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Dedicated Transgender Hotline Aims To Stem Epidemic Of Suicides Like Texas Teen Alex DeChiara's

DeChiara.AlexTR

After relentless bullying at her high school in Texas, transgender teen Alex DeChiara (above) transferred to an alternative school in April. 

But switching schools cut 17-year-old Alex off from her closest friends and her biggest passion: working with special-needs children at Euless Trinity High School, in a conservative suburb of Fort Worth. Alex hoped to one day become a teacher for autistic kids. 

After Alex transferred schools, administrators at Euless Trinity even barred her from campus and threatened her with arrest when she tried to visit. Faced with loneliness and a deepening depression, Alex felt she had nowhere to turn. On May 8, she hung herself from a tree in her family's backyard. 

Alex's father, Rick DeChiara, who came home from work to find Alex and had to cut her down from the tree, told the Texas Observer this week he feels there are a fair amount of resources dedicated to gay youth. But he added: “As far as transgender awareness kind of stuff, that’s a different story. I don’t think that’s quite as popular, as out there in the open.” 

MartelaNow, a San Francisco-based group is hoping to help change that — and to stem the epidemic of trangender suicides like Alex's. According to Greta Gustava Martela (right), the founder of Trans Lifeline, half of people who are openly transgender will attempt suicide at least once in their lives. 

Trans Lifeline is a first-of-its-kind, nonprofit crisis and suicide hotline staffed by transgender people. 

“There are a ton of suicide hotlines. There’s no shortage of them,” Martela told Time.com. “But it’s really difficult to get a person who isn’t trans to understand what it’s like to be trans.”

According to Trans Lifeline's website: "Our hotline is staffed by the true experts on transgender experience, transgender people themselves. Our volunteers are all trans identified and educated in the range of difficulties transgender people experience." 

Although the hotline's goal is to prevent self-harm, it is open to any transgender person in need — as well as the parents of transgender children. 

After a surge in calls thanks to the Time.com story this week, Martela launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for training for additional volunteers. Those interested in volunteering for Trans Lifeline can learn more here. 

The hotline covers the US and Canada and is staffed by volunteers outside the Bay Area.

For those in crisis, the number is 877-565-8860

 

 

 

 


Mayor of Lubbock, Texas, Calls HRC Report 'Completely Bogus' After City Receives A Zero On Gay Rights

Robertson

Of the five cities nationwide, out of 353 rated, that received zeros on the Human Rights Campaign's 2014 Municipal Equality Index, four are in Texas, and one is Lubbock. 

But the mayor of Lubbock — a city of 240,000 in West Texas that is home to Texas Tech University — isn't the least bit happy about the score.

From The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Mayor Glen Robertson said no one from the HRC contacted his office, the city managers’ office or the head of human resources. The holes in their research, he said, makes the entire report “completely bogus.”

“This survey is not, in my opinion, designed to get facts. This survey is designed to create problems that aren’t there,” he said.

The report alleges Lubbock has no ordinances in place that protect against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Robertson said these issues are covered by federal and state laws. 

Needless to say, Robertson is dead wrong: Neither state nor federal law contains explicit protections against anti-LGBT employment discrimination. But Lubbock Mayor Pro Tem Karen Gibson has Robertson's back:  

“It’s not that we don’t include anyone. We include everyone,” Gibson said. “Are they wanting us to reach out to the gay and lesbian community specifically? Because in my opinion, that is discrimination. We don’t reach out to Asians or reach out to blacks, we reach out to everyone.”

Last I checked, Asians and blacks were protected against discriminatoin under state and federal law, and they can get married in Texas, which qualifies their spouses for city benefits. 

The story focuses on how the atmosphere for gay people in Lubbock has improved from 20 years ago. For example, they no longer have to worry about getting jumped leaving bars or hide the locations of their meetings: 

“The community as a whole — the actual living citizens that make up the city of Lubbock — has come a long way and does not warrant this,” said Tony Thornton, president of the Lubbock chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Hell, Texas Tech even hosts an annual drag show fundraiser, according to the article, whereas drag queens only used to feel safe going out on Halloween. Doesn't that count for something?!

Actually, no, because the HRC survey doesn't claim to measure intangibles like overall quailty of life. It doesn't factor in the number of gay bars or LGBT organizations. Case in point: Houston received a 53, while Norman, Oklahoma, received a 60. Say what you want about Houston, and no offense to Norman, but as an LGBT person, where would you rather live?  

You see, folks, the HRC survey is merely a barometer of what city government has accomplished on a policy level to be LGBT-inclusive, and in the case of Lubbock, that would be a grand total of zilch. Lubbock doesn't have nondiscrimination protections for LGBT city employees, it doesn't offer domestic partner benefits, etc. 

Let's check back in with Mayor Robertson: 

Equality in Lubbock, from Robertson’s perspective, doesn’t seem to be a problem. In his two-plus years as mayor, he’s heard few complaints from the LGBT community.

“I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen any problem. That doesn’t mean we don’t have it, but if we do, nobody’s being vocal about it,” he said. “Typically, if somebody’s being treated differently because of their gender or sexual orientation, they speak up, and I have heard nothing.”

Equality is not a problem, Robertson said, so it’s not a priority.

OK, this is getting ridiculous. Earlier this year, when Lubbock social worker Casey Stegall was fired for being gay, and it made national news, Robertson himself told this very same newspaper he was open to considering a nondiscrimination ordinance:

“If anybody brought that issue forward, I’d be open-minded and look at it," he said. 

Ultimately, though, despite his selective memory, Robertson's outrage over the goose-egg is perhaps a good thing. After all, if he were rabidly anti-LGBT, he'd be proud of the HRC score. 

Now, it's just a question of LGBT leaders talking some sense into the mayor, which is what Thornton, the PFLAG president, says he plans to try to do:  

“I think the city needs lots of work from the perspective of policy and administration in these areas,” he said. “And I want to work with the city. I want to work with the mayor and the City Council and the HR directors to fix this.”

It sounds like the biggest challenge will be convincing Robertson there's a problem to begin with. But at some point the question also becomes, even if you fix the HRC score, can you ever really fix Lubbock?  

 


Texas Official Says Equal Retirement Benefits For Gays Will Lead To 'Decline Of The Empire': AUDIO

Clark.Ken1

A Galveston County, Texas, commissioner says offering retirement benefits to the same-sex spouses of employees could lead to "the decline of the empire." 

Republican County Commissioner Ken Clark (above) made the comments during a meeting of the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC). Clark serves on the board of the H-GAC, an intergovernmental planning agency made up of 13 member counties and more than member 100 cities in Southeast Texas. 

The H-GAC recently received a notice from the IRS stating that, due to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, H-GAC must begin offering equal 401(k) benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married in other states, or lose the tax-qualified status of its retirement fund. 

The H-GAC's attorneys and a budget committee recommended complying with the IRS notice and offering retirement benefits to same-sex spouses legally married in other states. But Clark and others on the H-GAC board are apparently willing to risk losing the tax-qualified status — a decision that would affect the 401(k) plans of all 241 of its employees — to avoid offering the benefits, which they say would violate Texas' constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. 

When the issue was discussed at an H-GAC board meeting on Oct. 21, Clark said: 

“This is how the decline of the empire happens is we acquiesce to these sort of items little by little and it desensitizes us to it. At some point we’re gonna have to stand up and on this issue I choose to stand up to this because this is not, this is not appropriate for them to hold our employees hostage. And, if they choose to disqualify our plan, it will become a national issue. The American people, in my opinion, are not willing to let this come in incrementally the way this is happening, so that’s where I'm at on this issue.” 

Listen to audio from the meeting here

The scary thing is that a majority of Clark's fellow H-GAC board members went along with him, agreeing to table the item until their November meeting. The anti-gay Houston Area Pastor Council, which is also fighting same-sex benefits in Houston, then distributed an email to its members, in which Clark wrote: 

"If we, as freemen, do not draw the line here against the political correctness, moral decline, and government fiat in this country, our children will inherit the bonds of moral slavery. What will you say when they ask; What did you do? Why did you not stand? If you wish to stand and voice your opinion on this matter, you may attend the next meeting and do just that." 

Several members of the public spoke against same-sex retirement benefits at H-GAC's Nov. 18 montly meeting, where the board announced it was again tabling the issue. Which prompted both the Houston Area Pastor Council and the anti-gay group Texas Values to declare a victory:

“Thankfully some leaders in the Houston-area are starting to recognize that they must follow Texas law on marriage,” said Jonathan Saenz, attorney and president of Texas Values. “That’s encouraging, but Houston Mayor Annise Parker still thinks she’s above the law, and her violations of federal and state law are doing more damage to the Houston people every day,” concluded Saenz.

H-GAC has until Dec.31 to comply with the new IRS policy or lose the tax-qualified status. Stay tuned. 


Austin Police Department Welcomes First Openly Transgender Officer: VIDEO

Picture 3Austin Police Department's Senior Officer Greg Abbink introduced himself as the first openly transgender man on the Austin police force during his Transgender Day of Remembrance speech outside of Austin's city hall on Thursday reports KXAN News. Officer Abbink, who joined the force a decade ago as Emily, officially changed his name this past spring. This year also marks the first time a transgender officer was chosen from APD's Lesbian and Gay Police Officers Association to deliver the speech.

Said Abbink:

“I was honored when I was asked to speak,” said Abbink. “I can’t imagine the city of Austin or the Austin Police Department, for that matter, being any more supportive than they are. I consider APD my family. They are truly my brothers and sisters.”

Officer Abbink says coming out as transgender comes with its own challenges, but recognizes there are certain rewards that come with it as well.

Added Abbink:

“I didn’t do this for anyone other than me, and I don’t mean to sound selfish, but I had to do this to be the best person that I can be, so that I can serve the public — the city of Austin — to the best of my ability.

