Thursday, July 31, 2008

This weekend: Sticky Pages 3 is "oso beeyootiful"

Artists, bears, beer and comic books, oh my! It might get a little bit sticky which is actually the point.

"Sticky Pages 3: Oso Oro" takes place at the LGBT Center this Saturday.

The event is being put together by my friend (and amazing cartoonist) Ivan Velez and is meant to celebrate bears of colors everywhere. He promises it will be "oso beeyootiful!"

Who knows, I might even show up!

Ivan is the author of the influential and seminal comic book series "Tales of the Closet". It literally changed my life. Check it out if you're in the city.

Previously on Blabbeando:

Updates: Arrest in Angie Zapata murder, US HIV ban partially lifted

Arrest made in murder of Angie Zapata: Allen Ray Andrade (right) was arrested yesterday morning in Greely, Colorado, and charged with last week's brutal murder of transgender woman Angie Zapata.

In an affidavit obtained by The Denver Post of statements Andrade made to the police after being arrested, he says that he reacted violently after he realized Zapata was transgender after spending a night at her place, hitting her first with his fist and then with a fire estinguisher.

The arresting police officer quotes Andrade as saying that he thought he had "killed it" and then proceeded to wrap the body in a blanket. He then tried to clean up the mess but "after he noticed Zapata sitting up, he hit her again with the fire extinguisher."

He might claim temporary insanity once the trial comes but he seemed to recover his marbles pretty fast since he then systematically ran through the apartment and gathered some of Zapata's belongings including her purse, cellphone and car. Andrade has been charged with second-degree murder and aggravated motor-vehicle theft .

I had previously written about the case here and here. Monica Roberts has additional commentary here.
United States HIV ban partially lifted: It's been said that one of President George W. Bush's few semi-positive legacies will be the increase in funding that the United States contributes towards HIV prevention worldwide and, as part of a funding initiative that he signed into law yesterday, he also removed a federal ban on allowing HIV positive non-residents enter the country.

For those of us who have long advocated for a repeal of this discriminatory policy, it was a bitter-sweet but incredible moment. I have first-hand knowledge of the hell that so many go through when they have been eligible for immigration status but for their HIV status and this relic of the Jesse Helms anti-gay era is almost out of here.

Almost, because the removal from federal policy does not automatically remove the discriminatory language from the Department of Health and Human Services stipulations on who is allowed to enter the United States ("Ban on travelers with HIV to U.S. partially lifted", Los Angeles Times).

Immigration Equality
, one of the leading organizations behind the repeal, have this to say about it. I previously wrote about the issue here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The fun game of the day has been to check-out the new search engine Cuil and see how many things it actually gets wrong. Launched with much fanfare and promoted in just about every morning show I saw this morning, the expectations were so sky-high that there was no way but down.

Anyhoo, tonight I followed Joe.My.God's lead and, hm, Cuil'ed myself (click above for a larger image to see results).

First. All-important first upper-left block gets it wrong! Pablo Andres is another Andres altogether and they even upload that geeky image of an Univision interview I did years ago to enhance confusion! What's jpmag anyway?

Second. One search block below they get the Fotki info ok but WTF! Who's that La Mega stud? We all hope to become that dark and swarthy, specially us Latinos, but that ain't pale, geeky me!

Third. OK, they also get the shot taken by my friend William for Out Magazine in the box on the upper right but that was from 2001 or so (trust me, I'm not as pale now, though I'm just as geeky!).

I guess search results will improve with use but count us underwhelmed.

Chile: Actor detained for sex with minors, claims discrimination (UPDATED)

[UPDATE: Didier van den Hoven was released from detainment by police on Tuesday, July 29, 2008, pending an investigation. Accusations that the actor had sexual contact with a second minor were withdrawn - More information below]

A Belgian-born actor who resides in Colombia and has been a cast member in three of the most-watched Spanish-language television soap operas in the Unites States in the last few years ("
La Tormenta," "Pasion de Gavilanes," and, most recently, "El Zorro"), was detained Friday in Chile on charges that he engaged in sexual relations with two underage males.

42 year old Didier van den Hove, who was on vacation in the southern city of Puerto Natales, was arrested at the Índigo Hotel - where he had arranged to meet the two teens - and was accused of "carnal access to a minor between 14 and 18 years of age" - which carries a prison sentence of up to three years.

In an interview with van den Hove's lawyer Hermann Klasen published today in El Magallanes, he says that the actor is at peace with the knowledge that his television career is over but hopes that he will still be able to act in the big screen ("'My career in television is finished', the actor confessed to his lawyer"). His main concern, the lawyer says, is the impact of the scandal on his 9 year old son.

Klasen also tells the paper that the actor considers that the charges and the media coverage has been exaggerated as much as there was consent between all parties and that homosexuality is not prohibited in Chile. The actor, his lawyer says, also feels offended that he was taken out of court in hand-cuffs and with a yellow jacket that read "Charged."

Klasen said that van den Hoven has denied any interest in child pornography and that he hopes to be set free after a court hearing being held this evening.

La Nacion reports today that both teens were 17 years of age and that van den Hoven considered one of them to be his boyfriend ("Detained actor of 'El Zorro' plays his luck in Natales").

La Nacion Dominicana also reports today that the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MoVILH), a national Chilean LGBT-rights organization, is backing van den Hoven ("Homosexual group protests detention of Colombian actor in Chile") pointing out that the national age of consent for heterosexual partners is 14 years of age while that of homosexual partners is 18 which MoVIHL says is discrimination.

In a Telemundo online chat from 2005, van den Hove was asked by fans if he was married and he replied that he had never married but did have a son.

Update (July 29, 2008): Today's El Magallanes reports that van den Hover was released from detention yesterday on his own recognizance and ordered to stay in Puerto Natales ("Belgian-Colombian actor regains liberty, but was left charged").

The actor was accused of having sexual relations with a minor under 18 years of age and of possessing "pornographic materials" depicting minors but only charged with the latter charge (no mention of previous reports that van den Hove had sexual relations with a second minor). He will have to remain in Chile for a period of two months while the fiscal office conducts an investigation.

The court stated that a computer had been confiscated from the accused and that they will be looking to see if it contains pornographic images involving minors or indications that the actor had paid for sex an accusation that the actor's lawyer completely denied.

van den Hove, when given an opportunity to respond to these charges told the court that "When we speak of underage pornographic material, we have to be very explicit on those points, there are many photos of myself as an adolescent and of my son, my brother, even photos of when I was a baby."

He also told the court that it was absolutely false that he had paid money for sex and that he was astounded by the accusation. "At no point am I denying my sexual condition,' he said, "but I would like you to be more explicit [on the charges]."

Outside the court, the actor standing next to his lawyer, told reporters that he had carried a six-month relationship with the minor and that they had met through a friend in common and said that he didn't consider that their relationship was a crime.

"To moralize about sexuality is such a complex subject," he said," "I have to laugh a little because we know nothing about the issue, science has not set the last word; If we speak about sexuality how much do we know to be able to legislate about it, what is good and what is bad? One thing is clear to me and this is that abuse is wrong. Laws about sexual crimes are very delicate."

In the meantime, in an article published yesterday
in Diario Electronico de La Patagonia after the ruling ("MoVILH denounces the case of the actor before the UN"), an unnamed representative from MoVILH is quoted as saying that the law is the law and that charges will be imposed whether tey like it or not but that they are concerned that the court has also called for the two-month investigation based on mere suspicions that the relationship between the actor and the 17 year old indicates an interest in paedophilia. They also highlight that the court recognized that there was no other sexual contact between the actor and a second minor, as previous reports had specuilated.

MoVILH also reminded reporters of the 2000 wedding between Chilean tennis player Marcelo Ríos and Giuliana Sotela, noting that he had been 23 years of age while she had been 15 years of age.

"No one suspected in this case, and in so many others, that Ríos had any links to paedophilia or with underage pornographic material," MoVILH stated, "On the contrary, the union was celebrated nation wide."

They said that they would bring the discriminatory age of consent law before the United Nations tribunal.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Update: Police say murder of transgender Latina teen was "provoked by her lifestyle"

[UPDATE: Upon being contacted by GLAAD, ABC News has changed the opening sentence of the article from "The beating death of a transgender teenager in Colorado may have been provoked by her lifestyle, police said" to "An 18-year-old found dead inside her Colorado apartment last week may have been targeted because she was transgender, police said"].

The murder of 18 year-old Angie Zapata in Colorado last week has been slowly gaining attention from national media with the latest report coming today from the national bureau at ABC News ("Transgender teen's death a hate crime?").

