Become a part of the Gender Book

The Gender BookThe Gender Book is an effort to try to bring together, in one resource, a discussion of the wide array of gender expressions and identities that fall under the transgender umbrella. It’s creators are holding a brainstorming session next Thursday evening, December 8, to get public input and allow the community at large to become a part of the project.

“We sort of just made the Gender Book out of a need that we felt,” says Mel Reiff Hill, one of the collaborators on the project, along with Boston Bostian and Jay Mays. Hill says that the creators of the Gender Book searched for resources to help them talk about gender, but were unable to find anything that met their needs. “I had a boyfriend who had to pay a therapist to attend training on gender so that he could get the care he needed,” says Hill “the resources just weren’t out there.”

“At the time we were all living in the same house and we had a writer and an artist and a fundraising person and an enteprenuer. All of us were under the transgender umbrella in one way or another and all of us had friends and lovers who are as well,” and thus the Gender Book was born.

Hill describes the brainstorming session as “an interactive community party.” “We’re the first to admit that we can’t represent everyone,” says Hill, recognizing the limitations of any author writing on such a diverse topic. “We’ll have surveys for people to fill out and snacks and coloring book versions for people to fill out”

The coloring book pages are the result of Hill’s process in illustrating the book. Hill first draws pages in pencil then outlines the drawings in pen and erases the pencil, finally scanning the drawing and coloring it by computer. “I presented a workshop with some high schoolers and I was showing one of them my binder of papers looking through it one of them saw the original pen drawings,” says Hill. “He was like ‘you should give these to high schoolers, they love coloring it’s very zen-like for them.’” Hill says that the coloring pages have proved a hit at subsequent workshops and a great way to open up conversations about gender.

The brainstorming session, coloring pages included, is next Thursday, December 8, at the Lawndale Art Center (4912 Main). Attendees are asked to RSVP through Facebook.

More information on the Gender Book is available through their website, TheGenderBook.com.

—  admin

Death • 09.30.11

Wendy Churitch, 55, died suddenly at her home in Irving early Thursday morning, Sept. 29.

Churitch was born July 26, 1956, and grew up in Chicago. She moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in 1980.

She was known and much loved for her eccentric and ever-present sense of humor, her love of pranks and practical jokes and for her devotion and loyalty to her family and to her large number of friends that she thought of — and that thought of her — as family.

After seven-and-a-half years as a couple, Churitch and the love of her life, Kay Mathews Churitch, were legally married in Iowa on Aug. 17, 2009.

Churitch was preceded in death by her parents, Helen and Pete Churitch Sr., and by her brother, Michael.

She is survived by her wife, Kay Mathews Churitch of Irving; by her brother, Pete Churitch Jr., and one sister, Robin Littrell, both of Indiana; by her wife’s sister, Erin Urquhart of Coppell, and brother, Robert Mathews of Buda; by her wife’s two daughters, Courtney Mathews of Lubbock and Amber Mathews of Three Rivers, Mich., and three grandchildren, Michael and Jourdan of Mesquite and Makenzie of Lubbock; by her beloved dogs, Bailey and Pala; and by a host of loving friends.

Churitch’s remains will be cremated. A memorial service is pending and details will be announced when they become available.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Investigation clears gay Fort Worth teacher

Kristopher Franks set to return to work Friday after 4-day leave stemming from allegations of improper behavior

FWISD School board member Carlos Vasquez

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Gay Western Hills High School teacher Kristopher Franks, put on paid administrative leave on Monday, Sept. 26, following allegations of improper behavior, has been cleared of all allegations and was set to return to work today (Friday, Sept. 30).

Franks is the teacher who  became the target of ire from the religious right after he sent a student in his German 1 class to the principal’s office for saying in class that as a Christian he believed “homosexuality is wrong.” The school’s assistance principal then suspended the student, setting off a controversy that made headlines around the country.

That student, freshman Dakota Ary, and his mother enlisted the assistance of Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Krause in fighting the suspension on the grounds that Franks and the school had violated Ary’s right to freedom of speech.

District officials quickly reversed their decision, lifting the suspension.

