Friday, March 31, 2006

Tomorrow: Pro-immigration march across the Brooklyn Bridge

It was nice to wake up this morning and turn on the Lou Dobbs Channel, oops, excuse me, CNN, and watch Mayor Michael Bloomberg ride the 7 train to my neighborhood, where he sat down at an Indian food restaurant to chat with CNN reporter John King about the immigration debacle (weird that CNN online has a much different version of the clip that I saw this morning, which also integrates an anti-immigrant talking head and - apparently to push a point - ends with a plug for Lou Dobb's rabidly anti-immigrant nightly show as well). The New York Times describes Bloomberg's comments to CNN on the immigration issue here.

Now, many wonder why New York City hasn't seen similar "surprise" massive pro-immigrant marches such as the ones that took place in Chicago and Los Angeles. Part of the answer is that the labor movement and its ties to the New York City immigrant community is not as strong as in other large urban areas, immigrant service agencies are stretched to the limit by funding cuts and case-loads and New York City's tremendous diversity actually works against itself when it comes to mobilizing such a range of immigrant groups. For example, there doesn't exist a predominant immigrant group as, say, Mexicans in California or Cubans in Florida that you can engage with a single-focus message.

And yet, a group of religious institutions, labor organizations and immigrant service organizations will try to do just that tomorrow. They are calling for a march across Brooklyn Bridge starting at Camden Plaza in Brooklyn at 11am tomorrow Saturday and ending outside 26 Federal Plaza (the Federal Naturalization and Immigration Services building just north of City Hall).

Spanish-language media has been credited with the turn out elsewhere and El Diario La Prensa has an editorial today calling people to march. I'm sure that local Telemundo and Univision news stations are also carrying the voice. Unfortunately, some of the leading organizers are amongst the most homophobic Latino institutions or personalities in the city and include the Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr., his Organization of Christian Ministers of New York, Tepeyac, RadioVision Cristiana, among others (hey, even I have acknowledged that the Reverend Diaz has done a great deal for immigrant communities).

The funny thing is that I know some of the labor groups have been calling some of the city's gay organizations (and not necessarily the Latino ones) and asking them to come on-board. I'm not sure that any of them have jumped on-board but it should be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. I doubt it will be anywhere near the 500,000 that marched in Los Angeles last week but, who knows, the march might even surprise me.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jamaica: Another trial, more gay violence allegations

RJR94FM radio is reporting tonight that Donald "Zeeks" Phillips, who is on trial for the alleged killings of two men in Kingston, is denying that he is a gay man, or that he killed the two men, much less that he forced the two men to "commit homosexual acts before he murdered them."

His lawyers asked for dismissal of the charges but the judge denied the motion and the trial will continue tomorrow Friday.

A message from Harmonica Sunbeam

Harmonica Sunbeam, mainstay at Manhattan's gay Latino club La Escuelita, has posted a personal message to her fans explaining why she has left the club. Harmonica reveals that she has been battling HIV/AIDS and has been ailing for the last few months and says that fans keep her in their prayers. In an update to her blog she thanks everyone for the messages she has been receiving even though she also says that sometimes she doesn't even have the strength to reply. Please keep Harmonica in your thoughts and check her website for updates.

Other bloggers who have expressed concen and have sent get-well wishes:

Blabbeando in the news: GCN cover story on Bloomberg meeting



Bloomberg-Pride Agenda Face-Off: What's Next?
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg convened a breakfast for gay and lesbian leaders March 24 at Gracie Mansion to discuss how he can contribute to the community's efforts to win same-sex marriage rights in New York State, but notable for their absence were representatives from the Empire State Pride Agenda.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The "Brokeback" effect: Argentina television tackles gay sex scenes

Today, in its Culture section, the Argentinean daily Pagina/12 has a cover story on two yet to be televised episodes of serials that are finally daring to show intimate contact by characters who play gay men.

Titled "Secreto de la Pantalla" [Secret of the Screen] after the name given to "Brokeback Mountain" when it was released throughout Latin America and Spain ("El Secreto de la Monta
a"), the article argues that the success of the film has given a final push for these type of scenes to be aired in television shows produced in Argentina.

"If up to now the quota of gays and travestis contemplated realistic archetypes (Luis Machin in Padre Coraje), caricaturesque femenine stereotypes (Nicolas Scarpino in Sin Codigo) and travestis that did not express their sexuality (Florencia de la V in Los Roldan), the novelty of 2006, perhaps due to the liberty that brought "Brokeback" to the Oscars (the integration of the gay couple into the red carpet), is to incorporate them into a sexual scene."

The article goes on to talk about two television serials or mini-soaps, Al Limite (To the Limit) and El Tiempo No Para (Time Doesn't Stop) and describes visits to the sets while the scenes, yet to be broadcast, were shot. Reporter Julian Gorodischer interviews actors, producers and stars about shooting the scene and their thoughts on why Argentinean television is now ready to tackle the taboo (it's "marketing" says Al Limite producer Pablo Cullel who also says that he likes how the gay topic was handled in series such as "Six Feet Under;" Al Limite Director Diego Palacio says "To get comfortable with gay sex, we began by watching Queer as Folk" but he also makes reference to Al Pacino's role in "Angels in America").

In related articles Pagina/12 talks to actor Juan Minjuin, who recently was seen here in the United States in the limited-release Argentinean film "A Year Without Love," filmmaker Edgardo Cozarinsky and to the organizer of the Buenos Aires gay film festival, Lorena Sanchez, about representation of lesbian sex in Argentinean film and television.


Andres Lopez, what are your thoughts on gay persons?

Ok, at the risk of alienating Blabbeando readers, allow me to stay in Colombia for one more blog post. If you are of Colombian descent and 35 years of age or younger, you will probably recognize the Colombian sensation of the moment.

No, it's not Carlos Vives, Juanes or even Shakira, it's stand-up comedian Andres Lopez. Lopez, in a stand-up act he has titled "Letter Ball" [Pelota de Letras, the name of a rubber ball covered by symbols and letters that every Colombian probably had as a child] takes a three hour journey into dissecting every Colombian generation from the early 1900's to today in a show that had me rolling on the floor when I first saw it on my trip to Colombia in January. Lopez honed the stage act for years and was burned when an illegally murky videotape of his performance got out and started to be passed around and sold online and elsewhere. He decided to release his own DVD (available for $30 US dollars at the above link) and has become a media sensation. He has performed at El Repertorio Espanol here in New York but, mark my words, his return will be met with a mob scene.

