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November 15, 2002

Festivities mark BWMT�s 22nd anniversary

Cleveland�Black and White Men Together of Cleveland celebrated their 22nd anniversary from Nov. 8 to 10 with a weekend of festivities, including their annual banquet, Sunday brunch and parties at the Tool Shed bar and A Touch of Elegance party center.

Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center board president Janet Kuster and board member Bruce Kriete were present for the Saturday night banquet at Maria�s Restaurant in Lakewood, along with Matt Carroll, acting head of the City of Cleveland Department of Health. Members of BWMT chapters from Detroit, New York, Chicago and Ontario were also present, dining alongside incoming co-chairs Kevin Calhoun and Mike Kelley.

BWMT Cleveland will be changing their name to People of All Colors Together to increase the inclusiveness of their organization. BWMT�s national office allows individual chapters to name themselves to indicate the scope of their mission and membership.


Ohio Lesbian Festival will be back next year

Columbus�After a do-or-die meeting on November 6, the Ohio Lesbian Festival appears to be on track for a return in 2003.

�We had a very promising meeting last week,� said Sherrill Howard, president of the Lesbian Business Association, which produces the festival. �I believe the consensus is moving ahead with plans for a 2003 festival.�

The 2002 festival was canceled due to a variety of factors. First, its location at Frontier Ranch in Kirkersville had been put up for sale, which fell through when a local referendum opposed developing the land. By the time the land became available again, it was too late to coordinate the festival. In addition, the cost of renting the land for events has now tripled.

Another factor in the cancellation of the 13-year-old event this year was a lack of volunteer supporters. Finances were also a concern.

Because there was no festival this year, next year�s festival will require both motivated fundraising and a strong drive to bring in volunteers to help plan and run the event.

At the Nov. 6 meeting, 15 coordinator positions were filled, leaving 12 vacant. The LBA hopes to have these posts filled by the end of the month, their deadline for a final decision on the fate of the institution which has been drawing women to central Ohio each summer for more than a decade.

�We still have some coordinator slots to fill and will hopefully have some more concrete data by the end of the month,� Howard said.

One of the positions already filled is that of festival co-chairs.

�Cl Manche and Diann Nelson-Houser have graciously agreed to co-chair,� she noted, mentioning that a holiday ticket special is in the offing.

The positions still open include carnival, childcare, facilities, parking, stage, transportation, volunteer and workshop coordinators, as well as someone to update the LBA voice mail system and check and distribute messages.

�I�m glad they�re coming back,� said Dorothy Hatzinikolis, co-founder and publisher of Lesbian Health News. �I want the festival to happen. I actually called them and asked if they needed me.�

She continued, �I think it�s important to have lesbian culture and music. Last year, people from Bowling Green and Michigan called me asking about it.�

�The thing about this festival is, it�s accessible. It�s close to the city, it�s easy to get to, and women look for that,� she noted.

She also pointed to both the facilities at Frontier Ranch and the merchant�s area as a good part of the appeal of the event, in addition to the lesbian performers.

�Women from around the country have businesses and come out [for the merchant area],� she concluded.





Thousands rally against high schools gay-straight alliance

Cannonsburg, Ky.�More than 2,000 people gathered in a church parking lot on Nov. 10 to protest a school council vote allowing a gay-straight alliance to meet at Boyd County High School.

Opponents of the student group urged the school to ban it, and they signed petitions and donated money for a legal fund. They also urged the school to set up classes that teach both tolerance and that homosexuality is wrong.

Last month, the school�s teacher-parent council voted 3-2 to let the alliance meet at school. Twice before the council had rejected the request, but changed its decision after a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union said the rejection violated the federal Equal Access Act, which says all extra-curricular clubs must be treated alike.

David Miller, vice president of Citizens for Community Values, an anti-gay Cincinnati group, told those attending the Sunday-afternoon rally across the street from the high school that they can serve as an example.

