Monday, February 04, 2013

Latin American online LGBT media pioneer Gabriel Oviedo has died

SentidoG: Gabriel Oviedo, the founder and chief editor of the online LGBT news site SentidoG, has passed away in Buenos Aires at the age of 38.  Oviedo had been hospitalized since December from undisclosed "health complications" and died Thursday night according to a statement posted on the website.

Since its initial launch at the end of 2001, SentidoG became a go to source for Spanish-language international LGBT news and quickly gained a readership well beyond the Argentine borders.

Last year SentidoG was officially designated by the Buenos Aires City Council as a "Social Site of Interest" and Oviedo received honors "for his journalistic work and for his commitment to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans issues; as well as the dissemination of content that promoted rights for all and strengthened the fight against discrimination".

Cesar Cigliutti and other members of the Argentine Homosexual Community (CHA) who worked closely with Oviedo over the years and accompanied him on that special occasion released a brief statement mourning his loss and championing his work on behalf of the LGBT community.

The Argentine LGBT Federation (FALGBT), who are sometimes at odds with the CHA, also released their own statement.  "Gabriel's passing is an important loss for the movement, particularly for the drive and effort that led to the launch of one of the most important LGBT news portals in the world," said FALGBT president Esteban Paulón.

Controversy: In past years, Oviedo and SentidoG were not immune to controversy. While most of the site's content is original, Oviedo sometimes would post copyrighted content from other sites including material from the The Bilerico Project in the United States.

SentidoG's lax copyright policies led to confrontations with a rival Argentine LGBT news site called AG Magazine which broke out into the open in 2008 when their director Martín Peretti Sciolli accused Oviedo of stealing their material and their design.

The rough patch between both online publications seemed to have disappeared four years later when AG Magazine publicly congratulated Oviedo on SentidoG's and their 10th anniversary.

In his own words: During the decade that Oviedo spent at the helm of SentidoG, Argentina went from approving same-sex civil unions in 2002, to approving marriage equality in 2010 to passing the most progressive gender identity law in the world in 2012.

Last June he sat down with editors of the weekly Página/12 LGBT news supplement "Soy"and spoke of those ten years.

Oviedo said that SentidoG began as an online radio station with the idea of providing support for the civil union bill which was still in its infancy at the time and that it soon grew into something else.

He took the U.S. publication The Advocate as a reference and launched SentidoG. There were other sites such as in Spanish and the monthly Argentine publication NX but he felt there was a need for a news site that provided content updated on a daily basis. "Today any jerk can launch a blog and believe it's a news network," he said.

Oviedo said that over the years he'd begun to characterize SentidoG's coverage as being queer rather than LGBT and argued he tried to stay away from the overt consumerist angle of other LGBT publications but admitted that what usually drew the most readers was sex and eroticism which is why they sometimes featured features such as "The Gods of Rugby".

A year earlier Oviedo had also sat down with Verónica Dema of La Nación who interviewed him for a blog she runs on LGBT issues called Boquitas Pintadas.  Dema asked Oviedo to share the high point and low point of his run at SentidoG, and she caught his response on camera:

The high point - Passage of the marriage equality law in 2010:
The story that was the most beautiful to me - because I lived through it while being there - was the passage of the marriage equality law.  I was outside [congress] in one of the tarps at the same instant the vote came in and it was a truly emotional moment. We truly crossed over to being legally recognized and it felt as if we had stepped out of the closet completely.
The low point - Having to report on hate crimes against the LGBT community:
It is always sad and it always saddens me when I have to report a hate crime - directly or indirectly. Directly when a hate crime takes actually place or indirectly when the State has exclusionary policies that lead some to commit suicide; that's a hate crime by omission. And Argentina has experienced tremendous change - particularly since last year. But when one stops to think - and I've discussed this with my friends - that only thirty years have passed since we went through an extremely bloody military coup in which people were taken away for - four hundred people were disappeared simply due to their sexual orientation - to think that twenty years after the coup ended you saw the passage of a marriage equality bill! For those people who survived it was truly an incredible story.
In a few words, that summarizes the improbable and moving path to equality for the Argentine LGBT community: From a repressive and bloody dictatorship to marriage equality and beyond.

When news broke of Oviedo's passing on Twitter last week, the response might have even surprised him.

From Argentina came reactions from SentidoG, CHA, FALGBT, AG Magazine, Peek G and renown journalist Osvaldo Bazan...
From the International LGBTI Association (ILGA) and All Out...
From Spain the online LGBT news site Dos Manzanas, the LGBT Statewide Federation (FALGBT) and FALGBT member Toni Poveda....
From Mexico, condolences from CODICE, Foro No Heterosexual, trans rights activists Patty Betancourt and Código Diverso producer Gabriel Gutierrez Garcia...
From Chile, the online lesbian magazine Rompiendo el Silencio...
From Ecuador, Proyecto Transgénero...
From Paraguay, SomosGay and LGBT rights activist Simón Cazal...
From the United States, trans rights activist Veronica Onassis...
And the reactions continue. A true testament to Gabriel's work and how far it reached.

As for the highlight of his journalist career, here is a video of the reaction outside congress when the marriage equality law passed.

Everyone breaks out into chants of "Equality! Equality! Equality!"

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