Game time!

RCD puts a twist on  themes for its 10th season of Gay Bingo

David Taffet  | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

The 10th anniversary season of Resource Center Dallas’ monthly Gay Bingo fundraiser begins Jan. 15 with a celebration of the Super Bowl and gets more fabulous with each coming month.

Gay Bingo Football XLV is just the first of the monthly themed games, which in 2011 — Dallas’ 10th season of the event — plays like a list of greatest hits from previous years.

“For our 10th anniversary, we decided to revisit some of the best themes over the past decade, and put a new spin on them for 2011,” said Henry Ramirez III, center programs manager for Resource Center Dallas and coordinator of Gay Bingo, which has released a new logo.

Jenna Skyy and Patti Le Plae Safe will continue to co-host Gay Bingo in Station 4’s Rose Room, along with celebrity guests and M.C.s. Asia O’Hara has officially joined the cast as well.

Proceeds from the campy game support RCD programs and initiatives, but partnerships with more organizations in the new year will also help with fundraising for Black Tie Dinner, Home for the Holidays and other charitable events.

“I think what’s important is that people understand Gay Bingo is a part of RCD and know more where their money is going to,” he says.

For 2011, the themes are:

Feb. 19: Gay Bingo Carnival will celebrate Mardi Gras madness.

Mar. 19: It’s Spectacular! Spectacular Gay Bingo at the Moulin Rouge.

Apr. 16: DIVA of Gay Bingo wants you to bring out that inner diva.

May 21: Tribes of Gay Bingo will test players’ survival skills.

June 8: Gay Bingo Studio 70 will bring back the bellbottoms and flared collars.

July 16: Gay Bingo Live! will be the official 10th anniversary celebration.

Aug. 20: Gay Bingo Cinema will ask what your favorite black and white film is.

Sept. 17: Hope your hair wins at Wigstock Gay Bingo.

Oct. 15: The Gay Bingo Daily Planet will pit superheroes against villains.

Nov. 19: Do ask, do tell at Gay Bingo Platoon.

For more information and to pre-order tickets, visit RCDallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

AIDS Services of Dallas announces date, honorary co-chairs for annual ‘No Tie’ dinner

On the heels of distribution of funds from Black Tie Dinner, AIDS Services of Dallas has announced details for its big fundraiser, the less fancy No Tie Dinner.

The event — a series of about 50 dinner parties held at private homes, culminating in a big dessert party and auction at the Frontiers of Flight Museum — will take place on March 26. The 2011 honorary chairs are D’Andrea Simmons, Bernard and Michelle Nussbaumer and Paige andClint Fletcher.

Anyone interested in hosting a party is asked to submit a request to Don Neubauer, DNeubauer@sncompanies.com. Learn more at NoTieDinner.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Black Tie hands out $1.15 million

Kouvelis named as 2011 co-chair as board begins preparations for 30th annual fundraiser in November

Tammye Nash and David Taffet | nash@dallasvoice.com

HANDING OUT THE CHECKS | 2010 Black Tie Dinner Co-chairs, above left, Nan Arnold and Ron Guillard talk about their year heading up the Black Tie board. Incoming 2011 Black Tie Co-Chair Chris Kouvelis, right center, presents a check to representatives of Home for the Holidays. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Officials with Black Tie Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 9, distributed grants to 20 beneficiaries totaling $1.15 million — up from the 2009 total of $1.04 million.
The funds, representing proceeds from the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner held in November, were distributed at a reception at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, host hotel for the annual fundraising dinner.

Ron Guillard, completing the second year of his two-year term as Black Tie Dinner co-chair, offered special recognition to the sponsors, table captains, dinner guests and volunteers who helped make this year’s sold-out dinner so successful.

CATCHING UP | AIDS Services of Dallas President and CEO Don Maison, left, talks with former Resource Center Dallas board chair Bill Brosius during the Black Tie Dinner check distribution party Thursday. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

“My last official act couldn’t be more exciting than to distribute checks,” Guillard said. “It’s fantastic to be in the room with all the people who do so much work with Black Tie Dinner assuring its success.”

Nan Faith Arnold, who began the second half of her two-year term as co-chair at the distribution party, said, “I’m having a blast. It’s a great night. Each of our beneficiaries stands strong for the people they serve.”

“Stand strong” was the theme of this year’s event.

Chris Kouvelis, who will be Arnold’s dinner co-chair in 2011, was introduced.

“The check distribution event is the culmination of what we work for all year,” Kouvelis said. “It’s the most exciting thing to do. I’m honored to be in this position and am looking forward to a fantastic year.”

