Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Citizen Raul

For those of you who don't know, Raul is my hubby of 12 years (pictured above at a diner this morning). No. We haven't gotten officially married, and our partnership might be unconventional by other people's standards, but we have stood strong all these years, through thick and thin, through the good times and the bad times. And for far longer than many straight married couples, although the intent is not to rub it in their faces.

So there we were, William, Raul and I, at a diner outside the Brooklyn Immigration Court, feeling a little nervous and waiting for the time to go to the citizenship ceremony. We had our cameras and our cam-enhanced cell-phones. Unfortunately, when we made the security line, we found out that phones and cameras were banned and, worse yet, that we would only be allowed to watch the procedures from a separate room through an internal televised feed.

No. It wasn't like the pretty, pretty US citizenship ceremonies shown on movies and TV, with the US national anthem played for effect, and people pledging allegiance to the United States of America. It was more like what you would expect at a Brooklyn federal office: Bureaucracy, bored officials, a packed court, and little citizenship pride.

And still, when we were finally allowed inside court for the citizenship oath, I couldn't feel but moved: I was in the presence of hundreds of people who, like my hubby, had struggled to reach this one moment, and I was in awe of their perseverance.

As a matter of fact, when the judge ordered everyone to stand up and recite the oath, I couldn't help but look around the room and feel overwhelmed by emotion. Anti-immigrant folk always claim that they are not against immigrants, just 'illegal' immigration, but they rarely talk about how difficult it is to gain immigration rights in this country. Nothing farther from the truth. It's difficult as hell!

But there was Raul, looking a bit anxious but also a bit happy. And me, looking at him across the room and finally realizing what a momentous occasion this was. And then tears.

Damn, Raulito! You are finally a citizen, after all these years. And still very much part of me. I could not be prouder of you! Congratulations, bubby! Hugs! El Blabbeador.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dominican Republic: Police break up gay pride gathering

Under the headline "'Democratic Modernity' and homophobic repression in the Dominica Republic", today's Diario Digital has published a disturbing OpEd by Denise Paiewonsky, which alleges that a small gay pride gathering that took place Saturday evening in Santo Domingo was interrupted and broken down by local police officers (the paper also publishes several photos, including the one I am posting here).

In the piece, Paiewonsky says that, even though LGBT Dominicans have celebrated a number of public gay pride events every June since 2001, there hasn't been a single event in which organizers have not run into opposition by Dominican authorities in the form of permit delays and denials and outright interventions, as on Saturday.

In this case, authorities had denied a request from Santo Domingo's Metropolitn Church to hold a gathering at Duarte Park and host a religious event in observance of gay pride on Saturday. Despite the lack of a permit, a few LGBT individuals decided to gather at the park and celebrate, which led to the police intervention:
During the night of Saturday the 27, authorities proceeded to undertake another showy police operation, surrounding the park with agents from the National Policeand Politur and police vehicles with emergency lights on, while uniformed agents took photos of those who were present with the clear purpose of intimidation
Paiewonsky says that Saturday's police proceedings are not an isolated case and are, instead, part of a pattern which does not stop at permit denials, but also include instances of arbitrary police action against gay establishments and threats to shut down events such as gay beauty pageants (see previous posts from Blabbeando on some of those instances below).

Paiewonsky says that no country should call itself a modern democracy when the rights of some citizens are consistently under attack by the authorities and urges those who call themselves champions of democracy to acknowledge that there is injustice against LGBT Dominicans and a need to address it immediately.

Previously on Blabbeando:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr.: Blame Michael Bloomberg for the lack of marriage equality in New York

OK, let me be a Debbie Downer today, on Pride Day, but I just have to post this fine example of the utter hypocrisy of homophobic Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., in the form of a 30-minute Spanish-language television interview that ran back on June 5th on New York 1 Noticias (posted in full, and translated by yours truly, above).

It's quite a far-ranging interview as Diaz is asked about his opposition to gays and gay rights over the last few decades. Pura Politica anchor, Juan Manuel Benitez, doesn't shy away from challenging Diaz on his views simply because he calls himself a preacher and, as Benitez keeps pressing, you see Diaz begin to lose it. At one point, as his own arguments are used to refute his positions, Diaz stops answering, and simply keeps repeating "I am a Pastor. I am a preacher. I am a believer in Jesus Christ, our redeemer and savior". Ask yourself the next time you see an anti-gay preacher spouting his or her views on CNN, if the network anchors even dare to respectfully challenge their bigotry in quite the same way that Benitez does in these clips.

Part of the interview, in which Diaz acknowleges having two gay brothers, made news last week after New York magazine's Daily Intel posted the info without attribution on June 23rd. That quickly got picked up by bloggers such as Joe.My.God, Rod2.0, BoyCulture and NGblog. But the interview goes further and includes one claim on which the Reverend and I agree: Without NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg stepping in and appealing a State Supreme court ruling, same-sex couples would have been able to marry long ago in New York State.

What follows are brief descriptions of each segment, followed by a full translated transcript. As an extra treat, I also have included a separate clip at the end in which Latino political pundit Gersón Borrero responds to the interview, calls Diaz "The Lucifer of the Senate" and provides a major bombshell which might explain why Diaz takes pain, during the interview, to argue that adultery is a lesser sin than homosexuality.

First segment available here: Diaz says that Senator Tom Duane is in his own dream world and lying to the people when he says that there are enough votes in the State Senate to pass the marriage bill.

Second segment available here: Diaz argues that Senators who remain undecided on the marriage bill feel ashamed of the gay community, says that his life will go on even if marriage equality happens in New York because he is used to "ups and downs", and admits that marriages between same-sex couples have no effect on his daily life.

Third segment available here: Diaz reiterates that homosexuality is a sin by quoting the Bible but then, when asked if the Bible also bans eating certain seafood, states "The Bible says many things" and can be used to justify just about everything; he argues that adultery is a lesser sin than homosexuality because it's about someone being at fault with a partner, whereas homosexuality is a fault against nature; and, to top it all off, Diaz says that having sex with a person of the same gender is like "having sexual relations with animals"; Oh! He also begins to lose it and to mumble his responses.

