It’s that time again, the time when we put together our round-up of the biggest stories of the year to take a look back at where we’ve been and what we’ve done over the last 12 months. But how do we decide? It’s all so subjective, anyway: What was a big deal to one person or to one segment of the LGBTQ community may have been a mere blip on the gaydar for one person or segment of the community.
And how many top stories do we choose? Five? Ten?
Here at Dallas Voice, we look at the stories that seemed to get the most response from our readers and those stories that had, in our opinion, the most significant and the most lasting impact. We also focus on local stories that we covered that we feel are most important to our North Texas community. That’s why you won’t really see a lot of the “national stories” that other outlets chose as “top stories for 2019” here in our list.
We also choose not to limit ourselves by choosing a specific number of “top” stories; perhaps there are 12 stories we felt are the most important, or maybe there were a couple. But just choosing our “top stories” rather than the “top five” or “top 10” lets us include all the stories we feel warrant that designation rather than limiting ourselves or padding the list.
With all that said, here is our list of the “Top Stories of 2019.”
— Tammye Nash
Each year, the count of the number of transgender people killed begins early, and 2019 was no exception. It started Jan. 6 when Dana Martin was shot to death in Montgomery, Ala. By the end of March, the count stood at three. And outside the LGBTQ community, the ever-rising death toll went, as usual, relatively unnoticed.
Then came April 12. That was the day that a 23-year-old black transgender woman in Dallas was attacked in the parking lot at her South Dallas apartment complex following a minor fender-bender accident, beaten by a group of men shouting anti-gay and anti-transgender insults. A large crowd gathered to watch the assault, with many of those in the crowd laughing and jeering as Muhlaysia was battered. Someone in the crowd videotaped the assault and put the video online where it quickly went viral.
The outrage from the public was quick and overwhelming. People who, for whatever reason, had previously turned a blind eye to the hate and violence trans people, especially trans women of color, endure every were suddenly paying attention. And when Muhlaysia Booker was found shot to death, her body dumped in an East Dallas street, just a month later, the spotlight turned on the epidemic of anti-trans violence became blindingly bright.
The violence didn’t end. Since Muhlaysia Booker died on May 18, 17 more transgender people have been murdered, including Chynal Lindsey of Dallas, found dead on June 1; Tracy Single of Houston, shot to death July 30, and Itali Marlowe of Houston, shot to death Sept. 20. In addition, another trans woman, Daniela Calderon-Rivera, was critically injured in a North Dallas shooting in September, the same month that Pauline DelMundo, a Tampa, Fla. trans woman, went missing from the DFW International Airport enroute to Cozumel.
But the difference this year, as compared to 2018 when 26 transgender murders were recorded in the U.S., and 2017 when there was a horrifying record of 29 trans murders, this year the country is paying attention. Mainstream media is doing a better job of reporting on the violence without mis-gendering or dead-naming victims. And police are doing a better job of investigating these murders.
There has been progress, but we have a long way to go. And the Texas transgender community is leading the way in the fight for full equality for transgender people everywhere.
★ Pride moves
Dallas Pride moved to the first weekend in June this year, for the first time since the early 1980s, and moved out of the gayborhood to Fair Pair. Since 1982, Pride in Dallas had been held in September on Cedar Springs and in what is now Turtle Creek Park or in Reverchon Park to commemorate Judge Jerry Buchmeyer’s ruling declaring the Texas sodomy law unconstitutional. But that history was fading in memory, and June is not only the anniversary of Stonewall but the anniversary of four important U.S. Supreme Court rulings that culminated in marriage equality in 2015. And many people felt Pride had outgrown Oak Lawn. Neither park could accommodate a great festival, and parking for an event that attracts tens of thousands of people was terrible. Security costs were getting out of hand as well.
So, a newly-formed Pride committee decided to move Pride to Fair Park, which was built for festivals and had great facilities to stage a parade. Security in the park, with no high-rise structures, would cost almost half what it did on the streets.
Most people agreed the festival this year was a success. By noon, a new attendance record was set. But the community was split on the parade: Attendance was about the same as it had been on Cedar Springs Road, and missing were people from the neighborhood who usually attend.
Staging was certainly easier, with large lots for floats and marchers to gather in and later disperse from. The route was simpler with no traffic lights and intersections to navigate. And onlookers were actually closer to the parade participants than on the wider Cedar Springs Road route.
But, some people contended, what impact does the parade have taking place in the “closet” of a gated park? And few people from outside the LGBT community attended. Trans activist Jayla Wilkerson organized the Pride is a Protest march, starting at City Hall and ending at Fair Park the morning of parade day, to take Pride into the streets.
