Friday, February 27, 2009

Argentina: Ban on gay soldiers is lifted, effective today

While there are signs that neither the Obama administration nor the US Congress are in a rush to lift the damaging "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy which requires that soldiers who disclose their homosexuality be kicked out of military service, there is some great news today from Argentina.

A translated excerpt from an article published today in AG Magazine, one of the best LGBT news portals in Argentina:
In Argentina, starting today, a new military justice system goes into effect which decriminalizes homosexuality among uniformed members, eliminates the death penalty, and moves crimes committed exclusively within the military to the public justice sphere [previously there had been a separate military court system].

Under the old system, gays were not permitted to have access to a military career, at the same time as this sexual orientation was penalized. And, while there are no publicly known former sanctions against gays under the old policy, this does not mean that men and women with that sexual orientation have not been disciplined, and perhaps separated from the armed forces under a mantle of silence.

In fact, with this new system, gay men or lesbian women who wish to train in the forces should encounter no impediment, nor any military retaliation areas.
According to the AP, the new law replaces one that had been in the books since 1958, and goes into effect today, six months after it was approved by Argentina's legislative body and promoted by President Cristina Férnandez de Kirchner.

Clarin says that the changes in the military code resulted, in part, from the American Convention on Human Rights strong opposition to the death penalty clause that existed in the previous code. Some see the changes as putting further distance between modern Argentina and its military dictatorship years, particularly since it puts the military under purview of the country's public courts.

One more LGBT rights development in a Latin American nation that leap-frogs over current US policy.


Peru: IGLHRC demands investigation into attack on trans woman; Peruvian TV runs longer report on incident

The International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has sent out an alert asking people like you to send letters to the Peruvian government and demand an investigation into a brutal attack on a transgender woman in the town of Tarapoto (please visit this link and find out how you can help out).

Blabbeando reported on this story back on January 30th ("News cameras capture inhuman beating, undressing and humiliation of transgender woman") and posted the original video along with an onscreen English translation.

The case has garnered a lot of international attention to the reporting from Peru's America Television. Perhaps this is why the channel decided to produce a longer segment on the Tarapoto incident. Above, Blabbeando brings you the full 9-minute investigative piece also with an on-screen English translation. Any nudity has been obscured by the original producers and no one emerges physically harmed but be warned that it might be disturbing to some viewers. There is somewhat of a sensationalistic tone to the reporting, but it shows additional footage of what happened that night - and includes chilling commentary from an unidentified neighborhood watch group member who clearly states that these beatings are done with a level of increasing severity, force and enthusiasm. Another man is also heard off-camera telling Techi, the transgender woman, to leave Terepoto or else be killed.
"Never again do we want to see you in San Martin," the man says, "Do you understand? You will return to your place, damn it, because - on the contrary - if we catch you tomorrow or Saturday or any other day - BYE. Do you understand me?"
There is also a brief interview, days after the attack, with Techi herself, who is consistently referred to as a man by the reporter as well. To date, I am not aware that anyone has been brought to justice.

You might want to click on the 'Full Screen' YouTube tag to be able to read the translation.

Hawaii: Don't be gaycist!

You might have heard that the Hawaiian House of Representatives passed a same-sex civil unions bill a week ago today.

You might have heard, as well, that a certain Hawaiian guy recently visited the Big Apple.

Well, a post by Joe.My.God earlier this week on the Hawaiian bill certainly caught my eye. It said that an estimated two thousand Hawaiians, most wearing red shirts, descended upon the state capitol in an anti-gay rally to protest passage of the bill.

Joe later excerpted a blog post at Pam's House Blend by guest blogger Keori which described the scene as she made her way out of the capitol on Tuesday after witnessing the legislative debate on whether the bill would be sent out of committee for a Senate vote:
...[I] forget to take off my little green and gold "equality" sticker on the way out of the building, and be followed to the bus stop by a bunch of red shirts with signs. Three 6'5", 200 pound Islander guys with signs saying "Gay marriage is wrong" and "John 3:16" followed the lone little white girl with her laptop case across the street, yelling at me, "Repent!", calling me a bitch and a whore, telling me, "You just need a real man to fuck you straight." Nothing I haven't heard before.