Last June, Miller�s group sent letters to Ohio school superintendents with a veiled threat of legal action if they allowed �homosexuality education� in schools. They also assisted in an attempt to repeal Cleveland Heights� domestic partner benefits.

About 2,700 schools in the nation have student gay-straight alliances, according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which sponsors some of them. This includes 12 other Kentucky schools and 42 in Ohio.

Members of the Boyd gay-straight alliance did not attend the rally. Some have said they have been spat on, subjected to slurs and threatened with violence.

�Homosexual kids always have it toughest. They�re the ones who are ostracized for being different,� said Tim Dail, 20, a Boyd County High graduate who attended the rally even though he opposed its message.

The rally was the latest round in a battle over whether a small group of students can gather occasionally at the school for meetings of the new club.

The 30-member student group has started an uproar in the community. More than 400 of the school�s 990 students skipped school Nov. 4 in protest of the school board�s decision.

Speakers urged the after-church crowd to resist what they said was a �national homosexual agenda� that has targeted this part of northeastern Kentucky.

�Most places where I fight this, the liberals are in charge. But I think they made a mistake by pushing this in this community,� said Scott Lively, a California� attorney who is president of the anti-gay Abiding Faith Ministries and works with that state�s chapter of the American Family Association.

Boyd County could become a model for the rest of the nation, Lively said, if it follows his idea to get rid of the club by replacing it with a class that would teach tolerance for gays.

Speakers stressed non-violence and urged that club members not be bullied, but made it clear they consider homosexuality to be a personality disorder than can be cured.

The alliance and its teacher-adviser, Kaye King, said in a statement issued November 8 by the ACLU that opponents of the group �should respect our right to meet. We ask for tolerance if acceptance is not part of others� belief systems.�

Cannonsburg is located in northeast Kentucky, a few miles from the borders of both Ohio and West Virginia.

--Associated Press




FDA approves 20-minute HIV test


Washington, D.C.�The one or two-week wait for HIV-antibody test results will soon disappear.

The government on Nov. 7 approved a 20-minute HIV-antibody test that AIDS experts say is so easy to use it will greatly cut the number of people who unknowingly carry and spread the disease

It�s not the first rapid HIV test. A competing version has been sold since the mid-1990s, but it is so difficult to use that few clinics offer it. Current HIV tests take up to two weeks to provide results, and at least 8,000 people a year who test positive never return to get the news.

The new OraQuick test should slash that number--and encourage even more of the almost quarter-million Americans who don�t know they�re infected to seek testing, federal scientists said in announcing Food and Drug Administration approval of OraQuick.

This is �a very, very important milestone,� said FDA science chief Dr. Murray Lumpkin.

To use OraQuick, a health worker pricks a person�s finger, drops a spot of blood into a vial of developing solution and drops in the sticklike testing device.

The dipstick gives results similar to common pregnancy tests: One reddish line means no HIV antibodies. Two reddish lines mean the person may be infected and needs a confirmatory test to be sure.

OraQuick at first will be available only in hospitals and large health clinics because of a law that restricts who can use certain types of medical tests.

But the test is so simple that Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson urged manufacturer OraSure Technologies Inc. to seek a waiver of that law allowing OraQuick to be sold in far more places--from small doctors� offices to mobile testing vans and maybe even HIV counseling centers staffed by social workers.

�You don�t need a college education to administer the test,� said OraSure chief executive Mike Gausling, who said he has begun the paperwork to seek that waiver.

Gausling wouldn�t provide an exact price, but said OraQuick should cost less than the $20 it costs to perform old-fashioned laboratory HIV tests.

OraQuick�s speed and simplicity mean not only that people don�t have to drum up the courage for two clinic visits, but that those facing emergencies can get immediate answers, said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.

Studies show the test is 99.6 percent accurate, the FDA said. People who test positive should get a lab test to confirm HIV infection.

