Everybody who's anybody* will be at the Friends for Life Halloween bash on Saturday, Oct. 30th. Friends for Life's annual party has gained a reputation as the largest, see-and-be-seen Samhain shindig in town.
This year's theme is "Shipwrecked" so expect to see plenty of pirates, mermaids, and other sea-faring characters. Dress your best because there's a cash prize costume contest. DJ Steve Anne will provide the tunes, and there will be plenty of food and drink.
The event kicks off at Bridges at 8 p.m. and runs late into the night. Tickets are $45 at the door. Funds raised go toward Friends for Life's comprehensive and client-centered services for people living with HIV/AIDS. For more information, go to the Friends for Life website.
* Except for me. I am somebody, but unfortunately, I won't be at the Friends for Life party this year. I've signed up to judge the Monster Ball costume contest at Push Night Club at Horseshoe Casino. If you'll be in Tunica on Saturday night, drop by the ball. It kicks off at 10 p.m. with a $10 cover. The first place winner of the costume contest wins $1,000.
The proposed non-discrimination ordinance protecting city workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression is back on the Memphis City Council agenda. But this time, council person Shea Flinn, a supporter of the ordinance, wants some data to show if there's problem with discrimination in city government.
This morning, the council's personnel committee passed a resolution requesting the administration conduct a study of discrimination in city employment. The survey will include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, but it won't be limited to those issues. The city's human resources department will conduct the survey.
The committee also passed the non-discrimination ordinance, and it will go to full council for a first reading on Tuesday, November 9th. A similar ordinance was withdrawn by its sponsor/council person Janice Fullilove in August at the request the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP). At the time, TEP cited a lack of support from Mayor A C Wharton and bias on the council.
People on both sides of the issue crowded the committee meeting room this morning, but there seemed to be more ordinance supporters wearing TEP stickers than opposition sporting "one man, one woman" stickers. TEP's Jonathan Cole spoke on the need for workplace protections for LGBT city workers.
"Memphis is at a crossroads. Memphis cannot afford to send a mixed message to its residents or the rest of the world," Cole said. "Will Memphis be the city of choice that we've heard so much about? A city that welcomes people of diverse backgrounds? Or will Memphis choose to send a message of exclusion, a message that diversity, fairness, and equality are not valued here?"
Representing those against the ordinance was Josh Davis of the Family Action Council. Davis argued that "a workforce is more productive and manageable when a person's sexuality and sexual practices are left out of the workplace and confined to their personal, private lives."
But Flinn followed Davis' comments with a little clarification: "The sexual activity of consenting adults is not the issue here. This is about identity."
Davis demonstrated his misunderstanding of "transgender" when he expressed concerns about protections for gender identity or expression.
"It should be noted that there are those who are sometimes called 'weekend transgenders' or 'Tuesday transgenders' who prefer to dress as a woman or a man one day and then their birth gender the next day or the next week," Davis said. "To best serve members of the public who could be confused by such behavior or not want their children to be confused by such behavior, would a policy requiring a consistent expression of gender identity at work be discriminatory?"
Davis was likely referring to cross-dressers, who may not necessarily be transgender, rather than the issue of gender identity. His comments brought chuckles and a few confused expressions from ordinance supporters.
Flinn and Fullilove spoke in favor of the ordinance. No committee members present spoke against workplace protections.
"Intolerance doesn't work," Flinn said. "Our shameful history in race relations hurts us to this day, and we don't need to go down that road with this."
The Memphis City Council will again consider an employment non-discrimination ordinance that will include protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
The ordinance will be discussed Tuesday morning (Oct. 26th) at 8:30 a.m. in the council's personnel committee in room 514 at City Hall. The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) is asking ordinance supporters to arrive at 7:30 a.m.
The same non-discrimination ordinance was pulled from the council agenda earlier this year at the request of TEP, citing concerns about the ordinance not getting a fair hearing.
These days, folks gather at Backstreet, Senses, Dru's Place, or Crossroads. But none of today's local gay bars would be possible without George's, Memphis' first gay bar.
What later became George's originally opened at 1786 Madison as the Twilight Lounge. It went through several incarnations, locations, and a few police raids along the way. But antiques dealer George Wilson's bar eventually became THE place for gay nightlife in Memphis. Vincent Astor has written an excellent history of George's, available on the Friends of George's website.
George's moved to Marshall in 1979, where it remained a gay hot spot until it closed in 1987. The bar's next incarnation — GDI's On the River — served as a replacement for several years, but it shuttered its doors in 1990. The crumbling paint of the GDI logo on its former home at Front and Huling is all that remains.
On Saturday, Oct. 23rd at 8 p.m., former George's patrons (and probably a few Memphis transplants and young folks who wish they could have been patrons) will gather at Minglewood Hall for the first George's Reunion party. The party features an all-star cast of George's Showgirls and plenty more. For ticket information, go here.
Since the current school year began, 12 young people across the country — some college-aged, some in high school — have committed suicide in response to bullying and discrimination. Tonight, Southwest Pride will hold a vigil in their honor at First Congregational Church (1000 S. Cooper) at 7 p.m.
According to the group's Facebook event page, "Even one suicide is too many. It is time we took a collective stand against bullying and discrimination [to] say enough is enough. We are no longer requesting change, we are DEMANDING it."
The suicide victims include:
•Tyler Clementi - 18
•Seth Walsh - 13
•Justin Aaberg - 15
•Raymond Chase - 19
•Asher Brown - 13
•Billy Lucas - 15
•Jeanine Blanchette - 21
•Chantal Dube - 17
•Harrison Chase Brown - 15
•Zach Harrington - 19
•Caleb Nolt - 14 (straight, but stereotyped as being gay)
•Felix Sacco - 17 (straight, but still bullied)
Though Southwest Pride will have some candles available, they're asking attendees to bring their own to ensure there are enough to go around. Also, there's a nationwide call for people to wear purple today in remembrance of the LGBT teen suicide victims.
Last week, Action News 5 reported that a 16-year-old bisexual teen was beaten by several other kids in front of an apartment on Thomas Street. Neighbor Sharon Poindexter called Memphis Police, but the attackers fled on foot before police arrived.
"The police asked him why they were jumping on him and he told them it's because he's bisexual," Poindexter told Action News 5.
Anti-gay bullying stories aren't new, but they've gotten extra media attention lately following a recent rash of gay teen suicides triggered by incidents of bullying over sexual orientation.
In response to the national outcry over LGBT bullying, the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center is holding a public forum to discuss issues of bullying and LGBT teen suicide. The event is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 19th, 7 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Cathedral (1695 Central).
On Wednesday, Oct. 20th at 7 p.m., First Congregational Church is hosting a Spirit Rally to memorialize victims of LGBT teen suicide. People across the country are encouraged to wear purple on Wednesday in honor of LGBT teen suicide victims.
In the recent past, the city's annual gay pride event has commenced during Pride Month (June) when the overwhelming Memphis heat and humidity is at its peak. But organizers decided to push the Mid-South Pride parade and festival to October (LGBT History Month) this year in an effort to make the outdoor event more comfortable for all.
* The annual Pride Festival, a celebration in Peabody Park with vendors, info booths, live music, and beer, kicks off Saturday, October 16th at 10 a.m. The entertainment lineup includes a talk by Get Equal co-founder and director Robin McGehee and Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition president Marisa Richmond. The music lineup includes Carol Plunk, the Adams Avenue Camarata, Summer Osbourne, and the Holy Trinity Church Choir.
* The Pride Parade down Cooper Street will begin lining up in the First Congregational Church parking lot (1000 S. Cooper) at 3 p.m. with a 4 p.m. kick-off. The parade will end at Peabody Park.
Grand marshals for the 2010 parade include Constance McMillan and Ceara Sturgis, both students from Mississippi high schools who spent the past year fighting for equal treatment from school administrators. Will Phillips, a student from West Fork, Arkansas who made headlines when he refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance because LGBT people don't have equal rights, will also serve as a marshal.
* On Friday, October 15th from 6 to 8 p.m., McGehee and all three grand marshals will be on hand for a Grand Marshal Meet-and-Greet at the Westin downtown (170 Lt. George W. Lee Ave.). For more on Mid-South Pride events, see their website.
* Later on the night of the 16th, there's an official Mid-South Pride After-Party at Senses. The festivities begin at 9 p.m. with Lil' Carol from the Madison Flame spinning tunes. The cover is $10, but $5 will go toward Mid-South Pride fund-raising efforts for next year's Pride events.
If you happen to be living in or near Atlanta, and you'd like to attend Mid-South Pride, Harrah's Tunica is offering special airfare rates of $59 one way or $118 round trip for people flying from Atlanta to Memphis for Pride. To reserve your flight, call 1-877-336-1641 and mention the code "Pride."
Hope to see you all there!!
On Monday afternoon, hundreds of LGBT equality advocates gathered in front of the National Rights Museum for the first-ever March for Gay Rights. The event was held in conjunction with National Coming Out Day.
There were plenty of straight allies in the crowd:
This was my favorite sign of the day!
March for Gay Rights organizer Michael Hildebrand addressed the crowd before kick-off, leading marchers in a chant of "We are Memphis!"
Around 4:15 p.m., the marchers began making their way down South Main, headed for City Hall:
This lady marched for Tiffany Berry, a 21-year-old transgender woman who was gunned down in February 2006 after stepping out of the Camelot Manor Apartments in South Memphis. Police originally believed it was a robbery, but nothing was missing from Berry's purse or apartment. Some believe Berry's death was a hate crime.
Before the march, American Apparel handed out a bunch of free shirts that read: "Legalize Gay: Repeal Prop 8 Now." I missed out on the shirts when I walked away for a few minutes, so I ended up purchasing one at the American Apparel store afterward:
This guy chose to honor Duanna Johnson, the transgender victim of police abuse by former Memphis Police officer Bridges McRae in February 2008. In August, McRae pled guilty to violating Johnson's civil rights. Johnson was killed in late 2008 in an unrelated incident:
The marchers ended at City Hall for a rally. I wasn't able to stay for the rally, but my colleague Jackson Baker snapped this shot of Tennessee Equality Project's Jonathan Cole addressing the crowd at the rally in front of City Hall. City councilperson Shea Flinn also spoke:
October 11th is National Coming Out Day, an internationally recognized civil awareness day aimed at raising awareness on the importance of coming out. The day was founded in 1988 by Robert Eichberg and Jean O'Leary in celebration of the second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
At 3:30 p.m. today, the Memphis March for Gay Rights kicks off at the National Civil Rights Museum (460 Mulberry). The march will end at City Hall (125 N. Main) around 4:30 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., LGBT equality advocates will gather for a rally in front of City Hall. Check back here tomorrow for photos of the event.
October is LGBT History Month, and the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) is dedicating the month to creating safer spaces for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Although gay teen suicide is nothing new, the recent media attention focused on at least six gay youth who have taken their lives in response to anti-gay bullying points to the need for a more open and accepting community.
“We make ourselves safer by rejecting the fear and shame that others would have us feel for being who we are. We make our community safer by continuing to work for full equality for all until our goal is achieved,” says Will Batts, executive director of MGLCC.
The center is asking people to help out in several ways:
1) Donate money to the nonprofit MGLCC to fund programs aimed at creating safer spaces
2) Donate skills - The center needs volunteer design specialists, project managers, strategists and fundraisers
3) Donate time - Show up at rallies, gatherings, and other LGBT-focused events
4) Donate passion- Talk to friends, co-workers, and others about the need for safer spaces.
Looking for a way to donate time? Join the March for Gay Rights on Monday, October 11th. It kicks off at 3:30 p.m. at the National Civil Rights Museum (450 Mulberry) and heads to City Hall (125 N. Main). A rally will commence at City Hall at 5:30 p.m.
Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel Old Country Store jumped up 40 points from last year on the recently-released Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index.
This year, the restaurant chain scored 55 points, up from a low score of 15 points in the 2009 report. Cracker Barrel was one of 12 companies in the country to increase its score by at least 30 points this year. Here's a quote from the HRC report:
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc., once in the news for delivering pink slips justified by “The employee is gay,” has implemented a non-discrimination policy and diversity training that includes sexual orientation and has even gone as far as to provide a cash grant to the Tennessee Equality Project.
"At Cracker Barrel, we value what everybody brings to our restaurant," said Cracker Barrel spokesperson Julie Davis. "We welcome everyone onto our porch and onto our staff."
Davis said this is the first year Cracker Barrel has completed the Corporate Equality Index survey. She said the company felt like it was time "to tell our story."
TEP's president H.G. Stovall, a former employee of Cracker Barrel had this to say: "The leadership shown by Cracker Barrel in standing up for the LGBT community should not go unnoticed. Many among us were aware of a very different history for the company, one that is now quickly becoming ancient history."
On National Coming Out Day — October 11th — LGBT Memphians and straight allies will march from the National Civil Rights Museum (450 Mulberry St.) to City Hall (125 N. Main) in an effort to raise awareness about the need for equal rights, both locally and nationally.
The march will kick off at 3:30 p.m. and participants are encouraged to wear their work attire. Once the group arrives at City Hall, those who wish to stay will hold a peaceful demonstration. You can learn more at the MemphisLovesGays blog.
To learn more about the purpose of the march, check out this YouTube video: