Task Force: GOP majority in House doesn’t necessarily mean ‘blockade on LGBT rights’

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, issued the following statement tonight on the shift in the balance of power in Congress:

“We’ll cut to the chase: The shift in the balance of power will very likely slow advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights legislation in Congress. Does this mean a blockade on LGBT rights? Not if we can help it. Fact is, our community has always had to fight — and fight hard — for equality. This is nothing new to us. But here’s another fact: There are Americans, from every part of the country, from every background, from every political leaning and of every faith, who support equality for LGBT people — and those numbers grow bigger every day.

“No matter what the political breakdown is in Washington, the Task Force will continue to identify and work with all fair-minded members of Congress who are willing to support and defend equality for LGBT people. Through our New Beginning Initiative, we will continue to push for the administration and its agencies to make tangible changes that benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and our families — changes that can be done without Congress. We will continue working with local partners in communities across the country to secure equality. Bottom line: While political winds and players may shift, the fundamental needs of the people do not. No matter who is in office, people need jobs, protection from discrimination, a roof over their heads, a way to feed their families, a fair shake. No one should settle for less — we won’t.”

—  John Wright

Honoring our saints on All Hallows Eve

People like Bill Nelson, John Thomas, Bill Hunt and others are no longer with us now, and although we have a long way to go to gain full equality, it was their courage and daring that won the freedoms we already have today

Activists such as, from left, John Thomas, Bill Nelson and Bill Hunt may be gone now, but they should never be forgotten.
Activists such as, from left, John Thomas, Bill Nelson and Bill Hunt may be gone now, but they should never be forgotten.

Like many of our holidays, Halloween bears scant resemblance to the holy day from which it evolved. Oct. 31 is the eve of the day the church historically has celebrated as All Saints Day. Like many church holidays, this one was deliberately set to co-opt the pagan celebration of harvest called Samhain.

Neither of those days have much relevance to how our community now observes Oct. 31, though. Still, perhaps this is a good time for us to remember some of our “saints” of the past who at times terrorized the general population with their outrageous demands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Our movement was begun officially with the Stonewall “Riots.” That story often gets told without noting that those who first resisted police oppression and brutality were mostly poor, people of color, drag queens and transsexuals.

They were our heroes. I’ll call them saints, since most of them are now dead.

The summer of 1969 was a long time ago, and it was on the far side of an epidemic that made saints out of too many of our heroes.

When I first came to Dallas in 1987, we often took to the streets. It seemed that every time I turned around William Waybourn, then president of the Dallas Gay Alliance, would call me and say, “Get your collar [clergy shirt] on and meet us at ______. We need you to speak about ______.”

I usually would follow Bill Nelson or John Thomas or Bill Hunt or some of the other heroes who spoke up for us. They are all saints now, and, somehow, I think each of them would appreciate being remembered on Halloween/All Hallows (saints) Eve.

Dallas is a very different city today. We have had openly gay city council members, school board trustees, county commissioners and an out, lesbian Latina sheriff.

Although it was 10 years ago, it seems like only yesterday that some heroes and saints were at City Hall until 2 in the morning fighting the Dallas Policy Academy’s dismissal of Mica England because she was a lesbian.

Many of those faces from that night are gone, but so is the city’s policy of discrimination.

Some of them were the same faces who went to the courthouse to protest against Judge Jack Hampton who gave a lighter sentence to Richard Lee Bednarski because the men he murdered were gay. On more than one occasion, we went to Parkland hospital because people who were dying of AIDS were forced to wait as long as 18 hours to receive care.

Folks like Howie Daire and Daryl Moore and so many others knew that they weren’t fighting for themselves, but for those who would survive them.

Recently, one of my best friends turned 50. He is one of the longest-term survivors of HIV/AIDS in the country. I give thanks for him and his health every day, and I also try to give thanks for those who now survive in our hearts and memories.

If we fail to appreciate those who went before us and made such great sacrifices for us all, then we are arrogant and cynical souls.

When the AIDS crisis was at its worst and it seemed we were holding funerals every other day, I began to think I was losing my mind.

I’d drive through the crossroads and raise my hand to wave at a friend, only to recall that it couldn’t be them because they had died.
I wonder though … .

Maybe I am crazy, but when I walk those streets today, I’d swear that some of those folks are still there. Maybe I’m the only one they haunt, but I hope not. I hope we all hold their memories so dear that it is almost like they are still with us.
So, dress up and join the parade this Halloween. It will be audacious and fun to take to the streets and party like free women and men.
Just remember that your freedom was won by heroes, many of whom are now saints. And don’t forget to wonder for whom you should be a hero and, eventually, a saint.

The Rev. Michael Piazza is president of Hope for Peace & Justice, a nonprofit organization that is equipping progressive people of faith to be champions for peace and justice. He also serves as co-executive director of the Center for Progressive Renewal, which is renewing progressive Christianity by training new entrepreneurial leaders, supporting the birth of new liberal/progressive congregations, and by renewing and strengthening existing progressive churches. He served the Cathedral of Hope for 22 years, first as senior pastor and later as dean.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Houston LGBTs to celebrate anniversary of repeal of ordinance banning cross-dressing

Phyllis Frye

Back when I was in junior high school — the early to mid 1970s — our school had a dress code that prohibited girls from wearing pants with rear pockets. See, pants that had pockets on the back were “boy” pants, and girls weren’t allowed to wear “boy” pants.

Having always been a jeans kind of gal myself, I broke that rule often. And I got in trouble for it more than once.

But obviously, my rural, smalltown junior high school wasn’t the only place that had such rules. Most cities had ordinances that prohibited cross-dressing. My old friend, the late Joe Elliott, told me that in the ’60s when she was a dyke about town, the butch lesbians always had to be careful not to dress too masculine in public, or they would be arrested. And I have heard drag queens talk about how they had to make sure to wear men’s underwear under their dresses to avoid arrest.

These ordinances were usually used by police to justify harassment of “the queers,” especially the transgenders and the butch lesbians. Such was the case in Houston, where next weekend the Transgender Foundation of America will hold an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the repeal of that city’s “no cross-dressing” ordinance.

Lou Weaver, who is on the TFA board, sent out an e-mail Wednesday announcing the event.

“This is not a joke!” Weaver wrote. “At that time women were expected to have their zippers on the side or in the back, otherwise, they were cross-dressing. This led to constant harrassment and several arrests for trans identified women, lesbians and anyone else the vice squad did not approve of.”

Well-known Houston attorney transgender activist Phyllis Frye led the three-and-a-half-year-long battle to get the ordinance repealed, and she will be on hand at the event to “share stories about fighting for transgender rights,” Weaver said. One of those stories is Frye’s account, following, about how they slipped the repeal vote past the homophobes/transphobes:

“On August the 12th, 1980, after several delay-tags that were put on to the repeal ordinance, it was again before Council. At the time, our Mayor was Jim McConn. He was out of town, as was Jim Westmoreland. McConn knew that it was coming up on the agenda, and he had told the Mayor pro tem for that day, Johnny Goyen, that it was alright with him. City Secretary, Anna Russell, waited until Council members Homer Ford and Larry McKaskell were on the phone. When they got on the phone, she immediately handed the repeal to Johnny. You see, the deal is that under council rules if you’re present and you don’t vote no, then it’s an automatic yes vote. Homer and Larry were on the phone. They didn’t even know what was going on. There was only one no vote, and that was Council member Christen Hartung, she was the sole and only no vote. I still hope that somebody will beat her. Homer and Larry went to Johnny about five minutes later, and Johnny says, ‘oh, I didn’t know that was going through.’ The ordinance was repealed and it has remained so to this day.”

The anniversary event will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14, at 604 Pacific in Houston. Everyone is welcome. Food will be provided but bring your own beer and wine.

Today, we celebrate a court victory over Prop 8 in California and move one step closer to eventual full marriage equality in this country. But as you celebrate remember that just 30 years ago, butch lesbians in Houston couldn’t wear zip-up Levis without risking arrest.

So if you are in Houston next weekend, go on over to 604 Pacific on Saturday afternoon and celebrate  a significant historical victory. And if you’re not in Houston, well, take a minute that day to stop and say a silent thank-you to those men and women, like Phyllis, who were willing to stand up and fight the good fight when it was much more dangerous to do so, and win the battles that make it possible for us to live as openly and freely as we do today.

—  admin

Lambda Legal wins major victory in job discrimination case

Vandy Beth Glenn

Lambda Legal announced a victory this week in an employment discrimination case for Vandy Beth Glenn, an Atlanta transgender woman.

Glenn was fired from her job working as an editor and proofreader for the Georgia General Assembly when she told her supervisor that she was going to transition. The supervisor thought her transition would be inappropriate even though her health care provider had diagnosed her with Gender Identity Disorder.

The court relied on a ruling in a previous Lambda Legal case from Texas. In that decision, a court found in favor of a woman when a job offer was rescinded after the company learned she was transgender.

Although federal employment protections generally don’t include sexual orientation or gender identity, the court found in Glenn’s favor based on sex discrimination.

“The evidence was clear — Vandy Beth was fired because her boss didn’t like who she is, and that kind of treatment is unfair and illegal,” said Lambda Legal transgender rights attorney M. Dru Levasseur.

—  David Taffet