Then one of them said, "We know who you are now, and what you drive. We saw you last Thursday. You better watch yourself, fucking haole bitch." Not one of the 20 people standing around the bus stop said anything to them. I got on the first bus that came along, got off three stops down the street, and caught my right bus a few minutes later. I rode home all alone, with my headphones on, praying no one bothered me. I don't want to ever hear another fake apology from these people saying that they don't actually hate queers, they're just "protecting traditional marriage". It's just the latest lie in their christian hate grab bag.
It certainly doesn't change her awful experience as she made out of the capitol building but guess who was infiltrating the red homophobic masses.

Why, it's recent Big Apple visitor Kawika! Who probably confused quite a few by holding his "Don't be Gaycist" sign. Love it!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My New York: Trespassers will be shot, survivors will be shot... again

OMG. I think I am turning into Archie Bunker! At issue: I love, love, LOVE living in Jackson Heights, Queens. It's supposedly the most diverse neighborhood in all the United States and, perhaps, the world. And it certainly has one of the largest communities of Indian immigrants in the world - and home to some of the best Indian food restaurants as well (Jai Ho!).

But, as of late, that has also brought entrepreneurship dreams - and not the best of architectural planning. Or stuff that does not fit within the local architectural color of a neighborhood that is supposed to be designated as a historical landmark (and who would blame recent immigrants for being aware of construction codes? The blame lies at the feet of those who provided construction permits).

Anyhoo, before the housing crash, the neighborhood had seen a disturbing trend of houses for sale being bought and torn down to make space for 3 or 4 story buildings with as many apartments as could fit - including a couple of buildings on my block (mostly by Indian-owned companies) .

Not to generalize but most of the recent construction developments have similar features including gaudy silver metal fences and big Hummvie cars. But I have to confess that I did a double-take today when I noticed the new "NO TRESSPASSING" sign posted on the gates of one of the new buildings on my block (see above).

I swear the neighborhood is as safe as it can be. Which makes it a bit annoying that it's Indian immigrants that bring a redneck flavah to the block (Bobby Jindal, anyone?).

As I said, I am Archie Bunkering here. But wouldn't you be if someone posted the above sign in your neighborhood?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Venezuela: Hugo Chávez lauded by gay leader despite minimal LGBT rights advances in decade under his rule

I feel as if I have been 'blogging in delay' as of late, as much as I've been procrastinating about finishing up some posts and deleting draft posts that are no longer relevant.

For example: A referendum on term limits has come and gone in Venezuela and I still haven't written a thing despite meaning to do it a few weeks ago.

If you follow Latin American politics you already know the result: President Hugo Chávez finally got his wish to be Venezuela's only president until he dies (that is, if he remains popular and is re-elected for consecutive 6-year terms 'til he throws in the bucket).

Already in power for a decade, Chávez has little to show when it comes to LGBT rights. So why would a small group of gays and lesbians stage a press conference lauding his record and throwing their unconditional support behind the referendum three days before the vote took place?

Well, when you call yourself the United Socialist Bloc for Homosexual Liberation, and proudly state that you consider yourselves to be "the gay wing of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela" (a/k/a the President's political party), it's not that big of a surprise. Nor the fact that it was prominently featured in television stations and news services owned by the government.

On Feb. 12, Heisler Vaamonde, a long-time LGBT-rights activist known for his allegiance to the Chávez regime, read a prepared statement in front of reporters expressing the Bloc's strong support for the referendum as he argued that equality for gays and lesbians could only be achieved through the Chavista revolution. As he spoke, he was flanked by ten other members of the organization, who wore t-shirts with an image of Chávez and caps emblazoned with a red star.

A brief report in Venezolana de Television, the government's official television channel, basically paraphrases some of the comments captured in the above YouTube clip [I have used the YouTube 'annotations' feature to provide an on-screen translation once you click on the video].

A longer article from the government-owned Bolivarian News Agency (ABN) provides additional information.

ABN says that Vaamonde began by lauding President Chavez' government arguing that no other government had brought so much change and development in such a small period of time. He listed community education efforts (or social missions) that had allegedly increased the literacy rate in Venezuela to 98% of the population; the launch of Venezuela's first ever communications satellite; the increased national reserves; the creation of agricultural incentives and the provision of free HIV medicines for people who tested positive for HIV.

On LGBT rights, Vaamonde lauded one of the few on-the-record statements by Chávez on LGBT rights in which the president acknowledged that it had been a mistake not to include explicit language extending protections to the lesbian and gay community in the 1999 constitution (the semi-apology came in 2002 during one of his infamous weekly radio addresses).

To be fair, Vaamonde's advocacy resulted in the inclusion of limited protections for gays and lesbians in the constitutional draft that was narrowly defeated last year, but the fact remains that Chávez never actively backed or fought for their inclusion and that, ten years after he took power, the Venezuelan government still does not protect its LGBT citizens from discrimination.

Vaamonde also credited Chávez for allowing gays and lesbians to be visible through the eight annual gay pride marches that have taken place in Caracas under his rule but that has mostly been thanks to Caracas Mayor Juan Barreto and not Chávez who, to date, has never appeared or officially acknowledged the events.

He ended by acknowledging that much remained to be done when it came to recognizing the rights of LGBT Venezuelans including same-sex partnership rights, adoption rights, inheritance and joint property ownership rights, housing rights, the right of transgender persons to change their identity in official papers and to have access to gender-reassignment surgery. Rights which Vaamonde said, "can only be reached through Revolution."

I feel for Vaamonde, I really do. His commitment cannot be faulted, his belief in the Chávez revolution seems to be sincere, and it has actually brought him several anonymous death threats from right-wing anti-Chávez zealots. There is also a point to be made that sometimes it's good to have someone who is within the system to elicit change. But if "change" means no results on LGBT rights in ten years of power, how can this be anything but sucking up to Chávez - and allowing to use you for his benefit without requiring any commitment or compromises on LGBT rights?

For a while Vaamonde also led a group called the Gay Revolutionary Movement of Venezuela and his efforts then also seemed to fall on deaf ears. Under the new organizational moniker (as well as the last), he has never criticized Chávez - to my knowledge - or called him up on his outright homophobia as when he denied rumors that he was gay by joking that he was too macho to be gay in 2007. He also did not speak up when the Venezuelan constitutional court nixed same-sex marriage rights in 2008.

At least one organization withdrew from the 2008 LGBT pride organizing committee last year and specifically singled out Vaamonde as the reason. The Venezuelan Reflection Foundation sent out a terse statement that read as follows:
The Board and members would like to state: WE DO NOT HAVE any relation, responsibility, nor are we any part of the 8th LGBT Pride March; this is due to the discriminatory, disrespectful and anti-democratic attitude of Mr. Heisler Vaamonde with the backing of the sponsor entity and supporting entities.
No other details were given. There are actually several LGBT organizations in Venezuela. Just know that the United Socialist Bloc for Homosexual Liberation is the only one organization that unconditionally supports the Chávez presidency despite the lack in the advancement of LGBT rights.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Buffalo plane crash victim remembered for HIV prevention work, not for gay men's health advocacy work

Bronx-native Ronald Gonzalez, who dedicated his life to improving the life of disenfranchised youth and was a long time HIV prevention and gay men's health advocate, was among those who died when a plane crashed a week ago just outside Buffalo.

From the Feb. 13 The Star Ledger:

Ronald Gonzalez, the director of the New Brunswick School-based Youth Services Program, was among the passengers who were on Continental flight 3407 when it crashed outside Buffalo Thursday night, killing 50 people.

Gonzalez, 44, was on his way to visit family in Buffalo, said Jeffrey Vega, president of New Brunswick Tomorrow.

The youth services program, which provides services to city schools, such as mental health counseling for students and their families, case management, youth employment, tutoring, and New Brunswick High School's Parent Infant Care Center, is part of New Brunswick Tomorrow, a private, non-profit organization.

"He wasn't somebody who had an ego. It wasn't about him, It was all about the children," said Vega. "He was dedicated to helping kids and families that were disadvantaged."

Vega said Gonzalez worked long hours, and moved three blocks from New Brunswick High School, where his office was, just to be closer.

"He worked round the clock, very hard, to make the program a success," said Vega

Gonzalez came to New Brunswick from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, where he was a National Urban Fellow. Previously, he was executive director of Alianza Latina, a nonprofit organization addressing HIV/AIDS in Buffalo, N.Y.; and also education services director and community educator of AIDS Community Services in New York.

Gonzalez also volunteered at a fitness center in East Harlem, N.Y., where he led free exercise classes for the poor.

Yes. He certainly seems to have been an amazing guy and, considering he worked in similar fields, I am a bit surprised we never met.

Amazingly, the Ledger's account of his accomplishments is only partial and so is that of New York City's WCBS, Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle and even that of he Associated Press, among other mainstream media. You wouldn't know, by these reports, that Gonzalez was an openly gay man or that he also was known for his work in promoting better health practices by gay men.

Leave it to gay community newspapers and blogs to tell that story.

From Outcome, Buffalo's LGBT news publication:
Gonzalez, an openly gay man, worked to educate gay youth and young adults about health and safe-sex both through his work at Aids Community services and in collaborative programs at Gay and Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York.
And from Trevor's Blog:
My friend and 'Bottom Monologues' co-coordinator Erik Libey informed me today that his friend and colleague, Ron Gonzalez, was aboard Continental Flight 3407 when it crashed last week, killing all 50 passengers and crew members. Ron has a long history of fabulous work within the Gay Men's Health movement, and will be missed.
Trevor's post elicited a response by Erik which reads, in part, as follows:
In the days since the accident, much press has been written about Ron---and all of that press has highlighted the amazing man that he was...but much of it has also "de-queered" him by failing to reference him as a gay man. For me, however, Ron was above all else an articulate, intelligent and EMPOWERED queer man. He was unashamed of himself or his community and he worked tirelessly, both professionally and personally, to make the lives of queer people better. It is profoundly heartening to see his life celebrated in queer spaces by queer people.
A hunch tells me that the omission in details of Gonzalez' past work with LGBT communities probably stems from any official statements released by his family highlighting his life's work rather than from media oversight.

Still, back in 2007, the Star Ledger had featured a profile of openly gay Ausbury Park police detective Dave D'Amico and included a photo of him sitting down at home with Gonzalez.

At the time D'Amico said they were in a "serious dating relationship."

I don't know if the relationship survived over the years but the Star Ledger certainly knew that there were other aspects of Gonzalez' life which were kept off the profile they printed after his death.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Our Advertiser: "Still Here: Perspectives by gay men of color"

It's always nice to find out that folk out there like this blog enough to advertise on it. This is why I am grateful to "Still Here: Perspectives by gay men of color" for buying an ad. Plus the fact that they are a brand new podcast from a gay POC perspective (hot!).

I just noticed, though, that if you click on the ad that they've set up, you will get an error message. So, let me give you the correct link while I figure out what's up with the ad.

I've already listened to the first two shows and am looking forward to more. I truly recommend Osvaldo and Amaad's work in putting new perspectives out there.

To listen to their "Still Here" podcast please click here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Having a Kawika moment in NYC

I have been taking a breather from blogging as well as other endeavours this week for a very good reason. My Hawaiian friend Kawika is visiting New York City for the first time in his life and I promised I would be his guide to the city during his few days in the Big Apple.

Of course, this has entailed lots of sight-seeing and lots of walking in what isn't necessarily the warmest of seasons. Good thing, then, that temperatures have stayed a dozen degrees above the freezing mark, for the most part, and that it has been so sunny (plus I've been successful dissuading Kawika from wearing shorts and sandals, which he swears are just right for this weather).

First thing, as always, were the subway trains. They are not necessarily that clean but I was disappointed we didn't see any humongo-rats. Still, it was a far cry from being stabbed or mugged, which is what his friends warned might happen in the subways. Those were the old days! I said. New York City as shown in bad movies! I said.

That's before some drunk guy on the 72nd Street subway platform threatened to punch Kawika in the face unless he called him his friend. Kawika, bless his heart, says that the experience made him feel as if he had a badge of honor when it came to braving the streets of New York.

Having survived subway underworld, we emerged in the heart of Times Square. I didn't tell him where we were heading so watching Kawika's face light up a million watts' worth of emotion was priceless. Overwhelmed does not even come close to it. As a New Yorker you learn to take these things as granted. Watching the joy in Kawika's face made me realize I should appreciate living in this city a bit more.

We then walked up Broadway and made it to Columbus Circle. We went into the mall at the Time-Warner building and I showed Kawika those ugly Botero copper-colored statues (including the one with the shiny golden penis - from people rubing it too much).

We then went into Central Park where we got New York grub: A pair of big hot-dogs with the works. Amazingly, Kawika lived to tell about it... He also got to see Bethesda Fountain and the notorious Rambles. Yes, as cold as it was, there were still a few guys cruising others out there.

