was June 5, 1981, that the Centers for Disease Control first reported on five cases in which otherwise healthy young men, all gay, had been treated for pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at three separate Los Angeles hospitals since the previous October, with two of them dying of the disease. A month later, on July 4, the CDC reported on 26 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma, again all in gay men, within the previous 30 months, with eight of the patients having died. As scientists struggled to find the cause, the plague became known as GRID, or gay-related immune deficiency syndrome.

But it wasn’t until a year later — on June 27, 1982 — that the term AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, was coined. Human immunodeficiency virus — HIV — wouldn’t be discovered until 1983 by Institut Pasteur in France, and it was identified as the cause of AIDS by Dr. Robert Gallo in the U.S.

By 2011, more than 25 million people worldwide had died of AIDS, and new infections continue, with men who have sex with men once again leading in terms of new infections, according to the CDC.

Despite the frightening infection rates, federal funding for HIV/AIDS services is dwindling, with community-based AIDS service organizations struggling to find new ways to raise money, offer services and educate the public. One North Texas organization, AIDS Resources of Rural Texas based in Weatherford, announced in July that it could no longer keep its head above water and would be closing its doors as of Sept. 1.

Most clients who had been accessing services at ARRT were absorbed by the Tarrant County AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth, where Executive Director Allan Gould pledged to continue to provide services to its growing client base, despite increasing cuts in federal and state funds.

In late September, AOC announced its intention to partner with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, based in Los Angeles, to open an AIDS clinic in 2012. On World AIDS Day, AHF officials and basketball legend Magic Johnson announced that the planned AOC clinic would be one of three Magic Johnson clinics opening in the next year.

Observances of the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic worldwide began in early 2011, while in North Texas, the first such commemoration came in late June when Dallas Voice and a host of partner organizations and business presented a public forum focusing on the status of HIV treatments today. On July 1, Dallas Voice published a special issue, AIDS@30, focusing on current treatments, research and education efforts, as well as profiles on individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

AIDS service organizations joined together for World AIDS Day commemorations on Dec. 1, including a display of panels from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in downtown Dallas, and on Dec. 6, Charles Santos spearheaded The Gathering, an unprecedented collaboration of performing artists from around North Texas who donated their time to a performance at The Winspear Opera House. About 1,000 people attended the event, which raised more than $60,000 for local AIDS service organizations.

— Tammye Nash

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

—  Kevin Thomas

25 ways to fight AIDS

Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

Wait! Before you click the ‘next’ button or scroll down your news feed hear me out: The LGBT community has been living with AIDS for three decades now. For people of my generation the message to get tested and use condoms has been stated and restated so many times that it has faded into the background with the result that, all too often, people do not take the steps they need to to protect themselves. Harris County is responsible for 30% of the new HIV/AIDS diagnosis in Texas and men who have sex with men account for 64% of newly diagnosed men statewide. The threat is not over, the fight is not over, AIDS still endanger the LGBT community.

But I don’t want to just talk about just condoms and testing (as important as they are). Fighting HIV/AIDS is easier than you might think. I present to you 25 ways, in no particular order, to fight AIDS in Houston.

25. If you’re over a certain age talk to a young LGBT person about how your life has been affected by HIV/AIDS. You might be surprised how eager we are to hear your stories.

24. If you’re under a certain age listen to an older LGBT person tell you how HIV/AIDS has affected their lives. I know you aren’t eager to hear their stories, but listen anyway. You may find that learning the history of your community is more empowering than you’d expect.

23. If you are a sexually active gay man or transgender woman participate in the Baylor College of Medicine’s HIV Vaccine Study.

22. Ask your local public or school library to put books about HIV/AIDS on the shelf, not just in the back room where they have to be requested. Access to accurate information is crucial in fighting the spread of the disease.

21. Post HIV/AIDS stories to facebook.

20. Ask your clergy person what your community of faith is doing to fight the pandemic.

19. Sign up for action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition at texashiv.org

18. Actually follow through when the action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition arrive in your in-box.

17. Volunteer for organizations that deal with communities at high risk for infection: high school dropouts, victims of sexual assault, the poor, the homeless and sex workers. Fighting AIDS means fighting the injustice in our society that all too often contributes to new infections.