Fourth segment available here: Diaz says women who cannot have children have "an illness" and have a "failure" inside them whereas no two men can procreate as much as they try - and that this is the reason that infertile straight couples should be allowed to marry and gay couples should not; Diaz agrees with the statement that love has nothing to do with the reason why straight couples marry; and he argues that gays should be upset with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and not him since Bloomberg supported an appeal to a State Supreme Court ruling that granted gays the right to marry. In this segment, Diaz finally loses it, saying that there is no such thing as separation of church and state in the United States, adding "I AM the State and I AM the Church!"

Fifth segment available here: Diaz addresses his role in opposing the 1994 Gay Games and public funding for the Harvey Milk School; he likens his opposition to having gay athletes come to NYC to recent efforts to prevent people with the H1N1 virus come into the US (at the time, he claimed gay athletes might spread AIDS in the US); he momentarily stops answering questions by simply repeating "I am a Pastor. I am a preacher. I am a believer in Jesus Christ, our redeemer and savior"; he acknowledges he has two gay brothers but says he won't change his views just to accommodate them; he chastises former Vice President Dick Cheney for allegedly doing as much with his lesbian daughter'; and, finally, acknowledges that whatever his beliefs are, same-sex marriage might soon become law in New York State.

EXTRA: Gersón Borrero on the June 19th edition of Pura Politica, discusses the marriage equality bill and NY1 Noticias' interview with Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. - and reveals quite a bombshell about Diaz's stand on adultery during the previous show [direct link to clip here].


Intro: Juan Manuel Benitez (JMB) introduces a segment on where things stand with the marriage equality bill in the New York State Senate and a NY1 poll on which senators support or oppose te bill. He says that, of the four Latino senators, two support the bill and one (Monserrate) is undecided. He introduces Diaz as the only one that has announced his opposition and is asked to confirm his assertion that there aren't enough votes in the Senate to pass it.

It's the fourth anniversary of Pura Politica, so - before responding - Diaz sings happy birthday and then...

FIRST SEGMENT [watch it here] -
JMB: Senator [Tom] Duane is not... doesn't know how to count? Because he says that he does have the votes to pass this marriage equality law. You say 'no'.
RD: Well, it's not that Senator Duane doesn't know how to count. It's that he lives in a dream world and dreaming doesn't cost a thing. To dream... it is said that poor people live on 'hope', and dreaming is one of the benefits that God gave to humanity to - eh - let go of frustrations...
JMB: As we say, the math is more than complicated, but State Senator Duane says - Yes - that he has enough votes to pass the law. To this assertion you, Reverend, replied with a press release this week in which you said "If Senator Tom Duane has the sufficient votes in the Senate to pass the homosexual marriage law in the State of New York, he then should reveal the name of those senators who back the law. If not, shut up"... Why so much forcefulness in a press release like this?
RD: I don't understand when you say "forcefulness".
JMB: Forcefulness: "If not, shut up"...
RD: Yes, but I don't understand why you use that phrase.
JMB: Because the expression that you use is "Shut up", a pretty strong expression in English, as you well know.
RD: "Put up, or shut up", better said, call it like that, but, you cannot continue to play with people's minds, playing with the intelligence of the people, and say it. You have one thing or you don't have it. If you have it, why hide it? If you don't have it, you are lying to the people. And a legislator who lies to the people, I believe is a farce.

SECOND SEGMENT (watch it here) -
JMB: Let me read you another paragraph from that statement you released this week: It says "If there are Senators who do not want to give their names before voting for the homosexual marriage bill, they are giving a clear message to the gay community, and the entire state of New York, that these senators do not want the public to know, and that they feel ashamed to be publicly associated with the gay community" - Why do you think that someone might feel ashamed of being associated with the gay community.
RD: There is no other explanation! Better said, [if] I give you my word that I am with you, and if I say "I am with you, but don't say it to anyone else, don't give my name out", it's such an important matter in this American nation, such an important issue in the state of New York, when you give your word to someone, and say "I will be with you, but don't give my name". So, why don't you give your name? Does it make you feel ashamed? Is it that you don't want people to know? Or are you playing a little game... so, so... that legislator who says "I am undecided", ok, he's undecided. He who is undecided, it gives me the opportunity, there, to work with him. And it gives an opportunity to the enemies to go and work with him. He's undecided! Let me see... Now, he who says "I'm with you" and plays it publicly as if he is undecided, he is a hypocrite.
JMB: But let me... ah... ask you a question, Reverend, because imagine - it could happen - as it has happened in other states, now six states in the country - imagine that tomorrow you wake up and begin a new day and, that morning, you find out that the state of New York has passed the legislation that allows homosexual marriage. How would your life have changed on that day?
RD: It doesn't change because I am used to a life of ups and downs. And I was born an orphan and poor, and I brought up myself as an orphan in the streets from the age of nine, so I am used to a life of ups and downs. What I am saying is: If you, number one, there are 28 votes in favor. They are four needed, I need four to get 32...
JMB: But you are acknowledging to me that if, suddenly tomorrow, homosexuals can get married in the state of New York, your life wouldn't change; it wouldn't have direct consequences on your daily life.
RD: But why? Why would it have a day to day consequence? When my mother, when my mother, when my mother died...
JMB: So why... the opposition...
RD: when my dad died...
JMB: Why then the opposition to homosexual marriage?
RD: Aaaaah! That's THE question! Now you are asking THE question, not that my life is going to change...
JMB: Because definitely it's not something that will affect you directly.
RD: No, well, hm, no, well... In my religious beliefs, it affects me. In my religious principles, it affects me, in what I preach at church, it affects me. And it also would not have an effect because I would continue to preach the same thing, and I will continue believing the same thing. But, in my own view, I believe that God made a man and a woman and that he told them to get together and procreate - have sexual relations - and have children. And that is the purpose why God created Adam and Eve. And that is the mandate he gave. How will a man and a woman going to have sexual relations - eh - how will a man with a man will have sexual relations and will procreate children? That is an aberration in nature.

