By Ciara Reid, staff reporter
TOPEKA - The 2016 Topeka Pride Festival starts Sept. 12 with activities scheduled through Sept. 17. This is the third annual pride festival for the city, and while pride and diversity are naturally areas of celebration during pride festivals, organizers of Topeka Pride are placing a special emphasis on these themes this year.
Especially in this time of strife, when bathroom laws and gender identity conjure heated debates and uneducated opinions all over the country, any opportunity to come together and celebrate differences is welcomed.
Topeka pride organizer Stephanie Mott views this pride celebration as more than just equality and celebration based on sexual orientation and gender identity. “We recognize that we must celebrate who we are, but that we also need to celebrate all the intersectionality of who we are,” she says.
By Greg Dalton-White
WICHITA – The Heart of America Men’s Chorus (HOAMC) recently announced its upcoming event, “Life is a Cabaret!” This casual evening will be held at Roxy’s, 412 E. Douglas, on Friday, Sept. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 10. Tickets ($15) are available at the door or can be reserved by calling 316-708-4837. The doors open at 6:30pm; show starts at 7:30pm. There is a two drink minimum.
Instead of doing the usual summer concert, HOAMC decided to try a new type of entertainment. The cabaret will feature whole group performances of a disco medley, the Cell Block Tango from Chicago, and I Am What I Am from La Cage aux Folles.
In addition, there will be solos and group numbers poking fun at gender roles. A cabaret performance is free form with the audience encouraged to interact with each other, listen to the music or travel to the bar.
By Trevor Reichle, staff reporter
WICHITA - Student groups on school campuses are not only a way for students to connect with peers, make friends or get involved with projects; in many ways, they provide an avenue for students to get support, further their education and offer their support to others. For LGBT students, this has appeared as a welcome resource.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of LGBT student groups on the Wichita State University campus. Spectrum, WSU’s current LGBTQ and allies group, is taking note of that and celebrating their predecessors at a 40th anniversary celebration party in the Beggs Ballroom on the WSU campus on Sept. 17 at 6pm. Details are still being confirmed, but plans are underway to include dinner, speakers, and dancing.
The first of these groups was the Student Homophile Association, which began in 1976. Other groups, such as the Gay and Lesbian Resource Association (1984), Responsible Active Gays (1989), Ten Percent (1994) and That Gay Group! (2000) were subsequently formed or reincarnated to continue to meet the needs of the LGBT population at Wichita State.
By Blake Hampton, staff reporter
WICHITA - It’s almost time for Pride weekend. This year’s celebration begins Saturday the 24th and ends on the next evening. All full of music, dancing, performances, food, drink, and a good time for the LGBT community and beyond to enjoy.
Before the festivities start there will be one more fundraiser - Bitchy Bingo at Rain Café on Sep. 15. Twenty dollars buys a bingo card and ten games to play. That night there will be a chance to meet Mr. and Miss Wichita Gay Pride, Ladiesman and Sasha May Carmichael. Both will be seen throughout Pride weekend and continue to hold their title till next year.
The Pride Family Picnic at OJ Watson Park starts at 11am. It’s a family-friendly event with the only admission fee being a Pride button. Thanks to the sponsors who are supporting Pride, food and refreshments will be provided. There will be music, and a bounce house for the kids along with the other amenities in the park. This event goes on until 3pm and then the celebration moves on to the Block Party.
By Jeromiah Taylor, staff reporter
WICHITA - Dennis Murphy and Dennis Reimer reside in a pristine, decadent home and can’t stop laughing about it.
The pair, the first openly gay couple to participate in Tour Designers’ Digs to Support Symphony Gigs, giggle and beam in their stately living room. Their home will be one of many houses belonging to interior designers which will be toured in the upcoming Wichita Symphony fundraiser from Sept. 10-11.
Murphy, the interior designer of the pair, and Reimer live on the east side of Wichita in a brick home filled to the brim with artifacts, art and perfectly picked furniture.
Cow hides and chinoiserie grace the same room in a zany but delightful vision only Murphy could realize. Murphy started as a hairstylist, a job he holds currently, over 20 years ago and while not formally trained in design had a long-term interest in interior.
By Kevin Stilley
JUNCTION CITY - What constitutes a hero? Our men and women in the armed forces? Our police and firefighters? The individual who enters a burning building to save a life? These all certainly fall into the category of hero.
But, there is another type of hero. He is the everyday citizen, who goes about his life quietly and unobtrusively making a difference in the lives of those around him. Joe Nisil was such a hero, as well as a veteran of the U.S. Army.
Nisil was an active member of the Flint Hills LGBT community. He was a member of the Junction City Teddy Bears (JCTB), serving a term as President. He was a founding member of Flint Hills Pride, which was active from 2005-15, and continued to be involved until his death in 2014, acting as DJ.
He also filled the role of DJ at Flint Hills Pride Prom, the Red Ribbon Ball, and the K-State Drag Show.
Nisil did this, and so much more, without pay. He sought no accolades or recognition. He gave of his time, talents and financial resources because he cared.
By Emily Beckman, staff reporter
DERBY - For some, in the face of tragedy, expression cannot come through a voice box. However, it may come through what they know best.
By intertwining the art of hair and a passion for photography with the power of raw emotion, young locals came together to express their grief and remind people that they are ‘never alone.’
Hairstylist Jen Okpara was searching for a way to express the emotions she felt following the shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando on June 12. Her vision? A collaborative photoshoot.