16. Say AIDS out loud.

15. Ask political candidates what they will do to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

14. Once they’re elected, ask those candidates why they aren’t doing more to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

13. Remind yourself that it’s OK to be tired of hearing about HIV/AIDS.

12. Thank a person who volunteers their time to the fight.

11. Take a moment to remember the people we’ve lost.

10. Take a moment to think of the people we may loose if this pandemic isn’t stopped.

9. Take a HIV/AIDS healthcare worker to dinner.

8. Wear a red ribbon.

7. Recognize that wearing a red ribbon isn’t enough.

6. Work with communities other than your own. HIV/AIDS effects us all.

5. Get angry.

4. Get over your anger.

3. Donate to an HIV/AIDS Charity.

2. When you pass a mobile HIV testing center, thank the workers.

1. Don’t pretend the fight is over, and don’t let other people pretend it’s over either.

—  admin

Halloween: The gay high holy day

What is it that draws LGBTs to Halloween in such a way that even the most clueless straights know it?

Two or three decades ago, I saw a cartoon in a mainstream publication depicting a husband and  his wife walking down a city street where they encountered two gay men dressed up for Halloween. The publication might have been Playboy or the like, because those magazines occasionally ran cartoons and editorial content related to

LGBT issues that other publications’ editors wouldn’t have dreamed of touching at the time.

In the first frame of the cartoon, the husband calls the men “fairies.” In the second frame the wife is standing over a frog saying, “I told you it was their night.”

David-Webb

David Webb The Rare Reporter

I remember chuckling and wondering how Halloween ever got to be designated as “our night” in the first place, but I never pursued it any further.

The passage of the years failed to bring me any enlightenment so I recently decided to find an answer to my question.

My research revealed that both LGBT and evangelical writers have weighed in on the subject of the gay community’s fascination with Halloween. But the opposing sides, naturally, have reached far different conclusions about what it means. Both sides agree that Halloween’s origin goes back some 2,000 years ago to the Celtic feast of Samhain, but the concord ends from that point forward.

Dr. Terry Watkins of Dial the Truth Ministries based in Alabama views Halloween as a celebration of the devil and all else that is evil. He warns that Halloween is a modern-day continuation of Samhain, a pagan ceremony practiced by Celtic priests called Druids. The priests celebrated death and hell and oversaw a “terrifying night of human sacrifices” that included first-born children, according to Watkins’ writings.

In regard to the LGBT community’s celebration of Halloween, Watkins claims that the gay community adopted it because the night has always been a symbol of “misrule and the outrageous.” He claims that Halloween is responsible for society’s growing acceptance of homosexuality because of large parades that feature cross-dressing and “gaudy perversion and decadence.”

Watkins and other evangelists maintain that Halloween has turned the world “upside down,” and they claim the Catholic religion has perpetuated the legacy of Samhain through the observance of All Saints Day.

In contrast, LGBT writers, such as poet Judy Grahn, have written of Halloween as a “great gay holiday.” Grahn wrote in her history of gay culture, Another Mother Tongue, that Halloween came to be observed by gay people as their special night because LGBT people had served as priests, witches, shamans, healers and intermediaries between living and spiritual worlds in many societies throughout history. The Druids dressed up in elaborate costumes and interacted with spirits as part of their Samhain celebrations, according to Grahn.

Grahn theorized that the Druids’ practice of impersonation, dressing up in costumes and belief in crossing over between human and spiritual worlds appealed to gay people.

Other LGBT writers have noted that gay people began looking forward to celebrating Halloween as far back as the 1930s, because it provided a cover and an opportunity for them to revel without fear of law enforcement intervention.

Jesse Monteagudo, a gay South Florida writer, wrote in Halloween: the Great Gay Holiday, that he believes LGBT people adopted Halloween as their special night because it had “a lot to do with our role as outsiders in society; our propensity for cross-dressing and gender-bending; our love for the unusual and the fantastic; our ability to find humor in the absurdities and misfortunes of life; our fascination with festive costumes and the world of make-believe; and our special capacity to have fun.”

It would be hard to argue with Moteagudo’s reasoning, as that pretty much sizes up the LGBT community from my perspective. But as far as Watkins is concerned, I think he might be taking late night horror movies and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video a little too seriously.

As it happens, one of the reasons the question about the origin of Halloween as a gay holiday kept coming back to me was because of another memory from when I was about 8 years old. One night 54 years ago, I was worrying because I did not have a costume to wear out trick-or-treating. My mother, who for the most part usually was not operating on the same frequency as other kids’ parents, suggested I wear one of her dresses.

I recall being surprised by her remark, to the point of being aghast at the thought of parading up and down the street in one of my mother’s dresses in view of my classmates. As accustomed as I was to my mother’s peculiar thoughts, this sounded a little strange even for her — especially for the year 1958.

Over my protests, my mother assured me that boys dressing up as girls and girls dressing up as boys would be perfectly acceptable on Halloween. So yes, I wound up going out wearing one of my mother’s dresses that night. But I didn’t stay out very long, and every time someone approached or a car passed I darted behind some bushes or dived into a ditch.

When I returned home about an hour later I hadn’t knocked on any doors, and I had an empty Halloween bag. It was about then that I decided I had outgrown Halloween along with Santa Claus.

I have no idea why my mother thought cross-dressing was appropriate, and I’m sure she would have been hard pressed to have backed up the argument. But it would appear that she was oddly on track.

All I can deduce is that everyone — regardless of their perspective — realizes Halloween is a night where the unorthodox will be the norm.

It’s an easy bet for me that my mother never heard of Druids, Samhain, impersonation to avoid spirits or much of anything else associated with the origin of Halloween.

But she obviously knew it was a night where anything goes, and it was meant to be enjoyed — not feared.

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

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Lady Go-Go

Guitar chick Jane Wiedlin and the rest of the Go-Go’s are back — although they claim they were never really gone

SHE’S GOT THE BEAT | Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin stays away from gender labels, but still fights for gay rights.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

……………………

THE GO-GO’S
With Girl in a Coma. House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. Aug. 26 at 9 p.m. $40–$75.
HouseOfBlues.com.

……………………

Nothing makes you feel older than an album from your youth celebrating a milestone anniversary. Nothing! Those defining tunes as you came of age may be timeless, but it’s a reminder that you aren’t.

As the seminal ‘80s band the Go-Go’s celebrates three decades since Beauty and the Beat, time seems to have hardly touched guitarist Jane Wiedlin. With her little girl voice and sassy wit, Wiedlin has kept the same spunk she had when the iconic girl group burst onto the scene.

“In some ways it feels like three years ago and other ways, like 300 years ago,” she says.

Wiedlin wants to make one thing clear: The concert she and her bandmates will give this weekend is not part of a reunion tour — there’s nothing to reunite. Rather, the Go-Go’s just aren’t “a very active band” who have taken “a big chunk of time off.”

Whether or not she’s kidding, the tour has injected the band with a vigor that they’ll put on display Friday at the House of Blues. Dallas thought they might get a nostalgic taste of the band when they were set to perform last year. But Wiedlin unintentionally derailed that.

“It was the day after my birthday and a few of us decided to take a midnight hike up to the top of this hill,” she explains. “We wanted to have this epic light saber battle. But as we walked home, I literally fell right off a cliff. I heard my knees explode; I was rolling through poison oak! I went and found the cliff and I had fallen about 15 feet.”

Such an anecdote reveals several things about Wiedlin: She’s an admitted Star Wars geek, and she’s the adventurous type. She has a limp now, but otherwise, she’s back in the game. The time off gave her some time for introspection — about touring in the early days, the fun the ladies had on the road and the experience of putting those shows together. Even with the ups-and-downs of the band, she thought everyone was having the best time possible — why not again?

“You know, I get sucked into the minutiae of being onstage, but it’s extraordinary,” she says with little gasps. “Our intention is to make this tour the most fun we’ve had in decades, which will make it fun for other people.”

Which seems like a given with such musical faves like “We Got the Beat,” “Vacation” and “Head Over Heels.”  But is new music in sight for the band that never really broke up? Wiedlin and the gang aren’t ruling it out.

“It looks possible to record together, even though we don’t have to have a major label,” she says. “That used to be such a big deal to make music, but now with the web, it’s very DIY. Like getting back to those  ‘70s punk rock days. Charlotte [Caffey] and Kathy [Valentine] just wrote a new song for the band.”

Wiedlin gives the impression that she can’t sit still, whether she’s a star in the comic book Lady Robotica, partaking in her admission that she’s a BDSM perv or acting in indie films, Wiedlin’s voice suggests she may never stop working — whatever the work may be.

“I’m working all the time. I just wrote and directed my first sci-fi movie, The Pyrex Glitch,” she says. “That’s on the film fest circuit. Hopefully people will find it as funny as I do. But we’re all really busy. Belinda [Carlisle] has her jewelry and textile company and Gina [Schock] is been writing songs for Miley Cyrus. Everybody is still so active even though we’re old.”

