CNN anchor Don Lemon to speak at UNT diversity conference Feb. 1

Don Lemon

Openly gay CNN anchor Don Lemon, who came out in his memoir in 2011, will headline the University of North Texas’ 13th Equity and Diversity Conference on Feb. 1. Also speaking at the conference in Denton will be Cuc Vu, chief diversity officer for the Human Rights Campaign. From the UNT News Service:

The theme of the conference was chosen to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order, based on his constitutional authority as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, that proclaimed all slaves in Confederate territory to be forever free. The Proclamation immediately resulted in the freedom of 50,000 slaves in 10 Confederate states, and paved the way for hundreds of thousands more slaves to be liberated as the Union Army advanced in the Confederacy until nearly all slaves were free by the summer of 1865.

The conference, open to 500 participants, is aimed at students, educators and professionals who are committed to equity and diversity in higher education and in the workforce. It will include sessions on addressing unconscious biases and stereotypes and identifying barriers against more inclusive environments for those with disabilities, among other topics. Registration is free for students, $50 for UNT faculty and staff members and $150 for others, with group rates available for six or more people.

For more information or to register, go here.

—  John Wright

Students protest new Chick-fil-A on campus of UT-Pan American

Students protest the new on-campus Chick-fil-A at the University of Texas-Pan American on Monday, Aug. 27. (Action 4 News)

Students starting classes Monday at the University of Texas-Pan American protested the new on-campus Chick-fil-A.

The campus in Edinburg had several students holding signs explaining that the chicken chain controversy is about civil rights, not free speech.

UTPA’s Atheist Student Organization and the LGBT Alliance also had students sign their petition to ask the university to remove the restaurant, Action 4 News reports.

UTPA released a statement before school started that the university  “was surprised and disappointed by the comments made by Chick-fil-A’s president,” and that it opposes “discrimination in any form.”

Chick-fil-A is on five college campuses in North Texas. Both the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington have started online petitions. A UNT student petition on Change.org  had garnered 469 signatures and the one started by an alumnus has 44 signatures. The UTA petition has 155 signatures.

UTA spokeswoman Kristin Sullivan told Instant Tea that no one had submitted a petition or a formal request yet o replace the on-campus Chick-fil-A.

Alohi Valdez, president of UTA’s Gay Straight Alliance, said the group is working on a resolution to present to university officials alongside the petition. She said she wanted to present the petition to the administration soon.

—  Anna Waugh

PHOTOS, VIDEO: Rick Santorum in N. Texas

Rick Santorum speaks at Fairview Farms in Plano on Wednesday night. (Photos by Patrick Hoffman/Special to the Voice)

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum rolled into Plano on Wednesday night for a campaign rally at Fairview Farms — a corral barn normally rented out for parties — in a Central Expressway mini mall next door to Party City and Duke’s Roadhouse.

In the 41-degree weather, a mostly white crowd in coats and knit caps stood huddled outside the Fairview entrances, standing on tip-toe, angling their cameras in the air and peering through window lattices to get a peek at the Pennsylvania senator.

WBAP Talk radio host Mark Davis, who hosted the rally, announced: “I am not here to introduce to you the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I’m here to introduce to you the conservative alternative to Barack Obama.” (Incidentally, Davis was recently a guest speaker at a meeting of Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, a gay GOP group.)

It seemed oddly fitting that Santorum should spill into Plano the day after his ideological opposite, Dan Savage, spoke at the University of North Texas’ 12th Annual Equity and Diversity Conference. Nine years ago, after Santorum compared homosexual relationships to bestiality, Savage led a successful campaign to redefine Santorum’s surname to mean a frothy by-product of anal sex. Both men call the others’ action vulgar.

“He’s not running for president,” Savage told Dallas Voice last week. “He’s running for a Fox News contract just like [Mike] Huckabee.”

—  Daniel Villarreal

Dan Savage: Every time a gay youth commits suicide, our enemies celebrate

Dan Savage speaks at the University of North Texas on Tuesday. (Patrick Hoffman)

DANIEL VILLARREAL  |  Contributing Writer

DENTON — “Every time LGBT bullying kills a kid, Tony Perkins gets up from his desk and dances a jig,” sex-advice-columnist-turned-LGBT youth advocate Dan Savage said of the anti-gay Family Research Council president during Savage’s keynote speech at the 12th Annual University of North Texas Equity and Diversity Conference on Tuesday.

“Every LGBT youth suicide for them is a victory, a rhetorical and moral victory,” Savage added.

When some LGBT teenagers come out to their parents, Savage said, the parents do “what the Christian right tells them to do”— cut them off financially and emotionally, disown them, turn them out into the streets or send them to camps meant to “turn them straight,” often repeating the lies spread by so-called Christian groups like the Family Research Council — which say that LGBT people are child-molesting sexual predators whose mere existence threatens families and the very survival of the planet (a line uttered by the Pope just this last month).

Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, hoped to counteract the lethal effect of such anti-LGBT attitudes when they started the It Gets Better (IGB) video campaign in September 2010. They thought that user-created videos encouraging LGBT youth to keep living might stem the epidemic of bullying-related LGBT suicides that killed 10 teenage boys that month alone.

As the number of user-uploaded videos for IGB quickly rose from 200 in the first week to the current count of more than 30,000 videos (viewed more than 40 million times internationally), Savage came to realize that IGB had effectively placed an LGBT youth support group in the pocket of every teenager with a cell phone — no matter their geographic location or their family’s prejudices.

But while applauding the program’s success in potentially saving lives and giving children hope that their parents might one day accept them as other parents in IGB videos have, Savage admitted to the crowd made up mostly of students that the It Gets Better project can’t end bullying.

“[However, that] does not excuse or preclude us from doing more …” Savage continued, “from confronting bullies, from holding schools and teachers and preachers and parents responsible for what they do or don’t do or fail to do for LGBT kids in pain.”

That’s why Savage’s project has supported Sen. Al Franken’s Student Non-Discrimination Act as well as the efforts of groups like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, the Trevor Project and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“[The Trevor Project] is there to talk kids off the ledge,” Savage said, “GLSEN is there to make sure there are fewer kids in our schools climbing out onto that ledge and the ACLU is there sue the crap out of schools that push kids onto that ledge.”

Citing studies from the University of Illinois and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Savage said rates of teenage suicide (LGBT and straight) and sexual violence against girls is much higher in schools where anti-LGBT bullying is tolerated — in short, that anti-LGBT bullying makes schools unsafe for everyone. And yet the religious right continues to oppose campaigns against anti-LGBT bullying as “indoctrination.”

Quoting Johann Hari, a writer with UK-based The Independent, Savage said:

Being subjected to bullying and violence as children and teenagers makes gay people unusually vulnerable to depression and despair. The homophobes then use that depression and despair to claim that homosexuality is inherently a miserable state – and we shouldn’t do anything that might “encourage” it.

However, Savage asserts that he isn’t hostile to religion, citing his good relationship with his Catholic father and the fact that his last act of love for his mother as she lay dying in an Arizona hospital bed was to find a priest to initiate her last rites.

But instead of letting kids act out the violence of their adult role-models who bash gays at the pulpit and the ballot box, Savage called on school members to actively oppose anti-LGBT bullying and on liberal and more progressive Christians to stop “the complicit silence … aiding them and abetting [the religious right] in their crimes.”

—  John Wright

Dan Savage, Rick Santorum to make back-to-back appearances in North Texas

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Rick Santorum

The stars have truly aligned this time. As we mentioned last week, sex advice columnist and It Gets Better Project creator Dan Savage will speak at the University of North Texas on Tuesday. Savage is famous for, among other things, bestowing upon GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum a “Google problem.” Well, guess what? Just a day after Savage’s appearance, the “frothy mix” himself will be in North Texas. From Santorum’s campaign website:

Wednesday, February 8:

9:30am CT: Senator Santorum will host a forum with area pastors in McKinney, TX.

Location
Bella Donna Chapel Adriatica
401 Adriatica Parkway
McKinney, TX

5:00pm CT: Senator Santorum will meet with local Tea Party Activists in Allen, TX.

Location:
Courtyard by Marriott
210 East Stacy Road
Allen, TX

7:00pm CT:
Senator Santorum will hold a campaign rally, with special guest radio host Mark Davis, in Plano, TX.

Location:
Fairview Farms
Corral Barn
3314 North Central Expressway #100
Plano, TX

—  John Wright

Dan Savage: It’s ‘never been worse’ for LGBT youth

Founder of It Gets Better Project says higher visibility combined with anti-gay forces can make growing up gay as hard as ever

SAVAGE  LOVE | Dan Savage, shown here at an appearance at the Kessler Theater last year, will appear at UNT on Feb. 7. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Sex-advice columnist Dan Savage, known for his It Gets Better Project, will keynote the University of North Texas Equity and Diversity Conference next week.

“I’ll talk about how it’s gotten worse in some ways,” Savage said.

He said that kids can’t fly under the radar anymore like when he came out in 1981.

“Everyone is hyper-aware in a way they weren’t before,” he said.

He called that a result of the Reagan Revolution, when anti-gay rhetoric became organized.

“Mom and Dad beat up on gay people at the ballot box so it became OK for kids to beat up on gay kids at school,” he said.

This week, Savage said he received a letter from a father whose 13-year-old son recently came out.

“How do I know I’m parenting him correctly?” the dad wanted to know.

