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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 13, 2002

Gender stereotyping is everyones issue,
Wilchins says

Cleveland--Gender Public Advocacy Coalition executive director Riki Wilchins made two Ohio stops promoting the Washington, D.C. group�s new GenderYouth program.

Wilchins, and GenderYouth coordinator Lily Cates toured eight cities, appearing in Columbus on December 5 and Cleveland on December 6. They discussed the new program�s goals and raised money at receptions held in private homes.

The Cleveland reception, held at the home of Eric Nilson and Jeffrey Mostade, attracted 12 people. Mostade is a member of GenderPAC�s board.

Wilchins, a Cleveland native, said that the mission of GenderPAC is to end discrimination and violence caused by gender stereotypes.

The group is often criticized by transgender and transsexual rights activists for not working on those issues more exclusively. Wilchins, who is transsexual, counters that issues of gender stereotyping are broader than any single group.

�One of seven complaints filed with the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] are for gender stereotyping,� said Wilchins, �most of which are male-male harassment.�

Wilchins said gender stereotyping is prevalent even within the gay community, where some might expect it to be less.

She noted that some women are harassed for being �too butch,� then told her audience how another, all-male group had answered two questions.

�I asked them how many of them were gay, and they all raised their hands,� said Wilchins. �Then I asked how many of them were bottoms. No one would raise their hand.�

Wilchins says these hang-ups about gender stereotype often lead to violence. She envisions a world where �a man could wear a dress to work, and people would say, �Nice color. Meeting in five minutes.� �

Wilchins introduced Cates, 18, who is openly lesbian and recently out of high school. She has the task of organizing groups on college campuses.

Wilchins sees the student organizing as a way to get people to see gender as a legitimate civil rights issue.

Cates said she wants the youth groups to be diverse.

�Not just queers. Not just straights. Not just transsexuals, and not just feminists,� she said. �Around gender equality, those groups don�t have to be �allies� any more, because it is all of their issue.�

Cates said she has over 100 names of people wanting to start chapters on college campuses. The program has a national organizing budget of $530,000 next year.

The college organizations will then hold educational events at high schools.

GenderPAC will host its second National Conference on Gender in Washington May 18-20.����


Hudson may be appointed to Columbus city council

Columbus--A lesbian community leader may become the city�s first openly gay council member.

Attorney Mary Jo Hudson, 39, is one of five finalists from a field of 17 applicants seeking appointment to the city council seat being vacated when Jennette Bradley becomes Ohio�s lieutenant governor in January.

Council members will screen the five finalists December 13, and announce their choice early the week of December 16.

Columbus�s city council is comprised of seven members, all elected at large. Bradley is currently the only Republican. All five finalists for her seat are Democrats.

Hudson has been a leader both within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, as well as the broader community.

She is currently an advisor to Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and his appointed representative to the city�s Community Relations Commission. Hudson also serves on the board of the Women�s Fund of Central Ohio.

Hudson has served the LGBT community in many capacities including her efforts to defeat several Defense of Marriage Acts in the state legislature. She is an organizer of the Human Rights Campaign, is involved with the new statewide group Ohioans for Growth and Equality, and worked on a 1998 attempt to pass domestic partner benefits for Columbus city workers.

Hudson said her being openly lesbian is a �neutral� factor in this appointment.

�I am not a single-issue candidate,� said Hudson. �I have worked on a number of community projects and I have broad support.�

Hudson says if appointed, her goals include accessibility and support for neighborhood and downtown projects.

�I also want to work on relations among the the diverse communities in the city,� said Hudson, noting that with the recent wave of immigrants, Columbus has seen an increase in hate crimes, especially those committed on the basis of religion.

If appointed, Hudson would need to run for election next November.

�I�m doing this because I want to serve the city,� said Hudson, and I am pleased that so many individuals and organizations have written letters expressing support for me.�

One of those letters came from the Columbus Log Cabin Republicans, making Hudson the first Democrat they have ever supported.

Presently Ohio has four openly gay or lesbian city officials. These include council members Louis Escobar of Toledo; Gene Hagedorn of Oregon, a Toledo suburb; and Skeeter Hunt of Bloomdale, just north of Findlay.

Kenneth Fallows, mayor of Haskins, just south of Toledo, is most likely Ohio�s first openly gay elected official. He is now entering his 16th year in that office. |

 


 

 

Prevention plateau, club drugs
discussed at HIV confab

Columbus--�What do we need to do address the plateau in prevention?� asked Dr. Marsha Martin, executive director of Washington D.C.�s AIDS Action, at the Ohio Health Department�s seventh annual World AIDS Day conference.

