Thursday, September 29, 2011

To Guanabee or not to Guanabee...

Can you force someone to give an apology he or she does not believe in? Of course you can! It happens all the time in major showbiz or in sports.

Does it matter if the apology has been forced out of somebody if only to save face? Perhaps. But I'd rather the apology be sincere rather than half-assed or insincere.

This comes to mind because I took a decision last night to sever my ties with a website I have absolutely adored up to this point and has given this site major support as well (you no longer see their 'Partner Scoops' widget on Blabbeando anymore for one).

When quirky Latino gossip site Guanabee approached me a couple of years ago and asked if I was interested in being a "Featured Partner" I jumped at the chance. It's not that I got any monetary compensation from it but they often highlighted some of my posts which brought a lot of traffic to this site.  The value of that traffic wasn't necessarily the number of hits on Blabbeando but the fact that they came from readers of a non-LGBT Latino site.  In that sense, Guanabee helped to direct a lot of non-LGBT Latino readership to what happens to be a site with an LGBT-focus and I thought that was great.

As a gossip site, Guanabee does engage in campy humor sometimes and probably uses language that would not be used on other newsier sites. But, even within those parameters, yesterday I was alerted to a post that I felt went beyond the pale.

In "Eva Longoria Confronts Bitchy Queen on H8R", Guanabee Associate Editor Marcelo Baez using his Nacomprende nickname writes the following:
The CW is running a new show called H8R (pronounced "hater") where celebrities confront random people who hate them while attempting to win them over [...] We actually enjoyed the episode. In it Eva Longoria confronts a bitchy queen who fags out on her and her supposed self-Mexican hate
In the clip featured on Guanabee, a guy who comes across as an obnoxious twit goes all off on Eva Longoria's 'Latina-ness' and then gets all flustered and embarrassed when Eva Longoria shows up to challenge his views.

Call the guy an obnoxious twit, call the guy insufferable, but Baez instead calls him a "bitchy queen" who "fags out" when she shows up. This, on a site that is marketed to the general Latino public.

Up to this point, I've had a great relationship with the site's leading editors so I reached out to them to privately express my concern.  In response, I was forwarded a message that Baez sent to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) when they made an inquiry about the post.  In it, Baez stood his ground and argued that the informal tome used on the site and the fact that gays had appropriated terms such as 'queer' gave him the liberty to call someone a 'fag'.  Baez also argued that he wasn't necessarily questioning the man's sexuality but, instead, he was calling him off on his intolerance.

That pissed me off even more so I wrote back again and tried to calmly explain, among other things, the fact that gays appropriating certain language does not mean it gives free reign for these words to be used  at free will, by anyone, on any site or publication - or in day to day conversation.

I never got a response.  Instead, Guanabee posted a follow-up last night titled "Gays, Do The Words "Fag" And "Loca" Offend You? GLAAD Says They Do"in which Baez defends the post making some of the same arguments he made in the response to GLAAD e-mailed to me and expanded on them.

I blew a fuse. And I quickly fired a Tweet severing my relationship with the site.

In the meantime, GLAAD, who alerted me to the post in the first case and had been exchanging messages with the editors as well, also reacted.  They launched an action alert asking people to "Tell you are not laughing". It mentions the actions I took last night.

In my anger I missed something in Marcelo Baez' latest post: For what I believe is the first time on the site, he tells his readers he is an openly bisexual man.  In retrospective, it does explain his argument about appropriation of words that are used to insult members of the LGBT community even though I still don't agree he should have used the terms.

Does this make any difference? There was no mention of this on the original post that would have led anyone to assume that Mr. Baez was trying to appropriate such language as an openly bisexual man.  Instead the words "fag" and "fagged-out" were used to denigrate the man in the CW show.  I have since had an exchange with Marcelo on my strong feelings that it would have been wrong even if he had disclosed his sexuality in that post and I know he strongly disagrees with my assessment.

This morning, though, I woke up feeling something was missing from all of this.  GLAAD's call to action will continue and sites, like this one, will begin to pick up on it.  Guanabee and Marcelo will decide whether to stick to their guns and push back - or eventually apologize.

But in the larger context of things, I do see an opportunity here to expand the dialogue on usage of these terms in the Latino community as well as whether the fact that the person using the language is a member of the LGBT community changes these dynamics in any way (in some ways, the debate is similar to usage of the 'N'-word among African-American individuals where some African-Americans feel it's always wrong and others feel it's a way to appropriate the term and strip it from it's original intent to hurt someone based on one's race).

As things stand right now, I have asked to be removed from the Guanabee site.  GLAAD is mobilizing against Guanabee. And Baez and Guanabee seem to be standing on their ground. I've had several exchanges with the editors of Guanabee throughout the day, including Marcelo, and they have expressed in no uncertain terms that they are sad to see me go, would love to continue the relationship, but understand my decision to go.

Part of me keeps looking at that post and the way the language was used, with or without the context that it was written by a bisexual man, and wonder how I can keep a relationship with a site that doesn't 'get' why I am so disappointment by the post.

Having said that, if Guanabee had been as homophobic as some are charging - and I am not talking specifically about GLAAD's reaction but that of individuals who might not have ever visited the site and are judging by this post alone - they would have never prominently featured this blog on their site and be so open to promote gay content on their site.  It turns out, according to Marcelo, that he is the editor at Guanabee who promoted most of the Blabbeando content that made it on their site.

I know I don't often ask readers to comment and with such long posts, who is gonna bother reading this entry to this point.  But, if you would please take a moment or two to comment, should I stay or should I go?  Would working with Guanabee promote an editorial decision I do not agree with or would it provide a platform for their general Latino readership to continue having access to my point of view on the issue and on other issues as well.


Connie said...

I generally like Guanabee, although usually go because I see something on your site that leads back to them. When I get there I tend to spend some time on the site. they have an edge to their coverage that I appreciate.

My vote: stay. Have the conversation about appropriation of language on their site, rather than here or GLAAD. I think that kind of discussion has more long term value than a forced apology.

GLAAD does important work but there are other ways to engage and reach positive results.

American Tejano said...

Andrés, first, I completely understand where you're coming from. And I commend you for reaching out to the editors of Guanabee. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about GLAAD’s position regarding Marcelo’s use of the word “fag.” GLAAD is an organization that has done a lot for the LGBT community, and their reaction to the Guanabee piece in question is understandable. However, as a longtime Guanabee reader, I can assure you that Marcelo and Guanabee have done a great job of promoting Hispanic American and Latin American LGBT artists. Someone who knows Marcelo told me that “Marcelo is one of the most open-minded persons I’ve ever met.” I should also point out that Guanabee’s founding editor, Cindy Casares, has written some great posts that express clear progressive views. So, with all of this in mind, I think Guanabee’s heart is in the right place. Being irreverent and controversial is just their thing. It may get them in trouble from time to time, but it works for them.

I vote that you STAY!

I really enjoy reading your blog, btw.

Frijolero said...

I understand your point of view, but like anything, if taken out of context, it will be more offensive. I think this whole thing grew from something completely mild to something unnecessary just because people kept repeating the word Fag inside their heads.

Also, I understand GLAAD's point of ,but coming from an association that does not fully supports the whole LGBT community, leaving the B and the T often out of them i find it hard to swallow that they just decided to pick on a blog that has often done a great job promoting LGBT media and Latino communities.

I can think of countless examples where celebrities such as Perez hilton, Margaret Cho, or Kathy Griffin use the word fag, and even our community uses the word often, and we dont even raise an eyebrow. (Please tell me you dont use the term Fag hag)

I totally understand the nature of the word but just think about the context before you start attacking something that could be approached on a totally different way.

Plus, I think you and GlAAD have not acknowledged any of the reader comments and you just made clear that your opinions are the ones that matter. At least guanabee cares about their readers.

calitexican said...

Hi there,

I also say I have to agree and feel like we latinos should stick together and work it out. I have read GB for a long time myself, and I have always felt they are supportive of the latino LGBT community. As such, I believe Marcelo must have felt it was a "safe space" to say such things and probably didn't give it a second thought. Not that that is right or wrong...

I also feel that Marcelo should at least acknowledge that what he said might offend people and own up to that. I personally don't think GLAAD is all that sensitive to issues of diversity inclusion, so I am not one to jump to their defense.

Anyway, thank you for starting this discussion. Some very uncomfortable issues are raised, and that's always good to hash it out.

Much love from a long time fan,

KarariKue said...

I say, if you chose to stay, hold them accountable. We can't just play nice and hope that it won't happen again.

Internalized queerphobia is real. I'd argue its one of the reasons why we still use slurs like fag, marica, loca, etc. against each other.

To paraphrase Means Girls "[we] have got to stop calling each other [fags, putos, and maricones]. It just makes it ok for [cis straight people] to call [us] [fags, putos, and maricones].

EgOiStE said...

but we DO have free will, everyone, every publication, every conversant, to use any words we see fit, short of incitement to violence, slander, or libel.
Do you feel that Guanabee is under some obligation to respect homosexuals while it disrespects everyone else? The name alone, guanabee, a pun on wannabe? is insulting of itself if you choose to be insulted. Anyguey, yet another pun, is another insulting term right there in the header. I have been called a wannabe because I was a brown academic in an all melanin-challenged class.
Should I take that as a personal insult from Guanabee?
I think my larger point here is that that site is all about the snark and the chisme, so why are you surprised? You may as well ask the Pope to marry you at the Basilica de Guadalupe.

Anonymous said...

Being a habitual reader of GB for the last year or so, i can comfortably say they're not as homophobic as GLAAD makes them out to be, specially Nacomprende. For once if you read his posts carefully, one can easily notice that his "take" on things, more often than not, comes from gay perspective.

Matthew said...

I think that the original intent of directing non gay traffic to gay information is still a good idea. Much of discrimination is not based on malice, but ignorance. Stay. But keep fighting every time they stick their foot in it and let it be known that you do not approve. Closing the door is unlikely to have as positive an effect as staying and fighting.

Juancito said...

Andrés. It's a tough call. Personally, I am all for "reclaiming" words/language traditionally used to oppress and dehumanize, and transforming their meaning into positive, empowering tools. But I often wonder if these slurs/epithets are truly redeemable. Especially after they've been so emblazoned in our psyche. To be honest, it's virtually impossible for me to hear the word "faggot" and not freeze and feel the immediate sting, you know what I mean? Regarding your decision to leave GB,I'd say, listen to your gut. We often do a disservice to our people and ourselves when we ignore our inner voices out of some misguided sense of cultural solidarity. Peace!

Maegan la Mala said...

Ay finally able to sit down and comment. I have struggled since the inception of Guanabee with my relationship/feelings about the site. Maybe I'm more conservative than I claim to be pero it has always felt a little too sensationalistic for my taste.

Reclaiming a word online is complicated and I think it has to be part of a process and the identity of your site. Since GB leans towards the sensation instead of the analysis, the use of certain words becomes hard to accept. It's a hipster brand of satire that does not often translate well.

I agree with Juancito - trust your gut on this one.

Anonymous said...

Andrés Duque, Shine in the place where you are. You can be in Guanabee and use this situation to educate persons like Mr. Baez and others like him on why the usage of such words are detrimental to GBLT people. Words matter, they have the potential of inspiring us or causing us death.

Caro said...

Andrés, I think you made the right call. While it's existed, Guanabee's anti-"PC" humor has been seriously hit or miss. And when they miss, it can range from just "not funny" to downright ignorant and offensive. Not just on LGBT issues, but other areas too. Like many gossip sites intent on driving traffic, they seem to sometimes prize controversy over principle, and this incident fits into that pattern as far as I'm concerned. I guess I'm still glad they're around, but in the end I think they lose more from not having you than you gain from staying with them.

cybergrace said...

Andres, really good article and resulting conversation.

Not being Latina or knowledgeable about Guanabee I don't have an opinion, but think it rings true to follow your gut AND to take GLAAD, as non-Latinos, with a grain of salt.

Yes, it seems to me to be similar (with differences) to the "N-word" argument a lot.

To me, there is not an universal morality, there are separate moralities based on each community. This discussion really shows the importance of Blabbeando where you can have a conversation about this from a Latino AND queer perspective. Marcelo has a non-queer, Latino community of accountability (Guanabee), he is a bisexual who has chosen to fight for LGBT identity in a heterosexual sphere; he has to "be a team player," "have a sense of humor" and accept more homophobia than a fellow journalist at a queer site does.

Too bad he couldn't say that and defend his remarks in the context of him working at a straight-identified site, but I'm sure he'll figure that out soon. I see you both as being true to where you are both at--and both of you will continue to be fluid and reflect your different communities, with increasing love and dignity for all oppressed.

Oppressed minority queers need to use humor against oppressive majorities, i.e. breeder jokes (or like Malcolm X, white jokes). It would be better if Marcelo could focus his humor on "oppressor humor" like this. Make fun of insecure straight men (hey, Pres of Mexico!), white folks, etc.

Peace & love, Dawn