Monday, April 30, 2007

Jamaica: What does it take...

Above: Video originally posted on YouTube and then banned, re-posted on JumpCut thanks to Terrance Heath.

The homophobic drumbeat continues to flow from Jamaica. If you were reading some of the articles that appeared in Jamaican media last week you might have seen the following:

An April 22nd Jamaica Gleaner editorial column writer quoting a nameless Rastafarian leader he calls Soul Rebel defending reggae singers who have been targeted for their homophobia and sharing, among other things, this reasoning for Jamaican's hate of gays:
Listen man. They have sought with some measure of success to equate the civil rights and liberation movements for responsible freedom with their 'freedom', their devilish desire to 'make close contact with human waste matter'. And therein lies the real rub and nub of the matter, for it is this aspect of the practice that makes your average Jamaican see red.
An April 25th Jamaica Gleaner article in which Jamaica's public defender (!!) is said to have asked gays in the island to abstain from "flaunting sexual preference may incite violence" arguing that it "may provoke a violent breach of the peace." "Tolerance has its limits," he added.

So, considering the abysmal recent record on human rights abuses and crimes against the LGBT community in the Caribbean island, is it really any surprise that reports surfaced on Friday about yet one more mob attack against a transgender woman in Falmouth? (and no, it's not the same as the mob attack that took place on February 14th in Montego Bay).

This time, though, the attack was captured on camera and, not surprisingly, posted on YouTube.

That hasn't stopped editorial writers from saying that Jamaica's "moral values" are under attack by international pro-gay political and economic forces as Newton Gabbidon wrote in yesterday's Jamaica Gleaner, two days after the attack . At least some churches seem to be coming around on the issue of violence against gays and HIV positive people.

Indeed, international human rights agencies and some within Jamaica have been calling for a government and public response against crimes such as these. And both local and international activism around these crimes has certainly forced the nation to have an unprecedented dialogue on issues related to LGBT rights and homophobia (hence this and this). These are seeds for change that should be nurtured and I hope that they do not get lost in the reaction to the latest developments.

Today, a few of us were made aware that the YouTube video had been uploaded, giving graphic proof of the violence that is taking place in the island. Among those who have blogged about it are Terrance Heath (cross-listed at Pam's Houseblend), j.brotherlove, J's Theatre, Emanuel Xavier, Taylor Siluwé, Keith Boykin, Jamyne Cannick and Kenyon Farrow.

And tonight I can say with certainty that enough is enough: What does it take for the Jamaican government to stand up for its own people instead of leaving it up to others to call for an immediate end to the spilling of Jamaican LGBT blood on Jamaican soil?

Let's hope that this will be the catalyst that will truly turn things around in Jamaica. I will keep you posted on reactions and hopefully it will lead to action. It would be a shame if this becomes just one in a very long list of incidents instead of the final straw that broke the camel's back.

  • Editorial by the Jamaica Gleaner (May 1, 2007)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Colombia: Gay rights grow (and a note on Latin American LGBT rights coverage)

A decade ago there was hardly any consistent coverage in the United States of gay rights advances in Latin America, aside, perhaps from Rex Wockner's International News syndicated column (that's the blabbeador and el Rex a couple of years back).

Not that there weren't any good news coming from the region, just that most of what got reported were human rights abuses against the LGBT community as related by organizations such as Amnesty International.

Still, local activists were hard at work laying the ground for some of the stunning gay rights advances that have turned some heads as of late.

Just this week alone there have been interesting developments in Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Chile that pertain to same-sex partnership rights that I wish I could have a bit more time to discuss here (that may come later this weekend).

Increasingly, though, I don't even have to do the work as more stories come out in English-language press.

Case in point, this morning's San Francisco Chronicle story on what's been going on in my home country of Colombia (as we have tried to keep abreast in the past):
Some Colombian LGBT rights advocates see this as a bitter-sweet but historic moment. Passage of the bill discussed in the article would not grant civil union protections to same-sex couples in the country, just "patrimony rights" - but there are upcoming battles ahead that might gain some traction and require the government to expand on those rights.

Others bemoan that it gives an opportunity to conservative president Alvaro Uribe to gloat that his administration has been great on LGBT rights when, in the past he has indicated he would block more comprehensive legislation. This, even as some leading left-wing LGBT rights advocates have been driven out of Colombia due to death threats and attempts on their lives as has been the case with Manuel Antonio Velandia who blogs for the national weekly Semana and was the first person to appear on the cover of another newsweekly, Cambio, as an openly gay person.

As a matter of fact, Alvaro Araujo, the conservative Senator that introduced the "patrimony" bill that was successfully adopted last year by the Colombian senate is among several senators being investigated for alleged ties to right-wing paramilitary forces. A scandal that has sometimes threatened to derail President Uribe's immense popularity as it gets closer to his office.

So a bittersweet moment it will be but a historic moment nevertheless.