Anyhoo, I've just discovered Andres Lopez' blog. Appropriately, here is an excerpt from his post yesterday in which he answers a fan's question:

Q: What are your thoughts on gay persons?
Andres Lopez: I'm a civilized man, that's to say that society takes its stands on what it observes and believes is moral, I don't have any taboos regarding the topic, I have gay friends, and they are handling their situation, since society and the very perception of the issue is harsh, it's not easy. and I understand the situation. I am a declared heterosexual and I share my life with human beings that handle what they have and confront it every day, I don't see a problem, each person looks at their own truth as they wish, and that is what life is about, finding our own truths.

There are two stands that I don't share in regards to homosexuality: One, social intolerance against gays and lesbians, and another, that inside the universe of perception of some radical gays [there are attempts] to say or to try to convince people to change their sexual identity and that the whole world should be gay, translation: That every human being has the potential to come out of the closet; that is just as intolerant as the first.

Additionally its false fact that to be creative every artist has to be gay, men and women from anywhere can have good taste, be virtuous, etc. I am not interested in sexual stereotypes, that's a topic that has been burned from a comedic standpoint to the point of cynicism.

Colombia poised to be 1st Latin American country to offer benefits to same-sex couples

No, it's not a civil union or civil marriage bill and, no, it will not provide gays the right to adopt, but after President Alvaro Uribe's surprise response to a question posed by gay activist Mauricio Albarracin on Saturday at a presidential campaign stop (Uribe is running for re-election), Colombia is poised to become the first country in Latin America to provide nation-wide access to social security benefits as well as inheritance rights to same-sex couples.

Buenos Aires became the first city in Latin America to approve a limited civil unions law in 2002 (a version of which was later adapted and approved by the Argentinean province of Rio Negro - for a description of the law go here). Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico City have seen civil union bills reach their respective legislative bodies only to fail. But this would be the first time that a Latin American country would proactively seek to expand benefits for same-sex couples with the support of its president.

On Monday, I wrote that, in answering to a question about his support for civil rights for the LGBT community, President Uribe said: "First topic, marriage, no; second topic, adoption, no; proprietary / inheritance rights [derecho patrimonial], yes; social security, yes" as reported by El Tiempo.

The paper also reported that Uribe would move on the social security issue "immediately" and begin to draft legislation to address inheritance rights gradually.

Today, El Tiempo reports that a bill submitted in December in the Colombian Senate by Senator Alvaro Araujo would now move forward with the support of other legislators and government officials. Yesterday, Senator Flor Gnecco said that she would approve it for debate so that a first hearing could be held next week and the Minister of Social Protection said that his office would also endorse the bill. "In the last few months the Ministry of Social Protection has been working with the [national LGBT rights association] Colombia Diversa Foundation, studying the issue of social security [benefits] for gay partners and agrees that it is viable, possible and desirable to extend coverage to these persons. We will support Senator Araujo's bill" [today Colombian LGBT activists that I contacted and are close to the proceedings disputed the assertion that Colombia Diversa was working closely with the government and said that the extent of their collaboration was to submit a cost analysis at the government's request].

The article says that such swift movement was seen as possible not only due to the President's backing but because "the thesis of legalizing gay marriage and gay adoptions have been abandoned."

According to El Tiempo, "The new law would allow the following: That when a member of a gay partnership dies, his/her partner will have access to his/her partner's belongings; that when they separate, belongings will be divided according to the law; that if one partner loses his/her job, the person can become affiliated to their partner's health system without having to pay a double affiliation [fees]; and that in the case one of the partners dies, the survivor can enjoy pension benefits" (the paper goes on to do a cost analysis of the impact of the law, if approved).

Additionally, the paper reports that there might be some changes to the implementation of pension benefits in light of Uribe's comments that the country was not ready to assume the fiscal burden at this time but would do so gradually.

In the past, wunderkind Colombian attorney German Humberto Rincon Perfetti (who has also been involved with past attempts to bring a civil union bill for a vote) had been successful in having courts rule in favor of partners fighting for the right to their deceased same-sex partner's belongings but those were case by case rulings and did not necessarily extend to same-sex couples nationwide. This law would change this (over the last few years, Colombian courts have ruled in favor of gay people joining the military and the Colombian arm of the Boy Scouts; the right for same-sex partners of incarcerated persons to have conjugal visits; among other rulings).

In today's article, Mr. Rincon Perfetti is asked about the sudden legislative movement in favor of these rights and he argues that it's not necessarily a sudeen shift and says that the moment has been made possible due to gains going back to 1980 when homosexuality between men was depenalized and the approval of a new constitution in 1991 which allowed for the incremental gains that has brough the issue to this point.

Responses from other presidential candidates has been varied with Antanas Mockus and Carlos Gaviria saying that they would support same-sex marriage and leading contender Horacio Serpa (a distant second in the polls) saying he won't comment on the issue. The President has refused to participate in any presidential debate where these positions can be aired out.

Some mysteries remain:
  • Even if it is a presidential election year, why the turn around when Uribe publicly opposed some of the same rights when a civil union bill was introduced by Senator Piedad Cordoba in 2003?
  • Why are conservative elements of the Catholic church in Colombia suddenly silent when they were so voiciferous, virulently homophobic and active in their push to defeat the Cordoba bill?
  • If changes to the current Senate bill can include eliminating pension benefits from the current language, might they also ad language specifically banning future efforts to pass same-sex civil union or civil marriage bills?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Sexual liberty" language eliminated from Dominican Republic Civil Code reform draft

Today a Commissioner in charge of recommending reforms in the Dominican Republic's Civil Code announced that language referring to "sexual liberty" would be removed from a current draft amendment following a chorus of anger that resulted when the proposed changes were leaked to press over the weekend.

On Sunday, Diario Libre had reported that the proposed draft, which would be presented to Congress for ratification,
would include the following passage:
The right to life, to physical integrity, to liberty, to honor, to sexual liberty [libre sexualidad], in addition to other primary attributes integral to a person and established by the Constitution and complimentary laws, cannot be waived, and their expression cannot be limited voluntarily except as prescribed in the second paragraph of article 17-3
On Monday, Diario Libre reported that the response has been swift. Conservative attorney Alejandro Asmar Sanchez, associated with a sports club called Naco, told Diario Libre that the draft language would open the doors to marriage for same-sex couples and that it would lead to chaos: "Here [in the Dominican Republic] we already have rampant corruption, where sex is concerned, but if its legalized, then where are we heading?" Interim Attorney General Rodolfo Espiñeira (pictured above) argued that society "does not permit sexual liberty" or is ready for it "I think ours is still a conservative society, with deeply entrenched family principles." He added that the Dominican Republic was not ready to see same-sex couples get married and said "I don't think we are yet civilized enough for legislation of this nature."

For his part, Alejandro Moscoso Segarra, Commissioner of Support for the Reform and Modernization of Justice, tried to defend the language arguing that it did not refer in any way to same-sex partnerships but was limited to "sexual liberty" between couples of the opposite sex.

Today, after the outcry, Commissioner Moscoso Segarra finally desisted from defending the draft language and announced it would be eliminated from the draft document "to avoid confusion and misunderstanding."

The paper also says that, to date, there has been no visible reaction from those who might support leaving the "sexual liberty" language in the draft amendment.

Update: Verdict in the brutal beating of Dwan Prince

A Brooklyn court has found Steven Pomie, 25, guilty of assault and assault as a hate crime in the brutal 2005 attack that left gay man Dwan Prince paralysed. More here.

The New York Daily News (
here) and Gay City News (here) covered trial procedures.

Pomie now faces sentencing and could face up to 25 years in prison.

Update: Colombian presidential candidate Antanas Mockus backs marriage for gays

Following reports this weekend that conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe would consider allowing gays to affiliate their same-sex partners to the nation's social security system and, eventually, also allow same-sex partners to have access to pension rights should a partner die, former Bogota Mayor Antanas Mockus said yesterday that, if elected president, he would go a step further and allow marriages for same-sex couples and adoptions by gays.

According to today's El Tiempo, in a statement Mockus stated: "To support gay unions is a form of defending individual liberties, for this reason, civil marriage should be available to gays."

Mockus, who was seen as a potentially powerful left-wing presdiential election challenger just a year ago, has fallen precipitously in the polls as of late and is dead last among viable candidates. Back on August 15th, 2005, Blabbeando had made reference to a stunning revelation by Mockus that seemed to inform - rightly or wrongly - his take on LGBT rights.

In regards to Uribe's recent statements, today's article goes on to say that Uribe-affiliated political leaders met last night to hash out a bill that would recognize gay rights as outlined by the president. Senator Alvaro Araujo would lead the bill, framed around Senate Project 130, which has been languishing in the Senate, and would codify changes to laws governing permanent unions to include social security and inheritance rights for same-sex couples.

UPDATE: Colombia poised to be 1st Latin American country to offer benefits to same-sex couples (March 29, 2006)

Monday, March 27, 2006

LGBT rights front and center in Colombia's presidential race

Having fought for a constitutional amendment that would allow a president to serve more than just one term and won, conservative Colombian president Alvaro Uribe now finds himself in full campaign mode as he seeks to solidify an insurmountable lead before the May elections and avoid a run-off (a recent poll shows 64% of Colombian voters would vote to re-elect Uribe, though that is down from 70% eight months ago).

On Saturday, the campaign tour brough the President to the Cafam School for a "democracy workshop" with college students that lasted most of the day. At around 4:30pm, after the session was done, Uribe said he would answer questions. According to yesterday's issue of "El Tiempo," the amazing Mauricio Albarracin, Coordinator of the Human Rights Project at Colombia Diversa, stood up and said:
I would like to ask a question that worries and affects an important number of citizens which has to do with a proposition that you established, and this is that ours is a country that honors liberty and the principles that [your government] presented to us in Plan Colombia 2019 [a governmental document mapping out Colombian growth and prosperity on the eve of celebrating its second century of political independence]: Tolerance and a country where no-one is excluded. The question, Mr. President, is: Will you and your political team support legislation to provide civil rights and social security to same-sex partners?
The paper says that despite having been in the meeting since early in the morning, Uribe didn't even blink and responded as if he had practiced a response many times:
I will be completely sincere. First topic, marriage: no; second topic, adoption: no; proprietary / inheritance rights [derecho patrimonial], yes; social security: yes
El Tiempo says that the President then said that he was ready to allow affiliations to social security benefits by gays through their same-sex partners "immediately" which the paper cateogrized as a man not speaking as a presidential candidate, but "a President with the power to do this now."

As for pension rights, the paper reports that the President said that it "can't happen immediately due to the country's fiscal problems. That is something to be achieved gradually."

This was as far as the Presdent and his political party has ever gone on the issue or will probably ever go in the future - which clearly defines the battle lines in the next congressional session (which starts July 20th) when newly re-elected Senator Piedad Cordoba, a frequent critic of the President's policies from the leftist Liberal Party, re-introduces a gay-rights bill that will include, the paper said, "marriage" [Cordoba introduced a limited civil union bill which was brought to the Colombian Senate floor for a vote on August 26, 2003, but defeated when it was thrown out of the floor on technicalities following pressure from the Catholic church. On the eve of the Senate hearing, the Senator spoke to the New York-based Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association to gather international support. The aborted drive for the bill in 2003 exposed tensions between the leadership of the LGBT movement in Colombia which have yet to fully heal. At the time, I thought it was telling that despite church pressure, he remained mute on the issue until a couple of days before the vote when he announced his opposition. That particular bill was historically supported by three Colombian ex-presidents as well].

On Friday, Caracol Radio released numbers from a Gallup Poll that revealed that 77% of Colombians reject the legalization of homosexual unions with 19% supporting them. The strongest opposition comes from the northern coastal urban areas with 90% against legalizing them. [NOTE: The UK's Guardian takes a look at Uribe's popularity in this March 28th, 2006 piece]


Over 140 LGBT Leaders Endorse Spitzer for Governor

Over 140 LGBT leaders throughout New York State have announced their endorsement of Eliot Spitzer for Governor as of last Tuesday. I am among those in the list.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Extreme right-wing gay Latino power brokers control U.S. policy (what?!)

Best story ever! Gay Latinos are to blame to U.S. policy!!! Don't believe me? Well, if White House insiders are saying it, it MUST be true! They are led by "El Padrino" and prey on innocent members of the Young Hispanic Republican Association (well, they're actually sorta cute, damn their politics!) and their mission is to stop Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from buying Univision. The full shocking exposé here (thanks Salto Mortale for the tidbit)!

Update: Peru's next president won't shoot gays (but his mom might)

Ah! What a difference a month makes! The last time I wrote about the upcoming Peruvian elections, Ollanta Humala, a left-wing indigenous candidate, was being questioned about potential human rights violations during his military career and uncertain comments about his proposed fiscal policies (he was also being called a hypochrite for claiming he would accept a gay cabinet member but refusing to say whether he'd support legislation to protect gays and lesbians from being persecuted). Humala was running second in polls to Lourdes Flores Nano, a conservative former congresswoman, and political analysts were saying that his campaign was floundering and might not find footing before the elections.

Today, it is Ms. Flores Nano's campaign that is in free-fall (she is now third in the polls), Humala is on top and former president Alan Garcia is second. Not that Humala's victory is secured in next month's primary elections set for April 9th. He would have to get more than 50% to avoid a run-off and he currently stands at 26%. Nevertheless in this morning's syndicated United States political gab-fest, The McLaughlin Group, isolationist United States right-wing pundit Patrick Buchanan predicted that "extremist" Humala would be the new Peruvian president.

The gay rights issue, which might have been a blip in the radar during the campaign, also has taken a life of its own and strengthened the perception that if Humala has a weakness, it's his own family, members of whom have either challenged him politically by running for office in opposition parties (one of his brothers is also a presidential candidate) or spouted incendiary comments to the press.

Humala has been trying to distance himself from comments made by his mother to the newsdaily "Expreso" on March 21st regarding moral values. According to this site, when asked about those who would rape a minor, Mrs. Tasso (pictured above) said: "I bet you that if you execute two rapists by shooting, there won't be any additional rapes, and by shooting two homosexuals, there wouldn't be so much immorality in the streets."

Asked for coments about well-known Peruvian commentarist (and openly bisexual) Jaime Bayly, Humala's mother added: "That man is sowing immorality and says it everywhere [lo dice a los cuatro vientos], thus people think that this is normal."

On Friday, Mr. Bayly posted an OpEd response in Chile's La Tercera. Titled "The Moral Guardians," Mr. Bayly said, among other things (excerpted translation by yours truly):
Declarations made by the Humalas to the press in Lima, promoting hate and violence against gays and against me as an individual, sadden and worry me but do not surprise me because the Ollanta newspaper, which has circulated throughout Peru in the last few years under the name of presdiential candidate Ollanta Humala - which I have read with feelings of revulsion and fear - is filled with homophobic venom and highlights and glorifies violence against gays (and violence in general)...

[There's] abundant testimony and not only in the pages of Ollanta, in which people jump over each other with abundant praise for the killing of gays by Iranian clerics, they site supposed biblical passages that justify this homicidial violence and propagate the idea that the Incan Empire was grandiose and admirable for, amomg other things, lynching any man suspected of having sex with another man...

Ollanta Humala says that he doesn't share his parents' ideas (if we can call ideas those barbaric calls to tribal violence against those who are different to the majority or those who are uncomfotable with their authoritarian ideals). How can we believe him, if he allowed his uncommon name to be also the name of the
Ollanta newspaper, spreading such sinister ideas throughout Peru... inviting [readers] to lynch, in the name of their racist revolution not only homosexuals but Chilean inversionists, bank owners, Jews, the Minister of Economy and even President Toledo?...

In the name of decency and purity, how ironic!, the Humalas accuse me of "sowing immorality everywhere [
a los cuatro vientos]" and of "causing damage to youth" because I say that I am bisexual. They are wrong, these pintoresque guardians of morality. I defend tolerance and respect towards sexual minorities, as do civilized societies, which protect minorities and allow them to organize and express themselves. The Humala clan is sowing hate and violence against gays, and that certainly is a shameful morality...

If Humala wants to demonstrate that he is not a homophobe, he could make the tolerant gesture of appearing in my [television] show, agree to be interviewed and apologize for the threats made by his parents and his brother Amauro, who is now supporting his candidacy from jail... How does he differenciate himself from his parents and his brother if he is incapable of sitting down to talk with me because it repulses him that I'm not a copper-toned macho man who hates Chileans and gays?
It must be said that to make his argument, Mr. Bayly, who has written a few rose-tinted novels about gay life among the high class in Peru, unfortunately exposes a bias towards indigenous culture by alluding to rhetoric that links Incan culture to anti-semitic, xenophobic and homophobic ideals, which further muddles the issue.

Bayly also is playing to recent reports that Humala had despectively called Chile an "all-knowing nation" which Humala tried to put to rest today.

For his part, Humala was seen visiting his parents and having a heated conversation with them after their comments were printed in "Expreso." In a press conference that followed, his parents announced that they would contemplate "silence" for the rest of the presidential elections as not to damage their son's potential to become the next Peruvian president.

For the latest news on the Peruvian election you might as well go to this blog ran through the University of British Columbia in Canada.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

A political experience

On Thursday, I called the Mayor's Office of Special Events and inquired about a message that had been left on my office voice mail. I was then told that I was among a group of gay leaders being invited to have breakfast with Mayor Michael Bloomberg at Gracie Mansion yesterday morning and they needed to know if I was attending. A bit shocked, I said yes before asking for details. I hung up and then quickly proceeded to find out just why and who had put me on the list. After all, I had endorsed Fernando Ferrer in the last Mayoral race.

