Wow, what a feeling!
Mama Mia, how happy and thrilled I am today ("25 Dallas Notables," Dallas Voice 25th anniversary issue, May 22). This calls for a few remarks; it’s a minor celebration.

First, congratulations to the Voice on your long, successful journey. I want to thank you for celebrating your 25th anniversary by celebrating the lives of 25 citizens in our community. I was pleasantly shocked and very, very happy to have been included. I wanted to thank the Voice and its readers for including me. It is a joy.

After all our years of hard work — and I know your readers know what I mean: hard, hard work, including rejections, isolation sometimes, setbacks, ridicule, a smattering of applause now and then, seeing one project success and then having to go immediately to the next need — for all of this and all of us, this feels very good.

Of course, I cannot speak for any of the others, but I do know that for me, this feels great. It has put a much-needed spring in my step.

For the work we have done together to build community, for our successes and failures, for the help and support, and even for those whooften blocked the way, I am grateful. We are who we are on our own and because of one another. I am so proud of each of us, and of all of us together.

Really though, it’s impossible to think 25 years have passed. So much work has been done, and yet there is so much more to do. I look forward to the next 25 years with a lighter heart thanks to you. Acknowledgment is not expected by those who commit themselves to a cause, but it makes the journey and the burden of work that much easier — and so much more fun. Thank you for providing the encouragement. And living in this crazy, unpredictable world in such volatile times, we all need more of that.

Thanks again to you, and congratulations to all, for lives worth remembering.

Wow, what a feeling! As my favorite Swedish singers would say, "Thank you for the music, the song I’m singing."

Christine Jarosz

Project TAG great, but not first
That was a great article about Project TAG in Tyler ("Out in Tyler," Dallas Voice, June 5). I am glad that the Voice is branching out to cover the gay community in rural Texas beyond the Metroplex.

But there is one minor error in your reporting. TAG is not the first LGBT rights or LGBT community group or organization in Tyler.

The East Texas Gay and Lesbian Alliance was the first gay rights group formed in Tyler in 1993. The group was led by Wesley Beard, who appeared in numerous TV interviews at the time of Nicholas West’s murder. Beard, a popular auctioneer from Jacksonville, came out in these TV interviews and received death threats as a result.

The East Texas Gay and Lesbian Alliance organized the only gay rights rally, march or protest ever held in Tyler, Texas. The rally at Bergfeld Park on Jan. 8, 1994, after West’s murder, is to this date the only gay rights rally the city has ever seen.

More than a thousand people came to the rally, and there was considerable media coverage of this by the Dallas and national media.

The East Texas Gay and Lesbian Alliance was short-lived. But their contribution to the advancement of gay rights in East Texas as well as raising the visibility of gays in East Texas is invaluable.

I remember the rally in Bergfeld Park. It was indescribable, and Tyler has not seen anything like that since.

TAG is doing great work. And they are filling a huge void in the Tyler area. But the dangerous work that West’s friends did in the months and years following his murder paved the way for others like TAG to come along 15 years later.

Thanks for setting the record straight (or gay, rather).

Brandon Flanagan

What’s up with Epker?
Thank you for the article on District 1. Although Stonewall Democrats did not endorse in the City Council elections, I am personally supporting Delia Jasso in whatever small ways seem appropriate.

But I am puzzled by the Justin Epker effort.

Epker spoke briefly at the last Stonewall meeting, but I was unable to discern why a monolingual, straight, white male with no experience is running for City Council in a bilingual, multi-sexual, multiracial district. And I have no idea what "community development consultant" really means.

For whom does he work and what has he developed? Where did he live before he moved to Oak Cliff, and why did he "return" to North Texas? Did he or his friends answer any of these questions specifically?

Phyllis Guest

‘Victims’ of Padieu?
I want to know if it is just me, or does anyone else believe that Philippe Padieu ("Texas man convicted for knowingly infecting several women," Dallas Voice, June 5) received an excessive punishment?

Not that I believe his actions were in any way justified, and I sincerely don’t mean to sound insensitive to these women, but they weren’t raped!

They had a consensual, unsafe sexual encounter, and now they want to be absolved of their actions and be treated as "victims"?

And just where have they gotten their information about living with HIV and/or AIDS? They mostly agree on one thing: that they will die at a young age because of this disease. One was even quoted as saying that her family and friends will now "lose years of my love because I will die from this."

How ignorant, not to mention narcissistic. And I can almost guarantee one thing for all of them: If they spend one more minute playing the role of victim, then they will die from this disease!

Have they not heard that most of us are living with this disease, not dying from it. I personally have been living with this for more than 20 years now, and I have never — repeat, never — had any illness directly associated with my HIV status. I attribute this to having access to awesome medical care, but more importantly, to the fact that I knew if there was anyone to blame, it was the guy in my mirror.

I am not, nor have I ever been a "victim" of this disease or the man who passed it along to me. As a matter of fact, after a brief stage of denial and anger, I have chosen to look at it as "gift."

Ironically, most of us don’t begin to truly live until we are faced with our own mortality. These women can spend their time blaming Padieu and remain victims, or they can choose to take advantage of their time, like they probably never would have without being forced to face their own death.

I would also recommend spending some time with one of Dallas’ many HIV/AIDS organizations and getting an education about just how awesome their lives can become.

This is not an automatic death sentence for most of us anymore. For that, they would have to visit the 1980s. Nothing like watching all your friends die to put things back into proper perspective.
Ladies, I sincerely wish you well. Positive energy creates more positive energy.

Brian Thibodeaux

We welcome letters from readers. Shorter letters and those addressing a single issue are more likely to be printed. Letters are subject to editing for length and clarity, but we attempt to maintain the writer’s substance and tone. Include  your home address and a daytime telephone number for verification. Send letters to the senior editor, preferably by e-mail ( Letters also may be faxed (214-969-7271) or sent via the U.S. Postal Service (Dallas Voice, 4145 Travis St., Third Floor, Dallas TX 75204). All letters become the property of Dallas Voice.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 12, 2009.
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