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Legal group launches anti-‘conversion’ therapy campaign

therapy, gay news, Washington Blade

The National Center for Lesbian Rights this week announced the launch of ‘Born Perfect: the Campaign to End Conversion Therapy.’

SAN FRANCISCO — An LGBT legal advocacy group hopes to bring an end to gay “conversion” therapy in the U.S. within five years, LGBTQ Nation reports.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights this week announced the launch of “Born Perfect: the Campaign to End Conversion Therapy,” a campaign that will focus on raising public awareness on how this type of therapy harms LGBT youth, the article said.

The campaign comes just weeks after the Republican Party in Texas endorsed the practice as a means to “cure” homosexuality. Legislation banning the practice has been approved in California and New Jersey but legal challenges followed.

The Center says it’s working with legislators and LGBT leaders in more than a dozen states to help bring similar legislation to the rest of the country.

27
Jun
2014

Houston mayor marries longtime partner

Annise Parker, Houston, gay news, Victory Fund, Democratic Party, Washington Blade

Houston Mayor Annise Parker married longtime partner Kathy Hubbard last week. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

PALM SPRINGS, Calif.—Houston Mayor Annise Parker and her partner of more than two decades, Kathy Hubbard, married on Jan. 16.

A press release the city of Houston released said Parker and Hubbard, who celebrated their 23rd anniversary on their wedding day, exchanged vows at a Palm Springs home.

Rev. Paul Fromberg of San Francisco officiated the wedding that Parker’s mother, Hubbard’s sister and a small group of family and friends attended. Harris County Civil Judicial District Court Judge Steve Kirkland and Mark Parthie were witnesses.

“This is a very happy day for us,” said Parker. “[Hubbard] is the love of my life and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life married to her.”

Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill, who is suing Parker and Houston over the extension of benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees, criticized the wedding.

“This is about a bigger political agenda for her,” said Woodfill as Lone Star Q reported.

Houston voters first elected Parker as mayor in 2009. She won re-election for a third term last November.

23
Jan
2014

Federal judge strikes down Texas gay marriage ban

Politically and strategically, the Supreme Court's ruling in Windsor is appearing more brilliant by the day.

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26
Feb
2014

Arrest made in murder of lesbian couple

James Cosby Jr., murder, gay news, Washington Blade

James Cosby, Jr. (Photo courtesy of the Galviston County Sheriff’s Office)

PORT BOLIVAR, Texas – Texas officials have arrested a Houston man in connection with the murder of his daughter and her girlfriend.

The Houston Chronicle reported James Larry Cosby, Jr., was arrested on March 13 and charged with two counts of tampering with evidence.

A deliveryman on March 7 found the bodies of Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson in a dumpster outside a Port Bolivar store. Lone Star Q reported the two women had left the Houston house in which they lived with Britney Cosby’s father and great-grandmother two days earlier to drive to nearby Galveston for the city’s annual Mardi Gras celebration.

The Houston Chronicle said officers with the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office “found evidence of a bloodbath” in James Cosby’s bedroom. They also found his fingerprint outside the convenience store where the women’s bodies were found.

Cosby’s mother, Loranda Remer, told the newspaper that Cosby did not accept his daughter’s relationship with Jackson. Other relatives offered conflicting accounts.

20
Mar
2014

2 memoirs show power of parenthood

parenthood, Pregnant Butch, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image courtesy of Soft Skull Press)

Two new, very different memoirs continue to expand our sense of what an LGBT family looks like. One is the story of a lesbian mom struggling against her son’s anti-gay Catholic school while grappling with her relationship to the church and to her own mother. The other is about a butch lesbian and her experience being pregnant—the print version of a graphic novel first serialized online.

Michelle Theall’s “Teaching the Cat to Sit” (Gallery Books) is a beautifully crafted tale about the power—and pitfalls—of faith, family and love. Theall, the editor-in-chief of Alaska Magazine and an award-winning adventure and fitness writer, weaves the story of attempting to raise her son Catholic with the story of her own childhood and coming out. She deftly intertwines anecdotes that take us back to her childhood in Bible Belt Texas and forward to her life as a parent in Colorado, moving us through her Catholic upbringing, sexual abuse by a neighbor, coming out during college in the 1980s, meeting her now-partner Jill, and adopting their son.

The narrative begins in Colorado in 2009, when she and Jill are first sensing a reluctance from their priest to baptize their son. The boy also attends the Catholic school run by the same church, and the family has been welcomed by the school community. The priest, however, eventually warns them that he is reconsidering whether they can stay, since being gay goes against Catholic teaching.

Despite the insult, Theall hesitates to withdraw their son, knowing that it would hurt her strongly Catholic mother, who also suffers from depression. Theall has struggled her whole life for her mother’s acceptance, and their relationship nearly ended when Theall came out to her.

Through her story, she shows us the harm—to individuals as well as entire families—of a view of the world in which lesbian and gay people exist only as sinners and deviants. While she pulls no punches about the church’s hypocrisy and failings, her book is far from a condemnation of religion.

A. K. Summers’ “Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag” (Soft Skull Press) has an entirely different style and tone—irreverent and often caustic, with bold images that both capture the details of everyday life and exaggerate its incongruities. This is not a children’s comic. The tale, first serialized starting in 2011 at the Web comic collective site Act-i-vate, is semi-autobiographical, with the protagonist Teek standing in for Summers.

Summers grew up in California and Georgia, went to college in Ohio and Illinois, and now lives in Rhode Island. Trained as a printmaker, she is the creator of the comic zine Negativa: Chicago’s Astute Lezbo Fantasy Mag, as well as several short animated films.

She was adopted herself, which gave her “an emotional longing to experience a biological relationship to somebody,” she told me in an interview in 2011. Getting pregnant—often seen as the ultimate womanly act—took on different overtones when she did so as a butch woman, however. “Pregnant Butch,” she said, “is about my attempts to hold on to my butch self and also to allow myself to be transformed by the process [of pregnancy], and where that could occur and be positive.”

Summers explores what it means to be butch, the lack of positive role models, and how she and her partner negotiated their relationship and roles as they headed toward parenthood. She charts her changing interactions with friends and neighbors as they encountered the dissonance of her masculine gender expression and her pregnant belly.

Summers writes in her introduction that she thinks there has been a shift in the 10 years since she was pregnant. Young queers are now less likely to use the term “butch.” Nevertheless, Summers felt it was important to capture her experience, both to ”make the unseen visible” and to document a point in time before the enormous positive shift in public attitudes toward gay people in the last few years.

Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian, an award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.

21
Mar
2014

The circus has come to town!

Taylor Albin, Taylor the Tailor, Built to Amaze!, Ringling Brothers, gay news, Washington Blade

Taylor Albin as Taylor the Tailor (third from left in back row) in ‘Built to Amaze!’ It runs through Sunday at the Patriot Center. (Photo courtesy Ringling Bros.)

‘Built to Amaze!’

Ringling Bros., Barnum  & Bailey

Patriot Center

Through Sunday

$15-30

800-745-3000

ticketmaster.com

Growing up in Mineral Wells, Texas, Taylor Albin shunned the Friday night lights of the high school football games and dreamt of having different lights shining down on him — those from the “greatest show on earth.”

“I went to the circus every single year with my family and fell in love with it. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a clown; it just looked like so much fun,” Albin says. “Whenever they came out, they made people laugh and that’s definitely something I wanted to do and saw myself doing.”

One of his favorite pastimes was watching the Ringling Bros. video “How to be a Clown”; he aspired to be one of the greats like Tom and Tammy Parish, Chris and Gina Allison, Michael Frum, Jeff Schott and Todd Zimmerman.

Of course, wanting to be a clown and actually doing it for a living are two different things. Like most people, Albin had absolutely no idea how to go about it. It was in 2009, while in college, that he read that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey was holding open auditions in New York, so he flew to the Big Apple and auditioned.

“It was a year later when they called and told me I was just what they were looking for,” he says. “I was still in college, but a year later I was with them and doing what I consider to be the best job in the world. My dream had come true.”

Albin says that being gay has never been an issue with anyone at the circus and that the atmosphere among his fellow clowns and other performers has been very supportive.

“The circus is such an open community and an environment that accepts all people — I mean not only do we have people from different lifestyles but we also have people from all parts of the globe,” he says. “The circus is a place anyone can feel comfortable in and I feel fortunate to work in an environment that people accept you for who you are.”

In his clown persona, Albin is Taylor the Tailor and he dons a large black wig that sticks up, wears funny glasses and has loud and colorful striped pants.

“The best part is I designed my look and who I wanted to be,” he says. “One of the best things is that we get the freedom of creating who we are and what we want to look like.”

You can check Albin out locally now as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents “Built To Amaze!” at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va. It opened last week and runs through Sunday. It’s a show that promises plenty of high energy, high jinx and hilarity.