As in previous years, about half of the proceeds from the 2010 dinner — $577,500 — went to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The Dallas-Fort Worth dinner is the largest fundraiser of its kind each year for the foundation.

HRC Development Director Chris Speron attended the check distribution event. Executive Director Joe Solmonese was scheduled to attend but remained in Washington because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell vote.”

“The Dallas LGBT community is one of the most generous communities anywhere,” Speron said. “And the Black Tie Dinner is unmatched anywhere in the country. We are so privileged to work with the people involved in Black Tie Dinner and benefit from their amazing work.”

The remaining funds were divided between 19 local organizations providing services to the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities. Resource Center

EXPRESSING THANKS | Board members for Equality Texas, along with Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, right, accept the organization’s check from Black Tie Dinner. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Dallas received the largest local grant, getting a check for $48,504 from Black Tie.

RCD Executive Director Cece Cox said, “We are again delighted and thankful to be a beneficiary of Black Tie Dinner. This is unrestricted money that allows us to provide more services and reach more people.”

Groups were acknowledged for their participation. Turtle Creek Chorale sold the most raffle tickets. White Rock Friends contributed the most volunteer hours and the chorale was recognized for 682 hours of rehearsal time for the Black Tie Dinner performance. Resource Center Dallas sold the most tables with 22.

Black Tie Dinner is the largest formal seated dinner of its kind in the country in terms of both attendance and charitable contributions. This year, 3,000 guests attended the event, which featured keynote speaker Tammy Baldwin, U.S. congresswoman from Wisconsin, Media Award recipient Chely Wright, Elizabeth Birch Equality Award recipient American Airlines and Kuchling Humanitarian Award recipient the Rev. Carol West.

Arnold and Kouvelis said the Black Tie Dinner board is already working on the 30th Anniversary dinner, scheduled for  Nov, 12, 2011, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. The 2011 beneficiary application will be available online in February at BlackTie.org.

……………………….

•2010 Black Tie Dinner Beneficiaries

Human Rights Campaign Foundation $577,500
AIDS Arms $38,029
AIDS Interfaith Network $24,464
AIDS Outreach Center $28,245
AIDS Resources of Rural Texas $25,622
AIDS Services of Dallas $34,896
Celebration Community Church $40,043
Congregation Beth El Binah $26,157
Equality Texas Foundation $25,219
Health Services of North Texas $23,600
Home for the Holidays
$24,375
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
$38,764
Legacy Counseling Center $24,449
Legal Hospice of Texas $25,844
Northaven United Methodist Church $38,559
Resource Center of Dallas $48,504
Turtle Creek Chorale $32,494
White Rock Friends $21,055
The Women’s Chorus of Dallas $22,532
Youth First Texas $34,640

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Baldwin: ‘We will see brighter days ahead’

Congresswoman tells Black Tie audience not to give up hope; Wright applauds heroes who chose ‘never to hide a day in your lives’

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. To see a slideshow from Black Tie, go here.

During her keynote address at the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner on Saturday, Nov. 6, openly lesbian Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin wasted no time in acknowledging the apparent blow the Republican victories in this month’s midterm elections dealt to the LGBT community’s push for equality.

“I needed to get away. It’s been a tough week, a very painful week for many Americans,” Baldwin said.

But then she went on to reassure the more than 3,000 people packed into the Sheraton Dallas’ Lone Star Ballroom that “we will see brighter days ahead.”

Baldwin acknowledged that the community’s high hopes when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 have not, for the most part, been met. “There is frustration that we haven’t come far enough, fast enough, and I share that frustration.”

Recalling the last time that Republicans controlled Congress, Baldwin said efforts to secure LGBT equality were “rebuffed at every turn,” and she added that she is “not holding my breath” that things will be different this time, with Republicans controlling the U.S. House and the Senate nearly equally divided between the parties.

Although there is a possibility that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy could be repealed during the upcoming lame duck session, chances are “slim to none for now and for the foreseeable future” that passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and Baldwin’s own Domestic Partnership Benefits and Responsibilities Act and other LGBT-positive measures will happen.

“But that doesn’t mean that we will throw up our hands and give up,” Baldwin said, “because LGBT equality is a movement, not a moment in time.”

Baldwin’s theme of keeping up the fight and looking forward to better days reverberated throughout the evening, as Media Award winner Chely Wright related her life story to the crowd. She spoke of knowing from a young age that she was gay, and how she had struggled to keep her orientation a secret to try and earn — and later, preserve — her career in country music.

