Queer Voices

March 27, 2024 Queer Voices

March 27, 2024 Queer Voices
March 27, 2024 Queer Voices
Queer Voices
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Queer Voices
March 27, 2024 Queer Voices
Mar 27, 2024
Queer Voices

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Join the celebration of resilience and jubilation as we spotlight Kevin Anderson, a lighthouse of advocacy in Houston's vibrant LGBTQ community and a nominee for Grand Marshal at the city's Pride 365 Pride Parade. Kevin bestows upon us the transformative power of storytelling, emphasizing how it fosters healing and fortitude, especially among queer people of color and those affected by HIV. Meanwhile, we trudge through the rodeo dust with Eric Hulsey, president of Out at the Rodeo, who's hitching a rainbow flag to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo—reminiscent of Disney's Gay Days, this initiative promises to expand the horizons of inclusion in spaces where the LGBTQ+ presence is still a frontier.

Our narrative tapestry weaves further with the compelling journey of Avery Belyeu, CEO of the Montrose Center, who unveils the rich spectrum of support services offered to Houston's LGBTQ populace. Avery takes us through a transformative trek from the Trevor Project to the Montrose Center, spotlighting the invaluable strides in mental health and community connection. As the episode progresses, Jacques Bourgeois, president of Buddies on the Bayou, orchestrates an overview of their philanthropic crescendo, turning celebratory events into vehicles of support for numerous LGBTQIA+ nonprofits, while teasing an exhilarating line-up for their not-to-be-missed annual festival.

Finally, we unfurl the banners of legal triumphs from across the globe, from the recognition of co-motherhood in Israel to the outlawing of conversion therapy in New South Wales, painting a vivid picture of progress amidst adversity. This tapestry of tales not only illustrates the relentless march towards equality but also serves as an invigorating call to join the dance of activism, community solidarity, and the persistent pursuit of joy within the LGBTQ+ family. We're not just sharing stories; we're charting the milestones of change and inviting you to be part of the movement.

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Join the celebration of resilience and jubilation as we spotlight Kevin Anderson, a lighthouse of advocacy in Houston's vibrant LGBTQ community and a nominee for Grand Marshal at the city's Pride 365 Pride Parade. Kevin bestows upon us the transformative power of storytelling, emphasizing how it fosters healing and fortitude, especially among queer people of color and those affected by HIV. Meanwhile, we trudge through the rodeo dust with Eric Hulsey, president of Out at the Rodeo, who's hitching a rainbow flag to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo—reminiscent of Disney's Gay Days, this initiative promises to expand the horizons of inclusion in spaces where the LGBTQ+ presence is still a frontier.

Our narrative tapestry weaves further with the compelling journey of Avery Belyeu, CEO of the Montrose Center, who unveils the rich spectrum of support services offered to Houston's LGBTQ populace. Avery takes us through a transformative trek from the Trevor Project to the Montrose Center, spotlighting the invaluable strides in mental health and community connection. As the episode progresses, Jacques Bourgeois, president of Buddies on the Bayou, orchestrates an overview of their philanthropic crescendo, turning celebratory events into vehicles of support for numerous LGBTQIA+ nonprofits, while teasing an exhilarating line-up for their not-to-be-missed annual festival.

Finally, we unfurl the banners of legal triumphs from across the globe, from the recognition of co-motherhood in Israel to the outlawing of conversion therapy in New South Wales, painting a vivid picture of progress amidst adversity. This tapestry of tales not only illustrates the relentless march towards equality but also serves as an invigorating call to join the dance of activism, community solidarity, and the persistent pursuit of joy within the LGBTQ+ family. We're not just sharing stories; we're charting the milestones of change and inviting you to be part of the movement.

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Speaker 1:

Hello everybody, this is Queer Voices, a home-produced podcast that has grown out of a radio show that's been on the air in Houston, texas, for several decades. This week, brian Levinka talks with Kevin Anderson, who is one of the nominees for Grand Marshals for this year's Houston's Pride 365 Pride Parade.

Speaker 2:

When I think about community. I've been around for a while. My work has really heavily been in public health, professionally and driven within community. I am an artist and so as an artist I've been able to really find a way of creating spaces for storytelling and spaces for healing for our community.

Speaker 1:

Davis Mendoza-Druzman talks with Eric Hulsey about having a gay day at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Speaker 3:

We kind of see it as very similar to gay days at Disney. It's really important for you to build that community within the space, take up space and show that there actually is a need and want for something to exist. We're working from the outside, working from, you know, outside, working within the rodeo.

Speaker 1:

Brian has an interview with Avery Bellew, the CEO of Montrose Center, and Brian has a conversation with Jacques Bourgeois about Bunnies on the Bayou, which is coming this Easter Sunday. Jacques says they have a bit more space to spread out this year.

Speaker 4:

We are situated at Sesquicentennial Park and the Bayou Promenade, below Wortham Plaza and Fish Plaza. We will be expanding out into the street along Preston Avenue this year so it's not so crowded this year and give people a little bit more space to move around.

Speaker 1:

Queer Voices starts now.

Speaker 5:

This is Brian Levinka, and today I'm interviewing Kevin Anderson, the Grand Marshal-nominated male identifying Grand Marshal nominee for Houston Pride 365. Welcome to the show, Kevin. Thank you, Brian.

Speaker 2:

Good to be with you.

Speaker 5:

So, Kevin, who are you and what have you done in the community?

Speaker 2:

I am Kevin Anderson, and when I think about community I've been around for a while. My work has really heavily been in public health, professionally and driven within community. Public health, professionally and driven within community. I am an artist and so as an artist I've been able to really find a way of creating spaces for storytelling and spaces for healing for our community. Through that, I've been able over the years to start a nonprofit organization, the Truth Project, which really really focuses on utilizing art as a means for healing experiences and really looking at our wellness, our sexual health status, our mental health status and our wellness overall. And so we have a lot of programming that's tailored to community for healing, and I always say if you come with an open heart and ready for an experience, we're here for you. And so I've been able to drive a lot of that space and that's really how a lot of my activism is represented is through my art. So I call it artivism.

Speaker 5:

Kevin, what does being nominated for Grand Marshal mean to you?

Speaker 2:

You know it means a lot. You know I've watched the process over the years with other individuals and for me because this came from my community and you know they wanted to see me in this position like I really, really, really embraced it and you know it's an honor. It's an honor I mean, we're talking about the city of Houston, right? And you know just the opportunity to represent and really be able to speak on areas that I continue to advocate for, which is our mental, emotional and sexual health and the importance of that. So I think the platform within itself is beautiful. And then, you know, utilize the opportunity to really be able to reach folk that I, that I possibly haven't had access to.

Speaker 5:

What has been your past experiences with Pride?

Speaker 2:

Oh, I've worked with Pride in the past. Actually, right before the pandemic, we actually had a collaboration where we had a brunch downtown that was a blend of brunch and art and it was. It was a beautiful experience. And then the pandemic hit, of course. And then actually, if I was to go back a few years ago, when Pride Houston moved downtown, that first year we were actually offered a hour-long opportunity on their diversity stage and so we presented a spoken word and singing and dance experience, and that was also happened to be the same year that marriage equality passed. So it's just a beautiful opportunity to be with community. So I've worked along with Pride in some capacity over the years.

Speaker 5:

How is pride relevant or is it relevant?

Speaker 2:

To me it's relevant. I mean, when you think about the history of pride, when we go back to Stonewall and we think about why it started and where we are now in respects to thinking about our joy and our liberation. Creating spaces to focus in those areas is just so important because we don't often have that in some settings. I mean when we think about family structure, we think about our environments that we are reared in, let it be church or whatever your lane is. The reality is you may not always be in a supported space. So being intentional and having spaces that are filled with pride and a space where everyone can be loved on and celebrated, it's important. I mean, it has probably, more than likely, saved many people.

Speaker 5:

How do you relate to this year's theme? You Won't Break Our Pride.

Speaker 2:

I love the theme one because, well, you know, I'm a Beyonce fan, so it kind of aligns with one of her songs that was really popular. But beyond that, you know, just I work with most marginalized when we think about queer communities of color, and you know I work heavily with individuals that are living with HIV and you know, in a heavily with individuals that are living with HIV and you know, in a lot of my one-on-ones with community and time that that's spent. The reality is, you know, we do come across a lot of broken situations and times where we really, you know, do well with being lifted, and so that theme alone, you Won't Break my Pride. I feel like it's a declaration, it's something that can be shouted and screamed and it's a bit of an affirmation for a person personally. So I think it has a lot of strength. It has a lot of strength in it and it's beautiful. I love it.

Speaker 5:

What would you say is your number one accomplishment in the queer community?

Speaker 2:

I would say to date I've done quite a bit awards and all that. I'm appreciative for all of that, everything that I've received, but for me it's the you know, this past Thursday Truth Project. We have a support space for men and non-binary of color that are living with HIV and within that space there was conversation just this week about the appreciation for being in a space where I can grow and develop and understand that I'm not alone. So for me it's those one-on-one moments or those group settings and spaces that are really relevant, because for me it looks at my journey in its totality, but it's often through the storytelling that happens one-on-one when I'm talking to community and friends.

Speaker 5:

We're speaking with Kevin Anderson, a nominee for male identifying grand marshal for Houston Pride 365. Kevin, is there anything that I didn't ask you, that you want our listeners to know?

Speaker 2:

If you're listening and you haven't voted yet, I would love your support. Kevin Anderson, and I love for you to. You know, look at, look at opportunities for yourself. I've mentioned the organization a few times. It's a truth project, HTX, everything, and you know, just know that we're here for you. Ultimately, my life is to be of service and it has felt really good being in that position. So just hoping to garner more votes and see what happens in a month.

Speaker 5:

Well, Kevin, thank you for coming on.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much, Brian.

Speaker 6:

This radio program we Are Voices has existed since the 1970s. On KPFT we have this little crew of folks working every week to produce what's no longer unique because we're almost mainstream now, but we're still an important voice that might not otherwise get heard because it's not on that many places. So KPFT is very important to give voices to those who might not otherwise have voices. So, as Glenn always says, you participate by listening. You should also participate by supporting the station. So please go to kpftorg and make your donation right away.

Speaker 7:

Thank you for listening to Queer Voices on KPFT or wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Davis Mendoza-Duruzman he him pronouns speaking with Eric Hulsey, president of Out at the Rodeo, a grassroots effort to organize an LGBTQ plus day at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Eric is also the founder of the nonprofit Houston Gamers, with over 3.5 thousand members, in addition to being get this, the co-designer of the Houston Dynamos mascot, dynamo Diesel. Talk about dynamic. Thank you, eric, for joining us. Of course, thank you for having me Tell me a bit about the history of Out at the Rodeo, from its conception to going on pause to now coming back in 2024. In 2016,.

Speaker 3:

A co-worker and dear friend of mine, doug Mason, and I were working together and we were talking about how there needs to be more queer inclusivity events throughout the year. We have a lot of focused events that, you know, kind of happen all in June. We have a couple that happen in the spring and a couple in the fall, but not really like enough, right, everything's more concentrated towards the summer. And when he was talking about coming from California obviously there's a lot more events, a lot more inclusivity at all of the different things that happen in California he was saying that he wishes that kind of event would happen here. So, between us, talking about what Houston has to offer, how do you celebrate the diversity that is Houston while also remaining Houston and in kind of being able to incorporate the LGBT into it? We were talking about the rodeo, and he had talked about how he had never been, so this turned into the perfect example of something that needed more queer representation at it, especially with the other nights being highlighting other communities. We thought, why not? Shouldn't there be one for the LGBT plus community that first year in 2016,? We just put it on the calendar and marketed it as if it's always existed. We had a great turnout. We had some support from the community and local businesses. And then in 2017, we got even bigger, had even more support, had sponsors that year and as, of course, as it started to grow, it became a little more pricey, as we wanted to do advertising, you know, merchandise and all that, so we started putting our own money into it. So it started becoming just a little bit bigger than I guess we were expecting for two people running, you know, an event like at this magnitude.

Speaker 3:

Towards the end of 2017, harvey hit. The efforts that we were doing to get sponsorship dollars looking for 2020-18 all of a sudden came to a complete halt as a lot of the sponsors were looking to sponsor more rebuilding Houston efforts, which is totally understandable considering how bad Harvey kind of hit some of the communities in Houston. We understood that that was going to take a pause for our fundraising and so, looking at 2018, we were like, well, we don't want to dip back into our funds for this next year, so we would much rather just go ahead and take this next year off. We'll come back in 2019. Or 2018 came around, we started doing fundraising and, sure enough, looking at 2019, the roadblock then was the Super Bowl was coming in 2019. And all sponsors and everybody was focusing efforts on advertising for the Super Bowl, and so there was a huge movement to make sure that the city was prepared for it events-wise and sponsorship dollars in that regard.

Speaker 3:

At that time, there was just a shift for me and Doug in our personal lives that we were just not going to be able to take this on in 2019. Then 2020 happened. We have 2021. We start getting into COVID.

Speaker 3:

We really just needed that break, but the break just turned way too long and one of the things I regretted was the fact that we hadn't brought it back, and every year during rodeo season, the page on Facebook would get messages from people saying is it happening this year? Are you guys bringing out the rodeo back? We'd really love to go again. There was definitely a want and need for it and me, looking at my Facebook account, was just like, oh, I need to make this happen.

Speaker 3:

And this last summer I kind of just made the decision, like during Pride Month, I was just like I have to bring this back, and even if I bring it back in a much smaller capacity than what we did in 2016, 2017, I'm going to bring it back. I'm just going to put it on the calendar and speak this into existence, and in doing so, I had people from the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber reach out to me. I had Anthony Farrell, who's helping me this year as well. He's on the committee with me. We've just seen a lot more people come out of the woodwork that see the importance of having queer representation at the rodeo and have wanted to help pitch in and volunteer for this 2020-24 year.

Speaker 7:

By the time this interview airs, the unofficial LGBTQ plus day at the Houston rodeo organized by Out at the Rodeo on Saturday. March 9th will have already passed, but tell me about what that event will look like.

Speaker 3:

A way to, I guess, save us money, as we don't really have huge sponsorship dollars. This first year. Back on our feet. What we'll be doing is taking over some portion of the Champion Wine Garden and offering a local spot within the rodeo for people to come and either get temporary tattoos with us, get stickers we're going to have commemorative pins that people can purchase if they'd like. We're going to be selling out-at-the-rodeo shirts and stuff so that we can raise funds for next year, and handing out bandanas rainbow bandanas to everybody that comes and stops by to get photos or anything else, do interviews with us. But it's having a centralized location for anybody that's coming to the rodeo that maybe wants to connect with us, and we'll just be there from 1 to 8 pm greeting and giving any information that people want, but really encouraging people to dress in either Out at the Rodeo merch or in rainbow gear or just wearing their most fabulous cowboy outfit to the rodeo and just having a great time the whole time.

Speaker 7:

Out at the Rodeo is a grassroots effort to organize an official LGBTQ plus day at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. To organize an official LGBTQ Plus Day at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. So could you just walk us through the process of what it looks like to actually make that happen and what steps have you all already taken to make it happen?

Speaker 3:

As of right now, we kind of see it as very similar to Gay Days at Disney.

Speaker 3:

It's really important for you to build that community within the space, take up space and show that there actually is a need and want for something to exist.

Speaker 3:

We're working from the outside working from, you know, outside working within the rodeo to show that we can coordinate and organize an event and have some buying power into the rodeo. We have people that are interested, maybe a resource that the rodeo has never tapped. You know, a younger demographic that maybe hasn't felt welcome at the rodeo, or a queer demographic that's never felt like the rodeo matches or has any kind of interest in having them participate in the rodeo. At the same time, you've got committee members that are members of the LGBT family, that are also from the inside, trying to coordinate a pride committee through the organization of the rodeo. So I think between both of those efforts you know, at some point we're going to meet in the middle and have an official day, but it's important for us both to do our parts to show that our community is strong and that we're willing to put the work in to have this kind of day exist.

Speaker 7:

You're listening to Queer Voices on KPFT or wherever you get your podcasts. I'm Davis Mendoza-Druzman speaking with Eric Hulsey, president of Out at the Rodeo, a grassroots effort to organize an LGBTQ plus day at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo. Now the number one bit of advice I hear for anyone with media attention and discussion on social media like you've gotten is to never read the comments. So I won't break that rule now, but we both know the comments about the efforts to bring a day at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo aren't universally beloved. So what would you say to those who feel like we don't need to have our own day at the rodeo?

Speaker 3:

To me, houston is one of the most diverse cities I've ever been to. I travel fairly often and I will go to some of the other cities that we have across the United States or other countries and I just I love the diversity that our city has and while there are, there can be negative voices saying, oh, we don't want this, or whatever. I just have to realize that, like you know, that's maybe 2% of our city and that our city has so much to offer and is so much more valuable to the world as being one of the most diverse cities. I mean, we're the fourth largest city in the United States and we are very diverse and very celebrated for it.

Speaker 3:

So having a day at the rodeo like this or having any visibility is important, and it's always best to look past, you know, the negative voices that are going to maybe put in your ear and kind of tell you that this isn't needed or isn't wanted, because for every one of those voices we're going to have people approach us at the rodeo and tell us thank you for doing this.

Speaker 3:

I've always wanted to come and this is my first time and I'm bringing my family, or I'm bringing my girlfriend or bringing my boyfriend and I just feel so welcome and this is what I've always wanted when we did this in 2016 and 2017, it wasn't just queer people coming up and thanking us for existing there. We would have, you know, kind of older women and decked out bedazzled hats, just coming up and just being like I'm so happy you guys are putting this on and this is so amazing. And you know, it was just like we didn't have a feeling of negativity when we were there in 2016 or 17. You know, people can say whatever they want on the internet because they feel like they're they're shielded from it, but we had nothing. But we had nothing but success and we felt welcomed at the rodeo when we went in 2016 and 2017.

Speaker 7:

What do you hope to see in the future for the LGBTQ plus community at the rodeo, and what does ideal representation look like to you, to me?

