Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gay Politics in Venezuela

Heisler Vaamonde, Jose R. Merentes and Tamara A. Hernandez
As the LGBT rights movement matures throughout Latin America, it's thrilling to be witness to history. One aspect of maturity is political engagement and in countries such as Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, the shape of engagement sometimes takes the form of openly gay candidates daring to run for office (and in the case of Mexico's Patria Jimenez or Enoe Uranga, actually winning).

Now it is Venezuela's turn.

Not that it is a first. Oswaldo Reyes, widely recognized as a pioneer in bringing homosexuality out of the closet in Venezuela by becoming one of the movement's first out leaders, was also the first person to run for political office in Caracas as a openly gay man in the late 1990's. Unfortunately - as some of the other candidates in Latin America - he seemed to run only on the fact that he was gay (and incorrectly assumed that he could win by counting on the gay vote alone). Rumors of campaign improprieties also followed him and tainted his reputation for the rest of his life. Mr. Reyes died earlier this year leaving an indisputable political legacy including the fact that he was the first one to call for constitutional protections for Venezuela's LGBT community during his failed candidacy to the National Assembly in 1999.

Now comes the December 2005 regional elections.

On November 18 Venezuela's El Observador profiled two gay men vying for a National Assembly seat in elections taking place next week and a transgender woman, Tamara Adrian Hernandez, who also tried to get on the ballot but failed to get the minimum signatures required by the National Electorate Committee. The paper said that by interviewing Ms. Hernandez, they hoped to highlight the issues she brought to her campaign.

According to La Opinion, Ms. Hernandez, an attorney by profession, said that she decided to "take the mask off" and run for political office to highlight the work that needs to happen when it comes to human rights in Venezuela and, particularly, as they pertain to women's rights and transgender rights:

"Perhaps the most discriminated of all minorities, not only in Venezuela but countries such as Sweden, are transsexual persons. Transsexuals are highly discriminated against from a social, educational vantage point, to the point that research done in Sweden and Canada shows that [their] educational level is 40 percent less than the rest of the population."

Ms. Hernandez says that Venezuela is behind other Latin American countries in extending human rights protections to minorities on a legislative level but says that a human rights agreement signed in 2002 by several Andes mountain region countries - including Venezuela - explicitly states that they will protect "women, children, immigrants, refugees [and those] minorities discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or identity."

During her campaign, Ms. Hernandez also questioned whether there was a true separation of church and state in Venezuela and argued that, despite the general openness of the Venezuelan constitution, when it came to issues such as abortion, violence against women, sexual education in high schools and LGBT rights, "seemingly dormant taboos [from as far back as] the 12th century" always trumped 21st century logic.

Backed by the politically centrist-right Federal Republican Party, which promotes a legislative change to parliamentary government in Venezuela, Jose Ramon Merentes also is running on a political platform which calls for the strengthening of human rights protections as well as the defense of women's rights.

He told La Opinion: "The Federal Republican Party, courageously and for the first time ever, included equal rights for gays in its agenda... I believe this is an opportunity to open a path that has never been crossed by our collective: The possibility to earn the respect owed to us by the rest of Venezuelan society."

Mr. Merentes is not a fan of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and criticizes a recent Penal Code reform as unduly "authoritative and repressive."

"The fact that a single person has so much power concentrated on himself evidently reduces the democratic possibilities of Venezuelan society, despite what the constitution says," he says, adding that society suffers "schizophrenia, because the constitution says one thing and the political reality is something that is the complete opposite."

He has also denounced what he calls the "persecution against Judicial Powers," has called for sensitivity trainings in all police departments to address police abuse against sexual minorities and refugees, and wants the state to recognize the rights of transgender persons. He says that it is not sufficient to instill legislative change to secure human rights protections and the recognition of the LGBT community and argues that legislative victories have to be supported with community awareness efforts and trainings.

Backed by the pro-Chavez leftist-leaning Freed Truth Party, an employee of the Caracas Mayor's Office in a post he created (Division for the Development of LGBT Individuals) and Director of the organization Gay Revolutionary Movement of Venezuela, Mr. Vaamonde is perhaps the best-known of the three candidates at least in international LGBT advocacy circles.

A long-time Chavez acolyte, Mr. Vaamonde tells La Opinion that Chavez himself was the inspiration for the organization he founded after the President made some pro-gay statements in his weekly television show. As an article appearing this week in Australia's Green Left Weekly elaborates: "On December 15, 2002, three years after the new constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was adopted, President Hugo Chavez said on his weekly television program Alo Presidente that a big mistake had been made in 1999 during the National Constituent Assembly, when the rights of gays and lesbians were left out of the new constitution."

Yet, despite the fact that Chavez has yet to follow through in enshrining LGBT rights and protections in the Venezuelan constitution and the fact that he was recently quoted as saying that homosexuality is a "characteristic of the lowest [type of] humanity" in his televised show, in the Green Left Weekly article Mr. Vaamonde continues to defend Chavez, although he should get credit for criticizing other Chavistas for their failure on LGBT rights:

“The politicians did not want to listen to us gays. We had believed that because [the Chavistas] were revolutionaries they would have a vision, a broader mind, but it was all to the contrary ... we had too many obstacles from them for us to obtain results. There was not the political will on the part of the National Assembly, from the Chavistas, because the right-wing never even opened the door for us, they would not give us a yes or no answer, they were always ‘considering it’... well in the waiting we never got there ... Unfortunately we have personalities in the government behind Chavez that are not exactly revolutionary. Chavez is a revolutionary, but there are reformists around him.”