But Steven Poole, deputy executive director for the United Educators Association of Texas, a teachers union, said Tuesday, Sept. 27, that the allegations leading to Franks being put on leave were unrelated to the incident with Ary.

Franks, who had not spoken to the press previously on the advice of his union representative, said Thursday afternoon that he had just met with Fort Worth Independent School District administrators, who told him the nearly weeklong investigation had determined that the allegations against him were unfounded. He did not elaborate on the substance of those allegations.

Franks also said administrators had given him the option of returning to teach at Western Hills High or transferring to another school in the district.

“I haven’t made up my mind yet what I’m going to do,” Franks told Dallas Voice by phone Thursday afternoon. “I’m going to go back to work tomorrow, and I will talk to my boss [the district’s world languages supervisor], and see what she says and decide what’s the best thing to ­do from there.”

FWISD Board of Trustees member Dr. Carlos Vasquez told Dallas Voice in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 28, that any time allegations are made against a teacher, those allegations have to be investigated, and it is routine for the teacher in question to be placed on paid administrative leave.

Franks said Thursday that he was pleased with the outcome of the investigation, carried out by an independent investigator, and that interim FWISD Supt. Walter Dansby was “very nice” when they spoke.

“I think they did the right thing,” Franks said. “I can go back to work, which is great. But now I just have to figure out how to fix the damage this whole thing has done to my personal life.”

Franks said since the investigation is closed, he is no longer being represented by a union attorney. He has, instead, retained the services of attorney Stephen Gordon to “represent me on any aspects of this whole thing going forward.”

He also indicated that he and Gordon would be discussing what possible actions he might take against “those people who have lied and made false allegations against me.”

While Franks had previously declined to speak to the media, Daokta Ary, his mother and Krause as their attorney went immediately to the press, telling their side of the story in several TV interviews and saying Franks and the school had violated the student’s right to freedom of speech. The case quickly became a rallying point for the religious right.

Krause this week told Dallas Voice that he and his clients are satisfied with school officials’ decision to rescind the unexcused absences the suspension left on Ary’s record, but “we would still like for them [school officials] to completely vindicate him and say that he did nothing wrong. He should never have been written up for an infraction. He should never have been sent to the office, and he should never have been suspended.”

Ary said in  media interviews that he made the comment quietly to a classmate sitting next to him in response to a discussion going on in the class at the time.

Dakota Ary

But Franks told friends shortly after the incident that there was no discussion involving homosexuality at the time, and that Ary made the comment loudly while looking directly at Franks.

Franks also told friends that the comment was only the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about him.

Franks told friends that the harassment by Ary and his friends began several weeks ago after Franks, who also teaches sociology, posted on the “World Wall” in his classroom a photo, taken from the German news magazine Stern, of two men kissing. The photo was ripped off the wall and torn in two at some point during Ary’s class, and Franks told friends he believes that Ary or one of his friends tore up the photo.

During a later sociology class students upset that the photo had been torn up replaced it with a hand-drawn picture, and another student then covered that picture with a page bearing a hand-written biblical scripture from Leviticus calling sex between two men an abomination.

Franks told friends that since that incident, Ary and his friends had continued to make derogatory and harassing comments.

Franks’ friends also said that the teacher, a Fulbright scholar, has been the target of anti-gay harassment for at least the last two years, including having hateful messages left in his classroom and, in one case, having his car vandalized.

FWISD teacher Martin Vann, spokesman for the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. that was formed about a year ago to help protect students and teachers in the district from anti-gay discrimination and bullying, said that Franks told his version of the incident last week, before the current investigation was launched and Franks was required to sign a statement saying he would not discuss the incident with other teachers, administrators, parents or students. Vann said Franks denied getting angry and yelling at Ary, as Ary had said, and reiterated that Ary’s comments were not pertinent to any discussion in the class at the time.

Vann said Franks told him that another student had asked him what the German word for “Christian” was, and how, if he moved to Germany, he could find an English translation of the Bible. That’s when, Franks told Vann, Ary looked directly at him and said loudly that as a Christian, he believes homosexuality is wrong.

It was not, Franks told Vann, a simple statement of belief or opinion but rather an intentional effort to insult and harass the teacher that Ary perceived to be gay.

Krause this week again said that Ary did not direct his remark in class that day at Franks, and that Ary had nothing to do with tearing down the photo of the men kissing.

The attorney also said that Ary told him he did not know to whom Franks was referring when he talked about Ary’s “three friends.”

The Franks case comes in the wake of months of scandal over allegations by teachers that administrators routinely allowed some teachers and administrators to harass and bully students and other teachers, and that teachers who complained often faced retaliation.

Vasquez, who is openly gay, said Wednesday that he believed the Franks investigation would be fair, that he would watch the situation closely “to make sure all the proper procedures are followed,” and that he believed Dansby would handle the situation fairly.

“Considering all the problems we’ve had, I know he [Dansby] will be watching this closely,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez said it is the school district’s responsibility to make sure there is “no harassment in our schools, whether it’s from the teacher to the student, or student to student or even student to teacher. I know that happens, sometimes, too.

“There should be no harassment whatsoever in our schools,” Vasquez , himself a former teacher, said.

Fort Worth ISD has been credited with having one of the most comprehensive anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies in the state, having adopted individual policies within the last year to include prohibitions against harassment and bullying, including that based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, for both teachers and students.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Twist Dallas at LBG tonight

Let the music play

SuZanne Kimbrell made major tweaks to this latest edition of Twist Dallas. First and foremost, the event moves to Thursday nights, and while this show continues at Lakewood Bar & Grill, she expects that the July show will be in a different venue.

Also, the lineup here is tighter with four performers on the bill (Kimbrell included), but she’s pulled together another eclectic group of performers. Guitarist Natalie Velasquez, David Siuba from Santa Fe and the sultry soul and slick guitar rock of Robinson Hall led by queer vocalist Jackie Hall.

Visual artist Sylwester Zabielski will have his photography and film work on display.

DEETS: Lakewood Bar and Grill, 6340 Gaston Ave., on May 19 at 8 p.m. $10. TwistDallas.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Open Thread Thursday

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? How’d you do with last years?

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Open Thread Thursday

What were your favorite pop singles for 2010? I think it was actually a pretty good year for pop music as the charts returned to being dominated by catchy pop/dance numbers, the scourge of auto-tune notwithstanding.

My top ten:

1. Tightrope – Janelle Monae
2. I Feel Better – Hot Chip
3. Credit Card Babies (Stereogamous Remix) – Men
4. Wonderful Life (Freemasons Remix) – Hurts
5. Amazing Grace – Boy George feat. Ana Lains
6. Rolling In The Deep – Adele
7. Rocket – Goldfrapp
8. Any Which Way – Scissor Sisters
9. All The Lovers – Kylie Minogue
10. Je Ne Sais Quoi – Hera Björk

Dr. Jeff previewed this list and screamed at me for not including any Robyn, but I couldn’t even name one of her records. Minus gay points for that, I was told. And I’m sure I’ll facepalm later today for forgetting something else that I found major at some point during the year. Anyway, now you.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Open Thread Thursday

The complaint box is open. Vent. Rant. Rage.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin

Thursday DADT Repeal Open Thread: Calls to Action and Press Release

This is going to be continually updated and rough to start… much patience will be required!  

~Louise

According to the ever-wise, all-knowing and very dear friend of the Blend Joe Sudbay, Maine Senator Susan Collins and her office follow Twitter feeds VERY closely.

So we’re embarking on an impromptu campaign to wake up the Maine media, who for the most part are NOT paying attention to either DADT repeal or the key role Collins now finds herself in the process, and to flood the senator’s Twitterfeed. EqualityMaine has already started tweeting messages this morning as well, which I have shared.

@SenatorSnowe EQME tweeting- NOW to repeal DADT Sen Susan Collins (202) 224-2523 Sen Olympia Snowe (202) 224-5344 #dadt

@SenatorCollins EQME tweeting- NOW to repeal DADT Sen Susan Collins (202) 224-2523 Sen Olympia Snowe (202) 224-5344 #dadt #mepolitics

Who’s with us? Here’s what we need to do:


1. Message her @SenatorCollins or retweet.

2. Use hashtags #DADT and #mepolitics. The second not as necessary, but I know she and her staff follow both and it will then land in the feeds of mainy more Mainers, including media.

