Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bizarre: Blabbeando blocked for 24 hours

On August 10th it'll be three years since I began this blog. So far I haven't encountered any problems with Blogger (which is owned by Google) and - considering my time limitations - I haven't had the need for features available on other blog services other than the ones that Blogger offers.

I do remember when I first noticed that "FLAG BLOG" tab on the top of the page and wondering how Google would be able to determine if a "flagged" blog was indeed violating some of the content agreements or just being reported by people who simply did not like the content (which of course comes into play on issues such as LGBT rights which might draw the ire of a certain number of people).

This came to mind last night when I logged into my dashboard and - to my surprise - a message appeared on the editing page saying that I had been blocked from uploading additional posts because Blabbeando had been automatically identified by a Google bot as a "Spam" blog.

The message provided directions of how to click on a button and request that the blog be inspected for content and promised to investigate and solve the problem. Checking some online boards I discovered that some people had been waiting for more than 20 days for a response. Trouble is that the message also said the blog would be erased after 20 days if there was no action.

Today the warning message changed! It now said that the blog was being blocked for "possible content issues" which made me think it might be due to some trigger-happy people pressing that "FLAG BLOG" button. I mean, I talk about sexuality from time to time but so far I could see no reason why my previous posts might have violated content agreements.

I also discovered that while I wasn't able to do regular posts, I could still ad Page Elements to the right hand column which is why this afternoon I posted something that read:

Blogger has blocked my ability to post entries on this blog as of April 29, 2008, pending a content review. Apparently I can still post page elements on the side bar which makes it possible for me to post this notice.

Hopefully the issue will be resolved satisfactorily sooner than later. In the meantime thanks for visiting the blog!
Happily, the issue seems to have been resolved because I just regained access to the "New Post" area on my editing dashboard. Bizarre.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Colombia: 1st day back in class for high school lesbians who were booted out

Right: "'Degrees' of intolerance" by Colombian editorial cartoonist Ricky from today's editorial page of the Manizales newspaper La Patria. The caption bubble reads - "And they say that Leonardo Da Vinci was gay"

Yesterday was the first day back in school for the two lesbian high-school students who were booted out back in February but allowed to go back by court order.

The case has drawn the national attention not the least because of this extraordinary video captured on Thursday when the students registered for class.

Getting most of the heat has been Leonardo Da Vinci High School principal Magola Franco Pérez who stood by as more than 700 students heckled the two girls as they registered last week holding anti-gay signs and banners and and shouting "We don't want you!" against the girls and "We want Magola" in support of the principal (the principal continues to argue that it was a "spontaneous" demonstration over which she had no control although she admits that some students mysteriously gained access to the schools PA system and were able to lead the chants).

She had threatened to resign if the two young women were ever allowed to return to the school (she didn't) and late today she began legal proceedings - AGAIN - against both students arguing that they should not be allowed back in school based on a technicality: She says the girls signed the incorrect registration forms (hm, I wonder who made sure they didn't sign the right forms). Yes, folks! Despite the court order she is trying her damnest to get rid of the two students.

Colombian Senator Armando Benedetti officially submitted a complaint against the principal with the national Attorney General's office as well as against Manizales Mayor Juan Manuel Llano Uribe for allowing the anti-gay protests in light of a court order that determined that the two students were dismissed based on discrimination. He also asked for the dismissal of principal Franco Pérez. This according to an article published in La Patria today ("The Da Vinci, to learn from tolerance").

For his part, Mayor Llano Uribe says that Benedetti is overreacting since he does not know the facts and defending the rights of the other students to protest since he deems that it was OK for them to defend themselves from the perception that they were all lesbians.

In addition to reporting on the issue and running the political cartoon above, La Patria also ran two opinion columns that supported the students' rights to return to class.

In "The sin is to be a lesbian" columnist Martin Franco V. says:
What we experience with this case is nothing more than an acid test on tolerance: Students at the high school have to learn to respect the sexual tastes of their schoolmates, in the same way that the reintegrated students should understand that they can live their sexuality without a problem, as long as and whenever they do not bother or transcend the limits of those that surround them. But to judge a person for their sexual condition is an absurdity. Even though, taking a good look at it, the issue is a paradox: Leonardo Da Vinci himself, Renaissance genius, was stigmatized for his sexual condition. Isn't it ironic?
And in "An Infamy" columnist Jorge Raad Aljure says:
It's not a sin, and even less illegal, to be a homosexual. Those who see and judge others without the least intention to accept differences also have their right, but [it does not give them the right] to turn into aggressors as the makers of all truth and purity.

The corruption of minors is infamous as well as to ridicule human differences. By doing so you stain a humans' value.
In the meantime a protest has been organized in Bogota this Friday at noon in Bogota through Facebook (with other cities throughout the country showing interest in doing similar events).

My friend Marcela Sánchez Buitrago, Director of the Colombian LGBT rights organization Colombia Diversa, has been in touch with the students and their parents and here is what she says:
On Saturday morning they were feeling awful and they felt on their own in this fight but according to their lawyer our calls cheered them up. They are very grateful for all the demonstrations and the support that they have received.