Yet, it is also a reality that Mr. Vaamonde's almost blind allegiance to Hugo Chavez has not only brought him some criticism but outright death-threaths such as one that was posted on Reconocelos (and has since been removed), a web portal that which seeks to list the 'traitors' who support Chavez.

As much as I distrust the populist semi-dictatorship that Hugo Chavez has built around him, the hard right in Venezuela bodes no better and, even if Mr. Vaamonde is entitled to his belief in the Chavez revolution, I wish he would also stand up to Chavez when he makes anti-gay statements such as the one above. Blind allegiance to any authoritative force, be it from the left or right, is still blind by definition and not necessarily what builds a truly independent political movement.

On Mr. Vaamonde's platform are a desire to introduce bills to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and against HIV positive individuals; the establishment of institutions that will protect and defend the LGBT community; and a desire to promote a stronger separation of church and state. Mr. Vaamonde also differs with Mr. Merentes on the issue of marriage for same-sex couples which he does not see as a current priority in Venezuela.

One thing is for certain: By early next week we should know if whether Mr. Vaamonde, Mr. Merentes or both will get enough votes to become the first openly gay elected officials in Venezuela.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Snowy weekend

Spent the weekend upstate New York with the mom, the brother (the one who is living in the US) and friends. Got my first taste of winter snow (yeepee!!) - Just beautiful.

By the way, that's the boyfriend trying to catch a snowflake in his tongue as he shovels the white stuff out of the driveway.

Oh yeah, the food was great too! (Nothing like my mom's ajiaco soup!)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Argentina Gay Pride Confrontations

Photos: Buenos Aires police show up in force to 'protect' the city's Cathedral on gay pride day. According to news reports, this year's 14th annual gay pride march drew over 10,000 marchers. Police threw tear-gas and made some arrests after a confrontation between a small fundamentalist religious group clashed with left-wing protesters not associated with the march (photos taken by Nicolas Parodi courtesy of Indymedia, additional photos here)

By all accounts, this weekend's gay pride march was a resounding success, drawing more than 10,000 marchers and filling the streets of Buenos Aires with rainbow flags and confetti, despite the light rain that fell on a warm afternoon. March organizers selected "We Want the Same Rights" as this year's theme and demanded the passage of a national civil union bill which would expand the landmark 2002 Buenos Aires same-sex civil union law to cover same-sex couples around Argentina (to date, according to Corrientes Noticias, 400 Buenos Aires couples have sought civil union protections). In addition, organizers also said that they were demanding the right to adopt and the right to one's body.

Not everything ran peacefully, as a few members of a fundamentalist religious organization called "Bringers of the Faith" gathered outside the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral to 'defend' the Church from gatherers at the Plaza de Mayo - which marks the starting place for the march - and about 100 individuals associated with socialist, anarchist and queer groups stood in front of them and began to shout them down.

The confrontation has a history: In 2003, a group of mostly left-wing queer organizations and activists organized a 'counter-march'
to denounce the assimilationist and non-revolutionary nature of the gay pride march. At the start of the march, they decended upon the Cathedral and spray-painted its outside walls with anti-Catholic slurs drawing strong rebukes from Argentine society, the government and, of course, the Catholic Church. The action also exposed a split in LGBT organizing in Buenos Aires between those who seek gains through governmental lobbying and legislative pressure and activists who see this as sleeping with the enemy and want to take more aggressive measures (Similar fissures exist the United States LGBT rights movement).

So it should not have been a surprise that the Buenos Aires police was out in full force at the beginning of this past Saturday's march. But the mix of right-wing religious zealots, left-wing organizers, anarchists and police proved to be a powder keg with a fuse that was lit - according to Cadena 3 - when one of the Church defenders reached out and grabbed a transgender woman who was shouting at him.

As the confrontation began to spill out of order, the police threw tear gas supposedly to protect the religious folk who were smaller in number than their opponents. This was met by a hail of rocks and bottles thrown by demonstrator at the police as the protesters retreated into the wider crowd of march participants. The police followed a few of them into the crowd and arrested six people. A video of the police dragging a young pregnant woman off to jail was shown on Argentine television and on this weekends edition of Univision's Primer Impacto (the anchorwoman, inexplicably, ended her comments by asking "I sincerely do not know what a pregnant woman was doing at such a march" - then again, their report was insubstantial and alleged that the clash represented a bunch of angry gays attacking the police). A policeman was taken to a hospital where he was treated for injuries to an eye.

After the arrests, the clashes died down and the marchers were able to make their way from the Plaza de Mayo to the National Congress Building.

The repercussions are still rippling through the Argentine LGBT movement as some march organizers have alleged that some of the mostly non-gay anarchist protesters actually shouted anti-gay slurs at them as they were also clashing with the police and the church folks. At the very least, I hope that it leads to concrete steps on how the more politicaly savvy (some may say entrenched) organizations such as the CHA and the more progressive elements of the LGBT movement in Argentina can mend fences and work together.

Otherwise, expect to see a repeat of these clashes at next year's march.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Not That Fast

So I thought I'd be up and running by now, blogwise, but I guess I didn't calculate just how backed-up I was having been away for almost two weeks. Then Wednesday I am off again to spend Thanksgiving with the family so I probably won't be posting regularly until next week.

If only I could have a little time to report on the violent clashes that happened over the weekend at the Argentina gay pride march! Well, let's see how it goes and if I have some time to do so later.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Creating Change 2005

At one point I must have looked forward to attending the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change conference which takes place anually (this year in Oakland). But it took me so long to be able to confirm my ability to attend that I was not able to prepare a presentation on "The Impact of the Canada, Massachussetts and Spain same-sex rulings on Latin America" until I got there. This meant that I actually mised most of the workshops on Thursday and Friday and was only able to fully participate on Saturday, before leaving for (or coming to?) San Diego later that day.

The presentation, part of a workshop on "Latino Media and Same-Sex Marriage," was put together by Monica Taher of GLAAD and also included the great Eddie Gutierrez from Equality California as a panelist.

Monica and I are members of the National Latino Coalition for Justice - NLCJ (which advocates for the right of same-sex couples to marry from a Latino perspective) and "Sigamos Adelente" (an effort to launch a national Latino LGBT organizing entity in the wake of the National Latino LGBT Organization's implosion last year). There were opportunities to meet with other members of each of the organizing efforts and to achive quite a lot, despite the limited time.

Key among these (see photo above) was an informal but powerful meeting between members of the NLCJ and Geoffrey Kors, Executive Director of Equality California, which hopefully will translate into increasing participation and input by Latinos into the agency's marriage strategy in California.

Also powerful, the Saturday plenary at which long-time activists John D'Emilio and Urvashi Vaid explored the question of what is wrong and what is right with the LGBT movement (the Task Force told me that they will most probably publish the exchange, in essay from, at a later date).

Most powerful, at least to me, were a couple of workshops on a similar theme: "It's About Gay Sex: Strategies for Working with a Radical Right Obsessed with Gay Sex Prectices" and "Talking About Sex in Communities of Color." I have long argued that what ails the LGBT community is the fact that our sexuality or the sex we have is still seen as being an illness, a sin, or plain wrong, and that this leads us to undermine our self-worth to the pont where it becomes difficult to enjoy who we are. Both workshops delved deeply into how LGBT sexuality is handled by media as well as by our own communities and, in the second workshop, how we as people of color face our own specific issues about sex. They both made for thought-provoking, scorching, deeply personal and revelatory exchanges that I will not soon forget. I wish there were more opportunities to explore these issues, not only at Creating Change, but in our home-towns and cities.

All in all, though, I wish I could have focused more on the conference and not necessarily spent so much time preparing for the workshop. As it was I felt a little out of the whole thing and not necessarily able to connect fully with it.

Gay City News - Emanuel Xavier Cover Story

As I alluded to last week, on Thursday Gay City News ran an interview with Emanuel Xavier that I culled from the previous posts I did regarding the assault that happened a couple of weeks ago as well as some of the exchanges I had with him over the last few days. I have written OpEd pieces, a number of columns on dance music for a gay bar magazine in Queens, and a few letters to the editor, but this is the first time I write a full-fledged article for a newspaper. I was shocked, to say the least to have gotten the cover story and I thank editor Paul Schindler for giving me the space.

Even more daunting was having been given the responsibility to write on this specific issue - particularly because I felt I might have been too close to the story and lack some objectivity - but also because I wanted to do Emanuel justice in his retelling of what he went through. I hope the article answers some of the questions that have come my way regarding the attack and that it marks a stepping stone to moving forward.

I also thank Emanuel for sharing his story and leading by example. There is violence in our communities and we must not be silent about it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

José Mantero: A gay Catholic priest and his blog

Although I was born in a Catholic country, I have never practiced religion. In part this is due to parents who brought my brothers and I in the heady Leftist promises of the 1970's (most of it long-obscured as mere ideologist dogma of their own, at least in my country), but also because the church so often turns its back on its own people when it fails to understand their humanity.

I do have to confess that I envy some gays and lesbians who nevertheless find peace and strength from their unshaken beliefs. And though I do find unexplainable beauty in nature and humanity that goes past what evolutionary science reveals (oh no! - I think I just said I believe in Intelligent Design!), I see my religious friends as beacons of hope at a time when fundamentalist blindness is the source of so much horror in this world.

A sign of the changes to come in Spain under Zapatero rule, Reverend José Mantero shocked the world when he posed for a cover story Spain's leading LGBT magazine ZERO - a glossy version of Out magazine, only better, though Mantero riles against it in this interview - and announced to the world that he was gay.

That was 2001. In "Thank God for making me Gay," an interview by Bosco Palacios published this morning by the web portal, Periodistadigital.com, the 43-year old Mantero talks candidly about the magazine cover and life after coming out. He also announces the launch of his own Spanish-language blog, La casulla de San Idelfonso.

I have translated some parts of the interview. Missing here are discussions about the new Pope, media and local Spanish politics, which you will have to get friends to translate. As for the rest of the interview:

Q: Was it your descision to be in [ZERO]'s cover?
Well, I got a call... from Manuel Andreu, who was then editor of Zero, to ask me for an interview. After thinking about it and praying, I decided to give it (we had not discussed if it would be on the cover, just that it would be a simple interview.)

Q: So how did it become the cover story?
He was thrilled with to be able to a Catholic priest who was 'gayfriendly' so I had to clarify that I was gay and that I'd be 'heterofriendly' anyway. That's how I got to Zero and, regarding the cover title - "Thank God I am Gay" - that was my response to the first question Paco Vidarte, the interviewer, asked me: 'Are you gay?'

Q: Do ever regret that cover?
Man! If it hadn't been Zero, it would have happened elsewhere, because to tell you the truth, I was sick and tired of the homophobic manifestations by the Catholic leadership. But I might have waited longer. In any case, I do not regret it. On the contrary: I continue to thank God for having made me gay, and for wanting me to complete his plan of salvation as a gay man. Today Zero is no longer what it used to be.

Q: How is Zero today?
Today it's a vulgar little magazine without any social compromise, more connected to the fashons and money, than the cause of gay liberation. If I came out of the closet today, it would not happen in Zero, that's clear.

Q: Can you be Catholic and a gay man?
Evidently. I am Catholic and I am gay. I am a priest (not ex-priest as some illiterate folk have disseminated) and gay. Look at all the good the gay clergy, the magnificent gay priests that exist. What is really incompatible is to be Catholic and a homophobe, or intolerant, or an interested defender of power and money. In any case, homophobia has a cure and psychiatrists [who can treat it], but the opposite is a question of conversion and I don't see many who are willing.

Q: How do you continue to live with your faith?
My work as a priest, in place of being over, has been reborn, it has returned from that accident when I was supposedly banned [from priesthood]. When on February 6, 2002 Ignacio Noguer signed the decree, something beautiful died inside me with his signature: Decades of life in a institution that, even if sinful and radically treasonous in regards to the Gospel, I countinue to love. The synthesis was needed, perhaps it was among God's plan. And I now have no single doubt of the enligtening role of suffering, a whole educatioon [in itself].

Q: Can you continue to celebrate [mass]?
I have been barred, I mean, institutionally blocked from celebrating Holy Mass and all the other sacraments. Now, I continue to celebrate Holy Mass at least on Sundays. I mean, I don't go to Mass, but I do celebrate it at home or with any Christian group that asks me... The Eucarist is a treausre that Jesus has given me and I am not going to throw it away due to a enlightening piece of paper I consider innocuous.

Q: They want to ban gay priests from the seminaries. How can this be done?
Yes, I think they want to ban them. But I ask: Who can prohibit this from the prohibitionists? This absurd prohibition is a summer storm, a fashionable negative inside the Church, since in so few other profession in our world exist as many homosexuals - gays and lesbians - as in the Catholic church. In Fact, all the prohibitions do is to reveal the overwhelming existence of the gay phenomenon in their ranks...

Q: What tests are they planning to stop this "invasion?"
Apparetly thwy will attempt to use through some tests. As a matter of fact, since you are a journalist, I beg you to send me a copy of some of them as soon as you have them in your hands: I need a good laugh. In any case, it is only more proof of the obsession that the high Ecliastic spheres have with sex, sex as a problem, only as compulsion, as slavery of the soul. But sexuality is more than the genital, they still do not get that. I suppose a lot will change when sexuality is discovered as a source of pleasure, instead of a burden.

Q: What opinion do you reserve for homophobia inside the Church?
With respect to the secular homophobia of the church, is a mortal sin for which they will ask for forgiveness one day (when it's too late). God not only considers humans worthy, but he has made us gays as such to broaden his glory (in the same way he has created heterosexuals). Everything is to increase the glory of God; the problem with many [religious] leaders is that, for them, the glory of God is not worth a damn. The position of the church on homosexuality is against nature, anti-evangelical and hypocritical.

Q: Is Spain totally advanced with respect with other countries?
That is indisputable: We are in the absolute vanguard in respect to formal recognition of equal rights. Now, in respect to full equality, or real equality, if you prefer, there is still a lot to go, a long and passionate educational process of socierty, particularly of the new generations, so that they don't use the equation 'homosexuality = problem, or pathology' but that they see it as it is: One more color in the fan of love and sex.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle to normalization?
Tha Catholic Church and its continuing homophobic manifestations.

Q: Why [do you say that the church] is against nature?
Aganist nature, because sexual orientation is just one more of those that the Creator made, created and instituted. How do I know? The Holy Spirit has told me. Yes, I think that He has also spoken to Ratzinger once in a while. Excuse me, Benedict XVI.

Q: Why anti-evangelical?
Anti-evangelical, because it is fundamentally opposed to love. And I know what I am telling you: For them, infrequent sexual relations are not a major problem, even homosexual relationships, which are more common among members of the clergy, in high places and low. Now, if the little priest falls in love, uf!, that is worse in their eyes. Opposed to human love and, by definitionh, to Divine love.

Q: Why hypocritical?
Hypocritical, because in too many occasions, the religious leaders who are the most homophobic are gay priests themselves, I don't know if it's for fear of being found out or fear of finding themselves. Now, there is also the exception to the rule, the other side of the coin: Simple Catholic ommunity churches, in which homosexuals, even if they have been persecuted, have been accepted, integrated, loved in the most natural of ways. But unfortunately a grain does not make a farm.

Q: What is your opinion of the demonstrations by pro-family associations against gay marriage?
They seem as "E.T." to me as "The War of the Worlds..." I see these associations as sorry and docile peons in the hands of truly sly puppet masters, which manipulate them at their whim and according to which way the winds of their personal interests blow.

Q: Who is directing the orchestra?
You saw them clearly in the J-18 manifestation, with all the priests taking to the streets instead of doing what they are meant to do: Be priests and announce the Lord. The puppet masters are the Episcopal Conference... and the Popular Party, loyal servant and master at the same time.

Q: How have you lived these continuous manifestations?
There is nothing wrong with having voices of criticism, even against gay marriage (what is truly perverse is a sole thought, no matter under which sign). But I am somewhat fearful of what all these - you qualify them as continuing - manifestations: A resurgence of catholic fundamentalism, as terrible as any other.


Q: Tell us about your blog
My blog, La casulla de San Idelfonso, will basically be like the other one, Terminal de Ausencias: A mix of meditations about reality that I perceive as important. It's the home of a priest, who continues to be a priest, who feels he is a priest, who loves his ministry and that does not see it as having decreased. For that reason, there are / will be many posts which refer to the church, the pristes, the clergy... not exclusively. I also address the gay world... Every public... At the very least, this blog means something: Whoever thought about shutting me down, now it is clear...

Q: You were a priest and married to God (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). would you marry again with a man and adopt children?
I didn't use to be a priest, I am a priest. In me, the ministry is not something from the past, but the present, pleasurably the present, indivisible from my individual self. Second: I have not gotten married, with a man or a woman, not even with any of my cats, and you should see how much I love them! With respect to adoption, I haven't thought about it personally, since, as I tell you, I haven't built a family yet. In respect to the Holy Trinity, effectively God is Father, Son and Holy Saint, communis nexos aborum.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Pure Pleasue Seeker

Who would have thunk it? If anyone would have told me that I'd be so addicted to the new Andy Bell CD (first solo album from the Erasure chanteusse) just a month ago, I'd say they were "Crazy" (ooh! I am so smart!) but now I am hooked!

Highlights include the Flamenco-guitar / step-band drum driven "Caught in a Spin", the Moroder-like-throb duet "Love Oneself" (feat. Claudia Brücken from 80's sytnth-group Propaganda), the stomp choir of "Shaking My Soul" and, best of all, the best glitter disco gem this side of Justin Timberlake's "Rock Your Body" - "I Thought It Was You" featuring Jake Shears from the hot hot hot Scissor Sisters. Get me some platform shoes now!

Consumer alert special! Get the US version of the maxi-CD single for "Crazy" - The Stateside Mixes are much better than the UK ones.

Music saves the soul.

Vote tomorrow and California-bound

OK, gentle readers. Tomorrow is election day in several states and I hope you go out there and vote. Now, while the papers and political wonks will analyze every bit of information that they get from street-interviews, voting tallies and polls, be happy that I will leave them to their task and not bore you with analysis. May your favorite candidate win!

In the meantime, have you ever had one of those weeks that seems like a sucker-punch and you don't know what hit? Well, I'm coming one of those and still a little frazed (though clarity has been reached). Luckily Wednesday I am off to Oakland and then to one of the nicest cities in the United States, San Diego, where I hope to regain some sense and renew my energies (yes, I wasn't just being nice about not posting post-election analysis, I just won't be here to do so!).

Not sure how much access I'll have to the net while I am there so postings might be intemittent. There might be something in Thursday's issue of Gay City News from me so be sure to check their website that evening. It relates to some of the recent postings on the blog so I'm sure you'll be interested.

There might be yet a couple of posts before I leave New York. But, in the meantime, I guess I'll also take an opportunity to thank the many people, friends and strangers, who have reached out and told me how much they liked the blog. Coolness!

Sunday, November 06, 2005


I woke up early this morning looking for clarity. Outside my window, thick white fog. Beautiful though...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Of Latino homophobes and the NYC Mayoral Race

Things that make you go hmm...

From today's El Diario La Prensa in a
political briefs column by Eva Sanchis:
Rubén Díaz Sr., stay calm in the Bronx: The Puerto Rican [NYS] Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. recently confessed to several reporters in a Ferrer campaign stop that campaign organizers had asked him to stay "calm" with his position and not to draw too much public attention to his support for Ferrer. Apparently, Ferrer's campaign does not want the Senator, who is against gay marriage, to scare away the gay and lesbian community, which Ferrer has courted. Diaz said that he would vote for the Puerto Rican, even though in the past he threatened to boycott him in the elections for his support of gay marriages. Maibe Gonzalez, a spokesperson for Ferrer, said that she could not confirm Diaz' comments and said that the campaign would be grateful to receive his support. Yesterday, the Reverend said that he would vote for Ferrer "because culture and blood mean more."
But, if the Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr. is making moves towards Ferrer, at the very least Ferrer doesn't seem to be embracing him, which is less than what can be said about Mike Bloomberg standing on a stage on Friday and rapturously embracing the support from San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini-Padilla (pictured above). Hm, let's take a closer look:
  • Used rumors about his challenger's sexuality as a tactic to defeat him in a close mayoral race in 2000: "The bad blood between the two began in 2000, when [Eduardo] Bhatia accused Santini of snorting coke and Santini accused Bhatia of being a closeted homosexual" says this Oct. 2, 2004 opinion piece from El Vocero. The article goes on to say that when Bhatia challenged Santini again in the 2004 mayoral race, now a married man, Santini still accused him of not having "a traditional family" since his wife had not been born in Puerto Rico.
  • On August 2, 2003, following "complaints from several Puerto Rican conservative and religious groups over its nude scenes," Santini ordered a Puerto Rican staging of gay-themed play "Naked Boys Singing"shut down a day before it was supposed to open. At the time, he called the play "immoral" but the City of San Juan was later forced in court to pay $1.3 million for breaking production agreements.
Not that homophobes who embrace Bloomberg have been discouraged from endorsing the Bloomberg campaign in the past...

A funny thing though, today's El Nuevo Dia says that in a press conference yesterday, Reverend Diaz actually said of the Santini endorsement: "If you are not going to help, don't 'not help,' the Mayor of San Juan is wrong [in opposing Ferrer]."

Margarita Lopez on Bloomberg, Ferrer and her campaign

On Wednesday I wrote about a meeting taking place last night at the LGBT Community Services Center and hosted by Latino Gay Men of New York, one of the oldest Latino gay organizations in the country. The topic was city politics and the invited guests were members of the Out People of Color Political Action Club (OutPOCPAC) - of which I am a proud member - and former Manhattan Borough President candidates Margarita Lopez and Brian Ellner. OutPOCPAC was the first LGBT political club to endorse Fernando Ferrer during the primaries; both Brian and Margarita had recently announced that they were endorsing current Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Considering the amount of flak that has been directed at both Margarita and Brian for endorsing a Mayor who has appealed a decision granting marriage rights to same-sex couples in New York; vetoed the Equal Benefits Bill which would require that businesses with a budget of $100,000 and above provide insurance to same-sex partners of their employees if they also do for heterosexual couples; and vetoed the Dignity for All Students Act, which would require schools to monitor harrassment against youth who are or appear to be gay, I was a little skeptical that either of them would accept the invitation.

So give Margarita credit for showing up: During almost an hour, she spoke about the mayoral race, her Bloomberg endorsement, her relationship with Ferrer, her thoughts on proposition 1 and proposition 2 and recent news of an ongoing battle between Margarita and the Campaign Finance Board. Alas, it was off the record and I cannot give details of the conversation.

What I will say is that members of the group, though respectful, were not necessarily receptive to the reasons she gave for endorsing Bloomberg.

I do know that - as this is the last City Council term for Margarita - we are losing a progressive representative who staunchly fought for the improvement of the Lower East Side, which she represented; who sought and got increaced funding for HIV prevention services; who was instrumental in quickly mobilizing the city council to approve emergency funds for crystal meth use awareness and prevention for gay men in this city; and stood up to other members in the city council who did not move quickly to censure the sexual misconduct of one of its members.

Personally, I was grateful for her support in the work I have done on the issue of marriage rights for same-sex couples. On March 4th, 2004, as news of the Massachussetts decision allowing same-sex couples to marry began to have a national impact, Margarita joined us for a Latinos Against a Constitutional Amendment press conference at City Hall. Aware that some Latino political leaders might be weary of advocating for the issue, we were asking them to support marriage rights or, if they were not able to, at least to denounce President Bush's intent to push an amendment to the constitution (I believe it was the first Latino specific response in the country). Well, Margarita not only vouchered for the right to marry but pushed powerful New York State Assemblymember Peter Rivera from the Bronx (chair of the statewide legislative Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force) to also take a stand in favor of same-sex marriage.

I still remember how she took over the press conference and announced that she would be seeking a City Council appointment as a "marriage officer" that same day and, if granted, pledged to start officiating weddings. Then she proceeded to lead speakers, on-lookers and press to the City Council offices where nobody knew what do do with her request.

So, while I know that certain friends are hurt and surprised that Margarita might have endorsed Mike Bloomberg, it is hard for me to feel angry with her when she got such a raw deal during her failed campaign for Manhattan Borough President and when her work as a City Council member will leave lasting benefits for the community in general.

The one thing I regreted last night is that, although she did take some hard questions from group members and responded just as candidly, she did not stay to hear the other side argue their reasons to support Fernando Ferrer.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Openly lesbian councilmember to be next NYC Council Speaker?

PHOTO: Councilmember Christine Quinn at a LGBT rally for Fernando Ferrer, surrounded by State Senator Tom Duane, Democratic Attorney General candidate Sean P. Maloney, the Stonewall Dem's Dirk McCall, Assemblymember Danny O'Donnell, Democratic Mayoral Candidate Fernando Ferrer and Assemblymember Deborah Glick.

Much wrangling is taking place over who will replace former mayoral candidate and term-limited City Council Speaker Gifford Miller with some
anonymous commentarists providing some juicy back-drop to the behind-the-scenes jockeying (well, as juicy as politics can get, I guess). But, if Azi's sources at his newly launched New York Press blog, The Fifth Estate, are right, we might have the first openly lesbian Speaker when the smoke clears: The woman with the most stunningly red hair in politics: Ms. Christine Quinn.

A message from Emanuel Xavier

Last night on his website, Emanuel posted the following message:
I would like to thank everyone who sent letters via my website, left messages on my voice mail, sent flowers and gifts and has kept me in their prayers. Except for a black eye, headaches and insomnia, the physical bruises have healed quickly thanks to cosmetic medicine. I am on a steroid medication with the hopes of regaining hearing loss in my right ear due to inner nerve damage. Further audiology tests will determine how this will affect the rest of my life- which I am excited to still be able to celebrate.

Andres Duque, who first broke the news on his blog, is currently putting together an exclusive which will answer all questions regarding the attack.

I am still scheduled to appear on Tuesday, November 15th at VelvetPark Magazine's "American TranStand" benefit for the Silvia Rivera Law Project. It is people like Silvia Rivera that have made it possible for myself and so many others to continue fighting for our rights even when there are those who try to silence us. Please support this event which will be held at the Canal Room (285 West Broadway at Canal Street) from 8pm-11:30pm ($12.50 in advance, $15 at the door).

I will be judging the competition along with Murray Hill and Ilene Chaiken & Daniela Sea from The L Word. I promise you will see that my spirit has not been broken by what happened.
Expect some additional follow-ups next week.

Previous posts:

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Time for some good ol' butt

OK - I promised a break from politics so it's time for some good ol' butt down Kentucky way.

Or at least "Things I've Found In My Butt," a new addition to Blabbeando's 'Personal Links' which is very far removed from our daily New York City living but, oh, so rad. Read and weep as Steven (pictured) deconstructs every single reality show on earth and a few pop stars for good measure.

Steve on MTV's Making the Band mogul P. Diddy:

Does P Diddy really know what it takes to make it big in the music industry, or does he just have the money to push his own favorites on through to the MTV viewing public? I think he really doesn't know what good is [also] why isn't he gay? I mean, I don't want him to be gay, but he sure looks and acts it... all elitist and shit?
On MTV's The Real World:
The Boston boy got his ass beat in one of the first episodes, but I'd still do him
On Boy Bands from the '90's:
I never knew that BSB (Backstreet Boys) were bad enough to have a Behind the Music. I'm so impressed. *Rushes out to buy the latest album.* I love bad boy bands. They did like hard core drugs!!!! Rock on, sugar-pop-boys! They make N'SYNC seem so.....Avril Lavigne Poser. Rad! Maybe next up is Vanessa Carlton's addiction to moisturizer? Or maybe Kelly Clarkson is a dirty girl with a large collection of different-sized vibratros and a case of assorted-flavored lube. Nice!
And then there's his take on David Banner and his song "Play":
It sounds like it would be a really pretty song. I mean, David Banner totally sounds like the name of a wholesome pop star from the UK. I was sooooo wrong. He's a rapper!!!! And this rapper or whatever is a pretty dirty mofo. The lyrics to "Play" are off the hook... Some of the lyrics include the following...
Well, let's say you'll have to jump on over to Steve's site and find out just how dirrrrrty it can get.


Political Updates - You Get to Dance Salsa Too and a Book on Bloomberg

More local politics, please don't yawn!

Salsa Al: Those Ferrer camp
salsa dancing ads, while not heavy on content, have been fun to watch. Particularly that Al Sharpton one.

Well, now it's YOUR turn to send the Ferrer campaign your own salsa dancing videos (actually it can be any type of music you like to dance to) by sending your mpegs to:
info@ferrer2005.com - Aparently they will be posting the best ones on the Ferrer campaign website. Do it fast, though, kiddies, elections are next week!

Buddies: Unfortunately, any good-will that the ads might have elicited got eclipsed by the release of a totally different ad called "Buddies" on the same day, which the New York Post trumpeted up on its first page by implying that it featured a cartoon Bloomberg giving a cartoon handjob to a cartoon George W. Bush (!) which the Bloomberg campaign immediately called 'disgusting' (even if the actual ad doesn't show anything close to that).

I did think that the ad crossed a line and I did send it out to a couple of friends to see if it striked them as a bit, um, problematic, not to say homophobic, but they both thought it was a funny take on the Jib Jab ads that ran during the Bush-Kerry race but that was about it. I almost blogged about my feelings about the ad but let it go. Well, the Post cover page story came out the next day. Must mean I'm thinking along the lines of the editors at the New York Post (and that's kinda scary!).

