Friday, July 31, 2009

Bronx Borough Prez Ruben Diaz, Jr. honors Bronx Pride Day

The Bronx Borough President's Office held an event yesterday honoring Bronx Pride Day and we weren't invited (just kidding!).

At the event, according to a press release, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. met with Lisa Winters, Executive Director of The Bronx Community Pride Center, and "discussed their shared agenda for the Bronx LGBT community, including topics such as equal access to borough services and future funding for LGBT initiatives."

Mr. Diaz also presented a proclamation to the organization.

It's a far cry from June of 2006, when Ms. Winters was accusing former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión of making it impossible to host a pride event in the Bronx by making it difficult to obtain a permit. At the time she said that if City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had not stepped in at the last minute, the event would have had to been canceled ("LGBT Pride controversy in the Bronx?" June 29, 2006). Mr. Diaz was elected Borough President in April when a special election was held to replace Mr. Carrion who vacated the office in February to join the Obama administration.

Mr. Diaz, of course, is also the son of State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.
, perhaps the best known Latino anti-gay politician in the state. Recently we featured an interview that Diaz, Jr. did on NY1 Noticias in which he discussed his father ("Ruben Diaz, Jr. on his father's homophobia" July 18, 2009) and uploaded a translated YouTube video of the exchange.

As for the date of this year's Bronx Pride Festival, the Pride Center says that it's been scheduled for August 22nd - with more details to come - and will feature headline performer Crystal Waters.

Pictured above, from left to right, Demetrius McCord of the Bronx Community Pride Center, Borough President Diaz and Ms. Winters (photo from the Bronx Borough President's Office).


A reader writes... (re: Chicago's 26th Ward's new Alderman)

[NOTE: This was posted last night as a reply to what I wrote yesterday about the new Alderman for Chicago's 26th Ward. It provides a succinct and even-handed perspective from someone who knows the district and raises a few interesting issues about the dynamics of the selection and the tensions between local LGBT advocates and outsiders. I thought it merited posting as a separate blog entry. Thanks so much, Jonathan, for taking the time to write in - Andrés]

First, thank you for this blog, which I think does a wonderful job of bringing attention Latin@ lgbtq issues on a wide scale. (I am especially grateful for your careful coverage - including translations! - of the NYC drama surround Mr. Diaz Sr.'s comments regarding us gay folks.)

I know that other Chicagoans have responded to your postings regarding the De Jesus controversy, but I would like to weigh in ever-so-briefly.

I am excited about Mr. Maldonado's appointment. Despite concerns that he acquired the position via an appointment as opposed to an election, he is an established leader in the 26th Ward. Critics of this appointment should attack the process itself rather than individual appointments.

Okay, now to my main points. While the De Jesus conversation is seemingly mute, I think there are a few important points to make. I share the concerns of many others regarding the homophobic tendencies of De Jesus. His opposition to the LGBTQ high school was generally unprincipled. It should be noted, however, that many would have opposed this school's construction in a predominately Latin@ neighborhood on much more legitimate grounds. Anyone who has attended the appalling Dyke March in Pilsen would know how uncomfortable it is to experience the imposition of disrespectful outsiders in our communities. While this does not legitimate De Jesus' critiques of the proposed Pride Campus, it is fair to say that his concerns about the lack of Latin@ input were valid.

In terms of Ocasio's recommendation of De Jesus for the aldermanic position, any conversation about this topic must take into account the perilous politics of the 26th Ward. Ocasio has continually come under attack by developers who seek to further gentrification and oppose multi-income housing initiatives. This community area is under attack. Ocasio's well-established support networks have helped him to stave off these attacks. His replacement would need to be someone with a history of support for community initiatives AND a strong constituency. De Jesus was clearly a person who met both of these requirements. Litmus tests about his views regarding LGBTQ issues overlook the larger struggles this community faces (of which LGBTQ issues are certainly an important part). To be clear, Ocasio could have appointed many pro-LGBTQ folks who would not have helped to advance these broader community efforts. De Jesus expressed his commitment to these efforts and his support for the various LGBTQ initiatives that 26th Ward residents had already created. We were more concerned with his willingness to work with us than his previous statements about LGBTQ issues. It seemed as though many detractors drew on purist arguments that would disqualify almost anyone from holding this office.

This is where the discussion about local input - which others have addressed on this blog - comes into play. The views of non-residents, who are mostly middle class LGBTQ folks (Latin@s and others), oftentimes neglect to take into account the PARTICULAR struggles that this community faces.

I was one of the people present at De Jesus' meeting with LGBTQ leaders, and this neglect was readily apparent. In fact, many non-resident participants in this meeting were willing to write off De Jesus' church all together. Unfortunately, for those of us who live and work in this community on the day-to-day, we cannot afford to disregard the views of a church whose membership includes in upwards of 5,000 residents of our community. This does not mean that we validate their views, but that we engage with them in dialogues that focus on broader efforts toward the achievement of community wellness and challenge them to rethink their positions regarding LGBTQ issues.

Again, thank you for all of your hard work with this blog.

Jonathan Rosa

Previously on Blabbeando:

Oh, Google AdSense, you crack me up sometimes...

Today's chuckle comes courtesy of Google's AdSense, which is supposed to match a blog's content with the featured advertisements:
Established men: Sugar daddy dating. Where beautiful girls & successful men meet. SEARCH NOW!
Uh. OK? It started appearing last night on this very blog. I haven't laughed this much since those National Organization for Marriage ads appeared on this and other gay-related blogs.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Update: And Chicago's new 26th Ward Alderman is...

Earlier in the month I expressed concern that a departing Latino Alderman from Chicago's 26th Ward had recommended a homophobic Latino Pentecostal preacher as his replacement.

Apparently, when it comes to Chicago's City Council, it is the norm for a departing Alderman to suggest a replacement if he or she leaves before the term is over and for the city's mayor to accept the recommendation.

But, in this case, concerns were almost immediately raised about departing Alderman Billy Ocasio's suggestion that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley appoint Wilfredo De Jesús to his seat.

De Jesús, who preaches at a Pentecostal church in the 26th Ward, had gained notoriety for opposing funding for a school that would welcome LGBT students last year, and had been also quited in Christianity Today as saying that his priorities as a preacher were opposing homosexuality and abortion. And, when stating his opposition to the school, he implied that it was out of his interest to keep youth out of the hands of gay and lesbian sexual predators (He was quoted in the Pupovac Report blog as saying “What about that girl who is a virgin, who is being harassed by lesbians and guys to have sex, and yet you're going to build a gay school? It's not fair”).

When those reports emerged, he tried to present himself as being more tolerant by saying he would not oppose funding for an LGBT youth shelter and expressing support for domestic partnerships for gays and lesbians. But, by most accounts, a meeting he held with 30 LGBT leaders - some from Latino LGBT organizations in Chicago - was a disaster.

Eventually, it was Ocasio and De Jesús who announced that De Jesús would not seek the seat after all blaming city regulations that forbid anyone not living in a specific ward to represent that ward (De Jesús only ministered in the 26th Ward, he didn't actually live there, but this wasn't something he'd been hiding when he was initially recommended).

Ocasio then announced that he would be submitting a new name for consideration: That of his own wife, Veronica.

Some of De Jesús supporters, some of whom were lesbian and gay, defended him mostly based on his work in the neighborhood, his ties to several Puerto Rican community-based organizations in the 26th Ward and his knowledge of the area. I remember arguing that I was more than certain that a nominee could be found that matched those criteria without having the Reverend's troublesome past on LGBT issues.

On Monday, Mayor Daley did just that.

Side-stepping Ocasio's new recommendation, Mayor Daley named Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado as his choice for the seat. Yesterday the full city council voted on the nomination and sworn him in as the new Alderman for the 26th Ward.

Maldonado, who has worked as a county commissioner for fifteen years, also founded a mortgage brokerage firm and worked as a psychologist in Chicago's pubic schools. Born in Puerto Rico, the 57 year old moved to Chicago when he was 17, and actually lives in the 26th Ward.

It was the first time in 32 City Council appointments that a Chicago mayor decided to go against an departing Alderman's recommendation.

On Monday, after Daley made the announcement and introduced him to reporters, Maldonado spoke of his commitment to LGBT rights. From the Chicago Tribune:
"I have fought hard to bring fairness and equality to all the people of Cook County, regardless of race, sexual orientation, Immigration status or income."
Bilingual Chicago newspaper eXtra, which serves Latino communities in the area and had editorially lauded De Jesús when Ocasio first announced his backing, interviewed local community members about Daley's choice, including Jorge Félix, a community curator:
"Some organizations and individuals tried to dismiss the opposition to Ocasio's nominations as just a LGBTQ controversy by some," he said, "It is an achievement that Daley heard and responded to the voice of the community that made recommendations and wrote letters of support to the various nominations. The community was calling for a change in Humboldt Park and I think Maldonado's professional record and his dedicated support towards human rights will make a valuable leader to our community."
Other community organizations and leaders also spoke well of Maldonado's appointment to the City Council.

Thank you, Mayor Daley and congratulations to Alderman Maldonado as well as Chicago's 26th District.

Photo credit: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (on the right) introduces Roberto Maldonado at a press conference on Monday as his choice for the 26th Ward Alderman's seat. Mr Maldonado was sworn in by the full City Council on July 29th, 2009 (photo courtesy of the City of Chicago).


Update: Kissimmee commissioners vote against changing city's logo

Last night, Kissimmee, Florida, commissioners voted against adding the words "In God We Trust" to the city's logo. An excerpt from today's The Orlando Sentinel:
The suggestion to revamp the logo caused an uproar last week after City Commissioner Art Otero, who proposed it, was quoted in the Orlando Sentinel calling the Obama administration "socialist" and knocking homosexuality, abortion and legalized marijuana.

At Tuesday night's commission meeting, Mayor Jim Swan read a statement criticizing Otero's comments as "irresponsible" and said they had brought Kissimmee "criticism, ridicule and sensationalism." The mayor tonight said he answered 60 citizen e-mails, half complaining that the proposal would violate the separation of church and state and the other half from people "incensed by the bigoted remarks."

Commissioners voted 4-1 to nix the logo change. Otero was in the minority.

Commissioner Cheryl Grieb tonight said she was concerned that people had threatened to boycott the city because they were offended by Otero's remarks. She also said the good of residents should come before commissioners' personal feelings.

"The city of Kissimmee doesn't want to be seen as anti-anything," Grieb said. "We're such a melting pot."
Otero, who said that his comments were taken out of context by the Orlando Sentinel reporter who first reported on his proposal, refused to talk to the paper saying that he didn't trust the media. He also offered prayers for the reporter.

It's good to know that common sense prevailed.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kissimmee Commissioner thinks changing city's logo will do away with the gay

A Puerto Rican-born former business leader who was elected in November to the Kissimee City Commission has introduced a measure to change the Florida city's logo to incorporate the words "In God We Trust".

Art Otero (left), whose past credits include stints at the Florida Housing Commissioner for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Vice-Presidency at the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly of Osceola County, had campaigned on his record as a business leader and on promises to expand the local airport as a means to bring jobs to Kissimmee.

Representatives from the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union have said that the move blurs the lines between the separation of church and state, even as they admit that courts have allowed the use of the specific phrase in other areas (it remains on our dollar bills, for example).

Otero, himself, says that his resolution is based on patriotism rather than religious belief. But other statements he made last week to The Orlando Sentinel are putting that into question. From Wednesday's paper ("Kissimmee wants 'God' in its city logo"):
Commissioner Art Otero, who proposed the addition, said he was prompted to suggest the change because he doesn't agree with the direction the country is going under the Obama administration, which he referred to as "socialist." He said his initiative was not based on faith but on patriotism.

"This nation has been moving toward more liberal postures such as homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion and the legalization of marijuana,"Otero said. "I'm against that way of thinking. Those are not the values upon which this nation was founded. I think we need to fight for the values we're losing."

Patriotism, I believe, refers to a love of nation and not to a desire to use legislation to invade the privacy of your own country's citizens. And, while having the words "In God We Trust" on a city logo wouldn't necessarily impact my personal life one way or the other, it's Otero's obvious religious-based rationalization that irks those of us who think it indicates he might go further if allowed.

As for those campaign promises to work to improve the city's economy? The Sentinel reports that changing all city logos on on city vehicles, decals and official stationery would cost the city upwards of $200,000 from taxpayer's money. Chump-change to some, but go tell that to some of the local community service organizations that have seen their budgets cut during the current economic downturn or to people who have lost their job in Kissimee.

Unfortunately, the Commission is said to be agreeable to adopting the measure and Carlos Irizarry, the one Commissioner who raised issues about it during the initial presentation, later changed his mind and said he would support it because it was important "to support Christianity and faith".

At least he is upfront about crossing that line between church and state while he is at it. Shame on Otero and the other Commissioners for going for the measure in the name of fake Patriotism.

An update of sorts (since the article was written back on the 23rd but I just found out about it). Watermark, an LGBT publication covering areas of Florida, including Orlando, has been covering the issue ("Kissimmee commissioner comes out as anti-gay"). Their article includes interviews and reactions from Kissimmee Mayor Jim Swan, openly gay city commissioner Cheryl Grieb who says she refused an apology by Otero, and Florida resident Vicki Nantz who says she e-mailed a complaint to the Kissimmee City Commission only to get back an automated message that read "The following email message was blocked due to offensive or sexual content." She was finally able to send the message on a third try when she changed the word 'gay' in her message to 'LGBT' (thanks for the heads-up!).

Also, in the above local FOX News clip from July 24, Mayor Swan says that he initially backed Otero's measure but has since backed off:
Sounded to me like it was, ah, 'I don't like anybody with an alternative lifestyle, and that's why I'm doing it' by one of my Commissioners, and, ah, I mean that's, that wasn't my motivation. And, ah, ah - so, you know, with that out there in the community now, I don't feel it's appropriate for us to change anything.
UPDATE 2: Great OpEd piece from Daryl E. Owens in the July 25th issue of the Orlando Sentinel ("Politicos take liberty with the Lord's name").