Pride is again scheduled for the first weekend in June. The festival takes place on Saturday and the parade on Sunday. Many people who didn’t know about the date change are likely to attend this year.
★ The Texas House LGBT Caucus
In the 2018 election, Dallas added two LGBT women — Julie Johnson and Jessica Gonzalez — to its delegation to the Texas Legislature. Hayes County, just south of Austin, elected bisexual Erin Zwiener to the House of Representatives, and Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, and Celia Israel, D-Austin both easily won re-election. And with five LGBT women in the House and more than 20 allies supporting them, they formed a caucus — the first LGBT Caucus in Texas history.
Their goals were to derail anti-LGBTQ legislation. Johnson was inspired to run when her state representative, Matt Rinaldi, wrote the previous session’s bathroom bill, and she ran on a platform of increasing funding to public education — something, she said, that would actually help people rather than hurt a small but vulnerable population including his own constituents.
Their other goal is to pass legislation that’s beneficial to the LGBT community. Israel proposed legislation that would ban performing the discredited reparative therapy on minors. Straight allies worked with the five founders of the caucus to propose a variety of legislation including a statewide equality act, similar to the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.
In January, a sixth member may be added to the caucus. Eliz Markowitz is running to fill a vacant seat in Houston. And in November 2020, at least three additional LGBT candidates are running for the Texas House — Shawn Terry from Dallas, Ann Johnson from Houston and Eric Holguin from Corpus Christi.
In the off-legislative season, the five members of the LGBT Caucus have been traveling around the state holding town hall meetings. Rep. Jessica Gonzalez said she’s shooting for a day in March or April to host one in Dallas. As the caucus gains experience and allies, Gonzalez said, the first piece of legislation she plans to introduce in the next session is comprehensive LGBT protections. Even if Democrats take control of the Texas House in the next election, a Republican Senate and governor would likely block the bill from passing or being signed into law. But passing one house of the Legislature would be a huge step.
★ The agencies
AIN moves and affiliates with AHF
AIN, formerly known as AIDS Interfaith Network, announced its affiliated with AIDS Healthcare Foundation. To improve its services, AIN and its Daire Center moved to new offices closer to Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern, making it easier for clients to access its services and medical care in a single visit. Also in the works is an AHF medical clinic on site to make it even easier for clients who would like to see a physician there rather than at Parkland or one of the other agencies that provide medical care.
Resource Center opens new dental, medical clinics
Because the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic on Cedar Springs Road was bursting at the seams, Resource Center moved its dental clinic to a new office in northeast Dallas not far from AHF’s Medical City clinic. That zip code has one of the highest rates of HIV in Dallas County, and the entire community is benefiting from the larger, modern new office.
At Resource Center’s Health Campus in Oak Lawn, Dr. Gene Voskuhl is heading a new medical clinic. This is the first clinic geared to the LGBT community in general rather than only for people with HIV, although Dr. Voskuhl has plenty of experience treating HIV.
A merger and a new clinic for Prism Health North Texas
Uptown Physicians has been one of the largest private practices in Dallas targeting LGBT patients. Earlier this year, Uptown joined forces with Prism Health North Texas, a nonprofit health services organization. While both are operating independently, the merger allows the two to share their expertise on a wide variety of medical issues.
Prism also opened its third clinic this year. In addition to its Oak Cliff Health Center on Sunset Avenue and its South Dallas Health Center on Spring Avenue, Prism now offers its medical services at its newest modern clinic, Oak Lawn Health Center on Lemmon Avenue near Central Expressway.
ASD hires new CEO and acquires new property
After the retirement of longtime CEO Don Maison, AIDS Services of Dallas hired Traswell Livingston as its new president and CEO. Livingston has been with the organization since 2011 and gained experience providing affordable housing working at Dallas Housing Authority before that.
Livingston is busy raising money to begin renovating and expanding ASD’s newest property on Ewing Street. Once complete, the complex will be for clients who are working and HIV-positive, need permanent affordable housing but no longer require intensive case management, transportation or food assistance offered at other ASD properties.
★ The murals
The North Texas arts organization Arttitude arranged for two murals to be painted on walls facing a parking lot between the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic and 4000 Cedar Springs Road. Dallas Red Foundation provided much of the funding.
The first of the murals was painted by Lee Madrid to remember victims of the AIDS crisis. The AIDS Memorial Quilt is shown between two sets of hands forming hearts.
