Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Guest post: "Why Ricky Matters" by Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano

[NOTE: Another Latina music star came out this month. To find out who it is, please click here]

Hello! And welcome to the first ever guest post on this blog. My friend Lorenzo tagged me on a Facebook note he wrote this morning and I thought it was so great that I asked him if I could share it. So...

Why Ricky Matters (to me.. and maybe a few other boys)
by Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano

There’s been a lot of commotion regarding Ricky Martin’s recent coming out statement on his official website. As with most things in life these days, I learned about the news on Facebook. So, I immediately posted about the news as well and quickly joined in the jubilee of queerness and pranced about the office like a middle school-aged boy who accidently touched hands with his classroom crush. I even committed the blasphemy of comparing the news to that of Health Care Reform and the release of Apple’s iPad (insert sound of angel choir here).

And then, of course, there was the storm of cattiness that followed the news. As a queer Xicano, I admit that sarcasm is built into my genetic code. The survivor of four Christian-themed religions and 500+ years of white supremacist occupation, I find humor, irony and disbelief in most things. Still, yesterday I just wanted to celebrate.

I agree that the fact that Ricky is gay is not all that shocking. Queer men and not long speculated or asserted that he shook his bon bon far too well to be straight. Plus, for us jotos/maricones/patos, there was the added benefit of dreaming him up queer, which somehow put us that much closer to his arms.

Still, as the catty remarks continue, as people boast about how they knew and think he should have done this 10 years ago, or sassy queens dismiss the news as inconsequential, I say, look beyond our borders (geographic, cultural, and age-based) and take a minute to honor the fact that for many, Ricky’s coming out is groundbreaking, perhaps even life-saving.

So Ricky was doing more than living la vida loca; he was, in fact, a loca. To the trained eye, this is just confirmation that our gaydar runs on more than hormones and dreams.

Hormones, dreams and cattiness aside, I challenge the ungleeful remarks about Ricky’s coming out.

As with most performers who began as Spanish-language artists, Ricky began over 10 years ago. The Barbara Walters interview (assuming it was Barbara, I can never tell who is behind that cloud of light) did have me on the edge of my teenage self, hoping he’d come out and proclaim his gayness, but it wasn’t his beginning. Ricky’s career began decades ago.

Long before the Latin Explosion, which was more of a Latin Spark, Ricky had left his imprint on the Spanish pop scene of the late 80’s and early to mid-90’s. Back when Thalía and Paulina were still artists and relevant, before Gloria Trevi’s traumatic (for her and her fans) imprisonment in Brazil, and before Alejandra Guzmán would be hospitalized for too much botox on her behind, there was a cultural movement in Latin America.

As a pre-teen growing up in a rural town of 300 in northern México, Thalía, Paulina, Gloria, Alejandra and Ricky were my window into another world. Their performances pushed, albeit at times gently and censured, the boundaries of repressive cultural norms. From flowers wrapped around a microphone to songs about teen pregnancy and abortion, these young performers were resisting and embodying another realm of cultural possibilities. Ricky gave boys the excuse (and perhaps reason) to shake our hips in ways that would otherwise be condemned as obscene.

The dismissal of Ricky’s coming out seems to be rooted in an U.S.-centric perspective where we have the opportunity to stop celebrating any queer image on TV and offer our critique. There is so much gayness these days that we can spend our days and dissertations balking at how a character isn’t gay enough, is too gay, is too white, etc. And although we don’t actually have the type of representation GLAAD and I would like to see, we have a whole lot more than we did in México in 1992 (except, of course, Ricky gently caressing his long hair on stage… oh, and Locomía).

I am not critiquing the fact that we spend so much time criticizing queer portrayals in the media. To the contrary, I am celebrating the fact that we can. In fact, I’d go further and ask why queer people of color media performance and productions are so weak, lame and superficial. Having once curating a queer people of color cultural arts program, I know we can do better.

What I am critiquing is that our criticisms of Ricky’s coming out has us falling into the pitfall of imagining and defining all things queer through a U.S. lens. I even joked about the fact that he used the term “homosexual” to define himself. And now, in retrospect I find that identifying as a “fortunate homosexual” was much more powerful than a simple “gay.”

Perhaps for the jaded queen living in urban U.S., the oversaturation of gayness in the media has deemed Ricky insignificant and worthy of our dismissal. For that frightened and confused 12 year old in rural Chihuahua, it’s monumental.

My coming out process was stumped by the fact that I could not even imagine my queerness, let alone live it. At the time, the saturation of gayness was mostly strictly white. It wasn’t until queer brown men like Jaime Cortez and Emanuel Xavier fearlessly (or perhaps fearfully) exposed their work and their bodies to the sun of public criticism, that I was able to imagine myself.

Whether U.S. fags approve or not, Ricky is a prominent figure here, and more importantly, in Latino América. Ricky’s coming out makes it possible for young boys in countless homes to imagine themselves as something other than confused.

For this, I say to Ricky: gracias. And, you know where to find me.

About Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano: A Queer Xicano writer, Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano is the author of the Lambda Literary Award-nominated Santo de la Pata Alzada: Poems from the Queer/Xicano/Positive Pen (Evelyn Street Press, 2005).  He is also the editor of Queer Codex: Chile Love (allgo/Evelyn Street Press, 2004), an anthology of visual and literary works by queer men of color from across the U.S.; and, Queer Codex: Rooted (allgo/Evelyn Street Press, 2008), a mix-genre anthology by queer women and trans-identified writers and visual artists. His work also appears in Mariposas: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry (Floricanto Press, 2008), edited by Emanuel Xavier. A native born, raised and perpetually residing in Aztlán, Lorenzo was born in San José, CA, raised in Estación Adela, Chihuahua, and schooled in Austin, Tejas. Along with his compañero of nine years, Lorenzo now makes home in San Francisco, CA. 

Oh, and he also blogs, sometimes, at Hairspray & Fideo. Oh, and he has a personal website.