UPDATE 3 (7/29/09): Kissimmee commissioners have voted 4-1 against changing the city's logo. The only vote in favor was Otero's

Musica: This city never sleeps...

Found it tonight, just an amazing song...

Eurythmics (and Annie Lennox) in the early 1980's.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What's up with the Spanish-language version of "Yahoo! Answers"?

As the moderator of a couple of online news lists on LGBT issues, I sometimes rely on Google Alerts to keep up with the latest news on the LGBT community. Once in a while the results will highlight links to some homophobic content on the internet, but that's to be expected.

A few months back, though, I noticed one interesting trend: While LGBT-related questions to the "Yahoo! Answers" English-language service rarely popped-up and were inoffensive when they did, questions submitted to Spanish-language versions of the service (mainly to "Yahoo! Responde Mexico" & "Yahoo! Responde Spain") showed up frequently. And, more often than not, they were also tinged with homophobic drivel.

So I geeked out and started keeping those Google Alerts last February. I probably missed a few, and there are probably a lot more questions submitted that were not captured by the Google bots, but I've posted the "Yahoo! Response" questions that came my way during that period of time (below I've included the original question in Spanish and provided a translation. I have also provided a link to the question if they are still on Yahoo!'s servers).


Obviously, there are some questions that might have been submitted from a lack of knowledge on LGBT issues rather than homophobic intent (questions about homosexuality and religion or whether gays are 'born or made'), or those posed by people making sense of their sexual attractions ("How do I know I'm Gay?" "Does this make me a lesbian?"), or those that might be from people just joking around ("Is My Cat Gay?").

Surprisingly, though, I'd say that roughly half the questions I collected seemed to have a specific homophobic intent which seemed rather high to me and, of those, only a few had been removed from the site after being posted. To Yahoo!'s credit, several statements posed as questions claiming that homosexuality is a psychological disorder or being curable have been removed. But, in one instance, a similar statement is still available on their site even though it was originally posted on March 11th ("Do people with homosexual attractions not have more psychological problems than the general population?").

And, even though it was just created on July 24th, why is Death to fags (Muerte a los maricones) still up as a 'Yahoo! Respuestas Spain' member profile? You'd think that internal Yahoo protocols would catch a sentence such as "Death to fags".

There are also statements posed as questions that seem directly pulled from religious right-wing homophobic manuals ("Why do they want to standardize homosexuality and not other sexual preferences?", "Why do persons with a homosexual tendency believe they are special and are intolerant with their critics?" and "Does being gay imply a lack of love from the part of the parents?").

And this jewel from 'Yahoo! Respuestas Mexico: "Why are children allowed to watch faggots such as Santino Marella and can't watch The Divas in a thong?" posed on April 19 by 'angel'.

Ok, you'll say: "It's not Yahoo!'s fault that people are homophobic idiots." The thing is that when you look at the English-language version of "Yahoo! Answers" you don't have to deal with such drivel (they obviously have alert editors). So why would the Spanish-speaking public have to do so?

Hey Yahoo! If it's a lack of Spanish speaking reviewers who might be able to catch stuff like this, I'm available! Otherwise, do a better job.

In the meantime, have fun reading these...

* How to prevent homosexuality? How to step aside? ¿como evitar el homosexualismo?... como hacerse a un lado? (July 27)
* Why do they want to standardize homosexuality and not other sexual preferences? / ¿Por qué se quiere estandarizar el homosexualismo y no otras preferencias sexuales? (July 26)
* Have you fallen in love with a lesbian? / ¿te has enamorado de una lesbiana? (July 20)
* Does this make me a lesbian? / ¿Esto me hace lesbiana? (July 13)
* How should I prepare for my first sexual relationship? ¿Cómo Prepararme para mi Primera Relación Homosexual? (July 11)
* I am a homophobe, where does it come from? Heeelp! / ¿Soy homofobico, a que se debe, ayudaaaa? (July 7)
* Are homosexuality and homosexualism the same thing? ¿Son la misma cosa homosexualidad y homosexualismo? (July 6)
* If a homosexual is a believer, does he have the right to continue being a Catholic? / ¿si un homosexual es creyente, tiene derecho a seguir siendo católico? (June 29)
* Respecting a homophobe? / ¿respecto a un homofobico? (June 27)
* Homosexuality among women and men, how long does it last or, better said, how do they handle it once they become mature? / ¿El homosexualismo en mujeres y hombres cuanto tiempo dura o bien, como lo manejan, si llegan a la madurez? (June 26)
* How is homosexuality lived? Is it wrong to be gay? / ¿Como se vive con la homosexualidad, y es malo ser homosexual? (June 23)
* Are all bisexuals this way? / ¿Todos los bisexuales son asi? (June 23)
* To support a homosexual couple (girls), does it also make me gay? / ¿Apoyar a una pareja homosexual (chicas), me convierte a mi tambien en homosexual? (June 23)
* Is homophobia a form of homosexulity hidden by the subconcient? / ¿Es la homofobia una forma de homosexualismo encubierto como inconsciente? (June 21)
* Bisexuals, born or made? / ¿Los bisexuales, nacen o se hacen? (June 15)
* How can you determine who is a lesbian? / ¿como distinguen a una lesbiana? (June 13)
* Why are there so many lesbian or bisexual girls? / ¿Porque hay tantas chicas lesbianas o bisexuales? (June 9)
* What is homosexuality? ¿Qué es la homosexualidad? (June 2)
* Homosexuality has a cure, says psychologists who is hated by promoters of homosexuality? / ¿Homosexualidad tiene cura asegura sicólogo odiado por promotores del homosexualismo? (June 1)
* Are you a homophobe? Do you agree with homophobia? / ¿Eres homofobico? estas de acuerdo con la homofobia? (May 26)
* Why are children allowed to watch faggots such as Santino Marella and can't watch The Divas in a thong? / ¿Porque se permite que los niños vean maricones como Santino Marella y no vean en tanga a las Divas? (April 19)
* Does being gay imply a lack of love from the part of the parents? / ¿El ser homosexual implica alguna deficiencia de cariño por parte los padres? (April 10)
* Do you know if being homosexual is due to a mix-up in cables? / ¿Sabeis si el ser homosexual es debido a un cruce de cables? (April 6)
* Totally opposed to Homosexual Marriage? / ¿Totalmente en contra del Matrimonio Homosexual? (March 29)
* Why do persons with a homosexual tendency believe they are special and are intolerant with their critics? / ¿porque las personas de tendencia homosexual creen que son especiales y son intolerantes con sus criticos? (March 28)
* How do I know if I'm gay? / ¿Como se si soy homosexual? (March 19)
* Is God homophobic? And why?/ ¿dios es homofobico?¿y porke? (March 16)
* Does anyone know a homosexual person who has turned hetero? / ¿Alguien conoce una persona homosexual que se aya vuelto hetero? (March 14)
* Do people with homosexual attractions not have more psychological problems than the general population? / ¿Las personas con atracción homosexual no tienen más problemas psicológicos que la población en general? (March 11)
* Is Hector Garzon a fag? / ¿Hector garzon es marica? (March 10)
* Can a homosexual change? / ¿Puede cambiar el homosexual? (March 6)
* Why does a homosexual think that he is a woman in the body of a man? / ¿Por qué piensa el homosexual que es una mujer en el cuerpo de un hombre? (March 3)
* Is my cat gay? / ¿Mi gato es homosexual? (March 3)
* Do you think that all homosexual persons are able to be cured? / ¿Creéis que toda persona homosexual es apta de curarse? (March 2)
* Do you know if having a homosexual brother is a sin? / ¿Sabeis si tener un hermano homosexual es pecado? (February 23)
* Homosexual attraction, is not psychollogically abnormal? / ¿La atracción homosexual no es psicológicamente anormal? (February 23)
* People with homosexual attractions, don't they have more prichological problems than the general population? / ¿Las personas con atracción homosexual no tienen más problemas psicológicos que la población en general? (February 22)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Homophobia in the promotion of Latino singers for a wider market

The career of Colombian mega-superstar singer Juanes was the topic of discussion at a recent music festival panel that took place in Bogota, Colombia (that's an older pic of him on the right; he now sports shorter hair).

A transcript of the panel discussion was posted on the Facebook page of Alejandro Marín, a Colombian journalist, and re-posted in its entirety by online site Aliado Digital (Part 1 here and Part 2 here).

The panel consisted Roberto Andrade, who manages Colombian rock band The Mills, interviewing Fernán Martinez, the singer's long-time manager, on the topic of the music industry and how to make it big in the business (he has also represented Julio Iglesias and his son Enrique, among others).

As Aliado Digital says, the interview offers a candid look at the music management business, particularly in the Latino market. It's in Spanish so apologies for those of you who don't understand the language.

There are actually two passages of note that I have translated bellow. In the first one, Martinez talks about meeting Juanes and turning him into a super star. In the second he talks about former boy-band singer Eduardo Verástegui and the reason Matinez dropped him as a client. In both instances, Martinez argues that singers who want to reach the top must sacrifice certain idiosyncrasies to be made more palatable to a mainstream audience.

He doesn't only imply that Juanes should butch it up by doing away with an earring he used to wear, but explicitly use the word 'fag' to discuss rumors about Verástegui's sexuality and jokes that the Mexican actor didn't really want to become the next Enrique Iglesias but, instead, wanted to become the next Sofia Vergara (a Colombian actress that has found some success in the English-language market). He does say that he dropped Verastégui because he wouldn't follow his lead and not as a result of the gay rumors [NOTE: Verástegui, it must be said, has since become a born-again Christian who has advocated against abortion in the United States and was the Latino face of the anti-gay Prop. 8 effort in California which banned marriage equality in the state back in November - see more below].

On Juanes: In this first excerpt from the interview Martinez describes his reaction upon meeting Juanes for the first time and the process of making him a super star. It's a long excerpt but telling in how the industry shapes its superstars. As the excerpt begins, Martinez - who has lived in the United States since the 1980's - has been asked by a Colombian record company to meet a young talent from Medellin who sings for a band called Ekhymosis.
Juanes arrives with all his hair sticking up and his arms sporting tattoos, walking around with his head down, speaking slowly and I thought to myself: 'What am I going to do with this boy? To whom am I going to sell this boy? Where will I put him?'

And he put on his music. And the music was weirder than a green dog. He had the song "Fíjate Bien" and I thought: 'How am I going to put this on in Los Angeles?'. And I begin to talk with him and see a good guy, a very good musician, very orthodox, very into rock. I tell him: 'Brother, let me listen to the music. And I'll call you.'

The man left, with his pants turned to shit, with his used shoes, but he gave a good vibe as a person. I get home, and my wife, who is totally 'fashion', totally 'pop', who is into clothes, and everything else, deep into the superficiality of beauty, and in superficiality-that-is-a-beauty comes and tells me: 'You know what? I am going to get a tattoo.' 'Fuck no,' I said. My daughter had just been born and I was thinking 'the mother of my daughter does not have tattoos'. And she'd say: 'Don't be so old guard, if even my sister in law did it.'

And I'm left thinking 'of course. Tattoo goes 'mainstream.' This man with tattoos is what I need. We are up to here seeing Enrique Iglesias, and Chayanne, and Ricky Martin, and all those pretty and clean-cut guys. The trend is going there. Music has to have that image, it has to be dirtier. The kids are there. People are dressing up with torn jeans. This is the guy I need. I am going to become rich with this fucker.

Juanes is a guy who is, fundamentally, a musician. An honest, good person, who has talent, who is modest, sufficiently handsome for women to like him and sufficiently ugly so that other guys won't think that he's going to take away their broads. He wasn't a heart breaker, he wasn't an Enrique Iglesias, so I told him: 'Brother, we have to fix you up a little bit. What about the earring?' 'No brother, there's no fucking way I will take it of.'

He came from the Medellín rock scene, his perception was totally rock and he was afraid of what his rocker friends might think, and his bands, because he had grown with metal.

'Juanes, we have to be more, we have to see ho to move you to the other side.' And he was totally in denial. But a manager can't blame an artist. Because that's not how an artist works. He is the one who has to decide. Who has to get dressed, the one who knows how to feel the best, the one who sends the message, the one who has to put his little face.

Little by little, we began to do it. Little by little Juanes begins to understand that shirts from 'Urban Shop' are cool, but that there are other shirts that are just as cool that allow him to communicate better. He removes the piercing. And he begins to show his tattoos, something that begins to create an impact.

When I take him to Univisón for the first time, it was very difficult to present him in the "Wake Up America" show. For me it was very easy because I have been a Univisión producer and all my friends are there. My wife works there.

I take him to the show's 'booker' and he says: 'No, no, no, please, the man cannot come in with tennis shoes.' 'But, if he doesn't have other [shoes]!!!', I said. 'And he can't show the tattoos.' 'But if he doesn't have any other shirt, what can we do?'. We went in, in the middle of a fight, but we sneaked in the first tattooed person to appear in the morning show on Univisión.
On Verástegui: As I mentioned above, the latest reincarnation of Eduardo Verástegui has been as a born-again Christian, an anti-abortion advocate (he starred in an anti-abortion dramatic film called "Bella" last year and has toured the country with the film), and was tapped by Prop.8 proponents in California to become the Latino face of the anti-marriage equality movement in the United States:

I had planned to write a post about how the incessant industry rumors about Verástegui's alleged homosexuality might have actually driven him to embrace his new role as an anti-gay spokesperson and might still do it on a later date.

Here, though, for now, are Martinez very candid thoughts on his former client:

...and a very important thing: When the manager is a knowledgeable and correct person, the manager has to have total and absolute control of the artist. That doesn't mean that he has to tell him what to do. It means that he has to know EVERYTHING that is happening with the artist. The artist cannot be doing things on the outside, things that the manager does not know he is doing. They are accomplices in that business. They have to keep informed about everything: From business transactions, to their activities and interviews, and about their personal life. This is a very close relationship and no short cuts are allowed.

Something that happened to me, for example: I had in my hands who I thought would be the next pop star: Eduardo Verástegui. He is the most beautiful man I have ever seen in my life. My wife would say to me 'they say he's a fag.' And I told her: 'OK, so tomorrow I will confront him.' 'And if he tells you he is a fag, what will you do?' 'To give me a little kiss because he has a perfect look.'

Verástegui had a perfect look. Very well established. He wanted to be a singer. Back thenI was selling a pure 'pop' product, retail, Mexican, well-known, with all his spectacular image that even Madonna would take a look at him and fall in love, I said: 'with this image and a fairly good product I can do a lot.'

So I'd say: 'Eduardo: Let's make you a singer, let's make people look at you as a singer.'??

And the record worked perfectly. Songs from Estefano. Marvelously produced. Support from radio. Possibilities of performing at summer festivals. But there was a problem with Eduardo: Every time he did an interview, he'd take his clothes off. He wanted to show his body to the journalist. But it was an obsession.

Finally I said to him, after a serious fight with him: "I cannot work with you, because I want you to be the next Enrique Iglesias, and you want to be the next Sofía Vergara. I left him because he did not understand my strategies. He always took short-cuts. I did one thing and he did another. I fight a lot. I have a big temper. But nowadays we meet and he knows he was totally wrong. It's an example of a bad artist-manager relationship.
Finally, note the terms he uses for women, calling them broads, or his initial reaction when his wife tells him she wants a tattoo: "Fuck no." Interestingly, in some of the passages that I didn't translate, Martinez seems intent on badmouthing Colombia's best known singer, Shakira, belittling her rock credentials and saying that she is not even among the top 50 best loved singers in her home country.

Sadly, I have a feeling that this level of misogyny and homophobic sentiment is not the exception to the rule when it comes to the Latino music industry.

Austin Hispanic contractors' group apologizes for posting video deemed offensive to gays

The Austin American-Statesman reported yesterday that a local Hispanic contractors' organization had removed a video from its website and given apologies after a local television station received complaints that it contained demeaning portrayals of gays ("Hispanic contractors' group pulls video called demeaning to gays").

The U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association had recently been in the news for leading a successful protest against a morning talk radio show on KLBJ-AM in which a co-host had repeatedly referred to Latino immigrants as "wetbacks". On Monday, the parent owner of the radio station announced that the show would be cancelled. That same day, though, KVUE TV broadcast the news report highlighting that the same organization that led the fight against the anti-immigrant slur had the questionable video on its website.

What's exactly in the video and is it truly offensive to gays? You be the judge. The American-Statesman says that it consists of outtakes from a promotional ad for the Association featuring Mexican-born comedian Paul Rodriguez which were never used in the ad that actually aired. The paper described it as "Rodriguez dressed as a construction worker walking in an effeminate manner".

The Association has taken the link to the video off their site but I've managed to get my hands on a copy and have posted it above. The clip in question begins at the :30 second mark and lasts 35 seconds. In it, Rodriguez seems to be ad-libbing his way through the shoot and starts riffing on the gay community in Austin, speaking both in English and Spanish. Here is the transcript with translation of Spanish-language phrases:
Paul Rodriguez: Doesn't Austin have like a gay... a big gay population?
Contractor in blue: Si, esta rogado por locas ["Yes, nellies always ask him out"]
Paul Rodriguez: So you go, you go [prances] 'and specially for you...' [walks and simulates grabbing contractor's butt, contractors laugh, Rodriguez goes back and simulates holding contractor's testicles]
Paul Rodriguez: Cough! [contractors laugh]
Paul Rodriguez: [prances again] Estas bien nalgón ["You're cute, big butt guy"]
Paul Rodriguez: Let's go, let's go...
Off-camera: [Unintelligible]
Paul Rodriguez: [prances some more] dale a tu cuerpo alegria, Macarena ["Give your body happiness, Macarena", a quote from the song Macarena by Los Del Rio]. Here we go...
At 1:57 there's another bit in which Rodriguez addresses the two contractors as women and hands them over what he describes as invitations for them to join Jenny Craig and lose some weight.

After removing the link from the Association's site, spokesperson Paul Saldaña, speaking to the American-Statesman, said "The video was in poor taste, and we certainly need to be held accountable to the community's expectations."

Frank Fuentes, the organization's chairman, told the paper "We shouldn't have had it up there. I personally don't think it equates to what happened on the radio station, but I can understand why people would think that."

Both Saldaña and Fuentes said that Rodriguez had initiated the banter and that it was never part of a script. They said they had contacted local LGBT organizations and advocates and requested a meeting with them to apologize for the incident. The meeting, they said, is scheduled for later this week.

Their immediate action to remove the link and willingness to be the ones to actively seek a meeting with local LGBT leaders speaks well for the Association despite having posted the video in the first place. I also find it suspicious that people started to complain to media only after the Association's successful actions in shutting down a xenophobic radio show. Something tells me that fans of the show combed through the Association's website to find anything they could pin on them and show them in a bad light.

As for the video's content, does it offend? I guess it depends on your sensibility. To me it comes across as puerile, stereotypical, and - yes - a tad homophobic. But hey! It's Paul Rodriguez! Does it absolutely rile me up and make me want to boycott Austin, Texas? Oh, please, there are bigger fish to fry. At least, once on notice, the organization acted swiftly and properly.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Musica: Dr. Rosen Rosen is not Lily Allen but Lily Allen is not Dr. Rosen Rosen

The art of the remix: I have always loved good remixes of album singles. Some music artists do so as well (see the remix catalogues of Depeche Mode, Róisín Murphy, Kylie Minogue, Underworld, etc.).

What it takes: A respect for the original material; a sometimes radical willingness to reinterpret the core stuff; the technical know-how to pull it off; and, most importantly, permission to release it so that it can be actually heard.

What transcends, when it comes to remixes, are remixers who truly love the original material but are unafraid to put their own spin on it. Rarer still are those who are allowed to re-work on an entire previously released album.

What immediately comes to mind are the amazing 1999 Nåid re-rubs of several tracks from The Cardinals' 1998 "Gran Turismo" CD (an amazing album that was poorly received unfairly). I have a feeling the remix EP was officially released to drum up interest for the album. Not sure if it helped, but the remix EP was certainly amazing on it's very own.

Which brings us to Lily Allen and her "Alright, Still" (2006). By anyone's standards, it was an amazingly confident debut album - and a great one at that! Her second album, "It's Not Me, It's You" (2008), was actually just as good, but generally (and unfairly) panned by reviewers. No matter! Here is a taste from the new album:

Enter Doctor Rosen Rosen. With Lily Allen's permission, he has released a full re-rub of her 2nd album and it sounds great! Better still! He has made the full remix album available to everyone for free at his site. It's a fully shimmering take on the 12-track album and - I swear - you won't be disappointed! Enjoy! And thank me later! You are welcome!

  • Doctor Rosen Rosen on Tweeter here
  • Lily Allen on Tweeter here
  • Full remix download here

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Update: Homophobic Pentecostal preacher no longer being considered for Chicago City Council

In other Latino Pentecostal preacher news of the day: We are happy to report that homophobic reverend Wilfredo De Jesus is out of contention for a vacated seat in the Chicago City Council.

Apparently, when a Chicago City Council Alderman leaves his post before his term is over, he is able to recommend a replacement, which is how De Jesus seemed next in line to replace former Alderman Billy Ocasio in Chicago's 26th Ward. Usual practice, according to reports, is for the city mayor to accept the recommendation and for the person to serve as an Alderman until the next elections.

But LGBT advocates in Chicago, including a number of Latino LGBT leaders and organizations, quickly raised concerns about a series of homophobic comments made in the past by the Reverend (see my previous posts on the subject here, here and here) as well as a statement he made last year to Christianity Today in which he said that his top priorities were opposing abortion and homosexuality.

Well, according to an article that ran yesterday in the Chicago Tribune ("Outgoing alderman wants wife to be his successor, controversial minister backs out of running"), De Jesus is out of the running for the vacated seat. He actually announced that he was withdrawing and, in statements to press by both Ocasio and De Jesus, the reason given was that laws prohibit anyone who doesn't live in the ward to occupy the ward's Alderman seat. They also denied it had anything to do with his views on homosexuality. Uh-huh. And elephants are pink.

Funny, though, De Jesus has never shied away from saying that he doesn't live in the 26th Ward (although his church is in the district) and it never seemed to be an issue for him or for Ocasio until now.

But the nomination threatened to become a headache for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley who has always prided himself on being LGBT friendly as it threatened to pitch interests in the Latino community against those in the LGBT community. Most probably, De Jesus's withdrawal was a private agreement to give him a 'respectable' way out.

As for the vacated seat, Ocasio's new recommendation probably doesn't speak well for his choices either. He's brought back that old chestnut: Nepotism.

Ocasio's new choice is non other than his wife, Veronica. Dailey has said that he is interviewing at least four others for the seat.


Ruben Diaz, Jr. on his father's homophobia, Blabbeando on NY1 Noticias

Last month I posted a YouTube video of an extraordinary interview that was broadcast on "Pura Politica" - a weekly Spanish language political interest show that runs on the NY1 Noticias cable channel - in which Juan Manuel Benitez, the show's anchor - grilled homophobic NY State Senator (and Reverend) Ruben Diaz, Sr. on his vews on marriage equality as well as the separation of church and state.

Turning the Reverend's own arguments against him, Benitez got Diaz to admit that he believes that homosexual relations are akin to bestiality and that he believes that there is no such thing as separation between church and state (tell that to those who say that the Reverend is not really homophobic and that gays would love him if they got to know him a little better).

I took some time to actually translate the whole interview and to provide subtitles in English as annotations to the YouTube videos in order to make them available to a wider audience. What I didn't expect was for Benitez to go on air a week later and thank me for the effort and actually feature of an image Blabbeando on the NY1 Noticias (more on that at the end of this post).

The interview with Diaz, Sr. ran on June 24th, the Blabbeando kudos ran on July 3rd, and - researching the NY1 Noticias site for the latter - I found out that Benitez also interviewed Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. on July 12th! Jr., as you will probably not be shocked to hear, is Sr.'s son.

Above, I've posted a translated version of the last interview segment. The common perception is that Jr. is very LGBT friendly, and I know for a fact that he has welcomed the support of Latino LGBT leaders and has championed LGBT rights, stoping short of backing marriage equality - but his refusal to fully confront his father on the damage he does to the Latino LGBT community negates most of the good Jr. expresses towards the LGBT community. Benitez, who managed to get Sr. all tongue-tied about his views in the earlier interview, also manages to get Jr. to stumble on explaining whether he would support someone who declares that there is no separation between church and state if it wasn't for the fact that the Reverend is his father. As the segment opens, Jr. has just been asked what he thinks about his father's assertion on NY1 Noticias that homosexuality is akin to bestiality:

JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Your reaction...
RUBEN DIAZ, JR.: Well, obviously the Senator has his beliefs as a Reverend and I don't tell him - 'Papi' - how to vote in Albany and if he doesn't... We have an agreement: He doesn't tell me how to be borough president, I don't tell him how to vote in Albany. Eh, I am not in agreement with him comparing gays with animals, obviously; and I always tell my father that it's not necessarily the positions he has, but that when he takes it - when he takes a position - that he should do it in a way that is respectful of other communities... On my part, I as a borough president, I will continue to be president of 1.4 million residents in the borough of The Bronx, many of whom are gay. And, eh, the Reverend has his position, I love him a lot, and the only thing I say to the Reverend is that - in the future - he should also take into consideration how that position is viewed in other communities.
JMB: Because we asked him about it - He is a Reverend and he is a State Senator, perhaps he has two... but, well.. We asked him a very important thing - that seems important to us - because it's one of the basic principles of democracy in the United States. Let's listen...
JMB: You don't establish a separation between the church & state?
RUBEN DIAZ, SR.: I can't! The Constitution does not say "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.
JMB: So, following your argument, there is no separation between church and state in the United States...
DIAZ, SR.: There cannot be! Because I AM the State and I AM the Church.
JMB: And you told me...
DIAZ, SR.: I AM the Church and I AM the State. I cannot separate me from myself.
DIAZ, JR.: The constitution says that there should be a separation between the church and the state. Eh, there are many elected officials, not only the Reverend Ruben Diaz, who make decisions - as legislators - keeping their religious beliefs in mind. But at the end of the day we have homework to do, we have a responsibility of trying in the best way possible to separate the two. So I am not in agreement when he says that there is no sep.. sep..
JMB: Separation...
DIAZ, JR.: ...separation from the church. I believe there is, it's clearly stated in the federal constitution as well as in the constitution of the State of New York.
JMB: And is there a separation between father and son and political partners? Because as a father and a son, I imagine that you hold a special love for your father and do not want to go against him. But as a politician, you both belong to a political party, the Bronx Democratic party, in which both of you occupy public office. Have you ever entertained not supporting your father for having - I wouldn't say opinions related to gay marriage - but when it comes to take a look at the political function and the separation between church and state. Would you, for example, support a candidate that clearly states that he/she doesn't see a separation between church and state?
DIAZ, JR.: Depends on, eh, eh... I believe that, depending on the candidate, eh... I am not going to... eh... choose or support a person who is opposed to the Reverend Ruben Diaz, eh, but I do, as a son, know how to separate the two things. Politically speaking, we are not in agreement on a myriad of issues and topics. As a son - he as my father - I would never personally in my life - eh - will put myself to debate against him as my father. No... no... no... no... no... I will not fight him. But as a politician and a colleague in government we always fight. In private, as father and son, what Papi says, that's what goes. In the same way that when Mami tells me something that's what goes. I don't fight Mami, I won't fight Papi. Senator Diaz, I do fight him from time to time.
JMB: You, for example - as a way to give you a practical example - Would you automatically disqualify a candidate for the presidency of the United States if, among his/her political ideas, there appears that idea of "there is no separation between church and state"?
DIAZ, JR.: Yes, the answer is yes, and that's why I will never in my life support the Reverend Ruben Diaz as President of the United States.
DIAZ, JR.: Well, egh, ah, ah, ah... I supp... I supp... I would support a Democrat, a person who fights for education. Sometimes there will be Democrats who are liberal, other Democrats such as the Reverend Ruben Diaz who are conservative. And that's what's beautiful about our party: That there is a lot of diversity underneath that... that... of... of... of this party. And, in this case, we have a Democrat who is conservative. It won't be the first time or the last time that I would support a Democrat who is conservative. There also Democrats who are liberal, who I also support.

In the mantime, below is also a clip from the "Pura Politica" in which Blabbeando was mentioned. I've only translated the elevant part, which begins at 2:45 and ends at 3:55.

JUAN MANUEL BENITEZ: Ah, 'marriage'. So questioned, so trivialized, with little success nowadays. Why then would the gays want to get married? If they stopped pushing so much for marriage, they would perhaps leave 'Papi' - as the Bronx President calls State Senator Ruben Diaz (his father) - without his principal political argument. Thanks to the English-language blog "Blabbeando" our interview last week is causing an impact on the Anglo blogosphere, and it's that they have taken the time to translate it in it's entirety to English and using subtitles. To it's author, Andres Duque, "Thank you!"

Thanks for the thanks, "Pura Politica"!


Friday, July 17, 2009

NYS Senator Tom Duane at 3am this morning...

One truly hopes that the travesty that was this summer's session in the New York State Senate has a silver lining. Namely that the shame that the circus-like proceedings brought upon the legislative body will result in prompt and drastic changes to the way New York State is governed (not that I am holding my breath, but one does hope).

In the meantime, there is this 22-minute video taken shortly after 3am this morning, in which my long-time hero (and State Senator) Thomas K. Duane lets it rip on the state of HIV/AIDS today as he pitched a bill that would help people with the illness to meet their rent.

It was first picked up by Elizabeth Benjamin over at the New York Daily News, who posted the following video transcript excerpt:
Let me take you back to the early eighties. Visiting friends in hospitals. We'd go in. We'd go in one night, in the morning they'd be dead. I'd bring them food. My family, bring them food. My friends bring someone food. But whoever was in bed would be dead before they could eat it.

We'd leave it - maybe the nurses would take it home. No! They wouldn't eat it! 'Cause it's contaminated. Contaminated! Wouldn't touch it. Wouldn't go into the room. Wearing masks. Gloves! Gowns! Someone gets sick in the afternoon. They'd be dead the next day. Dead! And that went on for months, and then years. Dead! Dead!

You think if you got sick and your friends were dying that I would sit there and do nothing? No. But that's what happened. That's what happened. Every cold. Every virus. Every temperature. I thought I'd be dead, and so did so many people that I knew. Dead! You think you scare me? You think you can make be back off? Nothing scares me.
The bill, one of the last ones to be brought to a vote in the State Senate floor during this spectacularly awful session, was approved by an amazing margin of 52-1, and had former senate Democrat defectors Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada up on their feet and applauding. It still needs Assembly approval before being sent to the governor to sign into law.

Now, I don't usually write about what all the other gay or LGBT blogs are writing about (in part because few cover LGBT Latino issues in English and because others might have a better take than I would on issues such as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" or "Hate Crimes"). But I have to say that I was struck by the number of times that I was sent a link to the video today and asked if I could write about it. I was first made aware of it by POZ magazine founder and publisher Sean Strub but, since then, a number of folk have reached out as well. Most of them moved by the speech and alerting me to it.

In less than 24 hours, it's become a rallying cry. Which - without taking away from the powerful message - says a lot about what it takes for folk to listen to anything related to HIV/AIDS nowadays.

But the right people have taken notice and have rightfully picked up on Duane's 3am comments. Among them Andy Towle, The Village Voice's Runnin' Scared, The Albany Times-Union Capitol Confidential, Peter Staley's POZ magazine online blog, Gotham Gazette and Outcome Buffalo.

Let them - and others - carry the voice: AIDS is not over!

Update: Rex Wockner says it better than I did on his post on the video above.
Update 2: Mike Tidmus does as well, in an amazingly moving post.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More reaction to Rev. Wilfredo De Jesús bid for a Chicago City Council Alderman's seat...

My posts on the possibility that a homophobic Latino Pentecostal minister might be selected to serve in Chicago's city council [read this and this] continue to elicit interesting responses from readers.

The latest actually comes from Osvaldo Del Valle, someone I know and greatly respect, who was actually born and raised in the Humboldt Park area of Chicago and has followed Rev. Wilfredo De Jesús' rise in the neighborhood. He says that I am right to question De Jesús qualifications to serve on the city council or whether he will be able to separate his views on homosexuality from his work as a public servant.

But Osvaldo also argues that De Jesús' homophobic sentiments might not be as detrimental to being able to perform public service as an issue that no one is raising at all: A reported plan by De Jesús to open a "5,000 seat mega church in the neighboring district."

"I am hard pressed to believe that Rev. De Jesús will not blur the lines of his duties to his mega church - which are extensive - and his duties as the alderman for the ward," says Osvaldo [read Osvaldo's full message at the end of this post].

In the meantime, blogger NG (NGblog) points out that I might have erred in making a specific assumption about someone who wrote defending De Jesús record on LGBT issues.

Xavier Luis Burgos, who blogs here, had written to say that he was among those who attended a community meeting between De Jesús and 30 LGBT leaders that was held on June 3rd at a Puerto Rican restaurant called "La Borinqueña." Specifically, he argued that most of the LGBT leaders present at the meeting did not live in the city's 26th Ward and that the criticism lobbied at De Jesús was not only uninformed but also dismissive of his work for the Humboldt Latino LGBT community (for the record, Rev. De Jesús currently also does not reside in the 26th Ward although his ministry is in the area).

His comments seemed to be an indirect response to a damaging article that ran this past Wednesday in Windy City Times, Chicago's leading gay newspaper. According to the paper, participants at the meeting said that it had been a disaster for De Jesús and that advocates had left even more concerned about his views on homosexuality. A member of Amigas Latinas, a local Latina lesbian organization, stated that they would oppose his nomination to the city council (another Latino gay men's organization, Association of Latino Men for Action, had also announced their opposition).

My unconfirmed assumption, according to NG, is that Burgos is a gay or bisexual man (on my last post I introduced his comments as the view of those who might be gay and be supportive of De Jesús). And he is right: Burgos was at the meeting between LGBT advocates and De Jesús but he doesn't say whether he identifies himself as an gay or bisexual (nor does he mention any aspects of his sexual identity over at his blog). He also didn't spell out his specific relationship to De Jesús or his push for the city council seat (was he there at the behest of the Reverend? As a member of a gay rights organization? As someone who would stand up for the Reverend if the questions got too heated?).

Is this a big deal? Not necessarily. Burgos doesn't need to be a gay or bisexual man or be forthcoming about his sexuality to advocate for LGBT issues - or to voucher for the Reverend's alleged openness to the LGBT community. But a straight man speaking on behalf of a preacher who is seeking political office and arguing that he is gay-friendly despite several recorded instances in which the Reverend's own words and actions seem to indicate something completely different seems a bit suspect (I tried going online and seeking information about Burgos's past work on LGBT issues and didn't find anything; although I did find several articles about his work in academia and in the community in preserving aspects of Latino and Puerto Rican culture in the neighborhood, on immigrant rights and on the gentrification of Humboldt).

I also found an article from a bilingual newspaper from Chicago aimed at the Latino community called eXtra on the June 3rd meeting ("The Rev. Wilfredo De Jesús speaks out: Addresses comments on homosexuality and other 26th Ward concerns"). It features the photo above which includes, from left to right, Burgos, Vida/SIDA's Zenaida Lopez, Reverend De Jesús and Juan Calderon, who is described as a gay Puerto Rican activist but not as a Vida/SIDA employee (which he is). So, basically, of 30 people who attended the meeting, only folks that work for Vida/SIDA or are associated with the agency seemed willing to stand behind De Jesús.

In the eXtra article, Calderon defends De Jesús from the reporting of the Windy City Times with the same argument that Burgos made, without directly alluding to the Reverend's past homophobic comments: "The people that were commenting on the Rev. are not even a part of this community," Calderon says, "They are not residents or constituents of this community. They have no say on who should be the next alderman."

De Jesús is also given an opportunity to defend himself without being challenged on his comments: "I am not a homophobic. I am not a bigot. I have people in my church who come that are straight, gay, black, white [and] Hispanic," he says [interestingly, to date, the Reverend has failed to return any calls from the Windy City Times seeking clarification of past comments).

Finally, eXtra quotes the Reverend as having met with representatives of Equality Illinois, Amigas Latinas, Boricua Pride, ALMA and Orgullo En Accion, as a sign of his openness but nowhere does it say that at least three of those organizations have sent clear messages that they oppose his city council bid (Equality Illinois, Amigas Latinas and ALMA).

Still no clear apologies or explanations for the following:
  • Just last fall De Jesús Pentecostal church was host to a "former transsexual" who claims, in his speeches, that finding Jesus liberated him from being transsexual and has since become a man again. A parishioner also wrote, on the church's website, that she was delivered from a world of drugs, gang-banging, immorality and homosexual relations when she found God. Does De Jesús believe that someone who is gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender need to change?
  • Just last year De Jesús was quoted in Christianity Today as saying that his paramount priorities were opposing abortion and homosexuality. Have his views changed since then and why?
  • Just last year, De Jesús was the lead opponent to opening a school for LGBT students in Chicago. His argument? The threat of gays as sexual predators (he told Pupovac Reports the following: “What about that girl who is a virgin, who is being harassed by lesbians and guys to have sex, and yet you're going to build a gay school? It's not fair”). Does he believe that gays and lesbians are sexual predators lying low until they get the chance to pounce on someone and, in particular, children? If not, what would explain his comments?
  • And, finally, from the June 3rd meeting: Do you believe that people turn gay because they fall victims to sexual predators in their youth? If not why would you respond to the question 'What if your daughter told you she was a lesbian?' with "Well, I would want to know who did that to her" as you did during the meeting just last month?
There is ample evidence here that De Jesús will not be able to separate his homophobic beliefs about homosexuality from his actions even if he wanted (heck! He doesn't even seem to understand how truly awful and offensive his beliefs are to those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. I truly hope that Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley, who has shown leadership in the past on LGBT issues, will take a good look at De Jesús' comments and his refusal or inability to apologize or disown them - and that he selects someone else as the next Alderman of Chicago's 26th District [Daley has until August 1st to decide on a replacement for the vacated seat].

As for Vida/SIDA's support for De Jesús, Osvaldo raises interesting issues in his note. Here are his full comments:
As someone born in Chicago and raised in Humboldt Park, I am still suspect of Rev. De Jesus's motives for wanting this post. I know Rev. De Jesus well. We grew up in the same church (Palestine Christian Temple NKA New Life Covenant). His views on homosexuality are ardent and unyielding, let's be clear of that. He will not be even handed either in issues concerning the LGBT of the district. This is my opinion based on my experience of my former Royal Rangers commander.

Secondly, unfortunately Andrés what you are not privy to regarding the LGBT activist community of the 26th ward (and I am privy to) is that historically, these gay identified activists have always put their sexual orientation second to the Puerto Rican politics of Puerto Rican Cultural Center (insert Jose Lopez here). I do not know Xavier Luis, but I am certainly not surprised by his comments. It falls in line with the Division Street circle of folks.

Also, what has always worked my nerve about Paseo Boricua is that the district is NOT this one mile long strip along Division street. The 26th ward ward encompasses so much more than that. It is diverse, geographically expansive and varied.

Lastly, in the end, we should not be arguing about Rev. De Jesus's is homophobic or not. We should be asking ourselves how this man will effectively run the 26th Ward as its Alderman, while also being the head of a 4000+ congregation. What hasn't been mentioned in the media is Rev. De Jesus's plan to open a reported 5,000 seat mega church in the neighboring district just to the west of the 26th ward on Chicago Avenue. I am hard pressed to believe that Rev. De Jesus will not blur the lines of his duties to his mega church (which are extensive) and his duties as the alderman for the ward.

I hope this gives some new perspective for you Andrés and for your readers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Who is the real racist, Senator Diaz?

So the crazy Albany power-play seems to be over and the marriage equality bill seems as up-in-the-air - as it was when the whole circus came to town - despite the fact that Democrats seem to have regained control ("What the Senate Democratic win means", Gay City News, July 9, 2009).

Still, one fact remains: Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. (who happens to be a Pentecostal minister and is the leading marriage equality foe in the state senate) is still a homophobic asshole.

Now, before you get your socks all knotted up over me calling a preacher an "asshole", please consider this report from earlier in the week.

The Reverend using the word "asshole" to describe one of his colleagues was actually the least of it! In that same press statement he called Democratic State Senator Jeff Klein a racist for criticizing the upheaval in Albany as being detrimental to public policy:
State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz, President of the New York State Senate Puerto Rican/Latino Caucus, is demanding an apology from Senator Jeff Klein’s statement calling them “irrelevant” and “people like that”. By saying “people like that” does he mean Hispanic or what?
Klein actually replied and said that his statements had been taken out of context. If only he had checked up on what the Reverend had said recently to Spanish-language media!

On Wednesday - and before things in Albany had settled - El Diario La Prensa printed a Spanish-language article titled "Democratic cat-fight in the Senate". In it, they quoted Diaz as follows:
"If this is not resolved in good terms, it will be done on bad terms," he said, "If the little Republican whiteys [si los blanquitos republicanos] recognize this, why wouldn't we as well?"
Ah! Reverend Diaz never failing to disappoint! And getting a free pass on his own racism to boot! Apparently he's emerged as a winner in the Senate fracas as well.

As for the marriage equality bill, the New York Times reports tonight that it's been put on hold ("With NY Senate astir, Paterson will delay same-sex marriage bill").