Sunday, May 25, 2008

My New York: A long walk

I haven't done one of these in a while. Today it was simply a glorious day outside with temperatures in the 70's and nothing but sunny skies. I watched the morning political shows on television and could have done some apartment cleaning and such but it seemed like a crime to stay indoors. So, I decided to do something I'd been meaning to do for a while and which I'd never done. Walk from my Jackson Heights apartment to Central Park across the Queensboro Bridge (approx. a 5 mile walk). A few of the things I saw...

If you need tires, who go anywhere else but Tires by Papi? This is actually a few blocks away from my apartment building on Broadway and on the other side of the BQE underpass. Tried to look for Papi but he didn't seem to be around.

Still on Broadway, having almost reached Northern Boulevard, I noticed a truck with a sign that read "Basurero Restaurant-Bar" (click here for image). Yes. New York City is known for being a dirty city and you should see the trash-bags pile up on the streets sometimes, but why would anyone want to eat at a restaurant called "Trashcan Restaurant-Bar?"

Next up is the New York Ham'n'Egg Eatery on Northern Boulevard which is one of those beautiful art-deco diners that seem in danger of extinction and will probably be gone within a few years. The unfortunate name defies the aluminum and neon sign that says Blue Crystal Diner (image here) which I much prefer (and someone else seems to agree).

Then it's on to parts of Astoria that have been taken over by the Brazilian community (some amazing Brazilian restaurants in the area as well) and...

Manhattan in the distance, still a ways to go.

Past the auto dealerships and Jiffy Lube auto repair shops as I neared the Queensboro Bridge, my first bear sighting!

More bear sightings to come in just a moment! In the meantime, what's a horny hetero guy to do with all the x-rated novelty shops shutting down in this city? Closeted gay guys looking for a quick fix as well, I guess (image here).

And over the bridge we go! Not as photogenic as - say - the Brooklyn Bridge. But an easy walk across it nevertheless.

Once over the bridge there was way too much traffic and too many people in the Upper East Side so I didn't take any photos until...

Voila! El Parque Central!

Which takes us to our second bear sighting of the day...

Why, isn't that blogger extraordinaire Joe.My.God? Why, yes, indeed. I realized it a bit too late to say howdy (he's on a hiatus for now).

In the meantime, I'm sure everyone knows that it's Fleet Week in New York! Which must only mean...

Marines! They seemed a bit lost but can't say that I was of much help: They were looking for military monuments throughout the park and suggestions of where to go have fun at night without having to spend an arm and a leg (I swear I might look just as tall if I had only worn my cap). They did call me 'Sir', which I thought was sorta cute. Then again I am on the verge of 40.

So a nice walk and day at the park even if it was a tad crowded...

More images from today's walk here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ecuador: Kidnapping, torture, confinement at ex-gay therapy centers

Speaking of ex-gay conferences in Mexico: At least they are shrouded in the friendly veneer of a "we don't really want to turn ALL gays straight, it's just for those folks who want it" message.

No such public relations spin in Ecuador.

On Sunday, acknowledging that the International Day Against Homophobia had been observed the day before, El Universo decided to turn its eye on a number of unauthorized gay "treatment" centers with two searing articles (In the photo above Evangelical Pastor Timoteo Zárate preaches to two youth who are "interned at the New Life Center in Huaqillas for being gay" according to one of the articles).

In "Prayer and seclusion to 'cure' gays" reporters Maria Alejandra Torres and Marjorie Ortiz expose a network of 140 rehab centers that promise to cure homosexuality despite not being authorized to offer such treatments (even if eighty of them are said to be officially certified as drug abuse and alcoholism rehabilitation centers).

They're not authorized to "treat" homosexuality, the reporters say, because no medical authority in the country recognizes such treatments, because some states such as Guayas actually bans such "therapies" and because homosexuality is not considered to be an illness. much less a crime ever since Ecuador struck down sodomy statutes ten years ago.

“There is no authorization for the functioning of clinics that correct these sexual behaviors because they are not an illness, but instead an option" says Patricia Castro, coordinator of the Sanitary Authority of the Health Department of Guayas, "It's a lie, a local sham, this implies that the professionals aren't serious."

El Universal interviews Chiqui (left), a 22 year old transgender woman who says she knew she was a girl as far back as 6 years of age. She tells the paper:

"My father paid $1,000 to have them lock me up in a clinic because he wanted me to change. Four men practically kidnapped me on the street. I wore my hair long and, since I had already taken hormones, my breasts had grown. They clipped my hair. Myself and another three homosexuals. They would lock us up in rooms of less than a meter wide. So small that we had to stand on our feet, in the dark, with flies."

The place where she was taken was God's Paradise, a drug and alcohol rehab center, led by Jorge Flor who some residents call "My pastor."

"When I tried to escape," says Chiqui, "they hit me until they broke my nose. They'd ask if I was a man or a woman, they'd take our pants down, they'd throw water between our legs and would put live cables to shock us with electricity."

Flor denies all charges and says there are no homosexuals at God's Paradise. "Look," he told the reporters as he pointed at a group of men praying outside the center in a yard, "They are all men."

Jorge, who didn't give his last name and is a member of a local LGBT rights organization, said he had experienced similar experiences:

"They gave me hormones that changed my voice. They would put on videos with men and, if we happened to get an erection, they would hit us. They would wake us up at 5:30 and, if we had not committed an infraction, they would give us breakfast. They applied electric shocks to our private parts and on our hands."

Jorge also said that the center was led by men who called themselves pastors and claimed that they would touch "patients" to see if they would become aroused, and if not, declare then "cured."

Both said that they'd been taken to the center against their will but the paper also interviewed a young lesbian who said that she had registered at one of these centers willingly hoping that is she became straight her parents might stop suffering over her lesbianism. In her case, the 20 year old went to the Youth Home led by Dr. Eugenia Macias.

"Even though I never tried to escape, they made me take three pills that would make me sleep all day long, even though my mates would tell me that I was awake, but I almost don't remember a thing. On the fifth day I woke up at the Liberty Clinic, I don't know how I was taken there. There, those who misbehaved were locked up in a room without a mattress. My mom would send me make up and dresses. They charged $200 a month."

Macias initially denied the charges and said that the Youth Home is only for people with mental problems but eventually admitted that there was a period in which some people might have come from her late husband's drug rehab clinic after he passed away. She said that they were sent elsewhere.

Others are upfront about their desire to change the gays, even if their efforts are not recognized by Ecuadorian authorities, and in their case they embrace the nicer, gentler public relations angle.

Nelson Quintero who leads a (big surprise!) evangelical center says “No cure is offered, just wellness. The assistance must be spiritual and professional, but they should not be locked up."

El Universo notes that even though some Catholic denominations also support these therapies (including the US-based Courage organization which claims they have a site in Ecuador), most of the ones pushing for them in Ecuador happen to be evangelical ministries. Evangelical leaders include Assemblymember Balerico Estacio who (big shock!) was among those who sought to eliminate constitutional protections for gays and lesbians back in March.

"They are demons that invade the body," he says in defense of the centers, "The natural self does not understand them, even if its psychological. Nothing can be done if it's not from God's spirit."

In the second article ("'Cured' but still without a partner") 50 year old Nelson Ballesteros (right) identifies as both a pastor and an ex-gay who found it hard to behave as a man after years of dressing up like a woman.

Ballesteros says that he began to get closer to God twenty-six years ago but has faced "relapses." He swears that he hasn't had sexual relations with men since 2001, nor - as a matter of fact - with women.

"I haven't been decisive, but I don't reject women," he says.

45 year old Luis, only identified by his first name, shares a photograph of himself dressed as a woman 23 years ago but says that he was saved by God on January 20th of 2000 . He is now a married evangelical preacher with two kids.

His story, El Universo says, has been used by many of these ex-gay organization to spread the word throughout Latin America that gayness can be cured.

At the New Life center, gay "clients" have to stay for at least a year.
Timoteo Zárate, who identifies as ex-gay, says that gays are separated from drug addicts and admits that he oversees two interns who were fifteen and twenty-one years of age when they arrived atthe center (see photo above).

Kudos to El Universo for exposing such shameful practices. Let's hope it leads to meaningful reform.

Reactions:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mexico: Ex-gay movement tries to spread its reach outside US borders

Even if you live in Mexico City you might have blinked and missed the latest gathering by those who allege that homosexuality can be treated or cured through therapy which involved some prominent United States adherents to the so-called "ex-gay" movement.

Originally Mexican LGBT rights activists had planned protests outside the event, which reportedly drew 300 people and took place at the ritzy Sheraton Hotel in the historic district of Mexico City, but they decided against it in order not to draw additional attention to the event ("Protest Against Anti-gay Conference Cancelled," Anodis.com, May 1, 2008).

Web portal Anodis.com, who ran excellent multi-day coverage of the event, revealed on April 16th that students from the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) were the first to notice fliers for the event when they saw them posted on college bulletin boards.

They also noticed that panelists included a virtual who's who of those involved in the US ex-gay movement including Joseph Nicolosi, co-founder and president of the much-debunked National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality;
Dean Byrd (pictured above), president of the Thrasher Research Fund, a private foundation that allegedly provides grants for project that find "solutions to children's health problems" (he also is the incoming president of NARTH and is among the leading advocates for the theory that people are not born gay); Arthur Goldberg, co-director of Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) and Charlene Cothran, publisher of Venus Magazine who made news back in 2007 when she announced she was renouncing to her lesbianism and changing the content of Venus to reflect her new found anti-gay news.

On May 2nd, Anodis.com described Mr. Byrd's opening session presentation in which he promoted "sexual reorientation" therapies for gays who might want to leave their "lifestyle" claiming that he wasn't there to change all gays. The article says that it was the first time that Mexico City had seen a public presentation of the ideas put forth by NARTH.

Anodis.com also says that there were both public presentations open to anyone and private ones for "specialists."

Organized by Renacer (Rebirth), an alleged "non-profit coalition," local panelists included members of Exodus Latin America - also based on a United States anti-gay organization - and the Mexican Association of Education on General Sexuality (AMESI).

There is a conference website that offers additional information on panelists and the program and ways to order DVD's of the presentations given. Surprisingly for a nonprofit, there is little information about just who makes up the Renacer board, where they get their funding or the deep involvement by US-based ex-gay promoters.

Makes me want to shout: Keep your hands off Latin America, NARTH! And to think that some say that homosexuality is exported to Latin America when, in fact, it's the United States anti-gay industry that is seeking to make inroads.

Previously: The Mexican church loves the gays but only if they stop having sex (August 31, 2007)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mexico: Transgender man weds transgender woman

As The Washington Post reported last night, in a publicly announced ceremony, transman Mario del Socorro married his transwoman sweetheart Diana Guerrero and gained full marriage rights by using their birth-names to register their partnership ("Mexico transgender couple ties the knot, pushes law").

According to The Post, the couple decided to marry in order to raise awareness about a proposed Congressional bill which would allow access to sex change procedures at public hospitals as well as the right to change names and genders in public records.

"At the end of the day, it's a marriage between a woman and a man, so what's the problem with blessing this union in the eyes of God?" Guerrero's sister told The Post.

Same-sex civil unions have been legalized in two Mexican regions, the country's capital and the northern state of Coahuila, but they do not give full marriage rights to same-sex couples, a reason why the couple said they opted to use their original names to register for marriage instead of a civil union.

On the eve of the wedding, web portal Anodis.com said that some Mexican gay activists were less than thrilled.

Lol Kin Castañeda, President of the Mexican Pride Committee (COMAC), the entity that is in charge of Mexico City's annual pride march, said that the wedding would be an LGBT landmark "if the wedding was between an activist recognized for his / her achievements and not only someone who seeks personal gain."

COMAC also decided not to include the wedding in its listing of events planned to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) which also took place yesterday and was observed at many cities worldwide.

del Socorro, who is a member of the Pro Transgender and Transsexual Rights Citizen's Front, which was established just last year, told Anodis.com that he wasn't one to fight over "a bone."

"To many we are not important, as transsexuals we are invisible and they will give us visibility."

The bone in contention was a previous offer made by COMAC to the bride and groom of featuring them as the first couple to engage in a civil union which the couple dismissed as meaningless.

Part of me can't help but be in awe of the couple's masterly way to co-opt both the issue of same-sex marriages and civil unions in Mexico as well as events that were planned to commemorate IDAHO. I also realize that if the gay rights movement in the United States sometimes leaves the transgender movement behind, I imagine it's worse in Mexico and that they - and others elsewhere - might feel that they drew a trump card against the marriage narrative which sometimes leaves transgender rights behind.

But by the couple's own admission, this press stunt was not at all about marriage and all about trans rights, which is all great and stuff and I might have applauded if done on a different date. But when it's so clearly planned to undermine advances in the recognition of same-sex partnerships in Mexico, that's a whole different thing.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Homophobia in soccer, Part 70: Dalsasso and his cybercheating

Gustavo Dalsasso (right), the 30 year old goalie of Chile's Everton soccer team, has admitted that a video making the rounds on YouTube does indeed show him having cybersex on a chat room with who he thought were two Argentinian girls (surprisingly for YouTube I think I see some nudity in the video so instead of embedding it here I'll just give you the link here).

Dalsasso, who is married and has children, tells Chile's La Cuarta that he's just embarrassed by the incident in an interview posted yesterday.

"It was a private moment," Dalsasso said, "with a girl who turned out to be another person and who brought me much trouble with my wife."

The goalie says that he'd tried to do something about the video but that his lawyers said he couldn't do a thing about it and that the embarrassment of being caught at an indiscretion had only strengthened his commitment to his wife.

Dalassos' sister was the first one to call from the United States to tell him that she had seen the video on YouTube a month ago and that it already had 1,200 hits (it's up to 5,200 last time I checked). He says that he'd just come out of taking a shower and had logged on to a chatroom from Spain but denies he was even masturbating.

His teammates at first ribbed him about it and being so stupid as to be caught in what he calls his "1st cybernetic cheating."

"Everyone shit in their pants laughing because, on top of it, it appeared on a page that says maricones.cl," he said, "Afterwards they put themselves in my place, because it affects my image."

"Is it true," the reporter asks, "that if a bar of soap falls in the locker room nobody picks it up?"

"Ha ha ha, that's a myth," Dalsasso responds, "I don't think I'm the only horny-balled player in Chilean soccer, those that go out with models" adding later "It's a mistake made by 90% of the masculine population; They were supposed to be two Argentinian girls but I had the bad luck of falling into the hands of a female, or a male, because it could be a gay."

Maricon, of course, is the Spanish word for 'faggot' and, if you jump to maricones.cl you'll find that it's gay website described as "more alternative" and "more freaky" than all others which in this case apparently meant duping an unsuspecting soccer player.

For someone whose privacy has been violated in such a way and despite some of the latent homophobia expressed in the article, sometimes goaded on by La Cuarta's own reporter, Dalsasso seems pretty good natured about it.

Where it gets really ugly is on the messages left below the YouTube video mostly from soccer fans calling Dalsasso a fag and worse. Ah! Soccer certainly brings the best in people sometimes, no?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Andrew Sullivan on Obama and same-sex marriage

Andrew Sullivan on Obama's take on yesterday's California marriage ruling:

Obama's position strikes me as transparently flimsy. His only defense of his support for full marriage rights without the m-word is a function, in his description, of comfort and religion. But he is very comfortable around gay people, gay couples and our families. And his own church actually favors equal marriage rights for gay couples - and its inclusion of gay people was obviously a reason why TUCC was attractive to Obama. Marriage is the one issue where Obama is still politically afraid,
intellectually vacuous, and a moral coward.

That from one of the biggest Obama cheerleaders on the center-right. As always, astute. Full post here.

By the way, if you haven't read Sullivan's "Goodbye to All That" from December of 2007 head here.

And here is his take on marriage even before he thought it would be possible to marry his partner Aaron Tone.

Terrance has a terrific post on the California marriage decision

While I'm busy taking care of some business, you might want to read Terrance Heath's terrific piece on yesterday's landmark marriage ruling by the California Supreme Court.

Here is how he begins...

I knew as soon as the California Supreme Court marriage ruling was posted, that I would read the whole thing. I started reading it at my desk, after it was posted, but stopped once got to the “bottom line” of the ruling — and, truly, because as I realized what I was reading, and what the California Supreme Court had said, the emotion was too much...

To read the rest go to:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Musica: Yazoo reboots and tours the US!


In the UK they were known as Yazoo, in the US as Yaz, but for a young guy growing up in Syracuse enamored with all things New Romantic, Dave Clarke and Alison Moyet were just about the best out there (Dave Clarke who used to be in Depeche Mode now records as Erasure with Andy Bell and Alison Moyet continues to record as herself).

Call it cashing it in or not, but Yazoo is back with a re-mastered reissue of their two albums: Upstairs at Eric's from 1982 and You and Me Both from 1983 in a single package that is currently listed at (gulp!) $71.99 at Amazon.com (Ideal Copy has it for $64.99)

They also are touring the UK and, later, the United States on the following dates:
Just got me some choice tickets for one of the New York shows!

At least Alison seems to have resolved those visa problems that kept her from touring the US back in 2005. If only she would do a solo tour sometime in the future!

If interested, for more info, go to Yazoo info, the Alison Moyet Forum or Erasure's official site.

BREAKING NEWS: CALIFORNIA COURT SAYS "I DO" TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGES

[NOTE: Updates below include reactions from the Clinton and Obama camps, Nancy Pelosi and NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn]

GREAT NEWS! The Supreme Court of California in its infinite wisdom has overturned a ban on same-sex marriages and paved the way for the state to become the second in the United States to allow same-sex partners to marry. Arthur Leonard says "The ruling is sweeping. Prop 22 is unconstitutional, as is the refusal to recognize lawfully contracted same-sex marriages from out of state."

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says he will fight an initiative to amend the California Constitution to ban gay marriage if it qualifies for the November ballot. It'll be interesting to see how the decision will play in the presidential election.

Photo above by Derek Powazek. You can buy reprints at Ephemera.

From the 4-3 decision: In the present case, it is readily apparent that extending the designation of marriage to same-sex couples clearly is more consistent with the probable legislative intent than withholding that designation from both opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples in favor of some other, uniform designation. In view of the lengthy history of the use of the term “marriage” to describe the family relationship here at issue, and the importance that both the supporters of the 1977 amendment to the marriage statutes and the electors who voted in favor of Proposition 22 unquestionably attached to the designation of marriage, there can be no doubt that extending the designation of marriage to same-sex couples, rather than denying it to all couples, is the equal protection remedy that is most consistent with our state’s general legislative policy and preference.

Accordingly, in light of the conclusions we reach concerning the constitutional questions brought to us for resolution, we determine that the language of section 300 limiting the designation of marriage to a union “between a man and a woman” is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples. In addition, because the limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples imposed by section 308.5 can have no constitutionally permissible effect in light of the constitutional conclusions set forth in this opinion, that provision cannot stand.

Plaintiffs are entitled to the issuance of a writ of mandate directing the appropriate state officials to take all actions necessary to effectuate our ruling in this case so as to ensure that county clerks and other local officials throughout the state, in performing their duty to enforce the marriage statutes in their jurisdictions, apply those provisions in a manner consistent with the decision of this court. Further, as the prevailing parties, plaintiffs are entitled to their costs.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal is reversed, and the matter is remanded to that court for further action consistent with this opinion.

UPDATE #1: Governor Schwarzenneger just released the following statement “I respect the Court’s decision and as Governor, I will uphold its ruling. Also, as I have said in the past, I will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling.”

In the meantime there are reports that CNN erred when reporting on the ruling this morning and initially said that the Court had ruled in favor of a state constitutional ban on gay marriages. A new low for a channel that I used to respect years ago.

UPDATE #2: My friend Mike Rogers has the full CNN video clip at PageOneQ.

UPDATE #3: OTHER POLITICAL REACTIONS

Statement from Hilary Clinton's campaign:
Hillary Clinton believes that gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships should have the same rights and responsibilities as all Americans and believes that civil unions are the best way to achieve this goal. As President, Hillary Clinton will work to ensure that same sex couples have access to these rights and responsibilities at the federal level. She has said and continues to believe that the issue of marriage should be left to the states.

Statement from Barack Obama's campaign:
Barack Obama has always believed that same-sex couples should enjoy equal rights under the law, and he will continue to fight for civil unions as President. He respects the decision of the California Supreme Court, and continues to believe that states should make their own decisions when it comes to the issue of marriage.

Note that the above statements are campaign statements and not necessarily the candidates going on record.

Nancy Pelosi:
I welcome the California Supreme Court’s historic decision. I have long fought against discrimination and believe that the State Constitution provides for equal treatment for all of California’s citizens and families, which today’s decision recognizes.

I commend the plaintiffs from San Francisco for their courage and commitment. I encourage California citizens to respect the Court’s decision, and I continue to strongly oppose any ballot measure that would write discrimination into the State Constitution.

Today is a significant milestone for which all Californians can take pride.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn:
I applaud the California Supreme Court for lifting its ban on gay marriage and upholding the fundamental and universal rights of civil equality and equal protection.

While this is a tremendous victory in our fight for equal rights, we must carry on with our efforts toward making marriage equality a reality in the state of New York. I implore every member of the New York State Legislature to place equal rights ahead of politics and end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by conferring the right to marry to same-sex couples.

History has repeatedly shown that the arch of equality always bends towards justice. I know that, soon enough, LGBT New Yorkers will have the right to marry.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The other big news: All eyes on California tomorrow

Tomorrow the California State Supreme Court will hand down its decision on whether same-sex couples in California should be allowed to get married. As a former community adviser member of the Civil Marriage Collaborative, I had the privilege of watching local organizations set up the groundwork for the events that have led to the big day.

On April 15th, Ryan J. Davis posted an entry on The Huffington Post naming anonymous sources from the California Court System indicating that the Court would grant full marriage rights. Speculation which was quickly questioned (if probably less read) by notable New York University Law School professor Arthur Leonard over on his blog.

Speculation or not, let's hope the Court rules in favor of equal rights for all.

Edwards goes for Obama

Big news.

After John Edwards decided to pull out of the Democratic primaries, a number of prominent members of his LGBT Steering Committee joined the Barack Obama campaign. They included Eric Stern, who is now among the key members of Obama's National LGBT Leadership Council, and the great David Mixner (who blogs here).

They must be thrilled that Edwards has decided to endorse Obama.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My New York: Is Grand Theft Auto IV a gay love story?

I'm sorry. I have been as enthralled by what I've heard about Grand Theft Auto IV as many out there.

Yes, I know it plays up stereotypes and that the goal is to get you to do dastardly deeds on your way to conquering the game but key culprit for making me drool over the game is Dave Itzkoff who rhapsodized about the game in the May 4th edition of New York Times ("A Strange City Called Home").

Then came JockoHomo's initial appreciation of the games' images and his subsequent post on the game's gay storyline. And Slates's take on its sophistication and Andrew Sullivan's link to it.

And that doesn't take into account Fruit Brute's take on it! I am not about to spend money on getting a video gaming system just about now but I have a feeling that down the line I will somehow succumb.

Ay Dios mio! El Valdivia does La Vanegas


So El Jorge, who raked me over the coals over my Frida fascination, is now experimenting with his video camera on his computer. The result? Valdivia vs. Vanegas. Enjoy!

My New York: Missed the Kabaddi tournament... AGAIN

It's a seasonal thing. Once a year bright colored posters go up on the windows of some of the Indian and Pakistani supermarkets in my neighborhood announcing the annual Kabaddi tournament in Richmond Hill, Queens.

I've always wanted to check them out but for some reason I always notice the posters after the tournament is all over. This year, though, I think I figured out why.

I swear the poster to the right was taped to the window only this week, a week after the event! Maybe you get the posters at the event and then post them out of pride for the sport once you get back home?

Now, I admit, I was confused. Based on posters from past years I always thought these were Turkish oil wrestling matches but no sirree! There's no oil involved! And - until I read the poster last night - I hadn't even heard the word Kabaddi.

So what is Kabaddi? For one you might check the Kabaddi.org site or Wikipedia for info. Or just check the YouTube video below. Any takers for next year's matches?

Related: In India, an HIV prevention campaign targeting Kabaddi fans (BBC News, March 20, 2008)

Monday, May 12, 2008

My New York: Dance Parade 2008


Last year I stumbled into the first ever New York Dance Parade as it made its way down Broadway and had a hoot despite the rain (Click here and see what it feels like getting run over by Samba New York for example).

The dance troop above performed at the end of the parade at a stage set up in a park (even Freedom Williams from C&C Music Factory performed! Danny Tenaglia also had a float).

This year's Parade takes place this Saturday and the weather so far promises to be a little better. The Parade route has changed from last year. It will still go down Broadway but end up at Tompkins Square Park in the Lower East Side.

For more information on this year's Dance Parade including who has registered to participate, check the official site below. Check it out if you can!
Other blogs:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Thanks, Richard Sandman

I met Richard Sandman (left) about five years ago in Queens as he was attending an immigration law workshop for immigrants with HIV. We'd corresponded through e-mail on immigration issues before but it was nice to put a face to the name.

As of late, Sandman, who often provided pro-bono work representing HIV positive and LGBT immigrants from an academic environment, had recently decided to launch his own private attorney practice.

I can't say that we were friends but over the years we developed a close professional relationship. He often reached out to me to see if I had country-specific documentation on abuses against HIV positive and LGBT individuals in certain Latin American countries and, more often than not, I was able to provide him with a wealth of information from my archives. He also would refer clients to me for advice on immigration issues and to facilitate sharing of information in cases that he was working on.

Last time I exchanged messages with Richard back in April, he had asked whether I had articles on Argentina. I'd saved a reminder to send him the information but had yet to get around to it. Yet, the reminder stared at me from time to time and made me feel guilty I still hadn't looked for stuff in my files. What made me feel at ease was that Richard was pretty good at reminding me if I still hadn't replied, knowing how overwhelmed I sometimes get at work, and - so far - he had not pressed for the info.

This is why it was such a shock to me to find out on Friday night that Richard, who was 46, had passed away on April 30th. He had been hospitalized on April 23d after suffering a massive heart attack and, though doctors seemed to think he might survive after a week in a coma, unfortunately he did not make it through.

A sweet low-key kinda guy who truly helped hundreds of HIV positive and LGBT immigrants gain political asylum in the United States, Richard was truly an unsung hero. He was somewhat comfortable with the Spanish language which surprised me a bit until I found out his family was from Mexico. Still, as always, he would underplay just how much Spanish he knew and was self-depreciating about his language abilities.

A mutual friend tells me he was so dedicated to his work that few people truly got to know him. By all accounts, though, many seemed to love the guy and recognize his unselfishness in dedicating his life's work to the issue of immigration.

So, thanks Richard, for dedicating your life to such an unprotected and maligned population. Thanks, Richard, for the many times you expressed admiration for my work. And, thanks, Richard, for inspiring others - including me - to keep doing what we do.

Too late to learn about a recent memorial in my case, friends set up a blog to update others on Richard's condition from the moment that he was hospitalized. You can read the entries and comments made by friends here.

RELATED:

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Musica: Love Complete & The Living Tree

Weird, I am still digging them big time. So pick up The Epochs eponymously titled album here and enjoy these two videos from the album.

First up is "Love Complete," which I might have already featured a while back:


And then it's the closing track, "The Living Tree," an album highlight that on first listen doesn't sound like much but deeply borrows into you over repeated listens. Just a beautiful, beautiful lullaby:


For more on The Epochs, check their site here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

President Obama

So the Clinton camp is left claiming that the states they originally agreed to leave behind - Florida and Michigan - are theirs or else. This after they have played the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink gamebook on Obama.

Tonight there was no doubt left that she is done, finished, kaput. I don't say that because I am a misogynist or a Hillary-hater or an elitist or whatever else others might say. I am just a realist.

Superdelegates! History is calling! Do your thing!

RELATED:

Perez Hilton, LGBT activist

[h/t Rex Wockner] Cuban-American Perez Hilton (nee Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr.) posted the following on his blog yesterday at 12:47 PM:
Warning: Do not go on vacation to the Cayman Islands. They do stupid shit like THIS there! [He filed it under the tag 'Icky Icky Poo'].
The deal:

On Sunday The Caymanian Compass reported that 23 year old US tourist Aaron Chandler had been detained for kissing another man (his partner) at a Cayman Island resort where he was vacationing. He was given a stern lecture by the arresting officer but ultimately let go without being charged.

Yesterday, The Compass reported that Mr. Chandler submitted an official complaint with the Cayman Island's Department of Tourism and that the DoT had released an apology.

Alas, by then, Perez was all over the story, bitchez, which brings up to today's news that the gays actually made The Compass site CRASH!! OMFG!

I have always had mixed feelings about US gays getting all hot and bothered about LGBT rights in the Caribbean only when their idyllic vacations are rudely interrupted (as well as the easy way out of calling for boycotts which conveniently means that they can take a moral stand while forgetting about the gays there) but I am duly impressed by La Hilton's power to shut down a site!

Update: Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo says he is not gay

In a press conference meant to address an incident last week in which Brazilian soccer super-star Ronaldo got caught soliciting three transgender prostitutes for sex, Goal reports that the player wanted to clear up one thing: "As for what happened, I did not have any sexual dealings with those people, I must stress that I am not gay."

Whew! Good to know! Never mind that sleeping with transgender women does not necessarily mean one is gay.


He ads: "When I told my girlfriend, she started to shout, scream and swear at me, I think she’ll find it hard to forgive me."

You mean the part about her thinking he might be gay? Or the part about him being caught soliciting prostitutes.


Mexico's La Jornada says that Ronaldo
denied having had sex with any of the women: "I did not have sexual relations because, when I realized it wasn't was I was looking for, I took out my team from the field."

Good use of sports allegories! He says that one of the women threatened to go to the press if he didn't give her money but said that he would not seek charges against them.


In the meantime the
GLBTT Brazilian Association (ABGLT) has put out a statement taking media to task for their coverage of the incident and - specifically - of their biased take on transgender issues.

They argue that most press has disrespected a persons constitutional right to freedom of identity by
using male pronouns to identify the transgender women and printing their birth names instead of their current names. Pictured above is one of the women, Andrea Albertine, who has told press that it was Ronaldo who threatened to harm them.

RELATED:

Blabbeando on EDGE New York

Cody Lyon who blogs at sbloglater, interviewed me a few days ago for an article that appears online today at EDGE New York ("New York bloggers make their mark," May 6, 2008).

Blabbeando is featured next to Eric Leven's blog (KnuckleCrack), the Empire State Pride Agenda's blog (The Agenda), Lady Bunny's blog (LadyBunny.net) and, of course, Joe Jervis' blog (you might know Joe better as Joe.My.Blog).

Thanks to EDGE Publications for stopping by and including the blog.

Homophobia in soccer, Part. 69: Honduran coach Edwin Pavón

Edwin Pavón, the coach of the Honduran soccer team Atlético Olanchano coach (pictured to the right) must have had a bee up his butt after his team's 2-0 loss to Hispano over the weekend.

According to La Prensa, coach Pavón was interviewed after the game by Cinco Deportivo and spoke against the José María "Chema" Martínez, coach of the opposing team, saying he was a homosexual, a drug addict and a corrupt man.

In the interview, which has since been uploaded to YouTube, a reporter asks (at the 1:45 mark) "Before the interview you mentioned the fact that there are people who drug themselves - Are there drugs in our soccer, as someone who is up close to it?"

Pavón replies: "Yes, there are drugs, and at the directors' level, there is homosexuality, corruption, there's everything, and there are people like Edwin Pavón who is a dummy, not smart, who has problems and defects as everyone else does, but that's the private life of a person."

So far, it seems a coach who is angry at himself just off a loss, trying to deflect criticism and saying that others also have faults (and, yes, bunching up homosexuality with all the other bad things he says exist in soccer).

La Prensa, though, says that later Pavón said that his comments were a direct reference to coach Martínez' conduct off the field.

"I challenge José for both of us to publicly go to a lab and I'll pay the tests and I hope he is not surprised when the results show that there are traces of drugs in his blood..." Pavón said, "Everyone in Comayagua knows who 'Chema' is, that he has to go to a clinic and stay for 7 to 10 days in detox."

Speaking to La Prensa the next day, Martínez made sure to note that he could not be gay because he'd already fathered ten children and denied any drug use. He told the paper that he'd be willing to have blood tests done.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Homophobia in soccer, Part 67: Luciano Moggi and Jorge Luis Pinto

Jorge Luis Pinto, the technical director of the national Colombian soccer team has backed recent comments by former Italian soccer trainer Luciano Moggi who riled against gays back in April in what an AFP report called a "a bizarre television interview."

"A homosexual cannot do the job of a soccer player," Moggi said, "The soccer world is not designed for them, it's a special atmosphere, one in which you stand naked under the showers."

On April 24th, a reporter from El Heraldo, which is based in the Colombian Caribbean city of Barranquilla, asked Pinto to react to Moggi's statements. Pinto agreed and then gave the following answers:

Q: Is very complicated [for gays] to join [a soccer team]?
Pinto: They don't fit in. Due to their attitude, behavior, demands and respect, they don't fit in, it seems to me that that concept of virility in soccer, without it being machismo, has to be respected.
Q: There are players and technical directors who consider it to be very normal to find homosexuals in the teams, that they have always existed and will exisit.
Pinto: From what is said to what is done there's a long road, there are behaviors, but concretely, very few. Soccer itself rejects those characters.

The comments drew some criticism and on April 26th Peru's RPP News found Pinto backtracking a bit.

"My appreciation is one of respect," he told the paper when asked about his comments earlier in the week, "I respect the intimacy of homosexuals. Soccer is a little rough, rustic and tough. In the past I thought that soccer wasn't for ladies, but now it could be that with the passing of the days soccer is for everyone."

He also told RPP that he didn't have anything against anyone with a different ssexual orientation.

Previously on Blabbeando:

Trans panic in soccer, Part. 64: Ronaldo's big night out

Brazilian soccer superstar Ronaldo goes to bar in Rio, picks up three prostitutes and goes irate when he find out that they are transgender. As The Times Online says the story seems "like a plot-line from the infamous [UK] TV show Footballers’ Wives." Read full story here.

UPDATE: Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo says he is not gay (May 6, 2008)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Congratulations are due: Gloria A. Casarez and Jacque Larrainzar

News came to me this week of a couple of political appointments in two different US cities that warmed my heart.

First was Gloria A. Casarez (right) who I remember meeting years ago in Philly when she had just taken over David Acosta as Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI) in 1,999.

She still holds the post but on Tuesday came word that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter had named Casarez as the mayor's LGBT Liaison Officer ("Nutty appoints city LGBT liaison," The Philadelphia Enquirer, April 29, 2008).

Local Spanish-language newspaper Al Dia reports that even though Casarez will not take charge of the designation until June, she is already taking a stand on a thorny issue that came up Tuesday when Democratic State Senator Vincent Fumo argued during a forum that denying marriage rights to same-sex couples would be akin to voting in favor of slavery and denying civil rights and liberties to African-Americans ("Fumo says he was exaggerating," Philadelphia Will Do, May 1, 2008).

Casarez told Al Dia that using slavery as a metaphor "is an error, since it leads public opinion to be distracted from the issue."

In the meantime Jacque Larrainzar (left), a self-described "Mexican-born Basque-Lebanese lesbian" who lives in Seattle, Washington, and has served as the city's Acting Policy and Outreach Manager for the last 10 months, was offered the permanent position this week and accepted it.

Julie Nelson, Director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights said:
She brings intelligence, creativity, passion and commitment. In addition to being with the City for eight years, beginning as a Planning and Development Specialist, she has worked at many community based organizations, including Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Washington Lesbian Organizing Project of the Pride Foundation, People of Color Against AIDS Network, Entre Hermanos, Safe School Coalition and the Northwest Women's Law Center. She is a strong leader, both within the City and in the community. We are lucky to have her working at the Seattle Office for Civil Rights.
Both are amazing women. Congratulations to both.