It wasn't necessarily my affiliation with OutPOCPAC, because I contacted their leadership and they didn't know a thing about the meeting. So the other alternatives were that the Mayor's office noticed my essay earlier this month in Gay City News on funding for LGBT communities of color or, perhaps, that Council Speaker Christine Quinn might have suggested my name. A call back to the Mayor's Office confirmed that the meeting had been called by both the Mayor and the Speaker and that my name was among the Speaker's suggested invitees (though, aparently the Mayor's Office had final say on the list).

I wanted to know if I'd be there with friends so the next logical step was to reach out to Alan Van Capelle, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, an agency on whose Board of Directors I served for five years until mid-2005. That's when things got complicated.

Yesterday, Gay City News published this late breaking report on the meeting. Today, the New York Post has this take on it. Aparently, while the Mayor's Office was insisting that an invitation had been extended to the Pride Agenda, the caveat was that it's Executive Director was not welcome to the event. I don't see how the Mayor's Office can claim that banning the director of the largest and most powerful lesbian and gay advocacy organization in New York State is anything but disrespectful, but they stayed on point claiming that the Pride Agenda was the one playing politics.

To Alan's credit, he never asked me not to attend the Mayor's breakfast, but did ask for support in letting the Mayor's Office know that banning him from the event was wrong. Friends, on the other hand, were pushing me to attend so that there would be at least a Latino voice at the table. By late Thursday, I called the Mayor's Office once more, in light of the developments, and said that I had to withdraw my RSVP unless things changed. They said they would keep my name on the list just in case I changed my mind. I spent the evening thinking about it some more and had yet another brief conversation with Alan late Thursday night. Based on that call, I changed my mind again and woke up early Friday morning to make my way to Gracie Mansion.

Now, the meeting itself was billed as a "legislative" breakfast to discuss strategies to achieve civil marriage rights for gays. As it turns out, a number of the invited guests were legislative experts from LGBT law associations who truly moved the dialogue into a very productive session, at least potentially. I say potentially, because the true measure of its success will depend on what the Mayor and his office do in the next months and years regarding the proposed political and legislative strategies.

Gay City News reports that Richard Burns of the LGBT Center, Matt Foreman of the City's Human Rights Commission and fellow Commissioner Jonathan Capehart, Log Cabin Republican Christopher Taylor, Gary English of People in Color in Crisis and yours truly were among the attendees. I also saw Phyllis Steinberg of NYC Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and Ron Zacchi of Marriage Equality - New York. A woman representing Stonewall Staten Islan was there as well but I didn't catch her name. Queens Democratic District Leader Danny Dromm was also invited but he works as a high school teacher and aparently could not attend due to his professional responsibilities.

The Mayor and Ms. Quinn, who sat side by side, were at turns gracious and funny, stern, pragmatic and to the point. But, as the meeting was off-the-record, I will abstain from describing details of what was said by others. I will say that I was glad to be there if only because issues related to the right to marry for same-sex couples and how it plays in minority communities was part of the discussion. I also took the opportunity, once the main strategy session was over, to raise awareness among the top level mayoral staff members of the April 15th rally in memory of Rashawn Brazell in Brooklyn and asked for the Mayor - through his aides - to make an appearance (the Mayor had already left by then).

I will also say that even if Gay City News is reporting that the issue of the Pride Agenda not bring at the table "did not rise to the level of a major issue during the meeting," the point was indeed brought to the table and several of those present, including myself, took time to talk about the Pride Agenda's indispensable work on the marriage issue and on how their abscence left a huge hole at the table.

As GCN reports, it might might have been a positive first step, but unless the Pride Agenda is engaged in future strategy sessions, it might be bound to fail. I am hoping that the Mayor's Office buries the hatchet, stops playing politics on this issue and truly engages the Pride Agenda, which means not blocking its Executive Director from the table.

The last thing I will say is that I am truly grateful to Council Speaker Christine Quinn for suggesting my name to the Mayor's Office. The invite truly surprised me and I will thank her personally the next time I see her.

A religious experience

On Wednesday I found myself a witness to an amazing all-day conference at the Interfaith Center on "Teología y Sexualidad" which addressed issues of diversity, sexuality, homophobia and pastoral care in Hispanic religious denominations. Participants included, for the most part, Latino clergy and church goers as well as a few academic experts on theology from the tri-state area.

Originally, I expected the conference to address issues related to sexuality and religion in general but from the opening prayer, through the workshops and the final plenary I was astounded to just how directly conference organizers, workshop moderators and participants addressed the issue of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and the need for Latino churches to reach out to believers among them.

As a somewhat objective participant (I had been asked to translate from Spanish to English for the few English-language speakers who participated), I had the honor of sitting back and watching the dialogue unfold.

Not that everyone was on the same page or welcomed the dialogue. I heard that two people walked out during one of the workshops saying that they had been misled into participating in the conference and that they would have had nothing to do with it if they had known that homosexuality as a topic would be treated in a positive way.

Then there was the older Dominican man who just walked into the conference while he was passing by the Center (he tought the topic was interesting) and said at one point that he didn't care what two men did with each other in privacy but that he took issue with gays wanting to "destroy the family" (I assume he was talking about marriage). In his case, though, I was actually touched as I saw a man being sincere with his feelings, yet struggling to be accepting and make sense of the issue. He said that in the Dominican Republic, he had been taught that being gay was wrong by his elders (he called it "teachings from an 18th century generation") and that it was tough for a man his age to change his feelings about things that he had been taught as a child. But he also said his daughter thought that he was crazy for thinking that there was anything wrong with being gay and consistently called him on it (interestingly he said that she was part of the "21st century generation" and that he was glad to see younger people not carrying the baggage of older generations).

A Puerto Rican Reverend who spoke of ending oppressive religious teachings against women, immigrants and Latinos also spoke about these being the same oppressions that LGBT communities faced in the church, he paused, "LGBT, that's how you say it, no?" He also spoke of social constructs and his belief that, even though he had never consciously felt attracted to another man, he truly felt that sexuality was more fluid than anyone let on and that we all had the capacity to "choose" to be gay, which he admitted was a politically incorrect thing to say. A Cuban priest from New Jersey, who said he had recently come out in his community as a gay man, objected to the choice issue and spoke of the many years he spent wishing he could "chose" to be straight while being loyal to his wife of 20 years and raising children but, ultimately, how much pain he had caused himself and his family by forcing himself to make a choice that ultimately did not exist (and how he now knows that God has finally shown him the way).

And then there was the married man who I have known for sometime, who was not a priest, but is a Catholic man, who spoke of seeking a place in the church and being rejected as a man who struggled with issues of sexuality and seeking a place of understanding in gay organizations and being rejected or challenged because he is a married man and sure of the fact he is bisexual and not gay.

For gay men who have been rejected by their religion, feelings can also be as strong and emotional as those by people who outright reject homosexuality. A gay man in one of the workshops rejected the idea of "acceptance" arguing that he didn't need to be "accepted" to be validated as a human being and that the church was losing out in not accepting him. He said he was proud of who he was and stong in his belief that he was worth just as much as anyone else, whether others "accepted" him or not. And, during the closing plenary, a Catholic friend took issue to calls for the LGBT community to "walk halfay down a bridge to meet the church" and to understand that if the LGBT community wanted acceptance by the church, the LGBT community should also accept that some religious people would never see homosexuality as anything but wrong.

All in all though, it was a far more progressive and welcoming environment that I ever expected, particularly from the overwhelmingly straight Latino clergy at the event. Somewhere down these roads lies the answer to the pain that segments of the church have caused lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for centuries. I for one think that this was best illustrated by a Dominican man who called himself a Catholic and, in his life experience, clearly indicated that this too shall pass as new generations challenge religious dogma to find the true loving meaning of God and religion.

A very moving experience indeed and I don't even think that I did such a bad job at translating (at least I hope so). Thanks to the Reverend Damaris Ortega for inviting me to translate.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Update: NY Post story on Rashawn Brazell's dismemberment challenged

That story on new developments in the Rashawn Brazell murder that ran in Tuesday's New York Post?

Rashawn Brazell Memorial Fund has posted an editorial on their website that challenges most of the article including the fact that there's anything "new" to report and questions the timing of the article (as well as the NYPD's anonymous "leak").

They also say that the NYPD has asked Rashawn's mother, Desire Brazell-Jones, to cancel a march planned for April 15 (what would have been Rashawn's 21st birthday) that will end in front of the 79th Precinct Station to draw attention to Rashawn's murder and the lack of actions and leads from the NYPD.

Today, Gay City News reports that the NYPD is actually denying that the New York Post got their information from the police department. GCN also says that, while commending the 79th Precinct for handling the logistics of the upcoming march, Ms. Brazell-Jones is upset that she found out about the Post's story when she read it on Tuesday morning and says that the man the Post identified as Rashawn's boyfriend was actually NOT his boyfriend and was known to the family.

She also says that there is a feeling of disproportionate justice related to the media and police attention given to the recent murder of Imette St. Guillen: "I am very unhappy when this young lady's case came about to see what amazing energy the police showed on that compared to this case."

: April 15, 2006 - Participants will gather between noon and 1 p.m. at Nostrand Avenue and Fulton Street near the A train station. At 1 p.m., marchers will proceed the roughly 15 blocks to the 79th Precinct for a rally. Check for updates.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Top of the Rock

Yesterday, at the top of the Rockefeller Center in New York. Quite nice! More pics here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Ali Lopez, Mr. International Daddy Bear 2006

This one is a little late in coming, considering the 2006 International bear Rendezvous took place in San Francisco in mid-February but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Puerto Rican daddy bear extraordinaire Ali Lopez, a hot man with a heart of an angel, took away one of the 5 coveted event titles. Appropriatedly he was named Mr. International Daddy Bear 2006. The event, organized annually by the non-profit Bears of San Francisco as a fundraising event and bear social, draws thousands of burly men to the Golden Gate city for what is perhaps the preeminent bear event in the world.

I mention Ali in particular because - well, I know him - but aside from that he has also been an unsung hero to me for many years. Through his participation in these events, his visibility in other bear media, his artwork and generosity, Ali has consistently brought attention to bears of color within bear culture in the United States (go
here if you need to ask). Most recently he has been hard at work on efforts to raise money to help those affected by the 2005 Katrina and Rita hurricane disasters. Ali was also featured in a chapter on bears of color in Ron Suresha's landmark 2002 "Bears on Bears" book.

In any case, congratulations go to Ali for a much deserved recognition.

Full Intention vs. Satoshi Tomiie

This week I got my hands on two of the most-awaited CD-releases so far this year (at least by yours truly). They're both super-sized (at 3 cd's per package) and they both come from the UK (big surprise). They are also efforts by two different record labels to honor the legacy of unsung dance DJ's and producers.

Under their In The House imprint, Defected has released the 2nd in their "DJ Producer Series" and this time around they have chosen to honor Full Intention - Perhaps the greatest DJ team in the world (aside from Masters at Work / Nuyorican Soul).

"Connected: 10 Years of Full Intention" is chuck-full of mostly unheard classics (at least in this side of the pond) and is as great a showcase for their amazing work. For a producing team, it must have been hard to seamlessly remix some of their best work over a period of 10 years without making the tracks sound repetitive but they have managed to integrate their sound and update some of their classics as well. Full Intention's mix of Brandy's "Full Moon?" It's there! Their take on Master at Work's "To Be in Love" featuring India? Check! But there's also Da Mob feat. Jocelyn Brown's "It's All Good," Una Mass' "I Will Follow," and their own "Can't Get Away." A 3rd 'unmixed' CD has some gold nuggets including the club mix of the Salsoul Orchestra's "Ooh, I Love It (Love Break)," Essence's "How Long" and the amazing dub mix of Satoshi Tommiie's "Tears" (featuring the amazing vocals of Robert Owens). I would have appreciated an unmixed 3-cd retrospective instead of 2 mix cd's and an umixed one and that they had left the awful Bob Sinclair "Love Generation" song outta the mix, but it's nevertheless a stellar set.

Reinaissance Records take another approach at honoring a progressive house legend on their first release under the 3D imprint devoted to Satoshi Tomiie. Instead of a 3-cd retrospective, the 1st mixed CD takes a look at Satoshi's current sound as he highlights a DJ set of current and future club hits. It's pretty retro tech-y (which means the sound of today) and that's not necessarily good. Standouts are Viper Vapour's "Only Freak," Electrochemie's "Big One," and the future classic "I Love Your Shoes" by Cass & Mangan with a great and dirty teuchtronic beat, squiggly noodles, a great fun vocal, and a warm awash of synths bubbling up behind it all. Disc two is the standout and not only because it has a brad new Satoshi mix of "Tears," but also new amazing edits and remixes of past classics from Kosheen ("Are You Hungry"), Hybrid ("Higher than a Skyscraper") and Photek ("Mine to Give" which also features Robert Owen on vocals) and Satoshi himself ("Love in Traffic" featuring the Sneaker Pimp's Kelli Ali from Satoshi's much underrated solo debut "Full Lick"). CD 3 is unmixed and features an eclectic selection of some of Satoshi's favorite songs including the Sneaker Pimp's "6 Feet Underground" and Roy Ayers "Running Away" which he names as influences.

You can check other Satoshi Tomiie productions and releases at his record production imprint SAW.RECORDINGS. Some amazing stuff there as well.

All in all both are nearly perfect packages which truly honor these legends.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Update: Man in custody, details emerge in killing of Chad Ferreira in SF

In "Latino gay man killed in San Francisco" (Feb. 9, 2006), I linked to a Bay Area Reporter article that described the brutal beating and death of 27-year-old Chad Ferreira. Today, the B.A.R. reports that a 24-year-old man named Kyle Adams pleaded not guilty to one charge of manslaughter and two charges of assault in the San Francisco Superiour Court after claiming that he beat Ferreira in self-defense to police authorities. The B.A.R. says that several witness accounts contradict this assertion and that Ferreira's mother, who was in court for the plea, "criticized authorities for charging the case as manslaughter and not murder."

In Illinois, a conservative push to oust gay Latino leader from hate crimes panel

Ah, this is rich: In a press release dated March 3rd, 2006, the extremely homophobic Illinois Family Institute has called for the removal of Rick Garcia from the IL Governor's Commission Against Discrimination and Hate Crimes.

His crime? It's not necessarily - as the IFI claims - calling Chicago Arbishop Cardinal Francis George and other right-wing zealots "bigots." No, the real reason is that, as Political Director of Equality Illinois, Rick has been so effective in marginalizing the IFI as the extremist right-wing demagogues they are, because he challenges their false morality word by word and because they see an opportunity in calling for his dismissal after a series of resignations have left the Commission in turmoil.

In a true example of Orwellian speech, IFI Executive Director Peter LaBarbera said "Equating time-honored Judeo-Christian teachings with hate and bigotry is itself an act of bigotry. Defending morality is not prejudice..."

Unfortunately, true bigotry knows no bounds and the issue has now been picked up by two Republican gubernatorial candidates seeking the conservative vote, Senator Bill Bradley and Jim Oberweis, according to an AP article published today.

As for Rick? he tells the AP "I'm not budging and the governor's not removing me."

The office of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich released a statement that accused the Republican candidates of "practicing the type of divisive politics that are designed to push people apart."

The IFI plans to hold a press conference on Saturday in what they describe as a "largely African-American church." There they go again playing ugly divisive games along the ethnicity line.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Blog Stop: Some photos from around NYC

Sorry if I haven't been as consistent with my blogging lately. Been having fun outside with the great weather and a few family visits. So, without further ado, some NYC shots...

That's ground zero ontop and the brand new World Trade Center Path Train / Subway station; a taxi cab speeding through the Queensborough Bridge; window watching on 5th Avenue; some disco skating at Central Park; and the "Imagine" memorial at Strawberry Fields also in Central Park.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Update: Four charged with murder of Jamaican gay man

On Januray 15th, we noted that the Jamaica Gleaner had announced the arrest of 13 men and women in connection with a string of robberies and murders in the nation's capital and surrounding areas, which allegedly inluded the killing of Jamaica AIDS Support staffer Lenford "Steve" Harvey. The murder, which took place on November 30th, 2005, drew international outrage when details emerged that the assailants kidnapped Mr. Harvey at gunpoint after robbing a house he shared with others when he refused to answer whether he was gay or not (following years of innaction by the Jamaican government to address bias-related crimes including those targetting gays and lesbians).

Today, the Jamaican Observer is reporting that three men and a woman, ranging from 16 to 23 years of age, were formally charged on Monday with "murder, robbery and illegal possession of firearm" in relation to the murder. The charged individuals will make their first appearance in court tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Pinche Cabrones! Gloria Trevi rocked NYC gay bar last night

So the fated night has come and gone and I almost missed it! For some reason I swore Gloria Trevi was making her New York City gay bar appearance on Friday but, thankfully, some friends set me right and we headed to Splash last night around 10pm to watch her perform (see above, more photos here).

It had been a while since I had been at Splash but little had changed from the last time I was there. Semi-naked bartenders serving drinks, video screens showing some gay porn (Tuesday's from what I was told are now "Latino" nights so they involved some Latino on Latino action - or maybe it was the fact that a Latino porn production company was a co-sponsor of the event). Since that's pretty much every night at Splash, I'm not sure why I was so put-off by the videos. Yes, there's a place for wholesome porn in this world, but I'm not sure it was at a Gloria Trevi concert. So, while it was good to hang out with friends who included a few lesbian and bisexual women, it was weird to have so much explicit and - dare I say it - Latinxploitation porn action in the background. Then again, even though the majority of the patrons were Latinos themselves, most certainly didn't seem to bat an eye. So it might have been just me. The live go-go boys, some wearing nothing but a sock, certainly got grabbed, canoodled and generaly manhandled by more than a few people - and not all of the manhanlders were men.

We hung out in the downstairs lounge where a DJ was playing a good mix of bachata, salsa, merengue and reggaton. It wasn't until midnight that we headed upstairs and the show didn't even get started until 1:30am after repeated false starts. In the meantime, DJ Eddie Cruz had the dance floor jumping with a mix of Kelly Clarkson's "Since You've Been Gone" and, of course, Thalia's version of that old Alaska y Dinarama standard "A Quien le Importa." The place sorta went wild over that last one and would carry on singing the chorus even as DJ Eddie Cruz dropped the sound, leading to some bewildered looks by a few non-Latino bar patrons who didn't know what had hit Splash last night or who Thalia or even Gloria Trevi were (sorta like Queerty).