Musica: KissMyBlackAss!

Alright, then. Mincing no words, that's Quentin Harris for you.

Musica: Karizma on the DL

Karizma on the down load tip: Not sure how much longer it will be up but Karizma has posted a full downloadable clip of his last house mix online (pick it up here). Other radio mix downloads available at his MySpace page.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wika needs company

So when Steven passed away last year (and thanks to comments I made on this blog about it) some cool peeps reached out and shared their thoughts on him as well. One of them was Wika who lives in Hawaii and did this vlog in remembrance. Beautiful voice, no?

Well, a few days ago we all screamed like a little girl when Wika faced his office nemesis. Thankfully Wika overcame.

Unfortunately, having overcome, Wika pinched his sciatic nerve at work yesterday (ouch!). Anyone wanna keep him company?

More of Wika - and his voice - here.

PS - Hm, no that is not Hawaii above. The Wika-man just wanted to taste how Chicago snowflakes taste. Go figure.

This Friday: Meet Mexican gay rights advocate Antonio Medina

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) invites you to a “meet & greet” with Antonio Medina, well-known journalist and editor of Letra S, La Jornada’s monthly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and sexology supplement. La Jornada is one of Mexico’s most important newspapers. Medina will share his own experiences in trying to eradicate sensationalistic LGBT images in mainstream media.

Hear – from someone who’s always been at the forefront – how the LGBT community enacted Mexico City’s civil unions. Medina and his partner, Jorge Cerpa (pictured above in a photo from La Jornada) became the first gay couple who signed a civil union in that city.

Come & create ways to share vital information between your organization and Mexico’s LGBT community.

Date: Friday, April 27, 2007
Location: GLAAD
248 W 35th St, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Time: 7pm-9pm

Snacks will be served.

YOU MUST RSVP: E-mail Mónica Taher at or call Hunter Aldrich at 646-871-8007.

Event co-sponsored by: The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Mano a Mano, Mateando, Puerto Rico para Tod@s, Gay and Lesbian Dominican Empowerment Organization (GALDE) & Primer Movimiento Peruano LGBT.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Musica: Might. Just. Make It (Jon Cutler & Matthias Heilbronn)

Beautiful weather, Brooklyn's own Jon Cutler and Matthias Heilbronn, free noon to sunset shindig... in Hell's Kithcen! Sounds too good to pass up. Might see you there....

Mexican-born trans man wants to be high school prom king in Fresno

Tony Covarrubias, who was born in Jalisco, Mexico as a woman, wants to be crowned king at tonight's Fresno High School prom night event. The Associated Press says that advocates believe that this is the first time that a transgender person openly runs for prom royalty but leads the article by calling Tony by his female name and refers to him as "she" throughout the article. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has met with the AP in the past to address the terminology they use and have shown themselves encouraged by their treatment of certain stories on transgender issues but apparently some work remains to be done.

UPDATE: No prom king crown for Covarrubias.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tracey Thorn on Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy"

You might remember that earlier this month I raved about Tracey Thorn's new CD, "Out of the Woods." Well, when I found out arjanwrites was requesting fan questions to pose to Ms. Thorn, I just had to sumbmit my a question of my own and, lo and behold, it's been asked! Better yet, it's been anwered!

From arjanwrites (my q in orange):

Questions from Andres, Brian and Gabriel: Even if "A-Z" does not necessarily have an overt gay theme, some of the lyrics do have some resonance in comparison to Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy." Did you see "A-Z" as mirroring that seminal '80's song? What was the inspiration for that song and what are your feelings about gay rights in general. How do you feel about the gay community embracing you?

Tracey Thorn: "A-Z" was inspired by, and is in part an act of homage to the great "Smalltown Boy" (as an interesting footnote to my answer above, when i first heard Jimmy Somerville, i thought he was a woman, so there you go). I read an article in the paper about bullying of gay teenagers in schools, and how prevalent it is, and how it is a leading cause of teenage suicide, which is sad and dispiriting. It makes me feel enormous sympathy and warmth towards anyone who has the misfortune to be any kind of outsider at school. Kids can be such lumpen idiots.

I've always been kind of embraced by the gay community and I am very proud to be so - I feel very welcomed and understood by gay fans, in a way that i sometimes don't feel understood by the more heterosexually-oriented-male-dominated rock community, for instance. It s a cliche in some ways, but it is about a basic and shared understanding that Dusty Springfield is more important than Bobby Gillespie.

For the full Q&A: Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Next up on Arjan's "Ask the Artist" series: Andy Bell of Erasure, ask your questions now.

By the way, congrats to arjanwrites on his profile in The Advocate.