They and their parents do not have an issue of [them] being lesbians and, more than that, with [then] having a loving relationship... and they are ready to receive all the help they can.
As for their first day in class, El Tiempo reports that even though the two students feared the worst, a dozen students welcomed them to school by embracing them. There were no new demonstrations and, while there was a greater awareness as to their presence, there weren't any outright hostile demonstrations against them. At least for today.

In the meantime, if you thought anti-gay fervor was the domain of certain high-school principals in Colombia please head over to this post on PageOneQ on a similar case here in the United States ("
Principal ousts gays, ACLU steps in").


El Blabbeador on BBC News

And I thought people wouldn't notice but I have already gotten a few messages about this article posted online earlier today.

BBC News reporter Emilio San Pedro was in New York recently to cover issues related to the Latino community and the New York City visit by the Pope, among other stories.

When he called me he said that he was interested in meeting me to discuss the Latino LGBT community in the United States. He said that British press had been covering issues related to sexual orientation and the Middle East (most recently in the context of protests against the deportation of gay Iranians and the case of Medhi Kazemi in particular) and that he wanted to broaden the discussion to include issues faced by LGBT communities throughout the world.

BBC Radio broadcast a brief interview a few days ago and today BBC News posted a larger article based on San Pedro's conversation with myself and my great friend, Diana De La Pava. Here is the link:
Although I did speak of sometimes LGBT Latinos being marginalized by both the Latino community as well as the mainstream gay community in the United States, I'm not sure I was trying to play on the "poor little us" angle which the title conveys. But I hope the rest of the article carries the message that despite some marginalization, the community has been able to become more visible and gain certain power as welll.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Colombia: Allowed back in school by court order, lesbian students are heckled by student body, school principal

In most Roman gladiator movies there is a scene in which slaves are led to the coliseum to be slayed by Roman fighters or mauled by lions. Usually the camera shows them entering the arena through a passageway as the sounds of the cheering crowd get progressively louder and then emerge into the blinding sunlight to a now-deafening cacophony and the sight of the bleachers filled with hundreds of blood-thirsty spectators.

For some reason, that was what came to my mind when I saw the extraordinary images captured in the video above at an all-girls school in Manizalez, Colombia, as broadcast on Caracol News last night (begin watching at the :26 second mark).

Background: On February 10, La Patria broke the story of the expulsion of two girls from the Leonardo Da Vinci High School in Manizalez allegedly because they were lesbians ("Out of classes for preferring their same gender," La Patria, Feb. 10, 2008).

The issue had come to the forefront because María Constanza Montoya Naranjo, the city's Secretary of Education, said that they had received a complaint of discrimination at the 1,500 student high school and that the city was looking into the claims.

Magola Franco Pérez, the school's principal, argued then that the two girls had been expelled for behavior and not because they were lesbians. She told the reporter that there were many other girls with the same "tendency" at the school but that the others did not have behavioral problems (which, according to the principal, included showing up to school with the smell of beer on their breath and being seen smoking while in school uniform). She said that if the school was ordered to welcome the two students back, she would resign in protest.

The young women, 16 and 17 years of age respectively, had been in a 16-month relationship and told the newspaper they were trying to keep up with their studies on their own while they fought to be allowed back in school.

Court rules in girls' favor: The girls' parents brought the case to court on April 10th under the Colombian court "expedited ruling" process called tutela and this Thursday a court ruled in their favor.

The ruling stated that the school principal had had been "unclear" in the reasons for letting the students go and ordered her to allow the girls to register for classes within 48 hours ("Two lesbian students who had been expelled from a Manizalez school will be reintegrated," El Tiempo, April 24, 2008).

The Roman coliseum: The girls and their lawyer returned to school yesterday morning with the court order but even they could not have expected the vehemency of their less than friendly welcome.

Shouting "We don't want you" (no las queremos, which you can clearly listen in the video) and "We want Magola" (queremos a Magola, in support of the high school principal, also seen later in the video), a large number of Leonardo Da Vinci High School Students clearly expressed where their allegiance lied despite the Principal's reported congratulations to the students on having won the case as they registered for classes ("Leonardo Da Vinci School follows court ruling," La Patria, April 26, 2008).

In the video, the girls' lawyer, Maria Elena Castrillon, is visibly stunned by the reception and is shown crying. "This appears to be without precedence," she tells Caracol, "A situation such as this it's inadmissible."

Despite the "We don't want you" shouts one of the students that organized the protest - who is shown with her face against the camera - insists that the protest is not against the two girls but a defense of the dignity of the school's students. "They [claim] that we are school purely made up by lesbians, and, no, things aren't like that," she tells Caracol.

She admits that the rally is also in support of Principal Pérez who, in the La Patria article, is said to have been questioned by some civil rights leaders who were present for such a reaction (they requested that Pérez institute a number of trainings on the issue of discrimination for the school's students).

The paper also noted that the protesters had access to school resources including the internal communication network which the protesters used to rally students (the Principal denied any role in allowing students to use the intercom system).