Those who test HIV-free using OraQuick might need to check again a month later if they have recently done anything that could expose them to HIV, such as unprotected sex or intravenous drug use, Lumpkin cautioned. That�s because OraQuick detects antibodies to HIV, immune system proteins that can take weeks after infection to form.

The FDA is believed close to approving an OraSure competitor, MedMira Inc.�s Reveal test.

OraSure also plans to seek FDA approval soon to use OraQuick to test a swab from a patient�s gums instead of blood; OraSure currently sells a lab-based oral HIV test.

�We�re excited about it,� said Ray Daniels of the National Association of People With AIDS. But he cautioned that clinics still must take the time to properly counsel people about the ramifications of HIV testing before administering OraQuick.

--Associated Press


News Briefs

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

Brain difference is also found in sheep

Orlando, Fla.�Findings presented at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience support an earlier study indicating that gay men have a different brain structure than heterosexual men.

The new experiment, performed by researchers at Oregon Health and Science University, involved not men, but sheep.

Nine rams that engaged exclusively in homosexual activity, eight that engaged exclusively in heterosexual activity, and ten ewes were observed, then the researchers dissected their brains, discovering a marked difference in the hypothalamus.

An earlier study involving humans showed that, while men usually have a larger hypothalamus than women, the gay men whose brains were studied had smaller ones than the heterosexual men.

That study, however, used the brains of gay men who had died of AIDS-related conditions, leaving doubt as to whether the differences in brain structure were legitimate or caused by AIDS treatments or opportunistic infections.

The researchers studying the gay sheep noted that, by using animals, they were able to have a more controlled sample in roughly the same degree of health and age.

Gay Catholics denied communion

Washington, D.C.�Three gay Catholics were arrested Nov. 12 after they had been denied communion the previous night at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The events occurred in connection with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Kara Speltz of Oakland, California, Ken Einhaus of Arlington, Virginia and Mike Perez of Seattle, Washington were arrested while they knelt in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Washington, D.C., requesting communion from the bishops congregating there.

Rev. Michael Bugarin had refused to give the sacrament to the trio, whom he had been told were members of a group planning to take communion as a protest.

�I regret that there was a misunderstanding on my part, and I regret the whole situation,� the Detroit Free Press quoted Bugarin.

�A priest can�t judge the state of a person�s conscience when he stands up for communion,� said Detroit�s auxiliary bishop Thomas Gumbleton, known for his criticisms of the Vatican�s treatment of gay Catholics.

According to Bugarin, he was instructed to not give communion to members of the Rainbow Sash movement, who have stated that their taking of communion is a protest of church teachings on homosexuality. Two out of three of the people to whom he denied the Eucharist wore rainbow-colored cross pins, which Bugarin misinterpreted.

The trio were there to protest church policy with a contingent from Soulforce, a group committed to ending religious discrimination against LGBT people.

Also present for the protests of the conference were members of Dignity USA, a national organization of gay and lesbian Catholics.

High court to review Teena award

Lincoln, Neb.�For a second time, the Nebraska Supreme Court will evaluate former Richardson County Sheriff Charles Laux�s culpability in the 1993 death of Brandon Teena.

The high court heard arguments Nov. 5 in the case stemming from the murder of 21-year-old, transgendered Teena in a farmhouse near Humboldt, a crime that inspired the 1999 movie Boys Don�t Cry.

Teena, who was biologically female but dressed as a man and dated women, was killed by two men after he reported to Laux that the men had raped him. The men also killed two other people, Lisa Lambert, 24, and Philip DeVine, 22, who both witnessed Teena�s death.

Teena�s mother, JoAnn Brandon, is appealing District Judge Orville Coady�s decision to award her $7,000 for her child�s emotional distress caused by Laux�s response to the rape allegation, and $5,000 for what the judge called Teena�s �intrinsic value.�

Attorneys for Teena�s mother argue that she deserves more.

