Gay leader caught embezzling sales tax

John Worth Johnson (Credit: N.C. Department of Revenue)

As reported by Q-Notes, John Johnson, a former board member and officer of Alternative Resources of the Triad/OutGreensboro.com, was charged with embezzling North Carolina state and Guilford County sales tax this week:

John Worth Johnson, 38, formerly of 111 W. Washington Street, was originally arrested last week by Myrtle Beach police. He was extradited back to North Carolina. He is currently being held on a $100,000 bond by Wake County Police.

According to arrest warrants obtained by The News and Record, Johnson is alleged to have aided Worth, Inc. to embezzle state and county sales tax totaling $48,584.93. The embezzlement occurred from Jan. 1, 2004 through July 31, 2007. Worth, Inc. was the managing company through which Johnson managed the hotel business, where he also resided.

Alternative Resources of the Triad was created in 1988 and came to be the sponsoring organization of the now-passed Gay and Lesbian Hotline. After the rise of the internet, the organization moved their information referral services to OutGreensboro.com, currently being re-tooled as OutTriad.org. The organization is also the main sponsor of the annual Triad Pride festival and multiple other events.

Disclosure: I served as a member of the Alternative Resources of the Triad board of directors with John Johnson from Jan. 2005-May 2006. I was also employed as a front desk receptionist at the Biltmore Greensboro Hotel from Jan. 2005-Sept. 2005, while a student at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

According to the Greensboro News & Record (h/t Doug Clark, Off the Record), Guilford College in Greensboro, NC has added gender-identity and expression to its non-discrimination policy.

The effort to add the terms was spearheaded by senior David Norton (pictured right – past posts), an active and vocal part of the College and the surrounding area’s LGBT community. Norton is also a co-founder and Executive Director of the National Student Genderblind Campaign, a national non-profit which advocates for gender-blind and trans inclusive policies on college campuses.

Norton has spearheaded an effort to have Guilford adopt gender-blind policies in housing but that has yet to come to fruition.

The change “really allows people to express themselves and the way that they are,” said Norton, 21 . “It’s about the college is sending a message that everyone is embraced in this community.”

Gender identity is how a person decides to personally identify “whether it be a man or a woman or something else all together,” Norton said. Gender expression is how a person expresses himself or herself, such as in dress or speech, he said.

Doug Clark, a News & Record editorial writer takes some concern with the policy change:

It struck me in reading Lanita Withers’ Campus Notebook column today that institutions sometimes set policies in order to satisfy people but don’t necessarily intend to carry them out in all instances.

My theory might not apply to Guilford College, which has expanded its Nondiscriminatory Policy Statement to include “gender identity” and “gender expression” after a lobbying effort by student David Norton. But if this means, as the policy implies, that “access to programs or activities for its student population” can’t be denied on the basis of “gender identity,” then it seems to me that a man would be allowed to identify as a woman for the purpose of playing on the women’s basketball team. But, of course, in reality he wouldn’t be allowed to do that. For one reason, if it included a male in its lineup, the women’s basketball team wouldn’t be allowed to compete against other women’s teams. Nor would a man be allowed to prowl women’s restrooms if he claimed to be feeling feminine at that particular time.

Fortunately, a commenter – Dave Ribar of Applied Rationality comes in to clarify and bring some sanity to the discussion:

The word discriminate has several meanings. The policy language used by Guilford College and other institutions almost certainly follows the definition:

to make a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing on the basis of the group, class, or category to which the person or thing belongs rather than according to actual merit or qualifications.

Some of the more ridiculous examples from you and Brian444, such as the boys trying out for the girls team, the mental ability example, and the campus minister example, come from alternative uses of the word. Unfortunately, Guilford College leaves itself open to this kind of ridicule by not including a glossary of terms in its policy documents.

The issue of gender identity is actually a very tough one for schools to deal with. Trans-gendered people are generally instructed to change their dress and appearance and live that way for some period of time before drug or surgical changes will be made.

The college I attended – The University of North Carolina at Greensboro – has yet to add gender-identity and expression to its non-discrimination statement and policy, but the UNCG Student Government Association does include it in their Constitutional clause on Membership & Eligibility to Vote (thanks, no less, to yours truly when I pushed for that very change during the 2004-2005 Constitutional re-haul).

