Driving through the intersection of Poplar Avenue and East Parkway in Midtown, you've likely noticed the thousands of white sticks topped with red ribbons on the lawns of both First Baptist Church and Greater Lewis Street Missionary Baptist. The 2,499 markers represent people from Shelby County who have lost their battle to HIV/AIDS since 1985.
Wednesday, December 1st is World AIDS Day, and the names of those victims will be read in the annual NAMES Ceremony at First Baptist from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Additionally, the [choice] Life Over AIDS project at Caritas Village is sponsoring a film premiere of Love Choice, about a former corporate playboy who contracts HIV and then meets the love of his life. The film screens on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Malco's Studio on the Square. A short Q&A with the people behind the film will follow.
And finally, World AIDS Day is the perfect excuse to get tested. The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) offers free testing on Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m.
Don't have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving lunch? The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) will host its annual Thanksgiving potluck from noon to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 25th.
Turkey will be provided (though as a vegan, I can't in good conscience recommend that you eat any). Attendees are encouraged to bring a potluck dish to share (how about a Tofurky?).
The MGLCC is located at 892 S. Cooper. For more information, call the center at 278-6422.
The proposed non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT city workers is effectively dead for at least six months after the item failed on its second reading today at the Memphis City Council meeting.
The non-discrimination ordinance was the only item on the consent agenda, which typically contains several items on their first and second readings. The consent agenda failed to gain the necessary seven votes needed for passage.
This means the ordinance will not get a third reading, despite the fact that the city council approved a resolution at their last meeting for a city employment discrimination study to be conducted by the city's human resources department.
When an item fails, it cannot be brought back for six months. Tennessee Equality Project's Jonathan Cole said "we're not going anywhere." The equal rights organization will attempt to bring the non-discrimination ordinance back at a later date.
At the last council meeting on November 9th, the ordinance passed its first reading on the consent agenda with the necessary seven votes. It was council chairman Harold Collins' vote that made the difference this time. Collins voted to approve the consent agenda containing the ordinance at the last meeting, but he voted against the consent agenda at today's meeting.
The Memphis City Council will vote today on the second reading of the non-discrimination ordinance protecting city workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
The item is included in the council's consent agenda for the full council meeting at 3:30 p.m. on the first floor of City Hall.
The item was approved on its first reading on Tuesday, November 9th. It must pass three readings for final approval. The date of the third reading will depend on the completion of a discrimination study being administered by the city's human resources department.
With the district attorney's office's closing of Backstreet as a public nuisance, there's even fewer options on the LGBT nightlife scene.
But a new group on Facebook is promising to open a new gay club called Klub Karma in the next few weeks. When contacted on Facebook, the club's organizers weren't ready to reveal the location, but they did say that the new club would have a large dance floor and drag shows. They're currently looking for investors, and potential investors may contact Klub Karma representatives here.
On Friday, Klub Karma posted a Facebook status update promising to release more information when the page reaches 2,000 friends. Currently, they're at 300 friends.
On Saturday, November 20th, Memphians will gather at Tom Lee Park to honor the memory of thousands of transgender violence victims from around the world.
The national candlelight vigil is held in November to honor Rita Hester, an African American transgender woman who was murdered in Allston, Maine on Nov. 28th, 1998. Hester's death spurred the "Remembering Our Dead" web project, followed by the first Transgender Day of Remembrance in San Francisco in 1999.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is intended to raise awareness of hate crimes against transgender people and to publicly mourn those victims whose lives were taken to transgender violence.
The event begins at 4:30 p.m. For more information, check out the Transgender Day of Remembrance Facebook page.
Memphis resident Joe Davis recently launched the Go Purple: Stop the Hate website, a clearinghouse of resources for bullying victims and their parents. Although the site includes resources for gay and lesbians teens, Davis says Go Purple is intended for use by bullying victims of any orientation.
"We are basically trying to spread the message that [bullying] is not just a gay issue," Davis said. "This is a human issue, and there have been many children — not just gay [children] — who have taken their lives due to bullying."
The website features links to anti-bullying organizations, like the Trevor Project, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It also includes written testimonials from people who have been bullied. The site invites anyone to share their testimonial on its "Your Story!" page.
Davis said he's looking for volunteers to record YouTube videos about their bullying experience to be posted on the site's video page. For more information, e-mail Davis here.