As a father with a 13-year-old son himself, Savage gets aggressively protective. He tells parents to make sure there’s a Gay Straight Alliance in school. If the school has anti-bullying policies in place, make sure they’re being enforced and let the principal know you’re watching and “you’ll create holy hell.” And make sure the child has gay role models and friends.

GETTING  BETTER AND BETTER | Dan Savage, right, and his husband Terry Miller started the It Gets Better Project to help LGBT youth. Their original goal was 100 videos but they have more than 50,000 that have gotten 50 million views. (Photo courtesy of Dan Savage)

He advises that when the young teen’s straight friends start dating and they have no other out friends in school, reassure them that their time will come. And don’t be afraid to give an LGBT child the same advice you’d give a straight child. That’s not homophobia, he said. It’s parenting.

But Savage called this “the best of times and the worst of times” for LGBT youth to grow up.

“If you grow up in a rural area, go to a Christian school, are bullied from the pulpit and there’s no GSA, it’s never been worse,” he said.

Savage said that when he began the It Gets Better Project, he and husband Terry Miller hoped for 100 videos. A day after posting that first one, he had topped that number and within a few days had 100 more. He said that at last count there were more than 50,000 It Gets Better videos that have been viewed more than 50 million times. That includes one of the most popular — the City Council speech made by Joel Burns that has been seen more than 2.7 million times.

Two of Savage’s favorite pieces that were included in the book It Gets Better, which will be released in paperback in March, were contributed by A.Y. Daring and Gabrielle Rivera. Daring, who identifies herself as black and queer, grew up in rural Canada. Her simple story tells of moving to a bigger city and entering a university with the oldest LGBT support group in the country. Rivera, a gay Latina from the Bronx, tells youth that, “It doesn’t get better.” But she says that you get stronger.

It Gets Better has been incorporated as a nonprofit organization. Savage said as soon as the videos took off, they trademarked and copyrighted the slogan and “people started throwing money at us.”

“We created a brand,” he said.

He said they’ve had to protect that brand and were able to shut down an anti-gay group that tried to co-opt the phrase.

That money raised has been redirected to GLSEN, the Trevor Project and the ACLU LGBT project. And he would like to see It Gets Better merged into another organization rather than continue as a standalone. Talks with other groups are ongoing.

Savage commented on the presidential campaign and the image of one of the candidates he helped create.

In 2003, in response to an interview in which Sen. Rick Santorum’s called gay sex a deviant behavior, Savage wrote, “There’s no better way to memorialize the Santorum scandal than by attaching his name to a sex act that would make his big, white teeth fall out of his big, empty head.”

As a result, the definition of Santorum that pops up first in an online search of the name has been dubbed the candidate’s “Google problem.”

Savage dismisses Santorum’s campaign, however.

“He’s not running for president,” he said. “He’s running for a Fox News contract just like [Mike] Huckabee.”

On Rick Perry, he wonders how Texans feel about the general impression that Perry’s not smart enough to be president.

“He’s just dumb enough to be governor?” Savage wonders. “I love that Barack Obama is now more popular in Texas than Rick Perry.”

After the George “Rentboy” Rekers scandal, Savage helped popularize the term “lift the luggage” to mean supplying your partner with sexual pleasure. He said studies have shown that homophobic men are turned on by gay pornography.

“Every time a [Ted] Haggard or Rekers comes along, it makes homophobia look gay,” he said. “So we celebrate when they come tumbling out of the closet.”

……………………….

Savage at UNT

The Equity & Diversity Conference at University of North Texas University Union, 1155 Union Circle, Denton. Feb. 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. 940-565-2711. Dan Savage will speak at 10 a.m. in the Silver Eagle Suit.

Registration is free for UNT students, $100 for UNT faculty, staff and alumni, $150 for non-UNT students and $275 for others. Onsite registration, available the day of the conference is $350.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

DCHHS offering free HIV tests on World AIDS Day

Tomorrow — Thursday, Dec. 1 — is World AIDS Day, and special events are planned across the Metroplex, including an event at Main Street Garden at 7:30 p.m. in downtown Dallas, and a display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, free HIV testing and more at Cathedral of Hope, beginning at 11 a.m.

Now Dallas County Health and Human Services has announced that they will be offering free rapid HIV testing from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Early Intervention Clinic on the third floor of the DCHHS building, 2377 N. Stemmons Frwy. in Dallas.

DCHHS is also offering free tests for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside DCHHS’ mobile medical clinic, which will be stationed at Paul Quinn College, 3837 Simpson Stuart Road; and free HIV and syphilis testing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the University of North Texas, 1155 Union Circle in Denton, with testing locations on campus at the student wellness center, Kerr Hall, the student union and Discovery Park.

And if you can’t get to one of these location on Thursday, the mobile medical unit will be at the Big T Bazaar, 4515 Village Fair Drive in Dallas, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, for free testing, too.