Even as someone marginally associated with the event, I had a sense that things weren't that organized. My organization was approached as a co-sponsor and we suggested that sponsorship be opened to a number of Latino LGBT organizations in the city instead (thinking that the more organizations involved, the more promotion there would be). I ended up suggesting the SOMOS... Project when I was told that only one community organization could be a sponsor but then ended up seeing other organizations listed anyway (good thing: The NYC LGBT Chamber of Commerce was also listed). Nevertheless, had I known that a gay porn production company would be lead co-sponsors I would have urged community organizations not to get involved. Then again, I would have wanted the Miami-based producer to honor community by having held the event at the Queens Latino gay bars and that didn't happen either (though Lucho's and Club Atlantis were both sponsors last night as well).

Following a brief presentation which included a drag look-alike, Gloria Trevi finally took the stage and seemed thrilled to see so many people on the floor. She confessed that people had told her that there might be a small crowd for the show in New York and thanked us for proving others wrong. She launched herself into interpretations of some of her best hits - "Pelo Suelto," "Zapatos Viejos," "Con los Ojos Cerrados" - and the crowd just adored her. She looked amazing for a woman who has gone through so much though I also thik I saw hints of tiredness. Perhaps it came with the fact that it was the closing night of a mini-tour of United States gay bars. She also regaled the crowd with some salty anecdotes and a few off-color comments that shocked even a few fans.

After taking a few pictures, I literally could not stand being squeezed between so many people trying to reach the front rows so I went back to my friends and enjoyed the rest of the set. My boyfriend, the true Trevi fan in the family, said afterwards that he enjoyed the show but felt a bit sad for La Trevi. He felt that the event seemed shoddy and a bit demeaning to Trevi. He felt that if the promoters had truly wanted to honor her standing in the gay community they could have put a real band behind her instead of a recorded track and got rid of the porn cross-promotions. Not sure if the increased costs of touring with a band would have made the mini-tour an impossibility but I agree they could have done it with more class.

Aparently, they have also been behind appearances by Paulina Rubio and Lucia Mendez at gay bars in Florida and California, so - considering the crowd last night - do not be surprised if they follow.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Gay City News: 2006 Progress Reports

The online edition of this week's Gay City News has just popped out of the oven. It includes their first annual "Progress Report" in which they have asked 16 community leaders to write essays on "where we are, what our challenges are, the opportunities we must avail ourselves of, and where we are headed."

Highlights include:
Other essays on court battles, religious movements, arts, homeless LGBT youth, workplace issues, business enterprises and HIV prevention and transmission can be read here.

I was also honored to ne asked to submit an essay by the paper's editors. You can read my essay here:
Thoughts and reactions welcome.

Mandatory condoms, an idea who's time has not come

Last month, a council member from Tulua, Colombia, received some international media attention when he proposed a bill that would have required all Tulua male residents 14 years of age or older to carry a condom or face a $180 dollar penalty. The news, the sort of quirky stuff that gets picked up by international media without necessarily being put into context, was seen by some as an instance in which a Colombian town might be ahead than First World nations in addressing HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. Personally, I couldn't figure out how such a law, if passed, would prevent any Tulua man from carrying a single condom for months on end just for show should he be stopped - and not necessarily for use.

What the news DID do, was rise the ire of the Roman Catholic church in Colombia who said it would be akin to giving men a gun to kill people. Today, Venezuela's English language paper, the Daily Journal, picks up on an AP story and says that a 10-6 council vote against the bill, quickly sank the proposed bill yesterday. That AP story also says that Councilmember William Peña plans to "go door-to-door collecting signatures to force a referendum on the mandatory condom issue."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

David Papaleo shows us love, we show love back

From: david papaleo
Sent: Wed 3/1/2006 8:24 PM

Thank You Andres! I read what you wrote, and it made my day. Thank you.

John 3:17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved"
That means ALL of us!! Best wishes to you.

[Note: Classy guy, he?]

Music: Brooklyn's Jon Cutler gets his due

Hm, well, not quite, but he really should.

Since I've been re-e-e-ally slow to adapt to the digital download revolution, being a house music lover can be not only taxing on the pocket but also frustrating as most of the house music market is outside the United States which makes it that much more difficult to track down quality music, much less on CD format (most house singles are released on vinyl anyway).

Last year on import, I got "Milk'n'2 Sugars Presents Ten Years of Our House" containing a CD mixed by Hardsoul and another mixed by Jon Cutler. The Cutler CD was a sultry, slow-burning, deep, deep, DEEP beauty of a selection which included my now-faves Liquid People's "Inside My Soul," Kenny Bobien "Haya Luv," Passionador's "Everlasting Love" and Scott Wozniak's "Can I Hear the Drums" (you can hear some samples at the hyperlink above). The stand-outs were Jon's own "Running" and "Focus," which opened and closed the mix. Then I suddenly realized that Jon had also been the man behind the great track, "It's Yours," and all of a sudden I was paying attention.

Well, German record label Soul Star Records has just put out Jon's latest mix, "Jon Cutler In the Mix," and I'm lucky enough to live in New York which means I've been also able to pick up on import (though I just noticed Amazon is carrying it so go to the previous link if you wanna pick-it up or listen to samples or also click here). It's got the Brazilian bongo-beat rhythms of DJ Oji's "Esteban," Jon's stomping mix of Melba Moore's "My Heart Belongs to You," the hypnoctic night trance pulse of "Insomnia," Ron Hall's sublime "The Way You Love Me," and Monique Bingham's stunner "Poor People."

I can almost say that Jon Cutler is the best house music producer at the moment (standing, at the very least, next to Sandy Rivera a/k/a Kings of Tomorrow and Martin Solveig). Though, how come it takes a British and German import house label for us in the United States to find out about it? By the way, the boy lives in Brooklyn, so if anybody knows of any local DJ sets by Jon, would they please let us know?

In the meantime, to get a taste of what I am talking about, check a full clip of a Jon Cutler mix here.

Update: Jon Cutler mixes and podcasts (April 5, 2006)