Volunteer opportunity for Tyler-area gays

If you live in or plan to visit the Tyler-Canton-Longview area, Tyler Area Gays and East Texas PFLAG need your help on July 12. Members of these two organizations will be participating in Trash Off Day on July 12 by cleaning up the portion of U.S. 69 that has been adopted by TAG.Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 10.17.18 AM

Participants should be at New Life Worship Center , 18535 U.S. 69 (1.5 miles south of the light at Loop 49 — the modern-looking church up on the hill) by 8 a.m. The TAG portion of U.S. 69 is about 3.3 miles south of the light at Target on South Broadway and on the south side of Loop 49. According to a press release about the clean-up effort, the clean-up ALWAYS starts on time and takes about an hour.

That stretch of highway has two signs — one on the southbound side of the road and the other on the northbound side — noting that it has been “adopted” by Tyler Area Gays. In return, TAG has “agreed to clean up a two-mile section of highway four times a year.” But as TAG leaders pointed out in a press release about the clean-up effort, “A two-mile section may not sound very long but since we are cleaning both sides of the highway, this immediately becomes four miles of cleaning.” So they need all the help they can get.

In the conservative East Texas town where, in 1993, Nicholas West was murdered in a brutal, anti-gay hate crime that made national headlines, it’s significant that an LGBT organization is so out and so visible. As TAG leaders said in their press release looking for clean-up volunteers, “Our participation testifies to our community spirit, promotes teamwork and exercise and makes our presence known. Another way to put it is we want people to know that we we are here and that we are responsible. citizens.”

—  Tammye Nash

Tyler Area Gays hosts banquet

1459226_582195881850723_763259524_nThe Tyler Area Gays will announce the winner of the TAG Award at their Fifth Annual Project TAG Awards Dinner  on Friday.

A press release from the organization lists 11 people who are nominated for the award: Jeanette Calhoun, director of East Texas Cares and Resource Center; Joey Gonzales, board member and Treasurer of Project TAG; Adrien Grimm, East Texas transgender activist; Don Lindman, Project TAG supporter; Brenda McWilliams, political and educational activist; Gene Schriener, Project TAG board member and secretary; Rosemary Slayton, community volunteer; Jolie Smith, Project TAG past chair; Lou Anne Smoot, Project TAG and PFLAG board member; Neil Wilson, Project TAG member; D. Karen Wilkerson, Project TAG board member and chair.

TAG is Tyler’s first LGBT community organization and organizes political and community events such as camping, dinners and flag football. According to their mission statement, “Project TAG promotes an environment where all may feel free to be themselves without fear of repression or repercussion and where all are encouraged to share their knowledge and support with others.”

—  Steve Ramos

Out director disputes gay leader's comments on production of 'The Laramie Project' in Tyler

Trinity Wheeler
Trinity Wheeler

Yesterday I reported that a production of “The Laramie Project” scheduled for the Tyler Civic Theatre appeared to be in jeopardy yet again, according to Troy Carlyle, chair of Tyler Area Gays (Project TAG). But apparently there’s a difference of opinion even among supporters of the production as to what’s really happening — or at least, what should be happening. Not to start a Dallas-style bitchfest in East Texas, but it’s worth noting that Director Trinity Wheeler simply doesn’t agree with Carlyle’s assessments. Wheeler, a Tyler native who now lives and works in New York, is returning to his hometown to put on the show. Here’s Wheeler’s response to Carlyle’s comments:

“I have maintained from the beginning that ‘The Laramie Project’ is about an entire community dealing with the death of a young gay man in Laramie, WY. The play displays the power of community when people come together to deal with crisis and support each other through the healing process. While Project TAG’s initial intentions were to support the play financially, their response to recent events has divided the East Texas gay community. The true meaning of ‘The Laramie Project’ is acceptance across the spectrum of race, gender, religion, class, sexuality and creed. I feel strongly that Tyler Civic Theatre is the perfect venue for this production and the theater’s Board of Directors have been supportive since the re-approval vote last month. This is a learning process for everyone involved. The theater has never staged a production that has caused this much community debate in its entire history. There are members of the theater’s staff that have fears about this production, but I must respect those fears and work through them in a productive manner. In the end, everyone involved wants this play to happen.

—  John Wright

Tyler Civic Theatre's board again approves production of 'The Laramie Project'

I left the phone number for Tyler Area Gays Chair Troy Carlyle at the office, so I can’t call for details, but here’s the message that was just posted on Facebook:

The Board of Directors at Tyler Civic Theatre has re-approved this production of The Laramie Project!!!!!!!! Thanks to the East Texas community and people across the nation for your support. History was made in Tyler, TX tonight! Spread the word. We will see you on Opening Night June 17!!!!!!!!!

—  John Wright

Anti-gay fears threaten production of 'The Laramie Project' planned for East Texas

Another day, another example of anti-gay bigotry threatening artistic expression in Texas. Actually, this is the second one today, but who’s counting?

Troy Carlyle, chair of Tyler Area Gays (Project TAG), reports that a production of “The Laramie Project” — a play about the hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard — is now in jeopardy due to homophobic backlash in the East Texas city.

According to a press release from Carlyle, the Board of Directors at the Tyler Civic Theatre voted unanimously in March to approve the production of “The Laramie Project.” Auditions have been held and actors assembled. The production, a joint venture between Project TAG and the theater, is scheduled to open on June 17 and play for three performances.

But in response to “letters of concern to the theater from Tyler citizens,” some board members are withdrawing their support, and a second vote reportedly will be taken April 13. Director Trinity Wheeler was among those made aware Thursday that one of the board members called the theater’s Web master and had him remove the production information from the Web site.

“The goal of ‘The Laramie Project’ is to promote thoughtful discussion and give audiences the opportunity to hear from a wide variety of Laramie residents and those most associated with the murder of Matthew Shepard. The move by these board members to cancel the production is ironic, since it demonstrates the need for the exact kind of education that is provided in the play,” Wheeler said. “I grew up in Tyler and am very excited to bring this production to East Texas. The play examines crimes of hate. The Tyler community experienced a hate crime in 1993 with the murder of Nicholas West, the gay man that was taken from Bergfeld park and shot numerous times. ‘The Laramie Project’ is about a community coming together and healing as a group in the same way Tyler did after the West murder. The James Byrd, Jr. murder in Jasper is another example of senseless hate and a community coming together to heal.”

Even if the Tyler Civil Theatre won’t stage it, Wheeler vowed that the show will go on. He says there’s a lot of excitement about the production, and a week-old Facebook page already has 322 fans.

“On June 17, there will be a production of ‘The Laramie Project’ in Tyler. We are currently regrouping with the cast, staff and Project TAG. I would still like to present this production at Tyler Civic Theatre because this is the theatre where I grew up. With that said, a cancellation decision by the Board of Directors will not stop this production. The opinions of a few people in the community have made cowards of a select number of board members and by withdrawing their unanimous approval of this production they are allowing the opinions of a few to affect the community as a whole. People want this production to happen.”

The Facebook page is encouraging supporters of the play to gather outside the board meeting at 5:30 p.m. next Tuesday and to e-mail their concerns to the theater at info@tylercivictheatre.com.

—  John Wright