Held December 2 and 3, the conference held sessions on a variety of issues, including drug use in gay club culture, prevention strategies in the inner city,and aging with AIDS. About 200 people attended the conference, most of whom were educators.

Martin discussed the state of the domestic epidemic. She challenged the notion that just because pharmaceutical companies have released new treatments, AIDS is no longer a concern.

�We need to do strategic planning with local activists and AIDS support networks,� she said, answering her earlier question.

This plateau is a sign for hope, she said, as the number of new people infected with HIV has been reduced from 90,000 to 40,000 cases per year. However, about 250,000 people in America do not know that they are HIV-positive. Also, 14 states currently have people living with AIDS waiting for their drug assistance program benefits. Martin encouraged the audience to call their legislators.

�It was through lobbying that we made a difference. We helped to secure the largest single increase in federal Ryan White AIDS funding,� she said.

Chris Hughes, an HIV prevention specialist with the Columbus AIDS Task Force, and Kenneth Cook, program manager with Columbus Health Department, explored club drugs in gay male culture.

They identified alcohol, ecstasy, GHB, and crystal methamphetamine as the primary drugs used in clubs today. Hughes� program focuses on relationship-building with club-goers. He frequently sets up tables at dance clubs to educate men about safe sex and the use of condoms.

�We take the view that we need to engage the subculture at its own level and be conscious of the context,� Hughes said.

In an afternoon session, public health physician Beverly Coleman-Miller addressed the importance of adequate health care for minority patients, noting the disparity in care between white and non-white people with AIDS.

Out of 900,000 people living with AIDS in America, about 36 percent are African-American, yet blacks comprise only 12 percent of the U.S. population, Coleman-Miller said.

She encouraged health care workers to translate medical terms into layman�s terms for their clients to create a clear understanding of the disease process. She also honored the work of her audience.

�You are all healers. Just because those whom you serve are not are not in their pajamas, hanging off of the side of the bed, does not mean that your job is not one of saving the patient�s life,� she said. �You have valuable information to share and important dimensions about the patient that need to be explored.�

Stevan Hobfoll, director of Kent State University�s Applied Psychology Center, presented research on inner-city women. Over six sessions, his program teaches assertiveness training and advanced negotiation skills to women with HIV.

In 1988, his grant application was the first to view heterosexuals as a risk group for AIDS. At the time, media stories about the disease spoke only of a vague threat to the �general population.� He published the first clinical, empirical trial of a prevention program for women in 1994.

At a community forum sponsored by the Ohio AIDS Coalition, Rich Aleshire, Ohio Department of Health AIDS client resources program administrator, outlined how each of the programs is funded.

Each year, agencies apply to receive federal funding administered through the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act.

AIDS services in Ohio are governed primarily through two components of the act, Title I and Title II. The city of Cleveland receives federal Title I assistance because they have a higher proportion of people living with AIDS. Aleshire explained that, while Cleveland receives less state dollars, their Title I funding ultimately benefits them and the other regions.

�We proportionally distribute what Cleveland would receive to the other ten regions,� he said.

A portion of the money goes toward case managers, who work with people with AIDS and help them to secure needed services, including employment assistance, health care, and access to medications.

This year, the state of Ohio secured just under $20.5 million for total Title II program funding. For 2003-2004, the Ohio Department of Health is seeking $21.8 million.� |

 


Brazons accused killer ruled
not competent to stand trial

Columbus�Michael Jennings, the man arrested for the murder of popular performer Brazon, was found mentally incompetent to stand trial on December 2.

Judge Beverly Pfeiffer ordered Jennings remanded to Twin Valley Behavioral Health Care in Columbus to undergo psychiatric treatment to render him competent to stand trial in the May 17 murder of Gary McMurtry, better known to the central Ohio gay community in his drag persona of Brazon.

�There were two reports by psychologists submitted to the judge,� said Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Ron O�Brien. �One found him incompetent to stand trial. The second psychologist could not disagree because he wouldn�t talk to her.�

There are two parts to the standard by which competence to stand trial is measured. The first is understanding of the crime being charged and of the court proceedings.

�The second part of the standard is whether a person is able to cooperate with attorneys and assist in his defense,� O�Brien said. Jennings would not cooperate with his attorneys, and the psychological report submitted to Judge Pfeiffer opined that he was not competent to stand trial, but that treatment would render him competent.

