- By Eric Webb American-Statesman Staff
One minute Lady Gaga is flying over Houston, suspended by cables and dressed like Swarovski Batman. The next minute, she’s joining 140 or so entertainers to call for an end to “legislation that would target the LGBTQ community” in the Lone Star State. As the meme goes: Life comes at you fast, Texas.
Would you believe that Texans have some opinions about an open letter from a small army of stars concerning our political process? Face front, true believer, because stars like Gaga, Emma Stone and Jimmy Kimmel on Tuesday released just such a public missive. The letter, spearheaded by musician/Lena Dunham beau Jack Antonoff, addresses the so-called Texas “transgender bathroom bills” and states that the creative community has a responsibility to do “everything within our power to make sure all of our fans, crews and fellow artists feel safe and welcome, wherever we go.”
Readers on the American-Statesman’s Facebook page sounded off, even the ones who said they didn’t care. “Great, now we can start losing a major part of the Texas economy (events) because a bunch of cowardly old men are afraid of folks taking a leak,” wrote Diane Cochran. “The problem with celebrities is, they think people buy into their thoughts,” wrote Mark Warnken.
In case you missed it, here’s what the hubbub is about, bub. According to the American-Statesman’s Chuck Lindell, Texas’ “Senate Bill 6 and a similar measure, House Bill 1362, would prohibit public schools from letting transgender children use multistall bathrooms that conform with their gender identity. State government buildings also would be barred from creating transgender-friendly bathrooms, and cities and counties would be prohibited from requiring bathrooms that accommodate transgender individuals.”
So, no, it’s not a shock to the system that the bisexual woman who sang “Born This Way” put her name on this letter. Nor is it surprising that other LGBT entertainers are unhappy with government regulation of where transgender people engage in essential bodily waste production. The letter roster is a who’s who that spans music, film, TV and literature, and you could spend all day finding past examples of these celebrities’ public advocacy, but here are just a few times these stars have supported the LGBT community ways large and small:
• Lady Gaga: Thanks to her Super Bowl/Grammys/”Joanne” PR blitz, the pop diva has been the focus of many of the articles about the letter to Texas. It’s also because she’s been one of the most public about her LGBT support in the past. In 2013, the Advocate compiled a list of moments she has “raised the bar for those who would claim the status of gay icon.” They include founding the Born This Way Foundation in 2012 to advocate for gay youth, visiting the White House to address anti-bullying efforts and denouncing Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws while performing in the country in 2012.
• Laverne Cox: One of the world’s most outspoken transgender rights advocates, the “Orange Is the New Black” actress produced the MTV documentary “The T Word” in 2014. That same year, she also became the first openly transgender person on the cover of Time magazine.
• Against Me!: The punk band’s frontwoman, Laura Jane Grace, burned her birth certicate onstage in Durham, N.C., last year in protest of that state’s own bathroom legislation. She reportedly said “Goodbye gender!” while doing so.
• Connie Britton: Asked about similar legislation in Tennessee last year, Coach Taylor’s TV wife (who also starred on “Nashville”) told The Hollywood Reporter that “I shoot a TV show in Tennessee, and honestly, if they proceed with this, I’m not necessarily going to feel comfortable working there.”
• George Takei: Sulu from “Star Trek” has been a well-known LGBT rights advocate since he came out publicly in 2005.
• Cyndi Lauper: A longtime gay rights activist, the pop institution launched the True Colors World Tour in 2007 to benefit the Human Rights Campaign and has served on the honorary board of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
• Janelle Monae: The singer and “Hidden Figures” star denounced anti-LGBT hate speech amid controversy earlier this year over an anti-gay sermon by gospel singer Kim Burrell, who is featured on the movie’s soundtrack.
• Natalie Maines: Texas’ own Dixie Chick told USA Today in 2013 that “I’m pro-gay marriage. Pro-gay everything.”
• Michael Chabon: The author wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning gay lit classic “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” in 2001. He also recently penned an essay for GQ about attending Paris Men’s Fashion Week with his young son and helping him find his “tribe”; Chabon told Buzzfeed that gay teens messaged him on Instagram in supportive response.
Let’s taco ‘bout it
Chili who? Although the (beanless) spicy meat entrée was named the official dish of Texas in 1977, 40 years later, not everyone remains convinced.
“People here eat tacos five days a week. Tacos were here before Texas was Texas,” Rayo said. When asked by the Texas Standard to “make the case” for tacos as the state food of Texas, Rayo’s main point was that anything can be made into a taco: chili, barbecue, etc. He also spoke of the history behind the dish, saying that the delicacy is “from this land.”
So what is Rayo’s plan for getting the official dish changed to tacos? A Change.org petition, he said.
“Then we got to go find a hungry legislator that loves tacos, Rayo told the radio program. “If you’re out there, give me a call.”
— Amanda O’Donnell, American-Statesman Staff
Rest in … well, not ‘peace,’ per se
Galveston man Leslie Ray Charping died late last month after a battle with cancer. The passing of the 75-year-old, however, was without the pleasantries and condolences that might normally accompany the death of a loved one.
Charping’s obituary has gained widespread attention for being, as Galveston’s ABC 13 puts it, “brutal, yet honest.”
According to the obituary, Charping died “January 30, 2017, which was 29 years longer than expected and much longer than he deserved.” The obituary, one might assume, was written by the “family he tortured” and calls Charping “a model example of bad parenting combined with mental illness and a complete commitment to drinking, drugs, womanizing and being generally offensive.”
In case you’re wondering what kind of funeral you hold for someone who left behind “2 relieved children … and countless other victims” — you don’t. The obituary’s author makes it clear that there will not be a service or “prayers for eternal peace and no apologizes to the family he tortured.” Instead, the family planned to keep Charping’s cremated remains “in the barn until ‘Ray,’ the family donkey’s wood shavings run out.”
Charping’s only redeeming qualities, according to the obituary? His “quick whited [sic] sarcasm which was amusing during his sober days” and his “surprising” intelligence.
It seems what little peace Charping’s family took from his passing was the confirmation that “evil does in fact die and hopefully marks a time of healing and safety for all.”
The scathing obituary is accompanied by a picture of a peaceful beach scene.
— Amanda O’Donnell, American-Statesman Staff