Crimson Q UA RT E R LY WINTER 2021
Redacted: The Black Hole
of OU’s Open Records UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA
Social Host Law is also known as Cody’s Law. The law was passed by community efforts after SOONER STAT Oklahoma’s the tragic loss of a teenager to overdose on substances provided by adults at a party. What are Oklahoma’s laws on alcohol that I should know about?
Good question! When prohibition was repealed in 1933, Congress gave states the power to regulate alcohol. This has led to widely different alcohol laws from state to state. Whether you are from Oklahoma or not, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on Oklahoma’s alcohol laws. First, let’s talk about laws regarding alcohol and driving for those over 21: Driving While Impaired (DWI): If you have a blood alcohol concentration in excess of five-hundredths (0.05) but less than eight-hundredths (0.08), you can be charged with a DWI. There must be evidence that your ability to operate your vehicle was affected by alcohol to the extent that public health and safety were threatened. DWIs are misdemeanors and can come with up to 6 months in jail and up to a $500 fine, license suspension and required participation in an alcohol and drug assessment. Driving Under the Influence (DUI): If you have a blood alcohol concentration in excess of eight-hundredths (0.08), you can be charged with a DUI. The first offense is a misdemeanor, and a second offense is a felony. The range of punishment includes jail time, fines, license revocation and requirements for alcohol and drug assessment and treatment. If you’re charged with a DUI, you will likely have to get legal representation and after it’s all said and done, you could spend over $10,000 on your regrettable choice to drive while under the influence. Play it safe and choose not to overdrink; or not to drive if you have. Actual Physical Control (APC): Let’s say you’ve had too much to drink, and instead of driving home, you take a nap in the front seat of your car. Well, you could be charged with “Actual Physical Control”, which is like a DUI, but where you are not actually driving the car. The theory behind APC is that you could start the car and drive away at any time. In this scenario, you must have a BAC of 0.08 or more at. So, it’s best to just get a safe ride home. Now, how do these laws apply to you if you are under 21? If you have “any measurable quantity” (BAC of 0.02 or more) of alcohol, you can be arrested and charged for a DUI. You can be charged for an “underage DUI”, but you’ll likely be charged with the same DUI offense as someone over 21. The “underage DUI” charge is not “enhanceable”, meaning a second DUI charge can’t be enhanced to a felony. The “underage DUI” comes with fines, community service and completion of an alcohol/drug assessment and treatment program. This Red Cup Q&A is written by Charlene Shreder, MPS, ICPS, Chloe Sanders, LCSW, and Mackee Slattery, BSW from OU OUtreach Southwest Prevention Center. Red Cup Q&A is paid for by SAMHSA SPF-PFS.
Here are a few other laws to be mindful of: Social Host Law: When individuals who are under 21 are drinking on a private property, the person who provides the location for the gathering is in violation of Oklahoma’s Social Host Law. The Social Host can be a minor or someone over the age of 21, and it does not matter if they provided the alcohol or not. A first violation carries a fine of up to $500, unless someone is injured or killed… in which case the host can be charged with a felony, serve up to 5 years in prison, and pay a fine of up to $2,500. Public Intoxication (PI): If you are impaired by any substance in a public place and “disturbing the peace”, you may be charged with a PI. PIs can also be issued for those who consume alcohol on a premises that does not have an ABLE-issued alcohol license, whether they are disturbing the peace or not. PIs are misdemeanors with a fine of up to $500 and 5 days to 6 months in jail. Buying Alcohol with a Fake ID: Purchasing alcohol with a fake ID is a misdemeanor crime that carries a maximum fine of $50 and can result in your driver’s license being revoked or suspended for 90+ days for a first offense and 6+ months for subsequent offenses. You must also complete a substance abuse prevention program lasting a minimum of 4 hours provided by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Minor in Posession: It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to be in possession of or consuming alcohol - unless the person is in their private home under the supervision of their OWN parent/ guardian(s). A first offense is a misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $300, 30 hours of community service, and license suspension. Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor: It is illegal to provide alcohol to someone who is under the age of 21. A first offense is a misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $500 and up to 1 year in jail. Subsequent offenses are felonies with up to 5 years in prison, driver’s license revocation, and a fine ranging from $2,500$5,000. Individuals who provide a location for underage people to drink AND furnish them with alcohol are subject to punishment under this law AND the Social Host law. We’ve covered a lot of laws today, and there are still more. If you’d like additional information about Oklahoma alcohol laws visit www.urbanic.law/answers/non-violent-crimes/alcohol-crimes-in-oklahoma-laws-punishments/. There’s a lot to think about when it comes to drinking alcohol, especially if you’re underage. Not only are there health concerns and potential regrets, but you can also find yourself in legal trouble. Be familiar with the laws and save yourself the trouble of criminal records, fines, and jail time by following them!
Got a question about alcohol? Scan the QR code or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Crimson Quarterly Winter 2021
The past, present and future of Oklahoma’s 2SLGBTQ+
The black hole of OU’s open records
Enterprise/Features Managing Editor
‘Since when does God hate?’: Religious trauma and Oklahoma’s 2SLGBTQ+ Jillian Taylor
‘Proud of where I come from’: Indigenous representation in FX’s ‘Reservation Dogs’ Jacinda Hemeon
Assistant Enterprise Editor Rachel Hubbard
Designers Jonathan Dumar Tabytha Jimenez
Copy Manager Francisco Gutierrez
Faculty Adviser Seth Prince
Crimson Quarterly is a publication of University of Oklahoma Student Media. Nick Jungman, director of Student Media, authorized printing of 7,500 copies by University Printing Services at no cost to the taxpayers of the state of Oklahoma.
THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF OKLAHOMA’S 2SLGBTQ+ by Jazz Wolfe
opposite-sex couples on the same level in terms of sodomy, stating the use of “mankind” in the law implied both sexes. “As long as you didn’t talk about it,” said Jennifer Holland, an OU history professor specializing in queer history of the west, “it was enough.” Outside of Oklahoma, parts of queer culture were celebrated more openly by the community and its allies. Despite harassment and protests from morality groups around the country, Harlem became a “homosexual mecca” with its drag balls. The events — beginning in 1869 — were places for queer individuals to congregate and be themselves, dressing how they wanted and openly discussing their lives. As time went on, some of the balls began to attract international attention, bringing in artists and members of the queer community from around the world, Holland said. Wider public attention was given to the balls, particularly by international heterosexual artists, in the 1920s as the younger generation began to move away from older ideals after the 1918 flu pandemic. In contrast, various morality groups called for the end of the balls, but because of the general public support, politicians were unable to stop them. The Committee of Fourteen, founded in 1905 to investigate the spread of prostitution in New York, also investigated the drag balls in 1916 and released a report describing the “scandalous behavior” at the event. Before the 1950s, Oklahoma’s laws reguDuring the 1920 prohibition era, gay and lating the lives of queer citizens were mostly lesbian bars also saw a rise in popularity, nonexistent. Holland said. Oklahoma City contained While some sodomy bans existed in the many queer bars and speakeasies, including state at the time, they were not specific to queer couples. In 1943, the case of LeFavour the Mayflower Lounge, which was “overtly v. State found that sodomy was a lewd sexual queer” compared to other locations. Queerness, along with alcohol, went underground act between both same-sex couples and at the time for safety from rising morality opposite-sex couples. based laws and regulations. Oklahoma’s Court of Criminal Appeals In contrast, Oklahoma had been a dry clarified the language by placing same- and The oil beneath the earth Oklahoma rests on has a past, present and future. The wheat that spans across miles of land has a past, present and future. The scissortail flycatchers that soar over the state have a past, present and future. Queer people in Oklahoma share that past, present and future. The state’s 2SLGBTQ+ community was present long before its borders were drawn, and it remains a prominent group in the state. In Oklahoma, the past of queer people is not clearly defined — but it exists. Everyone has a history. Some are just better known than others. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Pride events around the U.S. have been canceled, postponed and canceled again. Norman’s Pride event was postponed until May 2022 in light of the delta variant. In the absence of that formal event this year, The Daily wants to explore the broader history of the 2SLGBTQ+ community across generations as a way of gaining a better understanding of the event’s importance to not just the queer community, but also Oklahoma as a whole.
state since as early as 1907, when it entered the union, and did not repeal its prohibition laws until 1959. Beer became available in 1933 after a push in other states to legalize non-liquor alcohol. At the same time, Oklahoma drag queens — referred to as “female impersonators” at the time — found places to perform through local speakeasies or secret bars
‘QUEERNESS HAD GONE UNDERGROUND’
Drag queen Taylor Bryan lip-syncs while performing for a meeting of OU’s former Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Alliance chapter. Bryan was featured in the Nov. 11, 1992 issue of The Oklahoma Daily, now The OU Daily. Photo by Steve Lineham/The Oklahoma Daily
Americans returned to the structure of a working husband and stay-at-home wife. Throughout the U.S., queer people in the work force were fired, harassed and evicted for their identities. That was the social norm.
‘A WHOLE CLASS OF PEOPLE WAS CRIMINALIZED’
Bruce Goff, then-chairman of the OU School of Architecture, stands beside a wall of pictures. Goff specialized in eclectic architecture and designed multiple houses in the Norman area, including the Bavinger House. The photo was featured in an Oct. 11, 1949 issue of the former Oklahoma Times newspaper. Photo courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
where they were accepted as part of the entertainment. One such person was Gil Ray, who worked at the Mayflower toward the end of prohibition in Oklahoma and performed using his gymnastics skills. Ray was also known for doing farmwork in drag when he was younger. “Queerness had gone underground,” Holland said. “But it had also found a new community.” It was not until the 1950s that the national opinion on queer individuals began to shift. Throughout the 1940s, a Second Red Scare began brewing in the U.S. The era was spurred on by former Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wisconsin). McCarthy publicly investigated the State Department for signs of communist influence in an attempt to gain more political prowess as a freshman congress member. In parallel with the Second Red Scare, the Lavender Scare also took place. The new movement focused on gay and lesbian individuals as being “sinful” and similar to communists, therefore needing to be removed from positions in the government. Queer federal employees, along with people who knew them due to “guilt of association,” were fired. “It had become an overtly hostile environment for queer people,” Holland said. “Before then, you weren’t a pariah. Now you were.” The nuclear family had become central to American ideals. America’s role in World War II had caused an increase of women in the workforce which had to be adjusted after the war ended and soldiers returned. After the war, it was vital that
World famous architect Bruce Goff was hired by the university in 1946 and, during his time in Norman, designed several houses of “unique and eccentric design” — his favorite way to create. He was also a gay man. OU’s college of architecture garnered national prestige under Goff, who was considered a favorite professor among the student body, Holland said. He remained at the university for less than a decade, resigning in 1955 due to his declining health, according to an OU Daily article from the time. “Oklahomo: Lessons in Unqueering America,” by Carol Mason, uses the state as a case study for how antigay rhetoric has evolved in the Midwest since the 1950s. She analyzes Goff’s experiences as a gay man in Oklahoma and Goff’s biography, in which it is said he resigned after an arrest related to his sexuality. Goff was charged with the encouragement of a 14-year-old boy’s “delinquency” — partially considered code for homosexual tendencies. Goff was accused of being physically involved with the minor. In Goff’s personal unpublished memoirs, he wrote that he “was caught ‘Red Handed,’” according to Mason. The use of ‘Red Handed’ possibly refers to a common practice of police entrapment to induce gay men to commit a crime. One form of entrapment would be to swab red dye on the informant and entice their target to touch them in that spot. In Goff’s case, the young boy may have been used by police with the promise of a “clear police report” if he agreed to help in the arrest. Mason suggests some morality groups believed Oklahomans needed to view homosexuals as “criminal and preying on boys” in order to protect the state from queer people, which may have played a role in Goff’s arrest. Nevertheless, Goff was arrested and pleaded not guilty for a year until changing his plea based on his lawyer’s advice. After his conviction, he paid a $500 dollar fine and left Oklahoma briefly, returning a month later. Goff’s choice to move back to Okla-
homa, instead of a “queer mecca” like San Francisco or New York, was likely influenced by many factors, according to Mason. Goff grew up primarily in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His personal connection to the state made him feel more comfortable in the Midwest than more accepting areas of the U.S. Goff was depicted as “homegrown,” according to Mason and was accepted by the general population of the state based on the student population’s relationship with him. Mason proposed that if the rise of McCarthyism had not occurred, it is likely Goff could have remained at the university and continued to be accommodated because of the local appreciation for him and his work. Prior to Goff’s resignation, then-OU President George Lynn Cross encouraged Goff to “fight the charges” of his arrest and remain at the university. “People of Oklahoma loved Bruce Goff,” she wrote. Goff was not the end to Oklahoma’s queer history, but he was instead one of the earlier well-documented figures in the state. The sexual revolution, which spanned from the ‘60s to the ‘80s, saw a rise in feminist theory, empowerment, queer communites and unity. Thanks to a more open social environment surrounding sexuality and sensuality, queer individuals were able to connect with each other more directly than in past decades. Some members of the community, along with supportive allies, moved to spread information about the queer community and news relevant to it in a more official capacity. In October 1983, The Gayly Oklahoman,
The cover of the first issue of the Gayly Oklahoman — now The Gayly — from Oct. 1, 1983. This issue included articles on the 1983 Miss Gay America Pageant, the hopes of a treatment for AIDS and ads for a support group helping “gay and lesbian Catholics and their friends.” Photo courtesy of Oklahoma Historical Society.
of the Oklahoma Capitol. Anita Bryant, a previous Miss Oklahoma, was speaking at the capital that day for legislation that would allow schools to fire teachers who were “publically homosexual.” The rally featured speakers from OU’s human relations department, a member of the sociology department and several student speakers. It intended to show the community’s dedication and support to “gays” in Oklahoma, according to The Daily article. Despite the protest, the bill was passed through Oklahoma’s legislature. It was adopted by the Senate on March 15, 1978, and signed by Gov. David Boren, who’d later become a U.S. senator and finally an OU president. It was not repealed until six years later, when the 10th Circuit of the U.S. found the law unconstitutional. Angles, a queer nightclub near uptown Oklahoma City that has been open on and off since 1982, filed a suit its opening year against the Oklahoma City Police Department. Co-owner Scott Wilson was interviewed in The Gayly’s first edition about the suit. The club had suffered from police abuse, Wilson said. Every night the club was open, officers in and out of uniform would stand around the club and write citations for both the business and its customers. Additionally, Wilson said, some officers would physically assault customers of the club for supposed infractions. After several months of abuse from police and communication between the club’s attorney and the city, Wilson and his partner Don Hill decided that they had to put a stop to it. Soon, litigation was underway against the city. According to The Gayly’s interview with Wilson, the case had an “unusually high number” of people willing to testify against the police department. Wilson attributed it to the determination the community Protestors, including members of the University of Oklahoma Gay Activist Alliance, demonstrate in front of the state Capitol on Feb. 1978 as singer Anita Bryant addresses a packed state Senate gallery. Photo by Don had, including its straight allies, to end the Tullous/Daily Oklahoman abuse. Eventually, the suit was settled with a consent decree. The decree made it so Kathleen Tipler, an associate professor in a locally owned publication focused on police could not enter the premises without OU’s department of political science, said queer news in Oklahoma, published its cause or an explicit request for assistance the push was focused on everything from first issue. The Gayly’s intent, according to from someone inside, Wilson told The visitation rights between same-sex couples its premier publication, is to provide news Gayly. The decree also set precedent for to employment and housing. and advertisements relevant to Oklahoother queer businesses in the area, allowing “(The laws) turned homosexuality into a ma’s queer community and continues to them the same protections Angles now had. legal status,” Tipler said. “A whole class of publish in 2021. With the increased success of suits against In the early days of its inception, the people was criminalized.” anti-gay legislation, gay rights activists The ‘80s also saw a significant increase paper published ads for businesses set their sights on marriage equality. in legal challenges in an attempt to ranging from legal services to healthcare However, marriage was not the only goal. increase rights for the queer community, to bars. Reporters at The Gayly also wrote Tipler said. Even members of OU’s student articles on national queer news, including overturned laws and the potential in and faculty body worked to push for gay Oklahoma for the same litigation. rights in the state. Still, laws were actively going into effect On Saturday, Feb. 21 in 1978, OU’s Gay that harmed the queer community. Activist Alliance organized a rally outside