“What I enjoy most about being a part of Ringling Bros. is that I have the honor and privilege to see kids so happy and vibrant, and for their parents to be right in the moment with them,” he says. “There’s something magical about seeing a family forgetting their worries and just having fun! Your heart is filled with so much happiness and joy.”

For those children (and adults!) who are afraid of clowns, Albin says that everyone is very sensitive to their feelings and they work hard to make sure everyone is comfortable and having a fun time.

“We have people who come to the shows from all sorts of life and when we see people startled, we don’t approach them and we let them approach us,” he says. “Parents have their kids come to see us and we’ll bend down and talk to them on their level so we are not an ominous figure. We always take caution when we talk to children.”

Albin has been with the circus for five years and currently serves as the Boss Clown, meaning he is the liaison between show management and all the clowns on tour.

“I make sure everyone stays on top of their tasks and are prompt and at the end of the day that we all have fun,” he says. “When you wake up excited to do what you do, nothing can stop you. If there is a challenge, I would say it’s not seeing my family as often, but I am going to Texas soon so will see them then. At the end of the day, I love what I do.”

In addition to the fun of the clowns, the circus will include nine-time international award-winning comedic animal presenting duo Alex and Irina Emelin of Russia; the Tower Tumblers, a troupe of competitive aerial athletes from the Ukraine who launch themselves from trampolines to scale, repel and pass through a three-story high translucent tower; and a spirited and fiery competition of basketball with the next generation of whirling unicyclists, the legendary King Charles Troupe hailing from New York City.

17
Apr
2014

Waco adds protections for LGBT city employees

Waco, gay news, Washington Blade

Waco, Texas (Photo by Billy Hathorn; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

WACO, Texas — Without fanfare or controversy, the city of Waco has quietly agreed to bar discrimination against LGBT city employees, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.

City Manager Dale Fisseler said Monday he has made an administrative decision to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s internal personnel policy on nondiscrimination, the paper said.

The policy already bars discrimination based on the federally recognized categories of race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, marital status and disability.

“All I’m doing is updating our internal policy . . . just to clarify that we don’t discriminate based on sexual preference and identity,” Fisseler was quoted as having said.

A handful of local pro-LGBT activists, led by Paul Derrick and Carmen Saenz, had been seeking the change since 2013.

The city’s Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee last summer recommended the policy revision. Then-City Manager Larry Groth turned it down, saying in a February letter that the city has never had a grievance or complaint about LGBT discrimination.

“I believe the policies clearly convey the message to our employees that discrimination and/or harassment is not allowed to any class even without a list,” he wrote to the advisory committee.

Fisseler was city manager in Fort Worth in 2009 when the city council there passed a much more sweeping anti-discrimination ordinance that gave LGBT residents protections not only in municipal employment but private-sector employment, housing and public accommodations, the paper said.

Saenz, who worked with Derrick on the Waco policy, said she ultimately would like to see a broad nondiscrimination ordinance in Waco, but she thought it necessary to take smaller steps.

Saenz, a psychology professional who identifies as lesbian, said she hasn’t experienced discrimination in Waco, but in the last year she has heard from city employees who feel pressure at work to keep their same-sex relationships a secret, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.

04
Jun
2014

Texas GOP backs ‘reparative therapy’

Republican Party of Texas, gay news, Washington Blade

Republican Party of Texas logo.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Texas Republican Party’s new platform that backs so-called “reparative therapy” on June 7 received final approval.

The Associated Press reported the roughly 7,000 delegates who attended the party’s annual convention never debated the proposed plank before they ratified the platform at the Forth Worth Convention Hall. The Texas Eagle Forum, a Tea Party organization that supports what its website describes as “traditional values,” spearheaded efforts to add support of “reparative therapy” to the platform.

“The Republican Party of Texas should not allow its platform to be used to promote psychological quackery,” said Steve Rudner, chair of the Equality Texas Foundation board of directors.

Rudy Oeftering, vice president of Metroplex Republicans Dallas, a gay conservative group, is among those who also criticized the “reparative therapy” plank.

California and New Jersey currently ban “reparative therapy” to minors. Lawmakers in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and other states have proposed similar prohibitions on the controversial practice the American Psychological Association and other groups have condemned.

