Kansas News

Topeka youth group aims to be a place kids can be themselves

By Ciara Reid, staff reporter and Rin Nesmith, Beacon Youth Group Acting President

StandUpforLoveTOPEKA - The Beacon Youth Group, which operates out of Topeka, has re-launched after several previous formations. The youth group has existed for several years; the re-launch includes a new target age range (12-18), new meeting locations, and a new group facilitator.

    The goal of the Beacon Youth Group, says Nicole Nesmith, social worker and facilitator of the group, is to offer a welcoming environment for queer youth to engage in socialization, education, exploration, and activism. “Our goal is to reach as many LGBTQ youth in the Topeka area as possible,” Nesmith says. “We want to give kids a place to go where they can be themselves.” Part of the group’s mission, Nesmith continues, is to provide a safe space for youth to socialize. “We want youth to be able to feel free from society’s standards of what is acceptable.”


Kansas conversion therapy survivor to speak at KU Gaypril event

SamBrintonBy Ciara Reid, staff reporter

IN NOVEMBER OF 2014, SAM BRINTON received kind words from Michael Brown’s mother, who told him she would hope her son would have grown up to be as revolutionary as Brinton. It was a compliment that really resonated with him.

    Earlier that day, he sat next to Brown’s parents, and a Guantanamo Bay survivor. They were all present at a United Nations Committee Against Torture hearing. Brinton was there as a campaign leader for the National Center for Lesbian Right’s #BornPerfect campaign. He spoke to the Committee for several minutes, detailing his very painful – both mental and physical – experience as the recipient of conversion therapy.

    When Brinton was just 12 years old, his parents took him to a conversion therapist, who promised he could make him straight. The therapist told him he was sick, that God hated him, and that the government had exterminated all gay people.


AIDS Walk moves to a Sunday evening event

By Blake Hampton

PositiveDirectionsWICHITA - The 21st Annual AIDS Walk hosted by Positive Directions will take place on a different day and time this year. Organizers have felt for several years that the competition for Saturday morning walks has gotten too great.

    In an effort to diffuse that they are trying something new. This year’s walk will be held on a Sunday evening; Sunday, April 19 at 5pm (registration begins at 4pm) along the Commerce Street Art District in front of Positive Directions’ office, 414 S. Commerce.


Music headliners announced for Riverfest 2015

Riverfest2015-AdultButton2The diverse line-up of concerts are all free with a Riverfest button

WICHITA - Riverfest 2015 will kick off on Friday, May 29 with a longtime tradition—Koch Twilight Pops Concert featuring the Wichita Symphony Orchestra on Kennedy Plaza—directly following the Sundown Parade. Locally grown, nationally known alt-country rockers Split Lip Rayfield will perform on the RedGuard Stage adjacent to the Wichita Boathouse that night.

    On Saturday, May 30, Holy Ghost Tent Revival and The 44’s will open for acclaimed steel guitarist Robert Randolph & the Family Band who will bring their fusion of blues, rock and soul to the Kennedy Plaza Stage. Red Dirt Country artist Kyle Park will perform on the RedGuard Stage.


Disney on Ice Frozen heartthrob played by gay performer

Legare Jean-Simon D27 2014by Greg Boaldin

WICHITA -  When Disney on Ice Princesses and Heroes rolled into Wichita’s Intrust Bank Arena Mar. 12, Hans, the heartthrob turned bad guy from Frozen, was played by out gay performer Jean-Simon Lègarè.

    In his first interview with an LGBT publication, Lègarè shared with the Liberty Press that the stereotype of male figure skaters being gay just isn’t true. While he says there are a handful of gay male figure skaters, the majority are straight.

    For those that are gay, Lègarè says, “athletes are now starting to come out while they are competing and they now think that it won’t affect their placings.” He tells of a friend of his who is still competing and came out to the media.


Village People part of lineup at Riverfest 2015

Riverfest2015-AdultButtonButton price goes up for the first time since 2006

WICHITA - Wichita Festivals, Inc. revealed the artwork for Riverfest 2015 and offered a sneak peek at the upcoming festival at a press event at Emprise Bank, sponsor of the 2015 artwork contest.

    Wichita-based artist Roger Strunk won this year’s button and poster artwork competition with his interpretation of Admiral Windwagon Smith as an astronaut with the Wichita skyline in the background to capture this year’s theme, “Button Up. Have a Blast!”


Kansas Interests

WSU’s Equality Scholarship deadline April 15

WSUMascotWICHITA - The Equality Scholarship was originally established in 2011 by Richard D. Muma and Rick A. Case  because they felt that LGBT and queer/questioning students are often overlooked and they wanted to show that group of students that someone notices and cares about them. They also want to encourage those students not to hide.