Wiedlin has discussed her bisexuality, although she prefers to stay away from labels. In an interview with AfterEllen.com, she told the site she’s had sex with both sexes, but that “bisexuality is such a loaded term.” But she loves her gays and as Prop 8 played out in California, she experienced both the joy of gaining equality and the disappointment of marriage privileges being taken away.

“For a few months in the summer of 2008, we got equal rights,” she says. “I wanted to be part of that celebration! But then Prop 8 happened and I’ve been fighting it ever since. I became an ordained minister to marry same-sex couples. I’ll go anywhere to do that so people can be together as they should be. Oh, and as a disclaimer, I’m completely non-religious.”

Her focus is now on the tour and even with her bum knees, she laughs off any obstacle that would keep her from enjoying giving a good show. And while the audience will hear Go-Go’s hits and perhaps even Carlisle’s, don’t be so sure on hearing Wiedlin’s one-hit wonder song “Rush Hour.” The pop confection made a top 10 splash back in 1988. In fact, she’s almost betting on it.

“You know, that song has been a thorn in my side,” she chuckles. “It is so hard to play live because it has like millions of synths in it. I’ve never been able to crack it to make it sound good, but I’d love to hear Belinda sing it.”

We’d go for that.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Master skater

IMG_0911
FOUR WHEELIN’ | Skate with caution to avoid this guy on the roller rink. Gay Skate Night returns every third Saturday at InterSkate in Lewisville. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

With Gay Skate Night back, roller derby’s Trigger Mortis offers some tips on making the floor your own

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

There was a time when the gays would routinely venture to Grand Prairie’s Forum Roller World for the ritual of roller skating. Don Blaylock used to DJ the event and decided he wanted to bring it back.

“It got to be too much for people every week,” he says. “I think that’s why it fizzled out.”

Scaling it back to once a month (every third Saturday) and moving it to the InterSkate Roller Rink in Lewisville, Blaylock wants to make it a more social event. Before heading to the rink, he chooses a place to eat where people can opt to meet up for a pre-skate nosh. He encourages carpooling up to Lewisville as well, all in efforts to get people “doing something” and “coming together.”

Sounds like a plan.

The last time I donned a pair of quad roller skates, my age was still in single digit territory. At 9, I took lessons on Saturday mornings at the Broadway Skateland in Mesquite and became fairly comfortable with all the basics. That lasted a couple of years. Three decades later, I think I may be a little rusty.

“It’s a whole lot easier if you’re going fast so you can’t feel any of the bumps on the rink,” Trigger Mortis says. “If you go slow, you’ll feel every plank of wood.”

Thanks, lady, but I’m going slow.

Mortis is a member of the Assassination City Roller Derby league, and she agreed to give me some pleasant tips to aid my return to skating … just like she’ll be doing on the flat rink at Fair Park next Saturday when ACRD ends its season with the championship contest. My lesson, however, nixed the elbows and knockouts and all.

She started with the basics.

“First, you need to squat really low. The lower you are, the less distance your ass is from the ground,” she says. “Bend your knees like you’re sitting in a chair. That’s really important.”

Squatting really low is not a look that I’m comfortable with. I’d like to impress the crowd but not look like an idiot.

“You’ll look more like an idiot if you fall standing straight up,” she says.

That shut me up. Usually, when I find myself in an unstable standing situation, I just grab onto whatever’s close by and hang on to reposition my posture — even if it is other people. Apparently, this isn’t cool.

“Oh, no, don’t do that. That’s like the biblical rule No.  1: You can’t grab anybody,” she says. “Just let yourself fall. Drop to your knees or on all fours.”

This is not unfamiliar territory.

Coincidentally, Mortis works at InterSkate in the skate shop. I feel this could prove fortuitous because she gave me some fashion and not-so-fashionable tips on preparing for my rollout.

“Get some wristguards,” she advises. “And dress comfortably. Tight jeans, no. I’ve seen people split their pants; not cute. I think those little athletic shorts are fine; with knee-high derby socks and a headband you’d get total street cred with an Assassination City shirt. I’d hang out with you.”

Mortis tried to convince me to go with the Roller Girl shorts that are made with “anti-cameltoe and muffin top technology.”

But I’d lose all cool points if I went in my inline skates. She informs that quads (four wheels, yo) are where it’s at and plus there’s more of a base to distribute my body weight on. That is if I don’t flatten the tires. Inliners are passé and she warns that she and her girls will make fun of me in blades. All of the sudden, it feels like middle school again.

Face it. Being that it’s Gay Skate Night, there is always the option for a potential hook up. You were thinking it! This wasn’t lost on Trigger Mortis. Although she doesn’t recommend throwing elbows or chairs, she says trying to skate backwards is as good as a pick-up line.

“Well, first, if you want to skate backwards, move your hips like salsa dancing,” she says. It’s like doing the Tootsie Roll. But you could have someone pushing you while you try it. If you happen to fall, the one thing that’s gonna happen is they land on top of you.”

Clearly, my kinda girl.

………………………….

TASTING NOTES

2011 has witnessed a boom in restaurant openings, but this week, there were some closings of particular note, as well.
The Cultured Cup, the wonderful store run by tea sommelier Kyle Stewart and his coffee-savant partner Phil Krampetz, will be shutting the doors of its Preston Center location Saturday. But that doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere.

While the last chance to purchase from the storefront will be July 16 at 6 p.m., you can still order their selection of brewing beverages online at TheCulturedCup.com. If you wanna stop by Saturday and Sunday, they’ll gladly feed you pizza and iced tea if you want to help them move.

Last Saturday ended up being the final day of service for Hector’s on Henderson as well. The Uptown eatery — which is where Central 214 exec chef Blythe Beck first made her culinary mark — was the child of Hector Garcia, frontman for the Riviera for years. Garcia, pictured, not only owned the place and worked the room, he also provided the entertainment on occasion, singing alongside the omnipresent piano.

Garcia — whose partner is former city councilmember Craig Holcomb — opened in the fall of 2004 (I vividly recall dining there on Election Night) to widespread acclaim. The closing was low-key, with Garcia thanking his longtime customers. “I never wanted a run-of-the-mill place, but rather something you would not experience anywhere else,” he said.

Lolita’s, the new Mexican restaurant that opened in the old Catalina Room space (later the short-lived Honey Shack), is adding entertainment to the menu. Husband and wife owners Karlos and Teresa Urban are launching a new Saturday night drag show, beginning at 10 p.m. on July 16. Even though the resto is in the gayborhood, the client base is largely straight, the Urbans said in a release, but they think the addition will appeal to both the gay and straight community. Cover is $10.

Axiom Sushi Lounge at the ilume started its Martini Monday this week, with .99 cent house cosmos and $2 off all regular price signature martinis.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 15, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Best Bets • 06.24.11

Sunday 06.26JKnightNKOTBSB

Boys to men
Finally, it’s cool to like New Kids on the Block and not be a teenage girl in the late ’80s. Likely you imagined holding hands with Jordan and Joey, but Jonathan was really the cutest. Good looks, the quiet one and lo and behold, gay! Jonathan Knight came out publicly earlier this year. They team with the all-grown ’90s boy band, Backstreet Boys.

DEETS: American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave.
7:30 p.m. $32–$92. Ticketmaster.com.

………………………

Tuesday 06.28

Three decades later
Dallas takes a look at current treatments for HIV/AIDS as well as the challenges of the future at AIDS at 30: A Community Forum. Manisha Maskay and Dr. Christopher Evans of AIDS Arms speak on prevention strategies and the hopes of the near future while Dr. Brady Allen covers today’s treatment.

DEETS: Interfaith Peace Chapel, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. 6 p.m.
InterfaithPeaceChapel.org.

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Thursday 06.30

Oh, does he have talent
You probably caught wind of the Baroque dandy singer Prince Poppycock on America’s Got Talent. Although he didn’t snag the top spot, he’s a winner in our eyes with that voice, costumes and theatrics.

DEETS: The Rose Room, 3912 Cedar Springs Road (inside S4).
Midnight. $8–$15. Caven.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 24, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas County adds sexual orientation — but not gender identity — to nondiscrimination policy

Clay Jenkins

The Dallas County Commissioners Court voted earlier today to add sexual orientation to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy.

However, the amendment adding “sexual orientation” to the policy does not include gender identity/expression, meaning it covers gay and lesbian employees but not transgender workers.

County Judge Clay Jenkins, who chairs the Commissioners Court, and Commissioner Elba Garcia told Instant Tea they were under the impression that sexual orientation includes gender identity/expression, which it does not. Jenkins and Garcia, both Democrats who took office in January, spearheaded the proposal to add sexual orientation to the policy.