[Related: My friend Dan Vera wrote to say that he'd just posted a similar essay on Ricky Martin's coming out. He says that he had no idea Lorenzo had written this piece and was struck by the similarity of their thoughts.  His post can be found below].

Monday, March 29, 2010

The coming out of Ricky Martin: Reactions

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLAAD) has released a statement on Ricky Martin's coming out.  It's a statement from Jarret T. Barrios, the agency's Executive Director:
When someone like Ricky Martin comes out, hundreds of millions of people now have a cultural connection with an artist, a celebrity and, perhaps most importantly, a father who happens to be gay; His decision to model this kind of openness and honesty can lead to greater acceptance for countless gay people in U.S., in Latin America and worldwide.

In the meantime, I did take a gentle swipe at GLAAD's language usage policies when it came to Ricky Martin describing himself as "homosexual" in my previous post.  That's because I have long held that the usage of the word "homosexual" is common-place in Latin America: When people use it, they don't intend it to have a negative connotation.

The word "homosexual" is certainly there in the Spanish-language version of his coming out statement and was probably left intact when someone translated it for the English-language statement to Spanish. They probably didn't know that it wasn't kosher to leave it there (I must confess I sometimes translate 'homosexual' to 'gay' when I do translations from Spanish language articles just as I translate 'travesti' to 'transgender').

But, as the news broke on Twitterlandia - and elsewhere - I was struck by a certainly understandable divide.

There were those in the United States who only knew the singer for his "Living La Vida Loca" cross-over attempts and his vagueness about his sexuality over the years. For the most part, today, they were dismissive and quick to say that it was too late for him to come out. Not a comprehensive survey here by any means, but they included openly gay US Representative Jared Polis, and bloggers like DListed and AmericaBlogGay,

On the other hand, there were those of us Latinos who knew that Ricky Martin had never defined himself by his cross-over attempts or had lost any stature in Latin America just because he had failed to sustain his cross-over moment in the United States.  Those of us who knew about his longstanding efforts to eradicate child abuse throughout the world (click on: The Ricky Martin Foundation).  Those of us who, like everyone else, suspected he was gay but didn't think he would ever come out. Those of us who thought that he would nevertheless make a huge impact if he ever did. Particularly among queer youth who looked up to him and were struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.

So, let me go against the grain and congratulate Ricky Martin for coming out today. I, too, would have liked it to have happened sooner, but I do not feel I can properly express just how huge this is when it comes to Latin America.

For proof of the immediate impact, you might want to go to the outpouring of support from fellow stars that followed Ricky's coming out announcement on Twitter.

Those include:
And just by those, tonight, you will have an inkling of just how many barriers Ricky Martin broke tonight. Yes, it might have come late in his career. Yes, you might make light of it if you want. But, in some ways, the earth moved today in Latin America when it comes to LGBT rights.


Ricky Martin: "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am."

Ricky Martin, the popular singer and Latino music idol, has finally come out as a gay man.  Half an hour ago, Martin used his Twitter account to send a link to his website (earlier he had Tweeted "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter - M.L.K.Jr.").

In a statement, he discusses his upcoming memoir and his thoughts of having lived "years in silence and reflection".

You know that this isn't a GLAAD-vetted statement because Martin uses the word "homosexual" to describe himself (GLAAD would have advised to use the word 'gay' instead).

Here are the last three paragraphs in which the singer, long rumored to be gay, comes out:
These years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn't even know existed.

What will happen from now on? It doesn't matter. I can only focus on what's happening to me in this moment. The word "happiness" takes on a new meaning for me as of today. It has been a very intense process. Every word that I write in this letter is born out of love, acceptance, detachment and real contentment. Writing this is a solid step towards my inner peace and vital part of my evolution.

I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.  
Welcome to your out gay life, Ricky Martin, we were waiting and for the moment you deemed to be the right time and the right time has come.  You have set an example by advocating for so many children in need throughout the world. Now you'll set an example for thousands of Latino LGBT youth who look up to you as an example.


Peru: LGBT advocates wash blood off Peruvian flag to protest inactivity on hate crimes

The Tumbes regional online edition of Peruvian newspaper Correo reported that a number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates gathered at Tumbes' main plaza on Saturday to demonstrate against hate crimes.

Although crowd estimates were not given, the protest is said to have drawn many onlookers.

Demonstrators carried banners and rainbow flags as well as one unusual prop: A Peruvian flag that they claimed had been stained by all the participants' blood.

Before the cameras, protest leaders held the flag and dropped it into a plastic bowl filled with soapy water and cleaned the 'blood' from the national symbol.

"We want the State not to be indifferent to the needs of our community - We are making a statement which is a demand - not only in Tumbes but on a national level - for our rights to be recognized," said Melissa Zapata Sánchez, a transgender woman.

She said that many of the legal processes involving hate crimes had yet to end in punishment and demanded follow-up measures that would hold criminals accountable for the crimes they had committed.

In addition, LGBT advocates also questioned the role of the Catholic church on State issues and asked for the right to walk freely through the streets of Peru as well as the right to work in the public and private sector.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Musica: Thin Ice

Speaking of music, the boys at GusGus have released a video for their newest single "Thin Ice". I wish it was in the guise of the glorious 9 minute album version but all you get is a 4 minute teaser.  Still great. Directed By Heimir Sverrisson & Jón Atli Helgason.  For all things GusGus, check these out:
  • GusGus official page here
  • GusGus on Facebook here
  • GusGus on MySpace here
  • GusGus on Twitter  here
  • GusGus on Defected here
  • GusGus on Kompakt here
Oh, and band member Mr. Bongo, so dapper in the video with his red bow tie and cane, being interviewed shirtless in a pool, here.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rita Indiana comes out

I was doing my daily rounds, looking for LGBT news articles to send to my e-mail lists, when I ran into this article from yesterday's edition of the Dominican Republic newspaper Listin Diario: "Lovers exempt from the conventional."

