Monday, October 3, 2016

Stay Calm and Prepare for the Queens

Posted By on Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 3:39 PM

Miss Gay America 2016, Asia T. O'Hara, will be on hand to crown the new winner for 2017. - KRISTOFER REYNOLDS
  • Kristofer Reynolds
  • Miss Gay America 2016, Asia T. O'Hara, will be on hand to crown the new winner for 2017.

When you think about the queer-centric areas of Memphis, the area around the airport may not be the first part of town that jumps to your mind. But, this week an otherwise bleak intersection will be infused with ample doses of glitter and choreography as the 44th annual Miss Gay America Pageant comes to the Holiday Inn on Democrat Road and Airways Boulevard.

Forty of America's best queens will descend upon the hotel's conference center for five nights
starting October 5 for the chance to win the most prestigious crown in all the land for female impersonators in the longest running female impersonator competition (sorry, RuPaul).

The new MGA will be crowned on October 9, after five days of pageant classics including Evening
Gown, On-Stage Interview, and Talent. Tickets to the crowning event are $45 and can be purchased here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hey You, Go To Memphis Pride Fest This Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 11:40 AM

  • Frank Chin
Thirteen years running, Mid-South Pride returns this weekend with an extended three-day celebration and a new name: Memphis Pride Festival. Sure, you could spend your weekend elsewhere, but why would you?

Festivities kick off at 7 p.m. Friday with a concert hosted by local queen Freak Nasty at Handy Park. Tori WhoDat, DJ Spaceage, and Seeing Red will perform.

Saturday's Pride Festival, with activities for kids, a VIP area, work from various artists, and free HIV testing, lasts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Pride Parade begins at 1 p.m. and a wave of marchers will take Beale Street's two-mile stretch. 

Cap your weekend with the Pride Brunch Crawl, which starts at 1 p.m. at Celtic Crossing and will move to other Cooper-Young restaurants.

Mid-South Pride Festival attracts more than 9,000 attendees each year. 2015's theme, "Love equals love,"
followed the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 ruling in June that made marriage equality law of the land. This year, despite Tennessee's attempted anti-transgender bathroom bill, Memphis Pride Festival continues to celebrate progress made in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

OUTMemphis Closes on Property for Youth Housing Project

Posted By on Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 3:38 PM

This map shows where the OUTMemphis youth homeless shelter will be located.
  • This map shows where the OUTMemphis youth homeless shelter will be located.

OUTMemphis (formerly the Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center) has closed on a piece of Shelby County Land Bank property at 2059 Southern for its project to house homeless LGBTQ young adults ages 18 to 25.

The sale closed on Wednesday. According to a letter from OUTMemphis to the Shelby County Board of Adjustments (BOA), the proposed project will span three parcels on Southern near the Cooper-Young neighborhood. OUTMemphis is requesting a zoning variance from the BOA to use shipping containers to create "comfortable and unique living spaces for our youth."

They're also requesting a variance to increase the number of parking spaces allowed on the site to five spaces. Each parcel will have a maximum of four residents, so the parking will allow for one guest spot.

"We have modeled the project after other, similar facilities in cities such as New York and Ohio and have taken into account things that have proven to be successful. We plan to have 24-hour surveillance cameras around the facility for protection of our young adults as well as for neighborhood security. The site will have 24-hour staff supervision of all young adults present on the property to ensure order and respect of the neighborhood," reads the letter to the BOA.

The project serves a need currently unmet in Memphis, according to the letter.

"Currently there are no secure options in Memphis for this population. Emergency shelters currently in place have proven themselves unsafe for our LGBT young adults. LGBT people make up 7 to 10 percent of the general population but homeless LGBT youth make up between 20 to 40 percent of the homeless youth population. The numbers are overwhelming and have given us a reason to come up with a solution to help our youth here in Memphis. Our project will be a safe haven for young adults who are trying to improve their lives and move forward to a more stable place of their own," according to the letter.

The variance request will be heard at the BOA meeting on Wednesday, September 28th.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

OUTMemphis is New Name for MGLCC

Posted By on Tue, Aug 30, 2016 at 12:33 PM

The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) has changed its name to OUTMemphis in an effort to be more inclusive of the entire gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.

