Are alternative lifestyles welcome? - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Are alternative lifestyles welcome?

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Posted: Wednesday, August 8, 2007 12:34 am | Updated: 7:58 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Is Scottsdale an unwelcome place for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered? Despite a handful of incidents in recent months, there’s little to show that Scottsdale as a whole does not welcome LGBT people.

Two reported attacks against gays in Scottsdale since December are evidence that at least a few here don’t want to welcome LGBT people.

Still, former Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano, who heads a national gay rights group, said he sees growing intolerance here.

But two attacks, while disgusting and reprehensible, is no trend. Still, an image could be forming nonetheless.

Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross this summer made a separate decision to remove all LGBT references from a draft of a mayoral proclamation.

Last month, a transgendered woman told of her dispute with a longtime Scottsdale nightclub owner over restroom facilities that resulted in the woman being ordered to leave.

My call to the mayor Tuesday was returned by city spokesman Pat Dodds. He said Manross’ Aug. 15 meeting with representatives of gay rights groups was in the works since mid-June. This was before the dispute between Anderson’s Fifth Estate owner Tom Anderson and transgendered woman Michele deLaFreniere — who happens to chair the city’s Human Relations Commission — made news in July, he said.

Dodds said he did not know the city’s next move.

It could do nothing, but Scottsdale’s too focused on how outsiders see it. It could enact ordinances regarding restrooms for the transgendered. It could wait to see what the state does; the Attorney General’s Office is looking into deLaFreniere’s complaint.

Or it could dispatch Don Logan, director of the city’s Diversity and Dialogue Office, to be facilitator for Anderson and deLaFreniere in discussions toward permanent solutions that protect the rights of both individuals and businesses.

From her description, deLaFreniere’s life since becoming a woman has been far from easy, and she’s entitled to be treated no differently than any other woman. Anderson, who said he is no bigot, said he and other proprietors are caught between laws that require them to keep order in their establishments and the wishes of the transgendered to use the restroom of their choice. Finding common ground won’t be easy. But it’s worth a try.

Overall Scottsdale is not an unwelcome place for LGBT people; its Convention and Visitors Bureau has a marketing effort to attract gay tourism. But because of the growth of the city’s downtown entertainment district, its visitors are going to keep becoming more diverse, not less.

As such, Scottsdale’s future image depends on how well it embraces that diversity, both as a city and as individuals within it.

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