“Living two lives is quite a chore,” Wright said, as she talked about reaching a point where “I knew something had to give,” and the cold morning in 2006 when she went so far as putting the muzzle of a 9-mm pistol in her mouth.

But instead of pulling the trigger, Wright said, she prayed to God, as she had all her life. But this time, instead of praying for God to change her, she prayed that God would “give me a moment’s peace.”

Immediately, Wright continued, “oceans and oceans of peace washed over me,” and she knew that not only would she not take her own life, but that she would come out “as a gay woman, as a proud Christian and as an advocate for youth.”

Wright, who came put publicly only six months ago, acknowledged that others in the room had spent much longer fighting for LGBT equality.

“It is a bit of a strange thing to be honored by Black Tie Diner and this esteemed group of people. I look out and see so many of you who have not been able to or who have chosen not to hide a day in your lives, and to have you applaud for me is, well, it’s surreal,” she said.

“I look to you as heroes. … You are simply amazing to me. Thank you for leading the way,” she continued. “It is certainly not lost on me that you folks in this room tonight are the reason that the movement of equality, fairness and understanding continues to evolve.”

The evening began with an appearance by Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, whose personal and passionate speech before the council last month about teen suicide went viral as a YouTube video and turned him into a national sensation.

Burns reminded the audience that teen suicide and bullying continues to affect LGBT youth at an alarmingly high rate, and led the crowd in a moment of silence in memory of LGBT youth who have died.

After Broadway star Gavin Creel, backed by the Turtle Creek Chorale, performed, the Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, came on stage to accept the Kuchling Humanitarian Award.

With a beaming smile, West recalled the early heroes of Dallas-Fort Worth’s LGBT community, reminding the crowd that “we stand on their shoulders” as the movement progresses. But, she added, the community leaders of today must also remember that the leaders of tomorrow “will someday stand on our shoulders.”

Employees of American Airlines were on hand to accept the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award on behalf of their company. Betty Young, director of Diverse Segment Marketing for the airline, said it was “a tremendous honor” for the company and its employees to receive the award.

“American Airlines has always been very involved in Black Tie Dinner and we certainly appreciate all they do. But for the company to be recognized this way, it caused tremendous excitement throughout the company and in each of us who touches this community,” Young said. “We are just honored beyond words.”

Ron Guillard, who co-chaired Black Tie Dinner this year with Nan Arnold, said organizers were “incredibly happy” with how the event turned out.

“And given the fact that we had a full ballroom, and considering how well the luxury auction went, we are feeling very optimistic about having a very generous amount to distribute to our beneficiaries this year,” he said. “We still have money to collect and some bills to pay, but I think this will be a very good year for our beneficiaries.”

Guillard noted that funds from the dinner will distributed to beneficiaries during a reception Dec. 9 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.

“We want to encourage the whole community to come out and be part of what is definitely the most important part of Black Tie each year,” Guillard said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Tammy Baldwin at Black Tie

Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told The Washington Blade on Tuesday there is “zero chance” of passing pro-equality legislation in the new Republican-controlled House next year. Three days before, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin told attendees at Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner pretty much the same thing.

“The last time Republicans were in control of Congress, we fought hard for consideration of pro-equality measures, and we were rebuffed at every turn,” Baldwin said. “Within the new Republican leadership and among the incoming class of members, I don’t see many champions of gay rights. Now it’s my hope the Republican majority won’t revert to its prior agenda, which forced us to play defense, fighting back anti-equality measures, but I’m not holding my breath.”

Baldwin said that while a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” is still “possible” during the lame duck session of Congress, the same cannot be said for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act.

“Unfortunately the chances of enacting these measures are slim to none for now and for the foreseeable future,” Baldwin said. “Now that doesn’t mean we’re going to throw up our hands and give up. We will keep on moving forward, because LGBT equality is a movement, not a moment in time, and as with every great movement of social change, it requires that we have faith — faith that, using the tools of our democracy we can affect change, even when it’s our government that’s denying us our rights.”

Watch Baldwin’s full speech above.

—  John Wright

Bigots are so unreliable!

Despite news reports indicating otherwise, no one spoke Tuesday night at the Fort Worth City Council meeting to air disapproval of Councilman Joel Burns “It Gets Better” speech last month. Tuesday’s meeting lasted into the wee hours, as the council dealt with several controversial issues. The only person who referenced Burns’ speech during “Citizen Presentations,” which came after midnight, spoke in support of it. Linda Sandoval Foley said she’s been a special education teacher since 1964.

