We had some sad news from Omaha last week. Cancer ended the life of Aleta Fenceroy, 57. For eight years, Fenceroy and her partner Jean Mayberry ran Fenceberry, an informal news service. Until 2004, when Fenceberry shut down, the two spent many hours a day, without compensation, collecting and distributing news stories, editorials and letters to the editor that were of concern to the lesbian and gay community. Journalists, community members, activists and many others benefited from their work.
In her October 2 Detroit News column, Deb Price wrote “For their devoted fans, the Fenceberrys became town criers, telling us far more than we could learn from the occasional gay article in our hometown papers. Or, to put it another way, Fenceberry readers — whether a New York City gay-rights attorney or a closeted college student — had been like the blind men touching the elephant, each knowing little more than what was within reach. The Fenceberrys’ daily dispatches were quite literally eye-opening, revealing the enormous size and growing strength of the gay-rights movement.”
Just as sad was the new from Dallas that Dennis Vercher III, 53, senior editor of the Dallas Voice, died after a long battle with AIDS. That paper reported that Vercher had been the editor there since 1986.
In a press statement, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association wrote that Vercher “had a profound impact on the local LGBT landscape. His work for the Voice over the last two decades contributed greatly to and chronicled some important times in the region for the LGBT communities, including a surge in visibility for LGBT people in day-to-day Dallas life; battles over nondiscrimination ordinances, HIV/AIDS treatment and sodomy laws; and growth in LGBT political strength.”
Fenceroy and Vercher shared a commitment to their community, but their work also expressed another value, at least implicitly – the belief that by exercising the rights guaranteed them under the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution they were also advancing the interests of the community.
Gay City News is pleased to have Benjamin Weinthal report on another gay person who is coming to the defense of the freedom of expression – Klaus Wowereit, the openly gay mayor of Berlin. When a local opera house there, fearing a violent backlash from Muslims, canceled performances of an opera that featured a representation of Mohammed, Islam’s great prophet, Wowereit quite correctly objected. “Idomeneo,” the opera, will go on though no date has been set.
And the newspaper is offering other stories that we hope emulate the values that Vercher, Fenceroy and Wowereit have demonstrated. Andy Humm is giving readers a different take on the scandal that brought down Republican Congressman Mark Foley. Where the mainstream press has given us gossip and discussed the scandal’s implications for the political horse race that will finish on November 7, Humm asks if the closet is implicated in this sad tale and questions the reaction of gay groups.
Similarly, where the press has generally avoided substantive coverage of the races for governor and attorney general, assuming that Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo will take those offices, we have a profile of Jeanine Pirro this week. This story is not an endorsement, but we do believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters should consider her candidacy. Though her position on gay marriage will be hard for many queer voters to overcome, Pirro has been a friend of this community and a supporter of our issues.
We don’t pretend to have Fenceroy’s or Vercher’s commitment. Certainly, we do not possess Wowereit’s courage, but we do believe in the values that all three demonstrated. Our job is to bring you the news you will not see elsewhere and to ask the questions that are not being asked by others. The world is a better place because Dennis Vercher and Aleta Fenceroy were here. The best way to honor Fenceroy and Vercher is to work and believe as they did.