Friday, June 30, 2006

Updates: Gay panic, Harvey Milk School, Guillen's hairdresser, Poodle pride

The Diaz Family: We've written about the homophobic New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. in the past as well as his not-so-homophobic son, Assemblymember Ruben Diaz, Jr.

Let's start with the better of the two, Junior, who might be embroiled in some of the scandals involving the distribution of discretionary public funding for the not so altruistic benefit of his own parents and his step-mother, but has never expressed, to my knowledge, a homophobic comment or sentiment (unlike his father), and has actually sometimes acted to reign in his dad's attacks on the LGBT community.

Over at the Stonewall Democrats of New York blog, you will see that the group is working with Jr. to pass legislation to ban so-called "gay panic" defense strategies in the courts of New York State in the wake of the attack on Kevin Aviance. On Tuesday, SDNY posted the draft text and is looking to build support for the bill in the next legislative session.

In the meantime, considering how much broo-ha-ha there was over Mayor Mike Bloomberg's decision to allow the City to provide public funds to the Harvey Milk School in 2003 and the follow-up suit against the city claiming that the move discriminated against schools that served minorities in the boroughs (lead plaintiff? Yup! Diaz, Sr.), it's shocking how little play the actual resolution of the suit has received since a Tuesday settlement was reported yesterday in the New York Post.

As recently as March, Diaz, Sr. was foaming at the mouth at the lack of a court desision blaming New York Supreme Court Justice Doris-Ling Cohan for taking her time while ruling in favor of the right to marry for same sex couples in New York State (no big surprise that Diaz, Sr. is also a lead plaintiff against the right to marry for gay couples in the recent New York State Court of Appeals hearing on the issue).

In an agreement that Diaz, Sr. called "beneficial to everyone," the City simply agreed to stop referring to the Harvey Milk High School as a "gay school." Sounds to me like a huge defeat for the Reverend.

Ozzie Guillen: Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie! Last week we took Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to task for claiming his Venezuelan cultural background for not knowing that calling someone a "fucking fag" was homophobic. He's already said that the fact that he likes Madonna should give him a pass anyway but, since then, he sorta "quote unquote" apologized (full interview video here), was fined for the slur and ordered to attend sensitivity trainings.

Now, he's threatening to follow through with a visit to the upcoming Gay Games (Chicago, July 15th - July 22nd). The Chicago Sun-Times reports today that one of the organizers of the Games is simply thrilled: "We're glad to hear he'll be attending because it demonstrates how the gay games brings people together -- whether straight or gay -- through competition. There's no hurt feelings. He's apologized . . . he won't do it again" (we are betting that the no hurt feelings policy has nothing, null, zero and absolutely no relationship to the golden public relations bonanza they've been getting from Guillen telling everyone he will use the Games as his 'I'm no homo but I'm not a homophobe either' calling card).

Better yet! Guillen's bestest hairdresser friend Edwin Quiroz, a gay Latino man to boot, told the Sun-Times: "He just wants to do things like that. He's a cool guy. It's what I expect Ozzie to do."

Gwen Knapp at the San Francisco Chronicle suggests he bring along John Rocker to the games. We still say he has not really apologized and that the Gay Games should disinvite him.

Oswaldo Gomez a/k/a Miss Colombia
a/k/a La Paisa a/k/a Rosita Oswald: Never say that you didn't hear it first! Back in October (yes! October!) we pointed out that Colombian sensation La Paisa was not only featured in the Queens Tribune first ever gay-themed special issue but on VH1's Best Week Ever! Well, world domination is next: Just this week there were sightings in the New York Press AND the AP as pictured above. Go Oswaldo!

Come on, Guillen, kiss La Paisa and all will be forgiven!

NY Times: Stepping off plane, man is arrested in '01 Queens murder

NY Times: Stepping Off Plane, Man Is Arrested in '01 Queens Murder
Published: June 30, 2006

Five years ago, the fatal beating of Edgar Garzon, a gay man, as he walked home from a bar in Jackson Heights sent tremors through the gay community in Queens. But the crime soon faded from public attention after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The police said they did not forget, and on Wednesday night they arrested John L. McGhee, 38, at Kennedy International Airport, as he stepped off a plane from London. Mr. McGhee, an ex-convict, was charged with murder, manslaughter and attempted robbery, the authorities said.

The police said that Mr. McGhee fled the United States for England soon after the beating of Mr. Garzon. It is unclear when Mr. McGhee became a suspect, but in the last year detectives in New York, acting on tips, tracked him to London and began cooperating with their British counterparts, law enforcement officials said.

When Mr. McGhee applied for citizenship there — and lied on his application by not revealing his criminal history — there was an opportunity to bring him home, the officials said. Authorities in London told Mr. McGhee to leave England or face prosecution there, the officials said.

On Aug. 15, 2001, Mr. Garzon, 35, a restaurant owner, had been walking home from the Friends Tavern, a gay bar, when two men followed him in a red car, officials said. They said one of the men beat him with a blunt object and fractured his skull. Mr. Garzon went into a coma, then died on Sept. 4, 2001.

A law enforcement official said that elements of the beating, including the fact that Mr. Garzon made a comment to one of the men about wanting a date, according to a witness at the time, led to theories that it was a hate crime.

Richard A. Brown, the Queens district attorney, said yesterday that prosecutors were still investigating the murder as a "possible hate crime."

Detectives from the 115th Precinct in Jackson Heights, led by Detective Daniel Corey, led the push to find Mr. Garzon's killer, officials said yesterday. Mr. Garzon's father, Armando Garzon, 72, praised the police yesterday, saying that they had "persisted in solving the case that in the beginning lacked substantial evidence — only a video snippet of a red car," he said.

Details of Mr. McGhee's life in London were not available yesterday, except that he lived, at some point, in a house by a park in London and was unemployed at the time he left, according to officials. His history of arrests in the United States stretched back to 1987, though the details of those arrests, at least five in New York, were not immediately known.

At some point before Mr. McGhee left for London, he bragged of the killing to a friend, officials said.

Mr. Garzon's father, who splits his time now between his native country, Colombia, and New York, said his son, a restaurateur, was a "happy, carefree man who never had a single enemy." Speaking in Spanish, he spoke proudly of his son's accomplishments, and said that he and his family "have focused on persisting."

"The murder trial and its resolution will give me final peace of mind," he said.

Mick Meenan contributed reporting for this article.

Other coverage:

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Eddie Garzon: After five years, an arrest

Sometimes the mind boggles at the unexpected parallels that happen in life.

Yesterday I was writing about the sad discovery of the body of Adrian Exley, a British gay tourist who had been reported as missing in Massachusetts back in April. At the end of the post, I mentioned some of the reasons why such a case resonated with me.

Key among them was the unresolved murder of my friend Eddie Garzon in the streets of Queens back in August of 2001.

Imagine my surprise, then, when today I got calls from two reporters seeking a reaction to news that a man was in custody for the murder just days before the 5th anniversary since Eddie was attacked.

And where was the alleged attacker found? In Great Britain!

According to one of the reporters, he was being flown from London to JFK today to be arraigned by New York police upon his arrival [the AP has just released a news blurb that says that John McGhee has already arrived and has been taken into custody this evening].

When I hung up after the first reporter called, I didn't know how to feel. I just sat there stunned. And then the trembling started and suddenly I realized that what I actually felt was elation. All those years, the candlelight vigils, COLEGA's march of angels at the 2002 Queens LGBT pride parade - with his parents Leonor and Armando leading us in demanding justice for Eddie, the annual ritual by friends and family of placing flowers and candles at the spot where he was attacked.

It had been months since I last spoke to his parents but tonight I called to make sure that they knew what seemed to be happening. His father, Armando, answered the phone and told me that Vicky Cruz from the New York City Anti-Violence Project had reached out to him but that he was still unsure what was happening. He said that Eddie's mom, Leonor, was currently in Colombia. He said that he was feeling just like I was, not sure how to react to the news, and that his hands were trembling. I asked him to call me if he needed anything should reporters start calling.

Then I called Marlene (pictured here with Eddie) and she was also at a loss of words. Her immediate reaction was that she didn't know if this would simply end up opening some of the old wounds left on his friends and family in the wake of Eddie's death. Ultimately though she told me that, if anything, an arrest and possible conviction might bring a sense of closure.

I also called my boyfriend Raul, who organized the parade of angels for the Colombian Lesbian and Gay Association on that day in June of 2002 and he was thrilled.

Finally, I also called my friend Jimmy Van Bramer, who was running for City Council the same year that Eddie was attacked and told him the news. He was equally stunned that an arrest could happen five years down the line.

Obviously, a man is considered innocent until proven guilty in court, but it certainly feels as if efforts to keep Eddie's memory alive led to an arrest. Let's hope that justice is finally served.

Enormous - and I mean tremendous thanks - must go to members of the New York Police Department's investigative unit as well as the hate-crimes unit who kept the case open all these years. In particular Detective Kevin Czartoryski and retired officer Vanessa Ferro.

To the many community members and leaders who participated in rallies and marches.

To the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project under Christine Quinn's, Richard Haymes and - now - Clarence Patton's leadership: They never lost sight of the case and always provided a bridge between the family and developments in the case.

And finally to media: The editors at Newsday who ran this editorial back in 2001, to the Queens Chronicle, and to Gay City News whose editor and staff also never lost sight.

Thanks, thanks, thanks.

UPDATES:
PREVIOUS POSTS:

Fruta Extrana TV: LGBT pride controversy in the Bronx?

We were happy when Fruta Extrana television was recently profiled in the New York Times. God knows that Eric Booth and the team behind the community cable show (and fabu website) deserve the props!

Now recently, a group of Bronx LGBT advocates were able to put together the first Bronx LGBT pride event in more than five years and Fruta Extrana was there to cover it (they have five different "channel" feeds on the site, currently the Bronx pride picnic is featured on CANAL A).

Coverage of the June 17th event includes an appearance by Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion. Jr. (who, in the video, is warmly welcomed by the Reverend Carmen Hernandez who exclaims "Look how the world turns!" saying that she would have never figured out that she'd be standing to Carrion at a pride event just a few years back).

Carrion does the political thing and congratulates the organizers. He also singles out a community advocate for a special mention:
I wanna say a special word about Lisa Winters, and I wanna say publicly as Borough President, thank you Lisa Winters for being an advocate on behalf of the LGBT community in the Bronx, for putting the Consortium together
Thing is Ms. Winters, Director of the Bronx Lesbian and Gay Health Resource Consortium, was also interviewed a week earlier by Fruta Extrana, and - in no uncertain terms - accuses the Bronx Parks Department of homophobia and says that the only reason why they got a permit for the event was an intervention by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Lisa Winters: Up until two days ago we had not received a permit to host this pride event because every single time we went back to the Bronx Parks Department for a permit they put up every kind of barrier that they could.
Teddy Evans/Fruta Extrana: When did you ask for the permits?
LW: Two months ago... Listen to this: 'What kind of jewelry are you selling, what kind of food are you selling, no loud music, no stage, no generators' - Nothing! In other words, every single thing that we wanted to do? It was a no, a no, a no, a no
TE: And this is simply a picnic with a stage, essentially
LW: This is a celebration for the Bronx LGBT community, a celebration that we need and we deserve
TE: And the only celebration!
LW: And the only celebration!
TE: And they said no, up until two days ago...
LW: They said no, so what happened was, we decided that we needed some higher intervention than this. I called Chris Quinn's office, she's the Speaker of the New York City Council in Manhattan, and I called her office, I actually called her personally, and I said 'Chris, we need a favor. They have refused to give us a permit. We can only surmise that this must be homophobia, they have deliberately put up barriers every step of the way, we are having a pride picnic next Sunday and we STILL don't have a permit, and everything is a no. And it seems like the 'no's' are arbitrary and capricious. They are not based on what the regulations are for every other park. And we say this because Prospect Park is utilized by the Brooklyn LGBT community and their Park's Department is like 'Welcome to Prospect Park, how can we help?" Queens, their big park, St. James Park, 'Welcome to the park, and how can we help!" Staten Island! Manhattan, Christopher Street, but in the Bronx?! In the Bronx!? We couldn't even get a permit to sell gay pride memorabilia and have a stage so that our performers could act! So I called Chris Quinn's office and I said "We need a favor." They got on the phone, they made some phone calls. Seems like the Park's Department pretty quickly said "How can we help you now." Like suddenly their tune has changed.

But the point is that when most of New York City is dealing with other issues like gay marriage, fighting against a Federal "marriage protection" amendment that recently failed, we can't even reach those issues because we are dealing with real homophobia and barriers. We can't even get a permit for a pride event!
Ms. Winters reiterates her accusations again at the end of the picnic and ads "It's been a hard thing because we got no support, and I mean NO support, from elected and appointed officials."

Fruta Extrana also runs the following note at the end of the segment:
QUESTIONS:
  • Why did a Bronx's LGBT group had to go to a Manhattan appointed official to get its Pride Picnic approved?
  • Where was the Bronx Borough President in this dispute?
  • If you got the answers tell us at info@frutaextrana.tv
Some of us are still waiting for Carrion to answer past questions about his level of involvement with a specific anti-LGBT demonstration back in 2004.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

So sad: Adrian Alun Dennis Exley's body unearthed in RI

A couple of hours ago the Associated Press confirmed what a few bloggers had assumed: A body unearthed yesterday from a make-shift grave in Rhode Island has been identified as the remains of missing British tourist Adrian Alun Dennis Exley. Police found the grave after Gary LeBlanc, of Lynn, Massachusetts, committed suicide, leaving a note behind with details as to where to look for Exley's body.

From the moment I heard about his disappearance, something struck me about the case and the absolute silence that followed in media. I'm not sure if it was the fact that Exley had apparently flown to the United States to meet a couple of people he only knew through a leather site on the internet (something that media might have shied away from delving into), or the fact that he was a tourist with few established roots in the United States. The fact is that I only found out about it through community e-mail list postings and blogs.

Over the last couple of days this has changed drastically with the AP and other international agencies picking up on the details. A bit late, if you ask me, and it makes me wonder if such an end could have been prevented had media focused on the case the moment that the Lynn Police Department sent out its missing persons alert back in May.

An autopsy is pending as to the cause of death but the reports leading up to the finding of the body do mention that evidence at LeBlanc's house indicate he was murdered.

Some may say that here at Blabbeando we might focus a bit much on cases of violence in our communities. Maybe it's because we have first-hand experience in losing friends to violence and intimately aware on how these situations affects family and friends.

In any case, this is truly sad and I just hope that his family and friends know that our thoughts are with them.

[NOTE: Live Journaler Chaz, who has been quoted in several of the articles to which I have linked in the past couple of days, graciously re-posts my entry above on his LJ blog, and has some interesting thoughts on media, the leather community and on why he chose to speak up regarding this case. Go here if you want to read his thoughts]

THE LATEST:
UPDATE:

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Update (of sorts): Friday night's gathering in Santo Domingo

On Thursday, I got news that a rally was being organized by a bunch of Dominican Republic gay and lesbian advocates on Friday night to show that there is a visible LGBT community in the Caribbean nation (as a way to repudiate some of the recent crack-downs against gay bars in Santo Domingo).

On Friday morning Clave Digital reported on the mysterious and anonymous call for a rally, and then... nothing: Newspapers reported on the 3rd Annual National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Forum that took place on Friday, but there was no metion of the Friday night gathering anywhere.

I had gotten the information from reputable sources so I feared that the gathering had drawn few participants, or that it had perhaps been successfully disrupted by the authorities or, worse, that organizers might have been arrested.

And then yesterday I got some news: Someone at the rally tells me that even though none of the newspapers covered it, more than 250 people showed up. There were threats that the police would show up an arrest everyone but, even though authorities were there, no arrests took place. The scene was festive and celebratory and some cried at seeing so many people gather in such a short time as out Dominican gay and lesbians. I am told an official statement will come out but just in case that it does not...

In the meantime, according to El Nacional, the Human Rights Forum ended with a draft of a resolution which called for separation of church and state and the recognition of same-sex partnerships.

This promptly elicited a knee-jerk reaction from the so-called Network of Christian Attorneys (RCA), which holds huge sway over government issues in the island. According to a Monday article in Clave Digital, the association claimed that there was a "hidden agenda" by gay and lesbian activists in the Dominican Republic to achieve the recognition of same-sex marriages as well as the removal of all laws that prohibit the "legalization of [all] sexual perversion."

Most cynically, the RCA also called for the removal of the use of the word "homosexual" which it supposedly deems as discriminatory and an obstacle to let people enjoy such a "behavior." And yet, they are happy to note that those who might call the RCA homophobic are part of a "dictatorship of homosexual ideology" (oh, how well they learn the tactics of the United States religious right!).

In the meantime, on Saturday, Clave Digital reported that the owners of the bars that were shut down last week accepted that there had been some code violations and agreed to apply for a permit to provide hotel services.

Yesterday Monaga reported that Arena had opened again so I guess the negotiations served some purpose.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Adrian Alun Dennis Exley's body sought by police

Following some unusual activity today on Blabbeando regarding my original May 25th post on the disappearance of British gay leather man, Adrian Alun Dennis Exley, I spent some of the afternoon trying to find additional information to confirm some apparent bad news regarding the case.

This morning someone with the blogger name of Spiderpoo left a reply that simply said "Poor Chip, will be missed xxx." I tried to check on that blogger name to see if I could contact Spiderpoo for additional info but all I found was a link to a blog in Adrian's name that has apparently been removed.

That was followed by a post half an hour later by a "Mark Noble" (no contact information left either): which said: "I knew Chip very well, and he was a lovely lad. His death is a complete shock to his friends and family. he will sorely be missed. At least maybe this might show people how dangerous 'internet dating' can be."

Checking UK and US newspapers through Google I failed to find anything recent related to this story but a search of other blogs came up with "Disturbing Resolutions" posted earlier this morning by reddywhp which leads to the following two articles posted in The Daily Item of Lynn:
reddywhp writes:
Gary Leblanc, AKA rubrman, of Boston was found dead on Friday. Gary has been the lead suspect in the disappearance of Adrian Exley. The articles suggest that a note found subsequent to Gary's death had led authorities to look for Adrian's body in Rhode Island
He also finds some confirmation of these facts in this article as well:
All of which seems to confirm that there will be no happy resolution although the Lynn police website has not posted an update on their original missing persons alert.

BLABBEANDO UPDATE:
NEWSPAPER UPDATES:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Breaking News: There might be a pride rally in DR after all


Just got this in my e-mail box from some local gay activists in the Dominican Republic (click on images above to make them larger):
Únete a la CELEBRACION DE LA DIVERSIDAD SEXUAL, en la calle Padre Billini esquina Duarte, en el parque Duarte de la Zona Colonial este viernes 23 de junio a las 10:00 PM. Camiseta para las /os primeros /as 50 personas

Join a CELEBRATION OF SEXUAL DIVERSITY, at the Padre Billini street, Duarte corner, in the Duarte Park of the Colonial Zone. This Friday, June 23rd at 10pm. The first 50 people will get a free t-shirt.
Aparently the organizers are not necessarily associated with the people putting together tomorrow's human rights forum.

It is a reaction to the repressive environment that seems to be in the upswing in Santo Domingo after two gay bars were shut down last weekend.

No further updates from Blabbeando until Monday. Good luck everyone and stay safe. Happy pride!

You Tube of the day: Tribulations

Heading out of town for the weekend so, in the meantime, I got a video goodie for you guys.

I would have posted LCD Soundsystem's "Yeah" or "Disco Infiltrator" but those videos are not on You Tube. You'll have to settle for "
Tribulations" which is actually just as good as the others (so I guess it's not necessarily settling for something less after all). Just click on hyper-link.

ALL their video goodies AND MORE are available at www.lcdsoundsystem.com

Not happy enough? Check-out their DFA label myspace site here with loads of additional goodies.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Gay Pride in the Dominican Republic

Considering the news coming from the Dominican Republic this week, it's worth noting that the 3rd Annual National Gay and Lesbian Pride Forum will take place this Friday, June 23rd, at the Clarion Hotel. The event is organized by the non-profit organization Amigos Siempre Amigos (Friends, Always Friends) and registrations for the event are still being welcome at 888-689-8695. It is being sponsored by the Presidential Council on HIV/AIDS.

El Nacional reports that unlike past years, Santo Domingo will not see an LGBT pride march or rally this year and the event will be the only official recognition of pride in the Dominican Republic in 2006.

The paper indicates that the Dominican constitution explicitly protects sexual orientation from discrimination but says that organizers will attempt to develop a national LGBT agenda to address the fact that from the page to the street, discrimination based on sexual identity is still prevalent.

Over at Monaga, Anthony Montgomery gives a few more details about the bar raids and closings that occurred last weekend and asks people to stop spreading alarmist rumors. Comments posted to his original post on the issue also shine more light on what has been going on.

UPDATES:

The New York Press and its annual gay pride issue

That other free newsweekly, The New York Press, also has their annual gay pride issue out in the streets. It might be just as skimpy as The Village Voice's gay pride issue, but at least it has some content:

There is an up-to-the-minute report on recent anti-LGBT hate crime incidents (as well as last weekend's march and rally); a somewhat fluffy piece on Christine Quinn which I wish would have delved more into her considerable accomplishments since becoming New York City Council Speaker in December; a not so rosy look at the Exotic Erotic Ball; a point-of-view piece from a self-described 80's fag-hag; and a look at gay immigrants who have found "solace and support in NYC" (it's all good though I wish that there had been a little more subtlety in the piece since not every place outside the United States is as homophobic as the United States itself and, hey! There are some out immigrants who will go on the record as well and use their last names to say so!).

White Sox' Ozzie Guillen: Word "fag" not homophobic in Venezuela

Sports columnist Greg Couch of the Chicago Sun-Times has taken Chicago White Sox' manager Ozzie Guillen to task for calling another Sun-Times columnist a fag.

Talking to a group of 20 reporters before a game on Tuesday, Guillen let it fly against sports columnist Jay Mariotti: "What a piece of shit he is, fucking fag."


Aparently, last year in New York Guillen also called someone else a fag and a child molester equating the two - according to the column.

When Couch called the Venezuelan-born baseball player after the game to tell him that he'd be writing a column on the issue, Guillen told Couch that he was not a homophobic man, that he had gay friends and was even planning to go to the Gay Games in Chicago (he also told him he loved Madonna and the WNBA). He also said that calling someone a 'fag' in Venezuela had a different connotation than in the United States and that he'd meant to say that Mariotti was "not man enough to meet me and talk about [things before writing].''

Aparently in the past, of altercations he has had with other players, Guillen also claimed that in Venezuela "We take care of [stuff] by hitting people.''

In his column, Couch asks for a suspension and an apology:
The issue is that Guillen said the wrong thing, and he does it often and it never sticks to him. That's just Ozzie, we hear. And the Sox tend to chuckle about this stuff, as if we can just forgive him. Why? Because English is his second language?

Guillen is not dumb. Let's not insult him. He knows what he's saying, and he certainly knows that it's not acceptable. He has been in this country for a quarter of a century.

This isn't about Guillen's language or his culture. He has lived in this culture long enough to know. It's Guillen.

It was hurtful.
Question is, is Guillen right? Do the words "maricón" or "marica," "fag" or "faggot," mean a different thing in Venezuela? Does it matter that he's lived in the United States for more than 25 years? I know that people who come from Medellin, where I was born, use the word "marica" for everything, sometimes as a term of endearment (as in "Hey, marica, what's up" or "Marica! We just lost the world cup!"). It shocks some people when they first hear it but, in that context, the word has lost the homophobic intent. But equating gays with pedophiles, that probably points out where Guillen's true intent lies and it sounds to me as if he does need to apologize, even if he likes Madonna.

UPDATE (Comments made by Guillen before tonight's game as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times and the AP):
I shouldn't have mentioned the name that was mentioned, but I'm not going to back off of Jay. The word I used, I should have used something different. A lot of people's feelings were hurt and I didn't mean it that way. Jay, I think I made this guy a lot of money and he's famous. If not for Ozzie Guillen, no one would have heard of him. If I hurt anybody with what I called him, I apologize.

I've been here for 20 years, but people have to know that I grew up in a different country. That's not an excuse. I called the guy that name, but, no, that's the way I grew up, that's the way I've learned that language.

I don't have an excuse to say that, I have been here enough to know you can use so many words in the States. That's not an excuse, but I wasn't calling people that. I was calling him that.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Village Voice's annual queer issue: Is that all there is?

Time was when I used to look forward to The Village Voice's annual Queer issue with anticipation. Either I'm becoming jaded or things just don't register in the same way as before?

Now, it's no secret that the Voice has been going through some editorial pains since it was acquired by The New Times. But that doesn't necessarily explain the skimpy coverage of LGBT issues in this year's 'Queer' issue. An article on marriage rights for same-sex couples? Check! An article on a polysexual gender-bending crew who organize swanky get togethers in Brooklyn? How East Villegey! A look at the drama of competing gay games this summer in Chicago and Canada? Haven't we read about it elsewhere?

The only possibly interesting piece is an essay by Edmund White on new gay fiction. And that is it folks! Just an additional bar crawl guide for gals and a separate one for guys!

Now, wrap it up in 16 pages full of ads and push it away from the front of the Voice as in year's past to make it a pull-out section. And there you have it!

As for that cover? It's as radical as it gets but hey forgot to tie it up to an actual article. I thought I'd never say this but bring back Richard Goldstein! Ugh!

Dear Un Chin magazine: Angel Melendez was somebody

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Jenny Rodriguez
Editor
Un Chin Magazine

via e-mail: chmail@unchin.com

Dear Ms. Rodriguez,

Let me first congratulate you on the sixth issue of Un Chin magazine and your openness in covering issues related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community as we are definitely part of the vibrant Latino community in the United States.

Unfortunately I must take issue with "Club Kids: A take on the bizarre" (Un Chin, Issue 4). The article takes a look at
Manhattan's infamous "club kid" culture and does acknowledge the scene's underbelly by mentioning that club kid Michael Alig is "serving time for the murder of a drug dealer." But then the article stops short of mentioning that the crime for which Alig is serving in prison remains one of the most heinous murders committed against a Latino gay man in the city of New York (an unfortunate oversight considering that the piece then launches into a 9-page 'club kid' fashion spread).

If you had walked down Christopher Street in the summer of 1996, it would have been impossible to miss the flyers taped to lamp-posts and walls with a black-and-white image of a stocky dark-haired young man smiling at the camera. What was striking were the big white angel wings spreading from his shoulders, kept in place by a harness that hugged his chest. It was a "missing" poster asking for people to give information as to the whereabouts of Colombian-born Andre Melendez (whose nickname was "Angel").

Point blank: When Melendez tried to get some money owed to him by Alig, Alig tried to choke him while a friend of Alig's, Robert "Freeze" Riggs, hit Melendez in the head several times with a hammer [NOTE: CORRECTION POSTED IN COMMENTS BELOW]. According to Riggs' confession, they proceeded inject Melendez with Drano to finish him off before sawing-off Melendez' body in pieces, stuffing the body parts into a box, and throwing the box into the Hudson River.

Michael Musto of The Village Voice summarized the sordidness here and has been one of the few reporters who seems to never get tired of reminding others that, while club kid culture should not be blamed for the murder, it does not mean that Melendez deserved to die in such a horrible way.


Andre "Angel" Melendez was someone's son, he was someone's brother, he was someone's boyfriend. He might have been a drug dealer, but he certainly did not deserve his death. By avoiding mention of the details of his murder while trumping up the fabulousness of the scene in a fashion spread, it only helps to glorify certain aspects of 'club kid' culture while dismissing things that should never be forgotten.

Sincerely,

Andres Duque

--
SIDE-NOTE: Club legend Jackie Beat gets it.

My New York: GLAM SLAM! on Wednesday, June 21st



Yes, it's here...

Oh no he didn't! Oh yes she did! More bloggers!

Ok, will my friends stop joining blogger for a while please? At this rate my blog roll list will be mile-wide by the end of the year.

Blogger envy has claimed Miss Wild Thing. I have been bad at returning her blogger-help requests (been busy!) but it's up and running anyway!

In the meantime, we've claimed back godisbrown a/k/a God Don't Live Here Anymore (pictured above pulling a Steven pose) from the murky swamps of MySpace.com. Yay!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dominican Republic: Gay bars shut down

Clave Digital reports that a gay dance club called Arena (pictured) and a neighboring gay bar called Punto, two establishments in Santo Domingo's historic colonial zone, were shut down late Saturday night for alleged 'noise violations.' Numbers vary but sixteen to thirty-five patrons and staff members were also detained overnight and then released yesterday morning without charges.

Henry Mercedes, an actor and a member of the Presidential Council on HIV/AIDS, said that he was among those who were detained at Arena by members of the local zone's tourist police (known locally as Politour) just as he was posting announcements about an upcoming human rights conference. Mercedes told the paper that when he requested information as to why he and others were being detained, the leading fiscal agent
Julio Saba Encarnacion simply "pushed him inside" a correctional vehicle.

Officer Encarnacion, for his part, told Clave that Arena and Punto were causing "great noise pollution" at the time of the arrests, and alleged that the owners had also been found to run an illicit hotel and sauna inside the establishments, reasons why both would remain closed until the matter was brought to court.

Kelvin Martinez, who owns both Arena and Punto, said that noise could not have been a factor at the time of the arrests because the dance club was still closed at 11:55pm, time at which the police arrived - and that the sound system was not working properly anyway. He also told the paper that the only clients present were those drinking peacefully at the bar. The authorities "did not arrive with a court order and took everyone they saw, three employees were saved [from being detained] just because they hid," he added.

Asked about the detainees, Officer Encarnacion told the paper that some people were detained because they did not have identity cards with them and could have been minors being served in an adult establishment and because the bar staff had not followed public codes that established that all bars in the historic zone should close at 2am on weekend nights.

In the article, Mercedes says that he believes that the real reason for the police intervention was a report that appeared also in Clave on June 15th in which the owner of the two establishments accused the police of subjecting him to a series of bribes over the past few months [editor's note: I have not been able to find the previous article in Clave's archives]

Martinez told the paper that the police had yet to return his own keys to his establishments. He also stated, as Mercedes did, that he had been pushed into a correctional vehicle when he insisted that the police show him a judicial order, and claimed that he was beaten up during the ride: "It was shameful. They took the bar's few clients and alleged that it had to do with an investigation from the INTERPOL, as if we were stupid. We know what this is about and where the order came from."

According to Clave, another eight establishments were visited by the authorities that night, which resulted in the shutting down of a small shop called Omar and a sound system being removed from another straight bar

Diario Libre says that the number of detentions were 16 and that the interventions happened between 11pm and 3am. It also says that Martinez was not allowed to make any phone calls form jail.

El Nacional says that Martinez put the number of detained individuals at 35 including a DJ, a bouncer, a bartender and a cashier and that the establishment always asks patrons for ID's to avoid serving minors.

UPDATES:

My New York: Men! Sweat! Beer! The Empire State Building?



Where else? yesterday at the Sunday's Folsom East Street Fair. Nice!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Kevin Aviance speaks: Photos from today's anti-violence rally








- for more photos go here & video here -

So today we headed to the anti-LGBT hate violence march and rally organized by the
New York City Anti-Violence Project and other community organizations and leaders in the wake of some recent attacks against LGBT people throughout the city (including the June 10th attack against singer Kevin Aviance).

From top to bottom:

Kevin Aviance actually joined the rally at the end of the day and addressed the crowd that had gathered at Sheridan Square on Christopher Street. He was able to address the crowd directly and thank people for their love and support (and pass out some of his CD's and sign autographs for fans). Today's New York Daily News reports that the singer did not have health insurance at the time of the attack (which left him with a broken jaw) . AVP is asking people to make donations.

There was actually a pretty big crowd that assembled in the afternoon at 1st Avenue and 14th Street which seemed to be made up, mostly, by East Village residents. Unfortunately, I have been at a few of these, but it's still interesting how the make-up of the crowd changes depending on the borough.

There was some trans and drag presence as well but less visible than I would have thought, this being the East and West Village.

Some also reminded others that attacks have happened throughout the city and not just in Manhattan - that's Norman Candelario flashing the Spanish language sign. It reads: "From the East Village to Astoria, Jackson Heights, Washington Heights, Harlem [and] Fordham, no one is safe unless everyone is safe."

At Sheridan Square, Hedda Lettuce, who led the marchers from the East Village to the West Village, had to climb up a traffic light when a speaker's podium failed to materialize.

A few people started to leave during the speeches but a large crowd still remained.

Caught up with my friend, Edgar Rodriguez, who I hadn't seen in a couple of years. He once led the Gay Officers Action League but has since retired from the NYPD and seems to be enjoying retirement. He was particularly helpful in the past with helping to get the Police Department to focus on other specific hate crimes against the LGBT community in the city.

Finally, someone in the crowd decided to also send a subtle message.

Also there: Of course, the New York City Anti-Violence Project crew, whose banner led the march, and their Executive Director Clarence Patton. Emanuel Xavier, himself attacked a few months back, read a poem about that experience once the crowd had reached Sheridan Square. Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, did not address the crowd. John K. from J's Theater also writes about the march and rally here (and has a few more pics as well). My friends Krishna Stone and Noel Alicea from GMHC. Hispanic AIDS Forum Executive Director Heriberto Sanchez Soto and a crew of guys from the agency showing up in force. Queens immigration advocate Brandon Fay. Members of the Audre Lorde Project. Trans advocate and political advocate Melissa Skars. Carl Siciliano of the Ali Forney Center, which provides assiatance to queer homeless youth, who was promoting a new campaign asking for tolerance for LGBT teens. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, NYC Councilmember and long-time political leader Karen Burstein who were the only political advocates to address the crowd (NYC Councilmember Rosie Mendez was around as well). Ms. Bursteinn was there on behalf of Sean P. Maloney, the openly gay candidate for the State's Attorney General seat. Staffers from the Maloney campaign were also all over the place. Some pouty porn star who left a few people scratching their heads with his comments (Tommy Rico compares him to Zoolander here - funeee!).

Most movingly, Stonewall veteran Bob Kohler, who recently turned 80 years old, was standing by the side of Seventh Avenue as the crowd marched by. Some people went over to say hi and he seemed a bit stunned by the size of the crowd. He wanted to know what was going on. When we told him why people were marching he gave us a huge smile and simply said "That's great! That's simply great."

Friday, June 16, 2006

Thank you

Ok, I don't usually wear a suit and tie and on a semi-warm day like yesterday I was a bit sweaty (never mind a bit nervous) but the LGBT Pride event at the Center - at which I was honored by NYC Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. - turned out to be quite nice.

Other honorees included Walter B. Shubert, Jr., Carrie Davis, Daniel Hendrick, Anthony Rapp and Gordon J. Campbell. They are all pictured above along with Comptroller Thompson in the middle and GMHC Interim Executive Director Marjorie Hill second from last
. It was fun to share some words with the other honorees and a thrill to be honored next to my good friend Dan Hendrick (more details about the honorees and the event at the Comptroller's Office website here).

I just wanted to publicly thank the Comptroller's office and his staff, GMHC and the Empire State Pride Agenda for deeming me worthy of the honor and, in addition
those of you who came to the event (including Raulito the bf, and William, who graciously took the pic above).

Alas, I was not able to greet tennis legend Billie Jean King who was not able to attend due to unforeseen circumstances.

Updates: Kevin Aviance, Chad Ferreira, FBI investigation

Obviously, we've been a bit busy off-line which you might have noticed by the erratic posting frequency. For now, let me give you some updates on some postings.

Kevin Aviance speaks! (well, it's actually his publicist who speaks for him but that's how The Advocate online is naming the story). A march and rally is scheduled for Saturday and yesterday's Gay City News has a cover story on the case titled "More Victims than Just Kevin" (as well as a related editorial from Paul Schindler).

One more blog addition to the Blabbeando blog list. This one is from Octavio Xtravaganza who recently contacted us in regards to Chad Ferreira for reasons that will be clear once you click on Octavio X. It wasn't a hate crime but it ads yet another dimension to the life of yet another gay man who died too young.

A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story airs Monday on Lifetime. Reviews have started to come in: "Leaves viewers haunted" says Pride Source while The Washington Blade says that it "avoids trans cliches" despite playing like a TV movie-of-the week. Inside Bay Area apparently calls it "a lukewarm story" though the review has been pulled off-line for now.

Just as people like Octavio, above, have contacted me as a result of what I have written here in the past, I have to point out that someone also posted an anonymous reply of note to my May 15th post "Yay for the FBI." The person makes a good point that a man should not be held to be guilty until so proven (click on link to read what the person has to say).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Kevin Aviance leaves hospital, St. Marteen gay bash ring leader surrenders

Boston's EDGE probably has the best article I've read on developments since Kevin Aviance was attacked on early Saturday morning.

To be honest, I've been taken aback a bit by the amount of national (and international) coverage that the news has gotten compared to other attacks that have happened recently against members of the LGBT community in New York and elsewhere. Part of it is the fact that he's a pretty well-known and well-connected performer, the fact that it happened during pride month in what is considered to be one of the gayest neighborhoods of the city, and the fact that he thankfully survived, all of which has made it a news story with legs.

For example, Clarence Patton of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, tells EDGE "The sad thing is, within an hour of this incident, a similar attack happened in Astoria Queens with three victims - and they were attacked by seven or eight guys," and yet that is the only reference I have read or seen about that particular attack.

Not sure whether this is due to a lack of additional information, the fact that it happened in Queens and not in media-friendly Manhattan or whether the victims were not as connected or media-savvy (or would want to talk to reporters).

In any case, it is good to see Kevin Aviance leave the hospital so soon after the attack and it is certainly good news that he is still planning to participate in the pride events coming up at the end of the month. One thing that struck me from the EDGE article was something that Councilmember Rosie Mendez said right after visiting the singer in the hospital before he was released:
"He was concerned about the individuals who did this. He said ’they were young kids, they could be my brothers and I don’t know what’s going to happen to them.’ There he was, with his mouth wired shut, [and] he was concerned about others."

In the meantime, there's news about another hate crime that took place in the Caribbean to other well-connected folks: "Duracell," who is described as the ring leader in the St. Marteen attack against two gay tourists from the United States, has surrendered. This after one of the men who was attacked, Richard Jefferson, went back to the island and chided authorities for letting the man apparently escape to Guadalupe (Mr. Jefferson must be greatly credited for the way he has engaged the St. Marteen's authorities after surviving such an attack and demanded justice).

St. Marteen's The Daily Herald says that arrests made in the case show that the authorities have done some good work though, just as Mr. Jefferson did during the latest press conferences, it also calls for people to be more forthcoming with helping the authorities in resolving brutal crimes, including the recent rape and murder of Angelique Chauvire also in St. Marteen.

Unfortunately while Mr. Jefferson has been able to take an active role in seeking justice, Ryan Smith, the other gay man who suffered injuries in the attack is still recuperating in Miami. In May, Queerty sat down with Mr. Smith and interviewed him. He speaks candidly about the attack and says:
The only reason the St. Maarten government is doing anything about this crime is because Dick Jefferson and I work as journalists. As victims, it’s our job to inform everyone what happened to us; as journalists it is our job to put the issue in context. They may claim they are investigating the crime for us, but we need to question how many of these crimes have been ignored.
Read the complete interview here.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Blog link list grows

New additions to my personal list:
  • Emanuel Xavier now has his own blog at MySpace.com, check it out on my links list to the right.
  • Attorney Lavi Soloway, with whom I have worked in the past, also has a couple of new blogs. I've added his personal blog Soloway to the list as well (and he's linked back to Blabbeando as well! Thanks Lavi!)
New blogs to the "Who's Linking to Blabbeando" list include:
  • kbNetwork, a blog on sex, love, religion, politics, music and living
  • Sangroncito, on which I've commented earlier, ends it's commentary on Colombia for now but promises new travel adventures throughout Latin America. I will be checking-in frequently.
  • Finally, there is also Las odiseas de burbujas - a great blog documenting the life and loves of an urban (read NYC) Dominican guy.
Enjoy!

Rosie Perez' Yo Soy Boricua! TONIGHT on IFC

Tonight, the IFC channel shows Yo soy Boricua - Pa'que tu lo sepas! (I'm Boricua so you know!). The documentary, Rosie's directorial debut, takes a look at Puerto Rican heritage and culture through the mirror of an exploration of her family roots.

The Boston Globe calls it "a more selfless tribute to undersung heroes than Ophra Winfrey's Legends Ball."

The Washington Post says it's "rambling, good-natured, fact-filled and often poignant."

It's been making the festival rounds to great acclaim. Watch it tonight (check local listings)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Emanuel Xavier on Kevin Aviance

I got the following message tonight:

From: EMANUEL XAVIER
Sent: Sun 6/11/2006 10:55 PM

Subject: Kevin Aviance attack

My manager, Leo Toro, called early this morning to inform me fellow NYC entertainer, Kevin Aviance, had been brutally beaten last night in the East Village, only months after my own incident in Bushwick. All I could think of was how this is Pride Month here in New York City and, for every Kevin or myself, there is a Dwane Prince or even worse, Sakia Gunn or Rashawn Brazell. With the hatred and ignorance preached by our current government and religious leaders, it's no wonder today's youth still feel they have permission to attack queers and people of color. I may have been left partially deaf, Kevin may be temporarily silenced, Dwan may be struggling to survive but just how many more of our brothers and sisters have yet to suffer and/or die in what is supposed to be the greatest city in the world?

Ironically, the following poem was written several years ago after someone I knew, Neil Askew, was shot and killed after gunning down Councilman James E. Davis, (who coincidentally awarded me a New York City Council Citation for my contributions to the queer community) at City Hall for reasons still unclear.

It now resonates with so much more personal meaning for many different reasons and today, I dedicate it to Kevin and Dwane and those of us lucky enough to still be alive.
OUTSIDE

Hypocrisy exists in our world today
when those that are out can only go so far
and society is surprised when those who prefer to hide
react with violence to threats of opening closet doors
because, in darkness, they are safe from those responsible
for reducing our brothers and sisters to dust and memories
like Matthew and Brandon and Sakia and Rashawn
and way too many others to name

Those of us that are out, in these empty rooms,
dance ignorantly to the occasional drum beats of liberty
While the only difference between us
and those huddled in corners and shadows of fear
is that we have a little more space to breathe
Yet the smell of equality is only truly found outside
where there are no limits or debates on how to legislate desire
and sexuality is simply the right to physical expression
between consenting adults

We could live out of the closet but we could never leave this house
Monsters, especially those with hideous diseases and colored skin,
are not welcome in the open fields of America
where others could dare to dream of marriage or adoption or political office
or defend our country from imaginary weapons of mass destruction
because not all of God's children are worthy to see the light
beyond these cold white walls
We are only tolerable as long as we remain silently lingering indoors

Straight friends sometimes visit to feed our hungry souls
with stories about journeys and adventures
Taking the time to join us and mourn the memory of our dead
before heading back into the privilege of sunlight
Leaving us behind to wave goodbye from gated windows
unable to come out and play
If only we could run past the prejudice and feel the wind across our chests
Discover lands starving for diversity
and star filled skies awaiting to shine for us too

In the distance, the emptiness of towers fallen,

a cruel reminder of our perversions and sins
as preached by religious men with tongues that are holy enough
to lick the innocence of children
to touch the openings of children
While faint sounds, unrecognizable as cries,
emerge from underneath closet doors

There are too many of us in this house

located on a land far away from Normal
Chanting songs of freedom every day
We only want to be outside,
we only want to be outside,
we only want to be outside,
The Lord is outside

It's no wonder some would rather die moths in the closet
when butterflies are not free
Copyright 2005 by Emanuel Xavier for Suspect Thoughts Press. All rights reserved.