We ended the day at the Gym bar with my boyfriend and some friends and ended up driving around Manhattan into Brooklyn to see the Manhattan skylight at night from across the river.

Day two, we got started late. We made it to Ground Zero and Wall Street. Yup, that's the New York Stock Exchange building.

We also made a second visit to Times Square at night. I was even overwhelmed by the amount of people around us.

And then it was off to Christopher Street. The plan was to see as many bars as possible and things started well with a history trip to the Stonewall Inn and Julius' but Marie's Crisis had a long waiting line and Boots & Saddles was sorta empty. We eventually ended up at Ty's were I bumped into my friend Alex while Kawika was cruised a few times.

Time went by really fast. We headed to the Dugout but it had closed for the night. A perfect time for oily pepperoni pizza. And then time to call it a night.

Today brought us to the Staten Island ferry. The best value for your buck: You get a glorious view of lower Manhattan as well as the Statue of Liberty for free. Plus you get to get pooped on by seagulls! Priceless! I tried to beat the night-fall by heading up the west side Hudson River walkways but quickly gave up since the wind was picking up and it was getting seriously chilly.

As we made it to the subways, Kawika noticed the gas tank above with its quaint New York-themed insignia. He asked me if I knew what the tanks were doing there. I had seen them before but told him I was just as stumped as he was. Then it was back to Queens for some Afghan food (yum yum)... and we are not even done yet.

Fuck! I've loved having Kawika here. It's the first time we have actually met face to face but it feels as if we have known each other for years. After all, the reason we got to know each other was the loss of a common friend to cancer three years ago.

That the life of Steven Mackin made it possible for us to be friends and meet in New York after all these years is just amazing. That Kawika and I will probably remain friends for the rest of our lives is even greater (more photos here).

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Bolivia: New constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

An unpublished comment from an anonymous reader dated February 4th asks "Why no story on Bolivian voters voting last week for a constitution that outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation?"

Short answer: Because I wanted to include one specific piece of information and kept looking for it with no luck... until today!

Here are the basics: Following similar efforts by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, Bolivian President Evo Morales won a huge political victory on January 25th when 61 percent of Bolivian voters voted in favor of adopting a new constitution.

The constitution, which goes into effect today, "promises more power for the poor, Indian majority; recognizes communal justice; grants some regional autonomy; and declares coca a part of the nation's heritage", according to an article posted today by the Associated Press.

It also allows Morales, the first Bolivian president of indigenous background, to run for a second term and to further establish a socialist vision for the country, even as it also leaves deeper divisions between those who backed the changes and does who did not.

LGBT community protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity: So, as the reader noted, there was more to the new constitution than the AP reports. Here is what it says under Article 14.II:
In the title 'Fundamental Rights and Guarantees': The State prohibits and punishes all form of discrimination founded on the basis of sex, skin color, gender, age, sexual orientation and gender identity, origin, culture, nationality, citizenship, language, religious beliefs, ideology, political or philosophical affiliation,
That, according to an article in El Deber comparing misleading arguments being made by the opposition to the actual constitutional text (the full document can be downloaded here).

Constitution defines marriage as that between a man and a woman: According to some reports, earlier versions of the constitution paved a way for the recognition of civil unions between same-sex partners. Instead, that language was dropped and replaced with Article 63 (an attempt to appease religious leaders who had complained):
I. Marriage between a woman and a man is constituted by legal ties and is based on equal rights and responsibilities between spouses; II. Free or common-law unions that meet conditions of stability and singularity, and be maintained between a woman and a man without legal impediment, will produce the same rights as a civil union, not only in the personal and patrimonial relationships between co-inhabitants, but also with respect to sons and daughters who are adopted or born from those partnerships.
To put it mildly, this did not appease religious leaders and, particularly, those on the right. Days before the vote, right wing religious leaders launched a predictable but nevertheless incredibly ugly attack on the proposed constitution.

The attack ad: I had read that the religious right had launched an incredibly offensive television ad as a last-ditch attempt to defeat the constitutional changes. It told believers that the new constitution would "throw God out of Bolivia" and that a vote against it would be a vote in favor of God. I searched for it on YouTube and elsewhere in vain but no luck... Until today! I've uploaded it on YouTube and posted it above.

I am struck by the imagery: A still from Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" (which I have also seen widely used by local NYC Latino Evangelical leaders to whip-up resentment against gays and lesbians); Evo Morales shown in a traditional Indian costume which probably serves to inflame racist sentiments against indigenous cultures; what appears to be an image of a US-based couple kissing, which of course perpetuates the idea that homosexuality is being imported from elsewhere; an image of an aborted fetus which is a staple of those used by the religious-right in the United States; and, of course, an image of children holding the Cuban flag to tie it all up to Communism.

The AFP says that the ad was so offensive that it was banned by the country's independent electorate tribunal but that television stations who opposed approval of the constitution continued to run it until election date.

If you have read this blog in the past, you might be surprised that I am backing the constitutional changes in Bolivia. Then again, neither Morales not Ecuador's Correa are the egotistical maniacal figure represented by Venezuela's truly despicable Chavez (even as they follow his every step).

This is why socialism is capturing the hearts and minds of folk in Latin America (and why Chavez is so successfully in his quest to remain in power indefinitely): The political alternative is even worse! They champion discrimination against minorities, the worst sort of right-wing ideals, policies that discriminate against indigenous communities and, of course, anti-choice and anti-gay sentiments left and right. Heck! They are decrying that the additional anti-discrimination protections covering indigenous communities are an infringement on their freedoms! Their true fear? The new constitution establishes a separation of church and state for the first time ever in Bolivia which means that they have lost a certain grasp on the legislature.

I mean, considering what they are willing to do in the ad above and if you had a similar choice, wouldn't you back Evo as well?


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Chile to stop identifying gays as a "risk group" for sexually transmitted diseases

EFE reports today that Alvaro Erazo, the country's Health Minister (right), has announced that the government will "eliminate instructions in medical exams in which gays were identified as a risk group for sexually transmitted diseases and by which they were submitted to specific blood tests."

The announcement came after a meeting held with Rolando Jiménez, President of the Homosexual Movement for Integration and Liberation (Movilh).

According to the article, the LGBT rights organization had already gotten the government to eliminate a ban on blood donations by transgender individuals and gay and bisexual men back in 2003. But instructions that remained in official preventive medicine manuals still instructed health practitioners to ask a person if their partner had been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease and to tell the person that STD's were more frequent among people who had sexual relations with same-sex partners. If the person indicated having a same-sex partner, health practitioners were instructed to urge them to take blood tests.

Under the directive announced today, health practitioners will not be instructed to ask those questions and gays will not be instantly urged to undergo blood tests if they disclose their sexual orientation.

Update: Puebla Archdiocese drops plan to test priesthood hopefuls for HIV

Archbishop Rosendo Huesca y Pacheco, leader of the Puebla Archdiocese in Mexico, has said that seminary candidates will not be tested for HIV - as originally announced on January 26th - as part of enforcing a church ban on gay men and HIV positive individuals ("Puebla Archdiocese cancels conducting HIV tests on priesthood hopefuls", NotieSe).

The plan had drawn an outcry from Mexican human rights advocates who warned that the church was in violation of anti-discrimination and right-to-privacy federal policies.

In a press conference held on Tuesday, Huesca said that the HIV ban was still very much in effect but claimed that the church would drop plans to test every potential seminarians due to lack of funds to implement the plan. Instead, according to NotieSe, Huesca "invited" those interested in joining the priesthood to get a general medical check-up before joining the church.

Huesca said that the Puebla Archdiocese "values, respects, promotes and defends the human rights of everyone without distinction, for which it will never approve any form of discrimination" and said that banning HIV positive men from priesthood was akin to telling a potential mountain climber to refrain from the sport if a medical test detected heart disease.

He said that the church banned all men with HIV because such an individual "dies half way through, will only lose his years, his strength" and because the church "does not have the means to cure him."


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A couple of gay Homies among hundreds

Speaking of lowrider culture and gayness: It's been a few years since David Gonzales got in trouble with the Los Angeles Police Department over his homies ("'Homies' toys anger anti-gang forces", Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1999).

Gonzales had been drawing a comic strip called "Homies" for Lowrider magazine but only drew the ire of law enforcement agents when he decided to launch a toy line based on his creation.

The line of two-inch toys featured what could be called stereotypical representations of people involved in Mexican-American gang culture which were sold cheap through vending machines in Latino neighborhood stores. Foes argued that they glamourized gang culture to children.

