Photo: Vital shows the love she has for her girlfriend. The two got engaged on May 10, 2010.
Imagine loving someone so much you want to let her know by tattooing a message of love on yourself. Imagine wanting to spend your lifetime with that person and celebrating it by becoming engaged, hoping against hope that some day you'll be able to marry her.
Then imagine someone who has never even met you tell you that your relationship is "unnatural". That it is similar to bestiality. That it means that you have rejected Jesus. That you may very well go to Hell. Worst, imagine that person is in political office and has spent years trying his darnest to keep you from getting married.
I don't exactly remember when and why I started following Vital on Twitter. I just know that she comes off as savvy, funny, rough-around-the-edges and immensely protective of the love she has for her partner. But I do remember being on Twitter sometime in mid-May when I saw Vital send out a very specific Tweet.
I mention this now because, as of late, New York State Senator Ruben Diaz has been ratcheting up the allegations that he is being victimized and using Vital's tweet as a prime example. Case in point: On Wednesday, New York Daily News political reporter Celeste Katz brought it up in her online blog as follows (italics mine)
Diaz said he and his family have received death threats due to his vocal stance on keeping gay marriage unlawful in New York State. They were reported to the FBI and Albany police, he said. "We are in America; we are supposed to agree to disagree and respect each other's positions," the senator said. On May 10, tweets by opponents of Diaz's May 15 rally included one in which the sender expressed the desire to sexually assault Diaz's daughter."Sexually assault Diaz's daughter". Hm, is someone really on the look-out for Diaz' daughter? Does someone want to sexually assault her? Does it merit an investigation by the FBI or the Albany police?
While the tweet in question might be vulgar and is certainly open to interpretation, it never mentions the word assault or rape, nor does it portray intent. In other words, it doesn't say "I am going to do [this and that]...".
Here is the uncensored version: "Is it wrong that I wanna track down Ruben Diaz daughter and fuck the shit out of her on tape, then show it to him?"
Shocking. Yes. Unfortunate, yes. A threat. I differ with Diaz on that one. In any case, I thought I would reach out to Vital and talk to her about that specific tweet because I firmly believe she is unfairly being targeted. Here is our exchange:
Blabbeando: Hey Vital, thanks for allowing me to interview you. Let's start with that now infamous Tweet you sent on May 10th. Can you tell me what was going through your mind when you posted that tweet and if you meant as a threat to the Senator or anyone in his family?
Vital: Well when this tweet was posted, I was extremely upset about all the statements he was making against the gay community. As a woman in a relationship with another woman, everyday presents several obstacles to overcome. We have people pointing and staring at us out in the street, as well as people pre-judging our character based on stereotypes alone. The statement I said was not in anyway intended to be directed to Rev. Ruben Diaz. It was more a question to my Twitter followers.
I guess subconsciously I was really wondering what would Rev. Ruben Diaz do if it was his daughter that was engaging in sexual relations with another woman? Would he accept it? How about if she was attacked verbally by an outsider and her character was being questioned because of her sexual orientation?
And, to answer the last part of your question, as I previously said, that tweet was not specifically sent to Rev. Ruben Diaz. I did not send it to him to his Twitter account, his e-mail or his home addressl. I posted it on my Twitter timeline, for my followers. Sen. Diaz was not one of my followers and it is a misfortune that he did see it and thus took it as a personal threat.
Blabbeando: That day, Senator Diaz posted your Tweet on his Senate page as an example of a "vicious threat" against him and included your Twitter handle as well as that of one of your followers who re-twitted it. I know you had no idea how public your comment had become because I was the first one to alert you and, when I did, you told me you had no idea your messages could be seen by anyone else on Twitter but the people who followed your timeline. What was your initial reaction when you found out it had gone public? What do you think about it now, almost a month later?
Vital: WOW, I could never forget that day when you called me and told me about it. I was mortified. I was afraid and mostly I was embarrassed. Why? Because he made it seem like that one comment represents the whole LGBTQ community, when in fact it DOESN'T. That comment was nothing premeditated and was quickly said with out a thought. Unlike the statements Rev Ruben Diaz has made not worrying whose feelings were hurt or whose character he defamed. Now, a month later, I've definitely learned my lesson and, in fact, I have become very choosey with what I do say via Twitter.
Blabbeando: I know you were aware that Senator Diaz was organizing a rally against marriage equality in the Bronx and that you wanted to join some of us who went there to counter his opposition to our rights. But I also know that you couldn't make it for a very special reason. Can you tell more about the reason that you weren't able to join us?Last week, I spent time translating an interview Diaz did with Juan Manuel Benitez, host of "Pura Politica" on New York 1 Noticias in which the Senator said he was at a loss in understanding why he was the focus of so much resentment from the gay community. During one particular exchange, Benitez kept insisting that it shouldn't be surprising that if the Senator had made his opposition to LGBT rights the number one issue of his political career, members of the LGBT community might feel hurt by his comments and actions. The way Benitez put it to Diaz was "You can't throw a stone and then hide your hands".
Vital: Yes - I wanted to make that rally so bad! But I was launching the first ever event for a group I run that same weekend and I couldn't change the dates. My partner and I stayed out in the streets for 24 hours and went homeless as an effort to raise money for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer New York City youth. It began on May 14th at 2pm and ended May 15th at 2pm. We were exhausted, soaked and dirty; however, it was a very humbling experience and I'm happy to have done it to raise awareness and money for a special homeless shelter!
Blabbeando: Your Tweet went out more than three weeks ago and yet, Senator Diaz continues to bring it up as an example of the threats he allegedly has been getting. Some national right-wing anti-gay organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage are just now picking up on it and are parroting whatever Senator Diaz is telling them about it. Should you be portrayed as the very face of intolerance and violence that the Senator and his allies are trying to pump up in an effort to portray themselves as victims?
Vital: I undoubtedly regret wording that Tweet as I did, and I obviously did not mean what I said, however, I wanted to put into perspective how Rev. Ruben Diaz would feel if his own child was involved in a homosexual act. I in no way meant that as a threat, but I did speak out of emotions rather than use my common sense- so for that I do apologize.
As for whether I should be the very face of intolerance? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I do not believe in violence, I believe that reason does not yell, and I believe that peaceful agreements go further than anything else. In any LGBTQ events that I have been a part of, it has been peaceful marches, as I stated prior, the homeless project, making and selling T-Shirts in an effort to raise money for homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth, so as you can see none of these are representative of "the face of intolerance and violence." In fact I am the complete opposite of what they are trying to portray, I am one to support and spread love to everyone, indiscriminately.
Blabbeando: Thanks so much, Vital, for letting me engage you in this conversation.
Does this justify the language and tone that some use against Diaz? Not at all, but it is understandable. I just wish sometimes that people could hold their breath for a second before posting something and realize that their words can be used to Diaz' advantage.
In this specific case, I wanted to write about Vital because I knew she was speaking in anger and that she never meant her tweet as a threat. I also appreciate that she was willing to talk to me about it because it provides an example of how our rightful anger at Diaz, if expressed badly, can have consequences.
And if anyone from the FBI or the Albany police is reading this, you are welcome! I've done the groundwork for you on this one. Case closed.
- Visit Vital's blog here