Tuesday, November 30, 2010

US Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis joins LGBT DOL members: "¡Se Poné Mejor!"

Pardon me if I get snarky but anyone jumping onto the "It Gets Better" bandwagon at this point in time seems hopelessly behind the times, as much as they might mean well.

That goes for government agencies who have gotten all giddy about YouTube videos posted by US President Barack Obama, US Vice President Joseph Biden and US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But what if the government agency video was in Spanish?

Kudos to US Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and LGBT members of the DOL for stepping up and vouching for the lives of LGBT teens (the message is also available in English).  I just wish that Hilda's speech in Spanish wasn't so scripted and that her anglicized accent wasn't so strong.  It truly takes away from the video's impact.

My friend Karen Ocamb has a decidedly different take here.

In the meantime, you might as well better check out my friend's Emmanuel Garcia's effort to compile videos posted online by LGBT Latino folk related to the "It Gets Better" theme.  Check them out here.

They include this great video produced by a new LGBT Latino magazine called xQsí. Enjoy...

Venezuela: Homophobes deface mural, LGBT advocates push back

This comes from our friends at Venezuela's Union Afirmativa and at Spain's Dos Manzanas - and has a somewhat happy ending:

Earlier in the month, the locality of Chacao in Venezuela celebrated the annual "Cooltura Hip Hop" festival with full support from the Chacao Mayor's Office.  The event drew hip hop artists throughout Venezuela and, as part of the festival, a number of local street graffiti artists were also granted permission to design street murals that promoted a better living environment for the residents of Chacao.

The concept chosen by graffiti artist Darient was "tolerance" and, with that in mind, she painted the mural pictured above in which a woman of Afro-Venezuelan background asks "Tolerate?" and a pink sign below the image of two men kissing states "Tolerate!".

Reaction against the mural came fast: According to Dos Manzanas, local church leaders spread rumors that the Mayor's Office had asked the artist to come up with a new concept and to remove the image.  Darient, the mural's author, denied any of this was true but joined local LGBT organizations and leaders in asking Emilio Graterón, the Mayor of Chacao, to publicly back the mural.  "The situation represented an enormous challenge for the Chacao Mayor's Office," said Dos Manzanas, "It would be paradoxical not to tolerate a mural that precisely promoted the value of tolerance".

The Mayor's Office responded on November 19th and said that the mural would remain standing as it was created. It was exactly the next day that the mural was defaced with black spray paint covering the image of the two men kissing and black lines covering the pink sign that says "Tolerate!" (see above).

Near the mural, a wall was also spray-painted to deliver a clear message: "Muerte al Maricón" (Death to the faggot).

This elicited the first public response by the Chacao Mayor... through Twitter: "I reiterate my position" Mayor Graterón twitted, "I condemn the vandalism to which the mural of tolerance was subjected; Dialogue is the medium, it's [about] respect for one another".

The next day he released a lengthy statement on the issue titled "Public Morals and Tolerance" in which he defended the mural. Unfortunately, perhaps in an attempt to assuage critics from the fundamentalist religious rights, in the statement he also urges people to respect homosexuals in the same way Christ had extended his charitable love towards Mary Magdalene, "the most famous prostitute in town", and also invokes John Paul II in stating that the Vatican leader did not consider homosexuality in itself to be a sin - just the sexual acts between members of the same gender.

Sigh. So much for mayoral valor.

Anyway, DARIENT herself went back to the mural she had created and wrote "Su amor no daña, your hate does!!! - EN RECUPERACIÓN" (Their love doesn't create damag, your hate does!!! - IN REPAIR).

Sunday, a group of LGBT rights organizations and advocates, led by Unión Afirmativa, called for a community gathering to accompany DARIENT as she repaired her mural.

This time the graffiti artist didn't write the word "Tolerate!" on her mural.  Instead, she expanded the image of the two men kissing and wrote "Respect!" under it.

No word on whether the Office of the Mayor is pursuing any leads on those who might have defaced the mural or wrote the death threats on nearby walls.

Below, an image of Darient with a friend next to the repaired mural. Thank you DARIENT!

Other sources:
  • LGBT Support for DARIENT Facebook photo album #1 here
  • LGBT Support for DARIENT Facebook photo album #2 here
NOTE: According to Wikipedia, Chacao is one of five municipalities that make up the Venezuelan capital of Caracas.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wishing the best for Pam Spaulding today

As readers of Pam's House Blend know, blogmistress Pam Spaulding (right) was scheduled to undergo major surgery this morning in South Carolina.

Today, a bunch of us bloggers are writing to express our love for Pam and to wish her a prompt recovery.  As her illness has forced Pam to take unpaid leave from her day-to-day job we are also urging readers to help her with surgery-related expenses through donations to her PayPal account.

I have long been a fan of Pam's. I am often amazed at her proficiency and output, which might sound like bland words to describe someone, but when you realize that Pam works full-time and manages to consistently keep the quality of her blog top notch day in and day out, I hope it comes across as the high praise I mean to convey.  It's not for nothing that Pam - and Pam's House Blend - is considered to be one of the most influential blogs out there.

Our love also goes to Pam's wife, Kate, who is keeping by Pam's side.

The surprise get-better blog swarm was the idea of the other writers at Pam's House Blend as well as journalist Karen Ocamb.  I am more than happy to join them and others in embracing Pam and wishing her the best.

Other participating blogs include Rod2.0, The Mad Professah Lectures, Joe.My.God., Michealangelo Signorile, Karen Ocamb's LGBT POV, Towleroad, Joe Sudbay at AmericaBlog Gay, Zack Ford, David Mixner, Jeremy Hooper at Gay As You, among others. In other words, the LGBT bloggers' glitterati.

Get well soon, Pam, we all love you.

UPDATE, from Pam herself:

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ricky Martin salutes the work of LGBT rights advocate Pedro Julio Serrano

It's been a week since Ricky Martin's autobiography "Me" came out and he's been hitting the media rounds appearing on Oprah, Larry King, Univision's Aqui y Ahora, Ellen and The View, among others. It's actually pretty amazing how much media attention he has gotten considering the years the singer has been out of the limelight. He also graces People en Español's end of the year cover and Out magazine's Out100 cover).

To put it mildly, it's been a busy week for Martin.  Sweetly, he has taken time out from his busy schedule for this...

WHAT!? Yes! A heartfelt message for my great friend Pedro Julio Serrano!

Pedro Julio, who works at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and was the founder of the LGBT-rights organization Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, was recognized for his amazing work last night at the New York City Hilton Hotel by Comité Noviembre. Ricky Martin was supposed to present the award live but when it became apparent he would not be able to make it, he sent the above message to be presented during the ceremony.

As far as I know, it was the first time that the politically influential New York City-based organization - which oversees the annual Puerto Rican heritage celebrations in New York - granted an award to an openly gay individual.  And, as biased as I might be, the honor could not have gone to a more deserving person.

Particularly touching to me was that Pedro Julio's entire family was there supporting him (see photo).  I look at his brothers proudly holding that gay pride Puerto Rican flag next to PJ in honor of his brother and I can't just feel but incredibly moved.

Moving to me is also that Ricky Martin would take his time - at this particular moment of his life - to honor Pedro Julio.  These are the lines from his video statement that stick with me:
RICKY MARTIN: I would love to be there with you, my brother, but, unfortunately, it can't be done. But you and I are connected in a thousand ways. I give you thanks for being a teacher, for being a mentor, for being a warrior of the light. For being a Puerto Rican of pura cepa who is doing a wonderful job for the Puerto Ricans of today and also for the new generations. I simply do not have the words. You are a... you are magical, brother. I love you a lot, God bless you. And this honor is for you.
"I give you thanks for being a teacher, for being a mentor, for being a warrior of the light". Dude. That makes me tear up big time.  Because I know the example that Pedro Julio has set for others and personally know the impact he has has in other people's life. And because Pedro Julio has also been an example in my life.

It reminds me of how few the visible positive examples of Latino gay life are and makes me appreciate this so much more for the beauty of a huge Latino superstar who has just come out deeming it important to honor the often thankless job of a Latino LGBT rights advocate.

And I just wanted to share.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Partner scoops!

This is not one of the biggest blogs out there nor a particularly interesting times sometimes but, weirdly, it's often listed as one of the top five or ten Latino blogs out there and the top Latino gay blog in the United States - if you go by Technorati rankings.

This means that I am often pitched lots of stories, some of which have nothing to do with the topics I cover, and also receive lots of invites to partner on a project.  I mostly turn all of them down as I enjoy keeping the blog free of too much clutter.

Tonight, though, I am proud to announce that I've accepted an invite to join an editorial advertising partnership launched by Guanabee.com called "Partner Scoops" as featured in a widget I placed on the left hand column of the blog.

I've always loved Guanabee's irreverent editorial take on all things Latino and join them and other sites like Latin Gossip to cross-promote each other and ad what I hope will be worthwhile content to the site.

I often complain there aren't enough Latino-focused blogs out there and this is a great way to promote each other.

The "Eye Am A Man" project

Back in the 1980's, when I was still in high-school, I was still deep in the closet and struggling to understand my attraction towards men.  Obviously, there wasn't nearly as much LGBT visibility out there in media, and positive role models were hard to find.

One amazing exception was a cartoon strip that ran on a local college newspaper.  I forget the name but I always remembered its author, Ivan Velez, Jr.

The strip, which ran in Syracuse University's The Daily Orange, told the story of a group of college friends and their travails. It also depicted the struggles of a big, hulky, hairy college athlete in coming to terms with being gay.

It was one of the first times I ever saw a masculine man being depicted as being gay in a positive way and, to this day, I've remembered the strip as having a key role in helping me to feel comfortable in who I was.

Ivan went on to draw a groundbreaking series of comic books called "Tales of the Closet" and has gone on to host a series of panels by other gay comic book artists. Most recently, he's also organized a series of events at the NYC LGBT Community Center he's named "Oso Oro" in which bearish male models pose for aspiring cartoonists and artists (trust me, it's much funner than it sounds).

Right now, Ivan is engaged in a brand new effort called the "Eye Am A Man" project which he plans to launch next month. The project, which Ivan is launching as a multi-artist show, seeks to explore the connection of masculinity and sexual orientation as filtered through the interpretation of the artists' ethnic and gender identities.

For his part of the show, Ivan would like for people to submit photos or videos of themselves holding a sign that meets the guidelines on his site.

I am more than glad to spread the word and hope you will participate.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Gay kissers greet Pope Ratzinger in Barcelona

Photo credit: Guillaume Darribau (www.guillaumedarribau.com)

Sweet! The queer kiss flashmobbers who received Pope Ratzinger in Barcelona today even got the attention of the New York Times via the Associated Press ("Pope Defends Family as Spanish Gays Hold ‘Kiss-In’"). An excerpt:
Pope Benedict XVI strongly defended traditional families and the rights of the unborn Sunday, directly attacking Spanish laws that allow gay marriage, fast-track divorce and easier access to abortions as he dedicated Barcelona's iconic basilica, the Sagrada Familia.

It was the second time in as many days that Benedict had criticized the policies of Spain's Socialist government and called for Europe as a whole to rediscover Christian teachings and apply them to everyday life.

As he headed to the basilica, about 200 gays and lesbians staged a 'kiss-in' to protest his visit and church policies that consider homosexual acts "intrinsically disordered." Later, a few hundred women marched to protest their second-class status in the church and the Vatican's opposition to birth control. 
The kiss-in was organized by six friends from Barcelona who used Facebook to call for a response. In the past weeks they alleged that Facebook shut down their "Queer Kissing Flashmob" page twice before being allowed to keep it (check it out here).

Spaniards are not known to mince words and, on the eve of the Pope's visit, many hung banners from their windows and balconies that read "I don't wait for you" in Catalan and Spanish.

In the best video of the kiss-in I've seen, which was uploaded by the Spanish paper 20 Minutos on their website, participants are heard shouting "Nazi" at the Pope as the Pope-mobile goes by. They also flip the finger at him and kiss before erupting into a chant that says "Throw him out, throw, him out, throw out the pederasts."

I said Spaniards do not mince words.  And they certainly didn't during the protest.

For additional coverage, check these out:
Here is a video I found on YouTube.