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Triad gears up for first-ever local Pride

In the 1980s, when Alternative Resources of the Triad (ART) was first started to assist local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in finding much-need resources and support, most local queers would have never dreamed of a locally-focused LGBT pride festival occurring in the area.

The dream has come to life this year. ART, which runs the local LGBT website OutGreensboro.com, started planning the Triad Pride 2007 festival last year and it is gearing up for its four-day series of events next week, with the largest being the day festival on Saturday, August 25th.

The Triad Pride festival will mark the first time that the Triad area plays host to a pride gathering planned entirely by locals, for locals. Only twice before has the Triad seen a pride festival in its borders. In 1996, the North Carolina, state-wide Pride festival was held in Winston-Salem and in 1999 Greensboro played host. In recent years, the state-wide festival has been held in Durham on and around the campus of Duke University.

The Triad Pride day festival on Saturday will not be the largest pride gathering in the state, but for the first-ever event of its kind in the area, it should prove to be a large draw for local LGBT people.

“Since this is the first year for Triad Pride Festival here in Greensboro, we are expecting between 1,200 to 1,500 persons,” said ART President John Johnson.

An issue on many people’s minds is the opposition that LGBT people continue to face in North Carolina. Not only have anti-gay, religious radicals attempted to strip away rights through legislative means in Raleigh, anti-gay protestors have been regular attendees at North Carolina pride festivals, causing disruptions and coming close to arrest.

Protestors aren’t really a concern to Triad Pride organizers says Johnson.

“Honesly, we are not expecting any protestors or disruptions since Greensboro is a pretty open city and area. But, we will have secruity on hand to make sure that problems do not happen and to protect everyone.

“Greensboro is a great city to hold Triad Pride in. Everyone is so friendly and the city makes you feel so welcome. It has been a pleasure in preparing Triad Pride Festival here in Greensboro.”

According to Q-Notes (link), the Reverend Billy Ball of Primrose, GA, won’t give the competing PrideCharlotte Festival in Charlotte, NC (being held on the same day as the Triad Pride festival) as easy a time as Greensboro is getting. Ball has already confirmed he will be in Charlotte and his past antics include arrests and lawsuits.

The schedule of events include everything from region-wide parties from Winston-Salem’s Club Odyssey to Greensboro’s Warehouse29 and Q Bar to a Sunday afternoon picnic co-hosted by Triad Pride, Alternative Resources of the Triad and Triad-area PFLAG chapters.

Some of the highlights of the Festival include Saturday’s Day Festival at Greensboro’s Festival Park in Downtown, “Our Night Out” at The Press in Downtown Greensboro, Saturday night’s Pride Ball at Warehouse 29 and Sunday’s Mr. & Miss Triad Pageant at the Warehouse 29. The winner of the pageant receives a $200 cash prize.

Organizing for the event has definitely been a grand undertaking. Major sponsors include the Biltmore Greensboro Hotel, Kent Woofter and Cris Belton (owners of Warehouse 29), PFLAG Greensboro and Club Odyssey.

The Triad Pride Committee and many volunteers have worked hard to pull off the more than $24,000 series of events.

“There is such a large number of people, groups, organizations and businesses that has helped out,” says Johnson, “We can not thank them enough for doing so.”

Other events the weekend of Triad Pride include Guilford Green Foundation’s “Back to School” Green Queen Bingo on Friday evening, the Triad Pride Men’s Chorus concert “Pretty in Pink” on Saturday at Greensboro’s Cultural Arts Center the North Carolina Democratic Party‘s Sanford-Hunt Dinner in Greensboro on Saturday.

Learn More:

Triad Pride Theme 2007: Living Out Loud! Living Out Loud is the the theme for Triad Pride 2007 Festival! Living Out Loud means a little something different for each person, Living Out Loud is the expression of a peson to live life as you want and to be free to be your self with the freedom to express your self fully. With out the freedom to be one self then there is no freedom for anyone.

Be sure to stay tuned to InterstateQ.com PRIDE CENTRAL for Charlotte & the Triad! We’ll bring you interviews with pride festival insiders, event summaries, photos, videos and more!

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Triad Pride, Greensboro, Schedule

The schedule for the Triad Pride 2007 festival in Greensboro & Winston-Salem, NC, August 23rd through August 26th, 2007.

More Information: OutGreensboro.com/TriadPride.html
Click here for the PrideCharlotte schedule

    Thursday, August 23, 2007Kick Off Party around the Triad
    Club Odyssey (Winston Salem) A great place for fun!
    The Q Lounge (Greensboro, edge of Downtown Greensboro)
    Time Out Salon (Downtown Greensboro)

    Friday, August 24, 2007

    “Back to School” Green Queen Bingo
    at The Regency Room
    203 South Elm Street
    Downtown Greensboro NC 27401
    Guilford Green Foundation
    7 pm till 10 pm.
    Buy tickets online or at the door – www.ggfnc.org

    Party Night
    Join all of the Clubs and Bars in the Triad to celerbrate Triad Pride 2007! Fun for everyone.
    Club Odyssey (Winston Salem) Country Club Drive
    The Q Bar (Greensboro) Market Street
    Warehouse 29 (Greensboro) Arnold Street

    Saturday, August 25, 2007

    Triad Pride Rally
    11 am untill 2 pm.
    Festival Park
    200 North Davies Street
    Downtown Greensboro NC 27401
    FREE for everyone to attend and to have fun.

    Rally Schedule
    (Time schedules and events may change as we get closer to the event. Alternative Resources of the Triad is not responsible for any changes that may occur to the performers.) Triad Pride 2007 will go on due to bad weather.

    8:45 AM to 9:45 AM Vendor and Booth Setup
    9:45 AM: Karen Favreau Performing
    10:00 AM, Rally Starting time.
    10:05 AM, Lawanda Jackson Performs
    10:15 AM, KeyNote Speaker Adison Ore
    10:30 AM, Karen Favreau Performing
    10:45 AM, David Bryant Peformer
    11:00 AM, Chris Belton’s Disfunctional Family Fued Game Tarheel Leather Club VS. Triad PrideMen’s Chorus
    11:45 AM, Karen Favreau
    12:00 PM, Comedy Drag Show (4 Performers)
    12:45 PM, PFLAG mom Deanne Mogon Speaker
    1:00 PM, Mr. Triad Pride & Miss Triad Pride 2006 Performs and Speak
    1:30 PM Triad Pride Men’s Chorus
    2:00 PM End ceremony.

    Our Night Out!
    5:00 pm till 8:00 pm
    The Press, A Wine Cafe
    Martine Luthor King BLVD, Greensboro NC 27406
    Within walking distance of Fesitval Park.

    Triad Pride Men’s Chorus presents, “Pretty in Pink”
    with special guest Rainee Perdue, TriadIdol 2006 Adult Winner
    Greensboro Cultural Arts Center, 8pm
    200 North Davie Street, Lower Level

    Pride Ball
    9:30 pm until 3 am
    Warehouse 29
    1011 Arnold Street
    Greensboro NC 27405
    Entry $5.00 to $10.00 admission fee with W29 membership and picture id, College Students free adimission with W29 membership and College ID and Picture ID. All underage persons must follow all W29 entry rules of W29.

    Sunday, August 25, 2007

    Sunday Morning Service
    Saint Mary’s House, Episcopal
    930 Walker Avenue, UNCG Campus
    Greensboro NC 27402
    11AM till 12 Pm

    Picnic Out with the Family
    A day in the park with family & friends.
    Hester T Oaks Park (Vandallia & Groomtown Road)
    11:30 am until 2:30 pm
    FREE to everyone
    Volleyball courts available, Tennis courts, Padle boats, fishisng and much moore.
    Pack your own picnic basket and come out with your family and freinds. Join in the fun.
    A Live Dj for the family to enjoy, JukeBox DJ Services

    Pride Volleyball Game at Warehouse 20
    Warehouse 29
    1011 Arnold Street
    Greensboro NC 27405
    3:00 pm till 9:00 pm
    Admission $6 each person.
    Weather permitted.