�I think a large part of it, from what I read, is having the confidence to work with his attorneys on a defense,� O�Brien noted, but said that sometimes there is not a real defense to be mounted. �I think the only kind of defense would be one of mental health.�

J. Tullis Rogers, Jennings� defense attorney, may be opting for just that defense, hoping that Twin Valley staff will determine that his client was insane at the time of the murder.

Jennings, who had performed as a stripper under the stage name Devon, had worked with McMurtry at the Eagle in Columbus.

According to police, Jennings broke into McMurtry�s house at 6:45 am on May 17, dressed all in black �like a ninja.� McMurtry�s roommate Brian Bass attempted to stop Jennings, who cut Bass� hand with a 30-inch sword.

Jennings went upstairs, where McMurtry was.

�His roommate heard screaming, and then the screaming stopped,� Columbus police spokesperson Sherry Mercurio said.

Police found Jennings in less than two hours, a mile from McMurtry�s home.

Psychologists will report back to Judge Pfeiffer in two months on Jennings� condition. If he is ruled competent, the trial will begin.

Pfeiffer�s order gives Twin Valley a year to make Jennings well enough to stand trial. After that time, if he is still not competent, there are two options available to the judge and prosecutors to keep Jennings hospitalized.

The first option would involve prosecutor O�Brien filing a civil suit to have Jennings committed to a mental hospital. Criminal charges would be dropped until Jennings was competent to stand trial, and jurisdiction over Jennings would transfer from common pleas court to probate court.

The second option requires either O�Brien or Judge Pfeiffer to file to retain control over the case. This can be done if Pfeiffer rules that there is convincing evidence that Jennings is guilty. Jennings would then be committed to a mental institution by court order, and reports of Jennings� progress would go to Pfeiffer.

Jennings faces a possible death sentence if he is ever convicted of the aggravated murder charge against him. He is also facing charges of attempted murder, aggravated burglary and felonious assault.��������� |

 


Get your tickets here

Tony Smith, left, owner of the Boarding House Deli, buys raffle tickets from Patrick Washington at CinnaFest, the Cleveland Black Gay International Film Festival.

The festival, held December 4 and 5 at the Shaker Square Cinemas, was produced by the Brother 2 Brother program of the AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland.

CinnaFest featured the Cleveland debut of several films dealing with LGBT people of color, including Junk Box Warrior, a short film told through the poetry of a female-to-male transgender slam poet, and How Do I Look? a film examining the house ball culture, benefiting the people it profiles.

Over 200 people went to the film festival between the two days, enjoying the cinematic offerings, the raffle prizes donated by local artists and stores, and the food at the pre-screening reception. Photo: Anthony Glassman

--Anthony Glassman

 

 



Divas do it for charity

Emcee �Maria Lopez� (Chris Padilla) performs Etta James� �Something�s Gotta Hold on Me� at Club Pyramid in Columbus as part of the benefit Turnabout drag show.

The December 7 show drew nearly 75 people, raising $2,000 for the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization and Pater Noster House, a hospice for people with AIDS.

Several of the club�s bartenders, friends and regulars performed their favorite tunes, including �Rocky Top,� �Big Spender� and Broadway numbers. Local companies and shops donated food, auto care gift certificates, services and a wine basket, all of which were raffled off by BRAVO volunteers.

Pyramid also had support from many community bars and restaurants, including the Vine, Club Columbus, and Slammers.

Padilla thanked bar owner Troy Evans for letting them host the event. Club manager Scotty Federer helped to organize the show.

�There are so many people who are less fortunate than us,� Federer said. �We wanted to give back the community.�

BRAVO co-founder Gloria McCauley praised Pyramid�s work.

�They put this together with minimal help from anyone else,� she said. Photo: Milla Rosenberg

--Milla Rosenberg

 


Get appointed to boards, Stonewall Dems are told

�Get appointed to boards, Stonewall Dems are told

Cleveland--Gays lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people were told to get themselves appointed to governmental boards and commissions during a presentation at the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats� December 9 meeting.

Cuyahoga County Commission senior administrative officer Joseph Nanni told the 27 people at the meeting that the commissioners look for qualified people from all backgrounds, including gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.

Stonewall president Patrick Shepherd said he knew of no openly GLBT people serving on any of the boards or commissions in Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, Lakewood, or Cleveland Heights, currently, but he hopes to get some appointed when vacancies occur after the first of the year.

�Visibility is the common denominator for change,� said Shepherd as the two discussed the merit of openly GLBT people on such bodies as the Fair Housing Commission and Community Relations Committee.