‘IT WAS NEVER JUST ABOUT MARRIAGE EQUALITY’ In the ‘80s and ‘90s, the AIDS epidemic was on the rise. The first case of AIDS in the U.S. was documented in 1981, and by 1985, 12,000 Americans, primarily of the queer community, had died from the disease. As more members of the community were hospitalized, it became clearer that same-sex couples lacked the protections opposite-sex married couples had. People in long term relationships could not visit each other in the hospital, make medical decisions or say their final goodbyes in person. “It was never just about marriage Sharon Baldwin (left) raises a fist pump beside Mary Bishop (right) after the couple’s wedding is officialized equality,” Holland said. at the Tulsa County Courthouse on Oct. 6, 2014. Photo by Dana Branham/The Daily Over the course of decades, states would begin to legalize same-sex marriage, starting with Massachusetts in 2004. In against by his team. The plaintiff side “Same-sex couples are being treated like 2014, Oklahoma would do the same argued that this left out same-sex couples, second-class parents again,” Thai said. alongside four other states. infertile couples and couples not intending Thai said he believes the path to allowTulsa County couple Mary Bishop and to have children. ing adoption for same-sex couples will Sharon Baldwin, an OU alumna, filed a The second argument focused on the be similar to the one that led to marriage suit against Oklahoma after the state had well-being of children from couples. equality. It will likely begin with individual accepted an amendment stating marriage Particularly, the state argued a child is cases on a state-by-state basis that will was permitted between only opposite-sex healthiest with a mother and a father to slowly make their way up to the Supreme couples. The amendment was deemed care for them. Thai said the argument was, Court, he explained. unconstitutional by the 10th Circuit Court once again, underinclusive and was However, he said the fight will not be of Appeals a year before the Supreme offensive not just to same-sex couples, but easy. There will always be discrimination Court made the same decision in Obergealso to single parents. to fight against, even if it isn’t immediately fell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled visible. Joseph Thai, a law professor at OU and a against Oklahoma on July 18, 2014. The “I wonder, what else are we blind member of the legal team on the Bishstate appealed to the Supreme Court. to?” Thai said. “What are we still getting op-Baldwin suit, said “it was only a matter Surprisingly, Thai said the plaintiff also wrong?” of time” before the amendment was struck wanted the case to be appealed. Thai emphasized the importance of down locally and nationally. “Honestly, we wanted to go to the continuing to look at why certain laws “I was honored and humbled when they Supreme Court,” Thai said. “We wanted were made and to continue to be critical asked me, honestly,” Thai said, smiling this nationally, not just for our circuit. We about what needs to be changed. warmly as he remembered the day. wanted it to be legal everywhere.” Holland shared similar sentiments, Thai was asked to join the team due to When the Supreme Court turned down citing the idea that much remains to be his aptitude in constitutional law, he said. the state’s appeal, same-sex marriage was learned from queer history and the laws The attorneys already on the case were essentially legalized for all states in the surrounding it and that Oklahoma’s history preparing for a long appeals process and 10th Circuit. is “understudied” from the years before wanted to be ready. The Supreme Court would go on to the state was founded to present day. Soon after Thai joined, the case was accept a case from a different circuit — “There was a past,” Holland said. “Queer fast-tracked to the 10th Circuit in the Obergefell v. Hodges from Ohio’s 6th people were always here.” Federal Court of Appeals, which repCircuit — and it ruled laws against sameAnd they always will be. resents Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, New sex marriage were unconstitutional a year Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. He said the after it was legalized in Oklahoma. state focused on two points in court, both Today, a new battle in Oklahoma for “patently absurd and shameful.” queer rights is being waged. In 2018, OklaThe first argument focused on the idea homa Gov. Mary Fallin signed a law allowthat marriage was intended for procreating for adoption agencies —including ones ing couples, which Thai said was “grossly given state funding — to deny services to underinclusive” and was easily argued same-sex couples.
The OU thing Interesv Black Hole never the un of dfdfd OU’s the eleme Open Records
by Blake Douglas
OU President Joseph Harroz presidency — who say the institution has not most thwarted the free flow of information”
took the stage before dozens of the university’s journalism students to lecture on what he called the “playbook” for weakening democracies. His remarks Sept. 9 centered on the importance of civics education and familiarity with government functions to maintain democracies. During a period where numerous organizations have sounded the alarm on global and democratic backsliding — the international rise of governments exercising authoritarian policies like voting restrictions and discrediting or censoring the press — Harroz repeatedly emphasized the relationship of law and journalism as “first cousins” and the vital role media plays in democratic society. “What you’re doing in media law is critical because you are the voices. You are the fourth estate,” Harroz said. “To be truly effective at it, you have to understand the law that applies to it, and you have to understand the institutions that can impact whether or not that law is upheld or run over.” Though Harroz acknowledged the significance of the press, journalists have expressed frustration in dealing with the university. OU has drawn criticism from journalists and freedom of information advocates — ranging from the tenures of former Presidents David Boren and James Gallogly and into Harroz’s 8
upheld its legal obligation of transparency under the Oklahoma Open Records Act. In 2019, the OU Board of Regents received the “Black Hole Award” from Freedom of Information Oklahoma, a group promoting transparent governance by supporting people and organizations who work to maintain and reinforce transparency laws such as the Freedom of Information Act. The board was recognized as the group that “has
following the secretive selection of former OU President James Gallogly and the appointment of Harroz as Gallogly’s interim successor in a six-hour meeting that took place almost entirely in executive session and ended just before 2 a.m. When Harroz was later selected as permanent president on May 9, 2020, then-OU Board of Regents Chairman Gary Pierson said the board had offered Harroz the
Oklahoma is one of 13 states in the country whose open records law provides no guidance to records custodians on when requests should be fulfilled. Visualization by Blake Douglas.
permanent position on the night he was appointed interim. This year, OU alumnus and editor-in-chief of NonDoc Media Tres Savage filed a lawsuit seeking reports detailing alleged sexual misconduct and misreporting of donation data under former OU President David Boren. The university has refused to produce the documents under “evidentiary privileges listed in 51 O.S. § 24A.5(1)(a)” of the open records law. The statute reads that “records protected by a state evidentiary privilege such as the attorney-client privilege, the work product immunity from discovery and the identity of informer privileges” are not subject to open records requests. Other media outlets have gone extensive periods with no response from OU on open records requests. The Daily published a Sept. 21 Twitter thread listing numerous unfulfilled requests, three of which were over a year old. One sought a single document, and two sought roughly a month of communications between university officials. Responses to the thread indicated reporters from outlets including News9 and The Athletic — Storme Jones and Jason Kersey respectively, both of whom are OU alumni — experienced similar roadblocks in obtaining public records, ranging up to two full years with no records produced. The apparent dysfunction of the university’s open records office leaves a variety of questions: How does OU’s response time
compare to other universities? How many resources are devoted to OU’s open records office? Can other universities model best practices and potential improvements? And, how could state statutes be improved for the public’s benefit? Student media outlets at other universities — in Oklahoma and elsewhere — said their schools have often outperformed OU’s open records office. Freedom of information advocates and former Oklahoma legislators credited much of this to the strength of other states’ freedom of information laws.
For over 20 years, South Carolina resident Frank Heindel has considered himself a “concerned citizen.” Heindel was never a reporter and holds no public office. Still, the importance of citizens’ access to their government was never lost on him, he said, when he first began filing FOIA requests in the late ’90s. In 2019, he filed a lawsuit against the University of South Carolina regarding its open records practices, which led to systemic adjustments to the university’s open records office, including a new system for tracking requests and a new compliance position at the university. The document Heindel requested was a log of all FOIA requests the university
had received in the past 12 months, he said, to see how effectively the university was responding to requests. When the university took longer than the 10 calendar days to respond to Heindel’s request and 30 calendar days to fulfill it under South Carolina’s sunshine law, Heindel filed his lawsuit. Oklahoma currently has no defined time period in its state law. “They had gotten back to me and said, ‘We’ve received your request and are processing it,’ and then it was radio silence for several months,” Heindel said. Heindel said the suit was eventually dropped after the university was ordered to “create and maintain a centralized FOIA log” to document FOIA requests by a Richland County Court judge, according to court documents. While lawsuits can help put pressure on individual institutions to uphold their legal duties to the public under FOIA laws, Heindel said states struggling with transparency issues can only fully rectify the problems in legislature. “You can put the heat on the university, but the real guilty party is the legislature because they’re the ones who could revise the law, change it to be (something like) 10 business days to get a response, and then after the response and I agree to pay you, I need the information within 30 days,” Heindel said. “That’s how (documents) here that are less than two years old are handled, and there’s no reason that couldn’t be the Oklahoma model as well. The legislature is letting citizens down by allowing this opaqueness to go.”
‘Prompt, reasonable access’
OU also performed well against other universities in producing OU President Joseph Harroz’s weekly schedule. The University of Kansas declined to produce its chancellor’s schedule, citing privacy exemptions in state statute. South Carolina’s president was on personal leave during the requested time frames. Other universities listed never produced records but did not deny the request by time of publication. Visualization by Blake Douglas.
Stratton Taylor maintains an intimate knowledge of the Oklahoma Open Records Act. As the senate author for the bill, the Tulsa-based attorney was one of the central figures in its passage in 1985. In an email to The Daily, Taylor wrote he also felt the lack of a specified period for public agencies to respond to requests is a flaw. Under the current statute, Taylor wrote state agencies can simply wait for individuals to lose track of their submissions. The law currently reads only that a public body must provide “prompt, reasonable 9
access” to records. “That should be addressed,” Taylor wrote. “Too many agencies just try to stall out requests.” Providing different documents inherently requires different amounts of labor and time, Taylor acknowledged, but typical requests — those that don’t seek an unusually large number of documents or records produced over an exceptional timespan — should reasonably be completed within a month. “Having a deadline to respond would be helpful. … I don’t know about the facts (of specific requests made by The Daily), but generally speaking, 30 calendar days should be enough absent unusual circumstances,” Taylor wrote.
remember specific states or examples from the original discussions. While such instances can occur, Heindel said citizens in states whose law has a defined time frame are at least guaranteed a period in which they might receive their documents eventually and a concrete mechanism to hold agencies accountable. “That can happen, but at least I’m getting it on the 29th day. Maybe 30 days isn’t the magic number, but you have to have a line there where everybody knows that this is acceptable, and past this timeline, this is not acceptable,” Heindel said. “We can’t hold anybody accountable. We can’t really demand transparency when you’ve got that leeway.”
OU performed on par with other universities in producing the contract for the football team’s head coach. Iowa State University and Oklahoma State University did not produce the record by time of publication. The University of Oregon’s value of zero represents the contract being readily available online. Visualization by Blake Douglas.
The inclusion of a defined period was discussed as early as 1984, when interest groups including the Oklahoma Press Association were deciding how the law would be structured and what documents would be considered subject to records requests. Mark Thomas, the current director of the OPA who was involved in preliminary discussions on the law, said no fulfillment period was included to prevent “both sides from abusing the other.” Thomas said the inclusion of a specific time frame could potentially allow the custodian of a public record to wait out the entirety of the legally allotted time, even if the record was readily available from the start. Reports of the practice stemmed from states where a time frame had been enumerated in the law, Thomas said, though he did not 10
The vagueness of the “prompt, reasonable access” language was also intended to protect individual officials and institutions from being charged with crimes if they received a request that was unreasonable to fulfill in a given timeframe, Thomas said. “Let’s say I want to run for county clerk. So what I do is I go into your office, and I ask you for every record you’ve ever created, from your predecessors and everything, and I want it in three days, or 10 days or 30 days,” Thomas said. “I want everything you’ve ever created, and if you don’t give it to me, I will charge you with the crime, and that looks good on my brochure to run against you.” This worry was mostly voiced by the Oklahoma Municipal League and county clerks, Thomas said. Even in the absence of specified response
times, Thomas said OU’s fulfillment of requests has been lacking. Requests for single documents, such as the contract between OU and online education consultant firm Elsmere Education to create OU Online, should be especially simple for state agencies to produce. “Assuming that the contract has no exclusion in the law that they would apply to it, they should have had it to you by the end of the week,” Thomas said. “Those kinds of things should be much simpler to fulfill. … That certainly sounds excessive to me.” Attempts to enact a specific response time have been seen as recently as last year. Former Senate District 17 Sen. Ron Sharp filed Senate Bill 1154 in February 2020. The bill attempted to amend the Oklahoma Open Records Act by including a 30-day fulfillment window, which could be extended another 30 days if the request was unfinished after the original period. In a column submitted to the Journal Record highlighting the bill, Sharp wrote his time in state Legislature showed Oklahoma was “one of the weakest” states nationally in responding to records requests. “I had asked the Oklahoma State Department of Education for some information. I was very interested in communications between the State Department of Education and Epic Charter Schools because they apparently were not in compliance with statute and administrative code and their own contract,” Sharp said in an interview with The Daily. “And of course I filed other FOIA requests (that have gone unanswered), but (the Department of Education) finally responded. … I’ve now been out of office for a year, and so it’s been at least two to four years for some of those requests that have never responded.” Organizations outside the state have also identified a “culture of noncompliance” to the state’s sunshine law among Oklahoma agencies. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a national organization that provides journalists and media outlets legal information regarding press freedoms, identified Oklahoma as a state of particular need of its services, said Kathryn Gardner, an attorney with the organization. “(In Oklahoma,) we’ve seen it’s harder and harder to get records because the only way to challenge a denial ultimately — beyond just arguing back and forth with an agency — is taking that to court,” Gardner said. “That can be incredibly difficult. That’s
a really large hurdle, I think, to go from an email argument to filing a lawsuit. So because things are rarely enforced here … agencies just think, ‘Well, we haven’t been challenged in so long. … What are they going to do about it?’” Gardner is also representing NonDoc in its lawsuit against OU to secure the release of the Jones Day investigation on Boren’s sexual misconduct allegations and misreporting of donor data. She said the lack of a specified timeline has also hurt enforcement of the law, meaning courts have never had to consider what “prompt and reasonable” access should mean. Sharp said one motivation for his bill establishing a timeline for open records requests was also the absence of effective enforcement mechanisms for the law. “I notice, of course, that there’s a penalty — a year in jail or $500 — but who’s going to enforce it,” Sharp said. “There’s no one there to actually enforce it … without a set timeline.” Sharp’s time frame bill was short-lived in Legislature and never received a hearing. “It is very disappointing that (SB 1154), that would have provided the accountability and transparency to state government that legislators campaign to establish, was not even allowed a hearing,” Sharp said. “It makes you consider the distinct possibility that even legislators have something to hide in relation to state agencies after the hype of campaigning is over.”
‘The reputation you want’
At Oklahoma State, staffers at the O’Colly student media outlet said they have generally encountered fewer issues and greater responsiveness from their university administrators in Stillwater. “I know at least on the sports side … we get those open records requests pretty quickly,” said Chris Becker, former assistant sports editor and current editor-in-chief of the O’Colly. “We got the names of people laid off in the basketball program (due to COVID-19) last semester pretty quickly, I think probably within a couple of weeks.” In roughly three years of work at the O’Colly, Becker said the only lengthy outstanding request he has encountered is a
OU’s open records office is staffed similarly to other universities. Of those listed, only OU, Oregon, the University of Texas and the University of Kansas have dedicated open records offices. The other universities listed have single employees dedicated to coordinating FOIA requests with the departments in possession of relevant records for each request. These positions are typically public affairs officers or general counsel employees. The University of Texas did not respond to requests for this information. Visualization by Blake Douglas.
still-unfulfilled request filed six months ago. In Norman, OU has previously cited numerous reasons for delays in records request responses. A Sept. 8, 2020, response to a follow-up on a request submitted July 25, 2020, for a month of emails between two OU employees noted the open records office is “small … with a large volume of requests.” The office is made up of an executive director, a coordinator and one assistant, according to a university spokesperson. The coordinator position is vacant and being hired for. “Currently, the office has a part-time position helping with some of the administrative functions. The Office of Legal Counsel also provides Open Records with access to additional legal resources and an outside vendor for legal review as needed,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Daily. “The office will also soon implement a new records management system.” In a statement to News9, OU wrote the number of requests has risen from 708 in 2011 to 1,737 in 2020. Harroz acknowledged the office and its resources have not grown in accordance with increased demand for documents over the past decade. “It’s something that needs to be improved. We’ve restructured it — it had been put under public affairs, it needs to be under the general counsel’s office,” Harroz told The Daily on Sept. 9. “The reality is the number of requests has grown, and we have to expand the number of positions. I think we were too
slow to add more positions.” Other universities have found alternative ways to mitigate the strain on their open records offices. The University of Oregon, another flagship university with roughly 9,000 fewer students by total enrollment than OU, employs two public records office employees. It maintains an online database of frequently requested documents including university financial reports, athletics contracts and the public records office’s procedures. At Iowa State University — in a state where the sunshine law stipulates a period in which agencies must respond to requests but not a deadline to produce them — the situation echoes Oklahoma State. When the Iowa State Daily, the student media outlet at ISU, submitted an open records request Sept. 2 of this year for communications between the provost’s office and university staff regarding COVID-19 policies, the university declined to fulfill the request. “They’d come back pretty quickly and said that it was too broad and that it would cost thousands of dollars to fulfill it, so they’re going to just deny it,” said Kylee Haueter, editor-in-chief of the Iowa State Daily. “We’ve never really had (an) instance of (that) before. We’ve had them come back and say, ‘Oh, this will be thousands of dollars to fulfill, but you can still do it if you want.’ We’ve never had them just straight out deny it like that.” Haueter’s frustration with that request, 11
however, was due to the unusually roundabout response and not solely the time taken to respond. “This is the only one really that we’ve had issues with them taking up the maximum time. In the past, my editorial adviser had told me and I know, in my experience with getting police reports, they’ve usually been pretty quick about that,” Haueter said. “Obviously, it does depend on the scope of the requests, but if it is just like a report, a document or something, usually that’s within a week maximum.” While OSU operates under the same statute as OU, like Iowa State, it does not maintain a dedicated open records office or staff. All records requests are routed through OSU Brand Management to the department that would possess the relevant documents, OSU Public Information Officer Shannon Rigsby wrote in an email to The Daily. The process at Oklahoma State was under review as early as last year, however. “We began an intense review of our open records process in 2020. I am very excited to say that our IT department has created a custom, online solution,” Rigsby wrote. “It will launch … in October. It will allow many requests to automatically go to the correct department for filling, should streamline the process and make tracking everything much easier.” A similar review was conducted at the University of South Carolina following Heindel’s lawsuit, which also resulted in new software being purchased to coordinate open records requests. “(Following the lawsuit) we made a few changes, but most significant was hiring a full-time FOIA coordinator who works with various campus offices,” Jeff Stensland, USC assistant vice president of media and external engagement, wrote in an email to The Daily. “We also are in the process of procuring new software that will help us process requests more efficiently.” Heindel said the university’s promptness and communication following the lawsuit was visibly improved. He submitted a records request on April 5 at 6:04 a.m., roughly two years after the lawsuit was dropped, according to an email chain provided to The Daily. The request was for all emails sent from a University of South Carolina employee to any email addresses ending in @scspa.com from Jan. 1, 2018 through March 31, 2021.
The request had been forwarded by another employee to the university’s FOIA coordinator, Shannon Beaudry, at 9:42 a.m. April 5. On April 13, Beaudry responded, informing Heindel some records within the request may be exempt under state law. Without a second email from Heindel, Beaudry reached out on May 10 to inform Heindel the request was being processed and asked if he would be willing to give an additional five days to fulfill the request, making the new deadline under state law May 25. The request was fulfilled May 18. “I think they realized (after the lawsuit) that they needed to put it up at the forefront,” Heindel said. “And you can see the timeliness after the lawsuit. … They know that more people are watching, and as a public university or a public agency, you don’t want to get the reputation of just stalling and not abiding by the FOIA law. That’s not the kind of reputation you want when you’re asking for (public) money every year.”
‘They’re working for us’
On Sept. 24, three days after The Daily published a Twitter thread of long-time unfulfilled open records requests, current and former staffers began receiving emails from Ferris Barger, OU director of records management. Former OU Daily editors-in-chief Nick Hazelrigg and Jordan Miller, who graduated in spring 2019 and spring 2020, respectively, were among those who received follow-ups for long-standing requests. Since receiving these emails, several of the requests listed in the Twitter thread have been fulfilled, including requests for contracts between Course Crafters and OU, and a month of communications between Dean Mary Margaret Holt and former Director of the American Organ Institute John Schwandt. Others have since been followed up on. On Sept. 24, The Daily confirmed it was still interested in responsive records for a request Miller submitted on Sept. 10, 2020, after receiving an email from Barger. On Oct. 15, Barger contacted The Daily to communicate the documents had been produced and were
being reviewed for release. OU has also fulfilled one of the two outstanding requests from News9, Jones confirmed in a text message, but another — originally submitted on Aug. 20, 2019 — remains unfulfilled. During his Sept. 9 visit with media law students, Harroz told OU Daily editor-in-chief and author of this story Blake Douglas his office would be willing to look into specific requests that were outstanding for extensive periods. “If you see a timeframe that you don’t think is right or reasonable … send me a note,” Harroz said. “I’ll look into specific requests and see if we can’t move them along because it shouldn’t take that long.” Of the five records that were brought to Harroz’s attention in a Sept. 17 email, three have been fulfilled. One has been acknowledged as in progress by Barger, while one — security recordings from Headington Hall from April 15-16 — has not been acknowledged since the email. In an Oct. 18 email to The Daily, an OU spokesperson confirmed the Office of Open Records’ coordinator position is “in the finalist stage” of its hiring search. A new open records management system is also “tentatively scheduled” to launch on Jan. 1, 2022. “The current system mimics a paper based system and utilizes a variety of different programs including Outlook, Excel, and Adobe. The new system will streamline processes by moving all functions to a single, digital platform,” the spokesperson wrote. “Through the new system, the Office of Open Records will receive receipts for records, be able to assign departments, and redact information in one tool. The new system will also act as the log for record requests and make interfacing with third-party vendors easier.” The continued evolution of open records offices nationwide and continued accountability from state agencies is among the most important parts of a functioning democracy, Heindel said, reflecting much of Harroz’s sentiment on the role of the press. “They’re working for us,” Heindel said. “It’s our money that’s supporting their activities. They should want to be, ultimately I think, responsive and accountable to the people.”
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‘SINCE WHEN DOES GOD HATE?’
Editor’s note: This article includes mention of religious trauma, conversion therapy and suicide. If you or someone you love are struggling, here is a list of resources: Trevor Project: 866-488-7386 Available through call, text or chat for 2SLGTBQ+ youth under 25. GLBT National Help Center: 888-843-4564 Available through call, online chat or email peer support. SAGE: 877-360-5428 Available 24/7 for 2SLGBTQ+ elders, their loved ones and caretakers.
Religious trauma and Oklahoma’s 2SLGBTQ+ by Jillian Taylor
Zack Harrington grew up under the stars. The moon acted as an audience as Zack’s father, Van, held him and his siblings close to the sky from the comfort of their lush backyard in Cambridge, a neighborhood in west Norman, Oklahoma. He promised them that the world they saw was theirs for the taking. As Zack grew older, he would sit against the giant cottonwood tree in his backyard and fill the galaxy in his mind with the things he loved most — his bassoon, cello, flute, books, sheet music, family and a closeknit group of friends. Although soft-spoken, friends said once you broke down his barriers, he had the most beautiful soul. On Oct. 5, 2010, Zack, 19, took his own life, entering a world beyond the constellations under which he once reflected. Zack’s spirit, unbeknownst to many, had been silently at war with itself as he questioned his sexuality, wrestled with a recent HIV diagnosis and felt the brunt of religious condemnation of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. “If God is the Creator of the world and everything on it, how does he not have the power to make me heterosexual,” Zack wrote in a journal his parents found tucked inside his dresser. “Why would God create something he hated? Since when does God hate in the first place? How can you call us abominations? We go through more than you can imagine. I’m surprised you think you know what’s best, even when what’s best ends up causing more pain.” Through the advocacy of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and allies, Norman is experiencing a metamorphosis over 10 years after Zack’s death as it grows from a city that entertained a three-hour debate surrounding an LGBT History Month proclamation to one that recently banned the practice of conversion therapy on minors. Yet, amid trauma inflicted by some of the state’s political and religious majorities, which in some segments are moving to conditional acceptance, advocates are actively working to help more Oklahomans affirm the basic humanity of vulnerable 2SLGBTQ+ generations. 14
RESILIENCE AMID SPIRITUAL CRISES Zack was 14 when he first came out to his parents. He wrote in his journal that the courage required to come out to them seemed minute but that doing so left him with a “Celtic knot” in his stomach, yearning for their acceptance. His mother Nancy recalled that he relayed this news in a very matter-of-fact manner by saying, “I’m gay, I’m probably going to hell and there won’t be any Zacky babies.” She said her immediate reaction was “that’s who he is — it’s no big deal.” It broke her heart that he felt so burdened by this part of himself. The conflict Zack felt was more internal, Nancy said, because his strong ideas on what is right and wrong shaped his perception of the world. He kept a keen eye on the religious communities that surrounded him and felt disturbed by the anti-2SLGBTQ+ sentiments they shared. “I don’t think he ever took that upon himself as, ‘Is there something wrong with me?’” Nancy said. “It’s more, ‘I’m fine. What’s wrong with you?’” On Sept. 28, 2010, dozens of people gathered inside the Norman City Hall to protest a proclamation acknowledging October as LGBT History Month. Although the proclamation passed with a vote of 7-1, the damage was already done as Zack — who attended the meeting without telling his family — witnessed his fellow Normanites
Paula Sophia Schonauer sits in her office where she holds therapy sessions with her clients. Ray Bahner/The Daily
call homosexuality an “abomination.” Nancy said she can’t imagine his feelings in that moment. At the time, Zack still hadn’t told anyone he was HIV-positive. “I’m sure that (to) anybody who was struggling, (hearing) all those horrible things that were said would be very hard,” Nancy said. “It’s like, not confirming, but echoing your innermost fears of rejection.” Paula Sophia Schonauer, a clinical social worker, transgender woman and 2SLGBTQ+ activist, said everyone possesses factors that help them develop resilience in and emerge
Nancy Harrington sits on a bench dedicated to her son Zack Harrington on Oct. 15. She said the cottonwood tree Zack loved would be cut down that day, but she is thankful things like the bench remain to remind people of Zack. Photo by Edward Reali/The Daily
from crises. She said she views faith as one of these factors because of the influence it can have in people’s lives and the damage individuals incur when something or someone takes it away. The moment people feel estranged from their church community, faith can cease to serve as a place of salvation and transition into one of condemnation, Schonauer said. In the ’90s, Schonauer said she saw her faith materialize in Episcopalian ministry. Her passion was in preaching. She found delight in looking up and interpreting scripture, connecting with it and developing biblical commentary for her sermons she gave in the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Oklahoma. She began the clergy ordination process for her church in 1999. She was married, a well-respected member of her congregation and a police officer. On a surface level, she said it would seem she had everything. Yet, something was missing — something that led her to consider “losing it all.” Schonauer said she was honest with her bishop and sponsoring pastor about her struggles with understanding her gender identity. She was asked to participate in psychiatric testing before she was ordained to see if she was a “sexual predator.” This “humiliating process” included invasive questions about her sexuality and attractions by detailing certain fetishes. Once the psychiatrist deemed she was not a sexual predator, her bishop approved her ordination process on one condition — she had to view these “struggles” as a “thorn in the flesh” — a reference to 2 Corinthians 12:7. She said she promised to do this and 15
tried to convince herself that she could “be faithful.” Amid continued gender identity crises, however, Schonauer said her psychiatrist recommended she consider transitioning to ensure her future welfare. She talked with her bishop and offered to renounce her Holy Orders for not fulfilling her promise, but he wouldn’t accept her offer because of her gift in ministry. “I really just couldn’t keep quiet about it. I felt like it was leading me into a double life where one life would be the shadow of another, and I thought that could get me in trouble,” Schonauer said. “I really, really needed to be honest, even with the consequences, because my fear was standing before God trying to lie.” Schonauer said she chose to take a leave of absence to sort out her life. She said she attempted to distance herself from the “triggering voice” of the Episcopal church by attending different churches, because she felt disconnected from its rituals. After two years of rumors floating around her Episcopalian community, she decided to come out as transgender. She was asked to renounce her Holy Orders and be put on ecclesiastical trial for “abandoning her community” by attending another church. In 2001, a blog critical of the Episcopal Church declared Schonauer as the first transgender clergyperson in the Anglican Communion — a designation that was nearly
impossible to know. She said she was traumatized because no one valued her privacy. “I had this nightmare that I had as a child about being there on Judgment Day, and there’s an angel reading from this book of everybody’s sins, and the angel says, ‘Well this one, this little boy wants to be a girl,’ and all the mass of humanity laughed at me.” Instead of participating in an ecclesiastical trial, Schonauer said she conditionally renounced her appointment because she was worried the trial would garner more unwanted media attention. However, she didn’t renounce her ministry. She turned to spoken word poetry, detailing the effects of spiritual struggles within the church through the pieces she performed. Following her retirement from the Oklahoma City Police Department, she pursued a master’s degree in social work at OU to become a therapist. Schonauer said becoming a therapist and working with people satisfies some of her vocational callings. Her theological education allows her to see the role that spiritual crises can play in mental health crises. She said she doesn’t “push a particular religion,” but she can relate to individuals’ struggles. “I had a person who was in a domestic abuse situation, and she was having a lot of anxiety over the passage that (says) wives should obey their husbands,” Schonauer said. “There’s another part of that passage
Rev. Blake Woods of St. Anselm of Canterbury reads through Genesis 2:18-24 and Mark 10:2-16 with his congregation. Woods said, just as God calls partners to be “bone of each other’s bone” and “flesh of each other’s flesh,” his congregation is similarly united in one flesh. Photo by Parker Shinsky/The Daily
that commands husbands (to) love your wives, and I pointed that out to her, and she knew this. But I asked her if she felt loved. That really opened her eyes, and it gave her enough courage to get out of that domestic abuse situation.” Often, Schonauer said religious 2SLGBTQ+ individuals are forced to choose between being themselves with integrity or staying in church in the hopes that they will choose to ignore their true identity. She said this community can come to reject the church altogether, as Christians impose “exacting demands to conform.” About 20 years after she came out, Schonauer said she has an opportunity to help her clients find strength and resilience in their spiritual journeys. She said she hopes her counseling work can create a safe, affirming place for anyone struggling in their walk.
AFFIRMATION OVER ACCEPTANCE Across Elm Avenue from OU’s campus on the edge of a neighborhood brimming with students sits a small building called St. Anselm of Canterbury. A rainbow flag hangs in the Episcopalian church’s right window, and a banner reading “God loves you, NO exceptions” is staked in the grass. Instead of preaching about husbands and wives, the Rev. Blake Woods preaches on partners. He said his church provides “a unique religious experience for a unique group of people,” by emphasizing language that is clear about who God is seeking — “Which is everyone,” he said. When Zack was growing up, Nancy said she used to take him to church. They would try different ones, but he never wanted to go. Although she said Zack was more affected by the “anti-2SLGBTQ+ rhetoric” that surrounded him, she believes people who desire an affirming religious environment should have access to that. Woods, who was aware of the dangers churches can pose to 2SLGBTQ+ communities through condemnation, sought to create a “safe religious space.” “The analogy I use is I get to be a midwife. I’m not bringing anything. I’m not creating anything,” Woods said. “I’m just helping the process, and I am guiding them and keeping them safe, making sure that they have the things they need to grow into the people who God wants them to be, which is people of abundant life.” Some Sundays, Woods said he is the only cisgender, heterosexual person at church. The congregation serves people from every
walk of life, making up an “eclectic, weird and sometimes awkward group” he said he has the privilege of embracing. Woods said St. Anselm of Canterbury works to outwardly promote its affirming messages. While many OU students have safe places to seek out, 2SLGBTQ+ students face limitations in finding affirming environments, especially those who desire a faith community that does not present a view of scripture that favors heterosexual orientations. Woods said he recognizes that 2SLGBTQ+ Oklahomans don’t have access to the number of affirming religious communities available in other parts of the country. He said churches often take a safer route by choosing messages of “love and acceptance” over “affirmation.” In his preaching, Woods stressed it is important his students know the difference. “Accepting just means that what you are is fine. It’s got to go further than that,” Woods said. “You have to actually affirm. You have to say, ‘You are gay, and that’s awesome and wonderful, and the relationships you have are blessed and beloved of God.’ You have to name that — you can’t just allude to it. You can’t hope that the message you give is going to be interpreted correctly. You have to say it out loud. Otherwise, you’re not actually affirming.” Nancy said faith is often not what deters 2SLGBTQ+ individuals from religion — it is people. She said Zack was confident in who he was, yet people felt they had the right to tell him and others their choices are wrong and will be punished for them. “They’re too busy judging that they don’t understand what the people who are facing this go through,” Nancy said. Woods said he can’t count the times he has had to intervene in suicide attempts. Suicide rates in Oklahoma are nearly double the U.S. national average, according to the Journal of Rural Mental Health, which can especially be attributed to 2SLGBTQ+ individuals living in communities that elevate rates of “depression, anxiety and stress.” “It is an incredibly important place and role in those people’s lives,” Woods said. “Some of them would not be here if not for a church who loved and accepted them and was a safe place to go and be who they were.” Affirming communities of faith are integral in the lives of religious 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, Schonauer said, because they create sanctuaries protecting them from the “awful rhetoric” surrounding their gender identities and sexual orientations. “Sometimes, the people who preach that awful rhetoric, they sound so convinced and so righteous, that it makes someone like myself feel, ‘Well, God, I wonder if they’re
A data visualization representing survey results from over 40,000 13- to 24-year-old 2SLGBTQ+ individuals. The results depict the rates of those who have seriously considered attempting suicide across various affirming and non-affirming environments. Visualization by Jillian Taylor.