On Wednesday I noted that transgender blogger Monica Roberts at TransGriot was incensed that the original Associated Press article on the murder failed to disclose that Angie was transgendered (the AP reporter wrote a follow-up piece in which he wrote Zapata was "living as a woman").

David Scoetz at ABC News brings the discrepancy up indirectly:
While Zapata may have lived as a young woman, [Sgt. Joseph] Tymkowych, the police spokesman, explained that because she never legally changed her name to Angie, prosecutors can only bring charges in the case using Justin Zapata to identify the victim.

'We don't have a problem using 'Angie,'' Tymkowych said. 'We don't want to offend the family or anyone with gender concerns, but for it to be a good, clean prosecution, we can't identify a victim who doesn't exist.'
More disturbing to me is Sgt. Tymkowych's statement that the murder "may have been provoked by her lifestyle."

Being transgender is not a lifestyle just as being gay isn't (lifestyles can be easily changed, gender and sexual identities not so much) although I realize how entrenched these erroneous concepts are in some parts of society.

As for ABC News leading the piece with that statement, I realize they are paraphrasing someone else's words but their placement certainly gives them weight.

As for Angie's family, it's incredibly moving to see how much they loved her. They spoke to the local Colorado Fox News affiliate Fox 31 yesterday ("Family of transgender teen speak out"). You can find a link to a video interview with Angie's sister at the site.

Previosuly on Blabbeando:

Mexico: LGBT rights advances covered by Time magazine

Today's Time Magazine has an article on Mexico City and the astounding recent cultural and political developments that have led to the recognition of some same-sex partnership rights, transgender rights and abortion rights in what many consider to be an overwhelmingly conservative and Catholic country.

It also depicts the outrage felt by certain conservative bastions (including the Catholic Church) at what they see as a loss of values and licentious decadence run amok.

From the article:
The conservatives run scared from these issues because they are afraid voters will see their true intolerance, Mexico is changing little by little and the capital is at the forefront of that change. People visit from the provinces and see it is better to live with rights and tolerance. And they want to take those rights home with them - PRD leglislator David Sanchez Camacho, the only openly gay lawmaker in the Mexican Congress
For the full article go here: "Mexico City: A den of sin or a beacon of liberty?"

Previously on Blabbeando:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Peru: Two gay high-school seniors caught having sex in classroom, LGBT rights organizations oppose expulsion

Above:Students at the San Jose de Chiclayo National School in Chiclayo, Peru, Class of 2007.

Earlier this year I wrote about a young lesbian couple in Manizales, Colombia, who were thrown out of their high school and then sent back by a court order that said that the school administrators had discriminated against them for being gay (see 'Related' posts below).

Last week a newspaper from the northern coastal plain city of Chiclayo, Peru, reported that two male high-school students were on the verge of being kicked out school after being caught having sex in an empty classroom ("2 students are discovered practicing a homosexual act," Destapa, July 16, 2008).

The article itself has a sensationalistic tone and it's one thing for two girls to be thrown out of school for holding hands or kissing and quite another for two students to have sex in a classroom without disciplinary action but what caught my attention was that the students seem to be challenging the school.

The two 5th grade secondary-school students (12th grade in the US) at the San José de Chiclayo National School allegedly took advantage that the school's art teacher was absent and used the empty classroom during the art class period to engage in sex. The paper says that they were discovered by other schoolmates and that twenty classmates were witnesses to the "homosexual act."

School principal Gonzalo Supo Capuñay told Destape "Let you be certain that the students will take a definite leave from the school, because the conduct of one or two students will not dim the prestige of the San José de Chiclayo National School."

As of last week, though, disciplinary action was pending an investigation of the allegations.

The students, who were identified only as Erick P.Q. y Kevin M.L. in the paper for being minors, aparently also spoke to Destape. "What's with the uproar," one is quoted as saying, "if in the class there are 5 more students who are homosexual and everyone knows them."

It's unclear which of the students said it since Destape only says it was "the one that took the passive role."

Journalistic integrity for you!

Homosexual Movement of Lima (MOhL), Peru's oldest gay rights organization has released a statement opposing the expulsion of the students and offered legal assistance arguing that it's discriminatory to prevent the free expression of one's sexuality.

The Boletin Diversidad blog ads that the school is an all-boy's school. They also oppose the expulsion in what they call one of the most conservative regions in the country.


Latin Weekly NY features Latino bloggers

The new issue of Latin Weekly NY hits the streets today and features an article on Latino bloggers ("In Latino blogs, gossip prevails").

They interview one of my favorite bloggers - Maegan "La Mala" Ortiz - who launched Vivir Latino two years ago to “represent the life of Latinos who were children of immigrants in New York" from a progressive angle.

They also talk to Jason V. of Latin Gossip who tells reporter Manuel Torrino that he sees the Latino blog market in its infancy and believes that it has a tremendous potential to grow.

Blabbeando is also featured. I echo Megan in saying that we begun our respective blogs because we didn't see maintream coverage of the issues that we cared about. I also encourage other Latinos to start blogging although I warn them that it takes perserverance and dedication to make it work.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Transgender Latina teen murdered in Colorado

History unfortunately keeps repeating itself. Word tonight that a 18 year-old transgender Latina woman has been murdered in Greely, Colorado.

NBC affiliate 9 News reports that close to 200 people gathered today at a Baptist church to mourn the passing of Angie Zapata (born Justin) who was found beaten to death in her apartment a week ago on Thursday.

Police indicate that they have information that might lead to an arrest and have not ruled out that this might be a hate crime but they have also indicated that the killer or killers might be acquaintances of the victim.

On a related matter, blogger TransGriot is taking the Associated Press to task for their common practice of calling trans people by their name of birth instead of their current adopted name ("Another transwoman murdered, another media diss").

AP reporter Mike Peters - who wrote the original story and made no mention of Zapata's gender identity ("Car still missing in homicide") - acknowledged his mistake in a follow up column posted today ("Homicide victim was living as a woman"). Unfortunately he takes a defensive attitude and name-tags the Greely police department, the Weld County's Coroner's Office, and the fact that Angie identified herself with the name of Justin in a couple appearances before a Colorado court for traffic-related violations as reason enough to have identified her as a male in his first report.

Both her parents, who mourn her passing at this time, accepted her fully as a woman and are said to have been greatly supportive of Angie. Let's hope they catch the perpetrators.

Mexico: Folk dancing from the land "where no [gays] are born / and those who are born die"

Oh fun. So you are a member of a folk dance troop from a coastal Mexican region and you're invited to perform for the editorial team of a local Oaxaca newspaper. You begin with a little verse about your hometown of Pinotepa and thank the journalists for the invite.

The men wear white shirts and pants and cream-colored straw hats. The women wear long colorful skirts and their long hair tied in braids. The traditional dances illustrate elaborate courtships and dancers of opposite gender trade sing-along verses as they dance. The guest newspaper, Noticias, calls some of the verses "picaresque."

Take this one, for example: "I'm from the Small Coast where there are plenty of flings / where the men are men and women women / where no fags are born / and those who are born die."

Ah, how quaint. Mexican machismo and homophobia is alive and well even in some forms of traditional cultural expression.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


The chilly tones emanating from Vince Clarke's synth-pad last night at the Beacon Theater should have been more than enough to break the heatwave that has taken over the city. Then again it was Yazoo (a/k/a Yaz) performing in NYC for the first time since 1983 which also meant Alison Moyet singing her pipes off which almost set the stage on fire.

And so, last night, one of my all time dreams came true as I definitely was in the presence of beauty. The acoustics weren't great and some of Yazoo's old songs didn't carry that well into the new millennium but when it all gelled together chills definitely ran up my spine. What was amazing was watching Ms. Moyet wholly take charge of the 25 year old material and not only make it fresh but also (gulp!) seem to enjoy it.

Halfway through the concert she took issue with a New York Times review of one of two previous sold out shows last week that implied that concert goers weren't familiar with a few of the songs and chatted through the slower numbers.

Actually, it was on the slower numbers such as "Midnight," "Ode to Boy," "In My Room," "Winter Kills," and "Nobody's Diary" that her voice shined. I taped some of them wit my camera but the sound did not come out that great.

The audience, though, seemed ecstatic and the band seemed to appreciate the love. I just hope that the adulation and love results in a future Alison Moyet tour. I am amazed that I was finally able to see and hear her live but I really hope to see her perform some of her solo work in the future as well.


Video: Too Pieces

Video: Ode to Boy

Someone else's video: Winter Kills (from the Terminal 5 performance on Thursday)

More videos:
Click here

Friday, July 18, 2008

Honored... Pt. 2

Oh lordy, the heat! Still, yesterday evening I managed to get to the New York City Council chambers pretty sweat-free. And I was pretty shocked by how many people were in the room which made it hard for me to find a seat even as an honoree (as I recently mentioned the City Council was observing the 198th anniversary of the independence of Colombia).

Colombian singer Cabas was in the audience but left soon after he made some initial remarks. There were ten honorees and we were told to keep our speeches short.

Councilmember Hiram Monserrate
(left) read each of the proclamations presented to the honorees and mine did not seem to leave much more to say about my life's work. I wondered how the crowd would react by the mention of my work in LGBT communities but people seemed to take it in stride. Good stuff!

In my speech I said the main reason for coming to the United States was the fear of not being able to live an open life in Colombia back then but that I was thrilled to see how much things had changed since then. I mentioned the recent Colombian Supreme Court ruling granting certain rights to same-sex couples and told the audience that perhaps the United States should follow Colombia's lead.

I finished by dedicating the honor to my mother for the sacrifices she made for her three sons when we moved to the United States - She will be retiring as a college professor upstate New York this year and heading back to Colombia next year. Applause. And that was that (well, there were other honorees and some even thanked their moms as well).

I felt bad for my friend William who sat down for the whole ceremony and probably understood little of what was said since it was conducted in Spanish. I was grateful for his offer to act as my photographer last night.

To celebrate we headed to that other big Colombian heritage tradition:
Xanadu on Broadway! (at the very least I believe the original incarnation did boffo-business at the Colombian movie box-office even as it tanked in the United States).

Confession: I never saw the movie but if it's half as funny as the Broadway show, I'm there! (check the very
gay-licious website).

After the show, William tried to get me to do some scandalous poses in front of the theater but I had to behave myself. After all I had my City Council proclamation in hand! I have to say that I loved Kerry Butler's voice and her tongue-in-cheek take on Olivia Newton-John's Australian accent. I did the usual pose with the show star photo after I noticed her leaving the theater (below).

The temperature had fallen down by night-fall (not by much though) but the humidity was way up. By the time I got home I was drenched in sweat so my sancocho soup warning was not too off the mark. Took a nice shower and went to bed.

All in all, a very nice evening. Thanks to readers who were kind enough to send congratulations through the blog reply section or in private.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Key witness vanishes as 2nd Eddie Garzon murder trial approaches

Long time readers of this blog know that during the early days I tried to write down my recollections on finding that a friend had been assaulted on the streets of Queens in August of 2001 and subsequently passed away from the injuries a few days before 9/11. 35 year old Eddie Garzon had apparently been the victim of a brutal gay bashing.

Two years ago 38 year old John L. McGhee was arrested by police as he stepped out of a plane from London. He was charged in Garzon's murder and was taken to court.

Stunningly, despite testimony from a star witness who said he had been with McGhee on the night of the attack and observed the beating, the trial ended in a mistrial (it should be said, though, that by all accounts, witness Christopher Ricalde's testimony did contain some inconsistencies).

The Queens Distric Attorney's Office promised at the time to bring McGhee back to court for a second trial.

This week I spoke to a reporter from El Diario La Prensa who is writing an article on the new trial for this Sunday's paper. She also interviewed Eddie's parents.

But even as the new trial is slated to begin next month, I was stunned today when Duncan Osborne at Gay City News alerted me to an article just posted online ("Witness Lost in Gay Murder Case"). Osborbe reports that Ricalde can't be found and will probably not testify at the new trial.

Sharon Stapel, Executive Director the New York City Anti-Violence Project, told GCN that there was no way to predict the impact of the missing witness. "Obviously, at AVP we are happy that the district attorney's office is pursuing this case with all of the resources they've put behind it," she said.

But I can't help but feel angry that the Queens District Attorney's Office has lost track of what only could be considered as their star witness.

According to GCN, "Without Ricalde on the stand, a jury will hear [McGhee's attorney]'s original cross examination read from the transcript, but jurors will not see his potentially flawed testimony."

UPDATE: McGhee guilty of 2nd degree murder in killing of Edgar Garzon (Sept. 11, 2008)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Andrew Sullivan: The HIV Travel Ban Is Repealed

Something huge happened today but few of you might know - or care. Nevertheless, for someone who has worked with hundreds of HIV positive individuals - straight and gay - who met every possible requirement to gain immigration rights in the United States EXCEPT for the fact that they were HIV+, this is a victory long time coming.

Tonight I will share this with you: Political pundit Andrew Sullivan (pictured) has posted the following on his site (The Daily Dish). I'm not HIV positive so I'll let him do the talking. After all, he also played big part in reaching this point. I hope he does not mind that I've lifted the whole post from his site. I just thought that it best reflected the moment!

I'm not usually speechless but I'm ecstatic to report that the Senate just passed PEPFAR without the Sessions amendment, and Senator Biden, who managed the bill, just said they will probably avoid a conference with the House and send the bill forthwith to the president's desk. Barring some unforeseen event, the HIV Travel Ban - a relic of the days when HIV was a source of fear and stigma and terror - is finally over.

Obviously, the bigger achievement in PEPFAR is the funding for continued help for those with HIV and AIDS in the developing world - people whose plight is unimaginably worse than mine or so many others trapped by this HIV law. Bush's legacy in this is one for which he is rightly proud. But for those of us who have long dreamed of becoming Americans, and have been prevented by 1993 law from even being able to enter or leave the US without waivers or fear or humiliation, this is a massive burden lifted.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that it's one of the happiest days of my whole life. For two and a half decades, I have longed to be a citizen of the country I love and have made my home. I now can. There is no greater feeling.

Thanks go to many, many people, chiefly Senators Kerry and Smith, who made this a bipartisan priority. Gordon Smith proved how Republicans can reach out to those in genuine need, even if some are gay. All of us with HIV and with spouses or loved ones with the virus are in his debt. But also: Rob Epplin and Alex Nunez, Smith's and Kerry's amazing staffers, who made this possible. The Human Rights Campaign came through too, with insistent, diligent lobbying and a last-minute member email blitz. Immigration Equality, the group that does all the heavy lifting on LGBT and HIV immigration issues, were indispensable. Thanks, Rachel and Adam in particular. A word too to Senators Lugar and Biden, who shepherded the bill forward. I'm grateful too for those behind the scenes, Democrats and Republicans, who helped enormously: Carl Schmid and Jeff Trandahl, in particular. I will not forget Yuval Levin's support. And a word to my friend, David Kuo, who helped me through some of the bleakest days I experienced because of this law. My closest friends know who they are and they know what they've done.

I've lived with this awful sense of insecurity, of fear of leaving the country, of visiting my family, of the lingering sense that my virus rendered me potentially deportable, that any roots I put down might be dug up suddenly one day - for fifteen years. The lifting of this threat - the sense that I now have a home I know will be secure for me and my husband - is indescribable.

And thank you, too, especially. Dish readers really helped - emailing your Senators and telling your stories. This blog can be really draining and a little exasperating. But the sense of support I've gotten these past few weeks has been amazing. It really is like family. And now you've made it possible to make an honest American out of me. Maybe you'll regret it soon enough.

But you're stuck with me now.

I'm gonna celebrate now, so no promises on the timing of my next post.


Tomorrow is supposed to be 92 degrees and sunny. If it's like today, it will be a gorgeous day since - thankfully - the humidity has been relatively low.

BUT, and this is big a big but: I'll be wearing a suit and tie.

As friends know, this is definitely not my usual attire. I just hope I don't turn into sancocho soup with all that hot weather!

The occasion is an event at City Hall to recognize the 198th anniversary of the independence of my country of birth, Colombia (a country that's been much in the news as of late what with all that stuff on the hostage rescue operation that was on CNN 24/7 and this week's episode of the Travel Channel's "No Reservations" which saw chef Anthony Bourdain eating - what else! - sancocho soup in Medellin).

In addition to observing the Colombian independence, ten community leaders will receive honors (I don't have a list of all the honorees but today's New York Daily News mentions Vilma Vallejo, President of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce of Queens; guitarist Milkos Andrea; and Liliana Melo, President of Colombian Professionals in the Exterior - also known as Pecx).

Hm, somehow my name is there as well. Weird, no? I never know how to react when I learn I am receiving an honor like this. Usually the urge is to ask "Are you sure you got that right?" or to look behind me to see if they're talking to someone else.

In the past, I have received honors twice from the City Comptroller's Office (in 1999 from Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi and in 2006 by current Comptroller Bill Thompson). In 1999 I also was honored by then Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields.

What makes tomorrow's ceremony different is that all those previous events were tied to the annual gay pride month celebrations in New York. Tomorrow's event is not. I doubt if I am the first non-hetero person to be honored at this event but I'm pretty certain I'm the first person to be honored for work done in the city's LGBT communities.

Fifteen years ago when I moved to New York I would have told anyone who predicted that I'd be honored for my queer-related work at a Colombian Independence commemorative event they were crazy. That the ceremony will be hosted by the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the New York City Council speaks wonders about how things have changed in those years as well.

I thank City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who certainly has been a trailblazer herself when it comes to city politics.

Most specially, I thank Queens Councilmember Hiram Monserrate and his Chief of Staff Luis Castro who suggested my name for consideration.

[Pictured above: Sancocho! Yum!]

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Musica: Outdoor (and indoor) summer lovin'

By now the greatness that is Alison Moyet should be walking among the mere mortals here in New York. Along with Vince Clarke (as Yaz) she will be performing at two shows at Terminal 5 tomorrow and Thursday and then on Saturday at the more intimate Beacon Theater (and I got good seats! Hmmm... Bacon!).

In the meantime there's even more summer lovin' coming our way so - if you allow me to highlight a couple of the music events that I consider as unmissable - here we go:

This Sunday: Santogold, Diplo, A-Track, Kid Cudi, Blaqstarr & Mz Streamz - Central Park's SummerStage starting at 3PM (Free): OMG, trust me. It'll be hot, humid, drippy and packed! Get there early.

Sunday, August 3, 2008: Jamie Lidell, Janelle Monae, Little Jackie, Jose James & Gilles Peterson (jazzmatazz-funk courtesy of Giant Step) - Central Park's SummerStage starting at 3PM (Free): Spazzmatazz alert!

Thursday, August 14, 2008: Omar (OMG! OMAR! In NYC!!! OMG!!! Yes! OMG!!!) - SOB's starting at 7PM (Show starts at 9PM) One of the most under-appreciated singers ever in the history of amazing singers makes his way to New York City (video above). He's sung with Mary J. Blige and Stevie Wonder, amongst others.

Friday, August 15, 2008: Bajofondo (hm, ok) and Osunlade & The Yorubasoul Orchestra (OMG! Aural orgasm!!) - Central Park's SummerStage starting at 7PM (Free): I swear to you! Orgazm! Orgasm, I say!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cuba: Mariela Castro says government did not shut down first gay pride march

[Previously: "1st ever gay pride march canceled, organizers claim intimidation, others differ," June 28, 2008]

This has been bubbling out there on the internet all day long.

Earlier I got a Google alert that read, in Spanish, "Mariela Castro qualifies a gay march summoned by independent groups as a 'sad montage'" (Encuentro Cubano, July 8, 2008).

The article, posted in what is a strongly anti-Castro web portal, quoted excerpts from what seemed to be a private letter by Castro, signing as the Director of the Cuban Sexual Education National Center, to Dr. Pierre Assalian, the President of the 17th World Congress of Sexology organized by the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) - indicating that she was responding to some of his comments.

Seeking more information, I actually found a bilingual blog post with information on an internal e-mail message sent by Dr. Assailan to members of the WAS ("Cuba and sexual diversity: Some comments and clarifications," La Polilla, July 8, 2008). La Polilla, which leans towards pro-Castro views, translates his brief message as follows:
Re: CUBA’s first gay pride march-the organizers were arrested this morning
I do not understand, I thought Cuba was so open??????
Here WAS should take a stand, even NAFSO [North American Federation of Sexuality Organizations], if we want to put in practice what we talked about in our last meeting regarding ADVOCACY as a role of NAFSO.

La Polilla also offers what seems to be the full text of Castro's letter as well as an English translation (another translation is available at the Penultimos Dias blog).

I still have no confirmation that the statement is real but, if so, Dr. Castro rejects any claims that the Cuban government had anything to do with shutting down what was billed as the first gay pride march in Cuba, takes pot-shots at Cuban-American organizations in Miami and accuses them of terrorism, alleges that none of the persons that showed up for the march were even gay and accuses them of being a front for United States-backed forces seeking to discredit efforts by the Cuban government to increase government led recognition of the rights of LGBT Cubans.

Below, my own translation!

Pierre Assalian, M.D.
President Professional Development of AMPQ
President - 17th World Congress of Sexology

Dear Pierre,

I regret your disagreeable and clumsy irony. It would be very healthy if you sought in-depth information before providing an opinion since none of us are that ingenuous and we know that news regarding Cuba is rewarded with very tempting sums of money to discredit any accomplishment by the Cuban society. We all know that campaigns against Cuba are financed and organized by the United States government, using terrorist groups and organizations made-up at the last minute to be able to justify that funding and divert the attention towards the majority of the funds that remain in the pockets of the organizers. Have you read about these scandals? A common mechanism for this is to create the news and to sell it to different press agencies and bodies, with the goal of indicating that the assigned moneys were ‘adequately’ used.

Just in case you do not know, the Cuban revolution, and in particular the work done by CENESEX during the last years, have elicited much world-wide sympathy. Some of the foreign press accredited by Cuba have communicated to me that they received the order by their newspaper’s directors not to publish more news regarding the social advances in Cuba in the field of the right of the LGBT community, due to pressures expressly received from North American diplomats. This is perhaps why you are not aware of all the work we are doing to promote the sexual rights of the LGBT community, of the intense and extensive program undertaken in all of Cuba close to May 17th, of our efforts in the legislative field. Nevertheless, you become alarmed by news that have been made-up and politically manipulated, to justify the funds received by these organizations, coming from the North American government program, to discredit Cuba, with the ostentatious intention of discrediting the work we are doing.

I have received letters from gay, lesbian and transgender activists living in Cuba and abroad who are angered by this information. In the first place, because those organizations in Miami are profoundly homophobic and never took care of the rights of neither Cuban nor Cuban-American homosexuals. In the second place, because they will never allow any organization based in the exterior to decide on their behalf. In the third place, because it was all a sad
montage [un montaje infeliz]: There was no march because no-one supports them, no-one confronted them, no-one repressed them, there was not a single policeman in their surroundings and there were no detainees. The foreign press let us know that there were only 6 persons in the referred park and none were LGBT, they weren’t even able to explain the LGBT situation in Cuba when the press asked them, for this reason they weren’t sufficiently covered by the summoned foreign press media, who suffered a great deception when they discovered that it was a coarse and badly mounted show. In the end, they were ignored.

We regret that the attacks against our work from the exterior begin to be increasingly desperate. It’s our understanding that they will be more systematic and that there are a lot of media and the economic power to carry them out We will continue to do and improve our work, with the full support of the LGBT community of Cuba and many friends around the world.

I assume that the WAS is not a political organization and that it has the professional responsibility of not playing into the media campaigns, which discredit it as a worldwide scientific organization. I remind you that it’s not the first time that some fall into this trap.

It will be my pleasure to meet you again in Ecuador and Sweden, to greet you as good colleagues who fight for the same cause and to talk about the advances of the LBGT community in Canada, where you live. We all have a lot of useful work to do in our countries on behalf of the promotion of sexual rights. I am certain that we all are doing our best efforts.

My best greetings,

Mariela Castro Espín, Director of the Sexual Education National Center (CENESEX)


My New York: Subway mirror image

[h/t: JockoHomo]: Improv Everywhere's latest successful stunt involved a bunch of identical twins wearing similar clothing and a Manhattan subway car. Add together and you get the mirror image above. At least one of the passengers was reported as questioning her sanity.

They have additional photos and video
here (including passenger reaction).

As JockoHomo points out, IE also recently launched Urban Prankster "featuring pranks, hacks, participatory art, flash mobs, and other creative endeavors that take place in public places in cities across the world."

BTW, New Yorkers, if you want to get alerts on future stunts, join the mailing list!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Glam Slam X: Flotilla does Macy Gray's "I Try"

Michael Musto, who I've photographed before for Wockner News and who even caught me being extremely politically correct in one of his columns a couple of years ago (a true honor as much as I love his columns), has posted his thoughts on last week's final House of Xavier's Glam Slam which Blabbeando promoted in June.

An excerpt:
I've done this gig many times before, but this year—the last one before the event takes off for the UK—seemed extra looney and special. For example, the "loss poem in blue" category brought out a weirdo who screamed drug regimens and time announcements in between railing about "Angela" Jolie. Later, we realized he'd interpreted loss as in "lost my mind." Brilliant! There was also a Jamaican guy who dropped his pants and kept chanting about how his sperm had turned blue. We took his word for it. At other times in the night, Flotilla cleansed the crowd's palette with a brilliant Macy Gray impression
Hm, Michael might not have video of the scandalous night but - guess what! I do!

Here is Ms. Flotilla DeBarge doing that brilliant and respectful 'fromage' of Macy Gray's greatest hit "I Try."
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