Thursday, March 29, 2007

ACT UP protest: Same old BS, twenty years later

NOTE: Images Copyright © 2007 Ands Duque and Rex Wockner

About 400 t0 500 people showed up on a magnificently sunny day to act up once again on what was planned as the 20th year anniversary action of the organization ACT UP.

Larry Kramer, who was among the people who jump started the direct action group twenty years ago addressed reporters at the rally's start (YouTube video here). Clients from organizations such as Housing Works, African Services Committee, the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project, the New York City AIDS Housing Network, People of Color in Crisis and GMHC joined the crowd. There was also a large contingent from ACT UP Philadelphia.

The well-behaved crowd shouted slogans such as "No more bullshit, health care for all," "Health care for people, not for profit" and "Same old bullshit, 20 years later."

Marchers made their way from the Federal Building down to City Hall with a stop at Trinity Church (just off the World Trade Center site) through the narrow building canyons in front of the New York Stock Exchange ending up at the big bull statue at Bowling Green, long a symbol of Wall Street.

Organizers threw plastic body bags in front of the statute, two ACT UP'ers also mounted the bull and flew a banner that read "ACT UP: Health care for all."

After addressing the crowd and reporters, a group of 20 to 25 activists crossed the police barriers surrounding the Bowling Green park and laid down on the street in a "die-in." They were arrested for disrupting traffic and are currently in custody.

When it was all said and done the bull was left standing alone with a pair of condoms adorning its horns.

Additional stuff:
Future meetings: According to a message left tonight on my voice mail by Andrew Velez, ACT UP will mark its anniversary with a $20 celebration/fundraiser on Saturday, March 31 at 8 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center, 208 West 13th Street.

There will also be a follow-up organizing meeting on Thursday, April 12th at 7:30PM - also at the LGBT Community Center - for the first ever meeting of the Queer Justice League (although the name of the group is subject to change). Questions should be directed at


UPDATE: The official press release puts participation at "nearly a thousand" and arrests at 27. It also has a full list of co-sponsors.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Recommended: A Conversation With My Brothers

For those who might be checking this blog from time to time or people who might stumble upon it during these days, I recommend that you keep an eye on Bernard Tarver's blog Bejata over the next few days for what promises to be a thought-provoking series of posts on black gay men at midlife.

These entries provide a unique look at middle-age gay black men talking about their own lives (as opposed to others such as health service providers or researchers talking about the 'reality' of gay black men's lives) as well as opportunities for reflection (I certainly saw some echoes of the Latino gay male experience in the United States among some of these comments).
But wait! There's more! The Republic of T. ponders...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Update: Ruby Rodriguez is mourned in San Francisco

Above: San Francisco Chronicle photo by Mike Keane
Happening Here has images from last night's SF vigil in memory of slain trans woman Ruby Rodriguez - including the one on the left. More here.

Good to see the presence of some public officials such as Assemblyman Mark Leno and Police Commissioner Theresa Sparks.

Ruby's murder has drawn a couple of responses that are shocking in their nastiness:

The infamously homophobic Michael Savage called Ruby a "psychopath" and a "freak" in his national syndicated radio show (Media Matters has the details) and an anonymous caller to the San Francisco Chronicle questioned the paper's political correctness in calling Ruby a "she" instead of "he" and chided the paper for not disclosing Ruby's immigration status.

As Don McPherson would say, the comments mostly reflect both men's insecurities. But part of me wonders why they haven't drawn the ire of the mainstream gay community in ways that other homophobic expressions have recently drawn wide condemnation.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Panama: Billboard ads removed after uproar

Panama was in an uproar earlier this week over a series of six ads that appeared in seventeen billboards throughout Panama City, the country's capital.

The ads, commissioned by a magazine called Blank which targets upper class readers, pretended to highlight "the prejudices faced on a daily basis by those who are different because they dare to or because they are provocative" - At least according to the magazine.

Each featured a different person hanging from a wooden cross with a one-word label above them (including "faggot" as pictured above as well as "anorexic," "delinquent," "drug-addict," "whore" and "violent aggresor").

Obviously the magazine was probably more interested in being provocative than truly standing against discrimination. In any case if their goal was to attract attention, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

The church immediately called the campaign an insult to Catholics and by Tuesday the Mayor's Office had ordered the billboards removed saying that the agency wanted to take advantage of the upcoming religious holidays to attract attention to the publicity.

Ezra Ángel, an attorney consulted by Panama's news daily La Prensa, said that the Mayor had legal right to ask for their removal since the third tome of the Administrative Code, Title 1, Chapter 1, article 855 calls for "the maintenance of public calm, the morals and the good customs of people and their individual and collective interests" and added that "Blank [magazine] is being disrespectful of a great number of Catholics who feel a lack of respect when they see the irresponsible use of such a sacred symbol as the cross; The morals and good customs should be respected in order not to cross the thin line between freedom of expression an libertinism."

La Prensa interviews two publicists who were not involved in developing the campaign and both agree that the Mayor's actions amount to censorship.

Mayor contradicts himself: Interestingly in defending a different billboard campaign back in 2004, while recognizing that he personally found some images offensive, Mayor Juan Carlos Navarro told La Prensa "The Panama Mayor's Office does not have a role in censorship, on the contrary, I believe in freedom of expression."

He also said that if those billboards were taken down, the same would happen to other campaigns in other media be it radio, television, internet or newspapers: "There are in all of them publicity, programs and news that could be offensive to someone in the [general] public."

The content of that particular billboard campaign? Semi-nude women in advertisements for a strip club called Elixir.

You can see all the provocative ads in the current Blank magazine campaign here.

Rev. Ruben Diaz: Gays might be reason for FBI probe

I can't say that I was surprised to read in the New York Daily News this morning that the homophobic State Senator (and Reverend) Ruben Diaz, Sr. was under investigation by the FBI (his son, Ruben Diaz, Jr. as well). After all, I have kept a pretty good eye on the Reverend and his alleged misdeeds almost since I began this blog - and the article does a good job in spelling some of them out.

But in a brief interview this afternoon with The Politicker's Azi Paybarah the elder Diaz first denies any knowledge of the investigation and then speculates on who might want him under FBI purview:

"I have tons of enemies out there trying to get me. Because of my position. You know, I've been outspoken on certain issues, like gay marriage, abortion. All those things. I might create enemies."

Well, it certainly wasn't me so maybe it was the pro-choicers?

UPDATE: The New York Times also has a story on the FBI probe here.

Twenty years later, Don McPherson in Harlem

(L-R: Columbia U. fellow Aries Dela Cruz; author Raquel Rivera; former Philadelphia Eagles QB Don McPherson; GenderPAC ED Riki Wilchins & Beyond Beat and Rhymes Director Byron Hurt at last night's youth community forum in Harlem)

Last night after work I headed up to Harlem's Children's Zone for a screening of Byron Hurt's "Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes" and a discussion on the role of gender, violence, sexism and homophobia in hip hop and rap culture presented by GenderPAC.

You probably have seen these topics addressed before but what makes this sometimes uneven but fascinating documentary stand out is that Mr. Hurt puts himself at the center of the debate and admits from the beginning that he is a "hip hop" lover himself. This might have opened some doors (Mos Def, Chuck D, De La Soul, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes, Talib Kweli and Russell Simmons all appear in brief but telling segments; Bustah Rhymes' knee-jerk homophobia doesn't surprise anymore considering his past skirmishes but Russell Simmons claim that he can't do a thing to change the industry rings hollow and his evasiveness stings).

Good thing that I caught the airing of the film last month on PBS because last night technical glitches forced the screening to be cut short. A shame, because the huge number of kids that showed up missed out on some of the most thought-provoking issues that the film raises.

There was an additional reason why I decided to go last night: One of the panelists was Don McPherson, a former Philadelphia Eagles quarter back that I had known twenty years back when I lived in Syracuse and he was then the star QB for Syracuse University (he is now the Director of the Sports Leadership Institute at Adelphi University in Long Island).

During the break, as people tried to fix the technical glitches, I walked over to Don and introduced myself. I'm probably forty pounds heavier and twenty years older so I wasn't surprised that there wasn't any immediate recognition but the moment I started describing where we'd met it all seemed to click. You should have seen his double take! He was still shaking his head in wonder as I made my way back to my seat as the presentation resumed.

The panelists all made some good points but considering there was a mostly younger audience some of the discussion seemed a bit dry and too academic (not sure a fourteen year old is going to appreciate a comment on hip-hop being a way to tell the history of the impact of Reaganomics on black urban masses).

Don, though, was amazing.

On appropriating the word nigger and using it as a term of endearment: "You can't take back a word that wasn't yours in the first place!" - He argued that the word was born out of hate and not as a gift to blacks and that it shocked him that some African-Americans used it almost with pride. He also argued that there were many other really bad words in the American vernacular that could be used to express anger or pride and, as an example, pointed out that - in Pulp Fiction - Samuel L. Jackson's character had a wallet imprinted with the words "Bad M.F." on it (when few of the kids in the audience seemed to react to the reference he said "Damn, I guess I'm showing my age!").

On homophobia: "Homophobia polices masculinity and doesn't allow us to be who we truly are as men" - He said that he'd been reading former NBA player John Amaechi's autobiography "Man in the Middle" and that he was struck by how he desrcibed the locker room, all these basketball players competing in showing the most bling bling or the best clothes and Amaechi sitting there and thinking "And I'm the gay one!"

On being punked: Reacting to an audience question on why some were so quick to violence as a reaction to being disrespected, "We need to teach kids that you can let it roll off your shoulders," adding that kids needed to be taught that someone who resorts to insults and taunts is instead showing their own insecurities.

And, finally, when an audience member said that it was one thing to attend this meeting and quite another to reach out to kids in the street and asked the panelists what they would say to a kid in the street if they only had 2 and a half minutes to make a point Don replied "I'd spend those two minutes trying to make sure that we would have a follow-up conversation because you can't do much to change someone's perceptions in 2 and a half minutes."

I didn't realize that Mr. Hurt had also been a quarterback at Northeastern University and at the end of the presentation he spoke of how much he had respected the strides that Don made as one of the few black quarterbacks in the NFL back in the late '80's.

Twenty years ago I was just coming to terms with my sexual identity and fearful that any of the football players who were my friends at Syracuse University would ever find out. Don spoke of his own road in conceptualizing these issues and of the years it took for him to be able to express his thoughts as well.

To sit there and hear Don talk about all these issues was totally bizarre. Who would have known that I'd be meeting him again under these circumstances... No disrespect to the other panelists, who I have hardly mentioned but, it still blows my mind.

More On Don McPherson's recent work:

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Update: SF vigil in memory of Ruby Rodriguez this Friday

For Immediate Release

Tina D’Elia, Hate Violence Survivor Program Director
(415) 777-5500 ext. 304

Alexandra Byerly, EL-LA Program Coordinator
(415) 864-7278

Community Mourns Murder of Latina Transgender Woman
Requests Attendance at Vigil to Demand Change

San Francisco, California (March 22, 2007) – A Nicaraguan transgender woman, Ruby Rodriguez, 24 years old, was murdered on Friday, March 16, 2007. Her body was found on the corner of Cesar Chavez and Indiana Streets in the Mission District of San Francisco. The murder is currently under investigation by the San Francisco Police Department. Community United Against Violence (CUAV), EL-LA, San Francisco LGBT Community Center, TRANS Project, allies, and community members will hold a community vigil in her honor on Friday, March 23, 2007 at 6:00PM, on the corner of 24th Street and Mission Street in the Mission District.

Organizers request that the community bring a white candle to the vigil. There will also be an additional altar set up on Cesar Chavez and Indiana Street, and community members are encouraged to bring flowers, photographs, cards and good wishes to this site. Let us not forget Ruby. She was an exceptional woman who was intent on improving her life. Ruby participated in various support groups and language classes, and idolized Chicana singer Selena.

This murder comes at the heels of at least two other violent deaths of transgender women of color in the San Francisco Bay Area over the past six months. Transgender people, particularly low-income transgender women of color, are disproportionately poor, homeless, criminalized and imprisoned as a result of systemic discrimination in our daily attempts to access safe housing, healthcare, employment, and education.

Unfortunately, Ruby’s murder is not an exception, but an everyday fear for many transgender people who are targeted and brutalized by institutions and society at large. Our communities mourn Ruby’s death and ask for a renewed commitment to real safety for transgender communities. It is vital that the Mayor’s Office, the San Francisco Police Department, and the District Attorney’s Office work to end the cycles of criminalization, poverty, and violence in transgender communities and communities of color.

Please direct any questions about the vigil to Tina D’Elia or Alexandra Byerly. If anyone has any information regarding Ruby’s murder, please contact Inspector Karen Lynch at (415) 553-1388 or Inspector Tom Cleary at (415) 553-9569 of the SFPD Homicide Unit.

Community United Against Violence works to end violence against and within the LGBTQQ communities, providing free and confidential counseling, advocacy, and education in English and Spanish. CUAV’s crisis line is (415) 333-4357.

Updates: Aviance attackers guilty, IL unease on Obama and gays, Orozco gets a break in Canada

Din Da Da: Four people have pleaded guilty in last summer's attack against performer Kevin Aviance (pictured) and are expected to be given prison sentences ranging from six to fifteen years when they are sentenced in early April. They had faced prison sentences of up to 25 years if convicted of first degree assault as a hate crime.

Obama unease in IL: It has been ten days since the Chicago Tribune reported that General Peter Pace - the current joint Chief of Staff and military leader in Iraq - called homosexuality "immoral." Today, the Tribune explores the lingering unease among lesbian and gay supporters of presidential candidate Barack Obama over how the Illinois Senator first responded to the General's comments.

Late word from the Chicago Sun Times blogs is, though, that the Obama camp might be forming a "gay advisory panel"(courtesy of Lynn Sweet).

Canadian court defers removal of gay Nicaraguan: A young Nicaraguan gay man who made his way to Canada as a teen and was denied political asylum back in February, in part because the court said he wasn't gay enough, has been granted a second removal deferral which means that he can stay in Canada up until August 9th, 2007. This undoubtedly gives his legal team precious additional time to build his case and appeal the ruling on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

If you would like to help Alvaro Orozco stay in Canada, please visit his website for additional information.

El Salvador: A "shout out" from Sir Elton John

This week's issue of the UK's New Statesman has a "shout out" from Sir Elton John to LGBT rights advocates throughout the world, who often do their work in less than receptive environments and, in some cases, under the threat of violence or death.

In the essay, Sir Elton highlights the work of one of my heroes, William Hernandez of El Salvador's Entre Amigos, who has persevered even as attacks against him and members of his organization have increased and become increasingly violent over the last few years.

In December, reporter Doug Ireland wrote an article for Gay City News on William and Entre Hermanos which is available on his blog, Direland.

Today's issue of the UK's The Independent also has a profile and interview here.

All this is in no small thanks to Amnesty International which has long championed the work of Entre Amigos. For more information on their ongoing campaign to support this crucial organization please go here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Miguel Bosé says that his closest friends call him papito ['little daddy'], an explanation for the title of his ambitious new release which came out on Tuesday here in the United States. He has also said that the word is intrinsically Latin American and that it is a way for him to show gratitude to the continent for all that it has given him (born in Panama, Bosé has made a living in Spain for decades).

In "Papito" the legendary Bosé invites some of today's best known Spanish language pop singers to reinterpret 14 singles from his prolific 30 year old career through duets.

I have never necessarily been a big fan of his music but for anyone who has lived at least part of their life in Latin America or Spain, some of these songs have ingrained themselves so deeply in popular culture that they've become a soundtrack to specific moments of anyone's life.

It's his larger than life personality, his magnetism, his knowing and playful way of dismissing questions about his sexuality (while at the same time playing into the ambiguity by producing videos that sometimes incorporate gay and bisexual content) that has made me a fan.

Some of his biggest hits are synth heavy tracks from the 1980's and early 90's - which means that their sound hasn't aged particularly well. So I decided to give "Papito" a try and see if some of these songs could actually improve on their originals.

My take? For she most part, it works!

Some songs still don't make it for me ("
Bambu" with Ricky Martin and "Nada Particular" with Juanes) and some barely do (the single "Nena" with Paulina Rubio). But there are great songs here (among them the reggae-tinged "Morena Mia" with a great vocal by Julieta Vanegas, the amazing "Si Tu No Vuelves" with Shakira and "Este Mundo Va" with Leonor Vatling). There is also a great brand new song - "Hay Dias" with Alejandro Sanz - and a nice duet with Michael Stipe of R.E.M. in which Stipe sings (gulp!) in Spanish!

Ah! And I almost forgot! There's the kitch brilliance of "Amante Bandido" - perhaps his signature song - featuring a duet with the quintesential queer idol Alaska (from Alaska y Dinarama)!

And that cover illustration that plays on Southern Cal street tattoo culture? Just love it. Shows his sense of humor is still intact after all these years.

More "Papito" at the following links:
  • Buy "Papito" at
  • Miguel Bosé's official website (which says that there is a 2-CD version in Spain with an additional 15 duets, some previously released).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

ITN: SF TG murdered, Dupree loses support, internet sucks & mulah

A few news items that might have escaped your attention:

Body of transgender Latina found by roadside in SF:
The San Francisco Police Department is "seeking to determine whether the slaying of a transgender victim found naked near the Interstate 280 freeway is somehow linked to reports of a nude woman seen walking on the same freeway two hours later" according to the San Francisco Chronicle [UPDATE: Candlelight vigil to be held in honor of Ruby Rodriguez on Friday, March 23rd in San Francisco]

Gay Dallas Constable Mike Dupree loses key support, sister still on his side:
In a case that we have followed for a while, 50 year old Dallas Constable Mike Dupree - who had a 20 year old Honduran lover jailed when he spurned his advances - and hooked up with a female stripper - has lost key support from one of his deputies. His sister, though, is still on his side.

Latinos suck at internet stuff:
The Pew Hispanic Center has the results of a poll.

: The Dallas Voice has an interview with fundraiser Enrique MacGregor (pictured above) on what it takes to raise money for organizations such as the Latino Cultural Center.

Larry Kramer: Dear Straight People...

Larry Kramer on a roll: "Dear Straight People - Why Do You Hate Gay People So Much?" (from today's Los Angeles Times)

In the meantime, Rex Wockner also has an interview with Larry here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Kill me... NOW!

American Idol... Grease: You're the One that I Want... Big Brother... I have never picked up the phone to vote for any participant in any of these neuron-wasting experiments...


