Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blabbeando named as a 2008 Weblog Awards Finalist

This was totally unexpected: Yesterday morning Monica Roberts, who authors the TransGriot blog, e-mailed me and congratulated me for being named as one of ten finalists for the "Best LGBT Blog" category in the 2008 Weblog Awards.

I've certainly been aware of the Weblog Awards in the past and have perused them over the years to find out about some great blogs that I might have not known about. But I certainly wasn't aware that Blabbeando had been submitted as a potential nominee, much less had the chance to be selected as one. Well, it did. And it was!

There is a small window of opportunity for readers to vote for their favorite nominees (January 5th through the 12th) and I'll certainly put a direct-link badge so readers can vote for Blabbeando as soon as it is made available. But in some ways, as with the Oscars, the real win is being nominated since it makes people aware of the blog. Plus there is the itty-bitty detail of being matched up with Joe, Pam, Bilerico and Andy Towleroad as nominees. Beat them for the award? Yeah, right.

Anyhoo: It is bizarre how many of the nominated bloggers I know / have met. Here is a full list of the nominees in the "Best LGBT Blog" category:
For a full list of nominees in other categories, click here. All in all, a great way to end the blogging year! Happy holidays and may 2009 be just peachy keen, y'all. Peace, I'm out.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the road: The wild life

Last night in San Diego and Christmas Eve approaching, Rex suggested we do the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park at night. Mind you, I had already been at the perfectly nice zoo at Balboa Park on a previous trip (pandas!) so who knew there was another zoo a few miles away? Plus there was a 'Festival of Lights' going on in honor of the holidays so on to the park it was...

San Diego has been unusually cold and rainy during my two-week stay and since the wild animal park is inland it was certainly a bit chilly. So it might have been Southern California but the cold spell certainly went with the holiday spirit.

We got there in time to take a night safari where we were warned about the wilderness surrounding us, but the most dangerous thing that happened was the safari bus almost toppling off the road when the driver took a curve a bit too fast. Other than that, the tour started off on a down note when we learned this is one of only ten rhinos of this breed and that they might very well be extinct within the next fifty years - and this one, at least, is too old to mate.

It was dark so I couldn't capture many other images but it seemed we were disturbing a lot of them from nappy time, including this giraffe. Still, our guide kept making sure we knew that the park is a happening place, with gazelles, okapis, giraffes and zebras boinking all day long and producing hundreds of offspring (ok, he didn't use the word 'boinking', he said 'mating').

All in all, a very nice outing for my last night in San Diego, although I was disappointed the balloon ride was closed at night.

Not the best picture, but here's Rex (right) and I (left) after the tour. Rex blogged the wildlife outing here. He has way more pictures of pretty Christmas lights than I do.

Mexico: As Pope slams the gays, the gays await Vatican-led international "Family" confab

As expected, international LGBT-rights organizations and leaders are not too happy about the latest homophobic rantings by Pope Benedict XVI. If you haven't heard, on the eve of the Christmas holidays, his Holiness implied that saving the world from homosexuality was akin to saving the world from environmental destruction ("Gay Groups Angry at Pope's Remarks," BBC, Dec. 23, 2008).

Neither the Pope's comments nor the angry reaction should surprise anyone but they certainly come right on time for the Vatican-sponsored 6th World Annual Meeting of Families taking place in Mexico City from January 13th to January 18 of 2009. It's not clear if the Pope will attend but the event, the 6th organized by the Catholic Church since 1994 and the first to take place in North America, is expected to draw an estimated 30 Cardinals and 200 priests from around the world in addition to laymen interested in taking part.

Of course, by "families" the confab doesn't really mean all families. Just the heterosexual ones. And by "families" they also mean specially NOT the gay ones. Which is why a few Mexican LGBT-rights advocates are planning some actions.

Diego Cevallos, writing for Inter Press Service in a Spanish-language article published online today, says that some "social activists" as well as same-sex couples are planning to let their voices heard at the event ("Gays raise arms against hostile meeting of families").

From the article:
"They say we are not family, but we are and, additionally, Catholics and proud of it," said to IPS Esteban Castillo, a professional in electronics that lives in a common law partnership with another man.

Carrillo and a group of friends plan to be present at the site of the encounter in Mexico, which will be at the convention center that belongs to Banamex, and loudly, with posters and a "surprise", will claim "our right to be who we are, to be respected and recognized as Catholic believers", he said.
For his part, Víctor Espíndola, Director of the widely read online Mexican LGBT news portal, said that several important protests were planned but would not divulge details. He told IPS that the diversity of those who were planning demonstrations meant that there was also the possibility that certain actions might arise from one day to the other without much planning and that he expected some of them to be just as big.

Mexico City, as IPS notes, has in the last few years adopted resolution granting partnership rights to same-sex couples, allowed transgender individuals to change their identity and name in public documents, allowed terminal patients to decide if they should end their lives and allowed women to have access to an abortion within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy - all of which clashes with the Catholic hierarchy of a deeply Catholic country.

By the way, somewhat related, in terms of the Pope's latest statements is the following blog post by Arthur Leonard which I recommend:
And here is Andrew Sullivan:

On the road: Manuel is missing

I hope someone finds him! (Best Buy store, San Diego, California)

Previously on "On the Road: San Diego":

Monday, December 22, 2008

Panama: Gays blamed for collapse of emergency phone line

According to a brief note that appears today in the Panamanian newspaper Critica, an anonymous "police source" has said that vacationing high school students and the gays are to blame for the collapse of Linea 104 - Panama's emergency phone system ("Minors and gays shut down Police calls"). From the article:
According to a police source, now that the school year has ended many youths make pranks on the dispatchers, during most of the day, while at night, alleged homosexuals call to harass police units, without thinking that this call might save the life of a person when it is really needed.
I tried to look for corroborating information elsewhere but could only find a Sept. 10, 2006 article in La Prensa that might provide another explanation as to why Linea 104 is experiencing problems: At that time there were only ten officers devoted to answering emergency lines and an estimated 400,000 calls per month coming in ("10 policemen respond to 400 thousand calls a month").

By the way, the Panamanian Police Department that seems to be blaming the gays for shutting down the phone lines is the same Department that was calling for gays to be allowed to serve as police officers back in April (see "National police chief says gays can serve as law enforcement officers" and "Negative to lukewarm reactions to letting gays serve as police officers"). What gives?

Well, back then the Director of the Police Department was Rolando Mirones, a civilian selected to lead the Department under a policy that sought to combat past corruption by making it possible for non-police officers to run the Department. At the time, rising crime numbers and controversial stands such as backing those gay police officers who were already in service added to pressure by military leaders and some within the police department for him to step down.

Indeed, Mirones submitted a letter of resignation on May 13, 2008, a month after pushing for the Police Department to accept the enrollment of gay officers. With his departure, the government also reinstated rules that require that those who lead the Police Department must be police or military officers - and does not allow for civilians to take the top post ("Arcia justifies militarization").

The current Director, Francisco Troya, has been a career police officer.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ecuador: President Rafael Correa vows to fight homophobia in wake of NYC murder

In a week that saw the remains of José Osvaldo Sucuzhañay flown from the United States to Ecuador to be buried near his family yesterday, Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa (right) has vowed to fight against homophobia and xenophobia in his country and elsewhere.

From a Spanish-language article by AFP, an excerpt of which I have translated to English:
The Ecuadorean immigrant José Sucuzhañay, of 31 years of age, was "vilely assassinated for xenophobic reasons, for homophobia; They mistook him for a homosexual and was with his brother" as they walked in Brooklyn, New York, said Correa.

"We will fight together ... to forever uproot these aberrations of certain maladjusted [individuals], uproot them from the face of the earth, from humanity: Xenophobia, homophobia and all kinds of discrimination, all kinds of violence," he said.
Sucuzhañay and his brother Romel were attacked in the early morning of December 7th by what are described as three black men who wielded a bat. While Romel was able to escape without serious injury, José passed away on December 12th after spending days in a coma at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.

President Correa's comments were similar to those made yesterday by another of the Sucuzhañay brothers during José's burial in Cuenca, Ecuador. From The Associated Press:
"My heart is broken and so is that of all my family," his brother German said during a funeral Mass in the cathedral of the southern town of Cuenca. Sucuzhanay's coffin was scattered with roses and covered with the Ecuadorean flag.

"The brutal killing of my brother Osvaldo is the result of xenophobia, of homophobia and racism that our compatriots are experiencing in these times," he said, calling on Ecuador's government to demand that U.S. authorities solve the crime.

Interestingly it was yet another Sucuzhañay brother who lives in New York that had previously denied that any anti-gay slurs had been shouted during the attack as police reports and most accounts picked up by media. From a December 12th article in El Diario La Prensa:
[Diego] Sucuzhañay denied the versions [of events] given by authorities that his brothers Romel and José Osvaldo were shouted anti-gay phrases.

"My brother Romel told me that they shouted insults against Latinos, that they shouted 'Hispanics, sons of bitches,' but not anti-gay insults."
The apparent unease in calling the attack a homophobic one also was reflected by calls for action from certain Latino leaders and Ecuadorean community organizations in New York who highlighted the xenophobic aspect of insults that were allegedly shouted during the attack but never made any mention that there might have been anti-gay slurs shouted as well.