11
Jun
2014

50 years later, Kennedy killing a vivid memory

John F. Kennedy, JFK, President of the United States of America, gay news, Washington Blade

President John F. Kennedy (Photo public domain)

By PAUL KUNTZLER

The weather was surprisingly warm on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963. I left my Capitol Hill apartment that morning in a blue dress shirt, slacks and Bass Weejan loafers. At 21, I worked for Structural Clay Products Institute at 1520 18th St., N.W.

At 1:30 p.m., I went to lunch at the Dupont Pharmacy. While walking back through Dupont Circle, two young men were scurrying about me. I crossed over to P Street and turned left onto 18th Street.

It was 2:36 p.m. when I entered my office. I noticed immediately that no one was at the receptionist’s desk. Then I saw that the staff was in the boardroom.  I asked the secretary to Executive Director Richard Alderson, “What’s happening?” She said, “The president has been shot!” Walter Cronkite was on television.

Within a minute, Cronkite took off his horn-rimmed eyeglasses, “From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.”

I started crying.  I said to myself, “I’ve got to get out of here!”  I ran into Mrs. Ballad. She was stunned at the news.

My partner, Stephen Miller, was in the Capitol Building on House Appropriations Committee staff. After seeing the United Press wire, he went into Kenneth Sprankle’s office. ”Mr. Sprankle, the president has been shot!” Sprankle, chief of staff and a conservative Republican, looked up from his desk, “Well, he’ll surely be re-elected now!”

The Washington telephone system ceased functioning at 1:30 p.m. At home, I turned on television. Stephen told me what Sprankle had said.

For the next four days, television programming and commercials were canceled. It was reported that Kennedy was hit in his throat just below the Adam’s apple and that a German Mauser rifle was found in the Texas School Book Depository Building.

Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested as a suspect in the killing of Patrolman Jefferson Davis Tippit. On the first of his many trips through the third-floor corridors of the Dallas Police Department, Oswald said, “I didn’t shoot anybody, sir. I haven’t been told what I am here for.”

At 6:05 p.m., Air Force One landed at Andrews Air Force Base. JFK’s casket was unloaded with Jacqueline and Robert Kennedy into a Navy ambulance.

What I did not know then was that Kennedy’s casket was empty, according to multiple reports, including the 1988 British series “The Men Who Killed Kennedy, The Cover-Up.” Before Air Force One had left Dallas Love Field, Mrs. Kennedy came forward for President Johnson’s taking the oath of office. During this period, the Secret Service removed Kennedy’s body from his casket.

At Andrews, JFK’s body was taken off on the other side of Air Force One and flown by helicopter to Walter Reed Army Hospital. Mortician John Melvin Liggett using his mortician wax altered the wounds and removed two bullets. Then his body was flown to Bethesda Navy Hospital for the autopsy.

Stephen and I went to dinner at Mike Palm’s wearing our Kennedy buttons.

Later Oswald said, “I do request that someone to come forward to give me legal assistance.” By then, Oswald had been charged with the Tippit killing. At 1:30 a.m., Oswald was arraigned on the charge of murdering JFK.

In American law, every person accused of a crime is presumed innocent unless and until he is found  guilty in a court of law. But District Attorney Henry Wade said, “I would say without any doubt that he is the killer. The law says beyond a reasonable doubt to a moral certainty that he is the killer of President Kennedy.”

Late Saturday morning, we went down to the front of the White House where Kennedy’s body was lying in state. Diplomats were arriving to pay their respects.

That evening Oswald said, “I emphatically deny these charges!” And finally, “I’m just a patsy!”

On Sunday afternoon, Stephen and I were on the Capitol grounds when Jacqueline Kennedy arrived with Caroline and John Jr. in their blue suits. Kennedy’s casket was carried up the Capitol steps. We watched John Jr. salute his father. It was then that I learned that Jack Ruby had shot Oswald.

At 10 p.m., we got into line on East Capitol Street with tens of thousands. Walking east with the enormous crowds to Lincoln Park and back again, we finally passed through the Rotunda of the Capitol at 7 a.m.

Offices were closed that Monday for Kennedy’s funeral at St. Matthew’s Cathedral and for his burial in Arlington Cemetery.

John Kennedy was the first important person to die in my young life. I regarded his passing as if I had lost a family member.

For an entire year, I remained in mourning.

Paul Kuntzler is a longtime LGBT rights advocate based in Washington.

12
Nov
2013

Texas National Guard now openly-discriminating against gay troops

Snubbing Hagel, Obama, and the US Supreme Court, Texas is refusing to give federal benefits to married gay troops.

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18
Nov
2013