Speaker 3:

ideal representation would be more control over some space that maybe is actually given and carved out for us, as opposed to us having to carve out space for ourselves. If you were to ask me what my ideal idea would be, it would be that maybe we have something at the actual Chili Cook-Off, Maybe we have a cook-off tent where we have queer representation and performers playing. We have a team cooking that is from the local community. It's a celebration of the queer attendees and committee members that are going to be working the rest of the rodeo season. To me, that's what I would love for out at the rodeo. If we have an actual LGBT day at the rodeo, then I think obviously we'd be working with the rodeo committees and you know the upper management on what that would be. But as far as what's possibly doable in the future for Out at the Rodeo, I would say something like that and how can people get involved once the rodeo is over?

Speaker 3:

As of right now, we're looking to form a little bit more of a cohesive group for it. So I would say that within the coming months after the rodeo, we're going to be posting more information on how to become a part of the Out at the Rodeo committee if they would like to help with planning or fundraising or just any of the help that we need throughout the year to keep it going.

Speaker 7:

You're listening to Queer Voices with Eric Hulsey, president of Out at the Rodeo, a grassroots effort to organize an LGBTQ plus day at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo. Eric, thank you so much for joining us and we hope you have a wonderful day out at the rodeo. Thank you so much.

Speaker 1:

Still to come. On Queer Voices, Brian has an interview with Avery Bellew, the CEO of Montrose Center, and Brian has a conversation with Jacques Bourgeois about Bunnies on the Bio which is coming up this Sunday.

Speaker 5:

This is Brian Levinka, and today I have the honor of interviewing Avery Bellew, the CEO of the Montrose Center. Welcome to Queer Voices, Avery.

Speaker 8:

Thanks so much. Thanks for having me on.

Speaker 5:

Avery, who are you and how did you end up as the CEO of Montrose Center?

Speaker 8:

Happy to talk about kind of who I am. As to how I ended up to be the CEO of the Mantra Center, so I have been working in the nonprofit sector for most of my career. So about 14 to 15 years I started out thinking I was going to be in higher education and studying student affairs in higher education at a university in North Carolina and then I was hired to be the first ever LGBTQ staff person on the campus and it was in the Student Health Center. So they found some funds from Student Health to have it be an LGBT health position and so that got me into the world of public health and thinking about our population through a health lens. And that just happened to be the year before Tyler Clemente jumped off the George Washington Bridge and when that happened that did a lot of things nationally around LGBTQ mental health and LGBTQ health broadly. All of a sudden folks started realizing that bullying was an issue right and we went through a period of a lot of concentrated attention on bullying but then also suicide prevention. And so the Trevor Project, which had been a relatively small organization, started to grow very quickly because a lot of people realized how essential they were. I was one of their hires. During that intense growth period I came on. By the time I left I'd had three different titles as I grew with the organization and was in senior management at the organization helping it grow. And now it's of course a very large organization and that really was the start of my career in the nonprofit sector and this kind of intersection of mental health and public health. And so my career has kind of volleyed back and forth between those worlds of LGBTQ, nonprofit and then the public health and mental health worlds. I've worked for two federally funded agencies doing specifically suicide prevention work where I of course got to bring the LGBTQ perspective. But I was doing all sorts of work around suicide prevention that wasn't just LGBTQ specific, with SAMHSA and then with other federal agencies.

Speaker 8:

I worked for Lambda Legal for four years and I was the regional director for their South Central Regional Office. They have a regional office model, so not too different than the ACLU, and the regional directors are the folks that kind of wear all the hats, are kind of mini CEOs. I was told when I took that job by the CEO the interim CEO at the time he's like this is kind of a CEO prep role, it's a job to teach you how to be a CEO in a way, and in fact most of us who had had those roles, our next step has been to be a CEO. So it was the perfect job for that reason, and really just amazing to get to work at Lambda, which all of us owe Lambda Legal so much for the advances in our civil rights, so grateful for them, for all that they have done for us.

Speaker 8:

And then I took a year and worked in the private sector. I'd never worked in the private sector. So the last year I worked in the private sector for a for-profit consulting firm but I was doing the same type work. I was working in suicide prevention, primarily with the state of California, in crisis intervention work and then working with nonprofits. I was consulting with nonprofits. I actually helped an LGBT center in California go through the process of hiring their new CEO.

Speaker 8:

So got to kind of merge all of my things together and all of that is what brought me to the Montrose Center. The Montrose Center it is just a really perfect place for me to be, because it's the combination really of all the things I have done and gotten to hone my expertise in across the last many years of my career Because it is a place that is obviously an LGBT center. So it plays an important role for our community as a center. But of course, it started as the Montrose Counseling Center and that is still a large part of what we do. We have 20 mental health therapists, in addition to all the folks who are doing ongoing therapy. We have this host of folks who are out in the community as outreach workers seeking to promote public health in a variety of different areas. In so many ways, it's a place that's the merging of so many things I've gotten to do across my career all in one place, which obviously has me really excited and really grateful to be here.

Speaker 5:

You come to us from the city in the north of Dallas and I was wondering how the reception has been here in Houston.

Speaker 8:

I identify as being from DFW broadly, because when I moved to DFW I moved to Fort Worth for a graduate program and then I've always lived a little bit closer to Fort Worth than Dallas. So I will say I'm a little bit more of a Fort Worth girl than a Dallas girl. Houston is amazing. I got to do some work here when I worked for Land Illegal and I always was a big fan. I was like gosh.

Speaker 8:

This place just feels great and since coming here, the thing that I'm most struck by is how warm the community is. Our LGBTQ community specifically has just thrown their arms open wide. Everyone has been so warm and welcoming, offered to help me by giving me context and history about both the Montrose Center and just the LGBTQ community in Houston broadly. So I really couldn't be more pleased with the reception that I've received. Brian, one of the things I've noted which really has made me smile one of the questions I ask a lot of folks when I meet them is are you from Houston and, if not, when did you move here? How long have you lived here? And one thing I've learned a lot. I have met so many people who maybe grew up here. They leave and then they always seem to come back. I am already really, really loving living here.

Speaker 5:

We're speaking with the new CEO of the Mantra Center, Avery Bell. You.

Speaker 8:

One of my mentors likes to say without a vision, the people fail, or something to that effect. Really, vision is essential. The Mantra Center has done so much amazing work across its history and has recreated itself, I think, many different times, different buildings to focus on different services, always with counseling being one of the through lines. You know, there was a time we didn't really have a community center function. Now we have that amazing first floor. My vision really is in across, especially this first year, is to interface with the community to try to make sure I understand what the community feels the Montrose Center needs to be, who they feel like we need to become, where they feel like we're succeeding and we're doing well and where they feel like we may need to improve. And I hope that from all that listening, I'll be able to collaborate with my staff, who have a lot of great ideas to figure out who we become next.

Speaker 8:

I know that the organization and one of the things the board and myself talked about a lot in my interview process is that the organization is really ready for a formal strategic planning process, and so we will be kicking that off at some point. And what I love about strategic planning is when you do it right, it engages a lot of stakeholders and so I hope in our process we'll engage not just folks within our walls but also the community at large to come in and tell us in a focused way where they feel like we need to improve, where they feel like we're doing well and there's already a few places I have a sense I already know One is that we do so much but when I talk with a lot of folks, a lot of Houstonians, about what we offer, a very common response I get is I had no idea. So that tells me that we have some room to improve in telling our community what all there is at the Montrose Center, what all is available to them, because I think a lot of our community just aren't aware. So that's one area I can already tell you that I want to improve is our sharing with the community what's available so that they can come to us more as a resource, because we really are top-notch professionals that are ready to help and be of assistance and be of care.

Speaker 8:

But a lot of folks may not know that. So that's one area I can tell you we already can improve. The second is that I already know is that some parts of our community, from what I hear, haven't always felt like the Montrose Center was the trusted place or a go-to place for them, and I speak specifically of the black and brown community and particularly trans folks, who are people of color, and I've heard that a lot directly from folks, and so I know there's a lot of work to do for us to really double down in our commitment to racial justice and equity and also to our focus on making sure that our trans folks, who really are under so much stress right now because of the political climate, have the resources they need and that they see us as a go to safe place in the city of Houston.

Speaker 5:

You know, my friends in Dallas have said that you were you're very well received and very well respected in Dallas, and they said that you're the perfect person for this job.

Speaker 8:

That's lovely to hear. That makes me smile. I will say I do miss my Dallas folks. It's a wonderful crew of folks up there who are really so dedicated to their LGBT community. The things they build together, make together, just are extraordinary and it was a lot of fun working as part of that community. So that makes me smile. I'm glad that's what you hear.

Speaker 5:

Have you had any interaction with the previous CEO?

Speaker 8:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, anne, I will say, has really created such a legacy at the Montrose Center right, I mean being there for 35 years. That is quite the tenure. You know in so many ways, who the Montrose Center is today was really shaped by her vision and how she worked and constructed and collaborated to create that space. She's been very kind during these first few weeks for me to be someone who I can lean on as we go through some transitional work. Obviously, her having been there so long, there's some things to make sure that we transition well and effectively, and so her and I are collaborating to do that, which is really helpful. And she's offered to be someone who gives me context or history. Again, I think that's so important. She's offered to do that, which is very kind.

Speaker 5:

I love Anne and the work that she did, but I'm so glad that we have a member of our community now leading the Montrose Center.

Speaker 8:

I am keenly aware that my hire is a symbol in some ways of some things and obviously I was chosen because I'm very well qualified for this job. But I will offer that. You know, I also am very keenly aware of it. It is meaningful that I am the first transgender person, openly transgender person to lead a large LGBT center in this country and in fact, you know, none of our mainline organizations that don't just serve trans people have ever had a trans CEO. So we have some trans CEOs, but they're always of trans-only orgs.

Speaker 8:

This is a kind of a glass ceiling moment in a lot of ways and I'll tell you, brian, the recent fundraiser that you and I were at together, one of the most meaningful moments for me was having trans women, my trans sisters, come up to me and tell me how meaningful it was to them personally that I sit in this seat, that it matters to them and that they're here to support me. Brought tears to my eyes a couple times. Also, meeting the mother of a trans kid who said that it was meaningful to her right as a parent of a trans youth. So I really am grateful in that sense for what it means for the community and, hopefully, how that experience can shape where we go together next. And you know the other thing, brian, I'll share with you because I think it's important for listeners to know, and I said this in an article recently too.

Speaker 8:

You know, I'm kind of an interesting person in that. You know, all trans people are different. But I came out as gay first. My first about 10 years of coming out was as a gay boy and you know, I gated up in New York City, I lived in New York, in Boston, you know, summers, in P-Town right, south Beach.

Speaker 8:

I'm really grateful that I lived my 20s as a gay man before I transitioned at 30. And so I really identify as being a part of a community and I'm a trans woman. I sometimes will say, if I'm going to use a full phrase for myself, I'm a trans woman of gay male experience. I hope in some ways that I can be a bridge, because I think some of our folks in our gay community they don't really understand trans folks or maybe a little confused, bias, right, and so I do hope that the fact that I have held both identities means that I can be someone that folks trust to ask questions of, to kind of help figure it out with and that I can be someone that is a bridge between the various parts of our community.

Speaker 5:

We're speaking with Avery Bellew, the new CEO of the Mantra Center. Avery, is there anything you want our listeners to know before we go?

Speaker 8:

No, I guess two things. First of all, the Mantra Center is such a superb resource for our community. As I said earlier in this interview, we do so much. So if you don't really know what we offer, go to our website and check it out, because, from counseling services to the center itself, which provides a space for community organizations, to our work we do with youth, to our work we do with seniors, to our work we do with seniors, to a variety of other programs to promote health and well-being, to help folks who are victims of intimate partner violence, we're just there to care for our community, to celebrate with our community, to gather our community together. So if you haven't come to the Montrose Center before, I hope that you'll get to come. There will be a few different opportunities coming up that we'll be announcing. We'll be doing some open houses, we'll be throwing the doors open wide and inviting everybody to come and chat with me, and so I hope the community will take us up on that opportunity and come in and learn what we're all about.

Speaker 5:

And that website is what.

Speaker 8:

So it's.

Speaker 5:

MontroseCenterorg. Avery. Thank you for coming on. Queer Voices.

Speaker 8:

Thank you so much, Brian. Thanks for having me on the night is long and the path is dark.

Speaker 4:

Look to the sky for what is there?

Speaker 1:

The dawn will come. This is Queer Voices.

Speaker 5:

This is Brian Levinka, and today I'm talking to the president of Buddies on the Bayou, Jacques Bourgeois. Welcome, Jacques. Howdy. For people that are living under a rock that may not know what the Buddies on the Bayou is, can you tell us what that is?

Speaker 4:

We are a 501c3 nonprofit. We have been around for this is going to be our 45th year. We started basically in 1978, uh, as the bfp um, I don't know if I can curse online or whatever, but the bunny fluff party. Let's just say that our origins are started literally as an orgy or whatever, but we grew into like this very philanthropic nonprofit that we are today In the past two years. Last year, we gave away $200,000 to 20 different LGBTQIA nonprofits and the year before that we gave away $210,000 to 15 different LGBTQIA nonprofits, and we're hoping that we can actually surpass that for our 12 beneficiaries that we have scheduled for this year and be able to make an even more impactful donation.

Speaker 5:

What changes will we be seeing in 2024? I hear there's some changes.

Speaker 4:

Oh, there's a bunch of big changes for 2024 and beyond. One of the biggest changes that we do have is to our layout. We have expanded our space just by a little bit, so the festival will have a little bit more space. We are situated at Sesquicentennial Park and the Bayou Promenade, below Wortham Plaza and Fish Plaza. We will be expanding out into the street along Preston Avenue this year too, so it's not so crowded this year and give people a little bit more space to move around. You know, it just gives us a little bit more space and for our organization, in our event, to expand to include more people.

Speaker 4:

That's one of the big expansions that we have for that. But, like, organizationally, we are expanding the services that we actually provide. Um, the bunnies on the bayou, we've always been a grantor organization and with the advent of like sb12 and 17 and dei being like taken out of all of higher ed and k-12 institutions, we are in the process of being more service-based, of a nonprofit and really putting in our roots in a different way with the community, which we've never done before. So, instead of just being known as the party, we're really sticking to our philanthropic side as well and really getting our hands dirty.

Speaker 5:

How many people show up for this every year? Do you want the real number, or do you want the number that we tell the city?

Speaker 4:

dirty. How many people show up for this every year? Do you want the real number or do you want the number that we tell the city? Let's do both. We usually tell the city about 2,600. It's a lot, but usually we're anticipating about 5,500 people for this festival. This year we had 4,500 or 4,600 last year, for sure.

Speaker 5:

We won't tell the city.

Speaker 4:

Please don't.

Speaker 5:

So how did you get involved with Bunnies?

Speaker 4:

I got involved with Bunnies on the Bayou Jack Berger and both Cynthia Walton both recruited me. Actually, they'll fight tooth and nail and be like I recruited him. I recruited him Back in 2014,. Actually, I was asked in 2013 about joining Bunnies on the Body from Cynthia, but I was heavily involved with my non-profit Houston Gamers at the time and I was like, I don't have the bandwidth. I was really inspired by how Bunnies functioned because I molded gamers based off of, like how Bunnies on the Body was formulated and then in 2014, that was Bunnies 36 that was my was formulated, and then in 2014, that was Bunnies 36. That was my first year they got me on board and I've been enthusiastic about it ever since.

Speaker 5:

For people that have never been to Bunnies, can you explain what kind of goes on there and what is it? What's the experience like?

Speaker 4:

Bunnies on the Bayou is a giant outdoor cocktail festival. Every good fundraiser is a good cocktail festival. It's an outdoor event. We have DJs who come out and play our set. This year we have Marty Frazon I can never say his name. We have DJ Marty Frazon and our headlining DJ is Tracy Young, grammy Award-winning artist, and I'm not going to start a rumor and be like she's best friends with Madonna, but she's best friends with Madonna and guess who's in town that weekend. That's funny, like y'all see the queen of vogue show up. And then, of course, we have our msc for the event, which is the blackberry um, which I'm very excited to have her back again this year.

Speaker 4:

It's an outdoor cocktail festival. It's 21 and up. You pay your general admission fee or VIP or garden level, whichever you prefer. You pay your fee to get in and it's basically an open bar. We do give you drink tickets. We are. Everybody at the event is TABC certified, so if you're getting a little we will cut you off, and if you're somebody like me that doesn't drink, we working with silver eagle, our presenting sponsor, to offer non-alcoholic options for people, and not just, you know, coke and sprite or whatever, but you know mocktails and such, because people still want to be a part of like the situation and mocktails have come a long way from old duels back in the day. So it's a great experience.

Speaker 4:

It's a great way to get out and meet community. It's a great way if you don't want to pay to get in or whatever. If you volunteer you get in for free. That's a good thing to know. We have about 400 volunteers day of which is amazing and wild and quite the juggle. I don't envy anybody who manages the volunteer side in my group. That's a lot of people to manage. It's a great event. It's great to see community, it's great to get involved and it's just a good Sunday fun day event. It's from 1 pm to 6 pm and it's an experience. It's one of the greatest experiences and so unique to Houston.

Speaker 5:

You know there are people that I only see at Bunnies throughout the year. That's the only time I see them throughout the year. I mean it is an amazing party doing wonderful things for the community, raising money, desperately needed money for organizations. Can you give us some highlights of the beneficiaries? You don't have to list them all, but just kind of like the highlights.

Speaker 4:

Some of the highlighted beneficiaries and I'm going to go based off of, you know, some of my I'm going to do some of my past and present favorites. If they're already named, I can name them. One of my past favorite beneficiaries would be like Allies in Hope, the other would be Truth Project has been a great, great, great beneficiary of ours ours.

Speaker 5:

I love everything that they do for community, I know dalton is dalton.

Speaker 4:

Thank you, geez. I can never forget dalton. Yeah, that dalton does for the history of our community as a whole, or whatever. That man is the treasure, not a treasure. The treasure absolutely. Boncho's grace place, and I think we have a new one this year Normal Anomaly Initiative.

Speaker 4:

I'm really excited about our beneficiaries. We are very intentional with who we choose when we choose our beneficiaries. The way Bunnies is set up internally, we treat ourselves more so as like an equity partnership where everybody has a voice. Everybody's voice is equal.

Speaker 4:

I may be the president, but but I mean my job is just different.

Speaker 4:

I'm here to be vision or whatever, but like I get outvoted all the time for things that I would like to do, when it comes down to our beneficiaries, everybody has a say, everybody has input.

Speaker 4:

The unique thing about bunnies on the bayou and it's always been so very unique is everyone from the start to like current your Jack Burgers, your Dave Goldbergs and stuff like that People who've always been leadership of this community. They are our emeritus members, they always have a say or they always give us great insight about, like our beneficiaries who are coming up. Every decision that we make is so hyper informed that I think that's just so unique because we have the ability to move in a way where we're like this is really where the need is in community, because we'll always have people who will ask us for funding, but we're able to kind of stop and go like this is really where this is needed right now, and make that discernment and be able to have those really in-depth conversations. And part of what we're doing, as we continue to grow as an organization, is being able to take all that stuff that we've been doing internally or whatever, and start to move a little bit on our own and do that ourselves.

Speaker 5:

Of course, when we're talking about Dalton, we need Dalton to heart and he is the community photographer. Talk a little bit about the beneficiary selection process. You touched on that, but maybe go into a little bit more detail. What are some of your criteria and what are some of your focuses for beneficiaries?

Speaker 4:

Our criteria for a beneficiary would be you need to be an LGBTQA non-profit 501c3, not a c4. We will look at you funny. You need to be a 501c3 non nonprofit. We do an RFQ process for all of our beneficiaries where we are looking for three specific pillars, whether it be like does it affect the arts, does it affect housing and community development? Does it affect healthcare? Those are really three main criteria. That were three main pillars that we do look for with the beneficiary selection. Does it fall underneath those categories?

Speaker 4:

Are you a 501c3? Have you been around for a significant amount of time? We really go into depth about their financials, making sure and double-checking their references and all that jazz. And then we as an organization we'll get about maybe 40 applications. We are set with the task to filter through all of these applications and we all 40 of us will sit down into in a room and mantra center and just really go through every single application, line by line and detail by detail, and just hash it out about like, is this worthy or whatever? And even if they are still worthy or whatever, it's just like that's where the differentiation comes down of where it really is the need or whatever. Um, where can we make the biggest impact on for this community? Is that a need? Is it being taken care of here and there? Did we already fund this um, or is this a new program that's necessary on our behalf? That's kind of like our beneficiary selection process, in a nutshell. Do you have any questions on that or clarification?

Speaker 5:

No, I mean I think I understand the process and I'm trying to get our listeners to understand the process too. I know it's a very involved process and you look at a lot of different things. So I appreciate that and kind of giving everybody the benefit of the doubt.

Speaker 4:

One of the great and unique things that we do and I credit Ana Sanchez on this, so so much. She's been one of our beneficiary co-chairs for a long time and even before I took on presidency I was co-chair with her on beneficiary committee. One of the things that we do I think it's so unique because with a grantor organization is we give active feedback to our beneficiary or to our applicants whenever they apply. So if we're missing documentation, we'll give you like feedback and be like hey, we still need A, b, c and D or we need this or we need clarification on this. Because we want to make sure everybody who does apply for a beneficiary slot with Bunnies on the Bayou, that they're making the most informed decision, because not everybody is a grant writer.

Speaker 4:

I'm, fortunate enough, where my background, with my marketing stuff, is mostly grant writing. That's what I do, 95 every day. So we give active feedback to make sure that they're putting together the best application possible, because even if we do not fund them, that they have the best application to take elsewhere and they're already informed and they understand like you should probably do A, b, c, d or whatever and really give them really good feedback to coach and guide them along with their applications or any application moving forward, because that's scary. Applying for money is always scary, regardless of what organization you're a part of.

Speaker 5:

We're speaking with Jacques Bourgeois, the president of Bunnies on the Bayou, and, jacques, is there anything that you want our listeners to know before we go, and where can people find out more information about Bunnies on the Bayou?

Speaker 4:

You can find out all the information you need to know with bunnysonthebayouorg. You can find us on Facebook with our page, or you can find us on Instagram or TikTok. We have a TikTok now. We're Gen Z, I guess. Get your tickets early. We still have early bird prices. You can find out more about Bunnies on the Bayou. You can find out more about us at bunnysonthebayouorg. You can purchase your tickets at bunnysonthebayouorg or you can find us on Facebook, tiktok or Instagram.

Speaker 5:

Well, Jock, I appreciate you coming on.

Speaker 4:

You're more than welcome. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 9:

This is Core Voices. I'm Elena Botkin-Levy.

Speaker 10:

And I'm Daniel Wissias.

Speaker 9:

With News Wrap, a summary of some of the news in or affecting LGBTQ communities around the world for the week ending March 23rd 2024. Israeli lesbian couples can now be listed as co-mothers on the birth certificates of their children by anonymous sperm donors. A three-judge panel of the High Court of Justice unanimously overruled the Population and Immigration Authority on March 21. Acting Supreme Court President Uzi Fogelman, with Judges Ruth Ronan and Alex Stein, rejected the Population Authority's claim that birth certificates should reflect only biological parentage. The judges declared that both the biological and non-biological mothers should enjoy equal parental rights and obligations and that the non-biological partner's legal status as a parent is established through adoption. Fogelman wrote for the court that drawing a distinction between biological and non-biological mothers sends a harmful message that, while biological parentage is real parentage, non-biological parentage is inferior and suspicious parenting, a sort of conditional parentage.

Speaker 9:

Daniela Yacobi, Hagai Kalai and Akinom Orbach were the attorneys for the nine plaintiff lesbian couples. They first filed their challenge to the authorities' rejection in 2017. The legal team celebrated the decision for putting an end to ugly and unnecessary discrimination, which has no purpose and never had. The time has come for the state, on its own initiative, to allow full equality of rights for all its citizens, including LGBT people. Two gay male couples also won a battle against the Population and Immigration Authority this week. The Tel Aviv District Court ordered the authority to register the co-dads as fathers of their children born to surrogate mothers abroad. In their case, the authority claimed that the children's required genetic testing had not been received children's required genetic testing had not been received.

Speaker 10:

In related news from Italy, lesbian moms are not letting the right-wing government of Prime Minister Giorgia Maloney erase them from their children's birth certificates. Hundreds protested in the streets after local governments received letters from the Interior Ministry last March. The ministry demanded that they stop listing parents on birth certificates rather than mother and father. It ordered the removal of all non-biological mothers' names. A regional court in Veneto sided with the plaintiff parents. This week, according to a report in LGBTQ Nation, an appeal is expected. Maloney has deep neo-fascist roots and has said. Maloney has deep neo-fascist roots and has said I do not believe in a state that places the legitimate desire of a homosexual to adopt a child before the right of that child to have a father and a mother.

Speaker 9:

Two staff members of a queer night spot in eastern Russia are facing charges of extremism, the first since the Supreme Court outlawed the imagined international LGBT movement in November. Manager Diana Kamelianova and art director Alexander Klimov of the club Pose in Orenburg were arrested this week for hosting a drag show. Police forced patrons and guests to lie face down on the floor, according to Amnesty International, and performing drag queens were kept half-naked as their outfits and wigs were confiscated. Members of the pro-Putin ultra-nationalist group Russian Community of Orenburg reportedly tipped off authorities and joined the police in the raid and joined the police in the raid. The specific charges against Kamila Nova and Klimov, as cited by the Guardian, are promoting non-traditional sexual relations among the visitors of the bar and acting in premeditation with a group of people who also support the views and activities of the International Public Association of LGBT. After a closed-door hearing, they were remanded in custody until at least May 18,. According to the BBC, they each face up to 10 years in prison.

Speaker 10:

Diversity, equity and inclusion programs are being banned in Alabama's public schools and universities. The same bill excludes transgender students and staff from the bathrooms and other sex-segregated campus facilities that match their gender identity. Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed the bill on March 20th. The Republican-controlled state legislature wants to stamp out what it calls divisive concepts. That means, in part, any suggestion that, by virtue of an individual's race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity or national origin, the individual is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously, or that they are inherently responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity or national origin. This divisive concept tactic comes right out of the playbook being followed in Republican-controlled US states against what they call woke culture. Obviously, the same strategy fits neatly with attacks on transgender people, especially trans young people. Alabama's new anti-DEI LIL is set to become law on October 1st, but watch for a constitutional challenge to delay its enforcement first.

Speaker 9:

but watch for a constitutional challenge to delay its enforcement. Conversion therapy will soon be a thing of the past in New South Wales. The bill passed in the Upper House in the wee hours of March 22nd by a vote of 22 to 4, after hours of impassioned debate. It had already been approved in the lower chamber. When it takes effect in 12 months, the measure will also make it a crime to take someone out of the state to undergo such bogus therapy. Unlike similar legislation elsewhere, the ban applies to both minors and adult victims. There are some specific religious exemptions that allow preachers to sermonize against same-gender relationships or pray with someone experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction. New South Wales joins the Australian Capital Territory, queensland and Victoria in banning the medically discredited claim that sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed through counseling and prayer or gender identity can be changed through counseling and prayer. Bands are being considered in Tasmania, western Australia and South Australia.

Speaker 10:

Finally, trailblazing Australian lawmaker Penny Wong and her partner, sophie Alouache are honest women at last. They were married at a winery in the South Australia city of Adelaide on March 16th. The couple has been together for almost 20 years, but became officially engaged in late 2023. Their daughters, 8-year-old Hannah and 11-year-old Alexandra, were the flower girls at what's been described as a beautiful ceremony. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joined several MPs and former government officials among the well-wishers. South Australian Senator and Foreign Minister Wong sported a bright red suit and Aluwash wore a white satin gown with lace sleeves. The couple posted for their official wedding picture holding bouquets of flowers in a garden setting on Instagram with the caption we are delighted that so many of our family and friends could share this special day with us. Wong was once criticized for siding with her Labor Party before it supported marriage equality. She later became a fierce campaigner for a yes vote in the country's 2017 marriage equality referendum and famously wept when lawmakers officially made it legal.

Speaker 9:

Another Australian celebrity will soon join Wong and Alouash in wedding bliss. Football player Josh Cavallo took a knee on the pitch earlier this year to propose to his partner, leighton Murrell. Cavallo thanked his A-League Adelaide United teammates for helping arrange the surprise at Cooper Stadium, posting on X slash Twitter that he wanted to share the special moment on the pitch where it all started. He wrote you have provided a safe space in football, one that I never in my dreams thought could ever be possible.

Speaker 10:

That's News Wrap, global queer news with attitude for the week ending March 23rd 2024. Follow the news in your area and around the world. An informed community is a strong community.

Speaker 9:

News Wrap is written by Greg Gordon, edited by Lucia Chappelle, produced by Brian DeShazer and brought to you by you.

Speaker 10:

Thank, you Help keep us in ears around the world at thiswayoutorg, where you can also read the text of this newscast and much more. For this Way Out, I'm Daniel Macias. Stay healthy.

Speaker 9:

And I'm Elena Botkin-Levy. Stay safe.

Speaker 1:

This has been Queer Voices, which is now a home-produced podcast and available from several podcasting sources. Check our webpage QueerVoicesorg. For more information. Queer Voices executive producer is Brian Levinka. Andrew Edmondson and Deborah Moncrief-Bell are frequent contributors. The News Wrap segment is part of another podcast called this Way Out, which is produced in Los Angeles.

Speaker 11:

Some of the material in this program has been edited to improve clarity and runtime. This program does not endorse any political views or animal species. Views, opinions and endorsements are those of the participants and the organizations they represent. In case of death, please discontinue use and discard remaining product.

Speaker 1:

For Queer Voices. I'm Glenn Holt.

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