Gonzales addressed some of their concerns by creating "positive" or inspirational background stories for each character but some stores stopped selling them due to the outrage. Almost ten years later, though, Homies have survived and are still in the marketplace. And, according to today's Santa Fe Reporter, already have a gay Homie or two in their ranks.

From the article:
Santa Fe Reporter: The Homies all have detailed back stories that can be read on your Web site (, stories that often challenge visual stereotypes. Are there any gay or transgender Homies?

David Gonzales: No transgender Homies. I have been approached by the gay community. So far, there’s one guy, he’s like the barber for this big cartel guy and he ends up going into hiding in a little barber shop in LA and he happens to be gay. But maybe more will surface in the future. I’ve got lots of races, Jamaicans, Koreans, all kinds of Asians and even a journalist, with a sensitive ponytail and a notepad. But, you know, how do you incorporate everyone?
So far, I haven't found him in the roster of Homies available at the Homies site but I did find Bouncey the lesbian Homie. Let me know if you find the gay barber. I want one!

Updates: A reader writes that the gay barber's name is Peloquero (see comments below). A link to his 'back story' seems outdated though. But another reader has provided us with this link which has an image of the Homie in question (above, left).

Image credit: 67 Degrees with a 40% Chance of Rain

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bronx journalist takes on Rev. Ruben Diaz' homophobia

Gary Axelbank, who used to host a news show on the Bronxnet public-access channel, has posted an OpEd video on West Bronx News challenging NYS Senator Ruben Diaz on issues related to homophobia, a woman's right to choose, and separation of church and state (The Senator is also an ordained Minister).

If you have read Blabbeando over the years, you know I have been a leading critic of Senator Diaz, so believe me when I say that when a well-known straight Bronx journalist takes him on, it's just great!

Axelbank is specifically taking on a number of ads that the Reverend bought on several Bronx newspapers when his sweetheart deal with State Majority Leader Malcom Smith as part of the so-called "Gang of Three" seemed to fall apart in December.

In the OpEd, Axelbank asks for viewers to post replies. Unfortunately Michael Benjamin, a Bronx Assemblyman, has already come to Diaz' defense.

Please tell Diaz that his homophobic world-view is 100% wrong. Support Axelbank by leaving a supportive comment on his post.

Here is what my good friend (and lomg-time Bronx LGBT rights advocate) Charles Rice-Gonzalez wrote:
Gary, I applaud your commentary. Reverend Diaz has been consistent for decades with his anti-gay stance and religious based agenda. From the first time he came to mainstream media’s attention in 1994 proclaiming that the Gay Games in New York that year would spread AIDS in the city, to his resignation from the Civilian Complaint Review Board because of the constant protest from the LGBT community, to his attacks on the Harvey Milk School and his bussing in evangelical Christians from the tri-state area to stage a protest against gay marriage on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse, he has crusaded against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. And his stance on reproductive rights has been clear. And since becoming elected to public office he has not abided by the constitution’s “separation of church and state,” but has joined church and state in a union that benefits his religious and personal views.

Assemblyman Michael Benjamin says, that he does represent the views of his constituents. I’m sure Reverend Ruben Diaz agrees. But they are not talking about the whole picture, because I am a constituent and he doesn’t represent my views. Nor does he represent the views of the thousands of LGBT people who live and work in the Bronx. He doesn’t represent the views of the thousands of youth and seniors and people of all ages who frequent the Bronx Community Pride Center, or the views of the straight and gay Bronxites who work on the staffs of elected officials, hospitals, clinics, community-based organizations, businesses and arts organizations in the borough.

It’s embarrassing for the Bronx to have one of the most vocal homophobes in the country. And to have Michael Benjamin supporting him is astonishing. I knew Michael Benjamin as a supporter of the arts and diversity. He was on the board of the Point Community Development Corporation and even had a ceremony at BAAD! during his early days. BAAD! is a space that celebrates and embraces diversity which is the norm in society. The Bronx is made up of men, women, transgender people, people of all colors, ages and sexual orientations. Diversity isn’t a slogan or a politically correct word, but a reality of the world. Difference exists and it’s embarrassing to the Bronx to have elected officials working feverishly, spending public dollars and reciting hate-filled rhetoric to oppress any segment of their constituency. Even if there was just one gay person in the reverend’s district, he should be ashamed to put out anti-gay or anti-woman propaganda.

But he is shameless.

Ironically, the “separation of church and state” in the constitution was meant to protect religious freedom. So that people can practice whatever religion they want without interference from the state. It seems that Reverend Ruben Diaz has been pretty free, and uses that freedom to oppress others.

But he will lose the fight against gay marriage. He may win a battle here and there, but he will eventually lose. I say this, because I look at the changes taking place in states all across the country. And these changes will lead to more changes. The reverend knows this which is why he is fighting so hard. He knows things are changing. So, the louder he shouts, the more energized I feel and the prouder I feel as a gay Latino man in the Bronx. I have seen the change in this borough that has come about because people like me care about ourselves and love our communities and our people more than Reverend Ruben Diaz can hate.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Marisol LeBrón: When Xenophobia Meets Homophobia

You might remember the few posts I wrote back in December on the brutal beating and subsequent death of Ecuadorean immigrant José Sucuzhañay. The assailants, who saw Sucuzhañay walking arm-in-arm with his brother, allegedly shouted anti-immigrant and anti-gay slurs as they attacked them, mistaking them for a gay couple.

Yesterday, the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) posted a great essay by NACLA Research Associate Marisol LeBrón titled "When Xenophobia
Meets Homophobia

In the essay, LeBrón picks up on some of my thoughts on how immigration and LGBT-rights organizations reacted to the crime, and does a far better job than I did in analyzing why both sides "failed to recognize the potential for collaboration and coalition".

Better yet, she doesn't stop at questioning the single-issue focus of mainstream LGBT-rights organizations, but also argues that Latino / immigration rights organizations are just as guilty.

It's a great essay and I urge you to click on the link and read it in full.

By the way, LeBrón is not just a NACLA Research Associate. She is also one of my favorite bloggers. You can have a look at Marisol's musings (including the NACLA essay) at the greatly titled post pomo nuyorican homo.

Side note: In her essay, Marisol mentions a few organizations that 'get' multi-issue advocacy. I'll would ad Make the Road by Walking's Gays and Lesbians of Bushwick Empowered (GLOBE) who organized the Dec. 14th immigration rights / LGBT rights rally in the wake of the crime. I didn't give kudos to organizer Alexander Morris back then, so I will now. Photo captured at the rally, above, courtesy of my friend José Bayona.


Sunday, February 01, 2009

At Sundance 2009: La Mission

The 2009 Sundance Film Festival ended last weekend and I am certainly intrigued by the Grand Jury Prize winner "Push" (not to be confused with the lame looking sci-fi flick "Push" coming out this Friday, which looks like a re-tread of the dismal 2008 sci-fi flick "Jumper").

But, even if it didn't win an award, I've also been intrigued by another flick in competition called "La Mission". Benjamin Bratt plays Ché Rivera, a bus driver with a violent streak and a passion for lowrider cars, who discovers that his adored son is gay.

Interestingly, of the very few US films that have tackled gay themes in the Latino community, it's striking that "La Mission", "Quinceañera" - which won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance in 2006 - and "On the Down Low", are all set in Mexican-American communities. Then again, the dominant Latino communities in the cities in which they are set (San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively) is the Mexican-American community.

Oh, and openly gay former NBA star John Amaechi is listed as a Consulting Producer. Oh! And one more aside: I love the fact that actor Jesse Borrego also has a part in this film. Speaking of groundbreaking roles when it comes our communities represented on the screen check him out as Alexis, a transgender woman, in this "I Like It Like That" clip. Better yet, buy the movie. It's great!

Reviews so far are not bad but not great either. Variety calls the script "a little obvious" but says that the direction and the actors are "pleasingly naturalistic", with Bratt's charisma "at full wattage." The Hollywood Reporter says that the film is a "heartfelt production" which "offers a compelling insider's view of a culture foreign to most moviegoers" and also make note of Bratt's "charismatic performance", but calls the direction "a bit heavy handed". Both publications say that the movie will probably find at home on cable rather than at movie screens.

I for one hope to have the opportunity to see it on the big screen.

MUST-WATCH CLIPS: Clips from an interesting interview with producers an cast set up at Sundance by GLAAD in which they talk about homophobia and machismo in the Latino community, how they tie to misogyny, Prop. 8 and Latinos, and the film itself. Director Peter Bratt's comments are particularly insightful and you can clearly feel just how much heart went into this film.

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