3. Follow her http://twitter.com/#!/SenatorC…

Thanks so much!

First Update (9:30am) Ex-Senator Sam Nunn now supports DADT repeal.

Seventeen years after leading the fight in Congress against gays in the military, former Democratic senator Sam Nunn says he thinks gays could serve openly without damaging the armed forces’ ability to fight.

In an interview this week, Nunn told the Associated Press that the law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be overturned as long as there is enough time to prepare the troops for the change. He said the Pentagon should be given at least a year before the repeal takes effect to ensure operations in Afghanistan aren’t affected.

“Society has changed, and the military has changed,” the former senator from Georgia said.

Press releases wilol be below the fold…
Press release from IAVA


Senate Must Pass Defense Bill Supporting Troops, Military Families This Year

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Critical Provisions to Address Invisible Wounds, Military Sexual Trauma Included

NEW YORK – Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the country’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, called on the Senate to swiftly pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Although “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has dominated the national discussion, and it is undoubtedly important, it is only one part of the vital Defense Bill. This broad legislation also includes provisions to expand mental health care resources, address Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST), extend the stop loss deadline and improve the electronic sharing of health records between the DoD and the VA.

“Most of America thinks there is an up or down vote on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Missing from the national discussion is the fact that DADT is one of dozens of important provisions included in a Defense Bill that will have a historic impact on our troops and veterans. While the country is fighting two wars, passing funding for our troops  should be a no-brainer. We cannot allow personal politics to get in the way of supporting our service members. If Congress fails to pass the Defense Bill, it will be the first time in 48 years. That’s not a precedent this Administration or Congress wants to set,” said IAVA Founder and Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff.  

“Our troops can’t afford to wait until next year for vital Pentagon funding. One in three troops are coming home today with invisible wounds like Traumatic Brain Injury, one in seven female veterans are screening positive for Military Sexual Trauma and thousands of service members are losing their medical records as they transition from the DoD to the VA health care systems. IAVA urges the Senate to pass this critical legislation this year and ensure our troops aren’t left waiting for live saving resources.”

In addition to a provision for the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy (see IAVA’s full statement supporting repeal here ), key provisions contained in the NDAA address the following urgent issues:

?    Expanding the number of DoD mental health providers. There is a chronic shortage of mental health providers in the military. With rates of mental health injuries and suicide rising higher every month, the DoD is in desperate need of providers to help service members identify and combat invisible wounds. This bill provides education incentives to recruit both civilian and military mental health care providers. (Senate ?703)

?    Mandatory pre- and post-deployment TBI assessments. Although TBI is the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the DoD has never adequately developed a comprehensive screening program.  NDAA will require the DoD to do pre-deployment assessments to compare to post-deployment assessments after a potential injury. (House ?722)

?    Eradicating Military Sexual Trauma. NDAA contains 29 recommendations of the Joint Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military, including modernizing the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the creation of a sexual assault reporting hot line.  (House ?1601-1664)

?    DoD/VA record sharing.  In 2009, the DoD and VA began to work on a joint electronic lifetime record that follows a service member from enlistment to the grave.  There have been concerns that the record sharing between the DoD and VA could violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  NDAA would change HIPAA to allow records to migrate between the DoD and the VA. (Senate ?715, House ?532)

?    Military pay raise and bonuses. NDAA provides a 1.9% pay increase for all service members and the extension of a host of recruitment and retention bonuses set to expire. (House ?601)

Because of these provisions and a number of others, passage of the NDAA this year is broadly supported. IAVA is a member of The Military Coalition (TMC), a consortium of 32 nationally prominent military and veterans organizations representing more than 5.5 million current and former service members, their families and survivors. The TMC recently urged the passage of NDAA in a letter to Senator Reid and Senator McConnell here .

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America www.IAVA.org is the country’s first and largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has more than 200,000 Member Veterans and civilian supporters nationwide. Its mission is to improve the lives of this country’s newest generation of veterans and their families.

###

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  admin

Open Thread Thursday

Pimp out your own blog or personal site with some links to your favorite work. And tell us what other sites are ringing your bell these days.

Joe. My. God.

—  admin