“I just knew that I could express my feelings and my emotions through doing someone’s hair who has strong and equal feelings on the same subject,” Okpara said.
She turned to Aaron Rogers, her friend with a love of photography and co-worker at Eric Fisher Salon, Derby to help her accomplish this goal.
By Kevin Stilley
MANHATTAN - In October 2015, Bre Nechols, a transgender woman, addressed the Manhattan City Commission during the public comment period of the regularly scheduled commission meeting. She spoke about adding sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.
One or more individuals would address the commission every month through the summer of 2016. In December, Richard Gehring, co-pastor of the Manhattan Mennonite Church, read a letter signed by nine pastors representing five Manhattan churches in support of the change. That number would increase to 14 pastors representing nine churches.
The Human Rights and Services Board voted to move forward on the change in March 2016. The item was slated for the agenda at the April 5 commission meeting. That meeting was attended by more than 100 citizens, and would last until nearly midnight. Of the 27 individuals who spoke during public comment, only four spoke against the change.
By Grayson Barnes, staff reporter
WICHITA - In July, Music Theatre Wichita (MTW) took on the long-lived and historically controversial Jesus Christ Superstar. This work by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice is dubbed as a “Rock Opera,” because of the music. This made it controversial when it was written in 1970, as does the choice made by Webber and Rice to tell most of the story from the point of view of Judas with addendums by Mary Magdalene and other pivotal characters.
The storyline additionally implicates the Jewish priests for bribing Judas and then being instrumental in Christ’s ultimate crucifixion. Christ is shown as merely a man, not God. He was a man who happened to be “the right man at the right time at the right place (Tim Rice).” As a result of Webber and Rice’s layered presentation, both Christian and Jewish groups took offense.
Jesus Christ Superstar was banned in some countries for being anti-religious or propagandistic. However, this bad press did not stop it from becoming an oft-repeated classic.
The musical, after the release of an initial concept album, had a rough start on Broadway in 1971. Webber hated the production, even though he received the Drama Desk Award for “Most Promising Composer.” It was also nominated for a number of Tony Awards, but did not win any. In 1972, Jesus Christ Superstar opened at the Palace Theatre in London and began its assent, and has subsequently continued to gain popularity world-wide.
I first became acquainted with Jesus Christ Superstar after hearing the album. I then went to a performance at the Palace in 1973. I already loved musicals, but this one HAD ROCK MUSIC. The experience was so moving, it made me want to see it every time I had the chance. Since then I have witnessed it performed “in very many ways (to steal the lyrics from “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”)” in a variety of theatres.
by Kristi Parker
I had a boyfriend in high school that taught me all I needed to know about shame. Although we were dating and had lots of mutual friends he didn’t want them to know we were dating. If we were out at the mall he wouldn’t hold my hand. I felt that he was ashamed to be with me and I allowed that to continue.
After I finally dumped him I swore that I would never let that happen to me again. Nor would I treat anyone I was seeing that way, be it a man, woman or alien. I learned what shame felt like and I didn’t like it one bit.
So I thought nothing of it when, after an early date with Vinnie at Red Lobster, we slid out of the booth and I kissed her. I had enjoyed our time and it was a natural reaction. It wasn’t a huge public display just a peck on the lips. However, a lady in the booth next to us visibly choked on her shrimp and Vinnie was a little taken aback.
When we got to the car I explained that I was never going to pretend I wasn’t with her. I was PROUD of her.
I also thought nothing of it when I told my dad I wouldn’t be at Christmas that year after he told me Vinnie couldn’t come. The fact that we had only been dating 17 days didn’t matter; I didn’t want to let him think that was okay.
However I did think something of it when I left my job as an oil and gas accountant. That was a harder decision. I came out to my boss and suddenly things got hostile. I had taken too many sick days, I didn’t dress appropriately, I set a bad example for the employees I supervised, I was too social with the president of the drilling company I worked for. None of these things were a problem before I came out. And none of them had anything to do with the quality of my work.
That was because I knew I was a damn good accountant. So my same principle applied - if they weren’t proud to have me as an employee why was I giving them my talents?
Before my two-weeks notice had ended, I was scooped up by a former manager at the oil company who then worked for a CPA firm. Better pay and better benefits.
It’s no wonder that when I first got involved in the LGBT community I headed straight (pun intended) for Pride.
I often talk about Pride in the context of the Pride Guide I created my first year and its impetus to the Liberty Press. But there is oh so much more to it than that. Besides hosting the very first PrideFest and Block Party, there are many of the things you see today that I oversaw in my five years as chairperson.
I separated Pride into its own entity rather than a committee of the Wichita Gay/Lesbian Alliance, and incorporated the name Wichita Pride, Inc. I filed for its own 501(c)3 tax designation and opened an office next to Mother’s gift store with a grant from San Diego Pride.
I had a knack for merchandising and fundraising. The $1,500 I was given that first year ballooned into a near $25,000 budget by the time I stepped down in 1999. Then I was offered what I thought was my dream job - Co-chair of San Diego Pride. I had always wanted to get paid to host Pride.
I also thought something of this, but it didn’t take long to realize I already had my dream job.
Lots of work, dedication, time and energy goes into producing Pride events. If you have the opportunity, please attend one in Topeka or Wichita this month. And if you go, take a second to thank one of the volunteers. I offer a huge thank you to the organizers in Wichita who have carried on the tradition.