President Correa might have chosen the same route but he seems to understand that the fact that the Sucuzhañay brothers were attacked because a few guys thought they were a gay couple is as troubling as the fact that they were attacked because they were Latinos. Not surprising, then, that he is one of the most progressive Latin American presidents on LGBT issues.


re: José Sucuzhañay:
re: President Rafael Correa

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the road: Light Up the Night, San Diego

You might remember a post I did on Nov. 15 about the rally that took place outside the New York City Hall in protest of passage of Proposition 8 in California ("Girl, you did not just steal our rights. DID YOU. Seriously?"). Well, that was the result of a multi-state effort coordinated by Join the Impact.

Back then then the largest demo took place in San Diego, California, as was captured and described by Rex Wockner over on his blog ("Stonewall 2.0 - 25,000 in San Diego"). And, while Join the Impact has served as a conduit for some additional actions since then (most notably the recent "Day without a Gay" action which was promoted but not organized by them), tonight was supposed to be the big follow up to the Nov. 15 actions.

The idea? Light up the night for equality which called on people to hold candlelight vigils at shopping malls across the United States "for the rights of 18,000 same-sex couples who married and look forward to the day when those rights are available again."

Lucky be a lad tonight, Dec. 20th caught me visiting Rex here in San Diego so I tagged along as he went to cover one of the local vigils as a journalist (unfathomably, instead of calling for a vigil at a single mall here in San Diego, they called for vigils at six different venues!).

I'm not sure how it went in other San Diego sites, much less across the country, but at the Fashion Valley Mall, right in front of Bloomingdale's, a crowd of 150 to 200 stood in line holding candles and a few signs on a chilly evening.

It was a mixed crowd with some younger folk...

Some bears...

And a smattering of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence...

I took a few more pictures and some of them are here. No real drama despite the man who shouted "Immorality!" as he sped by in a small expensive car.

As reports come from elsewhere, I'll also update this post with additional links to other Light Up the Night actions.

Rex Wockner's take - including more photos - available at "Light up the night for equality - San Diego version"). From his blog:
Join The Impact's next nationwide action is Jan. 10 - when the group has called for marches on the 50 state capitols to remind Barack Obama that he has promised to repeal the anti-gay federal Defense of Marriage Act, aka DOMA.
Related Blogs:
Related media:

Mexico: Plucking eyebrows indicates homosexual tendencies, says high school principal; 15 students suspended

The Tamaulipan Youth Institute (Itjuve) is demanding action against a high school principal in Matamoros, Mexico, who suspended fifteen male students for plucking their eyebrows arguing that the practice was "unique to women or youth with a homosexual tendency."

Efraín Hernández, director of Itjuve, told La Jornada in an article published today that the sanctions taken against the students on December 15th by principal Rubén Reyes Urbina were discriminatory ("Matamoros: High school principal suspends fifteen students who had plucked eyebrows").

“No one can be denied the right to enter an institution simply because they look different to the rest of the alumni or because they decided to make a change in their person," Hérnandez said, "we clearly see a discrimination that is worrisome since it is a center that shapes individuals which is not in the best of hands."

The students, who were suspended during finals week and three days before the holiday vacations, ranged from thirteen to fifteen years of age.

Members of the State Association of Family Parents has also expressed their dismay and said that the agency will also submit complaints with the State Commission of Human Rights.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Syndicated Latino columnist takes on Sean Penn's defense of Raúl Castro, Hugo Chávez

Earlier this month I posted an item on an essay written by actor Sean Penn for The Nation on meeting Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and Cuban leader Raúl Castro which came under criticism by James Kirchick in the pages of the gay publication The Advocate. Kirchick argued that Penn was tainting the acclaim he has received for his turn as gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk in the Gus Van Sandt movie "Milk" by kowtowing to despots whose governments still violate the rights of LGBT individuals.

Now comes an OpEd column by Sergio Muñoz Bata in which he takes Kirchick's essay and does a more incisive job in taking Penn to task for defending Castro and Chavez. Muños Bata is a former editorial member of the Los Angeles Times and a former Executive Director of La Opinión and his weekly column runs weekly in a dozen leading Latin American newspapers including Colombia's El Tiempo and Mexico's Reforma.

I have seen it pop up all around Latin America but haven't seen an English-language version so let me translate the last few paragraphs from the version that was printed in El Salvador's La Prensa Gráfica ("When Art Imitates Life", Dec. 18, 2008).

In the first half of the essay Muñoz Bata gives some background on the "No on Prop. 8" battle in California, the life of Harvey Milk, and the parallels between Milk's gay rights battles and today's battles. He then launches into his own critique of Penn:
The convincing performance by Penn in the movie, as his incessant political activism in real life, in support of certain causes of the Left, have created a certain cult of personality. Within the gay community, however, there have also been complaints that have questioned his devotion to human rights.

In an essay published in The Advocate, a bi-weekly magazine aimed at the national gay community, James Kirchick reproaches Penn for - on the same day that the movie premiered - publishing an article exalting dictators such as Fidel and Raúl Castro and their mechanical extension, Hugo Chávez, guilty of egregious violations of the human rights of Cubans and Venezuelans.

What doesn't escape Kirchick is the irony of the historic duplication which Penn inadvertently revives in playing the role of the "useful idiot" of whom Lenin spoke to describe those who - thankful for an invitation to the Soviet Union - hid the "Gulags" and horrors committed against dissidents and trumped up the glories of the "new workers' paradise".

In his love letter to Chávez and Raúl Castro, Penn describes the small details of his travels with Chávez in the presidential airplane. He also writes about his stay at homes set aside for foreign dignitaries in Habana, and the entertainment, between toasts and meals, provided by the younger of the Castros as he allowed him an 'exclusive interview' which stretched to seven hours make Penn's "journalistic" work easier.

In reaction to Kirchick's essay, Cleve Jones, the gay activist who fought next to Milk and now does it next to Penn, has published a failed rebuttal to Kirchick's arguments. Jones seems to ignore that despite the evident advances that have occurred since the days in which Fidel Castro defined homosexuality as a "deviation from nature", Cuba remains a country in which gay people are denied the right to congregate because they are considered a risk to the national security.

Worse yet, in his plea, Jones avoids confronting the central issue, that which concerns us all, those of us who are not gay and those who are, the undisputed and nonnegotiable universality of the respect for the human rights of individuals.

I think that Kirchick is right when he suggests that it is hypocritical to have a selective vision of how, where and when human rights are respected.

An aside: Miami's El Nuevo Herald, a sister publication to the Miami Herald, also published the column ("When arts imitates life", Dec. 17, 2008) but it's an edited version that does not include four of the last five paragraphs I translated above.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Historic: Latino becomes 1st openly transgender person to serve as a legislative staff member

New England's Bay Windows reports that one of the key Latino LGBT community leaders in the United States has been appointed as the legislative assistant to openly gay Democratic Congressman Barney Frank ("Mr. Sanchez goes to Washington", Dec . 17, 2008).

Diego Sanchez (right), the director of public relations and external affairs for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, will be leaving his long-time post as a community health advocate in Boston and begin his new job in early January. He becomes the first openly transgender person to have ever been appointed as a legislative staff member and will serve as the Congressman’s point person on LGBT rights.

Congressman Frank has come under fire from transgender activists in the past, particularly those who felt that he was too quick to drop language that would have extended protections for transgender individuals in the long-gestering, never passed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and Sanchez will undoubtedly be getting some flack from those who might feel he has sold out.

The appointment seems to explain comments from Congressman Frank made at the Victory Fund luncheon that I attended on December 6th in DC as part of an LGBT bloggers gathering. It was as close as I have heard him say that the next push for ENDA might include a push for transgender protections.

I wish Diego the best in his new post and extend warm congratulations for being appointed to the Congressman's staff.


Nicaragua: 75 LGBT activists from the Central American region meet in Managua

Seventy-five lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender delegates from different Central American countries congregated this past week in Nicaragua's capital city of Managua for what participants are calling the first such region-wide encounter, reports El Nuevo Diario ("First gathering on sexual diversity comes to an end", Dec. 15, 2008).

Bismark Moraga, the coordinator of the gathering, said that he hoped that the meeting would bring a bout a new political vision on a regional level that would result in advocates demanding that their governments promote the recognition and respect for the rights of the LGBT communities including the right to education and health coverage as well as protection from discrimination.

The event, which was sponsored by the Norwegian embassy in Nicaragua, was organized by the Center for International Studies and the lesbian-rights organization SAFO.

The event served as the launching venue for a new study that takes a look at gay life in Managua which revealed, among other things, that there are high levels of unemployment among LGBT community members who live in the city.

Nicaragua: Gay US citizen murdered, authorities suspect 'crime of passion'

Nicaragua's El Nuevo Diario reported on Saturday that 45 year-old Jackson Briceño, a former US resident who had moved to the Central American country two years ago "to enjoy his savings, after a life of work in the United States", died on the way to a hospital after being found at home with five stab wounds ("When love kills", Dec. 13, 2008).

Authorities interviewed a 16 year-old nicknamed "La Chilo" who neighbors identified as the Briceño's partner but released him and said that he had not been at Briceño's residence on the night of the attack. The teenager, who lives in a poor rural area 15 miles away from Briceño's residence, was said to have been dating the man for eight months, often staying overnight.

“There was blood on the pillows, on the bed's mattress and all over the floor in the house," said an anonymous witness, "the scene was horrible, since it looked as if they had spilled red paint everywhere. When we were able to see that the man was being taken out by firemen and the police, we saw that he had wounds and blood all over his body."