The criteria includes:

1. Must be enrolled full or part-time at Wichita State University.

2. Preference will be given to a member of Spectrum: LGBTQ & Allies.

3. Recipient(s) must have and maintain a minimum 2.0 gpa.

4. Award(s) will be made with regard to financial need. Recipients will submit a written statement describing need for scholarship.

    To apply: Return the application and supporting materials on or before April 15 to: The Scholarship Office, Jardine Hall, Room 203, Wichita State University, 1845 Fairmount, Wichita, KS 67260-0043

    The application can be downloaded from the Spectrum website at webs.wichita.edu/?u=spectrum.


Tallgrass and Roxy’s Downtown present Queer Cinema

QueerCinemaWICHITA - Tallgrass has partnered with Roxy’s Downtown for a retrospective Queer Cinema series. Films will screen on the last Sunday of March, April and May at 6pm. Tickets are $8 and reservations can be made by calling (316) 265-4400.

    After the film, stay for the show as The Roxettes: Queens of Drag take the stage. Full bar and appetizers available for purchase.

    Film selections include:


New Kegs ‘n’ Eggs offers craft beer and egg hunt

kegsandeggsBONNER SPRINGS – A new event is coming to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival grounds. On April 11, the inaugural Kegs ‘n’ Eggs will launch with craft beer tastings, a golden egg hunt, a live band, themed contests, and more.

    Kegs ‘n’ Eggs is Kansas City’s only adult egg hunt. Thousands of Easter eggs will be spread throughout the Renaissance Festival grounds. Each egg contains tickets to be redeemed for prizes or cash.

    During the hunt guests will have the opportunity to sample craft beers from local and regional breweries. Five samples can be purchased for $5 (10 samples for $10, etc.) or patrons can get unlimited samples with a VIP Pass.


New group of clergy unites to offer a positive faith voice

SupportiveClergyBy Blake Hampton

WICHITA - Around the same time that same-sex marriage was legalized late last year, a new group of Wichita clergy formed. On Nov. 17, ten reverends took turns performing ceremonies for 15 couples on the steps of the Old Courthouse in Sedgwick County. Coming together the clergy realized, “There needs to be another faith voice besides the conservative faith voice,” Rev. Carolyn Schwarz of Pine Valley Christian Church said.

    Calling themselves Wichita Clergy for LGBTQ Equality, the group has come together in the hopes that their voice will be a step forward in equality. They are collaborating with Equality KS as well as GLSEN Greater Wichita to speak with legislators, among other things. Though the clergy is unable to be fully political they will testify as a faith voice for future legislation.


Big changes coming to the Annual Art and Book Fair

WAMWICHITA - Every Mother’s Day weekend for the last 55 years the Friends of the Wichita Art Museum have held the Art and Book Fair as a fundraiser for the Wichita Art Museum. A bold new take on the event brings the fair home to the Wichita Art Museum. In future years the fair will be able to take advantage of the Museum’s newly renovated grounds, but until that transformation takes place, the event will be held inside the Museum itself.  

    The 2015 theme, “Art of the Book,” will focus on authors, illustrators, and book sales. Hundreds of books in every conceivable genre will be available in the S. Jim and Darla Farha Great Hall. And in the Living Room section of the museum some of the region’s best artists will offer their creations for sale in the “Small Works Market.”


Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams to open signature store in Leawood

mitchellgold-bwilliamsLEAWOOD - Mitchell Gold, chairman and co-founder of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, the furnishings lifestyle brand, announced that they are bringing their combination of comfort and style to the suburbs of Kansas City. The 10,000 square foot signature store at the Town Center Crossing in Leawood, will open this spring

    The store will showcase the company’s signature store design, including soft white walls and floors, bright modular lighting and personally created furniture settings by Williams and Gold.

    The Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams design philosophy is based on making comfort the priority for look, feel and value, and mixing unexpect-ed pieces to give each setting a unique, modern twist.


Gaypril Events

Gaypril comes to WSU

Gaypril-flyer2By Elle Boatman

WICHITA - As Kansas begins to shake off the vestiges of winter and spring is within sight, Wichita State University (WSU) is preparing to celebrate its first Gaypril. Eleven events, presented by WSU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), are scheduled to celebrate the amazing diversity of the WSU community.

    Diversity doesn’t only refer to skin color and ethnicity. Other minority groups sometimes suffer from the lack of awareness and support pertinent to that group’s needs. ODI Director Alicia Sanchez raises those concerns and explains how Gaypril helps to meet the needs of the LGBT community on campus and in the Wichita community.