    Triad Pride Rally event location
    Festival Park, 200 North Davies Street, Downtown Greensboro NC 27401

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DavidNortonA Guilford College student and activist for many LGBT issues, including HIV/AIDS awareness and gender equality, is the 2007 recipient of the James Allen Broach Scholarship from the Triad Business and Professional Guild.

David Norton (pictured right), a rising senior at Guilford College, was honored with the $1,500 scholarship named in honor of Triad-area philanthropist J. Allen Broach. The news was shared in the August 2007 issue of The Agenda, the Guild’s newsletter.

According to The Agenda:

The Broach Scholarship was established in 1997 by TBPG to honor James Allen Broach to give financial assistance to students actively involved in fighting bigotry aimed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.

Norton is a dedicated student advocate of pro-LGBT and HIV-AIDS related policies and is experienced in student organizing, volunteer recruitment, campaign strategy, policy analysis, grant writing and media outreach. Norton’s leadership experiences include working with the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition in Washington, DC as a Research and Strategy Consultant, with the [Greensboro, NC-based] National Student Genderblind Campaign as Executive Director, with the Community AIDS Project of Guilford College as Co-President, with the Human Rights Campaign as an Executive Intern, and with Equality North Carolina as an Intern.

Norton has received many recognitions including the Charles Dana Scholar for outstanding character, scholarship and leadership, the HRC Carolina Gala’s Youth Scholarship recipient, the STAR Performance Award for exceptional dedication to community service and outstanding leadership and the 2007 Dick Dyer Award recipient for best campus activism.

Congratulations David! I’m sure I speak for many people in Greensboro when I say, “Good work, my friend.”

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Seth Crawford, a junior at Northwest Guilford High School in Greensboro, NC, wrote a great student journalism article and profile on me and my activism as a part of a multicultural journalism workshop with the Greensboro News & Record.

His article appears in today’s paper:

UNCG student fights for gay rights
June 26, 2007
Seth Crawford, Northwest Guilford

This article was written as part of a Multicultural Journalism Workshop at the News & Record.

The numbing cold handcuffs constrict his wrists.

A firm hand tightly grasps his arm.

An attentive man guides him to the sporadic blinking lights of a police car.

As he is placed in the back seat, confidence builds up inside him.

Unlike most college students, 21-year-old Matt Hill Comer has been battling adversity his entire life.

Comer, a UNCG junior, realized he was gay when he was 12. But he grew up in a strictly conservative Baptist home, where he struggled with a decision to make his sexual orientation known. He would sit in church on Sundays, listening to his pastor — who seemed to point him out — condemning gays as despicable, vile creatures that would inevitably burn in hell.

Comer struggled with his sexual orientation. Maybe he didn’t feel the way he thought he did, or maybe it would pass. After two years of wrestling with himself, he finally came out to his parents at 14.

“My dad just sat on the couch. He didn’t really say anything,” Comer said. “My mom gave me the typical conservative Christian reaction saying, ‘You’re going to hell.’

“I cried myself to sleep.”

After he told his parents, he built up enough courage to confide to a friend in his Boy Scout troop and another friend from school, who told everyone else. It wasn’t the way he had planned. But there wasn’t much he could do about it, except grit his teeth and take the verbal abuse that followed.

Comer remembers being teased by the kids in his Boy Scout troop. That eventually turned to violence.

“They tied me to a tree and threw rocks and sticks at me and hit me with wet towels,” he said.

His father confronted the Scout master, who simply replied: “Boys will be boys.”

Read the full article by Seth

I emailed Seth this morning, told him he did a great job and gave him just one correction in his article. Besides that… I think his little bio at the bottom of the article – “Seth, a junior, wants to write for Sports Illustrated.” – might be right on cue with his talent for writing.


Tonight: Matt @ the Guild

From The Winston-Salem Journal (src):

Out & About
Thursday, June 21, 2007
– relish staff report
Winston-Salem Journal

The Triad Business and Professional Guild meets at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at the Airport Marriott in Greensboro.