Catch up to the visitors from Puerto Rico: As for the LGBT Puerto Rican contingent for Ferrer? Well, they will be here this weekend. You have a chance to meet them as they campaign for openly lesbian Democratic councilmember nominee Rosie Mendez (running to gain the District 2 seat vacated by Margarita Lopez) on Saturday morning at 11:30am in the Lower East Side. Fernando Ferrer will join them a little later. Interested? Call Rosie Mendez' campaign office for more info: (212) 677-1077.

The Book on Bloomberg: Finally, for local political wonks, there has always been a rumor of a strategy book used by Mark Green to attack Bloomberg in his failed 2001 mayoral campaign. Well, rejoice! Now, thanks to The Politicker, you can also get a hold on an actual copy!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Letter to the NY Times: When You Raped Me

I sent this letter to the New York Times tonight. Let's see if it's printed in this weekend's Sunday Styles letters section.
New York Times

Sunday Styles Section

To the editor:

In "Bawdy Radio Show is Now a Superstar" (Sunday Styles, Oct. 30), the Times profiles the Spanish-language radio show "El Vacilon de la Mañana.” Though the article mentions that some consider the show to be obscene, the only comparisson offered is Howard Stern. Perhaps these two examples will show how it stoops even lower:

In a prank phone call, a man is told that his wife has been unfaithful and has just tested HIV positive. He is also told that he might be infected and might die within hours unless he reaches a hospital. The man begins to sob and only breaks into laughter when the prank is unmasked.

In "Cuando Me Violaste" (When You Raped Me), a song skit set to a romantic bachata rhythm, a man with a fey voice dedicates the song to his rapist:

Here I am sufering, dying, Ramon (of love)
I have not been able to be the man I used to be
My ass you left destroyed… You dislocated my butt
Through where you passed through, I can now fit an avocado

DJ Luis Jimenez and the show’s producers act like the victims of zealous moralists while they make millions and proudly hide behind the fact that the FCC has never lobbied fines against "El Vacilon."

But, while the FCC may certainly think that skits about anal rape as a love song do not break their obscenity rules – or, more likely, they do not have the Spanish-language staff that can act as monitors – there are certainly many of us who will continue to challenge "El Vacilon" for the mysogyny, racisim and homophobia that they continue to perpetrate on a daily basis as "humor" at the expense of others.

[Oh my! Google translates freakily into Spanish here]

Margarita Lopez, Brian Ellner at LGMNY's First Friday Forum?

Should all the invited speakers show up at this Friday's Latino Gay Men of New York forum (they hold forums on the first Friday of the month at the NYC LGBT Community Services Center), it should certainly prove to be an interesting night. The night's topic is "Political Education on the Mayoral Election & Issues Important to the Latino LGBT Community" and the focus is the current mayoral race. Invited guests include Out People of Color Political Action Club co-presidents Doug Robinson and Gerard Cabrera on the pro-Ferrer side and openly gay former Manhattan Borough President candidates Brian Ellner and Margarita Lopez on the pro-Bloomberg side.

Both Brian and Margarita have drawn tremendous flak from LGBT advocates for endoorsing Mike Bloomberg despite his record on LGBT rights and I am not so sure they would want to participate in a forum like this just before the election. Nevertheless, I hope they do show up and honor the request from one of the oldest Latino gay organizations in the city.

By the way, the political forum, which is set to start at 8pm, will be followed by a holistic health workshop at 9pm. Just in case the speakers need it afterwards. I'm just saying...

LGBT Puerto Ricans for Fernando Ferrer

While in Puerto Rico a few days ago, where I was attending a strategy meeting for the National Latino Coalition for Justice, which advocates for the right to marriage for same-sex couples, I ran into Olga Orraca, one of the best known - if not the leading - LGBT and lesbian activist in Puerto Rico. It had been almost five years since I last had seen her and she looked beautiful and radiant. During a break, Olga pulled me to the side and urgently asked: "OK! Tell me everything that you know about what's going on with the LGBT community in New York City and Fernando Ferrer!"

The weekend after Fernando Ferrer won the Democratic primary election in New York, he flew to Puerto Rico to engage the powerful political allies he has in the island. Puerto Rican politics have a bigger impact in New York among Latino communities than you can imagine so the move was a smart one. But, showing that his support for LGBT rights in New York was not just a way to pander to a politically active community, Ferrer also met with members of the LGBT community in Puerto Rico including Olga Orraca and long-time AIDS activist José "Chenin" Oquendo (both are pictured above, Olga in center wearing white and José sitting in his wheelchair, Ferrer is also featured in the center of the photograph).

Today José wrote:
Just as David defeated Goliath, our community - when united around a common purpose - will be able to engineer a huge defeat and elect the man who will take the city of sky-scrapers on a better path: An inclusive, responsible one, ready and able to work tiredlessly to resolve the city's most pressing problems.

Call your colleagues, friends and relatives and ask them to come out on November 8th to vote for Fernando Ferrer for mayor of New York City. United we will engender tremendous change...
As for Olga, she will be part of a delegation traveling next week from the island to New York City to campaign for Ferrer. If everyone here could be half as riled up and ready to campaign than the people coming from Puerto Rico next week, I'd say that Ferrer would be on better electoral ground than he has been lately. He did great tonight in the last mayoral debate of this mayoral season but he will need all the help he can muster and those people coming from Puerto Rico really do mean business!