OUTMemphis was established as the MGLCC more than 27 years ago, and although the center has served the entire community through its programs, the original name didn't include a mention of the bi, trans, and queer communities that may not identify as gay or lesbian. The center began considering a name change eight years ago as it began adding paid staff and expanding its services.

"Changing our name reflects our efforts to be more responsive to and inclusive of all LGBTQ people in Memphis and the surrounding areas," says Will Batts, OUTMemphis Executive Director, in a press release. "Our new name mirrors the change this organization began eight years ago. It honors the diversity of our board, our staff, our volunteers, our visitors, and our services."

OUTMemphis' programs range from support networks, social activities (like potlucks), HIV testing, and workshops to educate the wider public about LGBTQ issues. OUTMemphis is also working to launch a project that will house homeless LGBTQ teens.

Here's a statement from OUTMemphis' press release on the name change:
We have known for a while that our name did not reflect our full identity — as individuals, as an agency, or as a community. So we set about to change it. No combination of letters describing our individual identities could do full justice to our diversity; no acronym would encompass every way in which we define and describe ourselves. So rather than focus primarily on our individual identities, we chose a name that would express our vision, our mission, our hopes, and our dreams of a living in a world that respects all LGBTQ people. Thus we have become OUTMemphis: The LGBTQ Center for the Mid-South.

Regardless of how we identify as individuals, we all seek a world where we can live openly, honestly and authentically. We desire a community that celebrates and respects us fully as parts of the whole. A community that respects US, and not a caricature or incomplete identity we put on simply to live in peace. We each deserve to live as openly as WE choose to be. We expect the freedom to be open about who we are and about whom we love. We deserve to be OUT, as OUT as we choose to be. Working to make that vision a reality is what we do every day at — in dozens of ways, in hundreds of settings, and for thousands of clients and allies each year.

Just as our new name highlights our vision of a better world, our new image reflects our mission. The rainbow illustrates the diversity, passion, and POWER of our people, interlocked and CONNECTED through a central hub, working to EDUCATE ourselves and others about the LGBTQ experience, and turning that knowledge into ADVOCACY that demands equality and safety for all of us wherever we are. We do not imagine ourselves the only place where this happens. However, as the only center like us for several hundred miles in every direction, we have a special responsibility to serve as many people as we can, as best as we can, and in as many ways as we can.

Our movement — the LGBTQ struggle for full equality and inclusion — has made too many advances to accept retreat. We understand that not every person can be out and fully honest. We know that right now we live in a world where the costs of being out can be too high to bear for some people. As an agency and as a movement, even with that understanding, we can no longer accept being silent, being hidden, or being in the closet. Someday in the future, there may be no need for coming out, because there is no "in." Until that day, we will continue to fight, to educate, to support, and to stand proud. Open, authentic, and OUT.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Big Gay Yard Sale

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2016 at 12:53 PM

From MAGY Facebook page
  • From MAGY Facebook page
Memphis Area Gay Youth (MAGY) is hosting a yard sale fundraiser on Saturday, August 13th, to benefit its programs.

The sale begins at 7 a.m. at First Congregational Church. Proceeds will go toward MAGY's goal of creating safe space for LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 20.

MAGY's youth social and support group meets every Friday night at First Congo, and on an average Friday, they serve between 15 and 20 teens and young adults from Memphis and surrounding areas in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. They also host an annual MAGY Prom, the most recent of which had an attendance of more than 50 youth.

They're still accepting items to sale. Anyone who'd like to donate items can contact MAGY at

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Club Spectrum to Hold Benefit for Pulse Nightclub Employees

Posted By on Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 2:55 PM

New Orleans and Memphis-based rapper Tori WhoDat will join local rockers Seeing Red and Pulse Nightclub performer MRMS Adrien in a benefit at Club Spectrum on Saturday, July 9th. 

Proceeds raised from the event will benefit the employees of Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the scene of the nation's deadliest mass shooting earlier this month.

In response to the Pulse shooting, Club Spectrum has begun wanding guests before entry. They've also asked the Memphis Police to step up patrols in the area around the club. 

The benefit starts at 7 p.m. at 616 Marshall. The cover is $10. 


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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pride on the Greensward This Weekend

Posted By on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 at 1:11 PM

The folks at Overton Park's Greensward are throwing a Pride picnic on Saturday, June 25th at 10 a.m. Attendees are asked to bring a picnic lunch and "a willingness to participate in silly games," according to the event's Facebook page.

Pain't It Cool Body Art will be there painting faces and accepting donations for Hearts of Gold Pit Rescue.

June is LGBTQ Pride month across the country, and most cities are having their big Pride celebrations this coming weekend (which also coincides with the first anniversary of nationwide marriage equality).

Memphis' official Pride event, hosted by Mid-South Pride, was moved to the fall several years ago due to the area's wickedly hot summer weather. The official Mid-South Pride parade and festival is scheduled for September 24th on Beale Street. 

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

OutBid Celebrates First Anniversary of Marriage Equality

Posted By on Wed, Jun 22, 2016 at 12:10 PM

Marriage equality became the law of the land on June 26, 2015 after the momentous Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court decision. The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) will commemorate the first anniversary of marriage equality in its annual Outbid auction.

Themed “Paper & Pansies: A Celebration of the First Anniversary of Marriage Equality," the auction to benefit MGLCC will take place on Saturday, June 25th at the Clark Opera Memphis Center at 6:30 p.m.

Paper is the traditional first anniversary gift, symbolizing the strength that comes from the interlaced connection of the paper's individual threads. And an alternate tradition recommends pansies, which symbolize thought or remembrance.

The auction event will also feature live music and comedy, as well as food and libations. Tickets are $50 for a single, $90 for a double, and $350 for a table of eight. To purchase tickets, go here.


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Monday, June 13, 2016

Memphis LGBT Community and Supporters Gather in Cooper-Young

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 9:07 AM

Crowd gathered on Cooper in front the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Center.
  • Crowd gathered on Cooper in front the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Center.

In the wake of Sunday morning's horrific mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, the Memphis LGBT community and its supporters gathered in front of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Center in Cooper-Young Sunday night. 

The vigil drew an estimated 300-400 people. Speakers included Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Congressman Steve Cohen, and Executive Director of the MGLCC, Will Batts.

Batts pointed out the historic significance of gay clubs as a sanctuary for the LGBT community. "They were a place where I could be who I was," he said.

Strickland said, "I know there is more love than hatred in this world," adding that he was comforted by seeing the crowd gathered in support.

Mayor Strickland speaks to crowd. - MAYOR JIM STRICKLAND
  • Mayor Jim Strickland
  • Mayor Strickland speaks to crowd.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Rainbow Grizzlies Shirts for Pride Month!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 7, 2016 at 1:10 PM

The NBA has launched a line of Pride Month-themed basketball apparel, reports Outsports.

The Memphis Grizzlies logo (and the logos of the other 29 NBA teams) is featured in rainbow colors on a black background. The shirts, which retails for about $25, are only available at Teespring, and the proceeds benefit the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which pushes schools to treat all students with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

"Professional sports showing up for LGBT people is one of the biggest cultural developments of the last decade, and really the last five years," GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard told Outsports. "The NBA has been showing up for LGBT youth and for GLSEN for a number of years. Having this be a league-wide initiative, knowing any LGBT fan in the country can choose to celebrate their team and themselves with one of those shirts, that's a whole new thing."

Last year, some teams in Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League featured rainbow-logo tees, but the NBA Pride Month line marks the first time a major sports league has featured all of its teams.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tennessee Suing Obama Administration Over Transgender School Guidance

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 8:54 PM

Herbert Slatery
  • Herbert Slatery
Tennessee will join 10 other states in a lawsuit suing President Barack Obama's administration over its directive regarding transgender student bathroom access in public schools.

Earlier this month, Obama issued guidance to public schools suggesting that transgender students should be allowed to use the restroom and locker rooms that match their gender identity. Governor Bill Haslam has criticized the directive and accused Obama of "over-reaching." 

On Wednesday, 11 states — Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Utah, and Georgia — filed a lawsuit in a North Texas federal court declaring the directive to be unlawful.

The suit states that Obama has “conspired to turn workplace and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights."