Jenkins and Garcia said there was no debate on or opposition to the amendment adding sexual orientation to the policy, which first appeared on the court’s briefing agenda a month ago. The policy covers the county’s roughly 7,000 employees.

“Dr. Garcia and I talked about this before we were elected, and it was a campaign promise,” Jenkins said. “This is something we wanted to do as quickly as possible. We wanted to send a message by doing this as quickly as we did that it was long overdue.”

The city of Dallas’ employment nondiscrimination policy has included sexual orientation since 1995. However, a Republican majority on the Commissioners Court reportedly has prevented Dallas County from enacting similar protections. Jenkins and Garcia, along with Commissioner John Wiley Price, comprise a Democratic majority on the Commissioners Court for the first time in three decades.

Jenkins and Garcia said they also want to add domestic partner benefits for county employees, but first they must determine what the fiscal impact would be. The county is facing a $33 million budget shortfall this year.

Jenkins said he’s asked the county’s budget director to determine how much offering domestic partner benefits would cost, adding that he believes the county-owned Parkland hospital is at a “huge competitive disadvantage” without them.

“I think it’s very important that we send a message as an employer that we will be competitive with the rest of the marketplace,” he said.

Jenkins also said that while he thought it was covered by sexual orientation, he’d be willing to revisit the issue of adding gender identity/expression to the nondiscrimination policy.

“It was our intent in adding sexual orientation to broaden that to include all members of the GLBT community,” he said.

—  John Wright

‘Things have changed, and it’s pretty wonderful’

Phyllis Frye appointed Texas’ 1st transgender judge by Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Brian Rogers  |  Houston Chronicle via The Associated Press

Phyllis Frye
Phyllis Frye

HOUSTON — Thirty years ago, Phyllis Frye, a longtime activist for LGBT causes, could have been arrested for wearing women’s clothing in the Houston City Council chamber.Frye, a transgender Houston attorney born as Phillip Frye, fought back tears last week as the mayor appointed her to a municipal bench in the same room where she helped repeal Houston’s “cross-dressing ordinance” in 1980.

“I almost started crying, because I remembered 31 years ago, in that very same chamber, I was subject to arrest,” Frye said.

The 63-year-old will hear traffic ticket cases and other low-level misdemeanor trials. Municipal judges are not elected, she noted.

Frye said she would be the first transgender judge in Texas. She knows of at least two transgender judges in other parts of the country.
Frye applied for the position several months ago and was vetted before being appointed by Mayor Annise Parker on Wednesday, Nov. 17, with seven other new associate judges.

“I think she’s a great addition to our judiciary,” the mayor said. “I’m very proud I was able to nominate her, and she agreed to serve.”
Frye joins 43 other associate municipal judges and 22 full-time municipal judges.

“I don’t want to underplay this, because I understand it is very significant,” Frye said. “But I don’t want to overplay it either. I don’t want people to think I am anything other than an associate municipal court judge.”

Three decades ago Frye volunteered at City Hall where she worked to repeal an ordinance that allowed police to arrest men in women’s clothes and lesbians wearing fly-front jeans.

“Things have changed, and it’s pretty wonderful,” Frye said.

A graduate of Texas A&M, Frye was an Eagle Scout and an Aggie cadet. She also was a husband and a father.

Frye has practiced criminal defense law in Houston since 1986.

She now heads a six-lawyer firm and has parlayed her expertise in LGBT legal issues into a storied legal career — the latest chapter of which is her representation of Nikki Araguz, the transgender Wharton widow embroiled in a legal battle to receive part of her firefighter husband’s death benefits.

Parker’s critics seized on Frye’s appointment to say the mayor, who is a lesbian, is promoting a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender agenda.

“Phyllis Frye is a very well-known radical transgender activist,” said Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, which represents about 300 churches.

“We don’t think it is consistent with the values of the vast majority of the people,” Welch said. “We think it is an anti-family lifestyle and agenda.”

Her appointment, however, was applauded by Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus.

“Phyllis Frye is a true icon in our civil rights movement,” said Kris Banks, Caucus president. “She is an internationally recognized pioneer, and the mayor is to be congratulated for her choice.”

Banks noted that Charles Spain, an openly gay attorney and chair of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Issues of the State Bar, also was appointed as an associate municipal court judge. Josh Brockman, an openly gay attorney, was appointed as a hearings officer to resolve contested parking tickets.

New judges go through hours of state-mandated training. Frye said she expects to begin substituting for sitting judges in the spring.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens