By Ciara Reid, staff reporter
MANHATTAN - As students squeeze out the last bit of fun from the summer, the upcoming school year looms large. For many, they are simply looking to survive their course load, have fun, and simply feel safe and included.
Kansas State University (KSU) offers numerous LGBT-focused groups to help educate and promote inclusivity and safety throughout the campus. The university details each LGBT group on the school’s website, which are summarized below. For more information, visit: www.k-state.edu/lgbt/.
LGBT Resource Center
The LGBT Resource Center is dedicated to helping LGBT students, staff, faculty and allied members of the campus and surrounding communities to be more secure, educated, and productive in their personal and professional surroundings. The Center, located in 207 Holton Hall, is open to all and provides information regarding resources available to those of differing sexualities and gender identities. The Center, opened in August 2010, currently has been awarded a five-star Premiere Campus rating based on the Campus Pride Campus Climate Index.
Key details: Open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, 785-532-5352. Brandon H. Haddock, PhD, firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Grayson Barnes
WICHITA - Sgt. Don Kimball of the Wichita Police Department (WPD) is a night shift Field Supervisor at Patrol South. He didn’t expect his 5:30am e-mail to Police Chief Gordon Ramsay to get a reply for days, let alone in an hour. “That just tells me how committed he is to the LGBTQ community,” laughed Kimball.
As a 25-year veteran of the WPD, and, by his admission, “the only truly out gay male officer” he knows of, Kimball has seen the department’s attitudes about the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ WPD employees change a lot.
“Traditionally the situation has been one of mistrust,” Kimball said. He’s seen it in the police force and on the streets. This was difficult for him because he wanted to be a cop. “There were places I wouldn’t apply because I was told they didn’t want gay police officers,” he said. However, he believes attitudes have changed since Stonewall, “with one or two steps forward, another back, and then, recently, a surge ahead.”
That latest surge he referred to is the development of two LGBTQ Liaison posts at the WPD. Kimball’s wee hours message to Chief Ramsay was to thank him for attending a Wichita community vigil after the Pulse nightclub shooting last year. After that e-mail, Chief Ramsay created the Liaison positions. The two openings were filled last August by Kimball and Sgt. Vanessa Rusco.
Their job is to foster interaction and understanding with the LGBTQ community by connecting with organizations, businesses, and individuals. “We want them to know what we have to offer, and,” Kimball said, “what they can teach us that we need to know.” For him, it is all about developing relationships so that everyone’s lives and access to the law can improve.
By Jamie Rhodes
WICHITA - More than 70% of the American adult population identify as Christian, according to a Pew Research Center 2014 study. Out of those 70%, 54% agree homosexuality should be accepted and not discouraged by society. Those 54% of church members generally come from a younger population rather than from the older congregational members.
Most elders and traditional Christians follow the teaching of the Bible where they are taught homosexuality is a sin and those who “live that lifestyle” don’t have a place in heaven.
As Rollin Dillinger, a Deacon at Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in Wichita, put it, “We’re not literalist. We have to understand when that particular [Bible] passage of scripture was written, to whom and by who. If you understand the context, it sometimes sheds light on the actual meaning.”
By Emily Beckman
WICHITA - Jonathan Cooley wanted to spread the message that it is OK to be gay - so he started by coming out.
That was several years ago.
Now entering his junior year at Campus High School, the 17-year-old is Wichita’s Pride Student Ambassador. He acquired that position in June, and will hold it for one year.
The position - in its second year - is part of Wichita Pride. The position includes speaking up for LGBTQ+ youth and listening to their ideas, Cooley said. In addition, the Pride Student Ambassador is expected to maintain good grades, be a good role model and work with the Pride board, according to Daisha King-Madden, Youth and Family Director for Wichita Pride.
“Jonathan is a very empathetic person,” King-Madden said. “He can relate to a lot of other kids on a lot of different levels. He’s been through a lot so he has a better understanding what it’s like for a lot of kids that are going through a hard time.”
At school, Cooley is invol-ved in the Campus LGBTQ+ group, of which he is the auditor. Cooley says that most teachers at Campus are supportive of LGBTQ+ students.
“It’s a really nice school to go to,” he said.
In the future, Cooley hopes to become a drag queen, a cosmetologist and a nurse practitioner. As an aspiring drag queen, Cooley enjoyed attending Pride in drag and meeting drag queens. Once he turns 18, he plans to perform at Club Boomerang.
“When I do drag it’s kind of a confidence booster and it’s something to make me feel proud of myself,” Cooley said. “I already feel proud of myself and where I am at, but drag is just more of a comfort zone for me. [It’s] a way to express my feelings and to show everyone it’s OK to be what you want [and] to dress the way you want.”
Cooley remembers a time in his life when he didn’t feel like he had a voice.
“I want to continue speaking for the youth and being there for the youth and helping people who don’t necessarily have a voice at the moment,” Cooley said.
He has advice for those who may be in shoes he previously wore: reach out and get help.
“There is someone that is going to care about you no matter who you are, what you identify as or who you like. Because, I mean, we’re all human,” Cooley said.
As far as getting involved in high school LGBTQ+ groups, he recommends seeking out a teacher, counselor or administrator who is LGBTQ-friendly for guidance.
King-Madden hopes that the Student Ambassador position will show LGBTQ+ youth that Pride cares.
“We want students to realize Pride does know that they’re there and that the youth do make a huge impact on our community and they are our future,” she said. l
By Annette Billings
TOPEKA - In 2015 a small group of concerned Topekans met to discuss the idea of a community center to provide a safe space for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. The results of a community needs survey had led them to believe the time had come for such a space to be created in Topeka.
The name chosen was Capitol City Community Center (CCEC). A board was formed with Stephanie Mott as president and Dan Brennan as executive director. As a result of fundraising efforts, the group was able to obtain designation as a 501(c)(3) organization. This development led to continued efforts to secure funds to purchase a building to house the center.
During this time the Planting Peace organization purchased the house next door to the Equality House in Topeka and painted it in the colors of the transgender pride flag. Both houses, the Equality House and the Transgender Pride House, are located across the street from Westboro Baptist Church.
Last November, Planting Peace generously donated the Transgender Pride House to serve as the location for CCEC. Work to prepare the house was undertaken by dedicated individuals from the community.
Fast forward to this past June 28. What began as an idea became a reality as the Capitol City Equality Center had a ribbon-cutting ceremony and opened its doors. The center’s opening makes it the third of its kind in Kansas and the first in Topeka.
By John Dalton-White
WICHITA - Local playwright Anne Welsbacher’s original play, Last Chance Liquor, will close out Signature Theatre’s 2016-2017 season. The play will be performed at the Wichita Scottish Rite Theatre, 332 E, 1st St., Aug. 18-19 at 8pm and Aug. 20 at 7pm.
“Signature Theatre for the past few years has expanded its genre of shows produced. For the longest time, we only produced children and youth theatre, but now we produce more diverse dramas, comedies, and musicals, as well as children’s theatre,” Deb Campbell, Artistic Director of Signature Theatre, said. “Signature Theatre is a civic theatre designed to bring performance opportunities to Wichita area amateur actors of all ages.”
Welsbacher is a magazine editor for a national nonprofit organization and has a background in music and theatre. Her plays have been produced in Minneapolis, Denver, and Wichita and she has published magazine articles and nonfiction books for children. The daughter of Dick and Betty Welsbacher, she and her husband live in Wichita with four cats and several fish.
Last Chance Liquor tells the story of Rayette Boulanger who has just arrived unannounced in the small, failing Kansas town she left decades ago. She believes she’s there to save the life of her mother. It takes every member of her family – the ones she cast aside and the ones she has yet to meet – to teach her that her journey to Last Chance Liquor will save not her mother’s life, but her own.
The play is under the direction of Dona Lancaster and the cast includes: Sarah Strole as Rayette, Kathryn McCoskey as Lily, Beth Wise as Alice, Larry Hartley as Ray, Dalton Smith as Steve and Jared Wise as Eddie.
Sydney Alder is stage manager and Bob Lancaster is set designer.
Tickets may be reserved by calling Select-a-Seat at 855-755-SEAT or may be purchased at the door. Ticket prices are $18, $14 and $10 with discounts for all students, military and seniors. l
By Ciara Reid, staff reporter
KANSAS CITY - Over the course of eight days, Kansas Citians had the chance to cram in 44 films selected for this year’s Out Here Now, Kansas City’s LGBT film festival. The Centerpiece Screening this year had local connections: Something Like Summer is based on the award-winning novel by Kansas City native Jay Bell.
Dubbed as the “gay La La Land,” the film follows the up and down relationship of high-schoolers Ben and Tim. The film traces their relationship from high school into adulthood, and features seven songs. Bell attended the local screening.
Liberty Press spoke with Festival Director Jamie Rich near the end of the chock-full week of films, to get his take on his favorite films in this year’s lineup, what films generated the most buzz, and if the politically-charged climate affected the tone of the festival.
Liberty Press (LP): What have been some of your favorite films included in this year’s festival and why?
Jamie Rich (JR): It was great seeing the strong response people had to the spotlight we shined on the storytellers whose work is at the heart of the 44 films selected for this year’s festival. It was standing room only for Kansas native Jay Bell whose best-selling gay romance novel, Something Like Summer, had its big screen, hometown premiere
Our audiences also strongly supported the expanded number of Audience Choice screenings which brought in more films from emerging filmmakers across the globe. Global voices from Armenia, Spain, Poland, Germany, and Ireland were featured.
We hosted the world premiere of a new work by an emerging Romania director and trans activist. Audience Awards went to filmmakers from the UK and Brazil as well as to three U.S. films by directors under age 25. The headline for this year might just be “Midwest fest has global impact.”
LP: What films have generated the most feedback and buzz from moviegoers?
JR: A capacity crowd turned out opening night for the riveting, new documentary, The Lavender Scare about the biggest workplace witch hunt against gays and lesbians in our nation’s history. This largely untold story cost thousands of federal workers not only their jobs, but their lives. Director Josh Howard led an after-screening discussion of his film and was honored with the 2017 Out Here Now Courage Award for bringing this important story to light on the big screen.
Also in attendance that night were many longtime area activists who learned of a new film being made locally about an historic Kansas City battle to protect the rights of LGBT people and people with AIDS. That effort continues at www.TheOrdinanceProject.com.
Another highlight was working with the KS/MO Dream Alliance to present Forbidden, an empowering profile of Moises Serrano, a queer, undocumented, rural American.
Audiences cheered the closing night film, Handsome Devil. which will soon be coming to Netflix and there was high praise for the lesbian romantic comedy, Signature Move and the moving trans film, Apricot Groves.
I graduated from Kansas State University at the tender age of 21. Not yet completely out to myself, I wasn’t aware of the resources available to LGBT students at that time. However, I WAS culturally savvy enough to know that it couldn’t have been much.
You know the line . . . I had gay friends.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time at K-State immensely. It was the best decision I’d made up until that time in my life to transfer from Wichita State and live in a dorm independently. And although I later also graduated from Wichita State, my heart remains first and foremost with the Wildcats. I dislike the saying “I bleed purple,” but . . . well . . . uh, I bleed purple.
Fast forward 20 (or so) years and I’m so proud to see the plethora of organizations, events, and support for the LGBTQIA+ community coming out of KSU. Wow! I couldn’t believe it when I saw a list of the organizations and the cutting edge things, i.e. the Gender Collective, that were happening in Manhattan. So I decided to dedicate this year’s back-to-school issue to my beloved Wildcats.
And then Scott Frantz came out publicly. What timing!
The KSU sophomore starting offensive left tackle told ESPN’s Holly Rowe in July he is gay and that he had come out to his teammates the year before. And guess what? His teammates embraced him, told him he is still their brother, and that it doesn’t change how they see him. In other words, all the right things.
“I’ve never felt so loved and so accepted ever in my life than when I did that,” Frantz told ESPN. As I read the article and the ensuing editorial I, geekishly, pumped my fist. Yes! I was so proud of my team.
I held my breath as I got to the point in the story with coach Bill Snyder’s reaction. I feared the football god would say something that knocked him down a tier in my eyes. It was still football after all, the epitome of anti-gay machismo. But, alas, the good man didn’t let me down. I gave another fist pump and cheered silently.
“ What impressed me about this story is that Scott really thought that he could assist others who were experiencing perhaps the same thing or something very similar to this,” Snyder said.
He went on to say, “I was quite comfortable that our team would be very receptive and that they would treat him as they always have - as his teammate and someone that they cared about. And they did.” Yay!
Last month Pride 2017 broke records for the Wichita Pride organization. There were events over the course of a week. Attendance at all the events, with the exception of the Block Party, were up from prior years making the 2017 Pride festival the most successful to date.
This year, Pride helped to host the National Equality March. The Equality March was held in over 116 cities and five different countries. For the Wichita Equality March, there was over 400 people who marched down Douglas Ave. on Sunday, June 11. Pride looks forward to hosting the Equality March again next year.
A new event was added this year. Find Your Pride scavenger hunt. Pride had 12 teams at the XY bar. It was a blast. Pride is looking to expand this event again for next year by adding something for families.
Pride Family Picnic was the largest ever, with about 300 people. The food provided by Cargill was awesome. The kids had a wonderful time with the water guns. Everyone was wet by the time the picnic ended. Pride looks forward to next year by having more games for everyone during the picnic.
Pride revamped their Block Party making it more an all-age/youth dance party. While the numbers were less than last year, Pride is looking at ways to make this event better and bigger next year.
The rally and parade drew in a record crowd of about 500 people. The parade had the most entries ever and Pride is looking at ways to make it even larger next year. It just added to the parade to have the Grand Marshall’s being the Wichita Police Department LGBT liaisons. Officers Rusco and Kimball have been working with the community since the inception of the liaison position and it was great to have them represent the community and Pride this year. This year was also the first time to have a Youth Representative (please see article in this Liberty Press for more about Jonathan Cooley).
The final event was the Festival held again at the Mid-America All-Indian Center. There were about 1,800 people at the event. Look toward next year being even bigger.
Pride would like to thank all those that participated in this year’s event. For the first time in a long time all the bars and clubs were involved in some way shape or form. The bars and Pride are looking forward to more involvement together next year.
Pride has one more major event coming up this year. Called “The Return To Fantasy” it is being held Sept. 30 at the old Fantasy Complex. This will be an event for everyone, including families and children.
If you would like to be involved with Pride, you are more than welcome to join any of the committees that are putting together next year’s events. Pride welcomes everyone and would love to hear input from the community on what they would like to see in the future. Please check the Pride Facebook page and website for dates and times of future meetings.
And thank you to all of you in the Wichita community for supporting this year’s Pride because without you there would be no Pride. Pride looks forward to seeing you at the next event.
Nolin Christensen, treasurer
Wichita Pride, Inc.