“Bullying and harassment, whatever the reason, is not only injurious to the person who is bullied, but to the bully themselves,” she said. “Parents and community often offer a model to kids as to what is acceptable and give both tacit and implicit approval to bullying behaviors. But equally present is a capacity for acceptance and understanding, and expectations for appropriate behavior toward people who are different from you in any way, whether it’s the color of your eyes, or whether you’re tall and skinny, awkward and clumsy, whatever. Yes, it does get better. But we need, our kids need, the support and involvement of their parents, their teachers and all the other adults who are in their lives. And I thank Councilman Burns for his statement, and I do appreciate his life experience, and I do look forward to it being better for all our kids.”

Earlier, during councilmembers’ reports, Burns also referenced his “It Gets Better” speech, saying he had a lot of announcements but none of them were likely to make YouTube. “But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important,” he said.

Among other things, Burns went on to congratulate the TCU football team for its victory last weekend over Utah, saying it was the only time he’s ever wished he was in Salt Lake City. Burns also congratulated those from Fort Worth who received awards during Saturday’s Black Tie Dinner: the Rev. Carol West (Kuchling Humanitarian Award) and American Airlines (Elizabeth Birch Equality Award).

—  John Wright

Speaker at Fort Worth City Council meeting to ‘air disapproval’ of Joel Burns’ It Gets Better speech

Joel Burns

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns has said repeatedly that he was moved to deliver his Oct. 12 It Gets Better speech when he read about the death of Zach Harrington, a gay teen who took his own life after hearing hateful anti-gay comments during a City Council meeting in Norman, Okla. Now, someone reportedly plans to protest Burns’ passionate speech — and undoubtedly make more hateful comments that could drive LGBT teens to suicide — during this Tuesday’s Fort Worth City Council meeting. Unbelievable.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Sunday that at least one person plans to speak during Tuesday’s meeting to “air disapproval” of Burns’ speech four weeks ago. The brief report in The S-T doesn’t identify the person or persons who plan to speak. It also doesn’t say where the newspaper got the information, which is strange:

At least one person — and possibly more — plans to be in attendance to air disapproval of the much-talked-about speech by Councilman Joel Burns last month in council chambers.

Burns, the first openly gay council member, gained national attention after delivering a stirring address, in the wake of recent incidents, pleading with gay teens not to resort to suicide.

Video of the speech became an instant sensation online.

Within a week, more than 200,000 people had posted the link to the speech on Facebook, and a media tour followed. Burns appeared for interviews on CBS’ Early Show, CNN, the Today show on NBC and the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Burns was among the speakers during Saturday night’s Black Tie Dinner in Dallas. Burns choked up as he talked about how he’d been contacted earlier in the day by Harrington’s father.

“Mr. Harrington said that Zach’s mom, a teacher, is having a particularly difficult time these days, and that he wishes he could let Zach know how much they miss him, but they can’t because he killed himself — after attending a City Council meeting,” Burns said. “As I said on Oct. 12, no child should be made to feel that they are without worth. Let us remind them of their value while we still can.”

Burns then led a moment of silence “in remembrance of the needless loss of teens who found the bullying too much to bear.”

Today we can add 14-year-old Brandon Bitner to the list of those teens.

Tuesday’s council meeting, should you wish to attend, is at 7 p.m. at Council Chambers at City Hall, 1000 Throckmorton St.

—  John Wright

Black Tie Dinner 2010

Photos by John Wright and Brent Paxton/Dallas Voice

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

—  John Wright

2010 Black Tie Dinner

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

The 2010 Black Tie Dinner will be held Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.

The theme for the annual fundraising event this year is “Stand Strong.”

Keynote speaker for the evening will be openly-lesbianof Wisconsin. The Rev. Carol West will received the KuchlingHumanitarian Award, and American Airlines will receive the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award. Activist and businessman Mitch Gold will be on hand to present the Media Award to out lesbian and country/western star Chely Wright.

Special entertainment will be provided by Broadway star Gavin Creel and the Turtle Creek Chorale.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Chely Wright answers the call

The country music star and out lesbian may be busy with a new album and tour, but she always makes time for her new-found passion for advocating for LGBT equality

Rich Lopez  |  Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Chely Wright
Chely Wright

When Chely Wright came out this summer, the buzz in the music industry was mixed. But as it turned out, she did it at precisely the right time.

Combining her star power with advocacy, Wright has become the face of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network and an outspoken advocate for her new-found community. She has stepped up to the plate and used her stature to focus attention on LGBT issues.