The article takes a look at past and current 'unconventional' romantic relationships between high profile women including Lindsay Lohan and Samantha Ronson, Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi, Rosie O'Donnell and Kelli Carpenter, Jodie Foster and Sydney Bernard and Rita Indiana Hérnandez and Noella Quintero.

Rita Indiana and Noella who? Rita Indiana is from the Dominican Republic and is one of the brightest upcoming stars in Latino music in the island as well as the United States. Noella Quintero is the director of her bozongo video for her hit "La Hora de Volvé". Rita Indiana had been nominated for this past weekend's annual Casandra Awards as "Revelation of the Year" and, a few days before the Dominican Republic's biggest music awards, she said the following on Teleantilla...

Wow! This is a singer on the rise in the Dominican Republic whose band, Rita Indiana y Los Misterios, has still to release an album. And Rita Indiana calmly and matter-of-factly just answers the question. I am in awe.

There had been rumors in the past about Rita Indiana's sexuality mostly from gossip sites who joked about her way of dressing and her style. You know, the sort of rumors that also follow Puerto Rican singer Ivy Queen. And she might have chosen to do what a lot of other closeted Latino singers do and just say she was in a relationship with someone and not mention gender, or deny she was in a relatiosnhip, or... you get the point. But, no, this young Dominican techno-merengue-rock singer had the guts to say 'Yup!'. Kudos!

Next up: A collaboration with Calle 13?

UPDATE (3/24/10): I am a great admirer of the blog Monaga.  He is, without a doubt, the BEST English-language chronicler of gay life in the Dominican Republic. He has picked up on this post and chimes in:
I had wanted to write about Rita Indiana, a young dynamic Dominican singer who is generating a lot of buzz. There is a photo of her online kissing her lover. Yes, in the Dominican Republic. She showed up to the Casandra Awards like it was just normal to show up with the person you are dating. Right? Well, anyway I was surprised and shocked at how she is not bothered. How beautiful AND courageous. I wanted to do something specifically about her, but Blabbeando has written a great piece about her that includes videos. It just makes me even more proud of her. It doesn't hurt that she is also a great musician with her own distinctive style.
Thanks, Monaga! For more information on Rita Indiana please follow these links:
  • Rita Indiana's official promoter website here (official free music downloads here)
  • Rita Indiana on MySpace here
  • Rita Indiana in Twitter here
  • Rita Indiana y Los Misterios on MySpace here
  • Rita Indiana y Los Misterios fan page on Facebook here
As for the music, first up is the great video for "La Hora de Volvé" followed by a couple other YouTube clips I found (I love, love, LOVE "Jardinera" which is the last vid; there is also "El Mádito Feisbú").

She often performs in New York City and other U.S. cities so check-her out live if you can.

"La Hora de Volvé"

"El Blu del Ping Pong"

"La Jardinera"

Take the Social Justice Sexuality Initiative survey...

I was recently contacted and asked to share this information with readers of the blog. A team of researchers have launched a project called The Social Justice Sexuality Initiative (socialjusticesexuality.com). They are working with students from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY) and several community based organizations throughout the United States to assess the experiences of LGBT people of color in the following areas:
  • access to health and community-based services
  • civic engagement
  • family
  • religious experiences
They have partnered with, among others, Queers for Economic Justice, Unid@s, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Zuna Institute, Gay Men's Health Crisis, the Unity Fellowship Church and the International Federation of Black Prides. Their hope is to fill the gap in scholarship on LGBT communities of color, as well as celebrate their unique experiences. To participate and complete the survey, in English or Spanish, please visit this page.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Paquita la del Barrio on adoption rights for gays... and her apology

At the beginning of March, I found myself in the same room with some leading Latino LGBT rights advocates and allies who met on the issue of the state of the Latino LGBT community in the United States.

During a break, I walked over the table where Oscar De La O was sitting (he is the Executive Director of the largest Latino HIV service agency in the country, Bienestar, which is based in California) and found him having an angry discussion with others. He wasn't angry with those at the table, mind you, but he was discussing comments made earlier that week by popular Mexican ranchera music singer Paquita la del Barrio on the topic of adoption rights for gays in Mexico.

The singer, known for her outrageous lyrics and for taking strong positions against Mexican sexist male culture, had appeared on "Al Punto" on Univision on February 21st and had the following exchange with anchor Jorge Ramos (if you click on the link, jump to the 4:30 mark):
Jorge Ramos: On March 4th, in Mexico City, gay marriages will be allowed. Mexico City is taking the leading role in this... well, in this angle, and many times, in Latin America, what do you think of this?
Paquita la del Barrio: Very wrong.
JR: Why?
PLDB: Because, no, eh... OK, I'm still in agreement with a couple getting married but, in what, eh, is... adopting a creature. No, I am not in agreement.
JR: Hold on, let's go by parts. You are in agreement with allowing a man and a man to get married, that a woman and a woman can get married. On that you are in agreement.
PLDB: That, more or less, is how it is. But, as I said, adopting a creature for those people, no, no, that is not honest.
JR: Hold on, when you denounce violence against women, you are denouncing discrimination.
PLDB: Of course.
JR: Gay people, homosexuals, would then say that not allowing them to lead an equal life to a man and a woman would also be one type of discrimination.
PLDB: No, no, no, no. That's very wrong because I will nothing more than... will make one thing clear. You, let's say, are gay. You marry another gay. You adopt a creature. And when that creature grows up, he will say 'OK, whom will I call dad and whom will I call mom.' [I'll bring] nothing more than that argument for you...
JR: But, but, I have colleagues who are gay and are two mothers or two fathers...
PLDB: Two mothers and two fathers?
JR: Uhum...
PLDB: Well, I don't know. It's wrong! It's very wrong! The creature will end up crazy.
JR: So this that has been happening in the city of Mexico, you wouldn't like it to happen throughout the Mexican Republic or that it spreads.
PLDB: Nowhere in the world. To finish making my point.
JR: But, perhaps, and let me insist on this, you don't believe that this is a form of discrimination.
PLDB: No, it's not discrimi... no, no, no, no. No. They are human beings that, as a matter of fact, personally I care for them a lot, I have many friends, but that doesn't set things up for that; that they adopt a creature.
I had seen the interview after it aired but wasn't necessarily as incensed as Oscar. Instead I was struck by the dichotomy of someone who would claim to love her gay friends and support their right to marry, on the one hand, but also state that children might be driven insane if they were adopted by a gay couple. I might be in the minority out there, but I actually think she was being sincere in both respects.

It all comes down to this: The argument that adults should be allowed to do whatever they want to do in the privacy of their home has been mostly won in Latin America. It explains, in part, the increasing support for civil unions or marriage rights for gay couples throughout the region. But, on the specific issue of adoption, the old stereotypes still prevail. Gays are out there to recruit children and turn them gay. Homosexuality is a learned behavior and children can pick it up almost by osmosis. Whatever gay adults do in their own home might be OK if you don't think about it but it's certainly grosser than whatever straight adults do at home (I mean, we don't sit around scratching our bellies as we watch football, do we?).

Then came this: On March 12th, gossip show "Escandalo TV", also on Univision, caught up with Paquita during a promotional stop in Los Angeles and interviewed her again. THAT interview was picked up by the gossip show "NX" on Televisa and posted on YouTube that same day. I picked up on it and did a rushed translation and posted this version on March 13th...

It's only now ghat I've realized that the clip on "NX" has been edited so here is the translation of the full comments from the original Escandalo TV clip with bold typeface indicating the segments that were missing (not that it ads a lot to it but it starts at the 1:45 mark):
PLDB: What I said was that it was not... that it's not in my taste that a poor creature should be adopted by them. They can do whatever they want with their lives.
Angel De Los Santos (Reporter): I read a commentary when the controversy began, which said 'What would Paquita prefer: That a child dies of hunger in the street and lonely, or that two human beings give him love, give him food, give him a roof...'
PLDB: That he die...
Reporter: You prefer that he die...
PLDB: It's better for the child to die and not that life for the creatures.
Reporter: OK...
PLDB: Yes, because if I had a son, I would never be at peace if he was with them... Yes?
Reporter: Why, Paquita...
PLDB: ...my respect to them, I care for them a lot, but you have to give a place to he who is owed.. he who deserves it.
Now, it's one thing to have a personal conviction that gays shouldn't adopt, as homophobic as that conviction may be, but quite another to say that homeless children should die rather than be adopted by gays.

The response was quick and visceral. Blogger Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God. fame noticed that I had uploaded the video on my YouTube account and asked me for some background. I asked him to hold while I wrote about it but before I could do it blogger Andy Towle also picked up on the clip and posted it on Towleroad on March 15th - and kept it on his top news header for almost a week.

Stateside, aside from Univision and Telemundo, People en Español was among the first non-blog media to pick up on the controversy in an online article posted on March 12th - the same day that the original clip aired.

On March 15th, The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) called on Paquita to apologize.

On March 16th, Monica Trasandes, Director of Spanish Language Media at GLAAD joined Oscar De La O and Bienestar in Los Angeles to publicly call for Paquita to apologize.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbclosangeles.com/video.

A local NBC affiliate picked up on the press conference on March 17th. A 14th minute clip features Oscar talking about the controversy as well as Victor Cordero, an on-air personality for the local Telemundo affiliate. Cordero, who says he knows the singer, vouchers for the enduring appeal of Paquita La Del Barrio in Mexico and among the Mexican and Mecican-American community in the United States and her strong support for women's rights. Here's an excerpt (starts at the 9:17 mark):
I personally know her, and I think - first of all, this is my opinion - I don't think she really meant to say that, number one; number two, I think she has - being Mexican, being with all those roots, if you will - she probably doesn't agree with the gay community, although it's very important to mention she has a lot of gay community followers, a lot of, ah - when she comes over to Los Angeles and she does the parade for the gay community she's very loved and, unfortunately, this, what she said, I'm gonna say she didn't meant to say it. One thing led to another, it's one of those situations where you mis-express yourself. And, again, this is just what I think by knowing her. And, of course, the media has been trying to make a living out of this and we're gonna wait and see if she gives another interview and see if she can rephrase this.
Cordero also says that her possible lack of education growing up and her ignorance on the topic of homosexuality might have made her trip up when she was posed the question.

On March 17th, Los Angeles Times blogger Daniel Hernandez, who is based in Mexico City, picked up on the scandal.

Online responses were also quick and harsh. A man in California created a Facebook Group called "Boycott Paquita La Del Barrio" which has drawn 1,200 members. Another Facebook group, created in Mexico, is titled "I prefer if Paquita La Del Barrio dies rather than she be adopted by a gay couple" and has 1,500 members. Twitter has the inevitable #PaquitaLaDelBarrio hashtag, which has been winding down from all the activity that it saw last week. Some on Twitter joked that Paquita La Del Barrio finally was getting what she always wanted: Cross-over success, since the Times and NBC Los Angeles were featuring her.

Others in the United States such as Queerty, Vivir Latino, Guanabe, LezGetReal, Terra, La Opinion, etc. also chimed in.

On March 2nd, days after the first interview aired on Univision but before the follow-up interview occurred on Escandalo TV, Paquita was among the many Latino stars who taped a 2010 Spanish-language version of "We Are The World" called "Somos El Mundo" to benefit victims of the earthquake in Hati. I won't post the video since it's so embarrassingly awful but you can check it out here.

Along with Paquita, a who's who of Latino stars took part in the performance, including Ricky Martin, Juanes, Shakira, José Feliciano, Vicente Fernandez, Pitbull, Andy Garcia, El Puma, Chayanne, Jon Secada, Juan Luis Guerra, Aleks Syntec, Gloria Estefan, Olga Tañon, Paulina Rubio, Daddy Yankee, Aventura, and, ehm, David Archuetta of American Idol fame.

Not that they have been individually reached to comment or need to do so but I think it's telling that of all those present at that taping, only two have spoken up against Paquita's words. Thalia, wife of music impresario Tommy Mottola, whose "Arrasando" is a staple at many Latino gay bars and recently covered the Alaska y Dinarama gay anthem "A Quien Le Importa", told Es Mas the following:
I believe that it's a commentary that is out of place, because they have fought for their dreams, them as a community, and they are seeing doors that have just begun to open, that they have legalization of their marriages and have additional rights in the society in which they live.

I have many friends, such as Rosie O'Donnell, who has her children and I have seen the passion, the love, the adoration she has with her children.
The second "We Are The World 2010" is Christian Chávez, one of the few commercially successful openly gay Latino singer in the world, who told People en Español the following:
I think it’s really sad especially being in moments in which, for example, in Mexico gay marriages are accepted, which is a big step forward, especially for the Mexican culture and a great example for all Latin America. It’s very sad to see someone who many people admire and who has been an icon for the gay community to say something like this… I was recently at an orphanage and saw many kids that are in need of caring, they need sneakers, shoes, a good education. I invite people to see things for what they really are before making prejudices. Mexico is one of the countries with the most domestic violence and child abuse. What is more normal, for kids to see their parents beating each other, being molested sexually, having their mothers beaten, in which many times they look to escape and abandon their kids? Is that normal?… Gay people aren’t perfect, but neither are heterosexuals. There are well-educated homosexuals that are responsible enough to be great parents and there are heterosexuals that shouldn’t be able to adopt kids. I don’t understand why we have to cut off an opportunity for a child, prefer to see them die than to get a proper education, a roof over their heads, a home. I think it’s absurd and very sad [translation c/o Latino Gossip].
With all the increasing public outrage, there has been pressure on Paquita to apologize and this week she did. Daniel Hernandez at Los Angeles Times reports that Paquita extended apologies for her comments, blaming her upbringing - if not exactly changing her mind on her opposition to adoption by gay couples - and said that she would make public amends to the gay community tomorrow in Mexico by performing at a gay bar in Mexico City. Late word tonight is also that a popular gossip show on Univision called "El Gordo y La Flaca" ran an advance clip from n interview that they will air tomorrow in which she breaks down and cries:

What she says in the clip:
Paquita la del Barrio: [The reporter] asked like this, rapidly, it didn't even give me a chance to think what to answer. I ask for a thousand apologies. I am sorry. Understand. But no. I don't know. Morally, I feel really bad. At one point I thought about killing myself, I am telling you this, but I have the moral force of my children. They are not at fault. I already lived my life. It's that a person should not be hurt... should not be hurt like that..
As I said, one of the first US-based media venues to jump on the story was People en Español. They have also posted up follow-up stories on the scandal. The main reason they have devoted so much space to Paquita's statement? Most probably it's the fact that it hit a personal nerve with People en Español editor Armando Correa.

Armando is, perhaps, one of the most powerful gay Latino men in Spanish-language media in the United States. He is also the author of "In Search of Emma", a personal account of the search for his first adopted child with the help of his partner of 24 years, Gonzalo Hernández. Today, they are the proud parents of three children (Carole Joseph, Senior Writer at People in Español, posted the picture on the right on her Twitpic account with the legend of "Armando Correa with his babies. I took this photo specially for Paquita").

On Friday, March 19th, AOL Latino's Celestrellas published an interview with Armando Correa. I personally think it's the best response out there to what Paquita la del Barrio said. Mind you, this is before today's "El Gordo y La Flaca" clip for tomorrow's show was aired. And it's no small measure that it's the editor of People in Español speaking. Here is my translation (I hope I haven't bored you enough by all that preceded this and that you will read this)...
AOL: Armando, how do you feel about the declarations from Paquita la del Barrio?
AC: When she said, with Jorge Ramos, that she thought a gay couple should not adopt, I accepted it. We all havethe liberty to think whatever we want, she is not part of a minority but, instead, a majority who thin that gay couples should not adopt, she expressed her point of view and said it with a great deal of decency. But when she gave the other interview, sitting down, and said that she preferred that a child die instead of being adopted by a gay couple, that in itself promotes hate and intolerance. When you are a public figure you have to think a lot about what you say because you could hurt many communities that are your public and you could be promoting hate and intolerance, and, in this society, the least that is needed is that, we have to learn to respect. We are all equal, we are human beings, but at the same time we are very different. In the measure that we accept the existence of black, white, Asian people, that gays exist, disabled people, when we accept our differences the world will be different. As a public figure one has to think what one says, We are fighting for immigration reform, there are still many phobias in this century, hate against immigrants, for example, we have to promote tolerance and love. What Paquita has provoked is a lesson for the whole world.
AOL: Why do you say it's a lesson?
AC: I'll give an example that has nothing to do with whether or not she hurt the gay community. If you talk to a Hollywood actor who thinks the borders should be shut down, throw out illegal immigrants, how would we feel? How would Paquita herself feel as a minority in this country? What would happen with these kind of statements with the hate that exists against Mexicans in California? We have to romote tolerance, whether or not she referred to the gay world.
AOL: Many of Paquita's followers are poor with few educational opportunities, in what way do you think her thoughts can influence what her followers believe?
AC: All of a sudden I hear a person I like and admire say that they prefer that a child die instead of being adopted by a gay couple, people may believe that she is reasonable and I believe that is the greatest danger, when a public figure says those kind of phrases that promote hate. We are talking about a majority in this country who think a gay couple should not adopt, we are not talking about a minority, we have to educate the public, it's not an issue of going to vote, this is a social problem. It's as if in the 60's we asked the government if Afro-Americans could marry whites or is a black person had the same rights as someone who is white. That is not something you would put up for a vote but, instead, it's a social transformation, you have to educate the public, the society. If in the 60's you'd ask Southerners if they believed blacks should have the same rights as whites they would have said 'no', but you can't put that up for a vote because they are human rights, rights that we all have.
AOL: After those declarations Paquita, she gave some apologies. Do you think she was sincere?
AC: Of course not. I think she should have expressed being sorry about saying it, but not about thinking about it. That entails a public relation campaign to be able to save an image, everyone who works with her know that it can affect her concert earnings. The other day Raúl de Molina [ed. - the lead host of "El Gordo y La Flaca", who will air his interview tomorrow and has his own shady history of homophobic statements on the show] said that half of her concert-goers were supporters from the gay community. I believe there is a lot of fear that it might have an effect on her earnings. I am not promoting we should not listen to her, nor to buy her album or attend her concerts. She is an artist, her music is there and her presence will be there, what I say - and it's a message not only for her but for all public figures - we have to promote love and tolerance.
AOL: Paquita said that as a way of apologizing she would give a concert at a gay disco and, perhaps, a [gay bar] tour, do you think she might be using this now as promotion and for publicity?
AC: That would be a sad answer and it would be in bad taste to amend what she did in that manner, she is commercializing it, she is not giving free concerts for the gay community in California or wherever it is. She is doing her job and seeking an economic gain, but on some ways it is part of the business and part of the solution. I believe the public has reacted to her comments, with only a few exceptions of those who have shown themselves favorable to Paquita's comments, but people are hurt with the second declaration. The other day we were talking to Raúl Molina that she doesn't need to as forgiveness from the gay community but, instead, from those children she preferred to see dead instead of being adopted by a gay couple.
AOL: Would you like to interview her?
¿Te gustaría entrevistarla?
AC: A difficult question... She is also a human being and I'd like to know how she feels after making those statements. No one bathes themselves in a miraculous river and thinks one thing one day and another the next day. She is firm in her convictions that it's what is best for a child and my job is not t convince her, but she is an artist in this medium and if I have her before me I will greet her and if I have to interview her I will interview her.
AOL: What would you say if you had her in front of you?
AC: I would tell her that she should be careful when expressing what she feels when she is a public figure because, even without wanting to, she is promoting hate and intolerance; and not to think about it only when referring to one community, and it's the gays, but that she thinks about it whenever someone can do such a thing against immigrants and the millions of Hispanics who live in the United States and that suffer discrimination in some regions.

sino que lo piense cuando alguien puede hacer eso contra los inmigrantes y los millones de hispanos que viven en Estados Unidos y que en algunas partes sufren la discriminación".
Thanks, Armando!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Musica: Sos tan facil como cho...

Pop will eat itself: Narcissistic as Google allows everyone to be, I recently received a Google Alert saying that my friend Maegan La Mamita Mala had linked up to one of my posts from last year over at Vivir Latino.

The post in question was my ode to F.O.K. Electrochongo written almost a year to the day! The reason was that Maegan had downloaded this Soundcloud mix by Brooklyn's DJ Amylulita which might not be a smooth segue mix but is a great compendium of all things electro and pop coming from Latin America right now (got all that?).

Track 7 is listed as "Sos Tan Facil (Radio Edit)" by Karaoke Artesanal which actually turns out to be F.O.K. Electrochongo (pictured right).

The Argentinean electro-clash queer singer, who often performs wearing just underwear, does it all in-house and sometimes it shows. But his wry lyrics and dedication to the craft comes out as freshly honest and lots of fun.

Here is his basic info:
What was new to me was that F.O.K. had launched a new video for the song that caught Maegan's heart, "Sos tan Facil" (or "You're So Easy").

The lyrics:
Unattainable you are / At the disco everyone wants to get to know you / and nobody dares to tell you how difficult you are / distant-interesting / but when the night threatens to leave you without anyone in bed / that's where you lose all control and give in / you know that you are an easy pray /easy

[chorus] you're so easy, just like me / but I / am less easy / you're so easy, my heart / but I / am less easy / so easy, my heart / but I / am not like you, my love

It's so difficult to keep it up / always in the same role / I already saw you, I already recognized you / we all give up sometimes / sometimes / but whenever someone steps in and talks to you, you step aside behaving like a star / why? if you're so easy? / take off your mask / it's easy!

[chorus] you're so easy, just like me / but I / am less easy / you're so easy, my heart / but I / am less easy / so easy, just like me / but I / at least am looking for love / so easy, my heart / but I / am not like you, my love [repeat]
Lady Gaga! Take notice! I do have to confess that, as someone born in Colombia, I crack up every time F.O.K. sings "Sos tan facil como yo" ("You are as easy as I am"). The "Yo" sounds to me as "cho" or "sho" which is typical of Argentinean accents.

In the meantime, I leave you with the almost-US premiere of "Sos Tan Facil"...


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tony Martinez, my hero

OK, one last post-Monserrate-loss post. Steven Trasher was the man on the street for The Village Voice here in Jackson Heights as this week's special NYS Senate election drew near. On election day he posted video of some of the street interaction between campaign volunteers pushing Hiram Monserrate on one side and José Peralta on the other.

On my way to my voting site, I noticed one particular guy - a Peralta supporter - having a back and forth with some Monserrate backers. It wasn't exactly cordial but he was coming up with some great and funny retorts. On campaign day, I sometimes assume that those giving campaign literature are usually not from the neighborhood and recruited by labor unions or some other outside interest. This guy made me smile but I pretty much side-stepped him, and went on to place my vote.

Now, I'm not sure if this guy was labor, or lives in the NYS Senate 13th District, or is gay, but thanks to Steven Trasher at The Village Voice I now know that his name is Tony Martinez and that he specifically told Trasher that his reason for being out there was José Peralta's support for marriage equality.

So, here is to Tony Martinez, who stood on a corner all day long on Tuesday, taking shit from Monserrate supporters all day long, and specifically for the right of gays to get married.

Trasher has more of Tony on this Village Voice blog post.

Watch: Same-sex couples get married in Mexico City

The Mexican newspaper Milenio has produced a 4 minute video capturing the sights and sounds last Thursday as five same-sex couples became the first ones to marry in Mexico City. I won't be translating this one but I wanted to share.

Parting Shot: Hiram Monserrate loses big in trying to regain NYS Senate seat

The New York Times is reporting tonight that those of us who live in the New York State 13th Senate District will have a new representative. Democratic Assemblymember José Peralta handily beat former Senator Hiram Monserrate, who ran on an independent line, and Robert Beltrani who ran on the Republican line.

With 94% of the vote, the tally was Peralta with 66%, Monserrate with 27% and Beltrani with 7%.

Coming home tonight, I already had received the news that Peralta had won big tonight. So when I saw this particular piece of literature, it didn't upset me as much as it would have if I had seen it before the election. As a parting shot, though, here is how low Monserrate was willing to go in using marriage equality as a wedge issue.

Google "The Muslim-American Coalition for Morality" and what do you get? Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. No helpful contact phone number or e-mail on the flyer, no names mention as to who exactly is "The Muslim-American Coalition for Morality".

There IS a large Muslim population in the borough and there are some fringe Muslim groups that peacefully protest the annual Queens LGBT Pride Parade but, as large an LGBT presence in this district, I would say that the norm is mutual respect between cultures.

Hm, i wonder what that means. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the Monserrate campaign trying to play into Muslim stereotypes as a last ditch effort to gain votes. Surely not. I mean, there MUST be a Queens-based "Muslim-American Coalition for Morality" somewhere even if they are not Google-search-friendly. Right?

UPDATE: 100% of the vote in, according to NY1. Only 14,988 people voted. Peralta received 9,803 (65.41%), Monserrate got 4,098 (27.34%) and Beltrani got 1,087 (7.25%).


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Revend Ruben Diaz, Sr. stumping for Hiram Monserrate in Queens

Hiram Monserrate said this on a New York 1 video I translated and embedded on my previous post:
I think it's sad that a person can come from outside the community - from Colorado - sending money at the same time as gay leaders from here in New York trying to influence an election in our neighborhood so that they can put a marionette who will vote in favor of gay marriage.
How about others coming in and trying to influence the election in Monserrate's favor? Oh, that seems to be quite alright with Hiram. Here is the ultra-homophobic State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. all the way from The Bronx stumping for Hiram in Jackson Heights this afternoon (I couldn't capture his face but you can identify him by the his trademark black hat).

Do you live in Queens' 13th Assembly District? It's not too late to vote against Hiram. Get out there and make sure that Hiram is out of here. Voting ends at 8pm EST.

So, Hiram Monserrate walks into a gay bar... (or why I will vote against him today)

UPDATE 1: "Outsider" tries to influence the vote in Hiram's favor. Homophobic NYS Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. (D-Bronx) seen stumping for Hiram in Jackson Heights.
UPDATE 2: Before losing big to Jose Peralta, Hiram Monserrate uses homophobic appeals to the Muslim community.

Nine years ago, in the late summer of 2001, my partner and I hosted a small fundraiser for a city council candidate seeking to become the first openly gay politician elected from the borough of Queens. The fundraiser was memorable because my partner and I were living in a large studio apartment - no bedrooms, just a studio - and because, by happenstance, the day turned out to be probably the hottest day of the summer. Dozens of people went in and out through that door the whole afternoon and, before you knew it, the apartment felt more like a sauna.
The candidate, Jimmy Van Bramer, would lose that year, coming in second to Helen Sears. It would be eight more years until Jimmy was finally elected to the city council, joining Danny Dromm as one of two openly gay people to be elected to the city council from the borough of Queens for the first time.

That very sweaty fundraiser in 2001 was notable in another way: I believe it was the first time I met Hiram Monserrate. Hiram, at the time, was also running for the city council, and he'd come to my apartment to urge people to donate and vote for Jimmy, an openly gay candidate.

Mind you, Hiram was also there as someone seeking to be the first Latino to ever be elected to the city council from the borough of Queens.

WHAT? Yes! The land of Archie Bunker had never elected an openly gay person to political office at the time, nor had it elected an openly Latino person either. This, despite the fact that certain areas of Queens, and certainly Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside an Elmhurst, had a huge Latino population who had never been represented by someone from their own background.

There was something else in common back then: Both candidates lacked backing from the Queens Democratic party establishment which, at the time, was not necessarily known as pro-gay or immigrant-friendly.

I wasn't sure what to think of Hiram. He was a former US marine as well as a New York City cop. He was running for the Latino vote in the district and not afraid to endorse an openly gay candidate. But being Latino and pro-gay does not necessarily make a great politician by default and so, I waited.

It didn't take much time. Despite the lack of backing from the Queens Democratic party establishment, Hiram emerged victorious and went to work.

Now, I've never considered myself to be a political 'idolater'. I am often weary of politicians and political parties and do not believe that any one politician in particular will be the Lord savior. But I do have a thing for those who challenge the establishment and shake it up and, in that sense, Hiram fit the bill to a T.

As a councilmember, Hiram almost always did the right thing: He spoke up on immigration rights and introduced bills to protect the privacy of undocumented immigrants; he sought funding for HIV prevention agencies in the borough and throughout the city; he addressed overcrowding in housing and issues related to the explosion in street food vendor stands, he [believe it or not] got funding for anti-domestic violence programs, etc. And, on LGBT rights, while he was not necessarily out there championing them all the time, he certainly seemed to get it, backing the right of same-sex couples to marry as far back as that 2001 race.

In 2002, as a newly elected councilmember, I took Hiram to his first gay bar (if you must know, it was The Music Box, on 74th Street and Broadway in Jackson Heights). I had offered to meet at a straight bar but he insisted on meeting me there to talk politics. I remember the bar being empty except for us, the bartenders and a couple of patrons (it was early in the evening). And I remember one of the patrons sending a drink over to Hiram and him getting all jittery and nervous. "Why did he send me a drink?" he asked. "Maybe he likes you," I said. "Nah, you gotta be kidding," he said. "I'm telling you," I said.

To date, he still believes that I planted the guy at the bar as a joke and told him to send the drink. Truth is, Hiram once got hit on at a gay bar in Queens.

Through the years, I wouldn't say we became personal friends but I certainly can say that we developed a mutual respect. On a couple of occasions Hiram inquired about my political interests and whether I, as an openly gay man, wanted to run for the city council (this was before Jimmy and Danny ran last year). He even nominated me, as an openly gay man, to a local district board (I never ended up joining and I'm glad I didn't).

In 2008, on his last year as a councilmember, Hiram's office called me to ask if I would accept an invite for a public recognition of my work as an LGBT advocate at the city council chamber. In a July day probably as hot and humid as that day in 2001, I proudly accepted the recognition. Among the reasons for giving me the honor, as written on the signed plaque I received? My "passionate fight for the recognition of same-sex partnerships."

That was July 17th, 2008. Twenty months ago.

Then came what you already know: Hiram winning a New York State Senate seat, the girlfriend-bashing incident, the senate coup attempt, and his extremely homophobic strategy to claw back into his Senate seat.

Several gay groups, most prominently Fight Back New York, have been mounting a forceful opposition to Monserrate being elected to the Senate once again. I know a few people involved in that particular effort and have backed them in the weeks since they launched the site.

Members of Queer Rising, on the other hand, coming from Manhattan to Queens to attend a local debate and theatrically 'slashing' their face with red lipstick as Hiram spoke might have played well for the angry gays outside Queens but probably ended up feeding into Hiram's current argument that it's gays from outside the district calling the shots.

Here's the good news: Hiram won't win. His floundering campaign has come down to exploiting homophobia for the few votes he will get, a strategy that might work in the district of one of his closest allies, the homophobic Reverend and State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., but won't work in Queens. Thankfully, Queens doesn't have as strong a network of homophobic churches and, as the annual Queens LGBT Pride Parade shows, it's more open to LGBT communities than other parts of the city.

Here is the bad news, at least on a personal level. As I said, I might not consider myself to idolize political leaders but Hiram, at one point, was my hero. As a Latino political representative he not only broke the mold of other Latino political leaders in the city who are beholden to nepotism, allegiance to stagnant Democratic powers, and run based only on their ethnic identity, he also showed that he could represent the interests of the borough outside his Latino identity. Few will understand the extreme disappointment some of us feel about his latest turns and I told him as much last week when I wrote to him and said I would not be voting for him.

Hiram was adroit at turning adverse political situations in his favor and to outrun any organized effort to run him out of office. The proverbial cat-of-nine-lives. And I loved him for that. But even a cat has only nine lives and Hiram's seem to have expired. As a former sponsor of marriage equality and supporter of domestic anti-violence programs, I know for a fact that many are not only at a loss for his latest reincarnation but also feeling betrayed.

What truly got to my heart was an opinion piece that ran in the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario La Prensa by Hiram's former chief of staff (and current councilmember) Julissa Ferreras. She has certainly been much closer to Hiram and probably owes her political career to him. And yet, she has been front and center in the publicity campaign by Hiram's opponent, José Peralta.

In that March 8 OpEd piece, Julissa writes (my translation):
There are those who will ask how people who were so close to Hiram Monserrate - people such as I - do not back him in these electoral campaign. The reality is that Monserrate is the one who has abandoned us. With his actions as a man and as a legislator, it is Monserrate who has given us his back.
Truer words haven't been said. Then there is this:

If you read this today and live in the 13th Senate District, please vote for anyone else but Hiram. I will be so ever thankful.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Marriage equality is a reality in Mexico City

[Photo credit: Photo used by permission and courtesy of Memo de León who Tweets at zeiashtar and posted some great photos at his Twitpic account].

Wedding bells have been ringing in Mexico City since Thursday when the first law allowing same-sex couples to marry in any Latin American country went into effect. That day, I was glued to my #MatrimonioDF Twitter feed for all things 'marriage' and 'gay and 'Mexico' and got all goose-bumpy and teary-eyed when I scored a live online feed of the first marriage ceremony.

Five couples got married that day at the 300 year-old Municipal Palace in Mexico City, including Judith Vazquez and Lol Kin Castañeda (2nd couple from left), who became the first lesbian women to be allowed to marry in Latin America [the first men to be allowed to marry in Latin America were Alex Freyre and José Maria Di Bello back on December 28th when they secured a marriage license in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina].

You only see four couples in the photo because the 5th couple was late to the wedding (their plane was delayed). They missed out on having Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrand be a witness to their nuptials.

There have been a smattering of additional civil wedding ceremonies since Thursday, some more private than others. Mexican media, for example, has been enthralled by the fact that one particular groom, who was expected to show up for a wedding ceremony on Friday, never showed up for the ceremony and hasn't been heard of since then (let's hope it has all to do with cold feet and not anything worse than that).

A number of 'mass' weddings have been announced, including that of ten couples who married this afternoon in a public park with an estimated 3,000 witnesses.

On Friday, the Federal District (as Mexico City is referred to in Mexico) also announced that an Italian national - Mirko Mazardo - and his Mexican partner - Rodrigo Cervantes - were granted the right to marry through the country's immigration office. Mazardo and Cervantes had been living together in Italy for more than 10 years. It's not clear, from the CNN article, if this means that bi-national same-sex partners who decide to marry in Mexico City will be granted immigration rights.

I'll try to keep you updated.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Actress Cynthia Nixon for Fight Back NY

Fight Back New York has found a new supporter in Cynthia Nixon. If you would like to support Fight Back New York, please click on this link - or visit fightbackpac.com.

I love her. Below is a segment of a video that I shot at a marriage equality rally last year in which she talks about her desire to marry her girlfriend in New York.