"I'd like to be a role model if I can."

Watch Officer Abbink's interview with KNAX, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Austin Police Department Welcomes First Openly Transgender Officer: VIDEO" »


Gay Saint Nick Jim Stevenson Melts Hearts In 'I Am Santa Claus' Documentary: VIDEO

  Stevenson.Jim.Alex

I Am Santa Claus, the new documentary starring the WWE's Mick Foley, chronicles the day-to-day lives of four professional Santa Clauses with the aim of solving a Christmas riddle: "Whose lap is your child sitting on?"

In the case of Jim Stevenson (above left, with partner Alex), the short answer is as follows, according to the flim's KickStarter page

Santa Jim resides in Ft. Worth, TX and is the proud winner of "Mr. Texas Bear Round-Up," the largest gathering of hairy, overweight, homosexual men in the country. Although retired, he has seasonal work as a Santa. He is in a relationship with a Denver Colorado man 30 years his junior whom he calls "his special elf."

StevensonAccording to Fort Worth Weekly, Stevenson — who won Mr. Polar Bear at the Texas Bear Round-Up in 2001— also models bear erotica and does naked photo shoots for adult film companies when he's not entertaining kids as Santa. (Stevenson is shown at right in a photo from his Facebook page.)

"When I finally found out that there was any such thing as men who liked men, I knew that's what I had been all along," the 73-year-old Stevenson says in the film's trailer, which shows him kissing his partner on a merry-go-round. 

Whether intentional or not, I Am Santa Claus sounds like a recipe for serious anti-gay backlash (cue the pedophilia attacks), and The Mary Sue reports that there has already been some: 

Posts featuring homophobic messages spread to the film’s various social network sites. Some comments threatened Mick [Foley], some threatened Jim, and many used slurs that will not be repeated. The blowback got so bad that Mick announced a break from his personal Facebook page, the space where three-fourths of his friends are other Santas who have been incredibly supportive of the film.

WWE's Foley, an aspring Santa Claus who is the star of the film and has been supportive of the LGBT community, comes to Stevenson's defense against anti-gay critics: 

“I am a guy who used to go out of my way to make people dislike me for a career. But this is what puts people over the edge?” Foley said. “I hope people will watch the movie before judging and see the struggle to live up to the spirit and legacy of the red suit, to spread joy to others. They will feel the warmth from Jim.”

If there's ongoing or organized anti-gay backlash over Santa Jim, I couldn't find it online. In fact, the reaction among reviewers has been glowingly postiive. 

Iann Robinson at CraveOnline writes: 

The conservative crowd might bristle at a gay man involved in a film about Santa, but that’s their problem. Jim is incredibly likeable, a sweet soul with a delightful southern twang, and an affable demeanor.

StevensonposterThe site My Broken Fiat: A Catholic Mom's Journey includes a disclamer about potentially offensive content at the top of its review, but goes on to say this:  

Now I actually felt my readership cringe at the word "homosexual." Let me make very clear that Santa Jim, the rainbow-suspendered Santa who proudly displays his "Mr. Texas Bear Round-up" medals while parading through a homosexual dance-off, is not a horrible man hell-bent on infecting children with ideas of man-on-man love.  

In truth, he's actually my favorite Santa (after Foley) because you cannot help but feel the supreme and all-encompassing joy he gets from making others happy as Santa Claus. His personality is so genuine, loving and humble that you can't help but want to reach through the screen and hug him close.  

And Larry Gallagher writes at This Is Infamous

Jim comes off in the film as one of the sweetest human beings you could ever meet and it is impossible to not be touched by the sentiment he shows towards being able to mean something in people’s lives by dressing up as Santa Claus.

I Am Santa Claus, produced by Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame, had a limited theatrical release this month and is now available on DVD and iTunes. It will be available on Netflix on Nov. 25.  

Watch the trailer, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Gay Saint Nick Jim Stevenson Melts Hearts In 'I Am Santa Claus' Documentary: VIDEO " »


Houston Restaurant Apologized to Customer Who Complained About Their 'Faggot' Waiter: VIDEO

Receipt

A former waiter at Kelley's Country Cookin', a Houston restaurant, is speaking out about a disgusting incident that occurred during a shift he was working last week, ABC13 reports:

Blake Butler, 19, was a server at Kelley's Country Cookin' in Meadows Place up until last Wednesday when he says a fellow server got a note on the top of the receipt from two customers. It was about him and read "Don't want to listen to a (faggot) through my whole meal."

"I just thought it was disgusting," said Butler. Butler says it was offensive but just as offensive was how the manager reacted. 

"Instead of having my back and be like, you know, 'That's my employee. I can't have you talking about my employees like that.' She was like, 'Oh. It's OK. I'm sorry,'" Butler said.

Butler also says that he came out to his parents because he didn't want them to find out after hearing about it on the news.

Watch the report, AFTER THE JUMP...

Butler

Continue reading "Houston Restaurant Apologized to Customer Who Complained About Their 'Faggot' Waiter: VIDEO" »


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