According to 2010 statistics provided by DCHHS, nearly 14,000 people in Dallas County are living with HIV, and about 908 new cases of HIV/AIDS were diagnosed here last year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and — here’s the scary part — 1 in 5 don’t even know they are infected with the virus.

Remember people: You cannot get proper treatment for HIV if you don’t know you are infected. You cannot take proper precautions to avoid passing the virus to someone else if you don’t know you are infected. And you won’t know if you are infected unless you get tested!

—  admin

Dan Savage to appear at UNT in February 2012

The North Texas Daily posted today that the University of North Texas will bring in Dan Savage as the as the keynote speaker for the 12th Annual Equity and Diversity Conference. The one-day conference is set for Feb. 7 at the campus and will also feature Grammy-winner John Legend. Along with his morning appearance, there will also be a book signing with Savage later that day. From NTDaily.com:

The theme of this year’s event is “The power of peace is the harmony of inclusion,” chosen to address current issues faced by many students, said Uyen Tran, director of organization development for equity and diversity.

“Dan Savage came up a lot when we were deciding who to pick,” Tran said. “He’s really at the forefront of things and how to deal with the problems in society.”

During his speech, Savage will address the bullying epidemic of the past year, as well as his personal clash with cultural conservatives because of his homosexuality, according to the event’s website.

“The Multicultural Center believes no matter what your beliefs are, everyone does need to be treated with dignity,” Tran said. “There have been so many suicides because of a lack of this.”

Savage appeared in Dallas this March at The Kessler but mixed heavier topics of coming out and bullying and his It Gets Better project  with relationship advice made famous from his syndicated column and show Savage Love. For more information on the conference, click here.

—  Rich Lopez

Youth group opens in Denton

Wat.-Rev-Pam

Rev. Pamela Wat

The LGBTQ youth program in Denton met for the first time on Friday, Oct. 21 at Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. The Rev. Pamela Wat reported a good turnout of teens, young adults and adult volunteers.

Beginning Nov. 4, the church will be open every Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for OUTreach Denton. All LGBTQ youth and allies are welcome. Once that meeting becomes established, a Wednesday night gathering once a month may be added.

Wat said that they went through a list of activities that Youth First Texas has done successfully.

“The thing they wanted to do is hear adult coming out stories,” she said.

“For some, that night was the first time they had met an out LGBT person.”

Before the meeting, Wat was worried that the youth who attended would be afraid to talk.

“But they were open, sharing, talking,” she said. “They let their guard down and the healing started immediately.”

The initial group included mostly teens ages 14 through 17. Older students in Denton have GLAD, the college group at University of North Texas.

Wat said she thought most of the teens that attended came from safe environments. She said that some drove themselves, but most were dropped off by parents.

“We need to do more outreach to spread the word without spreading where we might get negative attention,” she said. “We haven’t broken into the school system yet.”

At its first regular meeting, the group will work on fliers and a website.

“At some point, we expect to affiliate with Youth First Texas,” Wat said, “but at this point we’re continuing under the name OUTreach Denton but following the same policies and procedures that YFT sets out.”

Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1111 Cordell St., Denton. Fridays at 7 p.m.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

UNT scientists working to ID Gacy’s victims

More than 30 years after serial killer John Wayne Gacy was arrested, convicted of murdering 33 young men and boys and sentenced to death, scientists at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification are working, at the request of Cook County, Ill.,  to identify the remains of eight of those victims who have remained anonymous all these years.

John Wayne Gacy

Arthur Eisenberg, co-director of the identification center at the UNT Health Science Center, located in Fort Worth, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that scientists at the have been successful in extracting DNA from the bones of the eight victims but that testing will continue for at least another month. But even after the DNA profiles are complete, Eisenberg noted, they won’t be useful in identifying the unknown victims unless the scientists have something to compare them with.

Family members of young men and boys who are believed to have fallen victim to Gacy but whose remains were not among those already identified are being asked to contribute DNA samples for comparison, and the DNA profiles from the unidentified remains will also be compared to a database of DNA profiles from family members of young men and boys who went missing during Gacy’s six-year killing spree.

Gacy first began molesting young boys in the late 1960s when he lived with his first wife and their two children in Waterloo, Iowa. Eventually, two of the boys reported him to police and in December 1968 he was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to 10 years in prison. His wife divorced him and he never saw her or their children again. He was paroled two years later and moved back to his hometown of Chicago. He killed his first victim in 1972.

Of the 33 young men and boys he is known to have killed, 26 were buried in the crawlspace under his home. Three more were buried elsewhere on his property, and the final four victims were dumped in a nearby river.

Gacy eventually became known as “The Killer Clown,” in reference to the fact that he had joined an organization that dressed as clowns to perform at charitable events and for hospitalized children. Gacy’s clown character was called Pogo The Clown.

John Wayne Gacy was executed by lethal injection on May 10, 1994, at the age of 52.

—  admin