The guild is a nonpartisan organization that works to promote business and social networking for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its allies. The meetings begin with a social hour (with a cash bar), followed by dinner and a program.

The speaker for tonight’s meeting will be Matt Comer, who traveled with Soulforce’s Equality Ride to discuss LGBT issues on traditionally conservative college campuses.

For reservations or more information, visit www.triadguild.com or call (336) 272-4256.

I will be the guest speaker at this month’s meeting of the Triad Business & Professional Guild:

The Triad Business and Professional Guild Will Host
A presentation by Matt Comer

Matt Comer took a journey with Soulforce’s Equality Ride to have an open dialogue on LGBT issues on traditionally conservative college campuses.

Matt Comer was first involved in LGBT organizing and advocacy while at RJ Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC. After being dismissed from the Boy Scout program because of his sexual orientation, his activism went to the community level and since then he has been involved in various organizations locally, state-wide and nationally. Matt has worked with GLSEN Winston-Salem, PFLAG Winston-Salem, UNCG PRIDE!, Scouting for All, the Coalitions for Inclusive Scouting, Alternative Resources of the Triad & Soulforce’s Right to Serve Campaign on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He has just returned from working with the Soulforce Equality Ride in March and April 2006. He currently serves on the board of the Guilford Green Foundation and is a member of the Triad Business & Professional Guild.”

The evening will begin with a networking cocktail/social hour at 6:00 pm. Dinner will be served at 7:00 pm.
To make your reservation, fill out the online form at triadguild.com or call 336-272-4256.

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The Guilford Green Foundation has launched its 2nd Annual Straight Ally Campaign and is expanding it this year! Now is your chance to to be a part of this campaign before the first ad is due this Friday!

From Guilford Green’s Straight Ally Campaign:

Last year the inaugural Straight Ally Campaign changed the face of Greensboro for the better with more than 300 straight allies signing up during the month of June. A strong community is one where respect and dignity of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, is valued.

Similar to last year’s campaign, we are asking straight allies to donate $35 dollars that will go directly into the Guilford Green Foundation grantmaking. Last year, GGF granted $60,000 to organizations in Guilford and Alamance Counties. This year, with the attempt to raise awareness in our five county region, we plan to place ads in the Burlington Times News, the High Point Enterprise and the Greensboro News & Record. Ads will demonstrate the importance of acceptance and fairness between the LGBT community and our straight contemporaries. Entitled “Our Community is Stronger When Everyone is Treated Fairly,” the initiative will promote fairness and unity by focusing on the creation of new relationships and alliances, and enhancement of existing efforts.

I encourage all my straight ally friends to donate and be a part of this wonderful campaign and the Guilford Green Foundation! GGF helps many groups throughout Greensboro and Alamance – groups working to create safer, more welcoming communities for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender-identity.

You can donate online and be a part of this campaign!

You can also see a list of last year’s campaign members and see copies of last year’s ads here.

That’s right. I feel honored.

Not only is InterstateQ.com featured in this month’s OutInAsheville Spotlight, we are also featured right along side such well-known sites as my friends at Pam’s House Blend and PageOneQ, as well as 365gay.com and Chris Crain.

Here’s what writer Maxwell Powell says about us:

InterstateQ.com serves as both a an internet community for the masses and a personal website for Matt Hill Comer, one of SoulForce’s Equality Riders and an NC native. Matt is a student at UNC-Greensboro and is the Executive Director/Co-Founder of the NC Advocacy Coalition. Most recently he has been blogging about his experience as an Equality Rider. InterstateQ.com is devoted to LGBT news, events, and opinions through a youth and activist perspective. Matt’s writings have been featured or included in numerous media outlets. Since coming out at age 14, he has worked with various organizations to create social awareness on LGBT issues and make his community, state and nation a more accepting and equal place for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. He longs for “the day when our beloved nation will live up to its ideals of equality, liberty and justice for all by full heartedly treating, respecting, accepting and valuing LGBT Americans as equally and as fairly as straight Americans.”

Check out the full Spotlight here

You should also check out Ann Paige’s OutInAsheville article on the Soulforce Equality Ride visit to Montreat College in Montreat, NC, which is just outside Asheville, NC.

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