Unfortunately my hormones got the better of me tonight. Yes, the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars was a brain drain of untold proportions (not so the rat loving Amazing Race: All Stars). But I just could not stand idle while Joey Fatone (formerly of N'SYNC) stole the show outright. So I (gulp!) picked up the phone and voted for him. Helps that it was an 800-number! Yay!

Then there's Bill Goldberg in Bull Run! Or Tango in VH1's "I Love New York." Damn it popular culture! Then again, please more husky guys!!

Mitt Romney stumbles in Miami with those Cubans

Ah! The fun of watching a supposedly conservative presidential candidate stumble as he tries to make inroads with those extreme right-wing Cubans in Miami (not necessarily representative of all Cubans or all Cuban-Americans in the United States but still a 'go to' voting block for politicians seeking Hispanic support).

Even better when the nouveau-conservative is Willard "Mitt" Romney, the former Massachusetts Governor, who fought against the state's same-sex marriage law with no luck.

What went wrong??

The Miami Herald has full details

Saturday, March 17, 2007

March 29: 20 years of ACT UP

The biggie: Demand Healthcare for people, not profit! ACT UP turns twenty.

So many protests, so little time: Garrison Keillor in NYC

So, somewhere among the e-mails received and sent this week, Rex passed along a tidbit from advice columnist Dan Savage saying that instead of protesting General Peter Pace, people should maybe be acting up against A Prairie's Home Companion's Garrison Keillor.

The reason? A column Keillor wrote for this week available here in which he tackles, among other things, his supposedly humorous thoughts on gay parenting including the following:

And now gay marriage will produce a whole new string of hyphenated relatives. In addition to the ex-stepson and ex-in-laws and your wife's first husband's second wife, there now will be Bruce and Kevin's in-laws and Bruce's ex, Mark, and Mark's current partner, and I suppose we'll get used to it.

The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men -- sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That's for the kids. It's their show.

Savage failed to see the joke and shared his thoughts on why people should "Fuck Garrison Keillor" over on his blog (which then got noticed by Andrew Sullivan over on his blog).

And somewhere along the way, Savage's wish seemed to inspire real call for a protest at today's live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion here in New York at the Town Hall on 43rd Street off Sixth Avenue.

Problem is the call for a protest apparently never got to too many people cause it was just Gay USA anchor Andy Humm (pictured above outside the Town Hall earlier today) holding a sign that read "Garrison Keillor: Stop Slurring Gay Parents" on one side and "Boycott Prairie Home Anti-Gay Bigotry" on the other. He was also and handing a statement to the people in line for the show that read, in part:
Heterosexual people don't need any qualifications to become parents nor do they have to be married. And they don't need any qualifications to be married other than to be of different sexes.

But Garrison Keillor is so repelled by the idea of gay parents and same-sex marriage that he needs to employ trivializing stereotypes to put them down.

Bigotry like this is shameful and we hope the NPR audience will tell Keillor what they think of his prejudices.
A Keillor rep actually came out and handed Andy a printed copy of yet another post made on a blog, in this case, Keillor's own, in which he responds to the criticism this way.

I'm not sure that explains some of the cringe-worthy passages away even if it was an attempt at humor. He does have some defenders out there though.

So many blog posts, just one person protesting at the theatre. Some theatre goers at least were receptive to the statement that Andy was handing to them.

I guess some controversies are made for the blogosphere if not necessarily for outdoor demos.

Or perhaps they all were at that other queer protest today?

UPDATE: Rex on Keillor here.

Do Republicans get a pass?

So a minor political dust storm was kicked earlier this week when both leading Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama seemed to hesitate for a moment on whether homosexuality was "immoral" in the wake of General Peter Pace's comments to the Chicago Tribune.

Both Clinton and Obama quickly released statements (here and here, respectively) seeking to quell the rising sentiment that they were perhaps more concerned about losing potential votes from centrist Democrats or moderate Republicans.

But what about those leading Republican presidential candidates?

The Politico has asked the question to representatives from the top three Republican presidential candidates (McCain, Giuliani and Romney) and - guess what - they all dodge the question as well.

In the meantime, John McCain seems to have stumbled on a question he didn't like either. No, not just on the issue of "immorality" of homosexuality but on the use of condoms to stem the transmission of HIV/AIDS.

From the Washington Post's On the Campaign Trail blog:
And then someone asked about public funding for contraception in Africa to prevent the spread of AIDS.

"I'm sure I've taken a position on it in the past," he stammered as he looked to his communications director. "I'm sure I'm opposed to government funding."

Sensing a vulnerable moment, reporters kept the questions coming. What about sex education in the schools? Should it mention contraceptives? Or only abstinence, like President Bush wants?

"I think I support the president's present policy," he said, tentatively.

More questions: Do condoms stop sexually transmitted disease?

A long pause.

A stern look.

"I've never gotten into these issues or thought much about them," he said, almost crying uncle. "Obviously, we all want to stop the spread of AIDS. Everybody wants to do that. What's the most viable way of doing that?"

Well? The reporters asked?

In a last ditch attempt to rescue himself, McCain told an aide to go get a briefing paper prepared by Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, a doctor, who he said has been advising him on "these issues." But the aide couldn't find the briefing paper. "We've lost it," McCain mumbled.

"Whether I support government funding for them or not, I don't know," McCain said about contraceptives. He then said he'd look into it for the reporters, who finally let him off the hook and moved onto other subjects again.

Yikes! This sure will be one looong presidential race...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Picture of the Day

Pedro Julio's take on yesterday's ACT UP protest

From Pedro Julio Serrano on yesterday's ACT UP protest:
Police picked Rabbi Klein- baum and Matt up off the ground and arrested them. They took them away for standing up against the immorality of an administration that has denied full citizenship to LGBT people, that has engaged in an immoral war killing hundreds of thousands and injuring many thousands more, that has been accomplice to the homophobia that destroys the moral fabric of this country. Indeed, not everything that is legal is moral and not everything that is moral is legal.
From "True Moral Leadership" over at Outspoken (yes, NGLTF's own blog).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

ACT UP to General Pace: Your War is Immoral

It's been a while since I told a story in pictures. So here it goes:

Having followed the recent developments regarding the 20th anniversary of ACT UP but having yet to attend one of the planning meetings, this morning I headed over to the first of several demos being planned to mark the occasion. The reason behind it? General Peter Pace's recent comments to the Chicago Tribune in which he called homosexuality "immoral."

With home made-signs that read "Being gay is not immoral, being bigoted is," "Torture is Immoral, Love is Fabulous," "Pace = Hate," and "Don't Ask Don't Tell, General Pace Go to Hell," a lively and lovely crowd of about 200 to 250 people showed up to the protest following Larry Kramer's call to arms on Tuesday.

Kramer (top picture) was among the participants and at one point joined Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and National gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman in knocking on the door of the Times Square Armed Forces recruitment office (or "Career Center" as they call it), but they might have known that ACT UP would be showing up because the Center remained shut and no one was inside.

Rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker brought along a 100 foot flag that participants used to frame the protest and surround the recruitment center.

This was the same flag that Matt Foreman and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum used at the end of the protest to stop traffic in an act of civil disobedience as they extended it across 7th Avenue. Mr. Foreman and Rabbi Kleinbaum were first warned by police officers and then quickly arrested after they sat down and would not budge.

The flag was also taken into custody.

As he promised after the Larry Kramer speech on Tuesday, former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey also showed up (that's me next to him in the bottom pic). Actually, he was amongst the first to arrive and offered to pick up coffee for me at Starbucks, alas, by the time he got back from Starbucks the protest was in full swing. Gay City News and Gay USA reporter Andy Humm spent most of his time doing an extensive interview with the former Governor so expect a detailed report in the next issue of GCN.

ACT UP'ers seen: Andrew Velez (with a "Queer Tortilla" ACT UP shirt), Eric Rhein (who wore his gay uncle's army jacket), Ann Northrop and Eric Sawyer, among others.

As well as: Puerto Rico Para Tod@s Pedro Julio Serrano, Village Voice gossip columnist Michael Musto, political mavens Allen Roskoff and Alan Fleishman, cutie patootie retired detective (and former Gay Officers Action League president) Edgar Rodriguez, Sirius radio personality and author Michaelangelo Signorile, blogger Joe.My.God and some misplaced tourists who just loved all those rainbow flags and angry fags.

What other blogs are saying:
MANY, MANY MORE PICS AT MY FOTKI SITE. Please ask for permission before using.


The Queer Justice League

The earth shook up a bit on Tuesday but I wonder if enough people noticed. Sure, in this blogging age you can certainly check what some thought about it.

Larry Kramer's latest speech at the standing-room only LGBT Center in commemoration of the 20th year anniversary of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) seems to be sending a few shock waves among those who were around during the seminal activist organization's glory days - and miss the good ol' direct action demonstrations that literally changed national and international policy on HIV/AIDS and saved or extended hundreds of lives. It might also be reverberating among a small group of nascent activists, including - hm - Jim McGreevey (!?).

The keepers of the flame, among them Eric Sawyer (pictured above), Ann Northrop and John Riley, had recently activated the ACT UP phone tree to gear up for the anniversary. An initial brainstorming meeting in January drew more than fifty people but the number had dwindled at recent meetings (the group had apparently had settled on "healthcare for all" as their main focus for their 20th anniversary action, which might be a laudable issue but not necessarily a sexy one).

The speech itself, christened "We are not crumbs, we must not accept crumbs" was pure Kramer if only a bit more hopeful than the last time he opened his mouth and chastised the gays (the less-well received "The Tragedy of Today's Gays" which he unveiled at Cooper Union on November 7, 2007).

You can read the text of both speeches at the above links but I'll point out that on Tuesday's speech Larry quoted Eric and said:
In the age of the internet we can do much of what we did in our meetings and on the streets, on the world wide web. The information technology available today could help end the need for those endless meetings. Creating a blog could, in fact, incorporate even more voices and varieties of opinions and ideas than any meeting ever could. Where ACT UP once had chapters in many cities, we could now involve thousands more via simple list-serves and blogs. We can draw in students and schools and colleges all over the world. It is the young we have to get to once again. Creating a blog would allow for expression and refinement of ideas and policies, like a Queer Justice League for denouncing our enemies. A well organized website could function as an electronic clearing house for sharing information, for posting problems, for demanding solutions, for developing and communicating action plans
My friend Rex actually has a link to the video of Larry Kramer's speech here as well as updates on upcoming ACT UP actions fed to him by Andy Humm here. But for up to the minute stuff you better keep your eye on the Queer Justice League. The Queer whats-a-magibit you say?

A new blog is born: Queer Justice League

Anyway, going back to McGreevey, does anyone else find it really funny that it took the former New Jersey Governor to try to get specifics from Larry? Left Behind, who was there, reflects on the moment and remembers "what it was like being a queer newbie, all excited about your first gay protest" as he more than welcomes McGreevy into the fold.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Homosexual Immorality

It might have been shocking (if not surprising) to hear General Peter Pace, the Joint Chief of Staff and top military leader in Iraq, call homosexuals "immoral" in a Chicago Tribune interview a couple of days ago but it's even more shocking that the two leading Democratic presidential candidates have had so much trouble distancing themselves from his comments.

You would think that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would be smart enough to unequivocally oppose those comments. Alas, neither did.

To wit:
There is no reason why in 2007 any Democrat (ole Republican for that matter) should hesitate at all on this question. I doubt either truly thinks that homosexuality is immoral but that they should even hedge on the issue speaks to political pandering at its worst.

UPDATE: Both camps issued clarifications through spokespersons according to The NY Times.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Breaking News: NY court says same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions should be recognized

According to Art Leonard over on his blog, New York Supreme Court Justice Joan B. Lefkowitz has rejected a legal challenge against Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano’s Order to county agencies that they extend recognition to same-sex marriages lawfully contracted in other jurisdictions."

The challenge was brought to the courts by an out of state right-wing litigation group called Alliance Defense Fund (in collaboration with local legislators). Lambda Legal joined Spano in a motion to dismiss the complaint on behalf of a couple who had married in Canada, Michael Sabatino, Jr. (above left) and Robert Voorhees (right) in a photo by yours truly.

The ruling is in contrast to two previous ones by New York trial courts in Nassau County and Monroe County which had ruled that last summer's marriage ruling by the Court of Appeals prevented recognition of out of state same sex marriages.

The ruling itself might also be appealed, in which case it would go up to the Appellate division.

So the legal fight continues but still a hopeful step in the right direction.

EXCLUSIVE: Miss Universe 2001 to back equal rights for gays, transgender individuals in Puerto Rico

( photo courtesy of: ; make up by )

A Blabbeando AND Puerto Rico Para Tod@s EXCLUSIVE:

--- To read a Spanish version of this statement please go to El Blog de PJ ---

In a press statement that will be sent out tomorrow, March 14 of 2007, Denise Quiñones, Miss Universe 2001, will publicly express her support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Puerto Rico. Her declaration makes her the Puerto Rican celebrity with the most international recognition to support equal rights for all in the island as part of the public debate on the revision of the Puerto Rican Civil Code.

The well-regarded and much-loved actress and singer will make a number of courageous and powerful statements expressing her unconditional support for proposed changes to Puerto Rico’s Civil Code which would grant civil union rights to same-sex couples as well as heterosexual couples.

Furthermore, Ms. Quiñones, who was recently recognized with the ACE award for Outstanding Theatre Actress, will also demonstrate her unconditional support for the entire LGBT community, and not just gays and lesbians, by also backing the right for transgender persons to change their birth certificates to better reflect their current gender.

She will also call on fellow Puerto Rican celebrities and personalities to join her in speaking out in favor of the LGBT community and ask the general public to see the ongoing public debate on the Civil Code as an opportunity to bring together the Puerto Rican family.

Finally, Denise will also urge those who believe in equality for all to visit the Puerto Rico Para Tod@s web portal where they can register and quickly send the legislature messages supporting these much-needed changes to the Civil Code.

The portal can be found here:

With these courageous and valiant words, Denise Quiñones is a towering example of what every fair-minded Puerto Rican person must do at this crucial moment in the fight for equality: Speak up without reservations in favor of justice for all.

Denise, we have always admired you for your beauty, your career as an artist and your extensive work on behalf of people who live with HIV/AIDS. Now we admire you even more!

Monday, March 12, 2007

My New York: Gay life in Jackson Heights

It might not be a jail sentence, but gay life in Jackson Heights / Woodside - my neighborhood - is suddenly "hot" in media (as it seems to be every few months when editors look for what's happening outside the Manhattan and Brooklyn gay scene).

In this week's New York Bade, Kerry Eleved writes about "Diversity in Jackson Heights."

She delves into the hipness of it all by profiling some upwardly mobile gay couples who have made the borough their home (among them acquaintances Glenn Magpantay and Alfonso Quiroz - and their respective partners).

Some point out that the gayness in the borough is nothing new but Eleved sticks to the "Who knew?" angle and confines the "diversity" tag mostly to gayness without exploring the extensive history of truly diverse gay life in the neighborhood.

The Village Voice does a bit better by featuring a couple of local Latina lesbian bars, Chueca and Bum Bum, both in Woodside, which truly represent the spirit of the neighborhood.

Bum Bum is the grandaddy of Latina lesbian bars in Queens - It might be grungy as hell but it certainly has a place in the neighborhood's history. And
Chueca? Not just because Fernanda, the owner, is also an acquaintance (and Colombian to boot) does not mean that, on the right night, it's just the best bar ever! Then again, I might be the only boy that can get in on some nights.

Finally, not necessarily on the gay tip, but perhaps what truly matters, the New York Daily News' Albor Ruiz has an interesting take on local politics.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Update: Marine Corps begin inquiry against Matt Sanchez

I guess you could see this coming: The Navy Times reports tonight that the Marine Corps Mobilization Command in Kansas, Mo., has begun an inquiry about reservist Matt Sanchez' past as a gay porn star.

As the article says, "While Sanchez says he has put his gay porn past behind him, the Marine Corps hasn’t. Homosexual behavior is prohibited by an article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that forbids 'sodomy.'"

This week I sent a message to Mr. Sanchez asking him to talk about his experience in the military as a Latino soldier and on his views on the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy.

There was an immediate reply: "Andres. There are no black, gay, or Puerto Rican Marines. There are just Marines. :)"

So I guess that's as far as I'll hear from Mr. Sanchez (I like the sideways smiley face though!).

Over on his blog, after a review of the testosterone filled flick "300," Cpl. Sanchez does give a link to a reply he posted on the Military Times (which also hosts the article posted in the Navy Times above).

His response: "I'll be writing another opinion piece on this subject to address this matter in my own words. I'd appreciate it, if my fellow Marines gave me the benefit of the doubt until then."

Art Leonard: A Dismal two weeks for gay and HIV+ political asylum seekers

NYU Law School professor Art Leonard continues his groundbreaking look at recent asylum court decisions and says that it has been "a pretty dismal showing over the past two weeks for gay and/or HIV+ asylum applicants."

He profiles cases in which the courts ruled against gay and/or HIV+ asylum seekers from the Philipines, China, Kenya, Turkey and Venezuela. Full details over on his blog.

In Paredes v. U.S. Attorney General, 2007 Westlaw 634424 (11th Circuit, March 5, 2007), which involves an HIV+ gay man from Venezuela, the court said:
"The evidence in the record may support a finding that there is discrimination against HIV-infected homosexual men in Venezuela, but that discrimination does not rise to the level of persecution. For example, the news articles that Paredes submitted establish that the police participated in arbitrary arrests of homosexual men and that there existed a culture of discrimination against homosexuals. Although such discrimination is reprehensible, it does not rise to the level of persecution that would compel reversal of the IJ's decision. Paredes's claim that there is a pattern or practice of persecution against HIV-infected homosexual men in Venezuela is further undercut by his multiple trips back to Venezuela with and without his domestic partners voer the past 20 years."
Regarding this ruling as well as the others, Mr. Leonard writes:
The bottom line, at least according to this opinion, is that in order for things to be bad enough to qualify for asylum, it is not enough to show that things are bad or difficult or even hazardous; one must show, more or less, that the government is out to systematically round up, abuse, and severely persecute gay (and or HIV+) people. What is continually frustrating in reading these opinions is their conclusory nature. The court will recite some evidence and then assert, without explanation, that it does not "rise to the level of persecution," without really explaining why not.