Tag Archives: gay pride

RIP, Tommy Kirk

The news that Tommy Kirk died the other day at age 79 filled me with a sense of irony and, yes, sadness.

I grew up with Tommy Kirk appearing on my TV screen. He was one of the child stars employed by the Disney company. He was a Mousketeer. He appeared in TV dramas along with other fan favorites. His was as much of a household name as, say, Annette Funicello.

Tommy Kirk also was a gay performer. He “came out” as a teenager. The price he paid for his honesty? Disney fired him essentially on the spot. Ain’t no way the entertainment giant was going to allow a gay youngster perform before audiences comprising children.

It didn’t matter, of course, that Kirk didn’t portray gay characters. Not ever! To borrow a phrase, Kirk played it straight.

That was then. The Disney Corporation has traveled many symbolic miles since that dark time. It now has Gay Pride Days at its theme parks, namely at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World.

I am glad to see the company has opened its corporate heart and it seeks to understand that one’s sexual orientation is not merely a matter of choice. It is who people are. Period. Full stop.

As for Tommy Kirk, well, he paid the price for his employers’ lack of understanding back then. May he rest in peace.

I just want to thank him for the memories he gave me as a youngster who laughed and cried at the performances he delivered.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Pride causes stir

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Pride has shown itself in Princeton in a manner – depending on your point of view – that presents a positive or a negative image for a rapidly growing Collin County community.

The term “pride” refers to gay pride and a movement among those to declare one’s pride in their sexual orientation. Princeton was the site of its first LGBTQ+Pride celebration on June 26 … and organizers intend for it to be the start of an annual event.

It caused more than a little bit of an uproar in the community, according to Mayor Brianna Chacon and those on both sides of the divide over the manner in which the event took place.

It occurred at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Princeton. Chacon said it was “not a city-sponsored event.” It was attended by slightly more than 200 people who came in the name of gay pride. There were the usual food and drink vendors found at such community events. There also was an array of entertainment – namely a show featuring “drag queens” — that some folks found offensive; others said it was no big deal to put on a drag show.

The Princeton City Council amended an ordinance at its July 12 meeting that tightens the permit process for staging community events. According to Chacon, the city previously did not require a permit for a non-profit organization, such as the one that staged the LGBT+Pride event. Now it does. The amended ordinance would subject all groups to the permit process, including non-profits.

Critics of the pride event say the amended ordinance doesn’t go far enough in establishing who can apply for a permit. They told council members that the city should be able to ban certain groups from staging events in public places. Those who stand with the gay pride movement have suggested the city acted in response to the criticism it got from social conservatives. Chacon denies the accusation that the city was responding to LGBT+Pride critics. “We were considering changes in our permit ordinance before the event took place,” Chacon said.

Charlise Lee, a Princeton resident and a co-founder of the non-profit organization that staged the event, said the enactment of ordinance “seems like a huge coincidence” coming as it did after the protests emerged from the pride event.

Chacon considers herself an “LGBT advocate” and denies any attempt on the part of the City Council to get back at the pride event organizers by amending an ordinance covering public events; the council voted unanimously to approve the new rules.

“The previous ordinance was too vague,” she said. “It consisted of just six pages. Now everyone needs a permit issued by the city” for gatherings in publicly owned places, such as Veterans Park, she said.

The non-profit that staged the event, PTX Diverse, disputes the criticism leveled at the celebration. The drag show was not “lewd” or “obscene,” as some have contended, they say.

Lee co-founded PTX Diverse, and said the drag queen show bore no resemblance to the criticism that some have leveled against it. She said the entertainers were “fully covered,” some with “nude-colored leggings,” which she described as an “illusion.” Lee, a 36-year-old mother of eight children, said she has seen “more sexualized activity at a high school football game.”

Lee said she and her husband moved to Princeton a couple of years ago from Dallas. She added that one of her children, 16-year-old Brandyn, has come out as “pansexual,” which she described as someone who is attracted to both men and women. She said her son has a “trans boyfriend” who is in the process of transitioning from female to male.

The Princeton Herald reported in its July 15 edition that some residents were offended by what they understood occurred at the park. According to the Herald: “Princeton ISD board member Cyndi Darland said she was out of town when the event occurred, but she did watch a video of it and began a petition to prohibit lewd behavior in public. ‘I saw several alarming things,’ Darland said. ‘You have to be 21 in Las Vegas to go to something like this.’”

Lee said PTX Diverse intends to stage a LGBTQ+Pride event next June 26, but likely will move it to the site of the former World War II POW Camp next to J.M. Caldwell Municipal Park.

Lee said she and fellow PTX Diverse founders – John and Brandy Kusterbeck, also of Princeton – formed the organization to “educate people on the needs of those who seek acceptance for being who they are.” PTX Diverse has a Facebook page that Lee said currently has 561 followers, which she considers to be a sign of growing acceptance of the message that PTX Diverse seeks to deliver.

She said next year’s pride event will be “bigger and better” than the first-ever event that occurred this past month. Lee said that as a non-profit, PTX Diverse is seeking money to help pay expenses associated with future events. One of those expenses involves paying for off-duty police officers to provide protection. The amended ordinance, which is still to be written, would allow for non-profits such as PTX Diverse to pay for police protection.

Lee also said she plans to enact rules for future pride events that require entertainers to avoid the “perception” that some might have that they are engaging in what critics describe as “lewd behavior.”

Lee also said she intends to “hold Brianna (Chacon) to her word that she is an ‘advocate’” for LGBT rights. “We are going to send teams out there to counsel these kids,” Lee said. “They need someone to talk to.”

Note: This blog was published initially on KETR.org.

Who’d ever thought we’d reach this point?

WASHINGTON — I’ve witnessed plenty in my lifetime: an erupting volcano, a Ku Klux Klan rally, returning to where I served in a time of war.

I was able to knock another experience off my list of things I thought I’d never see: I got to watch a gay pride extravaganza in the nation’s capital.

My first — and most profound — takeaway was this: An event such as what we saw could not have been possible a generation ago. It speaks to the changes in attitude, culture, social mores that have swept across the country.

I was told the gay pride activities were “tame” compared to how they used to be. Every one of the thousands of people I saw along the many streets we walked was fully clothed. I saw plenty of rainbow colors. People’s hair was dyed in the colors of “Gay Pride.” They were festooned in rainbow-colored clothing. They were lugging signs, selling trinkets of assorted value.

I saw lots of smiles on a gorgeous day under a bright late spring sun.

Who in the world could have foreseen events such this a generation ago, perhaps even a decade ago?

I guess we can thank the U.S. Supreme Court for delivering millions of Americans from a form of purgatory when it ruled that under the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection clause” that gay marriage is therefore legal in all 50 states of this great nation.

But here’s another aspect of what I heard about the gay pride activities taking place in this most political place in America: Corporate and, yes, church endorsement helped make it mainstream. Think about that for just a moment. Gay pride events no longer are the sole province of radicals and extremists intending to shake up “the establishment.” The establishment has signed on.

So the parade took place. The capital was alive with celebration along block after block around the corridors of political power. I was there to witness it.

It was cool.