Sarah Lloyd, an openly-gay Marion High School senior, will be allowed to wear a tuxedo in her yearbook photo, thanks to a Tuesday night vote by the Crittenden County School Board in Arkansas.
Lloyd had requested to be allowed to wear the tux in her senior photo instead of the drapes traditionally worn by female students. Her superintendent, Don Johnston, initially denied Lloyd's request.
Johnston told WREG: "If we got away from that what would be next? Would we have someone who was a baseball player and say I want to take my picture wearing a uniform? Or someone who says I'm a cowboy. I want to wear a cowboy outfit."
But since the school voted in favor of Lloyd's wardrobe preference, her tuxedo picture will run in her senior yearbook.
Last year, a Wesson, Mississippi high school senior Ceara Sturgis was denied the right to wear a tuxedo in her yearbook photo by school officials at Wesson Attendance Center. The school actually printed yearbooks without even including Sturgis' name. Now she's working with the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the school for violating her 14th Amendment rights, which prohibits discrimination based on sex and sex stereotypes. Sturgis served as one of the grand marshal's in this year's Mid-South Pride Parade.
Earlier this month, 12-year-old Hernando Middle School student Randi Foster said she was beaten by a group of classmates because her name sounds like a boy name.
Ironically, the attackers were leaving a Fellowship of Christian Students meeting. Foster told WREG, "They started talking about me like I was a man. That I shouldn't be in this world. And my name was a boy name." She said she was kicked in the ribs and leg, hit in the face, sat on, and thrown into a cafeteria table. DeSoto County Schools released a statement that "fighting is not tolerated and that disciplinary action will be taken to the fullest extent of the law." You can watch the video at the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition website.
Here's the thing — Foster was abused because her name sounds like a boy name. We don't know if Foster is gay or straight, but regardless, she was beaten because her classmates perceived that she could be gay because of the name her parents gave her. That's a perfect example of "gender expression."
The Memphis City Council is considering an ordinance that would protect city workers based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. At council committee meetings, some people on the opposition have expressed concern over the "identity or expression" part. But what they must not realize is "gender expression" can be something beyond one's control — the sound of your name, your tone of voice, your stature. It could even apply to a heavy guy with man boobs.
The non-discrimination ordinance opposition really ought to take a look at Randi's story. Unlike Randi's "Christian" peers, one would hope that the religious-based groups opposing the ordinance would show a little more respect for people who cannot control who they are or what they look like.
By the way, the second reading for the city's proposed employment non-discrimination ordinance is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 23rd.
On Tuesday, the Memphis City Council passed the non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT city workers on the first reading as part of its consent agenda. The vote was 7-2 with two abstentions.
The council also approved a resolution calling for the city's human resources department to conduct a discrimination study in every city division. For more information on the study, check out my story from the Memphis Flyer.
The second reading of the ordinance should take place on November 23rd, but the third reading will be held up until the discrimination ordinance is complete.
Backstreet, the city's largest gay nightclub, has been shuttered as a public nuisance once again after a Saturday night raid.
The club was closed in September 2009 by District Attorney Bill Gibbons' office after authorities say they witnessed illegal drug sales, illegal alcohol sales, and gambling inside the club on at least six occasions.
The most recent raid seems to stem from owner Shane Trice failing to make good on promises to add security officers, check customers for drugs and weapons upon entrance, and convert the former "dark room" (where some patrons allegedly participated in sexual acts) into a coffee bar. Gibbons will now ask a judge to permanently close Backstreet.
I'll be on a cruise to lovely Mexico later this week, so I won't be posting to Memphis Gaydar for a few days. Here's a round-up of LGBT-related events to keep you busy while I'm away:
* "Many Men, Many Voices" Class at the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center
Designed for gay men of color who sleep with men but may not identify as gay ("on the down low"), this seven-session class focuses on HIV and sexually-transmitted disease prevention. The first class in the session is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 7th at 6:30 p.m. Those interested must be present at the first class to attend any future sessions in this round of programming. For more information, call 901-278-6422 or e-mail MMMV@mglcc.org. MGLCC is located at 892 S. Cooper.
* First Reading of the Non-Discrimination Ordinance at Memphis City Council
On Tuesday, November 9th, the Memphis City Council will vote on the first of three readings of the latest version of the non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT city workers. They'll also be voting on the only reading of a resolution allowing the city to anonymously survey city workers about discrimination. The council meets on the first floor of 125 N. Main at 3:30 p.m.