Thursday, April 26, 2012

Legendary singer Chavela Vargas celebrates Lesbian Visibility Day

Today, April 26th, several organizations throughout Latin America and Spain are observing the "Dia de Visibilidad Lésbica" or "Lesbian Visibility Day" and urging people to use the hashtag #HazteVisible ['make yourself visible'] to spread the word on Twitter.

At 92 years of age, legendary singer Chavela Vargas might be a surprising convert to Twitter but she has embraced the medium as a way to promote her concerts and records and communicate with her fans.

Vargas, who came out as a lesbian at the age of 81, took to Twitter today to join in the celebration. Posting this amazing recent image of herself she wrote "Orgullosa de ser como soy" ["Proud to be the way I am"] and "Levantemos la voz que no somos invsibles" ["Lets raise our voice since we are not invisible"].

Vargas is revered around the world for her contribution to music and has appeared in films such as Pedro Almodovar's "The Flower of My Secret" and Julie Tymor's "Frida".

Here is one of  Vargas, classics, "Paloma Negra":

  • Chavela Vargas' Wikipedia Page here
  • Chavela Vargas' Facebook Fan Page here

Monday, April 23, 2012

Argentina on the verge of adopting a far-reaching transgender rights law

Photo: Claudia Pia Baudracco, founding member of the Argentinean Travesti, Transexual and Transgender Association.

Taking the next step in becoming the most progressive Latin American nation on LGBT issues, Argentina is poised to adopt a far-reaching gender identity law that would grant transgender individuals the right to change their name and gender on their official identification records.  From ABS-CBN:
Pending in Congress since 2007, the bill hurdled Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies in December last year, with majority (167-17) voting in favor of it. It is now being debated in the Senate. If it becomes law, the bill is seen to benefit not only Argentina’s transsexuals or those who have had sex reassignment surgery.

Under the proposed measure, anyone who wants to change his or her gender and name no longer has to get a court order and comply with stringent requirements. He or she just has to go the Registro Naciona de las Personas (National Registry of Persons) with a request. Those below 18 have to get the consent of legal representatives, like parents and guardians.

The new gender and name will be used in one’s birth certificate, national identity card, and other government records.

The bill also requires government to subsidize the cost of surgery, hormone treatment, and other medical procedures for those who wish to have physical sex change.
As the article indicates, after passing the Chamber of Deputies by an overwhelming margin back in December, the bill was set to be introduced in the Senate last week.  Instead, it was side-tracked by emergency legislative action stemming from President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's decision last week to nationalize the YFP oil company from Spain.

AG Magazine says that they now expect the bill to reach the Argentinean Senate floor on May 2nd.

[Update (4/24/12): A Senate committee approved a draft of the bill that is identical to the one passed by the Chamber of Deputies.  The bill is expected to reach the Senate floor on May 9th and there are sufficient votes to insure its pasage, according to Parliamento. President Kirchner is expected to sign the bill into law once it reaches her desk.]

In the meantime, the team that produced this amazing transgender rights public service announcement for the Argentinean LGBT Federation (FALGBT) and the Argentinean Travesti, Transexual and Transgender Association (ATTTA) are back!  Director Juan Pablo Félix and Producer Matías Romero have launched this 2:30 minute spot featuring some of the leading advocates behind the push for the law.

Poignantly, it includes some of the last images captured of Claudia Pía Baudracco, a founding member of the Argentinean transgender rights movement who died of natural causes on March 18th at 42 years of age.

Baudracco always told her friends she dreamed to become the first transgender president of Argentina. She passed away before being able to see her ID reflect who she really was and before passage of a law in which she had such an integral part of making it a reality.

She leaves an impressive legacy and her spirit will undoubtedly be celebrated when the bill is signed into law.

Argentina became the first nation in Latin America to pass a comprehensive marriage equality law in 2010.

Related: Last week by a vote of 203 in favor, 0 against and 1 abstention the Argentinean Chamber of Deputies also approved a bill that would increase penalties for hate crimes committed based on “gender or sexual orientation, gender identity or its expression".  The bill now goes to the Senate as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

NYS Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. endorses "birther" presidential candidate

PHOTO (Screen Capture): NYS Democratic Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. reacting to former Dominican Republic president Hipólito Mejia's "birther" comments about U.S. President Barack Obama at a New York Hispanic Clergy Organization gathering on April 4th, 2012.

*** NOTE: A few updates at the bottom of this post ***

On May 20th citizens of the Dominican Republic will be going to the voting booths to elect their next president and hence, in early April, the two leading contenders made their way to New York to make their pitch to the city's sizable Dominican population.

Former Dominican president Hipólito Mejia, who is vying for a second chance on the presidential chair, was the only candidate to accept an invite by homophobic Democratic State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. to attend a gathering of his New York Hispanic Clergy Organization in the Bronx on April 4th.

