BY Duane Wells
September 29 2009 6:45 PM ET
Listening to Carlyle talk,
it’s clear that he is at once a fighter by nature in addition to being
a deeply committed advocate for LGBT rights. In fact, for Troy, a
former Air Force officer who was court-martialed in 1994 for being gay,
fighting and overcoming obstacles seems to be a way of life. Though he
says he moved to Tyler basically to die, Carlyle is beating the odds
in more ways than one and making a difference in East Texas, however
haphazard his arrival in the homophobic region might have been.
didn’t know it was going to be this bad when I moved here,” Carlyle says
with a laugh. “I have family here and I was dying of AIDS, so I came
here to be close to my family…basically to die. But then I got here and
got on a good [anti-HIV] regimen and gradually started getting better. It was
then that I realized where I was. I didn’t realize when I moved here
that the area was going to be like this.”
Whatever the reason Troy Carlyle landed in Tyler, it is clear that he and Project TAG are
changing attitudes about what it means to be gay in East Texas while
simultaneously empowering the local LGBT community. In addition to
getting their Adopt-A-Highway sign up in just about three months time,
Project TAG, which currently counts 170 members, has begun a number of community-based ventures. For a gay man who was kicked out of his choir, the
group has started a chorale so that gay people can have a place where
they can sing in Tyler. Likewise for a lesbian who was learning
to dance in a ballroom dancing group, Project TAG has started a
ballroom dance club.
And the list goes on.
“This is really a place
for people to be themselves and to get away from that discrimination,” Carlyle says. “We’re really hoping that in the process we’re going to
be combating depression and low self-esteem and the kind of self-induced
violence that can lead to it.”
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