FOURTH SEGMENT [watch it here]:
JMB: Reverend, you participated a couple of weeks ago in a demonstration against these marriages. Let's take a look at some images from your intervention.
[Funny, they show a brief segment from one of my YouTube videos of Diaz riling up the crowd at the anti-gay rally that took place on May 17th]
JMB: Why once again, Reverend, the concept of 'evil' and 'sin' associated with homosexual unions.
RD: Because it's a sin.
JMB: It's a sin..
RD: Because God punishes it in the Bible, because God condemns it in the Bible, and because the Bible condemns it. It's a sin.
JMB: And where in the Bible is it condemned?
RD: Well, Romans 6... Romans, Romans, the Book of Romans, Chapter 1, Verse 26 and 27 says...
JMB: The Letter of Romans
RD: The Letter of Romans, of course, everyone can read it, and it says - practically - that when they threw away - and they had... and man changed the natural use of a woman, and became inflamed with lasciviousness, man with man, and, in the same way woman changed the natural use of a man, became inflamed with lasciviousness one with another, throwing the other one aside. God threw them out to a retrograde life. Better said, it's clear as can be: Man threw away the natural use of a woman and burned in lasciviousness, man with a man. I don't understand... I cannot give you more explanations. That is very clear in the Bible.
JMB: But also, you know that in the Bible there are prohibitions against many other things which are permitted in current society.
RD: Yes, of course.
JMB: Including Leviticus, in addition to calling an aberration what it's alleged to say about homosexual relationships, also says that it's an aberration to eat seafood, for example, crustaceans.
RD: The Bible says many things...
JMB: But there are many of those things which our society, nowadays, allows them and are legal, no?
RD: The Bible says a lot of things. You can look to justify anything that you want to do. In the same way that the Bible says certain things, you can also look for justification for whatever you want to do. Better said, I believe, the religion I preach, the religion in which I believe, teaches and believes not only that homosexuality is a sin, adultery, fornication...
JMB: So, now, for example, now that you mention adultery, for someone who has committed adultery, should it be legal for that person to be able to marry again after having committed adultery?... Do you think it should be penalized in any way in the civil laws of this country?
RD: Well, the problem with adultery is that you have one man committing an act of infidelity towards a woman. An act of infidelity! In homosexuality, it's an act against nature... better said, both are sins but they are very different sins. It's one sinning against the na-tu-re of God!
JMB: So you think that if being gay is a sin against nature, do you therefore think that homosexuality is a choice? Or is it simply...
RD: No, it's, it's like having sexual relations with animals, many people also want it...
JMB: So you think that having sexual relations - a man with a man or a woman with a woman - is like having sexual relations with an animal...
RD: They are acts against nature. They are actions AGAINST nature. It's not established by God's nature that things be that way. Natural things are those made by God. There are things that man changes - but not like this is - with God, but that is not against nature. Better said, God's nature is: God created them like this - MAN and WOMAN were created by God, male and female were created by God, and He said: Join together, fulfill each other and populate the earth. That's the Biblical mandate. Do you understand me?
JMB: So marriage, as you understand it, cannot be... it has to be a union that can... eh... or a union for procreation.
RD: For the procreation of children! hat is what God established! The procreation of children, to procreate children, eh, that is, that is the natural life of a man and a woman in what refers to the creation of God. A man with a man cannot create children, they can't be created by a woman with a woman. It's against nature!
JMB: And heterosexual marriages that cannot create children...?
RD: Look for any justification you want to find for the things that you want to do. The women that no longer can have children...
JMB: That's a marriage...
RD: Of course it's a marriage....

FOURTH SEGMENT [watch it here] -
JMB: Even if they cannot procreate.
RD: Yes but they cannot procreate, they cannot procreate, not because, not because - eh - God - not because they were born one way - they are made for - but they have an illness, they have an illness inside them which keeps them from procreating. They have a failure, they have inside them, that keeps them from procreating - that man or that woman. Better said, or they are sterile, they have a womb that cannot procreate, but it's not because... it's not, it's not, it's not like a homosexual. A homosexual is: That God made him so no matter what he does he cannot procreate.
JMB: So an union in marriage is not two people who love each other, it's not an union - as it has been during many years throughout history - that were economic unions, but simply a union to procreate. That's what marriage is.
RD: Of course! That's what marriage is!
JMB: That's what the law in the state of New York says?
RD: Of course! Look, let me tell you: The New York State Constitution prohibits marriage between a man and a man and a woman and a woman. The Constitution. You... Many homosexuals are angry with me. Don't get angry with me. They should get angry with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Because if they are not being allowed to marry today in New York, it's Bloomberg's fault because - in '95 - a judge authorized [gay] marriage here. It was Mayor Michael Bloomberg who wanted to run for president who decided "No, no! Let's appeal that decision."
JMB: But..
RD: So... Let me finish this. So, the judges of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York decided that [gay] marriage is illegal. Now, they want to change it, not because the court says so, but so 32 persons can change it.
JMB: But also, referring to your intervention in that manifestation: You were saying that they attempt to silence the voice of the church.
RD: Of course!
JMB: You know that in this country there is a separation of church and state. Better said, you are a Reverend on one hand but also a State Senator. You have to - ehm -
RD: And what does that mean, tell me, what...
JMB: You don't establish a separation between the church and state?
RB: I can't!
JMB: You can't?
RD: I can't.
JMB: So, you can't - eh - ...
RD: The Constitution doesn't say "a separation of church and state"
JMB: In this country there exists a separation between church and state
RD: NO! The constitution doesn't say it!
JMB: you think there shouldn't be a separation of church and state...
RD: No, no, no, no, listen to what I'm teling you, my friend, the Constitution does not say that there is a separation between church and state. I'll tell you what has happened: The nine judges of the Supreme Court interpret it in that way. But the Constitution doesn't say the separation... "there should be a separation of churches and state"... the Constitution of the United States does not say such thing. The judges of the Supreme Court interpret it this way, saying 'Congress shall not promote a religion, nor will it halt the free growth of the same' - that is what the Constitution says.
JMB: So, following your argument, there is no separation between church and state in the United States...
RD: There cannot be! Because I AM the State and I AM the Church.
JMB: And you told me...
RD: I AM the Church and I AM the State. I cannot separate me from myself.
JMB: So, would you propose, for example, a law that would penalize adultery in the State of New York?
RD: Well...
JMB: Since adultery is one of the commandments against the law of God?
RD: It's, it's, it's that it's a sin... It's law! It's law! [JMB: Would you penalize it, adultery?] It's that it IS penalized 'already' by law in the Constitution... the law says it - that adultery is punished!
JMB: How is it punished?
RD: Adultery... How is it punished?! Adultery, adultery is law, adulery is sin!
JMB: But in civil law, how is adultery penalized? How do you penalize a woman or a man in adultery...
RD: But wait, wait, wait! I am not asking for jail time or the penalization of homosexuals; I am saying it should not be accepted, just as adultery should not be accepted. That's all I am saying. I'm not saying, throw them in jail.
JMB: Uhuh
RD: Now you are asking me why...it's... eh...
JMB: No, but you are basing your way of legislating depending on what it says or soesn't say in the Bible.
RD: What it says... no, no... what it says... no, no, no... what it says in the Constitution of the state of New York.
JMB: Well, you have mentioned the Bible to me...
RD: Of course!
JMB: ...as a reason not to legalize homosexual marriages.
RD: I am telling you that it's not only the Bible that condemns homosexuality but that the Constitution of the State of New York, for which I am here to protect, also rejects it.
JMB: Before going to a commercial break, I have to remind you that this past May 27th, the California Supreme Court decided no to invalidate the referendum known as Proposition 8. This means that homosexual marriage is no longer legal in California. At the same time it decided not to invalidate homosexual marriages that have been celebrated during the past few months in this state, after the same tribunal legalized them last year. The only judge that opposed giving recognition to Proposition 8 was the only Latino judge in that tribunal, Carlos Moreno, who until last week also was listed as a possible magistrate to the Supreme Court of the country. Better say, gay marriage is legal in California only for a few people, for those who got married during the last few months...

FIFTH SEGMENT [watch iton here] -
JMB: And let me, because many think that you have based your political career on this topic, the topic of opposition to homosexuals. It includes, it is said, because I haven't been able to find the Spanish-language column that you wrote in 1994, you wrote a column about the Gay Games that were going to be celebrated here in the city of New York and you said: "It might be that some of the gay and lesbian athletes are already infected with AIDS and go back home with the virus." And you said that children could determine that, if there were so many gay and lesbian athletes,there was nothing wrong [with it] nor any risk. This is something you said in the year '94 and it created quite a stir. And in 2003 you also were opposed to giving additional funding to a high-school, the Harvey Milk School, which is dedicated specially to students who have had trouble at their school, or at home for the fact of being homosexual. You said that it took away finding from Latino students but, when it came down to it, Latino and African-American students were the majority in that school...
RD: ...GAY! The majority were homosexual. Better said, both situations give me the reason. Number one, the gays - OLYMPIC games for gays and lesbians - WHY! What do they have that is so special! There are olympic games for the deaf, for the mute, for those who limp, for the dismembered, for the elderly...
JMB: But you made it seem as if all of them had AIDS.
RD: Well, yes, because back then, Magic Johnson came out with AIDS and Magic Johnson was denied entry in another country.
JMB: Uhhum.
RD: Because he had AIDS at that same time,so we were telling everyone - all those who were there - "Come in!" - at that time when things were difficult with AIDS and we didn't know - "Come in!" without having been checked. Better said, that is... that is... like now in Mexico. Why now in Mexico, when now you have that fever, everyone stops going to Mexico, and everyone begins to use protection - eh, eh - the same thing! You know! A catastrophe is happening. Why are we going to bring everyone here without checking. That's one thing... Number two: The homosexual school. Why a school with public funds for homosexual kids. Why not fr the cleft-lipped? And why not for the fat people? And where are the... the, the, the, the Latinos? Look at my district, they are in pigsties, they don't even have food, they don't have some disgusting 'toilets', why for a school - with public funding - for gays.
JMB: Reverend, don't you think that...
RD: No, no! You asked!
JMB: Yes, yes.
RD: - for gays, with air conditioning, with good technology, with the best equipment, with all the best things- for GAYS - specially, That is... it's... 'come on!' - please! So, I oppose it and they say I'm homosexual, 'I mean', that I am - eh - 'homophobic'. Because I am opposed to this. Noo!
JMB: But many think, Reverend, and you could be in agreement, that you have based your political career on this issue.
RD: I am a Pastor! I am a Pastor!
JMB: ...and that if homosexual marriages were approved in New York, you would lose your main political argument.
RD: I don't know!! I am a Pastor! I never - uhm. I am a Pastor. I am a preacher. I am a believer in Jesus Christ, our redeemer and savior.
JMB: Do you think that homosexuals...So, homosexuality is an illness? It's a choice?
RD: I am a preacher, I am a Pentecostal pastor, in the Evangelical church, a believer in my Lord and Savior...
JMB: But you are also a State Senator in Albany... You are a legislator...
RD: Of course!
JMB: A civil function...
RD: And the Constitution of the State says that it is illegal, homosexual mariage, so what am I to do?
JMB: Reverend. Do you think that if you had... Or let me ask the question in a different way - because you publicly recognized that you had two homosexual brothers.
RD: I do have them, yes.
JMB: It doesn't make you change your opinion, absolutely, the fact of having two homosexual brothers?
RD: So, just because my brother is an adulterer, a sinner, a thief, a drug addict, be whoever he'll be, it means I haveto change my position before the fact to acommodate him? No. That's what Vice President Dick Chaney did! Accomodating - because his daughter is a lesbian - accomodating so his daughter can belong. You can't do that! What is bad is bad. If one does a bad thing, it's bad. I care for you, I accept you, you are my brother, you are my friend, you are my neighbor, I love you, how can I help, we are there with you, but I cannot accept the sin... I cannot accept what you are doing. I cannot say it's a good thing.
JMB: So you do not see that - in the future - your position will evolve, because a couple of weeks ago we had Assemblymember Nelson Castro from the Bronx who is alos opposed to homosexual marriage - and, off-camera - he recognized that sooner or later homosexual marriage will be a fact in the State of New York, as it is in many countries of the world and also in other states of the country.
RD: Sooner or later, whatever happens, the pastor... the Biblical principles that once were, there it says - the world goes by and happens - but the will of God, the word of God, remains forever. Things can happen, everything happens, but the word of God is the same yesterday, today, and for every century.
JMB: And we could have discussed many other things but we didn't havethe time. We only had half an hour. Things, of course, change, and "Pura Politica" will be extended to a full hour beginning next week. It's a gift on our fourth anniversary. Today, as the Reverend said, we turn four years of "Pura Politica" - many thanks, Reverend, for having joined us. This fourth anniversary would not have been possible without your trust. As always, thanks for your attention. I'm Juan Manuel Benitez. Until the next one.

EXTRA: Gersón Borrero (GB) on the June 19th edition of Pura Politica, discusses the marriage equality bill and NY1 Noticias' interview with Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. - and reveals quite a bombshell about Diaz's stand on adultery during the show [link to clip here]. Remember that the interview with Diaz happened before Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate shocked the political establishment in NYS by defecting to the Republican wing of the Senate and that the interview with Borrero happened after the move.

GB: And, on the other hand, for example, Pedro Espada: The fact that he wants to bring to - what is the heart of the Senate - a debate. You will have individuals, who have a homosexual partnership, the right of those persons to be treated as equal.
JMB: Yes, but Gerson, you and I know, first thing: You and I know that Republicans, during all the years they have been in the chamber, they also have not been characterized for giving much power to Latinos. And, secondly, it's that Pedro Espada. Jr., YES: He says he will bring the homosexual marriage bill up for a vote, but he knows he still lacks the voters...
GB: But the point is, Juan Manuel Benitez, that the issue can be debated openly. So that itcan't be hidden anymore, the Lucifer of the Senate, Ruben Diaz, who is a hypochrite. So much so that you had him as a guest, and you also asked about what is - certain little things he didn't speak about: Infidelity! You know he left on his own will. He wasn't loyal to his own wife. Let him come to say it again because I saw that interview he gave. That HYPOCRITE, who always spends his time harrassing homosexual couples and speaking about lesbians, don't let him... he has two [gay] brothers, which he admitted to you. But nevertheless I think he has a little bit of a latent homosexual, did you hear me?
JMB: Well, Gerson said it, I didn't.
GB: Yes, I said it!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Village Voice: The New Gayborhoods

I'm late to the game but the current issue of the Village Voice has a feature on the "new" gay neighborhoods in New York City called, appropriately, "The New Gayborhoods of Fort Greene, Sunset Park, and Jackson Heights".

It's part of their annual "Queer Issue" and I am briefly quoted on Jackson Heights (of course, I was also the issue's cover boy! That is, until Rachel Maddow said she wouldn't agree to an interview unless she got the cover story. What a diva!).

I'm not sure I would have bunched up Jackson Heights with the rest of the neighborhoods as a "new" gayborhood (Astoria might deserve that title better than Jackson Heights) but it was nice of Mike Lavers to reach out.

BTW, Mike blogs at Boy in Bushwick [illustration from Ezra Claytan Daniels as printed in The Village Voice].

Monday, June 22, 2009

Good things come in two?

Two things came my way today and I wanted to share.

The first one was wholly unexpected: The Lesbian & Gay Foundation, one of the largest LGBT-rights organizations in the United Kingdom, launched their first ever ranking of the Top 100 International LGBT Blogs today, and they graciously - and surprisingly - included Blabbeando in their list.

Also among the 100 were Andrew Sullivan, Canadian Hope, Gay Persons of Color, Kenyon Farrow, Michael in Norfolk, Andy Towleroad, Joe Jervis a/k/a Joe.My.God, Pam Spaulding of Pam's House Blend, Marisol Lebrón at Post Pomo Nuyorican Homo, New York's Empire State Pride Agenda's The Agenda, Rod McCullum at Rod2.0, Bilerico, long time bud Coming Out at 48, Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin, Jeremy Hopper at Good as You, Immigration Equality and Queerty. I'm not sure I would call it an 'international' list since they only focused on English-language blogs, but I can't help but feel honored.

At the same time, word also reached me today that online Latino web-portal "Mi Apogéo" (soon to be re-branded as a more 'Latino' focused site) had published a 10-question interview I did with them last week appropriately titled "10 Questions for Blabbeando's Andrés Duque".

Among the questions? "What do you think is the single most important issue that affect gay and lesbian Latinos in the US?

My response? "Two issues: The economic downturn as well as immigration reform. They might not be seen as 'gay' issues, per se, but, as part of the larger Latino community, they impact LGBT Latinos as much as the rest".

Read the whole interview here.

Update: What Ricky Martin actually said to TVaquí

Mike Szysmanski, who writes a regular column for the Examiner about bisexuality, has a story today on rumors that Ricky Martin might be - gulp! - BISEXUAL!! ("Reports of Ricky Martin declaring he is bisexual are premature").

As I did yesterday, he throws water on claims by multiple gossip sites that Martin actually came out as a bisexual man last week, but holds off on blaming Puerto Rican gossip site TVaquí for trying to spread the false rumor to their advantage.

Szysmansky says he actually reached out to TVaquí editor Saudy Rivera to ask her if Martin actually mentioned the word 'bisexual' and files the following report:
I went directly to Saudy, who is based in Puerto Rico, and asked if Ricky used the B-word. "No, he didn't say that," she replied to me. "What he said was: "The heart of Ricky Martin... if it belongs to a male or a female... I have never talked about it."
Of course, it would have been helpful if Rivera and TVaquí had been just as forthcoming before they sent their Ricky Martin 'scoop' to gossip blogger Perez Hilton - which jump-started all the online bisexual speculation in the first place - or if she kept from literally claiming that "Ricky Martin accepts the possibility that his heart is owned by a female or male owner" on the cover of their magazine, which hits newsstands this week.

Better yet! Syzmansky links up to a YouTube video of the actual TVaquí Ricky Martin interview and it turns out to shine an even worse light on the gossip rag magazine. I have taken the liberty of translating the interview as you will see in the clip above.

It's obviously an ambush interview and Ricky Martin looks tired and unhappy, particularly about the trend in questioning. Unlike TVaquí's claim to Perez Hilton, he certainly doesn't "accept" having his heart owned by a man or a woman, and, as he has always done, he expresses once again that it's a topic he is never willing to address with a reporter.

Ricky might be gay or bisexual and he might even decide to come out one of these days, but these type of ambush interviews do more damage than anything else. Specially when they go as far as implying that Martin might be less of a man if he is indeed gay or bisexual on their own website. UGH.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Georgia's Mundo Hispánico features gay dads on Father's Day

Today is Father's Day in the United States and, as usual, most media have been doing special features on dads and their families.

A few have featured stories that have a gay angle. Take, for example, "Kids to meet gay dads partner on Father's Day" (Associated Press) or "Father's Day in a house with lesbian moms" (New Jersey Star-Ledger).

What is rare is to see Spanish language media do the same, which brings me to Mundo Hispánico, and an article they ran on Thursday titled "Fathers against wind and tide: Not everyone celebrates Father's Day in the same way".

In the article, Mundo Hispánico profiles three Mexican immigrant fathers who live in Georgia: Augustín Cruz (above, right), who was forced to raise his two children on his own after his wife was murdered during a robbery; Pedro (above, middle), who hasn't seen his daughter in more than 11 years, but has always managed to send her money to Mexico; and Martín Guillermo Balbuena (above, left), who fathered three children during a previous 13-year marriage to a woman, but now is partnered to a man.

Balbuena (pictured at right with his partner, Michael, and his children Nathaniel, Alexis Arturo and Vanessa) says that he felt extreme pressure to marry a woman based on life-long taunts from people calling him a 'fag'. He also hoped that marrying a woman would en years of confusion over his sexual attraction to men.

"For 13 years, I kept my wife under a lie and, when I decided to tell her my real sexuality, she became upset and could not accept it", said Balbuena, "We decided to separate and, when I suggested that the best thing would be for her to return to Mexico with the children, she said no, that she did not want our children to grow far away from their father."

Eventually, Balbuena also came out to his children and says that, for a while, it was rough waters - specially with his oldest son - but that he now enjoys a great relationship with his ex-wife and all his children. So much so, that the oldest son now lives with him and his partner, Michael.

All three children have also bought Father's Day gifts for both Martín and Michael in the last couple of years and have come to consider Michael as a second daddy.

"I feel very fortunate," says Balbuena, "I have always believed that one builds one's future and today I have what I have always wanted to have, I have the children and family I always wanted to have".

"I want people to see that being gay doesn't mean that I am a depraved individual who will abuse his children," he ads, "I want to teach them that as a gay man I can also raise them and can teach them good moral values".

So, tonight, on Father's Day, congratulations to all fathers out there and congratulations to Augustín and Michael in Georgia, for speaking truth to power, and putting their lives as examples.

Mexico: Tijuana gay pride 2009

Back in June 2005, I found myself crossing the border into Mexico from the United States for the first time in my life.

I was visiting my friend Rex Wockner in San Diego and we were on a mission to find out if Tijuana Pride was a go... or a bust.

Mostly, it was a bust, with a few late stragglers walking around, like us, trying to figure out the what and the who and not having much success. There were few signs of organization or leadership or anybody who could say for a fact that the parade had been canceled.

Jump ahead three years and here we have Tijuana Pride 2009, in a year that has seen the city's murder and crime rate go way up, in light of a recent increase in lawlessness.

Was it a go? Was it a bust? Amazingly, according to Rex, it was "bigger, better, longer, more colorful and more spirited than ever."

He was there to cover it as a journalist and noted that, unlike previous years, a lot of Southern Californians seemed to stay away in droves due to the fears of violence.

He has much more on the parade on his blog, including lots of photos. Just go to "Tijuana pride triples in size, despite crime wave" to read all about it (photo above copyright © 2009 Rex Wockner - All Rights Reserved).

What you learn from Twittering, Pt. 2: Ricky Martin is possibly gay, possibly bisexual

In gossip years, this is old news by now, even if the article hasn't even been published yet or posted online - and even if rumors of Ricky Martin being gay go back to the last century.

As of now, it's just a Twitter sensation by the mere fact of TVaquí Puerto Rico sending a 'tweet' to Perez Hilton asking him to cover their upcoming 'exclusive':
  • Original June 15th Twitpic of magazine cover and Perez Hilton request here.
  • Perez Hilton post here.
  • TVAquí follow-up saying they 'made news' by the mere fact of being mention on Perez here.
And they did. The gossip sites went into overdrive. All because the Twitter message said "Ricky Martin talked to our editor Saudy Rivera and accepted his heart could belong to male or a female...more in our next issue" [The magazine cover says more or less the same thing, in Spanish: Ricky Martin acepta la posibilidad de que su corazón tenga 'dueño o dueña'].

Take that with a grain of salt, though. Ricky Martin was probably answering a question that he must have been asked a million times in the last decade and perhaps inadvertently slipped. He has, at times, denied that he is gay and spoken about his relationships with women. At other times he has been more circumspect, telling reporters that his private life is none of their business and that he would rather not say a thing out of respect for his family.

But, seriously, if Ricky Martin wanted to come out, would he really do it in TVaqí? The same magazine that has another headline on the lower right corner of the same cover that says "Travesti Félix Chevremont had his first homosexual encounter at 13 years of age"?

Or the same magazine that runs an online poll asking readers "What do you think about Ricky's sexuality?" and breaks the options down as "He's all man", "He could be bisexual", "He could be homosexual" or "He has as put me in doubt?"

You mean that if Ricky Martin is gay or bisexual he is less of a man because of it? Or that people could doubt his manliness if he was?

Yup, that's TVaquí for ya! Using a supposed 'gay scoop' to draw readers and sending it around to gay sites to have them increase their traffic - at the same time the 'editors' call us less than men. UGH.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


There is been a marked slow-down of blog posts on Blabbeando as of late. It might be related to certain life changing developments that have taken place in the past few months (don't worry, my health is OK), the feeling that one is on a blogging treadmill where - if you don't write everything. right now. at this. very. moment. - you lose momentum. Or the selective attention span of those who might check on the blog from time to time.

Or perhaps it has to do with the natural life-cycle of a blog. Several of my favorite blogs over the last few years have slowed down as well, including Bejata (who expressed a similar sentiment back in September) and The Republic of T (who also expressed similar feelings on June 10th), just to think of two.

It might be a phase, it might not. But here is an alternative: I first joined Friendster because... because... hm, I forget? Then I dug MySpace for the access it gave me to new music from my favorite artists - but I have long abandoned that page. I moved on to Facebook and invited nearly everyone I knew to join my page before I knew how pervasive Facebook was (I am sorry to those who endured my Friend Buying ways early in my Facebook experience).

Now I am Twittering. Just like Barbara Walters and Ophra!

I have had a Twitter account for a while but it took me a while to 'get it'. It took Michael Crawford of Bilerico to launch #SameSexSunday to make me realize the power of Twitter.

Now in full bloom, thanks to the way that it's allowing people in Iran to circumvent government crackdowns on media and communication in the aftermath of last week's election, I've joined those who have changed their online avatar colors to green in support of those who are challenging the official election returns (to access info just follow the #IranElection posts or follow Andrew Sullivan's amazing series of posts on his Daily Dish blog).

So take a look at Twitter and visit me there if you want by adding my Twitter feed. And if it takes you a while to 'get' Twitter please feel free to ask me about it to see if I can make it somewhat clearer for you. Will be blogging again soon. Just don't hold your breath.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Carlos Arboleda, rest in peace

Last weekend I attended the annual Queens Pride Parade. I wasn't planning on it, but a friend was visiting from Venezuela and wanted me to take him.

As it turns out, it was quite alright, considering the wonderful weather and the increased participation of community groups at the parade (a surprise since participation had dropped consistently over the last few years).

Eventually, I ran into a few other friends and ended up at Friend's Tavern. It was so crowded that we never made it to the back patio this year. But, back in 2006, that's where I ran into my friend Carlos Arboleda for one last time (see photo above, right).

Carlos was a comrade in arms. A gay man born in Colombia, like me, who worked in the HIV prevention field, like me, and who, along with former buddy Daniel Castellanos and I, were sometimes referred to as "The Colombian Mafia". Over the last two decades, Carlos worked for a number of leading HIV prevention organizations and institutions including Gay Men's Health Crisis, the National Minority AIDS Council, the National Development and Research Institutes, the National Community Research Initiative of America, and POZ Magazine, among others, and was one of a long list of unsung Latino gay leaders in the fight against AIDS.

By the summer of 2006, though, I had lost touch with Carlos, which is why I was so glad to bump into him at Queens Pride in 2006. Unfortunately it would be the last time I saw him. In late April I received word that Carlos had passed away which was confirmed by a notice sent out by NMAC and, later, POZ. I also missed a memorial ceremony held at GMHC on May 26th, which I regret, but the one true thing remains: Carlos is gone and he leaves a silent legacy behind.

His friends and family have created an online memorial and, if you only found out that Carlos had passed away recently, I am sure they would appreciate you leaving a message on the site.

To do so visit this site which also has additional photos of Carlos provided by his friends.

A wonderful person and one of the three Colombian musketeers, he will be missed. Love you, Carlos. Rest in peace.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Slappy Happy

OMG! So one of my nephews in Colombia alerted me to a YouTube video taken on Memorial Day weekend at this year's Sasquatch Music Festival near Seattle, WA. There are simply no words. Enjoy!

The Original (feat. Santo Gold singing "Unstoppable"):

The high definition take:

And the prelude:

Love. It!

UPDATE: The man. The mystery. The legend. Sasquatch Dancing Man has been identified as Collin Wynter from Calgary.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In Albany, one very good thing about one very bad mess

If you haven't heard: New York State Democratic Senators Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate, who face potentially career-ending legal battles in the near future, seem to have pulled a leadership coup d'état by voting with Senate Republicans to remove current Democratic Majority Leader Malcom Smith, and replace him with Republican State Senator Dean Skelos.

Caught way off-guard, Smith has argued that the vote is worthless since he says it came after Monday's session had ended - an argument that has been challenged - and has said that he will not step back on the Senate floor unless he is assured that it won't be governed by "unlawful rules." The politerati pretty much agree that -legal argument viable or not - Smith is toast.

Doors to the Senate Chamber have been under lock and paddle since Monday evening (photo credit: Daily News).

What a mess, you may say! And so do I! But lost in the whole melee was that yesterday was the date chosen by anti-gay groups for their "Stand 4 Marriage Rally" and lobby day trip to Albany!

Yes! Yesterday was supposed to be the big launch of the united forces against equality campaign in New York. Yesterday was the day that the homophobic National Organization for Marriage's Maggie Gallagher was supposed to stand in a loving embrace with homophobic State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. and blow anti-gay kisses towards the legislative chambers. Yesterday was the day that Michael Long, Chairman of the State Conservative Party; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. of the High Impact Leadership Coalition; Rev. Duane Motely of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms; Democratic Assemblymember Michael Benjamin; and Republican State Senator Marty Golden were all supposed to urge the Senate not to allow a marriage bill on the floor and to oppose it if it it ever came up for a vote.

Oh noes! So sad! NOMfail! Again.

To be sure, there were probably other community groups who planned to lobby for worthwhile bills and causes this week and you have to feel bad for them for the energy spent herding participants and expenses spent on transportation and such. But how great is it that NOM gets there only to find the doors shut down?

Mediawise, the groups also laid a big fat egg. I found only a few articles with The Legislative Gazette naming some of the speakers who attended, and Capital News 9 saying that hundreds showed up.

Today Jeremy at Good As You posted the YouTube video above from Capital 9 News as well as some image captures. They show a good crowd but it's difficult to estimate whether there are the 1,000 that some conservative groups have estimated. ChinoBlanco, who originally posted the video online, called it "a flop."

So, let's say that you go to Albany to lobby your State Senators but there are no State Senators to lobby. What do you do? Well, paint a smiley face on the whole thing and call it a success, of course.

See the Rev. Duane Motley of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms in the video telling the crowd "What God has done is dropped a huge boulder in the path of the same sex-marriage bill yesterday, when the Senate coup took place."

Apparently he felt that a Republican-led power play meant that the Senate marriage bill was dead on arrival during the current session.

Oops! Good luckwith that! The man on the video above is non other than former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican who was perhaps one of three of the most powerful politicians in the state until he resigned last year. He is facing indictments in several corruption charges which he has vowed to prove unfounded, but is still held in high-esteem by a large number of State Republican Senators.

More than a few jaws hit the ground when word came that Bruno was backing marriage equality. Rod at Manhattan Offender simply said "Words Fail", Joe at Joe.My.God said "THUD" and Andy Towleroad wrote "The times are changing, and quickly."

Longtime LGBT rights advocate Michelangelo Singorile, who hosts a daily radio show on Sirius, wrote that "Hell Has Frozen Over" and described Bruno as "a man who held up a gay rights bill for years, without allowing a vote and has been a fierce foe of gay rights". He added:
Now we have Bruno coming out for marriage for gays and lesbians -- a man who still has a lot of influence among Republicans in the State Senate -- and actually agreeing to speak out and try to sway Republicans (we only need four Republicans or so to win this) at Governor Paterson's request on the issue. I think it's clear that they see the handwriting on the wall: The entire Northeast has gone for marriage equality, while, on a variety of issues, the Republican Party is having a moment of truth nationally and surely in the region. There will soon only be two Republicans in New York State's Congressional delegation, as the national party went further to the right and people in New York just weren't going to go there.
Indeed! And that Bruno video certainly added to the NOMfail Tuesday atmosphere. Amazing that a marriage equality bill might come to the State Senate floor as soon as next week, as a result of a Republican power-play, and that it has better chances to pass today than even last week, thanks to Republican pressure on State Republican Senators. Only in New York, folks! Although it ust be said that everything is still up in the air and that everything might change again.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What you learn from Twittering, Pt. 1: Maxwell is possibly probably not gay

Lord knows we have been waiting for a megazillion years for something new from neo-soul God Maxwell. Over on MySpace, when MySpace was hot, he kept promising that a new release was in the works but the years passed and... nothing.

Finally he posted a snipped from what he said would be his new single and, unfortunately, it was fairly disappointing (the video is out: "Pretty Wings").

Now comes word that Maxwell is about to release three albums over the next three years titled BLACKsummersnight, blackSUMMERSnight and blacksummersNIGHT. Yes, he's always had a way with words.

Also, Maxwell is on Twitter. And he's been trying his damnest as of late to prove that he is the 'real' Maxwell by uploading Twitterpics of himself misbehaving.

Which means him, rapper Nas, a big bottle of champagne, Cuban cigars, and three scantly clad girls partying like some cheap-ass rap video in Turks & Caicos Islands.

Me thinks the man is trying hard to fight back all the gay rumors that surfaced back in the day as well as more recent gossip that his new music had been pushed back from being released because the lyrics of some of the songs were explicitly homoerotic.

That might all be nothing more than online chatter. Not sure I care if Maxwell is gay, bi or whatever. I will say, though, that he remains an incredibly beautiful man. I just hope the new music is good. Just a suggestion: You don't need to pimp it up to prove yourself.

Here's Maxwell talking about his new project with the Associated Press:

  • Maxwell's official webpage here
  • Maxwell's MySpace page here
  • Maxwell on Twitter here
  • Maxwell on YouTube here

Monday, June 01, 2009

New York State? Please let us marry...

The New York Civil Liberties Union has launched a brand new site (marriageny.com) as an effort to ad their voice to those pushing for a state senate vote on marriage equality before the legislative term ends later this month.

As part of the effort, they have produced twelve videos featuring same-sex couples from key areas in the state in which representatives have been either reticent to declare their support for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples or declared their outright opposition.

Here are two of those videos, the first in Spanish and the second in English, featuring Pedro Julio Serrano and Steven Toledo as well as Steven's mom, Gladys. Pedro Julio and Steven are great friends of mine and I am so glad they are featured as part of this specific campaign. I swear it would be a crime to deny such a great couple the right to marry.

Spanish-language video:

English-language video: