Friday, June 29, 2007

Dominican Republic: Pajaro!

So, when El Listin Diario editors expressed concern about so many "pajaros" (a pejorative word used in DR for gays) on television, we wondered if some of the concern was about singers such as El Jeffrey (pictured, right, in a photo taken for El Caribe CDN by Ariel Castillo).

Not that we're saying that El Jefferey is gay but in an illuminating article from yesterday's El Caribe El Jeffrey is asked the following questions:

Q: What, if anything is missing from your closet?
El Jeffrey: "Nothing, because I really like to protect my image, I try to have all the things that I need, the only thing missing is some order because it's in chaos."

Q: Does it bother you to be criticized for wearing colorful and scandalous clothing?
El Jeffrey: "The comments, I enjoy them. Tell me, if I'm not [the object] of criticism, how will I sell [my records]? On one occasion a reporter asked me if I was homosexual and the next day I appeared wearing pink clothes on television, it's part of the business."

Q: But there's a lot of commentary on that specific point [and] people say that you are homosexual.
El Jeffrey: "(opens his eyes wide) It is important, who I am, and that [those who are] mine know who I am (silence) if they say a lie about me why am I going to deny it if it's false, and if it is the truth the same thing goes."

[...]

Q: Is there anything that you always put in your mouth?
El Jeffrey: "My finger (he paces his right index finger near his lips)"

Q: Who do you find irresistible?
El Jeffrey: "Definitely the North-American singer Beyonce"

The singer also says that he does wear make up even if he doesn't like it because he prefers things to be natural, that he has not had any plastic surgery done and that he admires the work of, um, Ricky Martin. Oh! And that he does not like reggaeton and the influence of the music on his sons.

Not the first time that we have written about a Dominican merengue singer who plays coy with his sexuality even as he plays the stereotypes up for the cameras and his fans. On August 9, 2006, we featured Hector Aponte Alequin of Mala Fe and his video "Pluma, Pluma Gay" ("Feather, Feather Gay").

When I heard that few gay men showed up in yesterday's gay pride rally in Santo Domingo it made me wonder about the relative cultural acceptance (and success) of personalities like El Jeffrey and Mala Fe in as homophobic a culture as the Dominican Republic and the public invisibility of gay men in the island.

The stereotypes that El Jeffrey and Mala Fe play up to probably live up to Dominican perceptions of fagdomness in a way that is not as threatening to macho culture in the island (come to think of it, Ricky Martin's coyness also plays well in Puerto Rico whereas him actually coming out might not).

Ah! The paradoxes of gayness and homophobia in the Caribbean.

3 comments:

Melvin Rosario said...

Greetings from the DR!

I could not agree with you more, these people definitely like to play up the stereotype of the hyper-effeminate gay male and you're absolutely right, it is the only way people on this island can fathom gayness in a non-threating manner, some take offense, while others take it as a joke. El Jeffrey has always been rumored to be gay and he is often the subject of ridicule for it, especially on Remolacha.net ... He's often ridiculed for wearing see through shirts, even if they are black ... something that's actually more European than gay! ... I haven't seen a gay man in a see through shirt in years!

Dominicans are obsessed with the concept of gay men having feathers, I don't understand why that is ... I mean, it's not like we're showgirls.

Surprisingly, I accidentally caught my father watching a Dominican talk show yesterday where the hosts (a man and a woman) were actually preaching sexual tolerance ... the man was saying something like "I have my own sexual preference and I respect that of others and what happens in people's private lives and bedrooms is their business ..." and the woman was basically agreeing with him ... I was kind of surprised that they were even discussing this, but I didn't stick around because it was to embarrassing with my dad sitting there!

Anyway, my bf is coming to meet the family tomorrow and the only way everyone here can deal with the situation is if I refer to him as my "friend." ... We're sleeping in different beds, mother's orders. She's allegedly afraid of town gossip: "The people living in that house are harboring homosexuals! They're going to hell!"

Needless to say, I'm a nervous wreck! But I'll stop rambling on your blog now and save it for a future post on my blog.

Catch ya later!

Junk Thief said...

The coyness gets a bit annoying at times, but I guess it's a survival skill in the Caribbean. Ricky Martin's playing of it has reached a point that I've completely disengaged. Miguel Bose seems to play it a different way, but then Spain is not Latin America or the Caribbean.

Littlemilk said...

That is an understatement -- "Spain is not Latin America." -- and Europe is not the Americas.

Anyway, very interesting. I just moved to the Bronx 2 weeks ago. And then read in the Village Voice about how conservative the Bronx's Latino community is, and the anemic Gay Pride Celebrations that happened here because young people are afraid to be seen.

I was having a very interesting discussions with my roomate about this, she said I should look into the Bronx's history, I suspect brushing up on D.R. history (PONS is the definitive text, I believe) and checking up on Bronx council members wouldn't hurt either. But in terms of culture, I guess I just have to keep my eyes open, cultural norms are rarely completely understood without living them first.

Funny, I have been in the NYC area for years, but just now am I having a cleared understanding of what it means to be "a little bit different" in a Caribbean household. Guess I have been busy trying to decipher my own cultural matrix to pay closer attention.