By day's end, as shown in the video, the Principal was finally talking to reporters and expressing anger that her authority had been challenged not only in expelling the students but also for being taken to task for what she called an impromptu demonstration by students yesterday.

Our friends at the Colombian LGBT rights organization Colombia Diversa have supported the girls and their families through the court process and are following up on these developments (that's their Executive Director, Marcela Sanchez, in the video responding to the atrocious student response).

In the meantime, a Facebook group has been formed to fight homophobia in Colombian high schools, and some are calling for an annual Colombian version of the Day of Silence demonstration similar to those that just took place in the United States this week.

In the meantime the two girls are supposed to return to class full time on Monday. Let's see how it goes.

Here is the coverage by RCN News as well:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Obama on Hispanic Trending

Juan Guillermo Torne of Hispanic Trending sent me the following link to an interview he did with Barack Obama (in some ways it mirrors some of the issues raised by gay supporters):

Q: Why did your campaign take so long to proactively reach out to Hispanics in comparison to several of the other candidates? We saw Latino people gravitating towards you, but not until later in the game we saw a fully orchestrated effort from your camp to reach out to them?

Obama's response is here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Clinton talks to Latino gay web portal, Obama should embrace gay media

Kerry Eleveld has a great piece over at The Advocate Online on the different approaches by the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns when it comes to gay media and their stands on LGBT rights (All Politics Is Local, The Advocate Online, April 22, 2008).

I bring this up because, as an Obama supporter, I have no idea why the campaign has been so reluctant from engaging gay media and specifically local gay media - aside from placing ads and offering OpEd pieces plus one or two big interviews with The Advocate.

Sure, I get why Obama might not have spoken to The Philadelphia Gay News but how about Gay City News, Bay Area Reporter, The Blades, etc.?

His explanation to The Advocate? “We tend not to do a whole bunch of specialized press. We try to do general press for a general readership.”

Which is all good and stuff but he still misses a great opportunity to connect a bit more with the gay community which tends to vote at higher rates than the general community.

The Clinton campaign, on the other hand, seems to offer more availability to the candidate when it comes to gay press.

What stunned me this week was that she even gave a brief interview to an upstart Spanish-language LGBT web portal called
Tras La Verdad and probably made history:
  • The interviewer was Veronica Onnassis (above) who is transgender (not sure a trans journalist has ever had access to La Clinton); and
  • Clinton probably was sold on the idea that the portal aims to reach the Spanish-speaking LGBT community in the United States - which also probably makes it the first time that a presidential candidate has reached out to a Spanish language LGBT site.
The Clinton camp probably new it would be a puff piece (the site had endorsed her weeks earlier) - and how!

Here are the questions: "How do you manage to keep balance between work and family?", "Who do you admire?", "What part of the world do you prefer to vacation in?", "If you are elected president, would you work with openly gay persons on your electorate train?", "Are you friends with people who are openly gay?", "Do you have friends who are openly gay?", "Many gays in the Latino community admire you for what your contribution to LGBT rights - How do you feel about the backing of these individuals?"

And of course, "Who is your favorite fashion designer?"
and "What is your favorite color?"

Finally, on the very last question, Onassis asks a policy question by telling Senator Clinton that in her home country, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere some people with HIV face employment discrimination and then asking if as president she would launch an international policy to stop those abuses.

Senator Clinton said yes.

I still believe Obama will be our next president and hope that this will be resolved sooner than later. But the campaign should engage gay media a bit more.


How sick is this? YouTube goes REALLY viral

Imagine you are a porn flick producer and need to make your product be noticed. You get a bright idea ("Damn! YouTube vids can go viral in no time if you got the right idea").

Unfortunately, YouTube does not allow pornography. What to do?

Well, maybe you don't need to actually show scenes from the movie. Maybe you just cover your face with a bandana and start reading the names of girls under contract for the films and - what the heck - claim that you've intentionally infected them with HIV!


Except Australian media caught up with him ("Trashman's AIDS Talk Just Trash," The Sydney Morning Herald, April 23, 2008).

Previously on Blabbeando:

24 horas con un heterosexual

Sorry to those of you who do not understand Spanish. For the rest, hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spain: Organizations decry homophobic attacks against gay men caught having sex in public bathrooms

Above: Isaac Rodríguez explains what happened after he was caught in a Pio Prince Mall bathroom stall with another man (ADN Television).

Remember Senator
Larry Craig's bathroom incident? You probably do as it became almost as big a news story as Britney Spears' meltdown last year (actually, my friend Michael Rogers broke the story over at his BlogActive blog).

If memory serves well, some of the reaction back then - including from gay media - expressed disgust, disdain and utter shock at the fact that some men use public restrooms to cruise other men - as well as the usual lurid coverage that accompanies stories like these.

The whole bru-ha-ha led to amusing commentary from Rex Wockner and a handy video guide of signals gay men use to cruise other guys by Rod Townsend (the Felching Flytrap is particularly effective - or so I've been told).

Which brings us to Spain: It may not be a story about a homophobic politician being caught in his own hypocrisy, but I was struck by an article published yesterday in Madrid's ADN ("Sex in public bathrooms, homophobic aggressions") and the tone of the coverage.

Basically, representatives of LGBT rights organizations tell the newspaper that security guards at some public establishments such as shopping malls and train stations are being overtly aggressive and have verbally and physically assaulted men found having sex with other men in public bathrooms. They say that these attacks are homophobic and that security guards who are overzealous in taking justice in their own hands should be brought to court.

"A month and a half ago I witnessed how a man attacked another at the Atocha train station because he was offended by a look," said Miguel Ángel González, President of the LGTB Collective of Madrid (COGAM), "he began to hit him until the security guards showed up, they quickly took the victim away, while the nothing happened to the attacker" [Funny, I remember walking into that exact bathroom during a visit to Spain and being shocked by how cruisy it was].

He says the victim never reported the incident and explains that a lot of the men that cruise the bathrooms are in the closet and afraid to bring charges against the attackers.

Manuel Ródenas, an attorney specializing on LGBT rights, tells ADN that there is a legal vacuum when it comes to these cases since there are no laws that address instances in which the aggressor walks away free.

"[Having sex in public bathrooms] is not a crime as long as it can't be categorized as exhibitionism;" says Ródenas, "The victims do it with discretion and do not want anyone to find out, but the security guards often open the stall doors, breaking their intimacy and forcing the proof."

Now, if you have read articles about public restroom sting operations in the United States usually you see a number of men being arrested or charged by police with their names and addresses sometimes published the next day in the local newspaper. I can't remember any instance in cases like these in which a man has gone on record or on camera to defend his actions.

Well, check the video above (larger version here).

Isaac Rodríguez, tells ADN about being assaulted by a security guard at the Prince Pio Mall back in February after being caught in a bathroom stall with another man.

"I was in a stall with a guy, a security guard came in, looked below the stall doors, saw that there were more than two legs and gave a strong kick to the door and pulled us out. He began to insult and threaten us. He said he was a Nazi and that he'd be our worst nightmare."

"The security guard grabbed my head and pushed it against the mirror, but the aggression did not leave a mark or an injury, so I wasn't able to present proof."

In the video he says that the attack lasted for 20 to 30 minutes and that it was rather unpleasant. He also shows exactly which bathroom stall he was using which for some reason I find really funny but, hey, I have a weird sense of humor. He also says that straight couples sometimes use public spaces for sex as well but are never taken under custody or attacked.

Rodríguez has taken the security guard to court.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pope-fest downer: Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo has died

Did you know the one about condoms not being effective against HIV because the virus is so small that it can penetrate the condom latex? (A false claim, if you're wondering).

Or the one about the recognition of same-sex partnerships as being detrimental to hetero marriages even if nobody has quite explained just how?

OK, you might not be aware of the first claim but the second one is pretty much par for the course for some of the extreme right wing organizations fighting efforts to extend partnership benefits to same-sex couples in the United States and elsewhere.

Thing is, despite the Papal love-fest being witnessed here in the United States this week, these are also the Vatican's positions. And - if you really think about it - it means that the blood of millions who have died from AIDS throughout the world is still all over the current Pope's hands.

Personally, I can care less whether the Vatican approves of same-sex partnerships or not as long as they don't get involved in policy making for those of us who are not religious (of course, reality is that the separation of church and state is most times a mirage particularly in Latin American countries).

But when it comes to HIV prevention and the use of condoms, the Vatican has been as woefully blind and irresponsible as with its failure to address the pedophile scandal that has rocked Catholic churches in recent years (and, no, don't tell me that the Pope's apology this week or his meeting with abuse survivors atones for the damage done).

Fact is that when it came to preventing HIV, right wing demagogues have always had the Vatican's backing and key among the Vatican leaders who had best carried their flag was Colombian-born Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo (briefly considered as a candidate for Pope-hood when Pope John Paul II died).

Here are some of Cardinal Trujillo's views:
  • The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom - Cardinal Trujillo as quoted by BBC News in Vatican in HIV Condom Row on October 9, 2003 (here in New York ACT UP organized a protest at the Vatican Mission to the United Nations over that one)
  • What has been done in Spain, and additionally with a very reduced majority, is the destruction of the family brick by brick - Cardinal Trujillo reacting to Spain's landmark same-sex marriage law as quoted by El Mundo in April of 2005
  • Couples made up of homosexuals claim similar rights to those reserved to husband and wife; they even claim the right to adoption. Women who live a lesbian union claim similar rights, demanding laws which give them access to . . . fertilization or embryo implantation. Moreover, it is claimed that the help of the law to form these unusual couples goes hand in hand with the help to divorce and repudiate - A passage from a 57-page document released in June of 2006 by the Pontifical Council for the Family - led by Cardinal Trujillo - on the supposed unparalleled threats against the 'traditional' family as quoted by PlanetOut.
Well, last night, Cardinal Trujillo died in Rome at the age of 72 due to natural causes and, though we don't doubt that the current Pope will nominate someone equally as conservative to his post at the Pontifical Council for the Family, I can't help but hope that his death signifies a passing of the guard and a more enligthened future.

The Pope has said that he will lead a mass in honor of Trujillo once he gets back to Rome from his rock-star mini-tour of New York. I will observe a moment of silence for those who have died of AIDS due to Trujillo's war on effective HIV prevention tools.

In the meantime, since we are writing about the Vatican I wanted to mention that my friend Brendan Fay was busy last night organizing a vigil at the site of the World Trade Center in honor of Fire Chaplain Mychal Judge, an openly gay man who died on 9/11, on the eve of the Pope's visit to ground zero. New York 1 has coverage and video here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Brazil: President-backed legislation would allow gays to sponsor foreign partners for immigration

From Chris Crain's blog:
The center-left government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has announced a legislative proposal that would extend to gay Brazilians the same right straight Brazilians have to sponsor foreign partners for temporary or permanent resident visas. It's a Brazilian UAFA (Uniting American Families Act), if you will.

The proposed law would simply remove any distinction of sex from existing provisions that allow Brazilians to sponsor foreign partners. In reality, Brazil is already one of two-dozen countries that already allow gay citizens to sponsor foreign partners for residence, but that right is based entirely on vulnerable judge-made law.

More here.

Previously on Blabbeando:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Barack today on last night's debate

ABOVE: Barack Obama earlier today in Raleigh, North Carolina, speaking about last night's debate.
Considering it wasn't necessarily his best debate - in large part due to the tone and content - you have to acknowledge that when he is in his game, there seems no stopping Barack Obama. I am always amazed by his use of humor in situations that would elicit the worst from other politicians. Check him letting it roll off his shoulders - and pants - above (h/t Andrew Sullivan).

UPDATE: Pam Spaulding was there covering the event. Her nuanced breakdown of today's speech is here.

Argentina: May 17th will be "Fight Against Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Day" in Buenos Aires

Not to be left behind today, the Buenos Aires legislature voted this afternoon to designate May 17th as the "Fight Against Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Day" (doesn't necessarily roll off the tongue as easily as other commemorations but I guess they wanted to be specific about it).

Of course, this follows efforts by international LGBT activists to have different legislative bodies - whether it be localities or nations - recognize May 17th as a "International Day Against Homophobia" (most recently I wrote about Costa Rica adopting such a measure on a national scale).

César Cigliutti y Pedro Paradiso Sottile represented the LGBT rights organization Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA) at today's legislative ceremony. Legislators recognized the role of the CHA in pushing for the May 17th commemoration.

Uruguay: Gay couple become the first to be granted civil union license

Back in December, Uruguay made history when it became the first country in Latin America to adopt a national civil union law that included heterosexual as well as same-sex partners (civil unions and same-sex partnership rights have been recognized in cities and regions of other Latin American countries but - until Uruguay - not on a national scale).

In what is turning out to be a tremendous day for same-sex partnership rights in the region (see previous post), AFP is reporting that 68-year old theater director Juan Carlos Moretti and his partner of fourteen years, 38-year old Adrián Figuera, became the first Uruguayan couple to be granted a civil union license.

The civil court ceremony, presided earlier today by Judge Estrella Pérez Azziz, was said to be small in attendance and limited to close friends and relatives. It also came three months after the law was officially adopted.

The law grants same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples certain rights pertaining to joint patrimony, the right to inherit each others belongings, access to pension payments in the case of the death of one of the partners and access to social security benefits. To apply, couples must demonstrate that they have had an uninterrupted relationship for at least five years.

Colombia: Same-sex partners get pension rights

First came a Constitutional Court ruling allowing same-sex couples in long-term relationships to shared assets similar to rights already enjoyed by married heterosexual couples (February 2007).

Then came a second ruling by the same court granting
social security rights to same-sex couples, including health benefits (October 2007).

Today comes word that the court has determined that same-sex partners in Colombia should also be granted the right to enroll in pension rights similar to those of married straight couples ("Same-sex couples do have the right to pensions, ruled the Constitutional Court," El Tiempo).

The Procurator General's Office had previously submitted a statement on behalf of pension rights for same-sex couples stating that last year's rulings and the creation of the common law partnership registries "opened the possibility to interpret the notion of permanent partners in the sense that they include same-sex couples for all the judicial regulations that use that notion to confer benefits to unmarried couples."

The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations had already declared that Colombia had erred in not recognizing the right of a man whose same-sex partner had died access to his pension benefits and ordered the country to pay the man $150 million pesos (approx. U$72,000 at that time).

This is yet another incredible victory by the Colombian LGBT rights organization,
Colombia Diversa which worked with the Public Interest Group at the University of Los Andes in Bogota to bring the issue to the Court and emerge victorious.

Interestingly, while the judicial branch has been taking huge steps in the recognition of same-sex partnerships in Colombia, a bill establishing some of the same rights now granted by the country's top court has been blocked legislatively by a small number of conservative legislators in the Colombian congress.