The forensic unit has revealed that a bloody knife was recovered near Briceño's home and that they also found strands of hair belonging to a man at the scene of the crime and have ruled out that a woman might have committed the crime. The police is investigating the killing as a possible "crime of passion." The first, they say, that they have seen between individuals of the same gender in more than eight years.

"Whoever killed him tried to make sure that he wouldn't be left alive," said Sergio Cano, the forensics expert.

Nueva Ya reports that Briceño operated a foreign currency exchange business.

Uruguay: Bill that would allow change of name and gender in public documents approved by Senate

"Minors under 12 years of age will be able to change registered gender with parents' permission": That's the sensationalistic headline for an article in El País on the Uruguayan senate's approval yesterday of a bill that would allow transgender individuals to legally change their name and gender in all public documents.

"Transsexuals have won half a battle," said El País. A version of the bill would have to be approved by the South American country's House of Representatives in order to become law.

The most heated exchange during the debate came when opponents argued that it would open the door to same-sex marriage. Their argument was that since the bill does not require gender reassignment surgery as prerequisite for a change of identity in public documents, and since those who change their identity would be allowed to "exercise of all the rights inherent in their new condition" including marriage to a person of the opposite gender, it would result in marriages by couples with similar sexual organs.

Proponents argued that the bill was not a same-sex marriage bill and that, in any case, it would only apply to a small number of individuals for whom the bill would greatly improve their personal lives.

A last minute agreement did result in an amendment to the bill's language which requires that "minors under 12 [years of age] should have permission from their parents to initiate the process." The language was added in response to opponents who said that children as young as four would be able to have access to the law without their parents' knowledge or oversight.

If the bill becomes law, it would require a person seeking to change their public documents to go before Family Court and submit an evaluation proving that the person has had at least two years of conflict with his or her gender identity. According to AFP, the two year requirement would be waived for those individuals who have previously undergone gender-reassignment surgery.

A temporary panel would be created to work with the Family Court on specific cases for what is expected to be an initial surge of requests (the panel would disband later as petitions decrease and Family Court staff become better qualified to oversee the process).

It would also require that the Civil Registry discretely inform a future spouse of a partner's previous change in gender.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On the road: The nightlife

San Diego is supposed to have perfect weather, except when it doesn't and it certainly was raining cats and dogs yesterday which meant a night at the movies ("Slumdog Millionaire" if you must know).

But late night movies are not all the San Diego nightlife has to offer. There's Pecs on University Avenue, a local bearish gay bar, in which I stumbled into former National Gay and Lesbian Task Force ED Matt Foreman (ok, I didn't stumble upon him, let's say we were taken there). At Pecs, I was regaled with bud lights and was witness to some bearish cruising (sorry, no pics). Weird, it was only once I got there that I realized that I had never visited a gay bar in San Diego during my past visits which shows you how much I hang out at gay bars anywhere, including New York.

You could do worse than heading a little bit outside the San Diego city limits and head over to the casinos at some local indian reservations. Just make sure you take a specific amount of money and leave the bank cards and credit cards at home. If we had stayed longer, I am sure I'd be a slumdog millionaire by now as well. As it was, I won fortunes and lost fortunes but came up almost even plus or minus $30 bucks. The giggles came when I noticed the place was called "Viejas" which in Colombia is what the horny kids call women when they are boasting about their conquests (the literal translation is 'old women' although I'm pretty sure those who chose the name were unaware of what the word means in Spanish).

A more intimate nightlife venture would be to schedule a night to play card games with friends. Except this was a 'card-game-slash-board-game' I had never heard of called Joker which originated in Missouri. I almost got the point of it. Perhaps one more time at the table will make me a Joker expert. The good thing? It's not a betting game so no money lost. Or at least I don't think it was a betting game.

Last night, after the storm had passed and before the flick, we headed to the Ocean Beach burger joint Hodad's. Yum. From the OB dictionary: ho·dad [hö'dád] A person who does not surf, but who spends time at surfing beaches pretending to be a surfer. That's me!

TRNQILO said one of the old license plates hung on the wall and it was. Apparently San Diegoans (San Dieguites? San Diegans?) treat rain storms just like big snow storms up north: Nobody dares to go out! They might slip on a puddle! So the place was eerily TRNQILO or peaceful. That's not natural for Hodad's. The place has always been packed when I've been there before.

Then it was a hop and a skip across the street to get some ice cream. Rex got a cup and spoon...

...I got a sugar cone. Then, half-way through the cookies'n'cream, it hit me: I could have done with only one scoop! The choco-caramel swirl could have waited for another day!!

...hold that thought...


Monday, December 15, 2008

Farandula: Raphael on those persistent gay rumors

Spanish pop / ballad singer and Latino gay music idol Raphael has been recently promoting a new album released this month titled "50 Años Después" in which he performs duets with some of his favorite singers and interprets their hits. The album, he has said, is a celebration of the fifty years that he has been in the recording industry as one of the most successful Spanish-language singers in the world.

Long rumored to be gay due to his flamboyant personna and dramatic stage antics, the singer sat down with Luis Sánchez-Mellado of the Spanish daily newspaper El País and briefly addressed some of the rumors. Here is an excerpt from the interview:
El País: Do you know that there is speculation regarding your sexual orientation?
Raphael: Once upon a time they called me a faggot and that remains. I know very well who I am, it's also well known at my home, period.
El País: You are also a gay icon.
Raphael: I know. It feeds my vanity. Usually they are people with an exceptional, sensible and special sense of what art is. They are not just anybody. To be liked by tem is a pointin my favor, conquered ground.
Update: Raphael is also the cover boy of this month's issue of ZERO (the Spanish gay magazine that could be compared to Out magazine in the US, except ZERO is better).

In excerpts quoted elsewhere from an article titled "Raphael shows his face" he addresses, once again, rumors that he is gay.

"None of those rumors can affect me," he says, "Additionally, each one is who he has to be, and that's well done. There isn't a reason to feel ashamed of anything. But, please! I am not in that respect."

On the recognition of same-sex partnerships...

"All those things have to be legalized. Cal it however you want to call it: Marriage, an union, whatever it is. I am totally in agreement. I have always been."

Raphael has been married to a woman since 1972 and has raised three children. Here he is performing one of his biggest hits, "Yo Soy Aquel", as Spain's 1966 entry into the Eurovision contest.

Photos: José Sucuzhañay vigil in Brooklyn

I have been spending some time in the West Coast as of late which means that I was unable to attend yesterday's vigil in Bushwick in honor of José Sucuzhañay. Mr. Sucuzhañay passed away on Friday from traumatic injuries he sustained during what is being investigated as a hate crime that took place last weekend.

Some friends did attend the vigil and have graciously allowed me to share the following with Blabbeando readers.

Blogger Joe.My.God. took the photo above and reports that hundreds showed up for the vigil ("Hundreds Turn Out At Brooklyn Vigil For Jose Sucuzhanay, Murdered Victim Of Anti-Latino, Anti-Gay Hate Crime"). He writes:
Among those that spoke to the crowd were NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, openly gay NY State Sen. Tom Duane, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney Charles Hynes, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and leaders from a broad array of LGBT, Latino, and immigrant activist groups. The message underscored over and over again, in both English and Spanish, was that hate speech has consequences - and that the murder of José Sucuzhañay was the inevitable and tragic result of the nonstop villainization of LGBT and immigrant communities by the right wing of this country.

Journalist Mike Lavers, a/k/a blogger Boy in Bushwick also covered the vigil ("Bushwick pays tribute to José Sucuzhañay") and says that City Councilwoman Diana Reyna [D-Bushwick], Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, and New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson were also in the crowd. Mike also has an array of photographs as well as some video on his blog (click on the link above) including the photo of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn above.

Finally, my good friend and journalist José Bayona, who amazingly does not blog, captured some great photos as well, including those below...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Human Rights Campaign stands up for straight immigrant killed in gay bashing

Last night when I was updating the blog with the unfortunate news of José Sucuzhañay's passing, I spent some time looking for related news regarding today's scheduled vigils and I have to say that something that came up made me do a triple-take: The DC-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest gay rights organization in the country, announced that they would "participate" in the main vigil and released the following comments from HRC President Joe Solmonese:
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Sucuzhanay family during this tragedy. The attack on Jose Sucuzhanay was an act of senseless violence that, sadly, takes place all too often in this nation. HRC stands in solidarity with the groups that have put together Sunday’s vigil, march, and press conference, particularly the New York City Anti-Violence Project. We are pleased to lend our support to all the groups’ heroic efforts on behalf of vulnerable communities in New York City and across America.

I encourage all who care about equality and who dream of a nation free from hate violence to participate in Sunday’s events.

A nice gesture you might say. Yay for the gays you might say. Unprecedented, as far as I know, is what I say.

For some of us who have done work in on immigration rights over the last decade - with a focus on LGBT immigrant communities - some frustration has come from the fact that the national LGBT organizations have been less than willing to show leadership on immigration issues even as immigration laws have a tremendous impact on thousands of LGBT individuals living in the United States.

The Human Rights Campaign, in collaboration with Immigration Equality, has done some key work in DC to advance the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which would allow citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States to sponsor their same-sex partner for immigration to the US (as married heterosexual couples do) but, other than UAFA, they have been notoriously slow to move on other immigration rights issues such as political asylum for LGBT individuals persecuted in other countries.

On that last point I particularly remember a January 2007 article by Doug Ireland at Gay City News in which he wrote about the woeful state of adequate legal representation in the US for LGBT immigrants seeking asylum for persecution based on sexual orientation in their home countries ("Since 9/11, a blind eye to persecution").

Doug, who has been a long time HRC critic, called HRC to ask about any recent actions by the agency on behalf of LGBT immigrants seeking political asylum and noted that an unnamed 'press spokesperson' simply responded "That's just not something we do" (Doug also got a similar response from someone at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force).

Online, HRC does have a link to what they call "International Rights & Immigration" issues but the content is skimpy and the only agency-specific action that they mention is "The Human Rights Campaign is working with its allies in Congress to amend current immigration law to cover same-sex relationships." Period.

True, the murder of José Sucuzhañay is not necessarily an immigration-rights case and HRC seems to be approaching it from the same angle as other LGBT rights organizations: Reportedly, it was an anti-gay hate-crime.

Nevertheless it is the first time I remember that the Human Rights Campaign has become this visibly involved with a case that is also so strongly tied to the immigration rights movement and the way that the Sucuzhañay murder has roiled immigrant communities in New York and elsewhere. Might it be a new paradigm for the national organizations as they try to make inroads with certain communities in the wake of the passage of Prop. 8 in California?

Or perhaps I am reading way too much into a single press statement and it simply reflects this divide between those who are approaching this murder from a anti-gay hate crime perspective and those who are approaching it from an anti-Latino hate crime / immigration rights perspective.

As I said before, there are opportunities to build some bridges here. But only if there are efforts to do so.


Update: Jose O. Sucuzhañay has passed away

The New York Times is reporting that José Osvaldo Sucuzhañay, the Ecuadorean immigrant who was beaten up a week ago in an attack that is being investigated as a homophobic and xenophobic hate crime was declared dead after his heart stopped beating on Friday. Mr. Sucuzhañay, who was 31 years old and a father of two, had been declared brain-dead earlier in the week and never regained consciousness after the violent beating.

None of the three assailants who were seen at the scene of the attack have been caught but police released a description of one of the men and announced a $22,000 reward for information leading to their capture.

Mr. Sucuzhañay's mother, who received a special humanitarian visa to travel to the United States from Ecuador, arrived in the city on Friday but by then her son had already lost his life.

Two vigils had been previously announced to take place today in Brooklyn beginning at 2pm in Bushwick (click on link for more information). In addition, the Times says that Mr. Sucuzhañay's family are planning to hold a press conference today at 1pm in front of Elmhurst Hospital in Jackson Heights, Queens. A source lose to the family says that the family will then head to the vigils in Brooklyn.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sean Penn taken to task for supporting Venezuelan and Cuban leaders

In a Nov. 25th essay published first in The Nation and later on The Huffington Post ("Conversations with Chávez and Castro"), actor Sean Penn takes what turns out to be a rather benign look at Cuban leader Raúl Castro and Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez - both of whom he visited.

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. It's certainly great PR for despots who want to come off as cuddly and nice and it certainly highlights the unfortunate tendency by some in the left wing of the United States to romanticize the Cuban revolution and the emergence of left wing "revolutionaries" such as Chávez in Venezuela.

Jump ahead a few weeks and you have a Dec. 9 piece by James Kirchick in The Advocate using the essay in The Nation to criticize Penn on the issue of gay rights ("A friend to gays and anti-gay dictators alike"). Penn, of course, is currently playing gay icon Harvey Milk in the Gus Van Sant flick "Milk" and the editors at The Advocate must have jumped on the chance to run an OpEd piece countering the hosannas the actor has been receiving for his portrayal of the gay rights leader (contrarian OpeEd pieces draw readership).

Considering my comments above, you might think that I agree with Kirchick's argument that Penn's benign take on Castro and Chávez compromises the actor's pro-gay stand (or his portrayal of Harvey Milk). I don't.

There are valid arguments to be made that gay-rights have been curtailed under both Castro and Chávez (ongoing reports that LGBT rights organizations in Cuba have been censured as well as Chávez personal uneasiness with the question of homosexuality matching recent criticism from gay rights organizations and a recent decision by a top court to ban same-sex marriages) but Kirchick seems to have his own ideological blinders in assuming that there have been few gay rights advances since Reynaldo Arenas wrote "Before Night Falls" (1992).

The fact is that there have been momentous advances in Cuba when it comes to LGBT rights - particularly over the last five years although government intervention and censorship remain and dissident views are still penalized. And, while Chávez might be homophobic and the Venezuelan top court has banned same-sex marriage, there are annual gay rights marches in Caracas and other cities and several LGBT rights organizations and activists who are pretty visible and who speak to press freely even when criticizing their president.

So while I personally find that Penn lets his ideology get in the way of his appraisal of the Cuban and Venezuelan leaders, the same can be said of Kirchick when it comes to the hit piece on Penn.

As for "Milk" - Saw it a couple of nights back. Not sure if my expectations were too high but I didn't think it was all that. Except for Josh Brolin's brilliant portrayal of Dan White, it came off as a little too didactic and rushed for me (despite it's length), which seems weird since most people who had told me they'd seen it had loved it.

Update: Cleve Jones wrote a letter to the editor in response to the Kirchick OpEd defending Penn. An excerpt:
Sean Penn is a citizen of the world. He harbors a tireless curiosity and a healthy skepticism, so he goes out and ascertains things for himself firsthand. His explorations as a journalist have put a spotlight on some of the biggest issues of our time: in Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and -- closer to home -- New Orleans. His visits and dispatches have opened avenues of communication and encouraged dialogue.
It still doesn't address that Penn is given unparalleled access denied to hundreds of objective journalists and is treated as what he is - a Hollywood star - in part due to the fact that his past essays have shown him to have a benign view of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments.

Totally unrelated but related - Rex Wockner didn't think it was all that either:

The week in Ruben Diaz, Sr.: Blame the gays, again

It never ends, does it? His power-grabbing deal falling around him, criticism coming from several fronts and political insiders calling him for comments on the power-play upheaval and what does the not-so-good Reverend do? Blame the gays!

I know. Shocking.

It began on Tuesday when Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. launched into an angry tirade on the phone with New York Daily News political blogger Elizabeth Benjamin just as the deal with the so-called 'Gang of Three' was evaporating. Said the Reverend then:
The gays are calling my office. They're jamming my phones. They're going to see what we can do. They've going to see exactly what we can do. Ed Koch is going to see what we can do. They're just going to see. That is what I'm telling you.
Yes, he actually said "They've going to see exactly what we can do". Which, come to think of it sounds a tad threaten-ish. Don't ya think?

Well, after the phone outburst, the Reverend seemed to think he might have gone a bit too far so what followed was a statement posted on the Room Eight blog in which he sought to set the record straight:
I need to state exactly what I told Liz Benjamin from the NY Daily News this past Tuesday evening because some of the important facts that I told her were not reported:

I told Liz Smith Benjamin that the gay community has been jamming my office phone line and making threats to me and my staff. I told her that I am very angry that my office has received phone calls threatening my life and calling the women on my staff “whores” and “bitches”. I told her that to add to those names, Ed Koch called us rats.

I told Liz that the only rat is Ed Koch. I told her that when he was Mayor and was rejected in my community, the only person who stood by him was this rat, and that now this rat is good no more. I told her that I am so angry that because of their calls and editorial boards and because of the insulting Koch statement, there is nothing else that they can do to us or say to us, and that they will see what we can do.

That, my friends, was the basis of my anger, not because the gay community is jamming my phone lines. I am an elected official and I am an old man, and they can do this any time. It was the content of their calls that made me angry. I welcome people to call my office – but with respect to me and to my staff.

When I told Liz that they will see what we can do, this was not at all meant to be a physical threat. As far as what we can do, we have many options, which include: going to the Republican Party, staying neutral to create an impasse, or going to the Democratic Party.

So that is the whole story, and I hope it will set the record straight, for good or for bad.

That begot the following blog post by Ms. Benjamin:

In case you haven't seen it, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. has put out a press release to "set the record straight" regarding an interview he gave to me following the implosion of the deal the Gang of Three struck with Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith.

Basically, Diaz wants to stress he wasn't upset his phones were being jammed by members of the gay community who are infuriated that he insisted as part of the deal that a smae-sex marriage bill not come to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

What made Diaz angry, he says, is the fact that the people who were calling were allegedly threatening his life and calling his staffers names.

He also seems to think I somehow construed that when he said "just wait to see what we can do" it was some kind of physical threat, when what he really meant was that the Gang of Three might go back to the Republicans, remain neutral to create never-ending gridlock or return to renegotiate with the Democrats.

Unfortunately, the senator mixed me up with gossip columnist Liz Smith, who is a blonde, has a few years on me (with all due respect) and works for a rival publication.

I'm not sure I've ever before been the subject of a press release, and while I wish I had received a friendly heads-up about it, it seems only fair to post Diaz's statement in its entirety.
So from almost maneuvering himself into a sweet deal to spouting off homophobic rants in the blogosphere in frustration in one short week. Life is sweet!

As for the state of State politics, not sure anyone came out winning.

On the road: Not in San Fran

So, over on Facebook rumors surfaced earlier in the week that I was in San Francisco. Well, not quite right but close enough. Some of the sights seen so far...We'll see what the days ahead bring.