The love fest got to an inauspicious start when Senator Diaz introduced Mejia using the name of his main opponent Danilo Medina to nervous laughter from attendees. He was quickly corrected and the meeting went ahead.

According to Diario Libre, Mejia said that his campaign was battling "Satanic elements" and argued that while the economic situation of the Caribbean island was dire, the greatest challenge it faced was a "moral crisis".

As attendants shouted "Llegó papá"*, Mejia stated that as president he would never allow gays to marry or weaken the island's strict anti-abortion laws.

This led, according to Primicias, to an endorsement by Diaz who championed Mejia's commitment to oppose marriage equality in the Dominican Republic and throughout the world (never mind that the Dominican constitution already bans recognition of marriages other than those between a man and a woman).

"We cannot walk around with warm diapers since Hipólito is the only one who has respected and maintained a well-defined and clear Christian mission and a platform that guarantees respect of Biblical and moral values that are part of our doctrine," said Diaz.

The event received little if any attention from local English-language media but was front-page news in the Dominican Republic. Since then, though, several videos of the event have surfaced on YouTube and one of them in particular has drawn intense criticism.

Racial politics in the Caribbean island can be a touchy issue and Mejia stepped right into it by making what seemed to be a throw-away remark about U.S. President Barack Obama:
If Obama who came from Africa and grew up over there can become the President, why can't any of you reach as high considering you have a more amusing [ethnic] mix than Obama's?
Mejia's embrace of the so-called "birther" fallacy of those who refuse to acknowledge or believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States drew immediate condemnation in the island all across the political landscape. And what, pray tell, does Mejia mean by referring to others in the room as having a "more amusing [ethnic] mix than Obama's"?

Once the videos surfaced, the reaction was swift. On April 12th, 31 of the 32 members of the Dominican Republic Senate signed an official apology to the President of the United States and called Mejia's statements about Obama "unfortunate" and "offensive".  The only Dominican Senator who voted against the measure was a member of the Christian Social Reform Party.

According to reports, some of the other NYC political leaders at the event were NYS Senator Adriano Espaillat, NYC Councilmembers Ydanis Rodriguez and Fernando Rodriguez and NYS Assemblymembers Guillermo Linares, Nelson Castro and Marcos Crespo.

A couple of those who were said to attend the meeting are long-time Diaz allies but it is disappointing to see others Latino politicians who are progressive on LGBT isues at the event.

So far I am not aware of a single statement from them denouncing the homophobic tenor of the even nor Mejia's "birtherism".

As for Diaz, apparently he has admitted Mejia might have put his foot in his mouth but alleges that the comments were taken out of context.

Looking at an excerpt of the video, though, you'll find it hard to see any indication that Diaz thought there was anything wrong with Mejia's statement. 

* Yes, "Llegó papá" as in "Daddy's arrived!" which is the campaign's theme as well as Mejia's Twitter profile name.


---> April 19th: NYS Senator Adriano Espaillat, one of the elected officials present at the event, has distanced himself from Mejia's comments. His spokesman, Ibrahim Khan, released the following statement to The Politicker:
There’s simply no place in politics for this kind of a remark. Senator Espaillat strongly objects to such language. As an Obama delegate in the upcoming Democratic Convention, Senator Espaillat looks forward to campaigning for President Obama and helping him get reelected.
---> April 19th: The Dominican Republic's National Progressive Force party has released an attack ad against Mejia accusing him of shaming the nation on foreign soil and slamming him for being "racist, uneducated and irresponsible". The ad is currently running on all the national commercial television networks.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Count us in: A Latin American call to include LGBT individuals in the census

In the United States, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has led efforts to push the government to adopt changes to the national census in ways that better reflect the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities through its "Queer the Census" project.

A U.S. House of Representatives panel took up the issue back in March but it still seems like an uphill battle ("House panel hears about adding LGBT to census survey", The Bay Area Reporter, March 15, 2012).  The idea is that with better data about who we are as a community, government will be able to provide better services.

It's a battle being fought in other parts of the American continent as well.  This might not be a comprehensive listing but it's a sample of similar efforts taking place throughout Latin America.
Which brings us to Chile.

The Homosexual Liberation Movement (MOVILH) has worked closely with the current center-right Chilean government of Sebastian Piñera to improve the way the Chilean census reflects the reality of the LGBT community. Although not as progressive as the census changes in Bolivia and Argentina, in 2011 the Chilean government announced that it would survey the number of same-sex partnerships in the country.

Today, the MOVILH launched a national campaign urging same-sex couples to register as such in the 2012 census under the theme of "Acknowledge the other half of your orange" ("Tu media naranja" or "Your half orange" is a common term of endearment used in Latin America to refer to one's partner).

The campaign includes a stand alone interactive site and an amazing Census 2012 video which I have taken the liberty of translating. 

Here it is in full: