Monday, May 31, 2010

Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo backs marriage rights for gay couples

As soccer fans around the world get ready for the FIFA World Cup, which begins in South Africa on June 11th, the sports pages of newspapers worldwide are doing their usual job of ratcheting up expectation by profiling participating team rosters and team members.

Portugal's Púbilico is no different than other papers and yesterday they featured an interview with Portuguese-born Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured above), in which he made worldwide headlines by expressing discontent and frustration about his first six months as a player for Spain's Real Madrid.

In the same interview, Ronaldo was also asked whether he followed developments in Portugal including the recent approval of a law that allows same-sex couples to get married.  His response:
The Portuguese man that I am, I try to keep informed about what is happening in my country.  I know the law was passed and the comment it deserves is that we must respect the choices made by anyone, because, after all, all citizens should have the exact same rights and responsibilities.
This is a breath of fresh air coming from one of the top players in a sport not particularly known for its tolerance or respect towards gays.

Wasn't it just earlier in the month that I covered the latest homophobic flare-up in the soccer world?  In that instance, as it often does, media was only happy to fan the flames by gleefully questioning whether this image proved that two Barcelona CF teammates were gay.

An update: Back then, I described how one of the players in the image, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, had angrily reacted to questions about his sexuality by lashing out at a female reporter and asking her to come home with him so he could prove he wasn't a 'fag'.

Since then, the other player in the image has also addressed the controversy.  In an interview posted on May 24th, Gerard Piqué (pictured right) says that the image in question was actually taken in March after both players had left a press conference in which Piqué had presented his published auto-biography.  Piqué believes that the image was held for days and only released at a later date in order to shake the team's stability during the season's final games.

Piqué doesn't directly address Ibrahamovic's angry outburst but does say that, at least at the time the image was released, both players took it in stride. "We saw it on the television in the dressing room," he said, "and we were both cracking up in laughter."


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Argentina: Catholic priest backs marriage rights for same-sex couples

A Roman Catholic priest from the city of Mendoza in Argentina, who has a weekly segment on local television on issues related to religion, has used his televised spot to back marriage rights for same-sex couples.

On Sunday, May 9th, Reverend Vicente Reale began his segment by telling viewers that the topic at hand was something he felt almost forced to address considering all the questions raised around the country on the issue of same-sex marriage (Argentina's House of Deputies passed a marriage equality bill on the early morning of May 5th, it is expected that the Senate will take up debate of the bill in July; President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has vowed to sign the bill into law if the Senate approves it, which would make Argentina the first country in Latin America to approve same-sex marriage).

He first spoke about having lesbian and gay friends and vouchered for our humanity.  He then said that many of us lived as couples and, as such, he had no problem with the recognition of our partnerships "because it is now a fact, and it's a fact that cannot be hidden."

He then mentioned that, while he had his own Christian convictions, he did not want to impose them on everyone. He argued that the marriage bill that made its way through the House and is now headed to the Senate was a "civil" law that would regulate something that already existed in civil society and that the law would "allow" same-sex partnerships, not "force" them upon everyone.

Finally, he said that the only "problem" he had with the law was the language allowing gays to adopt children but then clarified himself and said that it was a "question" he had based on not having seen any studies on the impact of child-rearing by gay couples.

Reverend Reale's comments drew an immediate repudiation from the leader of the Archdioceses of Mendoza, Marcelo de Benedictis, who, in true doublespeak, said that everyone had a right to their opinions but quickly reminded Rev. Reale that it was imperative that he "defend the beliefs of the Church".

Below, a YouTube video I've uploaded and annotated with my own translation as well as a full transcript of the Reverend's televised commentary...

Reverend Vicente Reale: Good day, friends, good week - truly - for everyone. Obviously my commentary today is almost a requirement considering the many questions that you, I, and so many people have raised regarding the partial backing given to the law between homosexual partners.A few tiny points, because this requires a longer conversation, but a few points I want to leave as my opinion and, perhaps, it will be helpful in eliciting some reflection.

First: I have many homosexual male and female friends with whom I enjoy a friendship and they are truly great people work-wise and human-wise. As a result, in that sense, I do not have any problems with accepting them in my life or in the general society. I also have no problem in the sense that they be recognized - because it is already a fact, and it's a fact that cannot be hidden - that they can live together - because they, in fact, already live together - but that it be recognized as, let's say, as a right, that a law recognizes them as such, and I'm talking about homosexual unions up to this point, I do not have any problems.

I do have, of course, a Christian conviction as many others will have other "x" religious, ethic or moral convictions, which, let's say, it seems to me that the issue should be framed in another way, but I respect that this exists and I respect that they have the rights. I say once again, this seems important to me, I don't want to impose my own on everyone else, particularly because here we have the issue of civil society on the table, a civil society in which we live, plus the difference of many years or centuries ago, it's a pluralist society, with many options, with many opinions. There are things that happen which we could like or not like, but that at some point we have to engage them and say 'what can we do about this'. Eh?

And so, civil society and civil authority, I believe, have to legislate. And then the believer might say 'No, this is something I won't do' because these are not laws - just like the civil divorce law - these are not imposed laws, these are laws that allow something, that 'allow', not that 'force' something, eh? Hence, he who says 'I'm not with this', well, don't do it! There is no third-party damage, let's put it that way, eh? So - civil society regulates this and gives the option. Up to this point I, sincerely, don't have any problem.

The only problem I have with what has been included with this law, it is the possibility to adopt. I say 'problem' but, in reality, I should say 'great question'. Great question. I say it sincerely, because I don't know what might happen. You will say there are heterosexual families or heterosexual parents who use their children disastrously, it's true. But it's not the majority. Eh?

I say, I don't know if it has been studied in depth by the specialists, I am not a specialist on this, pediatric psychology, pediatric education, the views of society towards those children, those children's views towards society, in sociology, in so many topics having to do with the human being - if we have done an in-depth study of the repercussions that the topic of adoption will have. I say, if we have studied it, it appears to me that we haven't studied it as much. Because, for example, France has spent 12 years studying the issue and it has yet to resolve it. And I believe that here [in Argentina], just like that, we have added it on at the end of the bill, just to ad it on. I believe, I sincerely believe that this one point, which raises a lot of questions for me personally, is the one that should be debated longer, eh?

As for equal rights for homosexuals, there is no doubt! The one, the only big question I have is the issue of adoption. But I say a 'question'. It would be important to be able to debate or talk about it with panelists in depth.

The last thing I want to say. People are talking, with very good reason, about equal rights. But take a look at how many equal rights are written into our constitution and our laws which aren't followed, which aren't followed. The constitution says 'housing for everyone', does everyone have housing? no. The constitution says 'respectful employment for everyone', does everyone have 'respectful employment'? No. The constitution says, eh, 'shared and just salary for workers, outright', does that exist? Partly, yes, partly, no. And so many other things that could be mentioned, which, in the end, are written laws, not reality, not reality, which then bring us the tail-end of the consequences we are now suffering when it comes to poverty, drug addiction, crime, etc. And then we all pull our hairs out. Why don't we also start to obey those rights.  I don't deny those of homosexuals. But there are others which we have kept hidden and nobody talks about them. No?

OK, this was my opinion and my commentary. I am sure you can be in agreement or disagreement. But I wanted to tell you what I thought about this. Thanks, and thank you, and until next week.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Paquita La Del Barrio's US tour and her thoughts on Ricky Martin

No, that's not Paquita La Del Barrio in the video. It's takopez28 on Youtube interpreting one of the Mexican legend's newest singles, "Chiquito" ["Tiny"]. Lyrics:
Now that I spent time with you / poor vain little macho / I already saw you in underwear and was able to discover
that in reality you have nothing / but nothing of nothing / nothing to boast about
now that you can tell me / if what my eyes saw / it only made me laugh
I expected a couple of arms / muscular and strong / and they ended up being tiny bones
I expected such a strong body / just like that of an endowed athlete's / and it ended up being like a chicken's tiny neck
You have a tiny foot / you have tiny eyes / you have a tiny heel / in the end, everything tiny!
Are you listening to me, worthless man? / Nature was so ungrateful with you! ...and it goes from there.
With lyrics like that you might understand why Paquita La Del Barrio's songs were and are so popular at Latino gay bars and among Latino drag-queen performers.

But among English-speaking gays in the United States, her name might not be recognized for her songs but, instead, for saying back in March she preferred if a child died rather than see a gay couple adopt the orphan even if she was OK with gays getting married (video).

As you would expect, her comments briefly lit up the gay blogospehere here in the United States as well as the gossip shows on Spanish-language television.  Drag queens from the Atlantis gay bar in Queens, New York, even took off their Paquita wigs and trampled on them, refusing to ever sing another Paquita song.

Within days, Paquita announced that she would perform and appear at a gay bar in Mexico owned by one of her personal friends and would hold a press conference to apologize to her gay fans.  That apology amounted to the singer reiterating her love for her gay fans, a statement that she never meant to hurt them, comments that she'd been so hurt by the outrage she'd thought about committing suicide, but not a word about taking back what she said about preferring that children die rather than they be adopted by gays (in another interview she simply said that it's what she was brought up to believe).

As scandals do, I'm not sure the "apology" did anything to change anyone's mind about her initial comments, but it quickly receded from media.  The latest flare-up was on May 5th when Paquita appeared on Azteca America and begged media to leave her alone.

New United States tour: I was surprised, though, when I found out on that same date that Paquita would be embarking in a new mini-tour through the United States along with Mexican singer Jenni Rivera, another darling of Latino gay bars in the United States and, as far as I can tell, pretty gay friendly as well.

It's not a huge tour, but singers like Paquita do depend on income they can get from venues in the United States.  It actually got underway last night at Hidalgo Texas, and hits another six venues through June 26th (San Antonio, El Paso and Houston in Texas, Rosemont in Illinois and Denver in Colorado).

Ricky Martin: Of course, between Paquita's initial comments about gays adopting children, someone famously known for adopting two kids on his own, has come out as being gay. I'm talking, of course, about Ricky Martin.  And, considering she has yet to directly apologize for her comments on adoption, you might think Paquita would want Ricky Martin's sons dead.

Well, you'd be wrong. Maybe.

She doesn't say so directly but it turns out Paquita is glad Ricky Martin came out. And I am quoting:
Thank God Ricky Martin came out of the closet, if that makes him happier, since people should seek what gives peace to their soul. Perhaps he felt there was something to feel ashamed about, although, in reality, he should not have felt badly. I've said it, people have to try to be happy and be at peace. That's what I try to do with my music.
Hm, OK. that quote still comes across as uncomfortable when it comes to gay issues but is it a step in the right direction?  As for her comments about adoption, she still continues to use one of her previous excuses: That it was a bad gossip journalist who ambushed her and that she was caught "unprepared". Uh-huh. It had nothing to do with the connection between her brain's synapses and her mouth at all.

Still a long way to go, Paquita. A long way to go.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fuck you, AIDS

The Summit International Awards, an international agency based in Portland which recognizes "companies and individuals that produce outstanding marketing, advertising, design and interactive communications" has just announced their 2010 roster of Summit Creative Awards winners and, among them, is two mentions for an HIV prevention campaign developed by the Coordinadora Gai Lesbiana de Catalunya (CGL) from Spain.

Dos Manzanas reports that the awards are seen as the Oscars of the advertising world. They also reached out to Antonio Guirado, Coordinator of the CGL, who said:
It is an unexpected honor to have received this double award, in competition with designs from 24 countries from the whole worlf and authors of great stature.  We dedicate this double award to all the volunteers who fight against HIV/AIDS, as well as those who have been taken by this illness.
The advertising agency who designed the print and video campaign is Barcelona's Suigeneris.  The video posted below begins with the words:
To you, who has fucked us during so many years, who CRUSH us all, young people, older people, women, men, heterosexuals and homosexuals.  To you, ABOMINABLE being... we say...
You'll probably get the rest...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sudden justice in the murder of Jorge Steven López Mercado

It's not a moment to rejoice. Jorge Steven López Mercado's life was taken way in the most brutal of ways for being gay.  But when news reached this morning me that Juan José Martínez Matos had pleaded guilty for his murder and that a Puerto Rican judge had sentenced him to 99 years in prison, I couldn't think about anything but the image above.

It's Jorge Steven's mom, Myriam Mercado, and my friend Pedro Julio Serrano doing the 'Spock-hand-over-the-eye' thingie that was Jorge Steven's signature pose when he was alive (see image below). Pedro Julio, who works at the NYC office of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, had traveled to Puerto Rico after hearing about the horrible crime and quickly gained the family's trust and confidence as he advised them how to navigate issues related to Jorge Steven's murder.

My friend and journalist Mike Lavers, who has done an amazing job of following the developments in the case, was the first person to run an English-language report on this morning's guilty plea. From his EDGE article:
Juan José Martínez Matos, who had been scheduled to go on trial for Jorge Steven López Mercado’s death on Monday, May 17, confessed to the crime during a hearing in Caguas on Wednesday, May 12.

Martínez told the court he understood the consequences of his actions, and Judge Miriam Camila Jusino immediately sentenced him to 99 years in prison.

Primera Hora reported López’s parents, Myriam Mercado and Jorge López, hugged prosecutor Yaritza Carrasquillo after the hearing. Mercado told the newspaper, however, Martínez’s confession was bittersweet for her and her family.

"We are able to find a bit of peace in this aspect, but it still not going to return Steven," she said. "But at least there is justice in Puerto Rico."
Tonight the Associated Press posted the following (via The Miami Herald's Steve Rothaus):
A man accused of decapitating a gay teenager and burning his body pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Wednesday and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

The case had gained national attention because activists demanded that U.S. authorities prosecute it as a hate crime, with supporters holding vigils in a dozen cities including New York and Los Angeles.

Police said Juan Martinez Matos, 26, told them he hated homosexuals but that he had offered the victim cocaine in exchange for sex.

The body of 19-year-old college student Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado was found in November along a rural road in the southeastern mountain town of Cayey. Lopez was well known as a volunteer for organizations advocating HIV prevention and gay rights.
The Task Force also released a statement this evening quoting Pedro Julio:
This was a brutal crime, and today's developments have been very emotional for Jorge Steven's family and friends, as well as to the entire lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Puerto Rico. While the guilty plea and sentencing bring some closure, these wounds will never heal for those who knew and loved Jorge Steven.

Yet, despite how heart-wrenching this has all been, Jorge Steven's family has been so loving and strong; they have been and continue to be a symbol of love conquering hate. This has inspired me and so many others in our work to keep this from happening again.
I was always amazed at how Jorge Steven's murder drew such a huge response. From singer Ricky Martin's plea for acceptance, months before he came out, to the protests that happened, mostly through Facebook, in cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Queer bloggers in the United States also had a big role in responding to the murder and asking for justice.  Tonight, a few are also responding to the day's news including Towleroad, Joe.My.God., Queerty, and Rod2.0.

The most moving response tonight? That of Jorge Steven's parents as they left the court today...

Some people who have left comments on other blogs have taken an issue with Jorge Steven's father and his words of forgiveness towards his son's murderer, particularly as he frames forgiveness in pure religious terms.  Some say that someone who did what they did to Jorge Steven does not deserve forgiveness while others see, in his words, a veiled rejection of his son's gayness (he talks, after all, about all of us being sinners and making "mistakes" for which only God can forgive us).

Not being a religious person myself, I just see a man who is deeply religious, yes, but who obviously also loved his son deeply. A man who is trying to come to terms with the fact that he is gone. And a man, who, despite what others may say, is still standing next to his wife and family in demanding justice for his son. I wonder if he was truly aware that his son was gay before Jorge Steven died or if he was forced to confront his son's sexuality only after the news of his murder appeared on television.

Ms. Mercado, on the other hand, has spoken publicly in the past of knowing her son was gay and letting Jorge Steven know that her love was unconditional, regardless of his sexuality.  You might remember this amazing video from November, days after her son was murdered, thanking people worldwide for their support in such difficult times.

I remember crying when I first saw this.  I was in awe of Ms. Mercado. At a time when anger moved so many people to organize protests worldwide demanding justice for her son, here was his mom appealing to our better angels, as they say (in some way, now that I think of it, it is a similar message to that of Jorge Steven's father, without the religious connotations).

And now there is a guilty plea and a sentence of 99 years in jail. And, best of all, no trial.  As someone who has lost friends to homophobic violence, I know how tough the trial process can be on family members of those who are murdered and, in this case, Jorge Steven's family will not have to endure any defense attorney arguments claiming that their client was insane when he killed Jorge Steven, or that he panicked when he found out he was gay, or, worse still, try to blame Jorge Steven for what happened to him.

It must have been such a bitter-sweet day for Jorge Steven's family. A plea, a quick sentence and this stage of the process was suddenly over.  But now a need to move on and deal with the fact that Jorge Steven is still gone.  My love goes to them.

One last thought tonight: The brutality of Jorge Steven's murder has always held parallels, in my mind, with the murder of Rashawn Brazell in Brooklyn on February of 2005.  As in Jorge Steven's case, Rashawn's body was found dismembered.  And, as in Jorge Steven's case, the strongest voice out there asking for justice is Rashawn's mom, Desiré. That murder, unlike the murder of Jorge Steven, remains unresolved. And Desiré remains in my thoughts tonight even as I am glad that there was justice today when it comes to Jorge Steven.

Additional info...  Calle 13 singer René Perez and Denise Quiñones, Miss Universe 2001, at the vigil that took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Nov. 25th, 2009...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sean Penn will go to Cuba to talk about his role in "Milk", just not next week

Late word tonight is that actor Sean Penn has agreed to travel to Cuba to discuss his role as gay icon Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sandt's Oscar-winning "Milk", but not necessarily in time for a May 18th screening of the film in Havana which will close the third annual government-sponsored observance of the "International Day Against Homophobia".

Penn himself remains mum on the subject but Mariela Castro Espín, Director of the Cuban National Center for Sexual Education, daughter of Cuban president Raul Castro, lead organizer of the summit, and the person who extended the original invite to Penn, was quoted today by the AFP as saying that Penn was otherwise occupied with a humanitarian effort to assist people affected by the recent catastrophic earthquake in Haiti (we knew that) and was also under contract to return to the United States and join a previously scheduled film shoot running through the May 18th screening (we didn't know that).

Castro Espín vowed to hold a follow-up screening and debate of the film in two months or so, whenever Penn is able to travel to the island to discuss his award-winning role.

As I said, no word from Penn as of yet.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Sean Penn receives official invite to Cuba's annual "Day Against Homophobia" cultural summit

[UPDATE: Sean Penn will go to Cuba, just not next week (May 11, 2010)].

A week from now or so, several countries around the world will be officially and unofficially observing the annual "International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia" (IDAHO).

The events, loosely coordinated through a French website are the brainchild of French academic figure Louis-Georges Tin, who launched the IDAHO idea in 2004.

This year, the IDAHO committee has made a call for participating organizations to hold a "Great Global Kiss-In". Participants are being encouraged to call for a public gathering at a national or local monument, urge poeple to carry the flag of their country, wear clothing that represents their nation, hold a public kiss-in and tape it and then upload it at the Global Kiss-In page.

So far, 36 localities are listed on the page, including some in the United States (Atlanta, Austin, Birmingham, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco at the Harvey Milk Plaza, and St. Louis).

The Latin American countries listed so far are Colombia, and Peru.

Not listed in the kiss-in page but holding their third annual week-long "Day Against Homophobia" cultural summit will be Cuba, under the auspices of the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) and it's director Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of current Cuban leader Raúl Castro.

The final version of the official program, which describes an array of events taking place in Havana from May 11th through the 18th, includes educational workshops and panels (one event will bring together pro-LGBT religious organizations), concerts (including an event called "Rockers Against Homophobia"), receptions (a mother's day themed event is limited to providing a space for transgender people and their moms), photo and art exhibits.

There will also be an incredible number of LGBT-themed television and film screenings including Germany's "Aimée and Jaguar", India's "Fire", Argentina's "XXY", Great Britain's "Kinky Boots", Taiwan's "Beautiful Boxer", Rainer Werner Fassbinder's "Querelle" and Cuba's "Where Forgetfulness Does Not Live".  Cuba has certainly come a long way since it wouldn't even allow it's own "Strawberries and Chocolate" to be shown in local theaters.

The United States is also represented by the 2003 TV movie "Soldier's Girl" the 2001 documentary "De Colores: Lesbian and gay Latinos", 2002's "Unconditional Love" with Kathy Bates, and, perhaps most surprisingly, an episode from the 4th season of "Grey's Anatomy" titled "The Becoming" which features this storyline.

What is not surprising is that Gus Van Sandt's "Milk" will also be screened. In March of 2009, CENESEX announced that a screening of the film would be a key component in a new CENESEX initiative against homophobia and at this year's cultural summit it will be screened once again to close the week-long event.  A panel discussion will also follow.

At a press conference held on Wednesday to announce details of the summit, Mariela Castro said that she had sent a special invite to Sean Penn, the American actor who plays the role of Harvey Milk in the film, to attend the screening.

"We've sent him a message to Haiti to see if he sees it fit to come on the day we screen his movie to debate it," said Castro (Sean Penn has spent the month in Haiti helping people affected by the recent catastrophic earthquake).

Controversy: In 2008, Penn came under criticism for hanging out with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Raul Castro (before he became the island's president) for an "investigative report" for The Nation and The Huffington Post.  It wasn't the first time he'd visited with Chavez (their first meeting came in 2006) and he'd also met Cuba's then president Fidel Castro on an earlier trip to Cuba.

The week "Milk" premiered in the United States was the same week The Nation published the Sean Penn piece in 2008 and it drew a particularly myopic attack from the gay right in the United States in the form of an essay published in The Advocate authored by James Kirchick ("Sean Penn's Blind Spot").  At the time, I didn't necessarily disagree that Sean Penn should have been criticized (at the time I wrote "I have little patience for Hollywood actors going on 'fact finding trips' to countries like Venezuela and Cuba when it's obvious that the access they get to the upper echelons of power is due to their political leanings and their fame") but in Kirchick's diatribe he ignored the fact that on LGBT issues there had been a sea-change when it comes to Cuba (Kirchick, to give you an idea of where he was coming from, also went to endorse John McCain in the last presidential election).

But, then again, when it comes to LGBT issues in Cuba, things remain far from perfect and there is reason to believe that the rights of LGBT political dissenters in the island are still being curtailed,  That's why I also thought that Cleve Jones' defense of Sean Penn, also on the pages of The Advocate, was a bit naive as well.

