Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Argentina: 20,000 at gay pride

Buenos Aires saw their 15th annual gay pride march on Saturday and it drew a record 20,000 people (twice as many as in 2005, according to some observers).

In an interview with Todo Noticias available through Clarin, Cesar Cigliutti, President of Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA), reminisces that fifteen years ago "we were 200 and a half wore masks" to cover their face and talks about the significant advances that have taken place in Argentina since then.

Unlike the last couple of years, the march went without a hitch and was not the scene of the type of confrontations that threatened to overshadow it in 2003 and 2005.

Behind the scenes, some tensions remained as some tried to pit organizers of a women's rights march that took also took place Saturday against the gay pride organizers arguing that holding a gay pride march on the same date was an affront to women. But those attempts seemed to fall on deaf ears, even amongst the organizers of the women's rights march.

As in recent years, a few people, including trans activist Lohana Berkins, chose to participate in a "Counter-March" to protest against the capitalist system and the increasingly apolitical and assimilationist nature of the annual pride event.

But even Lohana had reason to smile on Saturday: On Tuesday, November 21st, Argentina's Supreme Court ruled that that the Argentinean government must grant ALITT, the organization she represents, official recognition as a non-profit organization. The ruling was applauded by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission as a first for a transgender rights organization in Argentina in this press release.

Additional photos of Saturday's march can be found here and here.

UPDATE: Gabriel from has even more photos here.

Young Latina lesbian stabbed to death in Queens

Priscilla Pimentel (left) never made it to Thanksgiving dinner at her family's place in Bethlehem, PA last week.

The 24 year-old had moved to New York City four years ago because she did not want her sexual orientation to be a source of shame or pain for her Puerto Rican family. Still - when she did not show up on Thursday night, her family knew something was wrong.

On Friday, according to the New York Times, her brother and sister went to her Richmond Hills apartment in Queens and walked into a murder scene. The green walls of the apartment were streaked with blood, a rainbow flag laid on the floor, a mattress she'd been using as a bed was still unmade and dirty dishes were still in the kitchen sink.

Her body, which showed multiple stab punctures in the arms and left side of the chest, was also smeared with "mint green paint, which she had recently used to brighten the walls of her apartment." Her hands had been tied, her dog Gucci, was also lying dead next to her.

It's been a couple of days since the Times article was published (smaller articles also ran in the Daily News and Newsday following an AP report) and there hasn't been additional information.

Most of New York probably hasn't heard about this crime and it calls to mind the stabbing murder of Rodney Velazquez, a young Puerto Rican gay man who was also found in as ghastly a murder scene as Priscilla back in 2002. That case has long been forgotten by most people (actually, it never really caught the attention of people in this city as other crimes have done), and remains unresolved.

Let's hope that things turn out differently in this case even if, obviously, someone else in our community is gone due to mindless violence and nothing that happens will bring her back.

UPDATE: Richmond Hill Woman Stabbed to Death (Queens Chronicle, Friday, Dec. 1, 2006)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Time warp: My 20th Anniversary High School Reunion

Twenty years. Marriages, divorces, kids, changes in professions, different hair do's, Iraqi war vets (under Bush, Sr.), a few out guys, no out gals, faint reverberations of old cliques, prom night secrets revealed, some gray hairs, a few wrinkles, beer and even a Pablo Escobar assassination. Yup, it's the good ol' 20th anniversary high school reunion that took place over the Thanksgiving break. Sorta like stepping into another dimention and very glad I decided to go.

ps - Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark at the non-alcoholic Nowhere Bar. Damn! Those where the days!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Argentina: We are all marvelously different

LGBT pride in Buenos Aires, Argentina will be celebrated on Saturday, November 25th. This year's theme is "We are all, women and men, marvelously different." For more information go here. Above you will see the winning entry in this year's promotional poster design contest (by Gustavo Doradillo). Other entries can be seen here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Argentina: Gay civil unions? Reality might surprise you

While some of us are celebrating that Mexico City and South Africa seem poised to grant partial or full recognition of same-sex partnerships, let's take a look at what's been going on in Buenos Aires, Argentina (the first city in Latin America ever to pass a gay-friendly "civil union" law back in 2002).

In yesterday's Clarin, Argentina's leading newspaper, Rosario Medina takes a look at the number of couples that have sought to have their partnerships recognized through a civil union in Buenos Aires since 2003. Granted, the article says that only one office in all of Buenos Aires is allowed to grant civil union rights to same-sex couples, but the numbers might still surprise you.

The truth is that while newspapers and anti-gay advocates call these measures "gay marriage" or "gay civil unions," in most places these measures do not only recognize the rights of gay couples but also that of heterosexual couples who might not have had the possibility to seek civil unions instead of religious matrimony in the past.

In other words, civil unions might be an old concept for people living in the United States, but for Latin America, long under the spell of the Catholic church, the concept is actually new: In some of the municipalities that have recognized the right of same-sex couples to have access to civil unions, the measures are also the first time heterosexual couples have also had an option to seek recognition of their partnerships through a non-religious measure. This is the case with Buenos Aires.

Clarin reports that at least since December of 2005, the majority of couples that have been granted civil union status have been straight (112 heterosexual couples vs. 91 gay couples in 2005 and 106 heterosexual couples as of June of 2006 vs. 43 gay couples).

Pedro Anibal Paradiso Sottile, Legal Issues Coordinator for the Argentine Homosexual Community (CHA) tells Clarin "We knew from the start that (the civil union law) would be used not only by our community but by the community in general. It wasn't only needed by the gay community. Heterosexual couples also use this tool because there is no other outside of marriage."

Colombia: Outside the Lourdes Church, the bodies of two men

Around 11pm on Sunday night, November 5th, responding to a phone call by a passer-by, police inves- tigators in Bogota found two men sitting on the steps outside the Lourdes Church in Bogota. One of the men had an arm around the other man's shoulder. Neither man was alive.

"Due to the position in which they were found it is assumed that they were a couple," said a lead detective to a reporter from El Tiempo.

The detective, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that they were looking into whether the men had committed suicide by ingesting poisonous substances as neither showed any signs of violence. He also said that two officers had reported approaching the men earlier that night when they saw them on the steps but left them be when they said they were just resting a bit before heading home.

Symbolically, the news of a gay couple committing suicide in front of one of the major churches in Bogota in the midst of legislative efforts to grant some rights to same-sex couples, was striking. After all, the Catholic church in Colombia, as in other Latin American countries, had led the opposition against the recognition of such partnerships. But some leading LGBT advocates were initially outraged that the paper had violated the privacy of the two men by discussing their sexual orientation in death when it wasn't clear that it had been public matter while alive.

Long-time LGBT-rights advocate Manuel Velandia Mora, writing in his blog, criticized the editors of El Tiempo for the language used in the headline ("Two homosexuals were found dead on the steps of the entrance to the Lourdes Church in Bogota") and, specifically, the word "homosexuals" arguing that it was no different than the language used by scandal-hungry tabloids to draw readership to their homophobic and lurid coverage of crimes committed against gays. Velandia also wondered if there was anything else to indicate that the men were gay other than the "position" in which the bodies were found.

Nevertheless, Mr. Velandia ended by saying that if the men were indeed a gay couple, the death of these two men should also highlight just how inadequate the authorities are in investigating the deaths of those who might be gay in Colombia as well as the lack of any governmental oversight or condemnation of crimes committed against gays in Colombia.

Actually, turns out that the men were probably not gay after all.

On Friday, the person who alerted the police sent a note to a listserv to which I subscribe. On his way to one of the many gay bars that surround the Lourdes Church plaza, he said it was impossible not to notice the two men sitting together on the church steps and that - as he got closer to see if they were ok - it was also clear that they were dead. So he called the police.

Eventually he made it to a nearby bar. The bouncers, who had a view of the church plaza, told him that the two men had been hanging out and drinking with the local artisans who sold their wares to tourists during the day. They hadn't paid much attention until they saw a tall man fall to the ground. That's when they saw the other men pick him up and prop him up next to another person who seemed to have passed out on the church's steps. They also noticed that the men had draped the tall man's arm around the other man's shoulder probably to help them to maintain balance. This, apparently, was how the police found them and what led the investigator to determine that they might have been a couple.

I'm not sure if El Tiempo responded to any of the concerns raised by Velandia, among others, but, in a follow-up article that was printed on Sunday, they proved that the original report was flawed, to say the least. In the article, Marta Stella Cano speaks of one of the men as having been her boyfriend and states unequivocally "The police and the journalists came out to say that they were gay, that they were a couple and that they had committed suicide out of love. But none of that is true."

One of the artisans who makes a living in the plaza, says that Julian Suarez Mosquera was just another artisan vendor, a "hippie," who he had met in the streets of Bogota and befriended. He says the other man, only known to him by the nickname of Popis, was also just another friend and not his partner.

The police say that they think the men died of mercury poisoning and are still investigating the deaths as suicides but those who knew Mr. Suarez say that they cannot believe that he'd take his life.

Community members say that both men were probably the victims of something that is known to afflict a lot of alcohol drinkers who buy bottles in the street: A poorly distilled adulterated form of alcohol that can be poisonous and deadly.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mexico City says yes to civil unions for same-sex couples

Last week I found myself speaking to a reporter from the Los Angeles newspaper La Opinion on the issue of LGBT rights in Latin America. He tried his best to get me to say that the situation for gays throughout Latin America was worse than that for gay Latinos in the United States.

While I did say that the LGBT advocacy movement throughout Latin America was younger and faced incredible challenges as well as organized opposition from conservative religious and political leaders, I reminded the reporter that the United States had seen the vicious murder of Matthew Sheppard and others and that, under this administration, the United States seemed to have fallen behind some Latin American countries on protecting the rights of the LGBT community.

I mentioned the civil union bill that was signed into law in the Argentine cities of Buenos Aires and Rio Negro in 2002, LGBT rights advances in Brazil, and the fact that civil union bills were being debated in Uruguay and Colombia, among other countries in the region.

"Yes," the reporter said, "but what about Mexico!"

I said that, yes, Mexico had a history of homophobia that was strongly linked to its machismo culture but that, as in most other Latin American countries, there was a vibrant and active LGBT community gaining visibility in its urban centers.

I have a feeling he still found this hard to believe.

So, without further ado, it is a great pleasure share a Reuters article from today that says simply "Gay unions legalized for first time in Mexico."

What about Mexico indeed!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Thank you, Tanya

Thank you Tanya, you've made my day:

Date: October 31, 2006
From: Tanya Stephens

Someone came across your blog about my album 'Rebelution' and told me to check it out. I must say many thanks for recognizing what i'm talking about. It's very frustrating to be caught in the middle of such a ridiculous feud as is going on between Reggae/Dancehall and the gay community. Just as you must know that every gay person can't possibly represent you correctly, so every Jamaican artiste cant represent me correctly either! Good luck on your struggles, and thanks for your good wishes to me on mine :-)

If you ever feel like exchanging thoughts hit me up, I really love a good enlightening conversation! :-)

From your new 'friend' (even if unwanted:-) )

Tanya Stephens

More Tanya: