Saturday, December 29, 2007

Funniest blog post of 2007

I am sorry. I can't even bring myself to translate this but, next to Belky's Salon, this is the funniest blog post of the year, courtesy of Lake y su bizarre streaming. Maybe you should brush up on your Spanish? Still you'll probably get some of it even if your own sausages aren't prone to speaking up and telling you "Don't worry, lady, they're pausterized!" It's oh so crass but I cracked up the moment I saw it. Blogger Mariano caught the image at a Buenos Aires supermarket stand. The untranslatable and funniest part? The deep low voice that pops into my head when I think about how the weiner would sound which probably matches that of many an Argentinian talk show host's, circa 1982.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The news stories that stuck with me in 2007

As a regular newshound there are always a few stories that stick with you at year's end. This year its seems they are mostly about immigration.

This was the year that immigration became a political bugaboo (replacing, in some ways, same sex marriage as a wedge issue). Two of the stories that spring to mind are related to migrant labor and the harshness of life in the streets for some of the undocumented immigrants that come to the United States seeking work.

In late November The New York Times profiled a Colombian-born man from Queens, Jorge Muñoz, and his daily efforts to provide warm home-made food to the day laborers that congregate in the streets of Woodside, just a few blocks away from my own apartment, as they try to get picked up in the early mornings to do the menial and rural work that most people won't do.

It might be argued that Mr. Muñoz makes it easier for undocumented immigrants to remain in the country by providing them food but just try to sleep in the streets of New York on a winter night and sustain yourself on one meal a day and then talk to me about "easy."

You might be surprised by some of my views on immigration (I, for one, do believe that each country has the right to regulate immigration and was also against NYS Governor Eliot Spitzer's push to grant driving licences to undocumented immigrants) but - as an immigrant myself - I also understand the sacrifices that these men make to make a living in this country and loathe the way that anti-immigrant zealots try to deny their humanity.

It is for this reason that I found Adam Bellick's story for the Times ("The Chicken and Rice Man") so inspiring as well as this video documenting Mr. Muñoz's work.

Another story that caught my eye this year - not as inspiring and much more disturbing - appeared in September in the largest Spanish language newspaper in Los Angeles, La Opinion ("Prostituyen a Jornaleros"). Reporter Claudia Núñez takes a look at migrant workers who allege that they have been targeted by some gay men for sex in exchange for money or outright threats. Núñez avoids - for the most part - the lurid trappings of reporting such a story and catches a couple of American men as they pick up on a younger undocumented immigrant for sex. She admits that some of the dynamics at work involves immigrants who are more than willing to make a quick buck in exchange for sex with men but also captures the vulnerability of some of these men and the shame that forces them to keep instances of sexual abuse under wraps for fear of being deported or being tagged as gay by others. New American Media translated the story and named it as one of the two Best Hispanic Media Stories of 2007.

On Christmas Day, the Chicago Tribune also ran the first mainstream news story that I have ever seen on participation by LGBT advocates in last summer's immigration rights rallies ("Gay Immigrants Fight to Join Movement"). Unfortunately they also play up the fact that one older man hurled insults at gay marchers questioning their presence.

My experiences during immigration rights rallies in New York have been different and show that most participants more than welcome LGBT contingents and seem to recognize not only that there are transgender folk marching but also the symbolism of the rainbow flag.

I am sure there has been a homophobic presence at the various rallies but I can say without a doubt that I have never seen any homophobic sentiments expressed at the rallies I have been in.

Speaking about immigrants, the Spanish-language edition of the Miami Herald (appropriately named El Nuevo Herald) ran an incredibly moving story in February about Carlos Mielgo, a 45 year old Cuban-born man struggling with cancer and the unwavering support from his partner of 14 years, 52 year-old Joe Vásquez. The Spanish language version of the story is still accessible ("Cuando el amor se jura con palabra de hombre"). Can't find the English-language version except for a mention in Steve Rothaus' blog here.

What makes it a personal story for the Miami Herald is that Carlos is a former employee of the newspaper.

Perhaps the most moving story I read this year has nothing to do with immigration. Instead, it has to do with a man wrongly convicted for raping and killing a high school classmate and freed earlier this year after 16 years in prison.

In the November New York Times story ("Vindicated by DNA, but a lost man on the outside"), Fernanda Santos takes a look at the life of Jeffrey Deskovic after being freed through efforts from The Innocence Project. Mr. Deskovic has a MySpace page should you care to contact him after reading the article.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Musica: Choice cuts from 2007

I certainly didn't intend to go on hiatus but that seems to have been what's happened to the blog in the past few weeks. Not sure it will be up and running soon after the beginning of the new year but I'll leave you with a very subjective end of the year list of some of the best music that came my way this year.

This is the year that I saw the last of the local store outlets for actual CD-singles (with Virgin records folding it's in-store singles aisles and keeping just a fraction of the releases), another casualty to the rush to digital downloads, legal or not. Which means online stores like Hollywood's Perfect Beat can prove to be indispensable.

No top ten list here, just a sampling of stuff. Check details at the bottom on how you can win a CD-selection of some of these songs as compiled by yours truly!

Notable music of 2007:

Women Power: Three women that dominated the soundtrack of my youth released new albums this year which speaks to their longevity despite the volatility in the pop universe.

Siouxsie Sioux released "Mantaray," Annie Lennox released "Songs of Mass Destruction," and Alison Moyet released "The Turn" (not yet in the US but you can pick it up from this Canadian store).

I have yet to give a proper listen to Mantaray but the standout track is "Sea of Tranquility" - a gorgeous track with a nice burbling underpining rhythm and Siouxsie's immediately recognizable voice soaring over it. Alas, no video to show you.

In the meantime, I've seen a few online pans of Annie Lennox's latest which surprises me quite a bit because the album has some of her strongest material in ages and a couple of tracks that really stand out: "Smitheereens" and "Fingernail Moon."

The gist of the pans, from what I've gathered, is that this is the umpteenth album from Lennox with a confessional bent and that some of the tracks here, such as the anti-AIDS song "Sing," are more didactic than entertaining.

Here's a YouTuber lip-synching to "Smitheereens" a-la Chris Cocker.

Most noteworthy, to me at least, was Alison Moyet's return. The new album doesn't quite match the brilliance that was 2002's "Hometime" but sees Moyet as self-assured as ever and in better control of the songs she has chosen to sing (at least according to the liner notes). If you have time, you could check her cheeky - if infrequently updated - blog which includes this entry on her memories of a gay friend who died of AIDS in observance of World AIDS Day earlier this month.

Here she performs the first single from "The Turn" - "One More Time" - live.

Up-and-comers: Yes, I spent the year listening to the one-two British punch of Amy "Back to Rehab" Winehouse and Lilly "Knock'em Out"Allen, finding Allen's "Alright, Still" to be the better of the two. Part of it is just how funny her lyrics can actually be which is refreshing in an industry that seems to thrive on drug-abuse scandals and sexed-up tarts.

Here's Lilly Allen's "LDN" (love the record shop intro bit):

Thing is, both these albums are actually material released well over a year in the UK so I'm not that sure that they could be considered newcomers anymore.

Jump in New Young Pony Club with "Fantastic Playroom." You probably know them if you've watched some television as "Icecream" was the soundtrack to some I-pod or cell phone commercial, I believe:

The album is full of punky electro ditties such as this, my fave being "F.A.N."

Favorite song of last year: I also picked up Just Jack's "Overtones" this year with material also released in the UK in previous years and was captivated by the pop perfection that is "I Talk Too Much" featuring Kylie Minogue. Best Kylie duet since "Kids" with Robbie Williams and maybe even better. No video but the full song's stream is available at YouTube. Have a listen:

Favorite song of this year: No big surprise for those of you who know I adore this woman: From Róisín Murphy's great new album, "Overpowered," it's "Let Me Know":

The full album is probably in my top five of the year with an amazing title track as well and an array of songs that could easily be chosen as singles including "You Know Me Better," "Primitive," "Dear Miami," and "Scarlett Ribbons."

Top albums of the year: If you'd asked me at the beginning of the year which albums would probably make my year's end top list I'd probably have said 4hero, Underworld, Gus Gus and Róisín Murphy. That Róisín's made it but not the others doesn't mean that the work that the other bands released this year wasn't noteworthy or good but personally I thought that 4hero and Underworld turned in spotty albums with some brilliant tracks (4hero's "Give In" and "Morning Child" and Underworld's "Crocodile/Beautiful Burnout") while, if it wasn't for the remixes, the Gus Gus CD did actually disappoint despite "Need in Me".

I'd be shocked, actually, if you had told me that come year's end I'd still be loving Calvin Harris' "I Created Disco" which I previewed back in July. The tale of a MySpace music geek getting a record contract and then becoming one of the UK's biggest selling albums of the year certainly seems a bit last year considering that this year the new thing is offering a pay what you want download of your album.

Here's the "official" video for his new single, "Colors."

Speaking of pay what you want though, I paid $0 for Radiohead's "In Rainbows" and still loved it! You can buy the CD pressing of the album here.

So yes! Sue me! I have a thing for British pop and dance songs! But I am still loving Philadelphia's very own Jill Scott and her under-appreciated "The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3." This woman's work is just amazing and she's just getting started. Here, for you, "My Love" (even if my fave track on the album is "Only You"):

Best album of 2007:
So, what gives? Which is the album of the year? Actually, the year that saw all the major studios seek out producer (and former Missy Elliot and current Justin Timberlake co-hort ) Timbaland to put a gloss on albums ranging from Nelly Furtado to Duran Duran to - gulp! - Ashlee Simpson, the fate of my album of the year almost fell in the same trap.

Following up on the success of Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam's first album, "Arular" (2005), rumor was that her new album "Kala" was supposed to prominently feature Timbaland as a producer and, while Timbaland might have produced some of the best and most innovative tracks of the last ten years (Missy Elliot's "Get Your Freak On" and "Work It" come to mind), I'm not sure the last thing we needed was another Nelly Furtado/Justinn Timberlake sound hybrid on "Kala."

And yet, due to restrictive US immigration policies, Arulpragasam found herself with visa problems (according to WikiPedia) and spent the last couple of years taping tracks for "Kala" during segments of her world tour in countries such as India, Trinidad, Liberia, Jamaica, Australia and Japan.

Amazingly it's all reflected in the album's sound and so much the better for it. One wonders what Timbaland would have done with this masterpiece and while it's not always an easy listen, it certainly sounds like the music of the future. The newest single, "Paper Airplanes" by the woman better known as M.I.A.:

Bits and pieces: What follows are the rest of the best songs of the year in no particular order.

"Can't Do Without" - Peven Everett
"Jus' Dance" - Mr. V
"Beautiful (Fred Everything Mix)" - Tim Fuller
"Let's Be Young (Paulo Mojo Remix)" - Quentin Harris
"It's All True (Martin Buttrich Remix)" - Tracey Thorn
"Dust (Induceve Remix)" - Recloose feat. Joe Dukie
"Song 4 Mutya (Out of Control)" - Groove Armada feat. Mutya
"Soñando Contigo" - Kiko Navarro
"The Sun Can't Compare" - Larry Heard feat. Mr. White
"Us vs. Them" - LCD Soundsystem
"Neighborhoods" - Matthew Dear
"All Woman (Sandy Rivera's Blackwz Remix)" - Skwerl
"Make Me Want You" - Mondee Oliver
"Love Song" - Sarah Bareilles

You can also do no wrong by supporting a worthwhile cause end getting a copy of "Stomp Out Cancer: Indie Artists Fight Ewing's Sarcoma" which was released in honor of my friend Steven Mackin earlier in the year.

And the best for last: If you've made it past aaaaalllll that and you want a nifty compilation of some of the music mentioned here (plus and minus a few tracks), be the among the first five people within the United States to send me an e-mail at blabbeando @ gmail . com requesting one and you will get one sometime after the new year. Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Breaking News: Uruguay 1st Latin American country to allow same-sex civil unions

Reuters has the story here. An excerpt:
Uruguay's Congress legalized civil unions for homosexual couples on Tuesday in the first nationwide law of its kind in Latin America.

Under the new law, gay and straight couples will be eligible to form civil unions after living together for five years. They will have rights similar to those granted to married couples on such matters as inheritance, pensions and child custody.

What remains is a presidential signature but that is expected to come quickly.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spain: Jordi Petit gets hitched

Legendary international and Spanish LGBT rights advocate Jordi Petit has tied the knot with his partner of seven years, Frenchman Yves Bohic, in a ceremony held yesterday in Barcelona that was officiated by the city's mayor, Jordi Hereu (yes, there are lots of Jordis in Spain).

The wedding was attended by more than 200 people (partial guest list here) including members of Mr. Bohic's family who traveled from France to celebrate the couple's wedding.

Jordi has been in the trenches as back as the 1970's when Spain was still under dictator Francisco Franco's rule and gays and lesbians were being persecuted (Jordi had already been arrested a few times for his political involvement by the time he became active in the LGBT-rights in the late 1970's).

As AIDS struck the gay community in Spain, Jordi was also there in the 1980's and 1990's when he led the first wave of activists who demanded access to HIV treatment (at the wedding ceremony he wore a red ribbon when red ribbons have mostly fallen out of grace).

His unwavering commitment to LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS activism brought him acclaim that led to increasing international involvement. From 1995 to 1999 he was elected as the Secretary General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) through which he used his formidable talents to address worldwide LGBT human rights violations.

Usually I find myself praising LGBT activists upon finding out that they have died but this is a chance to celebrate a hero on a happy occasion. Jordi Petit and Yves Bohic, long life together and congratulations from New York! Wish I'd been there!

UPDATE: Below is Jordi & Yves New Years' card

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Update: Adil Doukali in his own words

Earlier in the week I contacted Adil Doukali, Mr. Bear Spain 2007, and asked him about comments he made on a Spanish gossip / talk show on Antena 3, one of Spain's largest television networks.

Though I haven't actually seen the interview, 20 Minutos reported on Dec. 8 that the Morocco-born man revealed he was bisexual and said "I hope to some day recover the good path, to have a woman and children" - comments that have drawn the ire of some in the gay community in Spain (see comments at this Spanish-language site) and glee from some conservative websites (including this one, also in Spanish).

20 Minutos also implied that Doukali lied to organizers of the Mr Bear Spain contest by representing himself as being "100% gay" and claimed that he was on the verge of turning his back on homosexuality (an eye-catching claim that probably sold more than a few papers) even as blogger GayMenGC provided better context).

In the e-mail message he sent me, Mr. Doukali denies he lied to the
Mr. Bear Spain 2007 organizers but stops short of addressing some of his most problematic comments (you can write to me directly if you want to receive the original Spanish language message - in the meantime here is my transtation):
Hello and good day, today I am afraid to say anything, today I live feeling terrorized, what has happened to me is very rough, I am a sincere and sensible guy, and when I participated in this contest it was to show the beauty my God gave me, showing favoritism to a hairy and bearded man that doesn't shave, and to show that there are men from Morocco who have an open mind.

In the contest there are no questions as to whether you are bisex or gay, the jury's questions were 'Why do you want to be Mr. Bear?' and about my Islamic culture, and whether I knew who the president of France was, and if I was willing to fight against homophobia.

The truth is that I am going through a bad moment. I thought that people would respect my ideas in the same way that I respect everybody else, at no time did I have the intention to offend anybody, neither gays nor Muslims, something that nowadays has placed my life and that of my family in an unbearable hell. I am sorry for this misunderstanding and I am sorry, my friend, because I cannot write any more because I am very depressed.
What strikes me about this whole thing is the the intersection between sexuality, religious dogma, negative views about immigrants in Spain (which are similar to those in the United States and particularly in this presidential race) and the rush to demonize anyone who does not conform to gay ideals. Yes, I am still struck by Mr. Doukali's choice of words when it comes to what the right or wrong path is for a man when it comes to his sexuality but I am also struck by his willingness to condemn - as a Muslim man - abuses against gay people in Islamic countries as well as the hypochrisy of other men who might sleep with men but never aknowledge it.

Furthermore, in one of his online profiles he proudly features a video that showcases his nomination as Mr. Bear Spain 2007 which seems to indicate he is more comfortable with his sexuality that others are giving him credit for. Part of his participation at the contest night itself is also available on YouTube (he is the last one featured in this clip):

I say give Mr. Doukali a chance and welcome him to San Francisco in February.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Update: In stunning twist, leniency requested for Chad Ferreira's attacker who is now transgender

In a December 7th sentencing hearing following a felony assault conviction for Kyle Adams over a 2006 street fight that ended with the death of Chad Ferreira, Adam's attorney is asking the judge to consider probation instead of a jail term for his client.

The reason? In a shocking turn of events, San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Phong Wang - Adam's attorney - has told the judge that his client, who had previously identified himself as a gay man is now a transgender woman who calls herself London who would be placed at great risk if sent to federal prison. Representatives of San Francisco's Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project also appeared before the judge to support Adams.

Adams had been sentenced to six years in prison but might face additional charges if manslaughter charges are refiled against her (the jury deadlocked on similar charges during the first trial).

Full details over at the Bay Area Reporter.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Update: Devout Muslim bear to defend Spain's title at IBR

Well, this certainly has gotten a bit more interesting.

With my recent post about Morocco-born Adil Doukali getting massive online hits this week, a bit more information has become available about the context in which he stated that he hoped to be "on the good path" to meeting a woman and raising kids in the future after being elected to defend Spain's crown at the upcoming International Bear Rendezvouz.

Over at GayMenGC there is a substantial description of the interview that ran on Spain's Antena3 this Friday - which I am quoting almost in its entirety - that provides additional context to Doukali's comments:
The programme’s presentation team were openly supportive of him as the contest winner, and respectful of the bear and wider gay community: but they didn’t pull any punches in questioning him about how he felt about the public repression and ill-treatment of gay men in many countries which describe themselves as “Islamic”.

He’s 32 and Moroccan, but has been living in Spain for some time, working as a painter and decorator. There’s no doubt he publicly identifies himself as a gay man, but also says there’s a bisexual side to him, and he doesn’t rule out the possibility of marrying a woman and raising a family.

What he does rule out is the possibility of marrying a man, for religious reasons. This sits somewhat strangely alongside his new role, since he’s been elected to act as an “ambassador” for the bear community, and it’s probably a comment which the contest organisers may find uncomfortable, and many in the gay community will find unacceptable; though it’s clearly a personal view, and not one which he said others should necessarily agree with.

In some ways, it was a very uncomfortable interview, seeing someone - who is in so many ways a modern Western gay man - still wrestling with the contradictions of the religious teaching he has grown up with (something which affects those gay men here who are also devout Catholics). But it was an interesting snapshot too, which probably captures the confused loyalties of other gay men brought up under Islam.

He accepts that Islam talks about homosexuality as being a sin, but says that God should be his judge not men: he openly condemns the treatment of gay men in those muslim countries where we suffer persecution, and is calling for more HIV/AIDS education in Morocco and elsewhere.

He also acknowledges that there’s a great deal of hypocrisy in Morocco and elsewhere, and that men frequently have clandestine gay relationships, particularly before and often after getting married. But he also admitted during the interview that though he didn’t believe he would suffer any consequences should he go home to visit his family in Morocco (he says in particular that his family are very “modern”), living in Spain has given him a very different life.

As a man born in South America, I know how tough it is to turn away from religious dogma when it goes against every grain of your body and yet, as I cringe about Doukali's choice of words in describing a "good path" to marriage and children, there is part of me that is impressed by a man who says he is a devout Muslim and is willing to be chosen as Spain's representative to IBR and to openly condemn "the treatment of gay men in those muslim countries where we suffer persecution."

A curious aside: One of the men Doukali beat for the title was Javier Gónzalez (left) who came in third place. Gónzalez is better known in the States as gay porn sensation Edu Boxer who has performed for a couple of Lucas Entertainment features along with his boyfriend Manu Maltes.

Lucas Entertainment is, of course, run by pouty Zoolander-type Michael Lucas who has an opinion column in the New York Blade that often riles against all things Muslim (which my friend Faisal Alam has taken to task in the past).

I'm sure not all will agree with me but we certainly hope to see Doukali at IBR despite the recent controversies.

UPDATE: Adil Doukali in his own words (Dec. 15, 2007)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Dominican Republic: Is it possible to live with gays and Haitians?

The ongoing screenwriter's strike might not be affecting television shows in the Dominican Republic, but the island's main television station (aptly named Supercanal) is certainly banking on reality shows to attract big ratings as well - just like the big networks in the US.

The newest entry into the DR reality show universe is called "The Guagua is My Home" (guagua being a word used in the Caribbean for bus). The premise? Well, take a big bus, plant it in the middle of a public street, let ten contestants go in and, um, watch them sit inside the bus and bicker for the next 45 days as viewers eliminate them one by one based on popularity. The winner gets a million pesos (U$30K). Talk about excitement! Not to mention the big production values! (unfortunately, this is for real and not a smart send-up of Dominican television in the vein of that infamous Belky's Salon ad).

Jan de Bont's "Speed" it ain't so you need to throw in a couple of curveballs as well: According to a Nov. 13 article published in 7 Dias "There are no serious data that proves that a person with a different sexual option or who belongs to another race or nationality can be 'contagious' to others if they share a living space for some time - unless they suffer leprosy."

That's the 7 Dias journalist's classy intro to the news that the producers of "Guagua" (pronounced 'gwah-gwah') decided to include a Haitian man and a "gay" among the ten participants to demonstrate that Dominicans are not racist and can live with a homosexual (it might surprise some people but for an island that is shared by both countries, there is some deep antagonism and racism among lots of Dominicans and Haitians).

The 'gay' actually turned out to be 19 year old drag queen performer Alfonso a/k/a Dominic Figueroa who doesn't quite call himself transgender but says that he also has "another me" who is feminine and calls herself Pocahontas (his casting tape is available on YouTube).

Also among the list of contestants was New York City radio personality Ramón Sierra (a/k/a Papalote from where else but "El Vacilón de la Mañana" on La Mega) who was rumored to have felt up the legs of Pocahontas and another woman on one of the nights he spent in the bus in the hour-long recap I saw Thursday morning on Time Warner cable (which carries Supercanal here in New York).

OK, let's say the set up isn't as homophobic and racist as it seems to me. The presence of Pocahontas in the reality show actually drew a Dominican transgender rights group called Trans Siempre Amigas (or TRANSSA) to the site of the taping to do some HIV and STD prevention demonstrations and they were actually featured on the Nov. 23rd live show demonstrating to the Dominican public how to properly use a condom according to their blog.

As for whether Dominicans can live in close quarters with Haitians and gays, in the re-cap show that I saw this week Pocahontas tried to scratch the Haitians face in an altercation and by week's end they had been both eliminated from the show as well as Papalote according to today's Diario Libre.

I swear, sometimes you can't even make all this sh*t up! Can't wait for the US version.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Spain: Is Mr. Oso gay enough?

Spain's 20minutos is reporting that the man elected to defend the country's international beaut... - er - bear contest sash at the International Bear Rendezvouz in San Francisco this February has shocked the gay establishment by going on national television talk show and declaring that, hm, he wants kids with a woman down the line and, hm, that he's not 100% gay (he now says that he is bisexual).

Though not denying his attraction to men, Morocco-born Adil Doukali said "I hope to some day recover the good path, to have a woman and children" (indicating that he might be on the bad path to IBR?)

Last year Spaniard Andrés Piedehierro won the crown - er sash. Now the sponsoring organization says that current candidate Doukali lied by representing himslef as being 100% gay - a prerequisite for being nominated as a candidate from Spain - and says they are distraught by his comments (even though I went through the IBR files and I didn't find anything that precluded a bi guy or even a straight guy from participating in the contest).

Doukali also happens to be the first foreign-born man to be elected to represent Spain in the event.

Is this much ado about nothing? Probably. I've always found these type of bear contests a bit silly (even if three of the winners in the past couple of years are personal acquaintances) but this certainly ads a little fun drama to the proceedings and what would a beauty contest be withouth the drama?

Update: Devout Muslim bear to defend Spain's title at IBR (Dec. 11, 2007)

  • Mr. Bear Spain website here
  • Mr. Bear Spain 2007 photo gallery by Antinoo here

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Saddest news in a while: Bob Kohler has died

You might remember that in June of last year I wrote about the big anti-violence rally and march through the streets of Manhattan in the wake of the anti-gay attack against queer singer Kevin Aviance.

At the time I said that I was surprised by the numbers of people who showed up for the rally considering the apathetic state in queer rights activism today. What I didn't say was that I also was awe-struck when I noticed long-time queer rights hero Bob Kohler as he watched the crowd head down to Christopher Street along 7th Avenue.

I caught up to him just as he asked trans activist Melissa Sklarz (pictured next to Bob above) what the march was about. When Melissa explained how people had shown up in support of Kevin and in anger against hate crimes, he just beamed that incredible smile of his and said "Oh, good! That's good!" probably amazed that something could move people to action.

A few minutes ago I got a message announcing that Bob, who was already into his 80's, had passed away this morning. He joins another personal hero of mine, Marc Rubin, who passed away in his 70's back in March.

Who was Bob Kohler? Well, he was a Stonewall veteran for one, and was amongst the founders of the seminal queer rights organization Gay Liberation Front. He also stood up for struggling transgender activists such as Marcia P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera and a myriad of causes including Sex Panic!, the queer youth organization The Neutral Zone, Fed UP Queers, Irish Queers, ACT UP and Fierce [The Village Voice's Runnin' Scared blog has more information here; Gay City News has the most comprehensive coverage here].

Funeral arrangements and memorial services are still in the works. I will update this post when more details become available.

UPDATE: Here's a video shot this past summer at the Stonewall Inn in which Bob, Danny Garvin and Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt talk about the life of Marsha P. Johnson. Thank you Marti Abernathey for pointing it out to me.

UPDATE (from Joo-Hyun Kang & Imani Henry): "Bob was an amazingly funny, politically principled and kind person (well, maybe not always kind if he thought you weren't being politically principled….). You always knew you could count on him to show up at a picket, rally, meeting, or special scouting mission that could be helped by an older white man with blue eyes who just needed to use a bathroom in that corporate headquarters…. He was in many ways a bridge for and to many communities, and an example of what it could mean to be a white ally to communities of color. He was honest and cranky as hell, and we loved him for it."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Meet 4pm at the LGBT Center (the one that eventually had to let Sylvia back in!)
March at 5pm to Christopher Street & to the pier
- Demand space for queers & queer youth of color in the Village.
- Demand a cure for AIDS, HASA for all,* and housing & respect for PWAs
- Demand respect for "the crazies" who (as Bob liked to point out) are the ones who usually lead the way.

There will be a memorial for Bob in a few weeks, in addition to this action. For info, e-mail

Monday, December 03, 2007

My New York: New York is for gay lovers

A news item from the New York Post caught my eye this morning: Apparently NYC & Co., New York City's tourist agency, is launching the first ever push to draw gay and lesbian travelers to the Big Apple.

My first reaction was "1st ever?" (I mean, I remember those Philadelphia ads a couple of years ago recruiting NYC bears and I would have thought New York would have beaten Philly at this game years ago).

My second reaction was "Why now when the city's gayborhoods seem to be on the way out and there's - gulp! -
no Big Cup!?" (not that this is a bad thing, mind you).

My third reaction was "Hm, does New York really need a push for more tourists?" (as it is, Time's Square is nearly unnavigable as are other parts of the city and, worst of all, tourists wait for the walk/don't walk sings to change even if there are no vehicles in the street! They're crazy!!!).

My fourth reaction was "Don't gay people in other parts of the country already think of New York as a gay mecca?" (which would make the $30 million dollar campaign a bit redundant).

Hey, but that's me talking as a jaded Naw Yawker...

Anyway, that's when I stopped reacting...

Still, blogger
Chris Crain does raise one additional point....

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Venezuela: Hugo Chavez wants to be master of his domain

One of the funniest things about writing on this blog was being called a "neocon" on Wikipedia for daring to be critical of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela in past posts (I guess the entry has been cleaned up because I can't find it anymore).

Electoral polls closed earlier tonight and results are still in the balance. Chavez could become a defacto dictator tonight by grabbing the power to continue ruling Venezuela for the foreseeable future if voters say yes to today's referendum (then again the same referendum, if approved, would also recognize sexual orientation anti-discrimination language in the Venezuela's legal system for the first time ever).

In any case, Human Rights Watch - not necessarily the most neocon of organizations - has it just right today.

On Chavez' power grab:
The proposed changes would eliminate the constitutional prohibition on suspending due process guarantees during states of emergency. They would also eliminate specific time limits on states of emergency, giving the president de facto power to suspend due process and other basic rights indefinitely.
On proposed recognition of language that would ban discrimination against gays and lesbians:
In a positive step, one of the amendments proposed would expand the existing constitutional prohibition against discrimination to cover several other bases for discrimination, including sexual orientation and political orientation. Yet even this protection would also be subject to indefinite suspension, should the president declare a state of emergency.
We'll keep you posted.

UPDATE (11:37 PM): The New York Daily News says that Chavez might have 'eked out a narrow win' with government sources saying that the referendum passed by a difference of 4%.

UPDATE (Mon., Dec. 3, 12:05 AM): For up to the minute updates check this blog. Earlier they called a defeat for the referendum based on other sources so I guess things are still up in the air.

UPDATE (Mon., Dec. 3, 7:05 AM): The Daily News was wrong. Chavez' referendum was defeated but by the slightest of margins. The New York Times has more here.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bejata does WAD and one blog he missed

As he is prone to every year, Bernard has a pretty good rundown of what gay and lesbian black and Latino bloggers are writing in observance of World AIDS Day.

For the full rundown head over to his (new) Bejata Word Press blog here.

One entry he has missed is Emanuel Xavier's blog post on his MySpace page. Not sure if you need a MySpace profile to get access to it. I've always found MySpace blogs to be a bit unwieldy in that respect.

If you are among the black and Latino LGBT bloggerati and would like your own WAD post to be listed, simply leave a link to your post in Bejata's message section.

Finally, but not least, Kenyon Farrow (his blog is here) has written to remind me that he'll be blogging from the National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, GA, which begins tomorrow.

He is doing it on behalf of the Prevention Justice Mobilization project of the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) which is challenging the United States government on how it undertakes HIV prevention in this country.

Those blog posts will appear at the CHAMP blog which you can access here.

Puerto Rico: Government should end offensive STD prevention campaign, activists ask for a public apology

Yesterday, on the eve of World AIDS Day, members of the Puerto Rican organization Permanent Assembly of People Infected and Affected by HIV/AIDS called for an end to a government-sponsored STD prevention campaign launched in April of 2007 and demanded a public apology.

At issue, according to El Nuevo Dia, is the $1.2 million campaign's exclusive focus on abstinence as a means to HIV prevention and the use of images that the group says stigmatize HIV positive individuals (you can access the campaign materials through the campaign's online site, La Otra Cara del Sexo / The Other Side of Sex here).

"It's a campaign in which we are presented as monsters on the prowl for victims to fall,"said the organization's spokesperson Adalib Castro.

In a series of different ads, the campaign shows a young woman, a young man and a young heterosexual couple, whose reflection in a mirror shows a decaying zombie with a legend that reads "Abstention is the best protection."

Ivette Gonzalez, also a spokesperson of the activist organization, told El Nuevo Dia "It's a campaign based on fear... it has been proven that no method based on fear works."

She also called the campaign "incomplete" for not providing information on where to get tested for sexually transmitted illnesses and for not urging young people to use condoms if they are sexually active [actually under "Frequent Questions" one answer on the effectiveness of rubbers reads "Condoms are not 100% safe. Plus if you have oral relations you also run risks - for this reason get to know your partner and abstain" while another response discourages kissing by stating that kisses can transit "some" illnesses as well].

Gonzales also called the campaign "moralistic" for asking people to wait until marriage to engage in sex as means to prevent HIV infection.

"When I married my ex-husband I took all the [medical] tests that a person should before getting married and [now] I am infected with HIV. That I married him did not prevent me from getting infected."

In addition to yesterday's call for an end to the campaign, a couple of sites have popped up on the internet that are also critical of its message.

The first, an anonymous blog also named "The Other Side of Sex," seems to be more popular than the actual site as it pops up first at the top of the listings when you Google its name. It only has a couple of entries and it hasn't been updated since June but its satirical tone directly challenges the official site's abstinence and condom-phobic messages with tidbits such as "[condoms] only work 99% of the time, leaving unprotected 1% of the people that use them without knowing how to put them on or are used to leaving them for months on end inside their car's glove compartment or near sowing needles or any other sharp objects" and a quote below an image of an unhappy looking older couple that reads "We've spent 10 years as boyfriend and girlfriend and we have never had sex because we believe in abstinence. We are so happy. Isn't that true, Carlos?"

There is also an anonymous MySpace page called Guerrilla Sex Education set up by an "intellectual collective of young people" in Puerto Rico set up to challenge sexual disinformation that also challenges the assumptions behind the government's campaign, among other things.

In the meantime, in other statements made to El Nuevo Dia, the same group of activists said that they were calling for a participatory boycott of a World AIDS Day event planned by the island's Department of Health today calling for people to congregate at a public park wearing red shirts in order to form a human red ribbon.

Representatives from the Assembly called on participants to participate but to wear black instead of red shirts to demonstrate solidarity with HIV positive people and support for their fight for access to HIV meds.