right because they seem like they’re so convinced,’” Schonauer said. The affirmation found in St. Anselm of Canterbury is clear in the floor of the church, where the ashes of several gay men from the ’80s and ’90s — one of which died of AIDS — are interred. Woods said they asked for their remains to be placed there because it was a place of love and acceptance for them and, to this day, his congregation takes time to thank them for their witness in prayer. Woods said he is thankful his church still carries on that same mission and ministry. “The impact is clear,” Woods said. “Helping young people see that regardless of where you come from, or how you identify, in whatever way, that God is still going to love you and accept you, that there is a community of people who have many of the same values that you did growing up is life-saving to many of them.”
ENSURING THE SAFETY OF FUTURE GENERATIONS When OU doctoral student Sage Mauldin was 17, he and a few other teenage boys met bimonthly with their youth pastor. He remembers using these sessions as an opportunity to talk about the sins of homosexuality, masturbation and lust. Mauldin, who wrote in an email he was not out then, was questioned about his sexuality “ad nauseam,” as his pastor worked to “save him and his friends.”
For one year, Mauldin wrote he was forced to reread seven biblical texts “often used to condemn queerness,” including are Noah and Ham (Genesis 9:20–27), Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1–11), Levitical laws condemning same-sex relationships (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13), two words in two Second Testament vice lists (1 Corinthians 6:9–10, 1 Timothy 1:10), and Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 1:26–27). Those meetings haunt him to this day. Mauldin wrote to Norman Mayor Breea Clark and members of the city council June 28 before the council’s vote the following day that would prohibit the practice of conversion therapy on minors. Hoping to personalize his commitment toward anti-2SLGBTQ+ legislation, he told them about the toll conversion therapy had taken in his life. Maudlin said in an interview with The Daily his journey to fight for 2SLGBTQ+ rights began during a lunch with a few of his 2SLGBTQ+ friends. They discussed the effects conversion therapy had in their lives and realized there was no ban on it in Oklahoma. Maudlin became a member of the city’s Human Rights Commission, which serves as an advisory committee that studies discrimination and encourages fair treatment and understanding among all residents. In 2019, he lobbied the Norman City Council to pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for the 2SLGBTQ+ community in housing, employment and public accommodations. His work reached the state level while serving on the board of directors for the 17
“(We want to) make it as safe a place as and Sons on repeat. The Harrington family American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma as he advocated for comprehensive nondis- possible for all of their students, centering printed the lyrics for those who attended crimination protections and a statewide ban the people who are most marginalized, who Zack’s funeral to read. on the practice of conversion therapy against tend to be, often members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community,” McAfee said. minors through House Bill 2456. “Love, it will not betray you, dismay you, McAfee said 2SLGBTQ+ youth are the Former District 88 Rep. Jason Dunningor enslave you. ton (D-Oklahoma City) sponsored the bill, most vulnerable in Oklahoma because of It will set you free. and it took two spring sessions to get that policy enacted by the state legislature. ExBe more like the man you were made to legislation passed out of a committee. Maul- amples include a proposed bill that would din said they decided it was not the time for have made it a felony to provide gender-afbe. the bill to move forward because it would firming medical care to anyone under the There is a design, age of 21 and the passage of Senate Bill 2, not receive enough support in the house. an alignment. Although Mauldin said he thinks it will which prevented transgender youth from A cry of my heart to see. take another 10 to 12 years for his bill to pass participating in sports consistent with their The beauty of love as it was made to be.” at the state level, he hopes other municipal- gender identity. “It’s not just that there is direct harm and ities like Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Edmond lasting harm from conversion therapy, but will follow in Norman’s footsteps. The night Zack died, Van sat in their backTo those who said this ban isn’t within when we look at any of this policy, at any yard and looked up to the stars he once held the purview of city government — including point in time, even when it is just theoretical Zack close to, praying God would protect Ward 3 Councilmember Kelly Lynn, Ward 5 to do things like we saw in the state legisla- him. Van, who died last year, subsequently Councilmember Rarchar Tortorello and OU ture last year … (it) causes an increase in got a tattoo of a star with a Z in the middle Math Department member Gary Barksdale bad mental health outcomes for kids in the in his memory. — Maudlin said he would direct them to state,” McAfee said. Since Zack’s death, Nancy said she has The 2SLGBTQ+ community has become researched everything she can about the what former Ward 3 Councilmember Alison a pawn in politics, McAfee said, as they ob- 2SLGBTQ+ community as wishes she could Petrone said during the June 29 meeting. “(She said) it is absolutely under the serve people attack their community to win affirm Zack through more intentional conpurview of city governments to protect our partisan points. They said watching votes versation instead of just accepting him. most vulnerable populations, and of course like Norman’s ban on conversion therapy She said, if she could go back, she would queer youth is a vulnerable population. … for minors makes them hopeful for future. communicate her love and acceptance What I hope they understand and realize more openly. is that, in their wards, there are people in Now Nancy, who retired from 17 years SIGH NO MORE the 2SLGBTQ+ community,” Maudlin said. of teaching in May, said all she can hope is “These two individuals are now in powerful that Zack is enjoying a world unburdened and influential positions, and they would be by condemnation — one in which he can sit When Van found Zack on Oct. 5, 2010, he beneath his beloved cottonwood tree and derelict in their duties if they did not serve all of their constituents, including 2SLGBTQ+ had taken Nancy’s computer and left it play- silently reflect under the stars. people, not excluding 2SLGBTQ+ people.” ing the song “Sigh No More,” by Mumford The meeting was a vulnerable moment for Norman’s 2SLGBTQ+ population and its allies, Woods said, as they shared how this issue affected their lives. He said it saddens him that 2SLGBTQ+ youth are often told they are not worthy of love, as he believes they deserve to be honored as children of God instead of broken down by therapy that attempts to build them into someone they are not. “I have attended the funerals of too many of those youth after they made the choice to end their life rather than live in a world that tells them they are a problem to be fixed, instead of a beloved child of God, just as they are, without question or equivocation or conversion therapy, which is no therapy at all,” Woods said during the June 29 meeting. “It does not serve or honor our children, it does not serve or honor the image of God that we say is present in them.” Woods said he doesn’t think parents intend to use conversion therapy to hurt their children, as they often submit their children in a desperate attempt to “save them.” Although Norman’s ban won’t stop anyone who wants to seek conversion therapy for their children elsewhere, Woods said it has the power to emphasize a larger message of hope, love, support and acceptance. At the state level, Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Nicole McAfee said the 2SLGBTQ+ legal advocacy group is seeking policy change in school board settings through nondiscrimination policies. A page from Zack Harrington’s journal he was assigned to complete for a school project. The group hopes to encourage procedures for students and staff to Zack’s sister, Nikki, posted the entire journal on a Facebook page titled “Zack’s Bench,” report instances where they face discrimination or harm because which strives to keep Zack’s memory alive. Photo courtesy of the Harrington family. of their sexuality or gender identity. 18
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INDIGENOUS REPRESENTATION IN FX’S RESERVATION DOGS by Jacinda Hemeon EDITOR’S NOTE:
This article includes mention of suicide in Indigenous communities. If you or someone you love are struggling, here is a list of resources:
Lucyann Harjo said she rarely watches television, not even the news. Save for a football game here and there, Harjo, who is a member of the Navajo Nation, said there are plenty of other things she’d rather be doing — until “Reservation Dogs” premiered on FX on Hulu in August. “Reservation Dogs” just wrapped up its first season on the streaming service and has already received the green light for a second. The story follows four Indigenous teenagers growing up in modern-day Muscogee Nation land. The show was shot in Okmulgee and was created by former OU student Sterlin Harjo and “Thor: Love and Thunder” director Taika Waititi. The show’s creators and main cast are Indigenous. Director and co-creator Sterlin Harjo, who is a member of the Seminole and Creek Nations, said he was inspired to start the project because he didn’t see stories that represented people like himself. Lucyann Harjo, who is the coordinator of Indian Education for Norman Public Schools, said the show has marked a massive shift for Indigenous representation in popular media. “We still get questions like ‘Do Indians live in tipis?’ or ‘I thought they were extinct?’” Harjo said. “But (‘Reservation Dogs’) tells a story about Indigenous people, that we are still here.” Harjo said this shift in media culture has inspired her to start watching a little more television, at least when it comes to “Reservation Dogs.” “There’s a lot of Indian humor (in the show), and I’d guess that there are a lot of others that
STRONGHEARTS NATIVE HELPLINE: 844-762-8583 Confidential and available 24/7 for Indigenous community members experiencing domestic, dating and sexual violence.
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 800 273-8255 Confidential and available 24/7 via call or online chat. www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
IHS MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES LIST: www.ihs.gov/mentalhealth/resources/
don’t get the humor. But for us as Indian people? I was cracking up every time they said something that we hear a lot in our communities,” Harjo said. “That’s what I love about the show — it’s from a Native perspective.” Harjo said Native culture is often neglected or misrepresented in popular media. She said most films and television shows that feature Indigenous people are based in historical settings and don’t show what Native culture looks like today. In addition to a lack of general representation in the media, Harjo said Native youth, specifically, are rarely portrayed on screen in a contemporary way. As the Indian Education coordinator since 2005, she said she’s happy to see “Reservation Dogs” is changing that. “Seeing Indian kids, Indian actors and a story about Native people being played by Native actors in today’s society … is really, really ex-
citing for us,” Harjo said. Harjo said cultural visibility and education are things she hopes the Indian Education program can bring to its students. She said she was inspired to pursue that goal when she saw the educational resources for Native youths in Norman were lacking. Before she became the coordinator of the program, Harjo said her own children were students in the Norman Public Schools system. While her children were in school, she said the programs available to Native students were aimed at helping with math and reading skills or providing school supplies to students who needed them. While these were valuable services, Harjo said she could see the program becoming so much more. Harjo said when she began her position as coordinator, the Indian Education program offered math and reading assistance
An illustration depicting the main characters of “Reservation Dogs.” The FX show debuted in August and has been picked up for a second season. Illustration by Tabytha Jimenez.
to the 667 students enrolled. Today, the program provides tutoring, college preparation, cultural education, field trips, competitions and a new science club to around 2,000 students each year. Harjo said she hopes “Reservation Dogs” will help students in the program embrace and appreciate their culture even more. One of her former students, Harjo said, even has a creative hand in the show. Harjo said Hud Oberly, who graduated from Norman High School, was the creative director of the clothing line Urban Native Era
‘We are still here’ when “Reservation Dogs” was filming. One of the show’s main characters, Willie Jack, wears a hat from the clothing company. “It’s really exciting, and I’m excited to see what will happen for our people, for Indige-
nous nations, and what (‘Reservation Dogs’) will inspire, and what doors will open for Indian people,” Harjo said. As coordinator, Harjo said she doesn’t spend as much face-to-face time with students as teachers in the program do, so she was unaware of how the show was actually affecting Native students. But Matt Jackson, who teaches introduction to ethnic studies at Norman high schools, said the show has been the talk of the town. Jackson, who is a member of the Seminole Nation, said his students were always excited to talk about the show after each new episode premiered. He said one student in particular expressed they could barely wait to watch each new episode every week. “Representation and just being able to see examples of excellence in your community that are acknowledged throughout the larger country. ... You can connect with that,” Jackson said. “I feel like, for students, that will help them feel a deeper sense of pride.” Jackson said he thinks “Reservation Dogs” feels authentic, not just because it’s filmed in Oklahoma with Native actors, but also because he and his students have seen people they know in real life on the screen in small roles or as background actors. Jackson said that element of familiarity when watching the show lends to the show’s relatability. “Humans connect with seeing themselves, and
art has a real unique way of doing that,” Jackson said. “And this type of art is very accessible because television is so much a part of our society. ... That’s why I think it’s become so popular because it looks like people’s lives — people can connect to it. It’s real. It’s accessible. It’s right there at your fingertips.” Jackson said that part of what makes “Reservation Dogs” so revolutionary, is its contemporary setting. He said most media featuring Native people as he was growing up was historically based, making the stories less relatable, especially to younger Indigenous people. “I think there’s a feeling in the community — this kind of feeling of a renaissance,” Jackson said. “I think (‘Reservation Dogs’) is really going to push this to the next level. I think it’s just created a lot of positive momentum.” Norman High School student Kateri Daffron, who is a member of the Comanche, Kiowa and Wichita Nations, said she sees herself in the “Reservation Dogs” characters. Though she said she relates with all the characters, her favorites are Cheese and Willie Jack. “Cheese has a gentle soul and Willie Jack, she’s this rez girl and she has a tough exterior, but she’s close with her parents and she’s really traditional,” Daffron said. “Those are my favorites. … It gives me a sense of home.” Daffron, who is from Anadarko, said the
Kateri Daffron, a Norman High School student, is dressed in Kiowa regalia. The Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma is headquartered in Carnegie, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of Kateri Daffron.
show has helped her explain her culture to her non-Native friends. “(My friends) want to know where I come from. It gives me a chance to connect with other people,” Daffron said. She said sometimes her non-Native friends don’t understand things about the show, but she’s happy to help with any confusion they
have. For example, a scene in the show features an owl statue with its eyes blurred out. Daffron said she had to explain that in Native culture, owls can be a sign of evil. “It just normalizes it. It’s great,” Daffron said. In addition to the show allowing her to connect with people outside of her culture, Daffron said she’s also been enjoying the way the show connects with her culture. The show features a scene of Officer Big — a tribal police officer — as a child. In the scene, Big encounters the Deer Lady, a woman who teaches men to treat women better. Daffron said, thanks to her Kiowa heritage, she is familiar with the story of the Deer Lady. “I thought it was hilarious,” Daffron said. “When (Deer Lady) brought the toilet paper to Big, Big said ‘‘àhô’’ and that was ‘thank you” in Kiowa. It was cute, I liked it.” Daffron said it has been nice seeing her identity and culture reflected on screen and on such a large scale, but she is especially grateful for how the show chose to tackle the difficult issues the main characters face. The show’s four main characters are teenagers who are grieving the death of their friend, Daniel. As the season progresses, it is revealed that Daniel committed suicide. “Personally, suicide has affected my life and every Indigenous teen I know back in my hometown,” Daffron said. “It’s a big epidemic with Natives.” According to the Center for Native American Youth, Indigenous communities experience the highest rate of suicide of any ethnic group, and suicide is the second leading cause of death for young Natives ages 10-24. The Na-
‘Proud of where I come from’ tive teen suicide rate is 3.5 times greater than the national average. Daffron said she was appreciative of the respectful way the show tackled such an emotionally complex issue. “It was definitely hard to watch, going through that again. But I feel like it did some justice on how we may feel,” Daffron said. “It showed that we don’t know who’s going through what.” Daffron said she wants to see more shows like Reservation Dogs in the future, and she’s excited to see the effect the show will have on kids younger than her. She said she hopes other Native kids can find a connection to the show the way she has. “It makes me feel like I have a voice,” Daffron said. “I am proud of the show because it feels like home, and I’m proud of where I come from.” All episodes of season one of “Reservation Dogs” are streaming now on FX on Hulu.
The main characters of FX’s Reservation Dogs crouch behind a corner in a scene shot in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. From left to right: Cheese (Lane Factor), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), Bear Smallhill (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) and Elora Danan (Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs). Photo Courtesy of FX on Hulu.
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