The buzz around Wright’s coming out was quickly eclipsed by head-grabbing issues like same-sex marriage rulings, “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the rash of gay youth suicides and bullying.

Still, Wright interjected herself into the conversation and people listened, while other gay celebrities were being supportive, but perhaps less vocal. For her efforts, Wright will be awarded the 2010 Media Award at this weekend’s Black Tie Dinner.

“This is what I felt like I was supposed to do, and it would be wrong of me not do this,” Wright said recently of her work in the community.

Black Tie Dinner co-chairs Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold said that Wright was the unanimous choice for the Med Award this year. As the year progressed, Wright’s work with LGBT youth and her public profile narrowed the choices tremendously until she became the decisive choice.

“The breadth of her activity immediately upon coming out was definitely a factor. She faced issues head on and she’s made an incredible impact in reaching Middle America,” Guillard said.

Wright has most recently chosen to become involved in addressing the seemingly skyrocketing rate of bullying and LGBT youth suicides. Her work with GLSEN helped launch the Safe Space Campaign for schools to provide outright support to gay students and end anti-gay harassment and bullying. She joined a panel of celebrities on Larry King Live calling attention to the issue — which she stressed isn’t new.

“What’s going on now is not a shock to me. The problem isn’t a fresh one. It’s just that now, we have the mainstream media’s attention,” Wright said.

She quoted Kathy Griffin from that panel, agreeing with the comedian that bullying is based in homophobia stemming from a bigger picture that paints a distinct portrait to both straight and gay communities. “I hadn’t thought about it until she said

something amazing. She called it ‘trickle-down homophobia,’ where gay issues and headlines meet. DADT is denied, marriage denied and we’re constantly told we’re ‘less than,’” Wright said. “Not only bullies are hearing that, but young gay people are too.”

And that gives LGBT youth a bleak outlook on their future, while at the same time emboldening the bullies, Wright said.

“We can tell people not to bully, but when mandates are coming down against our rights and headlines show that, how can we expect them not to, when Congress is doing it blatantly?” Wright asked.

When she wrote her autobiography Like Me, Wright’s publishers balked at the chapter on hate crimes. She fought Random House for the chapter to be included, despite them telling her it was too dramatic. In the end, Wright won and the chapter, “Hate Crimes are Down?,” foreshadowed the current issue of harassment.

“If you push a young LGBT person to the point where they take their own lives, it’s a hate crime. If you get them to kill themselves, that’s a hate crime. You aren’t connecting dots that are too far apart and now it’s horrific that it’s come to past,” Wright said.

Wright focused on the Rutgers student Tyler Clemente, who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge after his roommate recorded him having sex with another man and streamed it online.

Chely Wright
SHE CAN RELATE | Chely Wright says that after spending years hiding her sexual orientation to protect her career in country music, she understands the anguish that young people struggling with their sexual orientation sometimes feel.

Wright said she faced a similar fear of being outed in the middle of her conservative country music career.

“I know what he felt like and it ripped my heart out,” she said of Clemente. “When you don’t want anyone to know that secret, the thought that runs through your mind is to jump, or pull the trigger. I couldn’t bear someone in control of my timeline for that secret,” she said.

Wright has been open about her faith as well, which brings a fairly new facet to the openly gay celebrity. Where most might dismiss religion as a hindrance, Wright seems to want to let people know that being gay and being religious are not mutually exclusive.

But at the same time, she said it is religion that is responsible for so much bigotry.

“Churches are not being held accountable. They tell young people they are damaged goods,” Wright said. “They tell them not to shoplift, which is a question of morality and making the right decision. But when they tell them not to be gay, that sets them onto a path of self-loathing and hatred and it’s contrary to a healthy life.”

Along with GLSEN and the Human Rights Campaign, Wright has given her support to the nonprofit organization Faith in America, which works to counteract the discrimination by religious communities toward the LGBT community.

“When you tell a kid he can’t be that way, it’s just a problem. We have got to hold churches accountable,” Wright repeated. “Really, you can be a good Christian and a gay person,” she said.

Arnold sees how Wright’s passion led to the board’s decision to honor her with the award.

“She is setting a wonderful example for people of all ages right now in this critical time. She’s appreciated the community and we appreciate what she’s doing for it,” Arnold said.

With her political advocacy, it’s easy to forget what Wright does best. She is still making music, but now balances what she loves to do and what she’s called to do.

“At the root of what I do, I like to sing and make records,” Wright said. “But we do the most damage as humans with words. And I’m compelled to support kids as they turn into grownups and help them keep their heads on straight.”

So to speak.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens