Ohmygod. A few minutes ago when I turned on my computer I fired up my TweetDeck and immediately noticed the Tweet above. It's Ricky Martin sending a Twitter message to my friend Pedro Julio Serrano which reads "@PJ_Serrano: kid thanks to you for all you do for Puerto Rico and for the community. Strength and always push forward".
I was trying to get a screen capture when my cell phone rang. It was Pedro Julio who almost couldn't contain himself from the excitement. "I swear the hair on my arms is still standing up", he told me.
He said that he'd noticed Ricky Martin had added him to his Twitter feed and could hardly believe it. So he sent the singer a message telling him how proud he was of him and, in response, Ricky posted the message.
In the month since the Puerto Rican music star came out as gay, he has used his Twitter account to send greetings to his fans, promote the Ricky Martin Foundation, urge people to donate for Haiti earthquake relief efforts and, most recently, denounce the anti-immigrant bill signed into law last week in Arizona.
Twitter had been the singer's only public outlet for his thoughts until last Thursday. It was then that he walked onstage at the 2010 Billboard Latin Music Awards for his first public appearance since he came out and received a warm and extended standing ovation from music stars and fans alike. He used the occasion, and the media attention, to once again denounce the anti-immigrant Arizona law.
As for his life as a gay man, Martin has been mum. Tabloids keep discussing an array of possible ulterior reasons for his coming out as well as who his past and current lovers might be. Smartly. Martin has kept them all guessing. That doesn't mean he has been silent on LGBT issues in the past.
Ricky Martin and Jorge Steven López Mercado: Think back to November, five months before Martin came out, and you might remember the extraordinary reaction elicited by the brutal murder Jorge Steven López Mercado, a young man whose body was found dismembered and burned by the side of a road in Puerto Rico.
Outrage over his murder elicited protests and vigils demanding justice not only in Puerto Rico but in cities like New York and Chicago. There was also reaction from some of Puerto Rico's leading music artists, including Calle 13 and Olga Tañon.
And Ricky Martin, three months before coming out, wrote the following on his official website:
The murders of James Byrd, Matthew Shepard, Jorge Steven Lopez, Marcelo Lucero, Luis Ramirez and countless others who were victims of violent "hate crimes" should be completely unacceptable to every human being; because we're all human beings. It's up to us to change the paradigm. I hear the world "tolerance" thrown around in the media when it comes to cases like the ones I mentioned above. One of the meanings of tolerance is "the capacity to endure pain or hardship." Another is "the act of allowing something." To me, those don't seem to encompass acceptance, by any definition. So how about this? Instead of saying "we need to tolerate diversity" why not say, "we need to accept diversity."At the time I remember being moved and surprised by Ricky Martin's statement. Since he came out, I have often wondered if the murder of Jorge Steven had any role in his later resolve to come out.
Accepting diversity is the first and most important step we can take towards eliminating hate crimes and uniting humanity.
If we ACCEPT, humanity unites. If humanity unites, equal human rights will become a reality. And if equal human rights become a reality, peace will be within our reach.
Ricky Martin and Pedro Julio Serrano: The reaction to the murder of Jorge Steven was extraordinary, as it should have been, but it took an enraged community, the love of his mother, community organizations who were willing to lead and, in the age of Facebook and Twitter, people who pulled together quick demonstrations thousands of miles away. It also took the extraordinary leadership of long-time Puerto Rican LGBT rights advocate Pedro Julio Serrano, who currently works at the New York City office of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
From the moment Pedro Julio heard the horrific news, he sprung to action. Using his media skills and his prominence in Puerto Rican media when it comes to LGBT issues in the island, he began to urge authorities to investigate whether the murder was a hate crime and to challenge local political and religious leaders to speak up against the horrific crime. Once in contact with Jorge Steven's family, he provided support and channeled the LGBT community's outpouring of emotion and love towards them. He also helped them, and Jorge Steven's mother in particular, to navigate the family's response to media at such a trying time.
It was Pedro Julio's long-time friendship with Miss Universe 2001 Denise Quiñones which drew René Perez of Calle 13 and herself to the anti-hate crime rallies in San Juan. And, once they got involved, the support that came from other Puerto Rican stars like Olga Tañon. And then, Ricky Martin's statement on acceptance versus tolerance.
And then Ricky Martin came out to the glee of certain Puerto Rican media personalities who did not waste one moment before repeatedly using the word "pato" [fag] live on television and radio to describe the singer.
Pedro Julio was there as well, announcing a campaign to combat homophobia in Puerto Rican media and getting hundreds of people to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission. He also got six of New York City's elected representatives to send a letter to the FCC in support of those complaints.
It was a full-front assault on the homophobic attacks perpetrated against Ricky Martin on Puerto Rican media after he came out. The result? A full-fledged apology to Pedro Julio from the hosts and producers of the offending show, 'Super Xclusivo," and their vow never to use homophobic language again on the island's top rated gossip show.
As it all went down, I often wondered if Ricky Martin was paying attention to Pedro Julio's efforts to fight the homophobic comments that his coming out had elicited on Spanish-language media and, if he was, whether he approved or saw it as a side-show.
Now we have the answer. It's the first public message Ricky Martin has sent out related to LGBT issues after he told the world he was gay and I am so happy that it happens to be a salute to the amazing work of my friend Pedro Julio Serrano.