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery released the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:
The Executive Branch has taken what should be a state and local issue [under the Tenth Amendment] and made it a federal issue. Schools that do not conform under the new rules risk losing their federal funding. This is yet another instance of the Executive Branch changing law on a grand scale, which is not its constitutional role. Congress legislates, not the Executive Branch. Our Office has consistently opposed efforts like this to take away states’ rights and exclude the people’s representatives from making these decisions, or at a minimum being able to engage in a notice and comment period under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). As the complaint describes, it is a social experiment implemented by federal departments denying basic privacy rights and placing the burden largely on our children, not adults. Sitting on the sidelines on this issue was not an option.
Meanwhile, Shelby County Schools has said they're carefully reviewing the information Obama sent to school districts, and they'll continue to work with families of transgender students on a case-by-case basis.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Gay Memphis Police Officer Sues the City for Discrimination

Posted By on Fri, May 20, 2016 at 5:12 PM

Davin Clemons
  • Davin Clemons
Memphis Police officer Davin Clemons, a TACT officer who serves as the department's LGBTQ liaison, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Memphis and the Memphis Police Department (MPD) alleging discrimination based on his sexual orientation, his disability, and his religion.

He's being represented by attorney Maureen Holland, the local attorney who was involved in the Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court case that led to same-sex marriage being legalized across the country.

MPD's LGBTQ liaison role was re-started in 2014 after a lull in participation, and Clemons was the first MPD officer named to the role after its re-launch. In that role, he's responsible for helping to build trust between the LGBTQ community and the police department. But Clemons alleges that role has backfired, causing some superior officers to discriminate against him because he is gay. 

After being appointed as liaison in August 2014, Clemons claims he was harassed, reprimanded, and humiliated by other officers. 

Much of the discrimination came from an officer named as Lt. Hulsey in the lawsuit. One incident says Hulsey approached Clemons on Beale on July 4th, 2014, and "yelled and degraded Officer Clemons in front of thousands of citizens at a Fourth of July event. ... Officer Clemons believes that Lt. Hulsey engaged in this behavior due to sexual stereotypes and, in particular, a belief that Officer Clemons was not sufficiently masculine, was too feminine, or due to a belief that men should only date women, not other men."

Clemons also claims he has been discriminated against for a medical condition. Clemons has been diagnosed with pseudofolliculitis barbae, a condition that causes serious breakouts on the face after shaving, and his doctor has recommended that he not shave. He had a "shaving profile" on file with MPD, which was supposed to prevent the MPD from forcing him to shave his facial hair (a requirement of most officers). Clemons has said superior officers have harassed him and forced him to shave, despite his doctor's orders.

Additionally, Clemons claims discrimination based on his religion. Clemons and his partner Darnell Gooch (also a Memphis police officer) founded Cathedral of Praise Church of Memphis, an LGBTQ-inclusive church. Clemons claims he'd asked off for a religious observance on August 13th, 2014, and he'd been granted the day off by a Lt. Jenkins, but the lawsuit says Hulsey refused to remove Clemons from an overtime detail. 

Reads the lawsuit: "This incident lead to a heated verbal disagreement between Officer Clemons and Lt. Hulsey whereby Lt. Hulsey was yelling and screaming and pointing his finger at Officer Clemons and saying that he (Clemons) is going to work the mandated overtime. Officer Clemons objected to working a voluntary overtime on a mandatory basis. Officer Clemons did not yell or scream at Lt. Hulsey in voicing his disagreement. Officer Clemons requested a witness or union representative and Lt. Hulsey denied it. ... Officer Clemons was charged with insubordination and disobedience of an order and originally given a 20-day suspension."

At another time, Clemons, who has a leadership role in his church, claimed Hulsey called him a "false prophet" and that Clemons' faith "is not to be taken seriously because Officer Clemons is gay."

"The purpose of the LGBTQ liaisons is to improve trust and relationships, but this is not possible if the appointed Memphis Police LGBTQ liaison is being discriminated against, harassed, and retaliated against due to his participation as a LGBTQ liaison and due to his sex, religion, and disability," reads the lawsuit.

The suit claims the alleged discrimination against Clemons is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Clemons is seeking at least $300,000 in compensatory damages and losses, back pay, lost benefits, and other economic losses. He would also like the officers named in the suit to receive training to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Holland released the following statement from Clemons: "I'm proud to be a police officer for the MPD. I do, however, want to be treated fairly on the job. I believe that all employees should be treated fairly, based on the quality of their work, not on their sexual orientation, religious beliefs, disability, race, color, ethnicity or any other legally protected characteristic. The purpose of this suit is to protect the right of city employees to fair and nondiscriminatory treatment. I am a committed police officer and want to continue my work without interference and discrimination.”

At a press conference introducing the new Memphis Animal Services director Friday afternoon, Mayor Jim Strickland said he could not comment on Clemons' lawsuit.

Read the lawsuit here:

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Haslam Signs Bill That Allows Counselors to Discriminate

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 8:41 AM

Bill Haslam
  • Bill Haslam
It's now legal in Tennessee for licensed counselors and therapists to refuse to treat clients whose "goals, outcomes, or behaviors" violate the counselors "sincerely held principles."

The bill was passed by the Tennessee General Assembly, and Governor Bill Haslam signed it into law on Tuesday afternoon. 

The bill was one of several religious freedom-style bills pushed by the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT) this year. That group often focuses on pushing anti-LGBT measures, and it's been called a hate group by LGBT activists. FACT has said the bill is intended to protect the right of conscience of a counselor and to safeguard their religious beliefs. 

The American Counseling Association recently updated its code of ethics to prevent discrimination against clients in need of service, which may have prompted FACT to push for a change in Tennessee.

The bill doesn't name LGBT people specifically, and it has potential to have a far-reaching impact beyond the LGBT community. But Tennessee Equality Project Executive Director Chris Sanders believes the LGBT community is the bill's primary target. He has said the bill will be especially harmful to LGBT youth in rural areas, where the only counselors available may now legally turn them away.

That said, Sanders thinks the new law will be used to discriminate against all sorts of people.

"They amended out the word 'religion' and it’s now 'sincerely held principles,' and that’s even broader," Sanders said. "Conceivably, sexism and racism are principles. At this point, it’s so wide open, it’s ridiculous, and it defeats the purpose of having a counseling code of ethics."

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

LGBT Equality Advocates Make Last Push Against Counseling Discrimination Bill

Posted By on Wed, Apr 27, 2016 at 2:52 PM

Bill Haslam
  • Bill Haslam
Governor Bill Haslam has very little time left to veto or sign the bill that would allow counselors to turn away clients based on their "sincerely held principles."

Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) has launched a petition page calling on Haslam to veto HB1840, which TEP Executive Director Chris Sanders says would have far-reaching impact beyond the LGBT community.

"They amended out the word 'religion' and it’s now 'sincerely held principles,' and that’s even broader," Sanders said. "Conceivably, sexism and racism are principles. At this point, it’s so wide open, it’s ridiculous, and it defeats the purpose of having a counseling code of ethics."

Sanders said TEP believes the LGBT community was the primary target for the bill.

"LGBT isn’t spelled out at all. If they did that, they know it would be ruled unconstitutional. But we’re the target," Sanders said.

The bill is one of several anti-LGBT bills brought before the General Assembly this past session. 

"We didn’t introduce any bills that were positive [for the LGBT community] because we knew that this was going to be a crazy year. There have been bills on notice before committee every week of the session, at least one and often two or three," Sanders said. "We’ve never had a year like this before. It’s definitely backlash from [Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision]. They’re trying to build enclaves of discrimination wherever they can, realizing that the boundaries have shifted so much now."

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tracy Morgan Cancels Tunica Show Over Anti-Gay Mississippi Law

Posted By on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 at 1:45 PM

Tracy Morgan
  • Tracy Morgan

Comedian Tracy Morgan announced that he's canceling his upcoming appearance at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica due to Mississippi's new law allowing for discrimination against LGBT people.

Morgan was supposed to perform on Friday, April 29th. He released the following statement on Tuesday afternoon:
"Tracy did not make this decision lightly. He very much looks forward to rescheduling his tour dates in the area after the ‘Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,’ is either repealed or heavily amended."
Horseshoe Casino said refunds will be made available for those who'd already purchased tickets.

Earlier this month, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed the law that allows churches, religious charities, and privately held businesses to decline services to LGBT people if doing so would violate their religious beliefs.

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