    “We pride ourselves on being the most diverse institution and I think everyone sometimes thinks that’s only race and ethnicity when it’s really so much more ... by gender, by sexuality, by religion ... There are so many facets of diversity,” she said. “When we say we’re the most diverse institution ... this is just another way to make sure that we are showcasing other pieces of diversity, and not just race and ethnicity. [Gaypril] provides us an opportunity to showcase LGBT programs across the board. It really is about enhancing and expanding the existing programming.”

    ODI also celebrated LGBT History Month in October and Transgender Awareness Week in November. Other campus departments and organizations partnered with ODI for those events as well as Gaypril.

Gaypril-events    Sanchez and Program Coordinator Danielle Johnson both enthusiastically agree that support for the LGBT community on campus is alive and well, including within Student Health Services and the Counseling and Testing Center, among others.

    “It wasn’t like pulling teeth,” Johnson said. These organizations were saying, ‘We want to be a part of this.’ And we are seeing that in a lot of our different heritage months.

    “We really want to push the importance of diversity and inclusion and make every student feel welcome, not just to our office, but to Wichita State,” she continued. “Our demographic and our climate is changing and we need to be able to serve the different populations that are represented and we want to make sure we are staying current and relevant to what the students want on our campus.”

    Students also play a role by providing feedback and ideas to programming staff. ODI personnel met with Spectrum: LGBT & Allies, the LGBT student group on campus, when developing programming for Gaypril.

    “We want to make sure we are providing programming opportunities for students and their input is important,” Sanchez said.

    The Second Annual Gender and Sexuality in Kansas Conference will kick off the month of events on April 3 with presentations, workshops, and discussions on the intersectionality of sexuality and gender from around the Midwest. The conference is free to attend, as are most Gaypril events, although advance registration is highly encouraged.

    Last year’s inaugural conference drew over 80 registered attendees. This year’s keynote speaker is bisexual activist, Robyn Ochs.

    Wichita State is also proud to bring Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black fame to the Eugene M. Hughes Metropolitan Complex on April 29. Through her story, Ain’t I a Woman: My Journey to Womanhood, Cox will explore life as a transgender woman of color.

    ODI gave away 150 free tickets to students and they were all spoken for almost immediately. Other students, staff, faculty and community members can purchase tickets for $10 each via Select-a-Seat.
    A Pride Prom and Lavender LGBTQ Graduation are new to WSU this year and both will take place in the newly renovated Rhatigan Student Center. Additionally, National Day of Silence is April 17.


Gaypril hits Kansas! Events planned at Pitt State, K-State and KU

Little Apple PrideBy Kristi Parker

LAWRENCE, MANHATTAN, PITTBURG - Gaypril has sprung! What is quickly becoming the second biggest month to celebrate Pride, April is chock full of LGBT events at some of the biggest colleges in Kansas.

    Because college campuses are on summer break during the traditional Pride month of June, April has become the month of choice for students to celebrate Pride. Most of the events are open to the community at-large and offer national speakers, panels, drag shows, movies and proms of interest to everyone.

    At Pittsburg State University the Gay Straight Alliance hosts Gorilla Pride this month. “We have a whole week planned!” Mary Owens said. “It’s April 13-18th!” The events include:

  • Monday: Opening ceremonies
  • Tuesday: Gay cakes
  • Wednesday: Drag show
  • Thursday: Sweet Knowledge
  • Friday: Pride Prom with a superhero/villain theme

    For time and place, check the groups Facebook page under Pitt State Gay Straight Alliance.

    In Manhattan, Little Apple Pride is hosting its sixth annual parade and festival Saturday, April 11. The parade begins at First Congregational Church on the corner of Poyntz and Juliette Ave. at 1:30pm.

    The festival starts when the parade ends at Triangle Park in Aggieville around 3pm. Speakers include local activists Sue Gerth, Tom Witt, and Stephanie Mott. DJ Jakobi Hernandez will be there spinning tunes for an entertainment lineup that includes: Lil Kim Chi, Brihanna Jayde, Brock Hard, Valerre Love, Ty Woo and TrixXxie Tops.

    In Lawrence, events last all month long hosted by Spectrum KU. The schedule wasn’t complete as of press time, but so far it includes:


Reviews & More

The Dead Guy at WSU doesn't get better . . . exactly the playwright's point

By Grayson Barnes

WICHITA - What would you do for a million dollars? What if you had to spend it ALL before you died – in a week? Then, what if millions of viewers got to CHOOSE the way you would die? These are the themes for the play The Dead Guy by Eric Coble, presented by the Wichita State University School of Performing Arts from Feb. 19-22 at Wilner Auditorium.

    The Dead Guy is a fairly young play. It originally opened in Denver in 2005 and explores the American phenomenon of “reality TV” along with the desire for, what Andy Warhol referred to as, the ubiquitous “15 minutes of fame.”

    Enter Eldon Phelps, a loser living in the heavily-named town of Leadville (anywhere, USA). Phelps is approached by producer Gina Yaweth who offers him the chance to live like he has never lived before – as a millionaire. The catch is that TV viewers will get to watch him spend the money in a week. At the end he must commit suicide.

    Better yet, the TV audience will vote on whether Phelps should die by chainsaw, shooting, vehicle accident, or an unknown “other.” Once Phelps signs on the dotted line, Dougie the cameraman becomes his voyeuristic wingman.

    Dougie pops in and out of existence as he records Phelps’ antics live on-stage. One moment Dougie is a character and part of the action. Then, in the next, he becomes a moving piece of furniture as he symbiotically joins with his camera. We become more interested in what Dougie sees than in him. A monitor to one side shares camera footage with the audience. Live video is interspersed with pre-produced commercials that air during the reality show starring Phelps, The Dead Guy.

    At first, Phelps tries to be generous with his money. He buys his friends and family vehicles. He proposes to his girlfriend. His largesse is frowned upon and his girlfriend doesn’t want to be a widow in a week. Phelps goes to Disneyland and hangs out with hookers instead. It is then that Phelps discovers that the audience’s preference (thus far) for his demise is chainsaw accident. In order to garner a death more to his liking, Phelps attempts to give the remainder of his million to charity. No one wants his “blood money.”

    Sadly, the story never gets better. Even the ending doesn’t supply the catharsis we have been trained to expect from a good story. But that’s the playwright’s point – it isn’t a good story. It won’t get better: Phelps isn’t a charmer or particularly likeable; there is nothing endearing about the characters that surround him; his family wants a piece of his fame; his girlfriend is two-dimensional.

    Additionally, the producer, Yaweth (ironically similar to “Yaweh”) simply wants a Dead Guy SERIES. Dougie, out of all of them, has the best chance of being someone we could identify with, except he’s a mercenary con camera.

    Coble’s thesis is that our interest in the story and people’s lives died with the invention of “reality TV.” It is the new deity and characters like Phelps are its martyrs. The play’s similarity to horror novels like The Children of the Corn or Harvest Home isn’t coincidental. In those two books people are fattened up to become sacrifices to evil cults.

    The play is a complex analysis of our society. Unlike the “peeling the onion” adage, though, where something is alive at the center, the actors had to claw through the layers and leave us with its rotting and cloying core -- a difficult task for them. On one hand, the characters required a certain commitment to their own lives – even as affected as they were. On the other, there was a need to be “over the top” for the sake of the camera (or the audience’s “eye”).

    There wasn’t a lot of room for subtleties of characterization, but some decisive moments in the story were lost in favor of the actors’ drive to be more “on” than “committed.” A little of this may have had to do with Wilner, which is great for music, but sometimes too live for the spoken voice.

    Rian Leigh, who played Yaweth yelled a lot. It was hard to tell if this was her interpretation of the character, or from the need to project clearly. Anthony Gassbarre played Phelps in a loser-boy-meets-millions style, but was a bit too boisterous to make me believe he really considered his options. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that the opening dialogue between Phelps and Yaweth set him up as supremely committed to his loser status and to the idea that his choices, although unsuccessful, were his identity.

    When the play was over, I found myself destitute. At one point I had wanted all the unpleasantness over. Then I wanted something different – something more – anything. Perhaps that was the perfect testimonial to the addictive power of reality TV and Coble’s treacherous truth.



GregBoaldinAs I continue to work on tightening and improving the script for my film Will You Take This Man?, I am fortunate to be involved in a screenwriting group here in Wichita where we do miniature table reads of sections of the script.

    Every week the writers have the opportunity to bring in 7-10 pages of their script and we read them aloud, each of us playing different roles, and then critiquing each other’s work. The experience has been very helpful, but maybe not always in the way that the collaborators intend.

    It is a diverse group of people. We are of different ages, experience levels, and interests. What I take from these readings often is an interesting perspective on how the characters resonate differently with each member based on their unique perspective and experiences.

    This isn’t the first time I have recognized this phenomenon. I have certainly been able to gauge a difference in how gay men experience the script in contrast to straight men, or women.

    It has shown me what I was already pretty sure of, that as gay men, our experiences uniquely influence the way we see the world.

    Gay men tend to respond to the script in a much more visceral way. They tend to get more wrapped into the story, and many tell me their emotional reactions to specific parts of the script.

