Gayest & Greatest — Community Profiles
Gayest & Greatest 2012 | Houston Winners | Galveston Winners
“I was lucky and unlucky growing up. I grew up in a small town where I didn’t know any gay people and didn’t really even know gay people existed.”
Marriage equality is one of the political hot-buttons of this election, and one that many conservatives point to as a sign that the end is near. Barry Ouellette has been involved with the Foundation for Family and Marriage Equality since it began ten years ago. To him, it’s very personal. His partner is from Argentina, and if marriage equality were the law of the land, he would be able to sponsor Victor Martinez for U.S. citizenship. As it stands right now, he can’t. “All I want is to marry the man I fell in love with, keep him in this country as a citizen, and to be able to take care of him and my family as we walk hand in hand through life’s journey together.” The Foundation for Family and Marriage Equality organizes Freedom to Marry Day every Valentine’s Day at City Hall. In 2010, they held an anti-bullying rally at the middle school where Asher Brown attended before taking his life. “We need to let our government, our schools, our churches, their leaders, their administrators, their teachers, and the kids know that bullying is not acceptable by kids or by their leaders—that being gay is okay. Well, better than just okay—that it’s special and fabulous. We don’t want to lose one more amazing child.” Ouellette says he’s more of a homebody, but he does get out every now and then. He plays in the HOUTEX gay tennis tournament. On Thursdays, he and his friends watch Project Runway with their own season finale designer/model challenges. Wine and chocolate are his guilty pleasures. He’s a chemical engineer during the day, so he is more worried about super-volcanoes exploding and the sun’s solar flares blowing out our electrical grids than he is about Mayan folklore. He likes this photo of himself with a PFLAG mom outside the Harris County Clerk’s office where LGBT couples line up and ask for marriage licenses each year.
“I want to do more to record the LGBT community’s stories.”
Fifteen years ago, Sara Fernandez found herself—and then she found PFLAG. “I had seen a bulletin board put out by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays that read, ‘Someone you know is gay.’” It was around that time that she had come to terms with her own sexual orientation. She was sure she could find help for herself, but she was more concerned about where her spouse could go for support. They began attending PFLAG meetings regularly. Many of the adults at the meeting were Sara’s age, but they were the parents of LGBT children. They were tireless advocates for their own children and the entire LGBT community. Sara decided she would do anything and everything she could to support PFLAG’s mission. At first, she sat on the board of directors. Then she took on the newsletter. She helped organize a Spanish-speaking PFLAG support group. In recent years, she started recording PFLAG’s monthly meetings, and is very proud that these videos may be seen on the Comcast “Houston’s Voice” Internet channel at houstonsvoice.com. Her work behind the camera took her deeper into advocacy after working on a video about homeless LGBT youth. Sara grew up in a close-knit family, so it’s hard for her to accept that so many teens have been kicked out of their homes because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. She is also on the board of the Association for Family and Community Integrity (AFCI). “I stay with PFLAG and AFCI because they have great potential for creating social change. One in four gay teens who come out to their parents are told they must leave home. Every child deserves a home.”
“I’m honored to be included!”
Riedel. Not Reidel. Remember, “i before e.” And if you’re fussy, that’s Dr. Riedel. Brian fell in love with Houston when he moved here in 1997 to enroll in the graduate program of Rice University’s anthropology department. Brian finished his doctorate in 2005, stayed on at Rice to teach, and was promoted to a faculty position this last summer. He is on the board of the John Steven Kellett Foundation, is a former board member of Pride Houston, and is one of the founders of Houston ARCH, a coalition of individuals and groups dedicated to preserving our LGBT history. As the (take a big breath) “Professor in the Practice of Humanities and Assistant Director of the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality,” he believes we only borrow this world from those who come next. The erudite anthropologist in him has this to say about the Mayan prophecy: “All roads have to end somewhere, but just because there’s no more road doesn’t mean there’s no more land or new paths to be made.” Brian shows his down-to-earth side by explaining why he chose this photo: “It was a good skin day!”
“This is awesome!”
Lou is the president of the Transgender Foundation of America, a position he feels privileged and honored that the community has entrusted to him. As a Taurus, Lou has always felt a sense of accountability. He has an older brother with some learning disabilities and other cognitive issues. They were both adopted, and he felt like the responsible one growing up. Back then, he didn’t have a vocabulary to express how he felt. He transitioned later in life, experiencing what he calls “a second puberty” in his late thirties. He also started college, majoring in communications at the University of Houston. Both are usually associated with a younger generation, but he wouldn’t let that be a barrier. Lou offers this advice to the middle-aged: “I encourage everyone to follow what their dream is.” Lou and his girlfriend have a four-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Jester, and a gray and white pet named Tippy, who is biologically a cat but lives full-time as a dog. Lou’s dream house would have a huge kitchen where he could bake cookies and bread, especially during the holidays. Still, he could “eat the same things for lunch over and over.” He loves sports and was in the stands at the Women’s World Cup soccer game where the U.S. beat China on penalty kicks (and Brandi Chastain ripped her shirt off!). Originally from Colorado, he was at the last game played at the old Mile High Stadium in Denver and the first game played at what is now Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium. Jealous?
“I’m really amazed at how big and vibrant and out the gay community is in Houston. I’ve met a lot of great LGBT folks here, and have really enjoyed settling into the community.”
Nine months ago, Blake Hayes arrived on the air at Mix 96.5 as its 2-to-7 p.m. afternoon personality. It’s a far cry from when he started in radio at the age of 16, working 2 to 7 a.m. He laughs when he talks about his first job performing magic at birthday parties. He gave up the glamorous life of a professional magician when he started working in radio. Unlike some radio personalities, Blake has a face for the camera. He doesn’t look much older than 16, and he admits to having “a massive sweet tooth, best satisfied by sugary gummy candies.” If he didn’t have to be concerned about his health, he could “polish off a pound of that stuff in a day.” This month, he’ll be a speaker at the University of Houston-Clear Lake’s coming-out-day events. “It’s exciting to be able to stand up, say ‘I’m gay,’ and hopefully let these students know that it’s okay!” Blake says that this photo shows his personality: “Laid back and goofy.”
“Thank you, Houston.”
Charles operates by one main principle—Always Do the Right Thing. That applies to the various establishments he owns, as well as making sure his employees have health benefits, the neighborhood felines don’t go hungry, and the community as a whole has a place it can call its own. Although somewhat of a recluse, you can find him on occasion at the Montrose Remembrance Garden. Charles worked with the Aaron Scheerhoorn Foundation for Change in turning the overgrown corner at Grant and California streets into a memorial for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims of violence. In addition to the garden, Charles helps raise money for numerous worthy causes. Charles chose this photo of himself at Meteor. He looks very serious. We’re told that he really is smiling.
“I’ve used my blog for organizing, advocacy, and as a place to synthesize my thoughts on my research into the history of the trans community.”
Cristan is quick to say that her blog is personal, and doesn’t represent her day job as director of the Transgender Foundation of America. The subheading of her blog at cristanwilliams.com reads, “I’m a transsexual atheist from the Houston Transgender Community … So yeah, basically your worst nightmare.” On Facebook, she opens up about her life—her tattoos, her spiritual side, her family, her bike, and her activism. She says her writing is edgy, and her commentary usually focuses on the ancient philosophy taught by Buddha: “Test it out for yourself; don’t accept things on faith alone.” True to her skeptical beliefs, she says there’s no evidence supporting a Mayan doomsday prediction. “I think the fear created by conjecture and misinformation has made a lot of money for authors, movie makers, and paranormal TV producers alike.” This photo was taken when Cristan was working on a blog post. “It seemed appropriate.”
“What a great honor!”
It isn’t easy to get a group of people to agree when it comes to politics, but Lane Lewis scored a nearly unfathomable achievement by being elected unanimously as chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. Who doesn’t love a politician whose economy extends to his communication style? Maybe that comes from moving in a lane (get it?) where you have to fit your message on a bumper sticker. Lane’s outlook for December 21 is that we have an opportunity for a beginning with great change, rather than an end with great destruction. He has two magnets on his car at the moment, for the Harris County Democrat Party and for President Obama. “Generally, I dream in red, white, and blue—but this year, on election night, I intend to be dreaming only in blue.”
“My two cats were too shy to be in the photo.”
Seventeen years ago, Tori founded The Pet Patrol, helping low-income people challenged by a chronic or life-threatening illness keep their companion pets as long as possible. The organization was born in 1986 during the first wave of the AIDS epidemic. Her career has followed in that direction as the current manager in the office of support at the Ryan White Planning Council. She once organized a Pet Patrol fundraiser where people could bring their pets to sit with Santa and have their picture taken. Tori took a rescue pet to the event, but instead of asking Tori whether she had been naughty or nice, or what she wanted for Christmas, Santa leaned over and whispered in her ear, “You helped me keep my dog when I was very sick and didn’t have money to keep her. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.” Tori says that was one of the best days of her life. She offers this photo of her current rescue, Lily Linné, and Spooky Noel, a Halloween/Christmas hybrid.