I would actually love to see Sean Penn be able to make it to the "Milk" screening in Havana on May 18th.  I might not agree with his political views or stands but it would shine a light on some of the more positive developments when it comes to LGBT rights in Cuba in recent years.  If he does show up, I'll give you the update when it comes.

Extra fact: Radio Guantanamo, broadcasting from Cuba, reports that Guantanamo will also join Havana in observing an international response against homophobia. Activities include screenings of movies like the United States films "Quinceañera" and "Gods and Monsters" and a special gala on May 17th to celebrate the "International Day Against Homophobia".  The events are sponsored by CENESEX.

Marriage equality in Cuba: A reader has also tipped me to the following YouTube video from a show that was broadcast on Venezuelan television on May 6th (its the 1st of 6 clips from the show). Venezuela, following Cuba's example, is launching their own version of a government-sponsored series of cultural events this coming week around the IDAHO theme. The invited guests are Mariela Castro Espin and Gabriela Ramirez, the Venezuelan government's ombudsperson. 

I won't translate the whole thing but, early in the clip, at the :57 second mark, Castro says the following:
...and there we are indeed proposing, within the Family Code, for the establishment of, the recognition of legal unions, we don't say 'marriage' because it would create a lot of controversy, we'll leave that category to the heterosexual world, and we are proposing another category, which would be marriage between people of the same sex, and that their right to adopt is also recognized...

Homophobia in soccer, part 76: Really, you don't have to prove your heterosexuality THAT way

What do you see in the photo to the right? A private moment between two men. Hands entwined, sadness on the face of the dark-haired man, concern shown by the other man. Two lovers? A scene from the Argentinean 'soccer-players-in-love' television soap opera "Botineras"?  Close, but not quite.

I wasn't going to blog about this. I really wasn't. But then one of the men in the photo had to open his mouth and say something stupid and homophobic about the picture and, well, reluctantly. I knew I had to write something about it.

The two men in question are Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gerard Piqué.  They are teammates at the world-famous Barcelona C.F. soccer team from Spain. And, unless you live in the United States, you probably would not have been able to escape this image or all the random conjecture about the soccer players' sexuality.

Considering the media whirlwind that followed, I certainly understood why they were trying to keep silent.  Thursday, though, a female reporter from Spain's Telecinco caught up to Ibrahimovic - the dark-haired guy - and asked what he thought of the photo. The soccer player simply replied "Come to my house and you will see if I'm a fag, and bring your sister as well".


It would have been so easy for him to laugh off the suggestion he is gay. Or to challenge media and their homophobic reactions as they gleefully played up that two soccer players from the Barcelona team might be gay lovers. Instead, Ibrahimovic lashes out at the reporter, uses a pejorative word to talk about gays and, in anger, offers to fuck the reporter and her sister to 'prove' he's not gay.

THAT'S why I decided to write about this incident after all. No, I still don't think that the photo above proves anything about either man's sexuality. But Ibrahimovic's reaction certainly proves that he is thin-skinned, homophobic, misogynistic and an asshole, to boot.

Or, in other words, welcome to yet one more example of the rabid homophobia that still exists in soccer.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Guest post: The link between Prop. 8 and Arizona's anti-immigrant law

The link between Prop. 8 and Arizona's anti-immigrant law
by Dan Torres

The Arizona legislature recently passed and revised SB 1070, the so-called “papers please” anti-immigrant bill many believe will result in racial profiling. As a gay Latino man who comes from an immigrant family, I see a clear link between this measure and anti-gay marriage laws such as Proposition 8. Both laws make their victims feel marginalized and send a message that they do not deserve to be treated equally under the law. Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) people know what it’s like to be on the wrong side of laws like SB 1070 or Proposition 8.

Many of us, who fit into one or more minority communities, know all too well how it feels to be stripped of our legal protections and fundamental rights. Last year, Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer, the same one who signed into law SB 1070, repealed benefits for LGBT domestic partners, further undermining the economic and emotional security of LGBT families. The LGBT community understands the threat when our leaders tell us that our families do not count. We know the pain caused by the government refusing to treat us equally. Accordingly, we should stand against SB 1070.

Arizona’s SB 1070 and California’s Proposition 8 are personal attacks because they deny our common humanity. SB 1070, which was passed ostensibly to allow the state police to more easily enforce federal immigration law, in reality it is a law that encourages racial profiling of Latinos. Even though the state made revisions to the law late last week restricting the use of race or ethnicity as a basis to question people, it nonetheless added provisions that allow the police to ask people about immigration status for violations of local ordinances. The original language of SB 1070 and subsequent revisions make clear that the law gives local police pretext or “cover” to engage in racial profiling. This is further made clear by the fact that the revision occurred only a week after Arizona lawmakers were publicly criticized for passing such a blatantly racist law. No one should be fooled by the recent cosmetic attempt to hide the clear intent of SB 1070, which is to target immigrants, many of whom are Latino and many of whom are LGBT.

The common denominator in SB 1070 and Proposition 8 is bigotry. These laws strip human beings of dignity. The indignity my husband and I feel when our marriage is not recognized by the federal government is no less painful than when my family gets harassed or pulled over for “driving while brown.” These are not minor inconveniences but rather a systematic erosion of our human rights and liberties. More and more lately we see government’s successful attempts to chip away at our fundamental right to be treated equally. With other states now wanting to follow Arizona’s lead, we cannot afford to ignore what is happening.

Immigration is an LGBT issue in that our broken immigration system affects hundreds of thousands of LGBT newcomers who have no path to citizenship and must live in the indignity and shame of the shadows. As gay people, we understand the harm of forced invisibility on our community. SB 1070 and Proposition 8 are attempts to push already marginalized people back into the closet and slam the door shut! Arizona’s law was passed in the absence of sane, effective and fair comprehensive immigration reform. Washington must act now to fix this country’s immigration system and stop the divisiveness that is driving a wedge between communities. America needs immigration reform that moves our country forward together and upholds our nation’s values of opportunity, fairness and justice, values every LGBT person holds dear. It is time to stand up, support the legal and political challenges to SB 1070 and condemn efforts to emulate it.

In a similar vein, we must remain vigilant and unified in our responses to the various and heinous attacks on our human rights. For an attack on the Latino immigrant community is no different from an attack on the LGBT community, or people of color, or people of faith, or who ever is next on the “hit list.” It is time we recognize our common struggles and work together to defend everyone from laws or policies rooted in bigotry.

Dan Torres is a staff attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and works at the intersection of LGBT and immigration advocacy to facilitate dialogue and mutual support between the traditional LGBT movement and immigrant communities.  This work has synergistic impact of furthering the rights of both LGBT and immigrant communities and, particularly, LGBT immigrants.   ILRC provides technical support to advocates working with LGBT clients who have fled persecution abroad, have been victims of crimes or are LGBT immigrant youth placed in foster care in the United States.  Through the ILRC’s civic engagement efforts, Dan worked with LGBT immigrants to be counted in Census 2010, coordinated dialogues with local and state public officials on education discrimination issues impacting LGBT students, and continues to organize around marriage equality.

Before joining the ILRC, Dan represented clients as a staff attorney at the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation in Sacramento, and served as a staff attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  He worked as a clinical instructor at the UC Davis School of Law Immigration Law Clinic, and was a member of both the La Raza and Lambda Law Student Associations. He is the son of Mexican immigrants, a fluent Spanish speaker, and a resident of Alameda with his husband.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Breaking: Argentinean congress passes marriage equality bill by a vote of 125-109


With 125 votes in favor, 109 against, 6 abstentions and 16 absent lawmakers, the Argentinean House of Deputies just approved a historic marriage equality bill [the image above captures the moments after the vote when marriage equality advocates erupted in cheers and unfurled flags down the side walls of the debate floor; the message on the blue flag was a dig at representatives from the Peronist party, most of whom vote against the bill. It reads "Putos Peronistas" or "Peronist fags"].

Speaking live on CN5, Maria Rachid, Director of The Argentinian LGBT Federation (FALGBT), noted that it was the first time that the body of a legislative branch of a government had voted in favor of same-sex marriage in all of Latin America.

The vote followed more than 11 hours of debate on the House floor and counted with the support of members of the Socialist Party as well as supporters of the Cristina Férnandez de Kirchner government [Deputies were freed by their parties to "vote their conscience" earlier in the day].

To become law, the Argentinean Senate would first have to debate and approve the bill. Getting a bill approved by the Senate is expected to be a much tougher challenge for marriage equality advocates although the House vote pushes the issue to the front and it is now expected that a Senate vote might come within weeks.

Five same-sex couples have been granted the right to marry in Argentina, including Alex Freyre and José María Di Bello, who married on December 28th and became have the first same-sex couple to ever marry in all of Latin America.  But their marriage, which was later annulled, came through victories in the courts.  Of those initial five marriages, only two are left standing with any validity.

Both Freyre and Di Bello were standing on the House floor tonight when the final vote took place.

Throughout the night, as people watched the debate on a weak live feed provided by the House, people took to Twitter and the #MatrimonioGay hashtag to keep up with the latest.  Advocates chided Argentinean television for not carrying such a historic debate until late at night and just before the vote.

Mexico City adopted a limited marriage equality law back on December 21st, but it didn't go into effect until March 11th and the law was passed by a locality and not a branch of the national legislative body.

UPDATE: From Reuters:
Argentina's lower house passed on Wednesday a gay marriage bill that, if also approved by senators, will put the South American country among a handful in the world that allow homosexual couples to marry.
Small groups of gay rights supporters and opponents of the marriage bill gathered outside Congress where deputies approved the measure with 125 votes in favour and 109 against after 12 hours of heated debate.
"Love isn't owned by heterosexuals," said Deputy Felipe Sola, who backed the bill. "If we're all equal before the law, why do we want to give a different name to unions between same-sex couples?"
The bill permits gay couples to adopt children for the first time, one of its most controversial provisions... [read on HERE]

      Tuesday, May 04, 2010

      Argentina: Congress will pass marriage equality bill tonight, Senate approval in doubt

      5th same-sex marriage approved, quickly annulled:

      Saturday saw the 5th marriage between a same-sex couple in Argentina. This time, it was Argentine-born citizen Alejandro Luna and his foreign-born French partner Gilles Grall ("The country's fifth gay couple marries", Los Andes, May 1, 2010).

      Maria Rachid, Director of The Argentinian LGBT Federation (FALGBT), the organization that has been at the forefront in pushing a legislative and judicial marriage equality front in the country, said that the couple had married because they loved each other and because, only through marriage, would Luna be able to sponsor Grall for immigration rights.

      Alas, of the four previous same-sex marriages in the country, three had been annulled by the time a court gave Luna and Grall the go ahead (one of those three annulled marriages was later ruled valid again, though. Confusing, no?).

      Anyway, today, a court also annulled Luna and Grall's 3-day marriage as well ("Justice once again annuls a gay marriage", InfoBae, May 4, 2010).  In short, of the five marriages that have been approved, only two remain standing.

      Congressional debate TONIGHT: This happened even as LGBT marriage equality advocates FINALLY were able to push a marriage equality bill for a full debate on the floor of the House of Deputies. Previous attempts during the past few days were sidelined due to a lack of a legislative quorum in the building.

      The debate started at 2pm EST today and a vote is not expected to come until 2am at the earliest.  Rumors are that former Argentinian president Nestor Kirchner (husband of current Argentinian president Cristina Férnandez de Kirchner) has arrived and will vote in favor of the marriage equality bill as will others affiliated with the ruling government.

      My sources say that the uphill battle was getting the bill to the floor and that there are enough votes in House to pass the marriage equality bill tonight once the actual vote comes. But they also say that the true battle will be in the more conservative Senate where it will be an uphill battle to get it to the floor for debate AND to secure enough votes to pass it.

      UPDATE: Argentinean congress passes marriage equality bill by a vote of 129-105

      Guest post: "La Mission" and Latino Masculinities

      In late March, I asked my friend Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano if I could post an essay he wrote about Ricky Martin's coming out as a guest post on this blog ("Why Ricky Martin matters", March 30, 2010). It was the first ever blog post on Blabbeando.

      Today, I am posting his thoughts about the recently released movie, "La Mission".  I posted a preview of the film based on it's appearance at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival but I have yet to see the actual movie now that it's out in the theatres.

      Lorenzo's essay, though, not only raises a number of interesting issues about the film, but also about representation of Latino queerness and masculinity in media.  Enjoy.

      Thoughts on La Mission and the Ongoing Struggle to Broaden Notions of Latino Masculinities
      by Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano

      A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see a screening of Peter Bratt’s La Mission. The screening, which was part of a limited release, was at San Francisco’s Metreon Theaters. My compañero and I, joined by two of our queer sisters of color, were lucky enough to find seats in relative proximity to each other in the sold-out space.

      It was a late night screening and the vast majority of folks in the theater were people of color. In fact, I’d say most of the people there were Latina/o, with a nice mix of generations representing. The experience was unforgettable as all four of us, none of which were born and raised in San Francisco, were sitting in what seemed to be an intimate living room screening of La Mission.

      We all smiled and were occasionally misty-eyed as people in the crowd, youth and adults, loudly expressed their pride in the various shots of San Francisco portrayed in the film. During the movie, I realized that this was the first time I had ever witnessed the screening of a film that embodied the geographic and cultural identities of the audience. People not only saw themselves on the big screen, they also saw the places that have shaped and witnessed them.

      All in all, I found La Mission to be a beautiful film. I’m not a film critic and will leave that to those who know better. Instead, I’ll limit my thoughts on what moved me most about the movie, and those areas I wish it had gone deeper.

      The relationship of Benjamin Bratt’s character, Che Rivera, and his son Jesse, played by Jeremy Ray Valdez, was sweet, raw and in many ways reflective of my own experience with my father. I was further moved by the depiction of comunidad and the ways in which we, as a village, honor our shared responsibility and opportunity to support each other and our children. Even as the father struggled with the realization of his son’s sexuality, their community intervened, loved and supported both of them in a way that rings true to my experiences of community engagement in times of family crisis. This particularly resonated with memories of how my family responded to the teenage pregnancies of cousins and to my own coming out. This isn’t to say my family, or our communities are romantic portraits reminiscent of Norman Rockwell. Rather, it is necessary to honor the fact that even in our messiness and pain, we managed to love each other in the only ways we knew how.

      A question I had throughout the film was the extent to which audience members knew what the film was actually about. This was somewhat answered by the collective surprise when Jesse first kissed his boyfriend, Jordan. However, after the initial shock, people seemed to settle with the idea, though I wouldn’t suggest this was a celebration or affirmation of queerness; yet another reflection on my coming out experience.

      In addition to the possibility that some in the audience were unaware of the gay theme in the story, people were very surprised when Benjamin and Peter Bratt entered the theater. The Q&A with the actor and the director was a bit all over the place. Nonetheless, I was excited to hear Peter Bratt, who was both the writer and director, talk about his process.

      Something that resonated with me was Bratt’s reasoning for the gay theme in the film. To paraphrase, the writer wanted to portray Latino masculinity in its most vulnerable state. According to Bratt, the best way to expose ultimate vulnerability in a Latino who is deeply rooted in what some would argue is a stereotypical depiction of Latino maleness (dare I say machismo), would be in the realization of his son being gay. Hearing this evoked the memory of hearing my father crying inconsolably on the phone while he asked if his suspicions of my sexuality were true. The call, which ended with my father saying I was a dried-up branch of his family, exposed the darkest and scariest of both his and my vulnerability as Latino men.

      I appreciate Bratt’s analysis and his courage to quite literally breakdown Latino masculinity on the big screen. However, I am saddened by the fact that he only focused on exposing the vulnerability of the father’s masculinity, and in doing so, left a gaping whole in exploring the vulnerability and possibility of the gay Latino son. Instead, the story seemed to use the son and his sexuality as a conduit, rather than truly honoring the experience of gay Latino men and our relationship with our fathers.

      I was also concerned with Bratt’s reinforcement of the notion that gayness is white construct and something that only exists openly in white-defined spaces such as San Francisco’s Castro District. This is not to say that the Castro is not an important space in queer culture and one that many queer men of color, myself included, have traveled through in the formation of our identities and experience. Yet, to continue leaving gayness within the realm of whiteness speaks to our ongoing inability to claim the many facets of Latina/o sexualities and the many ways we express and manifest gender.

      Furthermore, leaving gayness to be embodied by the Castro and a white boyfriend also overlooked the rich history of queer Latinidad that has long been an integral part to San Francisco’s Mission District. As a queer brown man, the LGBT Latina/o community of the Mission, including such spaces as Esta Noche, heavily shaped my identity. Horacio Roque Ramírez, a professor at UC Santa Barbara, has done extensive work on the LGBT Latina/o community of La Misión and has done an excellent job in honoring the legacies of organizing and community building that has taken place over several decades.

      To be clear, I am not arguing against depictions of the Castro or against mixed-race relationships. Rather, I ask that we think about what continues to stand in our way of fully acknowledging that LGBT Latinidad can and has long existed outside of the confines and direct influence of white LGBTness. Perhaps acknowledging that queerness can be just as inherently Latina/o as it is to white communities is a vulnerability we are not prepared to experience.


      Related: For local showings of "La Mission" try an online movie ticket sale site such as Fandango.

      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.

      Monday, May 03, 2010

      Ricky Martin greets LGBT activist Pedro Julio Serrano on Twitter

      Ohmygod. A few minutes ago when I turned on my computer I fired up my TweetDeck and immediately noticed the Tweet above.  It's Ricky Martin sending a Twitter message to my friend Pedro Julio Serrano which reads "@PJ_Serrano: kid thanks to you for all you do for Puerto Rico and for the community.  Strength and always push forward".

      I was trying to get a screen capture when my cell phone rang. It was Pedro Julio who almost couldn't contain himself from the excitement. "I swear the hair on my arms is still standing up", he told me.

      He said that he'd noticed Ricky Martin had added him to his Twitter feed and could hardly believe it. So he sent the singer a message telling him how proud he was of him and, in response, Ricky posted the message.

      In the month since the Puerto Rican music star came out as gay, he has used his Twitter account to send greetings to his fans, promote the Ricky Martin Foundation, urge people to donate for Haiti earthquake relief efforts and, most recently, denounce the anti-immigrant bill signed into law last week in Arizona.

      Twitter had been the singer's only public outlet for his thoughts until last Thursday. It was then that he walked onstage at the 2010 Billboard Latin Music Awards for his first public appearance since he came out and received a warm and extended standing ovation from music stars and fans alike. He used the occasion, and the media attention, to once again denounce the anti-immigrant Arizona law.

      As for his life as a gay man, Martin has been mum. Tabloids keep discussing an array of possible ulterior reasons for his coming out as well as who his past and current lovers might be. Smartly. Martin has kept them all guessing.  That doesn't mean he has been silent on LGBT issues in the past.

      Ricky Martin and Jorge Steven López Mercado: Think back to November, five months before Martin came out, and you might remember the extraordinary reaction elicited by the brutal murder Jorge Steven López Mercado, a young man whose body was found dismembered and burned by the side of a road in Puerto Rico.

      Outrage over his murder elicited protests and vigils demanding justice not only in Puerto Rico but in cities like New York and Chicago.  There was also reaction from some of Puerto Rico's leading music artists, including Calle 13 and Olga Tañon.

      And Ricky Martin, three months before coming out, wrote the following on his official website:
      The murders of James Byrd, Matthew Shepard, Jorge Steven Lopez, Marcelo Lucero, Luis Ramirez and countless others who were victims of violent "hate crimes" should be completely unacceptable to every human being; because we're all human beings. It's up to us to change the paradigm. I hear the world "tolerance" thrown around in the media when it comes to cases like the ones I mentioned above. One of the meanings of tolerance is "the capacity to endure pain or hardship." Another is "the act of allowing something." To me, those don't seem to encompass acceptance, by any definition. So how about this? Instead of saying "we need to tolerate diversity" why not say, "we need to accept diversity."

      Accepting diversity is the first and most important step we can take towards eliminating hate crimes and uniting humanity.

      If we ACCEPT, humanity unites. If humanity unites, equal human rights will become a reality. And if equal human rights become a reality, peace will be within our reach.
      At the time I remember being moved and surprised by Ricky Martin's statement. Since he came out, I have often wondered if the murder of Jorge Steven had any role in his later resolve to come out.

      Ricky Martin and Pedro Julio Serrano: The reaction to the murder of Jorge Steven was extraordinary, as it should have been, but it took an enraged community, the love of his mother, community organizations who were willing to lead and, in the age of Facebook and Twitter, people who pulled together quick demonstrations thousands of miles away.  It also took the extraordinary leadership of long-time Puerto Rican LGBT rights advocate Pedro Julio Serrano, who currently works at the New York City office of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

      From the moment Pedro Julio heard the horrific news, he sprung to action.  Using his media skills and his prominence in Puerto Rican media when it comes to LGBT issues in the island, he began to urge authorities to investigate whether the murder was a hate crime and to challenge local political and religious leaders to speak up against the horrific crime. Once in contact with Jorge Steven's family, he provided support and channeled the LGBT community's outpouring of emotion and love towards them.  He also helped them, and Jorge Steven's mother in particular, to navigate the family's response to media at such a trying time.

      It was Pedro Julio's long-time friendship with Miss Universe 2001 Denise Quiñones which drew René Perez of Calle 13 and herself to the anti-hate crime rallies in San Juan.  And, once they got involved, the support that came from other Puerto Rican stars like Olga Tañon.  And then, Ricky Martin's statement on acceptance versus tolerance.

      And then Ricky Martin came out to the glee of certain Puerto Rican media personalities who did not waste one moment before repeatedly using the word "pato" [fag] live on television and radio to describe the singer.

      Pedro Julio was there as well, announcing a campaign to combat homophobia in Puerto Rican media and getting hundreds of people to file complaints with the Federal Communications Commission.  He also got six of New York City's elected representatives to send a letter to the FCC in support of those complaints.

      It was a full-front assault on the homophobic attacks perpetrated against Ricky Martin on Puerto Rican media after he came out.  The result?  A full-fledged apology to Pedro Julio from the hosts and producers of the offending show, 'Super Xclusivo," and their vow never to use homophobic language again on the island's top rated gossip show.

      As it all went down, I often wondered if Ricky Martin was paying attention to Pedro Julio's efforts to fight the homophobic comments that his coming out had elicited on Spanish-language media and, if he was, whether he approved or saw it as a side-show.

      Now we have the answer.  It's the first public message Ricky Martin has sent out related to LGBT issues after he told the world he was gay and I am so happy that it happens to be a salute to the amazing work of my friend Pedro Julio Serrano.

      • Ricky Martin on Twitter here
      • Pedro Julio Serrano on Twitter here