Bay Area Reporter: Disrespectful burial, gay radio jock, GLAAD goes to Mexico

Today's Bay Area Reporter has a number of stories that may be of interest to Blabbeando readers, some on which we have commented before. Among them:

Disrespectful burial: Mourners who went to pay their respects to murdered Latina transgender woman Ruby Rodriguez (also known as Ruby Ordeñana) in San Francisco were not happy to find that she had been dressed as a man for the viewing. Apparently the Nicaraguan Consulate had called the funeral home where the viewing took place to say that Ordeñana's father had requested that she be buried in men's clothing. Close friends expressed surprise at finding out that Ms. Ordeñana had any relatives living in the Bay Area.

Outed ex-Univision Radio employee now a radio show host: The Reporter also profiles 46 year old radio broadcaster Roberto Hernández (pictured), host of a weekly radio show targetting the Spanish language LGBT community in San Francisco (Roberto Al Medio Dia! on KIKI 1010AM).

In 2002, Mr. Hernández sued Univision Radio when, as an employee, he was outed as a gay man in a live prank call he received from two radio shock jocks that also worked for the radio network. He tells the Reporter that the case was settled for $270,000 which he has used to launch his own show and to launch a non-profit group somewhat awkwardly called Gay y Lesbianas Unidos Contra la Homophobia or GLUCH.

GLAAD crosses the border: Little noticed when it happened a few weeks ago, there was history of sorts made by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. On April 2nd Monica Taher, GLAAD's people of color strategy director, and Luis Perelman, President of the Mexican Federation of Sexual Education and Sexology met with producers and hosts of the Azteca America Network's "Ventaneando" gossip television show. At issue was homophobic language expressed by one of the hosts during one of the tapings which was later broadcast in the United States. The Reporter takes a look at the outcomes and has some local reaction.

Now, for some of us with an eye on Latino media, it seems more than appropriate that GLAAD target Spanish-language television production networks and production houses such as Azteca, Univision, Telemundo and others but the truth is that a great deal of their content is produced outside the United States. So it's worth noting that this particular meeting took place in Mexico City (full disclosure: Monica is one of my bestest friends in the world, but still pretty groovy). I might be wrong, but I believe it is the first time that GLAAD has targetted conglomerates airing programming in the United States even if they are based outside the United States.

Governor Spitzer: No gay marriage in the next 9.5 weeks

In yesterday's New York Times, Governor Eliot Spitzer addressed his priorities for the two months left in the current legislative session with campaign reform at the top. Not among the priorities, gay marriage, an issue he supported before being elected governor.

This morning The Politicker's Azi Paybarah stopped by a breakfast presentation at Crain's by the Governor in which he spoke of the recent bruising budget fight with the health care industry. At the meeting Spitzer was asked why gay marriage was not listed among his priorities. His response? It's something that is "not likely to be passed in the next ten weeks."

Over at the Daily News Daily Politics Elizabeth Benjamin cuts the time to 9.5 weeks and quotes Spitzer as saying "I am focusing on politics as the art of the possible."

OK, then. How about in 12 weeks? 30? Hm, any forseable time during your tenure as Governor?

Paul Schindler at Gay City News elaborates in an article for today's print edition and says that some leading same-sex marriage advocates and friendly legislators still think that Spitzer will support a same-sex marriage bill sooner than later (if not in the next 9.5 weeks).

Meetings, we've got meetings...

Not sure I can make it to any of tonight's two meetings or even next week's meetings but...

Calling it the Queer Justice League (asterisk*) might be inappropriate because some people have reservations about the (*) name and it was supposed to be an interim name (*) anyway, but there's a bunch of people meeting at 7pm tonight at the LGBT Center on 13th Street. It's the 2nd meeting since a speech by Larry Kramer riled up the masses. I can't promise that the issue of whether to use Robert's Rules of Order will be resolved by meeting's end. Do try to take a chill pill beforehand so you can be in the right mood to deal with different levels of oppression and the tension level that a few hundred e-mail messages have ratcheted up. Maybe, just maybe, something will come out of it. If there seems to be consensus on one thing it's that they want some freakin' direct action, NOW! So at the very least maybe you too can throw your pet cause into the ring and see if it sticks. It's been billed as a "working meeting" to address some remaining process issues with a "full meeting" to follow at 8pm on April 26th, also at the Center. For updates click here [NOTE: Gay City News has more on what went on druring the first meeting here].

Not to be confused with the (non-asterisk *) ACT-UP meetings that still take place every Monday at 8pm also at the Center.

Tonight, though, ACT-UPers and ACT-UP allies can also head over to the City University of New York for "CLAGS LGBTQ Studies Panel: Discussions Around the History of ACTUP." That also takes place at 7pm tonight (not sure if some asterisks * will make it should the meeting at the Center end up early). What is the CLAGS meeting about?

"To mark the 20th anniversary of ACT UP, this round table discussion features Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard, co-coordinators of the ACT UP Oral History Project and co-founders of the MIX New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film Festival, and invited guests. The conversation will focus on the early history of AIDS activism in New York City, the birth and history of ACT UP, and the needs in/for AIDS activism today."

It's free and open to the public and will take place at the Skylight Room (#9100) of the Graduate Center at CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue (at 34th Street) in Manhattan. Need more info? Call 212 817-1955 or click here.

Speaking of April 26th, you might want to make it to the Center a couple of hours earlier before the 3rd Queer Justice League (asterisk *) meeting: The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control and the Bureau of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (whew! THEY should have an asterisk!) is presenting "A Community Discussion on Male Circumcision and HIV Prevention."

If it turns out to be half as interesting as the one a few of us held with them a few days ago in the wake of this, it should be a hoot.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Blog rundown

Rex continues his perusal of old ACT UP photographs (painful scanning involved) here (first part is here).

Arthur Leonard has decided to stop using the names of individuals when reporting on political asylum cases even if he will continue writing about asylum court decisions. He also has a fascinating analysis of today's dissenting statement by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision ruling against so called "partial birth abortions" AND a note about an anti-gay discrimination suit against Starbucks.

One of our favorite fag hags and savviest of Latina bloggers, elenamary says she has launched a Latinas for Obama group but also expresses some slight annoyance with Obama's lead Latino organizer.

Lorenzo has seen tension grow in the LGBT community over the last few years on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Good As You explores God Tube. Yes, I said God Tube, not You Tube.

OMG! I think I spotted Noel in one of Paul's debaucherous bar night posts.

JockoHomo has some Bebel goodness as a preview to the new CD.

Manhattan Offender celebrates Happy Gonorrhea Awareness Week! Yay!

Monaga is just, well, Monaga. Just about the most comprehensive site on gay night life (and day life) in the Dominican Republic.

El Oso Raro at Slaves of Academe remembers one of the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings.

Pedro Julio gloats (as well he should).

Dear Advocate and Queerty: The US also bans HIV+ immigrants

The Advocate often relies on the Associated Press for daily news updates posted on their online site so it wasn't surprising to see an AP story pop up on the site about statements made on Friday by Australian Prime Minister John Howard "people with the AIDS virus should not be allowed to migrate to Australia."

No mention in the AP blurb or elsewhere on the site that the United States also has banned HIV+ people from immigrating to this country since 1990.

Searching for "HIV ban" on their site the only reference is a pro-immigration statement that I signed, along with another 54 activists, which the Advocate Online reprinted in April of last year.

To be fair, the print edition of The Advocate has addressed the HIV ban in past articles that are not available online but it made me wonder if the online news editor had any inkling that a ban also exists in this country.

In the past, we have questioned the Advocate's reliance on the AP wires as their main source for their online news, particularly when the AP kept sending stories that unilaterally focused on anti-gay activities and statements by conservative institutions in Puerto Rico without mention of pro-gay developments (or advocacy) in the island. The editor at the time replied that "
we are an extremely small company with no full-time Web staff and do not have the resources to do original reporting for our Web site, so we rely on wire coverage and other media whose work we can summarize for our readers" - but that was a few years back.

Online portals being what they are today and considering improvement in original reporting in their print edition, let's hope that The Advocate is making moves to improve it's original reporting online as well.

Queerty, who never sees an Advocate blurb it doesn't like, screams "Australia has discovered a cure for AIDS: Banishment!" but it takes a reader to point out to them that, yes, the policy they're criticizing editorially is actually this country's policy as well.

False hopes? As for the United States HIV ban, President George W. Bush raised hopes last December that he might be open to changing the law when he directed the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to "initiate a rulemaking that would propose a categorical waiver" for HIV travelers in the United States but Gay Men's Health Crisis and Immigration Equality issued a joint press release warning that the President's order "does not rescind HIV travel ban."

Coalition to Lift the Ban: A number of local - read: NY metropolitan area - HIV service providers, immigration advocates and agencies are organizing a community forum for May 15th on this topic. In their statement they say:

"For twenty years U.S. policy has banned HIV + non-citizens from traveling and immigrating to the U.S., supposedly to protect public health and minimize public costs. Yet forcing HIV+ immigrants underground, and discouraging preventative care, the bar increases the risk to public health and the cost of health care, while limiting the lives of affected immigrants in incalculable ways."

I may ad that a foreign student that might qualify for a student visa, a foreign worker that might qualify for a work-related visa, or a foreign person that might qualify for residency status based on a petition by a brother or sister who is a citizen of the United States, will not be allowed to gain entry into the United States if they are HIV+.

There are only limited waivers when the petition is made by parents of an HIV+ child or through marriage.

Feel free to reach me at if you would like additional information on the May 15th forum.

Rev. Al Sharpton on FBI probe of Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr.