“I’m honored and excited. However, I can’t take all of the credit, as it is truly a group effort here at Midtown Veterinary Hospital. Our technicians are a big part of the reason that we are successful.”
Dr. Clive knew since he was a little boy that he wanted to be a veterinarian. His earliest memories involved dogs, ducks, chickens, rabbits, horses, and cows. Midtown Veterinary Hospital opened in September of 2010 with a mission to deepen the unique bonds between people and their pets by providing personalized, compassionate care. That’s not just lip service. “The empathy that I feel for our clients comes from being a pet parent myself. I feel the joy of the daily interaction, the unconditional love, and I’ve felt the heartbreak of the last goodbye.” Dr. Clive and his wife, Janelle, have been rescued by two little Yorkies, Baci Faith and (wild) Bailey Bear. He really enjoys hearing stories about the funny things pets do, and the adventures they go on. He easily recalls “Crassie” who loved the beach and waves when she went on vacation to North Carolina. He savors the joy and relief that comes when pets make it through a difficult illness, and he is also there at that special time when they must say goodbye. “We value all of these moments, and feel privileged to be a part of them.”
“They wanted me to cook. That was a deal breaker for me!”
Lavita believes the unwavering passion to serve is contagious. Like many lesbian activists, she started off in Girl Scouts. “I was all about the camping. Then, sad to say, they wanted me to cook.” Lavita says she reached a point in her life when she looked around and thought, “I want to help.” Most of her work was with animal welfare, and she is still passionate about animals. But when she read about the work AssistHers does, she knew she had found her home. “It doesn’t get any better than being part of a community of caregivers, supporting lesbians with chronic or disabling illness and helping them live as normally as possible.” Lavita says volunteers are the lifeblood of AssistHers. She believes they are “not only changing the world one lesbian at a time, but they are shaping the future, changing the way the world looks at itself.” Lavita likes living for today, so she hasn’t given much thought to the Mayan prophecy. “I’ll worry about that when it gets here.” Lavita chose this picture because it says it all: “I love my life; let’s ride!”
Make no mistake, Meghan Stabler isn’t clowning around. She is very serious about her volunteer work. When Meghan steps out of the car, she could be wearing any one of her colorful outfits: Activist. Delegate. Board Member. Trustee. Spokesperson. Lobbyist. Advisor. Mother. Wife. Trailblazer. Grand Marshal. And that’s not even counting the fact that she can claim both the L and T in LGBT. “I have to divide my time. My LGBT work is my passion. So during the day, and most evenings, I have the opportunity to work on those. I balance it all with making sure I have time for my family. Right now, playtime with our baby girl comes most evenings after work and weekends.” She escapes with her family to a ranch in East Texas. She urges others to first find what they are passionate about, and then to volunteer with organizations that can channel that passion to further a cause. “You will not know the good you can do, and the change you can make, until you ask and try. Do it.” Meghan’s first foray into volunteering started using her tech savvy to help the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She worked with a number of AIDS service organizations, and that naturally dovetailed into work with LGBT equality groups. Meghan promised her wife they would go to the ranch and stock up on food for the end of the Mayan calendar. “For me, [December 21] will be aligned with planning for the holiday season with yummy food, just in case we need to survive a zombie apocalypse!” For Meghan, that means chocolate and traditional British roasts and pies. Meghan chose this Mother’s Day 2012 photo. “I love the happiness of our daughter in this. Two moms in the photo, yes—but other than that, what is different about my family [compared with those who are] against our equality? Nothing, really, except we are not working hard to put down and suppress someone else’s family or relationship.”
Sally Huffer, an infrequent contributor to OutSmart magazine, is a middle child who tries to sneak away from the limelight. She is more Clark Kent than Bruce Wayne, stumbling from one assignment to the next. She is more afraid of crickets than radioactive spiders. She does not own a cape, and is not your typical crusader. She does, however, type faster than a speeding bullet. She already is carbo-loading for the Mayan apocalypse.
Gayest & Greatest 2012 | Houston Winners | Galveston Winners