Several years before I moved to Memphis in 2002, my friends and I made monthly pilgrimages to the Bluff City to hang out at Amnesia, the popular gay club housed at 2866 Poplar (now home to Senses).
Memories are fuzzy, but a few things stand out. One time, when the club hosted an amateur strip night, I recognized a guy from my high school baring it all. I also have fond memories of the pool, located where Senses' patio is now. And I was once stranded outside the club after closing time when one of my best buds took off for a one-night stand with a hot lawyer. I waited and waited on the club's front steps after everyone else had cleared out. Eventually, an off-the-clock drag queen exited the club and warned me that the area wasn't safe after dark. Thankfully my friend returned within the hour, and I made it back to Arkansas in one piece.
Senses, which has primarily been a straight club for years, is bringing the old gay club back with Retro Amnesia Nights on Thursdays and Saturdays. With Backstreet temporarily closed, the club saw a massive turnout last weekend. And though the pool won't be making a comeback, a few things have changed for the better — clean bathrooms and mod, funky decor beat Amnesia's crusty old interior any day.
Thursdays are Beer Bust Nights from 10 p.m. to midnight with a $5 cover. Saturdays feature plenty of dancing and a drag revue for a $10 cover ($15 for those under 21). For more, check out Senses' website.
A billboard depicting a U.S. Marine that read "I'm gay and I protected your freedom" was ripped to shreds Friday night. The ad, located at Poplar Avenue and High Street downtown, was one of five billboards paid for by the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) in conjunction with National Coming Out Day.
The billboard, situated close to the ground, was likely an easy target for vandals. The MGLCC has asked the Memphis Police Department to open an investigation into the vandalism.
"We choose not to be stopped by fear. Instead, our community unites in solidarity and with the belief that we too deserve equality," said MGLCC director Will Batts in a statement released on Saturday. "Although we are saddened by yesterday’s hateful expression of intolerance, we are proud of the local Memphian that chose to be the face on the billboard."
That Memphian — Tim Smith — was ejected from the Marines under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy 20 days before he was set to deploy to Iraq.
The community center is planning a rally for this coming weekend to protest the billboard's destruction. Check Memphis Gaydar later in the week for details.
Four other Coming Out Day billboards, located across the city, remain intact. For more on the MGLCC's billboard campaign, read the Memphis Flyer story.
In November 2006, over 80 percent of Tennesseans voted for an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage. The final outcome of that election, paired with the massive amounts of campaigning by gay rights activists against the amendment, led to overwhelming stress and anxiety, according to two studies by University of Memphis professors Sharon Horne and Heidi Levitt.
With the passage of that amendment, LGBT people who may have gotten married in Tennessee were denied 1,138 benefits that come along with legal matrimony. Among those were benefits linked to Social Security, immigration, taxes, medical care, military and veteran benefits, and employee benefits.
Levitt's study, which looked at 13 LGBT people living in Memphis, found that participants viewed the amendment as stamp of approval for discrimination, leading to fears of being harassed or hurt by others who didn't favor equality for gays and lesbians. Some felt their sense of security was threatened.
Levitt also found that some participants felt guilty that they weren't doing enough to fight against the amendment. Others felt that fighting wouldn't amount to change. Some fought so hard against the amendment that they experienced activist burnout. Some even expressed that fighting against the amendment gave them a sense of personal empowerment and helped to build leadership skills.
Horne's study, which looked at 1,152 people living in nine states with anti-marriage amendments on the ballot in 2006, found that gay people in those areas experienced greater levels of stress and depression.
Horne's study also found that straight family members of LGBT people living in states with anti-marriage amendments were just as stressed, even though they weren't directly targeted. The family members expressed worry for their loved ones' safety and felt frustration from trying to convince other straight family and friends to vote against the amendments.
The Human Rights Campaign released its 2010 Corporate Equality Index last week, and several locally-based companies received less-than-perfect scores for their lack of LGBT inclusive policies.
AutoZone scored a 25 out of 100 points due to the company not having a gender identity policy or domestic partner benefits.
International Paper (IP) scored 65 out of 100 because it lacks a gender identity policy.
FedEx holds a score of 70 this year, an improvement from last year's 55. That's due to the company adding gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy earlier this year. The company still lacks domestic partner benefits, except where required by law in California and at FedEx Kinko's locations.
Finally, local law firm Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz LLC scored a 70 due to the firm's lack of a gender identity policy.
To see the full 2010 Corporate Equality Index, go here.
What do a former Marine, several peace activists, a handful of ministers, an interracial lesbian couple, and an average Joe have in common?
By week's end, their faces will grace five billboards posted throughout the city in conjunction with National Coming Out Day, an internationally observed event promoting discussion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) issues held on October 11th.
The billboards, paid for by the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC), also advertise the center's website.
"The community center needs to come out and say two things: We're not afraid of being honest about who we are, and we're not ashamed of who we are," said Will Batts, director of the MGLCC. "We are beyond the point where we're going to let other people tell us to be quiet or ashamed or fearful because they might fire us or kick us out of church."
To read the full story from this week's Flyer, click here.
Following Shelby County's lead, Nashville/Davidson County's metro council passed an ordinance Tuesday night banning discrimination of metro government employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The ordinance passed with 24 council members in favor and 15 votes against it. One member was absent during the vote. The ordinance was sponsored by councilwoman Megan Barry who told the Tennessean that the fight for passage was worth the effort.
The Tennessean reported that the council chambers were packed with people on both sides of the issue. One audience member, who opposed the ordinance, actually drove from Bartlett to attend the meeting. Liese Thomas told the paper, "I believe that one man and one woman's marriage is the stabilizing force of all healthy civilizations, and where there are any deviations, the civilizations start to crumble."
Reported the Tennessean: "Even though the bill didn't address the issue of marriage, Thomas said her argument applied because approval of any 'deviant behavior' inevitably leads to destruction of values."
The Tennessee Equality Project, who backed the Nashville ordinance, plans to introduce a similar ordinance to the Memphis City Council after the October special mayoral election.
Though the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center has been around for 20 years, director Will Batts says he still hears from people who didn't know the city had such a gathering place for LGBT people.
"We have a lot of people walk in here and say, 'I've lived in Memphis all my life and I didn't know you guys were here. Are you new?'," says Batts. "I'm frustrated that more people don't know where we are because we're 20 years old."
The center has been at its current location at 892 S. Cooper for six years. Before settling in Cooper-Young, the center had several other homes throughout Midtown. Each month, the center hosts support group meetings, workshops, free HIV testing, potlucks, and more.
Today (September 15th) marks National LGBT Center Awareness Day, a first-ever event highlighting the vital services provided by gay and lesbian community centers across the country. The event is sponsored by CenterLink: The Community of Centers, and in honor of their first LGBT Center Awareness Day, CenterLink is hosting a vacation giveaway for folks who spread the word about local LGBT community centers. Head over to their website for details.
Backstreet owner Shane Trice was set to appear in Environmental Court Friday morning, but the case has been reset until September 25th. The club will remain closed until then.
The city's largest gay dance club was raided and temporarily closed last week as a public nuisance, the result of a months-long undercover police operation. Trice was arrested and charged with aggravated gambling promotion, storage of liquor for sale, possession of gambling device, and unlawful sale of alcohol.
According to Backstreet's e-mail newsletter sent out on Thursday, patrons are encouraged to hang out at Metro (1349 Autumn) on Friday night and Mary's (405 N. Cleveland) on Saturday night.
Outflix, the city's annual gay film festival, opens Friday night at Malco's Ridgeway Four Theater and runs through Thursday, Sept. 17th. Eighteen films — a mix of fictional feature films, shorts, and documentaries — will screen over the course of the festival.
On Friday, Outflix opens with The Big Gay Musical, a lighthearted film about two actors starring in an off-Broadway musical who learn valuable lessons about accepting who they are. Of course, they only reach this conclusion after a cameo by Rick Skye as Liza Minnelli and plenty of campy showtunes. The Big Gay Musical begins at 8 p.m., after the Outflix opening party at 6:30 p.m.
On Sunday, don't miss Ready? Ok! , the adorable tale of a 10-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a cheerleader. Though his single mother (played by Carrie Preston of True Blood and Transamerica) would rather Josh (Lurie Posten of Step Brothers) excel on the wrestling team, Josh goes on a campaign to raise his own funds for the city's annual cheer camp. The film screens at 7 p.m.
Other highlights include Transpoofed (a short film about transgender dating), Standing-n-Truth (a documentary on people living with HIV/AIDS), and And Then Came Lola (a sexy lesbian romp inspired by the arthouse classic Run, Lola, Run).
For a complete schedule, check out the Outflix website. Tickets are $9 per film or $70 for a festival pass.
An early Sunday morning raid at Backstreet Memphis lead to the temporary closure of the city's largest gay dance club and the arrest of owner Shane Trice.
Undercover Memphis Police officers say they witnessed illegal drug sales, illegal alcohol sales, and gambling inside the club on at least six occasions. In July, an undercover officer purchased drugs and witnessed minors drinking alcohol. The nuisance closure complaint also alleges that officers witnessed sex acts taking place in the Dark Room, an empty, unlit room located in the hallway behind the main bar area.
Trice was arrested and charged with aggravated gambling promotion, storage of liquor for sale, possession of gambling device, and unlawful sale of alcohol. Three others were issued citations for selling alcohol after permitted hours. Trice is in criminal court this morning, and he's set to appear in Environmental Court regarding the nuisance closure on Friday.
Backstreet's website contains this lengthy statement denying any wrongdoing:
"Backstreet Memphis and its entire staff including the owner would like to say thank you to all of the customers who were at the club this weekend. Backstreet Memphis has over 26,000 members that come there on a regular basis. The MPD has made our nightclub out to be something that it is not. Anyone that goes there knows we are most likely the most compliant bar in this city with minors, gambling and such.
We are the only nightclub that verifies every ID with all 50 states before entering. Backstreet has never had a gambling device of any kind but has been accused of having them. Backstreet had mega touch machines made by merit. These machines are in no way designed for gambling and are in almost every bar and restaurant in Memphis. The owner was arrested and a Memphis police officer said he was paid out on a machine that is simply not capable of doing such. (There is absolutely no way the machine the officer is talking about would pay money to anyone).
Backstreet has also been accused of promoting sex at the nightclub, which is a crazy accusation. We hope that all of the thousands of you are just as apalled as we are with such accusations about the largest dance club in Memphis TN. Backstreet opened in 1995 and has never been through such as we have with the person who made these accusations. We had over 300 people searched, checked for warrants and valid ids this weekend. Not one minor was found nor anyone found without an id in our nightclub. How many bars would this happen in?"
To read the whole statement, click here.
Being part of a class of people who aren't granted equal rights can really weigh on one's mind, especially for LGBT folks who spend much of their free time fighting for marriage, non-discrimination, and hate crimes legislation. Having efforts shot down time and time again can lead to adverse effects on mental and physical health. So can having existing rights — such as adoption — attacked year after year in the state legislature.
University of Memphis professors Sharon Horne and Heidi Levitt have been studying how LGBT folks cope with the effects of anti-LGBT amendments and policies. They'll share that research on Saturday, Sept. 5 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (892 S. Cooper).
Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center member Audrey May is attempting to organize a Women's Book Club. It would feature readings and discussion of books written by female authors and possibly even some meet-ups with those authors.
Interested? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.