The Reverend Al Sharpton on the current FBI probe of State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. and his son, Assemblymember Ruben Diaz, Jr.:
The fact of the matter is that it might not hurt them at all. Sometimes, in communities of color, attacks from law enforcement backfire. When you’re under attack, it gives your supporters a chance to rally around you, especially when the attacks seem unfair or unwarranted.
From a profile of the Senator and his son in today's New York Times. The article notes the differences of opinion between father and son on issues regarding same-sex marriage and abortion, among other issues (h/t The Agenda).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Breaking News: Puerto Rican Archbishop gives OK to "domestic partnerships" for same sex couples

A lot has happened since March 13th, when Blabbeando and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s exclusively announced that Miss Universe 2001, Denise Quiñonez, would publicly support civil union rights for same-sex couples in the Caribbean island (in light of the revelation that a new draft of Puerto Rico's civil code included language allowing for such partnerships - another Blabbeando and Puerto Rico Para Tod@s exclusive back in January)

A chronology:

March 14th: The press release is sent out to media and sends shock-waves through the island. Puerto Rican media is already entranced by the release of a brand new video, the day before, by Denise's boyfriend René Pérez, also known among reggaetón lovers as Residente of the Grammy winning band Calle 13. The video for the song "El Tango del Pecado" ("The Tango of Sin") pokes fun at the horror that some in the island feel about the beauty queen's involvement with a reggaetón star and plays into those fears by staging his wedding to Denise (yet to take place in real life), proudly calling himself the devil, and making fun of the beauty queen's parents (who reportedly are mad at him for their cartoonish portrayal in the video).

Ms. Quiñonez, who must have known that her statements might have conflicted with the media assault by Calle 13 in the launch of their new video and upcoming album, was in Los Angeles at the time and not available for interviews until later. It is to both their merit that they thought the issue was important enough to draw attention from the album release.

She not only backs civil unions for same-sex couples but also marriage. In addition she also supports language in the same draft that would allow transgender people to change their names in their birth certificates (a fact that has received little attention in media).

March 21: It's not until a week later that Ms. Quiñonez is available for interviews from her home in Los Angeles, where she is trying to break into the acting field. In radio interviews hosts express disbelief that the words in her press release have come directly from her. One radio jockey says "It sounds as if [Puerto Rico Para Tod@s'] Pedro Julio Serrano was speaking through your mouth!"

Denise graciously calls Pedro Julio a close friend and somebody for whom she will support every time that it's required. But she also speaks passionately about the rights of gays and lesbians as well as transgender people and claims the words as her own. Believe me, that's a huge thing in Latin American culture.

March 23: In response to Denise's comments to press, Johanna Rosaly, a Puerto Rican actress who reveals that her son is gay to El Vocero, also comes out in support (world renown singer Chayanne was less forthcoming in an April 13 interview when he told Primera Hora that it was good that people were claiming their rights but stopped short of endorsing the measure while pop sensation Ricky Martin might have backed outed RBD singer Christian Chavez but he has yet to say anything about his home island's legislative proposal to extend partnership rights to same-sex couples.

April 11: Enter a kiss. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, for which Pedro Julio works, has an English translation of his speech from the original Spanish.

April 18: Which leads to today's breaking news: Just minutes ago El Nuevo Dia reported that the San Juan Archbishop, Roberto González Nieves (pictured above), will go before a legislative committee studying the approval of changes to the island's civil code and announce his support for "domestic unions" as long as the committee stays away from language granting "marriage" rights to same-sex couples.

All in all, an astounding victory which probably means that Puerto Rican same-sex couples will have access to civil union rights in the very near future. Just amazing!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Downtown Divas: Latino drag queens in Gilroy, California

On Satuday, the Gilroy Dispatch featured "Downtown Divas," a look at Latino drag-queens performing at a local gay bar called Rio Nilo. Read full article here. Photo of Violeta by Lora Shraft for the Dispatch.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Political notes: Clinton hearts Latinos, Giuliani's early 5 de Mayo

Clinton's Raza man: Yesterday, Hillary Clinton tapped former National Council of La Raza president Raul Yzaguirre "to co-chair her presidential campaign and lead its outreach to Hispanic voters" according to the Associated Press.

Deemed the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the country, I'm not necessarily sure just what that means. Surely, La Raza has a history of beltway work and probably has a bigger name in the Southern and South West than elsewhere in the United States, but they have little brand recognition or political inroads in Northwestern or Northeastern states. The same, actually, might be said about presidential candidate Bill Richardson, which might speak more to why the Clinton camp hired Yzaguirre than anything else.

The anti-immigrant right has always tried to paint La Raza as an extremist threat to the United States and gone as far as mistaken it for the truly crazy California based newspaper La Voz de Aztlan. And I guess if you are truly anti-immigrant, La Raza could be seen that way, but on policy the agency has been pretty middle of the road and sometimes actually conservative, a legacy of Mr. Yzguirre's term as their president. I mean, La Raza was all goo-goo over Alberto Gonzalez when he was nominated to serve as Attorney General so if you are waiting for them to ask for his resignation (which they should as it would probably give La Raza some stature they sometimes lack) don't hold your breath.

But I digress, by then Yzaguirre had resigned as president. What sticks with me from his tenure, though, is the agency's lack of interest in working with Latino gay advocacy agencies or advocates on LGBT issues. If it wasn't for Martin Ornelas, then CEO of the National Latino LGBT Organization (LLEGO), La Raza would have probably avoided gay issues all together. As it was, they pretty much always passed the buck to LLEGO anyway. So, in some ways, a disappointing pick by Hillary.

Guiliani's 5 de Mayo comes early this year: In the meantime, at least La Raza has credibility and some legislative muscle on certain issues. The DC-based Latino Coalition, on the other hand, hasn't seen a Latino-pandering politician they don't like (whether it's George "macaca" Allen or the esteemed former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Sr., M.D.) or a press release distribution agency that they won't flood. So when it comes to the Coalition the less said the better?

Except that of all the presidential candidates they have invited to their annual 2-day Small Business Economic Summit in DC, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the first to confirm his attendance (he'll make an appearance on May 1st).

Among their stands, the Coalition supported the more draconian immigration bills surging through the nation's legislative bodies last year by lambasting the McCain-Kennedy bill as "polarizing" and criticized New York Senator Hillary Clinton last year for standing her ground in protecting HIV prevention funds for affected communities in the larger urban centers.

Surprisingly the Coalition ended up endorsing Clinton in her Senate re-election bid last year. In the past they have also endorsed IL State Senator Barack Obama. If Guiliani is the only one to show and pander, will he get the nod?

Musica: Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark on tour

Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys have reunited and OMD, for short, are back. They even have a brand new MySpace page. No US stops have been announced on their upcoming "Architecture & Morality Tour." We know of people who have bought plane tickets to Europe just to see them. Let's hope they eventually make it to these shores. I was lucky to catch them live back in 1984 during their Junk Culture tour. Some highlights from their career (or at least from those songs that have videos uploaded on YouTube):

My New York: A tree goes up in Madison Square Park

Madison Square Park, today at 3:05PM or so...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

If I had time...

If I had time, I'd probably blog about:

1. Puerto Rico debates civil unions for same-sex couples: My friend Pedro Julio Serrano's amazingly moving speech today in Puerto Rico asking a panel that is currently reviewing changes to the island's civil code to approve language that would grant civil union status to same-sex couples. El Nuevo Dia says that he began his declaration by kissing his partner, Steven Toledo on his lips shocking some legislators. Earlier the paper also said that, at the end of his speech, Pedro Julio began to call on several same-sex couples in the audience by their names and, one by one, they stood up as he told the audience that "We are just as human as you are, we are just as equal as you are, we are just as Puerto Rican as you are. Honorable legislators, please do what is just, do what is right: Please validate equal rights before the law of all human beings. Everyone is everyone" (photo above by Andre Kang of Primera Hora; some people cried).

2. Lesbian Judge Karen Atala might settle custody suit with the Chilean government with the help of a New York based attorney: In a case before the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights Chilean judge Karen Atala alleges that her country discriminated against her by granting custody of her daughters to her ex-husband only because she was a lesbian. Now comes word that the suit might be settled if Chile agrees to Atala's terms (see Rompiendo el Silencio). Her lawyer, Macarena Sáez, is based in New York City and some US agencies have filed amicus briefs on Atala's behalf.

3. Transgender murders in Chile increase: The Santiago Times via has the details.

4. Gays in Turkey: The Turkish Daily News reports on recognition of gays and lesbians in the country.

Monday, April 09, 2007

NYC Health Commissioner: The Times "misrepresented" comments on circumcision

[NOTE: This statement was sent out to community activists in .pdf form earlier today. I have not been able to find a direct link to the statement at the Health Department's site but the LifeLube blog also received the document and has uploaded and made it available for download here]

Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor
Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., Commissioner

April 9, 2007

Dear Community Member:

Recent media reports misrepresent the Health Department’s response to recent studies showing that circumcision significantly reduces HIV transmission in some contexts. We do not yet know what impact circumcision could have on HIV transmission in New York City, and we have not suggested or planned any initiative or campaign. Quite to the contrary, I indicated in an interview with the New York Times (the source of the misrepresentation) that I very much doubted that even 1% of men at high risk in NYC would undergo the procedure.

As a result of rigorous studies, we now know that circumcision reduces risk of female-to-male spread of HIV by about 60%. There is some evidence, but no proof, that circumcision may reduce male-to-female transmission. There is also some evidence, but again no proof, that it may protect men who engage in insertive anal sex from male-to-male transmission.

Our goals are the following:

• Inform the community of the facts regarding what is known and what is not known about circumcision’s effects on HIV transmission;
• Promote discussion among community groups and health care providers to explore how circumcision may be relevant in New York City;
• Increase access to circumcision for men who want the procedure.

The need for new effective prevention methods is urgent. But even if circumcision is as effective in preventing male-to-male transmission as it is in preventing female-to-male transmission, it does not by any means eliminate the risk of becoming infected with, or spreading, HIV. Any new approach, including circumcision, needs to be seen as an addition to our existing portfolio of proven HIV prevention strategies, including reduction of unsafe sexual encounters and consistent condom use.

There will be a community forum in the next few weeks to discuss these issues and we hope you can attend.

Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Musica: 4hero, Tracey Thorn, Karizma - It's All Good

I previewed these albums earlier this year (with all sorts of lovey-dovey links and whatnots here) so now that they're out, are they any good?

4hero: Lush in all the right places, moving in its grandeur and up to par with their best work, "Play with the Changes" continues 4hero's exploration of earthly sensual grooves and warm orchestral compositions. Opening track "Morning Child" was the first single, now followed up by the anti-war protest song "The Awakening" featuring poet Ursula Rucker. The album sounds like running through grass with bare feet on a warm summer day, a flower stuck behind your ear and wind running through whatever's left of your hair. Love me some syncopated rhythms of "Sink or Swim (No Choice for Me)," the sensual break up song "Give In," and the sultry "Bed of Roses" with Jody Watley (previously featured on her sub par album "The Makeover"). Still, all those superlatives and I have to confess that the CD has not been on my high rotation list. I believe I-Tunes also have additional tracks on their album download which sucks for some of us who still buy CD's. Additional info on 4hero's MySpace page.

Tracey Thorn: To be sincere, aside from a great Martin Buttrick re-rub of lead single "It's All True," when the song was released in advance of the proper album it left me cold (ingenious video here) and made me think that Thorn's "Out of the Woods" would be a dud. A promised remake of the Pet Shop Boys "King's Cross" was left off the album and the supposed gay content of "A - Z" is not necessarily overt despite the obvious lyrical nods to Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy." Turns out it doesn't matter: The album is amazing!

It's so great to hear Tracey's voice once again. There is a great webiste in support of the album and, of course, a MySpace page where the highlight is Ms. Thorn's lovely (and often very funny) blog (which is how I know that Arjanwrites has an exclusive interview coming up on his blog).

Some have complained that the album
doesn't break new ground but I beg to differ (what did they want, Tracey Thorn sings the Britney Spears catalogue?). Sometimes during her vocalist years for Everything But the Girl her voice seemed at the mercy of Ben Watt's musical explorations but - while there are some echoes of past EBTG work - she definitely seems in full control of the new album's semi-retro concept, the themes and the choice of collaborators.

Rightly, the Village Voice calls it "
Sublimely nonchalant electro-pop majesty." Standout tracks: "Easy," the glittering "Falling off a log," "Grand Canyon" and the gorgeous "By Picadilly Station I Sat Down and Wept."

Karizma: I was pretty stunned when I walked into Virgin Records this week and found a single copy of "A Mind of Its Own." I've been trumpeting Baltimore's Kris Klayton ever since I saw him spin at Li'l Ray's annual Brooklyn Clubhouse Jamboree back in September not being aware then that, along with DJ Spen, he'd been part of The Basement Boys (the legendary house music producing team behind some of Crystal Water's early tracks, among others). Still, the launch of Karizma's first album seemed to be a low key push by most sings which is why I was so shocked Virgin even had a copy. I quickly snatched it up and now it won't leave my stereo or my headphones.

Sure, it probably won't be to everyone's taste, the least of it being that these are mostly instrumental dance tracks. They also don't necessarily have the production shine of the Tracey Thorn or 4hero albums but, in some ways, that in itself opens it up to try new rhythm textures and moods which truly opens the album up as the sound of the future of dance (along the lines of Dennis Ferrer's recently released masterpiece "The World As I See It").

If the annoying word of the year is "pitchy," I hope you won't be annoyed by the characterization of this new sound as "techy." Then again, Karizma himself names two of the tracks "Tech This Out, Pt. 2" and "All Teched Out."

The one mistep, "K.O.N.G.," is nearly unlisteneable. But the rest more than makes up for it and, as a bonus, CD buyers also get a code to download two additional Karizma tracks off the r2 records online page. I love, love, love this CD. Wanna know more? Check out Karizma's MySpace page or r2 records MySpace page. Stand out tracks: "T W Y St This" and the thirteen minute "The Damn Thing."

In New York, Karizma will make a special appearance at APT on April 17th and return for a headliner gig also at APT on May 10th.

Updates: Constable Dupree, Rev. Diaz' money, Larry Kramer challenged

Dupree's troubles: Things for gay Dallas constable Mike Dupree get thornier - according to the Dallas Voice - as the Texas State Attorney General's Office mulls prosecution in a series of charges that have arisen since the Dallas Observer reported last year that the fifty year old man had apparently had his deputies arrest a twenty year old Honduran ex-lover and arranged to have him deported. Santo Gay highlights a more recent Dallas Observer story in which they detect a pattern in the type of guys Dupree goes for and how he gets his way with them.

Rev. Diaz' purse strings: The homophobic Reverend (and State Senator) Ruben Diaz, Sr. hasn't let an FBI probe disturb the way he channels state funding towards projects in which he is directly associated. On April 4, the New York Daily News reported that the recently approved state budget includes two grants worth close to $300K for the Christian Community Benevolent Association.

Reactions to Kramer: Following the ACT UP Wall Street demonstration a week ago Thursday, Gay City News has a cover page story on the rally this week. In the same issue, CHAMP Executive Director Julie Davids has an essay on the role of women in ACT UP throughout the years and Larry Kramer's failiure to aknowledge them in his recent rable-rousing speech.

Over at the New York Blade Paul Varnell argues, in
an OpEd piece, that Kramer's speeches are "characterized by substantial exaggerations of fact, hyperbolic rhetoric and a certain amount of vulgarity" and that his most recent statements are incoherent.

PS - By the way, speaking about local gay media, Gay City News also
inaugurated it's first webcast this week featuring editor in chief Paul Schindler.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Brazil: Circumcision not an HIV prevention tool for gay men

If it wasn't for Vivir Latino on my blog roll, I might have missed this tidbit from Spain's 20 Minutos.

Turns out that even before NYC health commissioner Thomas Frieden spoke to The New York Times on plans to promote circumcision as an HIV prevention method for men "at high risk" of HIV transmission in the city, the head of another health department a few thousand miles away had pretty much rejected that same idea based on the same studies that Frieden used to support his push.

On March 28th, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS released a joint statement recommending that "male circumcision should be part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package."

In the statement Dr. Kevin De Cock (love the name), Director of the HIV/AIDS Department at WHO, said:
The recommendations represent a significant step forward in HIV prevention. Countries with high rates of heterosexual HIV infection and low rates of male circumcision now have an additional intervention which can reduce the risk of HIV infection in heterosexual men. Scaling up male circumcision in such countries will result in immediate benefit to individuals. However, it will be a number of years before we can expect to see an impact on the epidemic from such investment.
In addition the statement warns that before implementing the plan among other populations further research was needed:
In countries where the HIV epidemic is concentrated in specific population groups such as sex workers, injecting drug users or men who have sex with men, there would be limited public health impact from promoting male circumcision in the general population.
Not heeding those caveats, the Times says that Frieden told them that "it is logical to assume that circumcision would offer protection in some types of gay sex."

Enter Brazil: Known for their groundbreaking HIV prevention programs, particularly in gay populations, Mariángela Simao - the technical advisor of the Brazilian health ministry - told news agency EFE that the studies did not provide any data that circumcision reduced the risk of HIV transmission among gay men.

She also pointed out that the recommendations only were applicable in countries where HIV incidence reached more than 15% of the population which would leave out every Latin American country.

Simao expressed concern that circumcised men might get the message that it is OK for them to have unprotected sex without any risks of HIV transmission and said that she feared that, based on the recommendations, developed countries would now devote current international HIV treatment funding towards circumcision surgery procedures instead of proven methods.

In other words, Brazil has officially rejected circumcision as an HIV prevention method amongst gay men - until specific studies are done - and says that they would rather concentrate their prevention funding on promoting condom use and the free availability of HIV treatments for those that test positive.

Updates: In his statement to the New York Times Commissioner Frieden said that he had consulted gay rights and helth service organizations before speaking to the Times but in the April 6 edition of The New York Post, Tokes Osubu, Executive Director of Gay Men of African Descent says "For anyone to think there is going to be a long line of men in their 20's lining up to have part of their anatomy chopped off, it's ludicrous" and Michael Robinson of People of Color in Crisis says "I can't imagine us going around encouraging adult men to have adult circumcision. It's just too painful."

If these are the reactions of two top gay African-American leaders in the city I wonder which gay advocacy and health service organizations the Commissioner did reach before speaking to media. An April 7 New York Post editorial criticized Dr. Frieden for the proposal (but it should be said that the Post has previously assailed Frieden for some of the City's sound health policy projects including the indoor public space smoking ban and a proposal to ban trans-fats from being used in restaurants throughout the city).

On April 6, the New York Times printed a follow up article in which Mayor Michael Blooberg seemed to distance himself a bit from Frieden's statements.

The Agenda blog also points out that the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene posted a brief response to some of the criticism that sprung over at the New York Times political blog, The Empire Zone (read comments here).

In the brief statement Geoffrey Cowley, a spokesman for the Department of Health, denies that agency is ready to launch a campaign to promote circumcision as an HIV prevention tool in New York City but says that, considering the results of the research in Africa, the possibility is worth exploring.

The Department of Health has also said that they will be organizing community town-hall meetings on the issue to get some feed-back.