Nanni explained that many elected officials began their public careers with appointments to commissions. He added that some of boards serving under the elected Cuyahoga County Commission, such as the Metro Health and Gateway boards, are very high profile.

Nanni walked the group through the process of applying for appointments, and told where vacancies were expected next year.������������� |

 


 

News Briefs

Cracker Barrel and Lockheed add
lesbians and gays to job policies

Lebanon, Tenn.--Two companies which have long resisted adding �sexual orientation� to their employment policies have now done so.

The board of directors of the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain voted to add sexual orientation to the company�s anti-discrimination policy Nov. 26 after a shareholder meeting, Cracker Barrel spokeswoman Julie Davis said.

The company became infamous in 1991 after they fired 11 employees because they did not �demonstrate normal heterosexual values,� according to an internal memo. The memo was later rescinded, but the workers were not rehired.

The change of heart about specifying �sexual discrimination� in the policy stemmed from stockholder sentiment, a spokesperson said.

Lockheed Martin Corp., a major aircraft manufacturer and defense contractor, also issued a written policy at the end of November barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Lockheed plans to introduce domestic partner benefits to its employees next year.

Cracker Barrel and Lockheed were two of three companies to earn a zero rating on the Human Rights Campaign corporate equality index, which is compiled from information on written non-discrimination policies, partner benefits, and the inclusion of gender identity in policies.

Court rejects Teena award increase

Lincoln, Neb.--The Nebraska Supreme Court on December 6 rejected an attempt to increase the damage award to the mother of a slain transgender man whose murder was dramatized in the 1999 movie Boys Don�t Cry.

Brandon Teena was dating a young woman in December 1993 when two of her friends, John Lotter and Marvin Nissen, learned his biological gender. He told the local sheriff they had raped him on Christmas Eve, but they were not arrested.

A week later, they murdered Teena and two other people. Nissen is now serving a life sentence, and Lotter is on death row for the crimes.

JoAnn Brandon initially asked for $350,000 in damages, claiming Richardson County Sheriff Charles Laux�s indifference led to her daughter�s murder. District Judge Orville Coady awarded JoAnn Brandon $17,360, ruling that Brandon Teena was partly responsible for his own death.

Last year, the Nebraska Supreme Court said Laux showed indifference by referring to Teena as �it� and not immediately arresting the two suspects, who had threatened to kill him if he reported the rape. JoAnn Brandon was then awarded $98,223.

On December 6, the high court upheld that award.

No charges in Missoula arson

Missoula, Mont.--An investigation into an arson fire that destroyed the home of a lesbian couple early this year is essentially over, a Missoula police detective said.

�The case is officially inactive from our perspective,� said Capt. Steve Ross of the Missoula police. He said if new information surfaces the case could be reopened.

In the months after the fire, focus shifted toward the couple, Carla Grayson and Adrianne Neff. A search warrant application contained speculation about why one or both of the women might have torched their own home and how they could have done it using rope and rags from the house soaked in gasoline from their garage. They were never officially named as suspects.

The couple and their child moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., for a year and could not be reached for comment. Their attorney, John Smith, refused to comment.

The fire was set early Feb. 8, just days after Neff, Grayson and another couple, Carol Snetsinger and Nancy Siegel, joined a lawsuit against the state arguing that gay and lesbian couples should have the same benefits as straight couples who work for the University of Montana. Grayson and Snetsinger are both university employees.

A District Court judge last month dismissed the suit filed by the couples, but an appeal to the Montana Supreme Court is expected.

Birch leaving HRC after next year

Washington, D.C.--The Human Rights Campaign announced Dec. 10 that Elizabeth Birch, their executive director since the beginning of 1995, will leave the organization�s helm at the end of 2003.

�If it were not for my young children and family, it would be the greatest honor to work for the HRC for many years to come,� Birch said.

Birch and her partner, Recording Industry Association of America president Hilary Rosen, have 2-year-old twins, a boy and a girl.

During Birch�s tenure, the annual budget for the organization grew to over $22 million, membership rosters have risen past half a million members and the organization�s paid staff increased to 100 people.

Vatican official calls gay priests �risky�

Vatican City--A top Vatican official has advised against bringing gays into the priesthood, saying their ordination would be imprudent and �risky.�

Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez�s letter, reproduced in a church publication, comes as the Vatican is drafting new guidelines for accepting candidates for the priesthood. The guidelines are expected to address whether gays should be barred.

His position reflects what appears to be the Vatican�s emerging public stance on the issue. Medina Estevez was the prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments when the letter was written, although he retired in October.

Ordination �of homosexual men or men with homosexual tendencies is absolutely inadvisable and imprudent, and from the pastoral point of view, very risky,� Medina Estevez wrote in a May 16 letter to an unidentified cleric that was reprinted this month in the congregation�s publication, Notitiae.

Gay Games declare bankruptcy

Sydney, Australia--The company that ran this year�s Gay Games declared bankruptcy on Dec. 2, owing an estimated $2.5 million in Australian dollars to creditors.

According to administrators, the games, held in the first week of November, brought in less revenue than was expected, and blamed part of it on terrorist attacks in Bali in September, noting that they caused some people to cancel their trips.

Organizers were calling the event a success three weeks ago, when the estimated 30,000 attendees and athletes went home, noting that they had put $100 million into the local economy.

An investigation began December 9 to determine whether the organizers knew they would not be able to pay creditors when they contracted for services for the event.

U.K. considers �civil partnerships�

London--Prime Minister Tony Blair�s government said Dec. 6 that lesbian and gay couples should be allowed to register their partnerships and enjoy some of the legal rights of married couples.

Opposition parties said that they support the concept. Blair�s Labor Party holds a commanding majority in the House of Commons and can pass legislation on its own.

Barbara Roche, minister for social exclusion and equalities, said there was an �extremely strong case� for registering same-sex relationships and that ministers would consult on the specifics.

The government will put out a position paper on the issue early next summer as a first step toward possible legislation.����������

Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.

 


Evenings Out

 

Winters darkness is followed
by the first fruit

The holiday season is in full swing. The holy month of Ramadan, along with Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, have passed for another year, while Christmas and the New Year lie a couple weeks away.

There is more to the season, though, than these Muslim, Jewish, Christian and American celebrations. For the African diaspora and pagans of every bent, two other occasions are coming up, every bit as significant culturally and, in some instances, spiritually.

At the official start of winter, December 21, Wiccans and other pagans celebrate the Winter Solstice.

To the ancient people following earth-based religions, the shortest day of the year also marked the change from one year to the next. When the Roman Empire expanded into northern Europe, their Saturnalia festival was overlaid with the Solstice. When Christianity came along, many pagan holidays were co-opted; hence the image of the Roman god Cupid associated with St. Valentine�s Day. Christmas was placed near the Solstice centuries after Jesus died, and many Solstice elements survive in today�s Christmas festivities, including the lights, holly, mistletoe and the giving of gifts.

Ancient lore tells of the Solstice birth of a king who then ascends to marry the earth goddess at Beltane, which probably helped the early church in their decision to move Christmas to December.

Since various groups of pagans across history celebrated the Winter Solstice in different ways, there is no specifically established way to celebrate the turning of the solar year. Waverly Fitzgerald, a teacher and former editor of the Beltane Papers, likes to have a large party with lots of candles and strings of lights. At one point during the festivities, she extinguishes the lights and candles so the guests can reflect on the darkness and cold of the longest night of the year and the first night of winter.

Kwanzaa, on the other hand, is a harvest festival. However, because of the nature of the worldwide African community, instead of the harvest of fruits, it is a harvest of loved ones.

The name of the festival, which runs from December 26 through January 1, is taken from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning �first fruits.�

It was started in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga as a way of instilling a unifying sense of culture and belonging in the African diaspora. Elements of the holiday and its rituals are taken from various African cultures, going back to the ancient Egyptian and Nubian empires.

According to Karenga, the holiday was started to �introduce and reinforce the seven basic values of African culture.� They are called the Nguzo Saba, Swahili for the Seven Principles. They are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith).

Karenga notes that Kwanzaa is a cultural, not a religious, observance, so all Africans and people of African descent can take part, regardless of their religious beliefs.

There are seven symbols of Kwanzaa which are to be placed in a central place in the home for the duration of the festival, providing a place of reflection for the celebrants, a setting where they can think about what their African heritage means to them.

According to Karenga, gifts are usually given to small children, although they can be given to adults but don�t have to be given at all. They should, however, include a book and something indicative of Africa, a piece of art or clothing or something similar.

The colors for Kwanzaa are those named by Marcus Garvey as the colors for Africans around the world: �black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle.�

For more information on Kwanzaa, it might be helpful to visit the web site, www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org. It includes a message from Karenga for each year, as well as a full listing of procedures and supplies for a complete Kwanzaa celebration.�������� |

Eric Resnick contributed to this article.

 

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