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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...

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


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 ...

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


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...


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Former 'Ex-Gay' Leader John Smid Marries His Same-Sex Partner In Oklahoma


File this under, "Signs we've almost won."

John Smid (above right), the longtime leader of one of the most prominent "ex-gay" therapy programs in the US, has married his same-sex partner — in Oklahoma, no less. 

Smid served as director of Love In Action and spent 11 years on the board of Exodus International. Three years ago, Smid publicly renounced "ex-gay" therapy and came out as gay.

Smid said he and his partner, Larry McQueen (above left), obtained their marriage license in Hugo, Oklahoma — a 35-minute drive from their home in Paris, Texas — before holding a ceremony in Tulsa on Sunday.

"I believe that due to my former notoriety, my marriage will definitely have its impact," Smid told Towleroad on Monday. "I believe it is encouraging for other former ex-gays, and maybe even those who are still trying to hold on to their ex-gay belief system. We think our relationship reveals something very normal, not strange or deceptive gay stereotypes. We have come to realize that our marriage is very much the same as your average heterosexual marriage."

Smid has apologized extensively for his role at Love In Action — penning a book and reaching out to survivors of the program individually. He has pointed out that the leaders of "ex-gay" therapy programs are often victims, too.

Asked whether there are still those in the LGBT community who don't think he deserves to be happily married, Smid said, "No actually, I think that's been worked out, but you never know, there may be some."

Smid has been married twice before — both times to women. He had two children in the 1970s before living as openly gay for several years in the 1980s.

After marrying again and spending two decades in the "ex-gay" movement, Smid said he began to drift away from it in 2005, when Zach Stark, a teenager in Love In Action’s residential treatment program, posted cries for help on MySpace.

The posts fueled protests outside Love in Action, as well as stories in the national media. One of the protesters was Morgan Fox, a filmmaker who eventually directed a documentary about the experience called, “This Is What Love In Action Looks Like.” Smid agreed to be interviewed by Fox, and they became friends.

After leaving Love in Action, Smid launched his own ministry, Grace Rivers, which now focuses on the gay community. He divorced his second wife in 2011 and moved to Texas to live with McQueen last year.

"I realized this week that my relationship with Larry is a mirror I see in every day," Smid wrote in announcing their marriage on Facebook. "For most of my life, the mirror I saw reflected my mistakes, shortcomings and failures. The reflection I see today with Larry shows me the positive things in my life, my strengths, gifts and talents. I see how I can succeed at a mutual intimate and loving relationship. For this, I am truly grateful.

"At this time our federal government recognizes our legal marriage, our home state of Texas does not," Smid wrote. "However, we hope that Texas will soon accept our marriage as legitimate and legal." 

Texas Man Sentenced To 15 Years for Beating, Kidnapping Gay Man He Met Online


Brice Johnson thought he had beaten Arron Keahey to death before he bound him with electrical cord and placed him in the trunk of his Ford Fusion in Springtown, Texas, on Sept. 2, 2013.

But when Johnson arrived at a friend's house and Keahey screamed for help from the trunk, people at the house told Johnson to take Keahey to the hospital or they would call police.

After Johnson put Keahey in the back seat and drove him to an EMS station, Keahey spent 10 days in a Fort Worth hospital recovering from skull and facial fractures and a brain injury.

Johnson.BriceJohnson, now 20, was sentenced Monday to more than 15 years in federal prison after being charged with an anti-gay hate crime for beating and kidnapping Keahey after they met on MeetMe.com. Johnson, who claims he isn't gay, had lured Keahey to his home in Springtown, northwest of Fort Worth, with the promise of sex:

“Quite simply, hate crimes of any nature will not be tolerated,” U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas said in a statement Monday. “Prosecutions under this law are important to ensure all people in our community know they have the full protection of the law. I commend not only the victim for his continued cooperation throughout this investigation, but our law enforcement partners including the FBI, the Springtown Police Department and the Parker County Sheriff’s Office, who worked tirelessly in this case to ensure our hate crime laws are strictly enforced.”

After meeting on MeetMe.com, Johnson and Keahey exchanged explicit messages and discussed what sexual activity they would engage in. Meanwhile, Johnson saved Keahey's number in his phone using the name, "Fag Bagg."

In recorded jail phone calls, Johnson told family members: "I invited this guy over, right, at first it was basically like a joke that went too far and too wrong. I invited him over because he was a fag or whatever."

The hate crime charge against Johnson was dropped in exchange for his guilty plea in June, and he was sentenced to 183 months in federal prison on a kidnapping charge.

Keahey, who was 24 at the time of the attack, launched a GoFundMe page which has raised $2,070. Keahey wrote on the page,

“I was recently lured and ambushed, beaten to almost an inch of my life, after meeting a man on a social app, simply because I am gay. I had to have facial reconstructive surgery, had brain trauma as well as memory loss, which is still affecting me pretty bad, and a lot of emotional backlash. I am constantly dealing with depression and other emotional problems still. In the midst of it all, I am trying to start my life over now. I am having a hard time doing so and am needing help with normal necessity bills and everyday expenses while I rebuild my life and get myself back to life and everything in order money wise. I am also hoping for some help with paying the large amount of medical bills. Any donation to me will be truly appreciated, and I cannot thank you enough for your support.

“Even if you do not have the resources to donate, please share this article and spread the word of what happened,” Keahey added. “I truly believe that the more problems like this in this country are talked about, the less it will happen and the closer we will be to a solution.”

Man Charged With Rape, Murder In 2012 Attack On Teen Lesbian Couple Appears In Court In Texas: VIDEO


Days after a horrific attack on a teenage lesbian couple in South Texas that left one of them dead, David Malcom Strickland approached mourners at the park where the incident occurred, according to police.

Strickland, who at the time lived near the park in Portland, Texas, outside Corpus Christi, told the mourners that his girlfriend knew one of the victims. Strickland asked the mourners for details about the investigation and was observed searching the grass near the crime scene, witnesses said.

Nearly two years later, Strickland allegedly delivered a letter to a business in Portland in which he implicated another man in the June 2012 shooting that left 19-year-old Mollie Olgin (above right) dead and her then-18-year-old girlfriend, Kristene Chapa (above left), seriously wounded. As it turned out, the man implicated in the letter was a former roommate of Strickland's, from whom Strickland had been charged with stealing firearms in Utah. The letter led police back to Strickland, who was arrested this June and charged with capital murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated sexual assault and aggravated kidnapping in the attack on Chapa and Olgin.

Strickland.Court1On Friday, with Chapa and about 20 pro-LGBT protesters gathered outside, Strickland made an appearance in court. The protesters carried rainbow flags and signs suggesting the incident was an anti-gay hate crime. but San Petricio County District Attorney Michael Welborn told The Corpus Christi Caller-Times he doesn't believe it was motivated by anti-gay bias. 

“No, we are not calling it that (a hate crime). We have found no evidence that this is a hate crime,” Welborn said.

Watch KIII-TV's report, AFTER THE JUMP...

Welborn told KZTV Channel 10 the publicity and the presence of the LGBT protesters — Strickland wore a bulletproof vest and was led in through a side door — could ultimately cause the trial to have to be moved.

"When we have instances like what happened today, the courts start looking very strongly at whether we need to transfer the case to another county," Welborn said.

ChapaChapa, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head and is still undergoing rehab, said the rally was an important show of support.

"With all this court, it really opens old wounds, you know, and both the families are suffering," Chapa told KZTV.

One man, reportedly a friend of Strickland's family, filmed the LGBT protesters and reminded them that Strickland is innocent until proven guilty, according to a report from KIII-TV. Chapa's sister, Patricia Hernandez, told the man he didn't know the evidence in the case. 

While much of the evidence hasn't been made public, an arrest affidavit said shell casings from the crime scene were matched to a gun Strickland owned at the time. Strickland's vehicle also matched the description of the one that dropped off the letter, and authorities traced his cell phone to the area when it was delivered.

The letter revealed details about the crime that hadn't been made public, including the fact that Chapa and Olgin had been forced to duct-tape each other's mouths and eyes, and that their bodies had been stacked on top of each other. Bird-watchers found Olgin dead and Chapa clinging to life the next morning.

When Strickland was arrested in Utah in January for stealing firearms from his former roommate, police found guns, ammunition, condoms, personal lubricant, bolt cutters, pepper spray and a lock pick kit in his vehicle. 

Prosecutors haven't said whether they'll seek the death penalty for Strickland. Even if the incident were classified as a hate crime, there would be no penalty enhancement available in Texas because Strickland is already charged with capital murder, and prosecutors would be unlikely to seek the designation because it could increase their burden of proof.

If nothing else, though, Friday's courthouse rally was a sign that the small LGBT community in remote South Texas hasn't forgotten about the crime, even if the national gay media has.

Chapa, who was left with paralysis on one side of her body, has made a heroic recovery, but a fund to help pay for her ongoing medical expenses has raised just $3,730 of the $40,000 goal in five months.

To contribute to the fund, go here.

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