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The Red Dinner is White-Hot This Year

Annual University of Houston fundraiser benefits LGBTQ college kids in need.

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RED DINNER DUO: Kevin Hamby and Brian Waddle (bottom row, 2nd and 3rd from left) in their backyard at the UH LGBTQ Alumni Association’s first fundraising dinner in 2012.

It’s that time of year again—time for the University of Houston’s amazing Red Dinner gala. Scheduled for May 18, the event is an opportunity to offer a helping hand to LGBTQ students in need—often because everyone else has let them down.

While the coming-out process is never easy, far too many UH students have had coming-out crises that could jeopardize their futures. “What are the consequences of coming out?” they often ask. “How will my family react? What happens if I am financially cut off?” 

Every year, LGBTQ students at the University of Houston request financial aid through the UH LGBTQ Resource Center to help them offset financial crises brought on by coming out to their families. But funding for these students is desperately thin, and too many face the struggle of choosing between their education and homelessness.

UH has been a champion and ally for LGBTQ students for decades. The UH LGBTQ Alumni Association is determined to offer these students help through its crisis fund, so no Cougar ever has to choose between their future and necessities like shelter, food, and medication.

“Why don’t they simply apply for financial aid?” you ask. Federal financial aid is awarded to students who complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which is required to receive scholarship funding or access to student loans. FAFSA requires a student’s parents to provide IRS tax-return information and sign the application if the student is younger than 24 (which is two years after most students graduate). No IRS statements and no signatures means no financial aid.

“No one should lose the opportunity for an education because they come out,” states Kevin Hamby, founder of the Red Dinner and a UH alum. “The Red Dinner is the annual fundraising event held by the UH LGBTQ Alumni Association to benefit students who have been financially affected as a result of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

“The funds raised at the dinner help lessen the economic impact inflicted on LGBTQ students when families withdraw financial support. We help make sure they are not left living under a bridge,” he concluded.

Hamby and his husband, Brian Waddle, held the very first Red Dinner in their backyard in 2012. In a few short years, the fundraiser has grown into an exceedingly popular event, and it’s easy to see why. This year’s lineup of speakers is stunning.

Dazzling KPRC anchor Dominique Sachse will serve as master of ceremonies, and LGBTQ students will be sharing their inspirational experiences. Additionally, Houston-based trans model Jessica Zyrie will take the mike to share her experiences with challenging stereotypes and moving the fashion industry forward.

Houston municipal judge Phyllis Randolph Frye will be recognized with a Caldwell Humanitarian Award this year. Judge Frye is a true trailblazer who has worked to promote LGBTQ equal rights for many years. She is also the first fully out transgender judge in the nation.  

Katie Sowers will be speaking about breaking new cultural ground as the first (and only) female coach in the National Football League. She is an offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers.

And Carson Jones will share his experiences as the gay son of Alabama senator Doug Jones. Not only did Senator Jones save Americans from the horrors of candidate Roy Moore, but he is also supportive of same-sex marriage and LGBTQ equal rights. Jones says that it was his son Carson who helped him form his views.

Young Carson is a person to watch in the future. He is one of the leading experts on bull-elephant socialization in America, and he currently works with the Birmingham Zoo. He holds a master’s degree in the field, so he is obviously passionate about saving the world’s endangered elephant herds.

This formidable LGBTQ advocate also admits to an interest in community service and politics, so he’s honored to be helping future UH LGBTQ students. “I love Houston. It’s always fun, and it’s a joy to help support LGBTQ youth. I am grateful for the opportunity,” Carson states.

How did Carson Jones feel while shaking the hand of vice president Mike Pence when Jones’ father was sworn in as a senator in Washington?

“Aaaawk-ward!” Carson says, laughing. “I had planned to wear a special T-shirt when Pence swore Dad in. The shirt says ‘Sometimes Dudes Marry Dudes. Get Over It.’ But in the end, I decided it was Dad’s special day and I would behave.”

What: Red Dinner 4
When: May 18, 6:00 p.m.
Where: UH Athletics/Alumni Center, 3204 Cullen Blvd.
Info: reddinner.org

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Kim Hogstrom

Kim Hogstrom is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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