In a scathing, 20-page opinion issued in the spring of 2001, Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice John Hendry said Laux was more concerned with Brandon Teena�s sexuality than he was with keeping him safe after he reported the rapes on Christmas Day 1993.

Laux�s interrogation of Teena included questions such as �Do you run around . . . with a sock in your pants to make you look like a boy?� and he referred to Teena as an �it,� according to court records.

Although Laux questioned the two men about the rape, he did not arrest them, and a week later they murdered Teena.

Coady originally awarded $17,360 in total damages and found Teena partly responsible for his own death because of his gender identity. The judge did not find personal liability against Laux.

The state supreme court reversed Coady�s ruling last year, ordering him to award at least $80,000 to Brandon�s mother. Coady then awarded $98,223 to JoAnn Brandon, including the $7,000 for her daughter�s emotional distress and $5,000 for her loss.

Judge is nation�s first openly gay D.A.

San Diego�A state judge was chosen as the nation�s first openly gay district attorney after winning a bitter, tightly contested election that took a week of vote counting to decide.

Bonnie Dumanis declared victory Nov. 12 after the counting of 10,000 absentee and provisional ballots showed her leading incumbent San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst by 3,556 votes with only about 200 remaining to be counted.

Dumanis, 50, becomes the first openly gay district attorney or county prosecutor in the United States, according to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

Voters in the Hillcrest and North Park neighborhoods, the center of the city�s gay community, favored Dumanis by a 2-to-1 margin and may have been key to her victory.

Britain may consider civil unions

London�The British government is moving toward legal recognition of same-sex couple through civil unions granting most of the benefits of marriage to gays and lesbians.

Barbara Roche, the minister commissioned to handle issues of equality, completed her review of the status of gay and lesbian couples and decided that a civil register was needed.

She will announce the beginning of public consultations on the issue in the near future. It is not known, however, whether she wants the government to support a civil unions bill introduced earlier this year by a member of the House of Lords, or if she is recommending the introduction of a new bill from the Labor government.

A number of Tories, traditionally the more conservative party in British government, said that they believe that it is a good time to look at such an idea.

Eight Tory members of parliament crossed party lines to approve legislation granting gay and lesbian couples the right to adopt. Until the vote, unmarried people of any orientation could adopt, as could married couples, but not unmarried couples.

Scout leaders lose bid for return

Washington, D.C.�Two gay Boy Scout leaders lost their bid to return to the organization in a decision by an appellate court that overturned an order that the two men be reinstated as troop leaders.

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals decision found that the Boy Scouts of America did not act illegally in barring the two, Roland D. Pool and Michael Geller. The decision reverses a ruling issued last year by the D.C. Commission on Human Rights.

The appellate court said it based its decision on a June 2000 Supreme Court ruling. The high court declared that the Boy Scouts could bar gays from serving as troop leaders. In that 5-4 decision, justices ruled that forcing the Scouts to accept gay troop leaders would violate the organization�s right of �expressive association� under the Constitution�s First Amendment.

In the ruling by the D.C. appeals court, issued Nov. 7, appellate Judges Michael Farrell, Stephen H. Glickman and Inez Smith Reid said they could not find any significant differences between the two cases.

The Commission on Human Rights had argued otherwise, saying that the troop leader in the Supreme Court case was a gay activist while Pool and Geller made no indication they would advocate homosexuality as Boy Scout leaders.

The appellate court disagreed, saying that the two men had been vocal about their sexual orientation.

Two delay pleas in TG teen�s murder

Newark, Calif.�Two of the three men charged in the murder of transgendered teen Gwen Araujo have delayed their pleas until Dec. 13 while their attorneys review audio and videotapes of statements by witnesses.

The request came on November 8.

Gwen Araujo, 17 , who also went by the name Lida, was strangled and beaten at an Oct. 3 party. The body was found two weeks later when Jaron Chase Nabors, 19, led police to the body.

Attorneys for Jose Antonio Merel and Michael William Magidson, both 22, also claimed that Araujo was not killed because of her gender identity.

Araujo was born Eddie, but had lived as a female throughout much of high school. She was killed at a party at Merel�s brother�s house after it was discovered that Araujo was genitally male.


Humor in a personal vein

Suzanne Westenhoefer says her unscripted shows are like doing trapeze without a safety net

Suzanne Westenhoefer spends her time these days between Los Angeles, where she works much of the time, and Columbus, where she lives with her partner of nine years. When she�s not in either metropolis, Westenhoefer is on the road, delivering her stand-up routines with her own brand of sassiness, introspection and irreverence,

There are basically three types of stand-up comedy artists. The political ones, like Bill Maher (formerly of ABC�s Politically Incorrect) garner all their material from current events and the political climate of the day.

The observational comics like George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld look outwards at the world around them and us, and tickle our funny bones with their musings about what they see. In Westenhoefer�s estimation, you can spend years listening to guys like Carlin and Seinfeld and never know one single thing about them as people or from their more personal lives.

The third category of comedians are the ones who use their own lives as a starting point for their comedic musings. Westenhoefer, like Whoopi Goldberg, Elayne Boosler and Chris Rock, falls into this third category.

Speaking to me from her Los Angeles home, Westenhoefer said that with her routines there is a great amount of extemperaneousness that goes on.

�I have many ideas about what I am going to do,� she explained, �but there is no script and absolutely anything can happen!�

For Westenhoefer, this method of doing stand-up provides her with many an adrenalin rush since it�s akin �to flying on a trapeze without a safety net.�

�It isn�t like singing a song you know,� she added.

For Westenhoefer, being gay informs a lot of what she talks about, particularly since she is speaking from her own, sometimes very personal experiences.

�You cant take the gayness out of it,� she said, �just like you can�t take the blackness out of Chris Rock�s work or the Korean-ness out of Margaret Cho�s stuff.�

In the world of comedy she particularly admires the work of Rock and Carlin.�

�Carlin has been doing comedy since 1961,� she said. �He has always kept it fresh, he always has something new to say.� This is unlike many stand-ups, in her estimation, who churn out the same material, the same tired routines for ten years in a row.

Rock, she feels, is amazing because �he says what�s unpleasant and makes it funny. This is extremely difficult to do, because I have tried and it�s hard.�

Westenhoefer also likes the comedy of her contemporaries like Kathleen Madigan and Margaret Cho.

�When Rosie ODonnell was doing stand-up,� she continued, �she was one of the best. She was tough, she was edgy and she carried things off that are really, really hard to do, and that took a lot of balls.�

Westenhoefer reminisced about the days back in the 1980s when she used to be in the audience at stand-up shows watching the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bernhardt.

�We used to sit in the audience back then,� she said, �and say, �I�ll bet they�re gay,� and now were like, Duh! Hello!�

�We were young, we wanted everyone to be gay,� she continued, �because back in the mid-1980s no one was out yet.�

Westenhoefer had never seen herself as a stand-up comic. She got talked into doing it at a bar she used to work at in New Jersey. That was 12 years ago and today, as she moves from strength to strength, she has been pursuing stand-up as a full-time profession for a decade.

It was also ten years ago, this past June, that she met her partner Annie, who doesn�t like to be talked about much.

�She is so typically Midwestern,� Westenhoefer noted, �because she doesn�t want anyone to know about her and it�s like everyone here is in the witness protection program.�

Westenhoefer met Annie at the 1992 Gay Pride rally in Columbus where she was one of the featured entertainers. It was instant love and Westenhoefer found herself moving to the Midwest and having to learn how to say pop instead of soda, something she still refuses to say.

Suzanne Westenhoefer will be bringing her own unique brand of comedy to the Southern Theatre in Columbus for a one-night engagement on Saturday, November 16 at 8:00 p.m. Call Ticketmaster for reservations and information.




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