The second, painted by New York artist Brian Kenney, is dedicated to the transgender community and features the likeness of transgender activist icons Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. At 2,100 square feet, it is the largest mural honoring the transgender community in the world.
The AIDS mural was completed in the fall of 2018, while the trans mural was completed in time for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall in June of this year.
In December, the transgender mural was defaced when a tagger painted mustaches on the two trans women depicted in the painting. On Dec. 15, Arttitude artist RafiQ Salleh-Flowers repaired the mural.
★ Oak Lawn’s front lawn is renamed
The park originally known as Oak Lawn Park then renamed Lee Park after a statue of Robert E. Lee was placed there in 1936, reverted to its original name temporarily after the statue’s removal in 2017. It was permanently renamed Turtle Creek Park in April.
The city of Dallas tried five times before it could lift the Lee statue off its plinth and remove it from the park. The plinth on which the statue stood for more than eight decades remained in place for more than a year, becoming a rallying place for white supremacists waving Confederate flags who demanded the park be renamed after Lee. The plinth was removed in January this year, the area landscaped and all traces of the statue removed. The conservancy that manages the park supported renaming the park after Turtle Creek, which runs through it, but many in the LGBTQ community wanted the park name to stay as Oak Lawn Park because of its place in the heart of the traditional gayborhood and the long association of the name Oak Lawn with the LGBTQ community. City officials, however, chose to side with the conservancy, and so the park became Turtle Creek Park.
★ Religious controversies
Marriage equality was front and center for two mainstream Protestant denominations in 2019. The Methodist Church voted not to change its Book of Discipline to allow the ordination of gay or lesbian clergy and not to allow same-sex marriage. The Episcopal Church, meanwhile, had already voted to allow same-sex marriage with the caveat that each bishop could stop that from happening in his diocese. Seven Episcopal bishops in the U.S., including the one in Dallas, had said no. But this year, the church decided that while a bishop may oppose same-sex marriage and didn’t have to oversee a church that allowed it, arrangements would have to be made for those churches that wanted to allow its LGBT congregants to marry.
Three churches in Dallas — St. Thomas the Apostle in Oak Lawn, Church of the Transfiguration in far North Dallas and Episcopal Church of the Ascension on Greenville Avenue — now are overseen by the Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith, bishop of the Missouri diocese.
The Rev. Gene Robinson participated in a ceremony with 15 couples who married elsewhere at Church of the Transfiguration. Robinson, who is retired, was the first openly-gay man elected bishop in the Episcopal Church.
At its General Conference in February, the Methodist Church upheld its ban on same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian clergy. About 55 percent voted for the Traditional Plan, a move that left many church members upset and wondering whether to stay in the church. The Rev. Judith Reedy, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, said she returned from the conference “heartbroken.”
That vote began a split that might divide the United Methodist Church into two denominations. Churches around Dallas protested by coving up the words “United Methodist” on their signs. Northaven United Methodist Church now refers to itself as Northaven Church and has a Pride flag covering the “United Methodist.” St. Stephens UMC in Mesquite, covered “United Methodist” on its sign in rainbow tape and in June, brought its youth choir to Mesquite City Hall to perform at Mesquite Pride at City Hall.
★ Mayor Pete’s candidacy
The same year that the LGBTQ community around the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, The LGBT Victory Fund announced it endorsed Pete Buttigieg for president. Buttigieg is the second openly gay man to run for president of the United States, but considered the first viable candidate to do so.
In 2012, Fred Karger ran on the Republican side. But unlike Karger, Buttigieg has qualified for the debates and is considered a top-tier candidate.
Buttigieg took the lead in fundraising in the second quarter of the year and had the largest number of donors. As debate season began, Buttigieg remained in the top tier of candidates, but Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Sanders surged past him in percent of support.
Although he has the Victory Fund’s endorsement, the LGBT community, while acknowledging his historic run, has split its support among the various candidates. And while Buttigieg has made some inroads among gay voters, he hasn’t spent much time or money to woo the LGBT community. In Dallas, he was the only candidate with a presence at the Pride festival in Fair Park. Several booths were selling his t-shirts that explained how to pronounce his name: “Boot-Edge-Edge.”
While he’s not running as the gay candidate, he also doesn’t shy away from showing who he is. He and his husband Chasten are often shown in pictures holding hands or kissing. But there are many in the LGBTQ community and in other minority communities that see Buttigieg as just another white man who has no real insight into their issues.
But regardless of the outcome of the Primary, Buttigieg’s candidacy has made history.