    Whether they respond to the posthumous letter from one of the main character’s father, or the wedding vows, or some of the funnier and lighter moments in the script, the comments are more about how they relate to characters in a much more personal way.

    Straight people tend to be more curious about what happens in the script in an almost scientific way. They want to know how much of the story is based on real events. They want to understand motivations and are more curious about the back stories of the various characters. It’s an almost sociological perspective.

    Both perspectives are valuable. The one helps me focus on the emotional truths of the characters. I feel a strong responsibility to show the lives of gay men in an authentic and human way, and in a way that strikes a chord with the gay audience.


National News

White House Responds To Petition On Dangerous Anti-LGBT Conversion Therapy

Petition was launched in response to the tragic story of Leelah Alcorn and calls for help to ban the dangerous and discredited practice

WASHINGTON – Today, the White House responded to a petition with over 120,000 signers seeking “help to ban the practice known as 'conversion therapy.’” The petition came in response to the heartbreaking story of Leelah Alcorn, a 17 year old transgender youth who tragically took her own life after being subjected to the horrifying experiences of the dangerous and discredited practice. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization hailed the White House’s response to the petition.

“The White House statement today is historic and sends a clear message that this dangerous and discredited practice should be relegated to the dustbin of history,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Psychological abuse has no place in therapy, no matter the intention. Conversion therapy uses fear and shame that no child should be exposed to, telling young people that the only way to find love or acceptance is to change the very nature of who they are.”


Lambda Legal Applauds President Obama for Supporting Banning ‘Ex-gay Therapy’ for Minors

obama-lgbt“So-called ‘ex-gay therapy’ devastates LGBT people and their families, and we commend the president for speaking out against these dangerous and discredited practices.”

(Washington, April 8, 2015) –Today President Obama condemned efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity – sometimes referred to as “ex-gay”, “conversion” or “reparative” therapy – for minors.

In a statement released today, President Obama calls for an end to “conversion therapy,” stating in part, “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”


Corporations to State Lawmakers: Stop the Harmful Attacks on LGBT People

open-signWASHINGTON – Today, major corporations signed on to launch a statement by businesses speaking out against an onslaught of anti-LGBT legislation being considered in states around the country. The statement, launched today by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, calls on public officials to defeat or abandon efforts to enact these harmful pieces of legislation. Other corporations are expected to sign on to the growing list in the coming days, reflecting an ever increasing momentum to stop these bills.

In a Sunday op-ed for The Washington Post, Apple CEO Tim Cook decried pro-discrimination laws as dangerous and called on business leaders to speak up. Joining Cook in calling out these laws are long time supporters of equality: American Airlines, Inc.; Apple, Inc.; Levi Strauss & Co; Microsoft Corp.; Orbitz Worldwide; Replacements, Ltd; ​Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.; Symantec Corporation; and Wells Fargo & Company.


Progress Seen in Arkansas RFRA Fight As Governor Hutchinson Halts Bill

ArkansasFlag-rainbowWASHINGTON--April 1, in response to the announcement that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson will ask the Arkansas Legislature to recall the discriminatory H.B. 1228, amend it to mirror the provisions of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and that he will consider an executive order granting an unspecified set of protections for LGBT state employees, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released this statement from its President, Chad Griffin.

"It's clear Governor Hutchinson has heard the voices of thousands of Arkansans and millions across the nation, and today's decision to temporarily stop this discriminatory law from advancing is a sign of progress.  But the proof will be in the pudding, and we must now wait to see what actions and language Governor Hutchinson and the Arkansas Legislature put forward in the coming days and weeks. 


Anti-LGBT Bills Defeated in West Virginia, Fairness and Equality Prevail

WestVirginia-shape-rainbowCHARLESTON - On Saturday in West Virginia, the legislative session came to an end at midnight, in effect killing extreme anti-LGBT bills which had failed to move forward - including a bill to abolish local liberty (HB 2881) and two so-called "religious freedom" bills (HB 2508 and SB 487). Fairness West Virginia, the statewide civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to fair treatment and civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) West Virginians, and the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, claimed victory in stopping these extreme anti-LGBT bills from moving forward and vowed to continue the fight for fairness and equality in the state.

“With the help of fair-minded legislators in both chambers and both parties, along with thousands of LGBT advocates and allies, we successfully fought off attempts to dismantle equality in the Mountain State,” said Fairness West Virginia Executive Director Andrew Schneider. “As evidenced by the overwhelming public opposition to discriminatory legislation, it’s clear that West Virginia is no place for intolerance and hate. We look forward to continue working with our allies in the WV Legislature to ensure that West Virginia is a more inclusive and attractive place to call home.”


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