  • Human Rights Watch's take in the ruling is available here
  • Here is Colombia Diversa's Marcela Sanchez explaining today's ruling (in Spanish):

Previously on Blabbeando:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bruce endorses Obama

At the moment, critics have tried to diminish Senator Obama through the exaggeration of certain of his comments and relationships. While these matters are worthy of some discussion, they have been ripped out of the context and fabric of the man's life and vision, so well described in his excellent book, Dreams From My Father, often in order to distract us from discussing the real issues: war and peace, the fight for economic and racial justice, reaffirming our Constitution, and the protection and enhancement of our environment - From Bruce Springsteen's Barack Obama endorsement posted on his website today.

Not that a Springsteen endorsement is enough to make or break the race but I keep thinking about his words today as I watch tonight's debate (Andrew Sullivan's take on the debate here and he's mostly right on point).

BTW - Soon enough, I'll get back to regular blogging.

Monday, April 14, 2008

My New York: Hot subway tranny mess

Caught this at one of Manhattan's subway stations. Embedded in the subway tiles for posterity perhaps to record the wobegone days of the 80's and early 90's West Side meatpacking district (I guess?). It's housed at the Spring Street R/N/Q subway station and designed by artist Janet Zweig (h/t Splog).

Friday, April 11, 2008


Been touristin' with visiting family. Blogging will be intermittent for the next few days. That's me at the top of the Empire State Building yesterday afternoon (behind me and the tourists is the southern tip of Manhattan).

Colombia: Should gay couples be exempt from mandatory military service?

Considering that in Colombia 1.) Military service is mandatory, 2.) Gays are allowed to serve in the military and 3.) Married heterosexual couples are exempt from mandatory military service, common sense would say that same-sex couples would also be exempt from mandatory service - if only they were recognized as a family unit.

Well, according to an article from today's
El Espectador, the nation's Procurator General's Office (or, translated differently, Inspector General's Office) sent a "concept paper" to Colombia's Constitutional Court arguing just as much and calling it discriminatory to deny the privilege to same-sex couples who can demonstrate that they are in a conjugal partnership.

"If social security benefits are already granted to homosexual couples, the same criteria should be extended to the Obligatory Military Service," is the way that El Espectador paraphrases the statement.

The Constitutional Court can accept or reject the recommendation but it's yet another small example on how things are changing in Latin America when it comes to recognition of LGBT rights in the continent.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Ecuador: President Correa falls into political trap, accedes to right-wing demands, says gay couples deserve some rights

Last week, US-based conservative religious web portal LifeSite posted an article championing Ecuadorian Assemblymember Rosanna Queirolo and her efforts "to preserve family values in the nation's constitution" ("Famous Model and TV Announcer Wins Battle to Protect Life and Family Values in Ecuadoran Constitution," April 1, 2008).

Queirolo had launched
a well-publicized effort to remove anti-gay discrimination protections from Ecuador's constitution and to eliminate any access to abortion in a country that already bans them except in cases of rape or incest (it was those "in case of" instances that she also wanted to eliminate in part by establishing that life should be recognized by the constitution at conception instead of at birth).

She was soon joined by a few colleagues and by members of the Ecuadorian religious right who took to the streets to demand further changes to the constitution including access to ex-gay treatments for gays who wanted to be "cured," a ban on the official recognition of any partnership that was not between a man and a woman, and the inclusion of God's name in the magna carta.

Initially there were rumors that Queirolo would be censured by her political party, PAIS, particularly for statements made on the Assembly floor linking gays to pedophiles.

In addition, President
Rafael Correa (above) used his weekly radio show to categorically deny that he'd let the constitutional re-drafting process be entangled in these issues claiming that 1) The issue of same-sex marriage was a non-issue since the gay community wasn't asking for marriage and the government already had established that marriages could only be between a man and a woman; 2) Similarly, that abortion was also not a constitutional matter and that the country already had laws banning abortion and was respecting "life;" and 3) That including the word "God" in the constitution would discriminate against people who had religions other than Christian as well as atheists.

President Correa says he fell into a political trap, accedes to some right-wing demands, but still says that the rights of same sex couples should be recognized:
Since my last post on the issue, there has been a change in fortunes.

For one, instead of censuring Queirolo, the PAIS party released a 6-point official position paper on April 1st which seemed to cave in to some of the demands by the religious right.

Among those positions:
  • The preamble to the Constitution will include the name of God and the diverse forms of religiosity, spirituality and beliefs of Ecuadorians in an ecumenical manner
  • The new Constitution will guarantee life. And will recognize and protect it in all phases, including care and protection from conception
  • The State will strengthen families as the nucleus of society. Marriage will remain as the union of a man and a woman, recognizing civil unions
There are caveats but, in short, PAIS, which happens to be the party affiliation of the President, pretty much embraced some of the language that the right wing had demanded. They did close by also stating that "Nobody will be discriminated based on their sexual orientation."

On his radio show on Saturday President Correa admitted that he'd fallen into a political trap.

Ecuador Inmediato reports that Correa characterized the 5-hour meeting that led to the release of the PAIS statement as time spent on matters that did not have any "transcendence." He said that he personally still believed that the word God should stay out of the Constitution but admitted that it would now be included. He made a pledge to continue allowing "therapeutic abortions" in the case where a doctor deemed it necessary to save a woman's life or "in case of sexual violations." And, on the issue of same-sex partners he said that he would fight to guarantee certain legal rights of common law partnerships although he stopped short of saying whether those same-sex common law partnerships themselves would be recognized (not sure if any form of partnership between same-sex couples would be recognized if the constitution ends up enshrining the family as the nucleus of society and only recognizing family as being constituted by that conformed between a man and a woman).

"Let's not continue to play the right wing's game," Correa said, "let's not fall into their traps any longer, let's discuss the topics that should really be included in the Constitution, let's keep working."

Queirolo, for her part and having done the damage, promptly announced on April 2nd that she would be leaving the PAIS political party, according to El Comercio, although she made a commitment to follow through on making sure that the changes she championed made it to the final version of the Constitution.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Panama: Negative to lukewarm reactions to letting gays serve as police officers

Well, that didn't take long.

News that Rolando Mirones, the National Police Chief of Panama, would not have an issue with allowing gays ans lesbians as police officers, has elicited mostly negative reactions from public officials, while a gay-rights advocacy group says that his words are meaningless without changes in the law.

Government and military officers, former Chief of Police react negatively: Retired military general Rubén Darío Paredes tells Critica that comments by Mirones are unusual and probably a slip of the tongue.

"I first thought that [Mirones] was joking with the reporters, then I believed that it had been a confrontational or rude response against media. Either way, today - under a more serene and meaningful reflection -, I am certain that [Mirones] has perhaps realized that he made an unfortunate slip."

He also tells the paper that it might be time to bring allow military leaders to direct the nation's police force (in his comments he mentions that the police department has only been allowed to have civilian directors for the past 17 years but that this model, while effective at first, might be "tired" and in need of change).

Over at Panamá America, Daniel Delgado Diamante (above), the nation's current Justice Minister, has harsher words: "I cannot imagine a homosexual policeman, and this is a situation that I completely reject from a purely personal point of view."

He cautions Mirones that the current police regulations call for removal of anyone who participates in a homosexual act within the institution and establishes it as a "grave" act. He added "As long as I am a Minister, I will make sure that the regulations are obeyed."

Delgado also told PA that he was aware that "cases of homosexuality" had been reported in the National Police and that it was up to the police to control the situation (the paper also mentions a case four years ago in which a police lieutenant was booted from the police force after a man sent naked pictures of both himself and the officer to media and the police department).

Ebrahim Asvat, a former director of the National Police of Panama, concurs. Allowing gays, tattooed individuals and people with earrings (as was also suggested by Mirones) are "liberties" that will weaken the discipline required of the institution. "This opens itself to allow the institution to be infiltrated by many delinquents."

The church says there should be no discrimination: Surprisingly, the church is the institution that seems to be asking for a more measured response. Monsignior José Domingo Ulloa told PA that "a person cannot be discriminated" although he also said that it was up to the Police Department to determine who it allows in or keeps out. "What the church asks," he said, "is that the workk gets done in the most serious and responsible manner, because what is most important is to safeguard the security of all Panamenians."

LGBT rights advocate doubts gays will be allowed to serve as police officers, asks Mirones to work with his organization to change written law: In the meantime, back at the Critica article, Ricardo Beteta, President of the Panamanian LGBT-rights organization New Men and Women of Panama (HMNP) says that he doesn't see gays and lesbians serving in the police force anytime soon.

"If the Director says it, it's a very important step;" he says, "What worries me is that the Police Law says: 'If the institution discovers that a unit has a life as a homosexual or lesbian, it is cause for destitution' - and so he should change the regulation that currently is a Law of the Republic so that his words truly have value."

"If this change is not done, when he is no longer Chief of Police, those people who declared their sexual preference will be without protection," he added, "then it will be a announcement made half way. What he should do is to work with us so that the Law is changed."

Critica also asks Beteta if it's not a bit out of place for someone who is a police officer to be gay and to comment on how a gay police officer should behave.

Beteta tells Critica that he knows that there are many gays and lesbians in the police force already and that they do their job like any other officer and that, in as homophobic a culture as in Panama, people are letting their stereotypes define the debate.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Panama: National Police Chief says gays can serve as law enforcement officers

[NOTE: This post has been updated here]

Although we have no access to the original radio interview that was broadcast yesterday at Panama's
La Exitosa radio station, Critica says that Rolando Mirones (right), the chief of the National Police, told listeners that gays could join the police department as long as they followed the Constitution, the law and the regulations as part of their service.

He also told radio host Renato Pereira that "it would be bad to ask a person if they are gay or not, because that has nothing to do with his or her [work] performance."

"I believe," he added, "that if the person has the moral, ethical, psychological and physical capacity to be a police officer it does not matter what their preference is and what it is that they do at home and during their free time."

In totally unrelated comments, Mirones (left, just in case you didn't get the full Mirones vibe above) also said that the police department will accept tattooed recruits as long as their tattoos are "artistic" and not on parts of the body that are visible during work. HOT!

It's that last decision that has riled up some opposition from legislators, according to La Estrella. The president of the local city council, Omar Montenegro, exclaimed "It's not possible to now allow new police officers to have tattoos and, in addition, to have perforations on their ears!"

Critics said that it was a desperate move by the department to increase the number of new recruits and that tattoos are usually associated with people involved in "illicit activities."

Then again, maybe they'd only learned about the part about tattoos and had yet to catch wind of Mirone's comments on allowing gays in the police force? After all, when La Estrella reported on changes to police recruitment rules on Wednesday, the department had only revealed that they were going to be less strict about tattoos and earrings worn by police officers.

In the meantime, check the National Police of Panama's official mascot over at their website (lower right column here). Pretty gay, no?

I'm not sure about the department's track record in dealing with LGBT folk in Panama and, particularly, the transgender community, but Blabbeando certainly supports efforts by Mirones to broaden the diversity of the police force.

Film: "Tal Como Somos" to premiere at 24th Annual Chicago Film Festival

I already told you about the Puerto Rican thriller "Las Dos Caras de Jano" premiering at the 24th Chicago Latino Film Festival (which begins today).

Turns out there is a second gay-themed festival entry and this time it's a documentary.

According to press materials, "
Tal Como Somos (Just as We Are)" from Juneteenth Productions "shares the realities of living within a culture where daily life means being torn between love as son, brother, father, friend and stigma, or even exclusion, for being different."

The trailer (above) betrays a certain "educational" film tone which is not surprising since the production company also makes educational videos and media such as "Tracking Syphilis: Countdown to Elimination" and "Destructive Force: Hip Hop Imagery in Advertising."

"Tal Como Somos (Just as We Are)" is featured on their page under a link that reads "Latinos Fighting Stigma" which makes me think that the framing of the topic was there before the film was produced.

Without having seen the film and without wanting to take anything from the experiences of those interviewed for the documentary, I will say that - personally - this sort of message framing usually rubs me the wrong way and, in other similar films that I have seen, takes away from the personal experiences portrayed in these films by not letting those experiences speak for themselves.

Then again my friend Dusty Araujo is in it! So I'll give the film some extra points [h/t: LifeLube].

UPDATE: ABC7 Chicago says that there is actually a gay and lesbian track at the film festival including films from Spain (Barcelona), Mexico (Quemar las Naves/Burn the Bridges), Puerto Rico (Manuel & Manuela - see trailer below) and Chicago (Just as We Are/Tal como Somos).

Thursday, April 03, 2008

This Saturday: A vigil in memory of Sanesha Stewart

Organizations such as FIERCE!, The Sylvia Rivera Law Project and the Audre Lorde Project have been sending alerts this week about a community vigil taking place this Saturday in memory and celebration of the life of Sanesha Stewart (left) who was stabbed to death in February at the age of 25.

Here are details about the vigil and, below, what other bloggers are saying about the life of Sanesha, the lack of awareness about her murder and the problematic initial coverage by the New York Daily News.

Sanesha Stewart Vigil: On February 10, Sanesha Stewart, a young trans woman of color, was murdered in her apartment in the Bronx. Please join Family, Friends and Community Members for a Community Vigil to Honor the Memory and Celebrate her life.
When: Saturday, April 5, 2008 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Where: Bronx Community Pride Center, 448 East 149th Street, Bronx, New York (2 train to 3rd ave./149th Street Station)

The Vigil will be followed by a reception at the Bronx Community Pride Center. For more information call: 718-292-4368 or 1-866-4GAYCARE

Donations: If you would like to make a financial contribution to the family of to help pay for funeral expenses please send a check or money order to: Evelyn Stewart, 3529 Tieman Ave. Apt 2, Bronx, NY 10469.

Other reactions:
Sanesha was a client at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project where Holly volunteers and, even though she never met Sanesha, she posted her thoughts at Feministe ("Sanesha Stewart is dead and I have only tears and frustration for her," Feb. 12, 2008). She links up to other reactions as well.

Cara, over at The Curvature, takes a look at the initial and problematic coverage of the murder by the New York Daily News ("On the Murder of Sanesha Stewart," Feb. 13, 2008).

Jack, at Angry Brown Butch, writes about the murder in the context of hate crime legislation that does not include transgender people ("Sanesha Stewart, Larry King and why hate crime legislation won't help," Feb. 20, 2008).

And, at The Washington Post's The Root blog, journalist Kai Wright ponders the reasons behind the wildly different reactions regarding the murder of queer folk ("Queer, Dead and Nobody Cares," Feb. 26, 2008).

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

TodoGay's activist of the month: Herb Sosa

A few weeks back Carlos Macias, who edits - the gay news page at Latino news web portal - reached out to me and said that they were launching a feature to highlight Latino LGBT activists throughout the United States with an "Activist of the Month" feature.

First to be named as TodoGay's Activist of the Month is Herb Sosa who leads Miami's Unity Coalition and is Editor in Chief of the web magazine Ambiente.

Herb, along with Ron Brenesky, Christian Aguilar and others at Unity Coalition, have built an impressive track record of political activism and community work in Florida.

To find out more about Herb and his achievements click here.