Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ricky Martin's autobiography: Leaked details

Tuesday is the big launch of Ricky Martin's coming out autobiography "Me" which will get as big a public platform as any bookseller could want: A full hour on The Oprah Show, to air also on Tuesday, in which the singer will offer his first official interview since coming out as a gay man.

Appropriately, a Spanish language version of the book, titled "Yo", will also be released Tuesday, and that night Univision is airing an hour-long Spanish-language interview with Maria Elena Salinas on "Aqui y Ahora" at 7pm EST.

Details of the book had been closely guarded --- until now.

A Costco store in San Juan apparently didn't abide by the release date guidelines and put the book on store stands Friday.  Puerto Rico's Primera Hora got a hold of a copy.

Here are some translated excerpts from the article:
Ricky Martin always knew he was gay. He began to feel it as far back as his adolescence when he felt intimidated before his friends for being a virgin.  Even though his first sexual experience was with a woman, in his autobiography "Yo", he openly confesses it is men who arouse his animal instincts.
"Since I can remember, I have felt a very strong attraction to other men and, although I can say that I have also come to feel a lot of attraction and a lot of chemistry towards women, it is men who ultimately awaken what is instinctive, the animal in me."
Martin says that the fear of being rejected and the fear of his career going down the tubes was what kept him in the closet, despite family members and close friends being accepting of his sexual identity.
"Socially, there are so many prejudices against homosexuals that I thought nobody would understand me, that I'd be rejected, since those are the codes I heard and learned as a child. So since my adolescence, when these desires I first began to manifest themselves, I had to deal with this great conflict between my emotions and my thoughts."
It wasn't until his 30's, Martin writes, that he began to feel comfortable with his sexuality but, even then, the singer admits he began to enjoy the 'spice' of keeping his sexual encounters secret.
He didn't know how he would say it, but he wanted to say it, so he began to loosen the ropes little by little. The provocative video from the opening of his "White and Black" concerts, in which he appeared with words painted on his body such as "accept yourself" and "discover yourself" was the start of his coming out of the closet.

But it was the birth of his children, Mateo and Valentino, that gave him the final push . "When I held them in my arms for the first time, I not only realized just how simple and beautiful life could be, but I felt the need to be transparent with them," says [Martin], who establishes his own commitment to defend the human rights of gays, lesbians and transgender people. He rejects discriminatory words such as "maricón", "puto" and "pato" [words that can be interchangeably translated as "fag" in areas of Latin America].
In the book, Martin also describes what was going through his mind when he came out on March 29th of this year by pushing a button and simply sending a Tweet.
[Martin] says that as soon pressed the button "send" he shut down the computer and went to his room to sleep for half an hour, but [he says] curiosity killed the cat. He then called a friend and asked her to look at his Twitter time-line and tell him what was happening.  Then he experienced more relief.  "She said, 'Kiki, it's pure love..."

"And then all that fear I felt, the fear many people have at the moment they come out of the closet, it was just in my head.  I know that maybe this is not the case with others when they decide to do it - there are those who are faced with a painful wall of misunderstanding and rejection - but I can say my own experience was nothing but positive and empowering," he says.
El Nuevo Dia shares passages in which Martin describes his first romantic relationship with a man with a "radio journalist and DJ from Los Angeles".

"We met at a radio station and from the moment we saw each other it was like a great encounter between souls, at least for me.  I was traveling out of Los Angeles and went to the station for an interview.  The moment I opened the door to the studio, I found myself face to face with the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen," narrates the Puerto Rican singer in his biography.

The relationship occurred at the end of 1993 when Martin was about to join the cast of "General Hospital" and ended some time later when the couple realized that it couldn't survive Martin's constant touring.  Martin says he offered to end his music career and perhaps let the world know he was gay but says that his partner was the one who convinced him that he should not cut his career short even if it meant and end to the relationship.

Martin apparently also puts to rest a question repeatedly raised by gossip magazines when it comes to his current domestic situation: He indicates he does not have a current partner and is raising his children on his own.

He also only addresses his relationship with Mexican news anchor and actress Rebeca de Alba - a relationship that played out in public for some time even as rumors swirled around Martin that he was gay - without directly mentioning her name.

He also talks about Barbara Walters asking him if he was gay - and his denial.

Martin, who was featured on a groundbreaking Fathers Day People en Español cover posing with his twin boys back in June, spends the later part of the book describing the road to becoming a father.

In the closing chapter, Martin says that writing the book taught him to embrace and love his entire life, with it's ups and downs.

"I think everyone should accept the life they were given," he says, ". That doesn't mean they shouldn't try to live it as fully as they want to live it,but - in the end - what matters is to accept yourself, to love yourself, to be happy and to do good."

What's next: Martin has been hunkered down working on his next album, which features songs in English and Spanish a la Shakira.  For the project, he has reunited with producer Desmond Child who also produced "Living la Vida Loca".

A new single, "The Best Thing About Me is You" featuring Joss Stone, debuts on Ryan Seacrest's radio show this Monday.  You can hear the FULL SONG here.  The Spanish version of the song, "Lo Mejor de Mi Vida Eres Tu" features Natalia Jimenez. :30 second clip here.

  • Ricky Martin on Twitter here
  • Ricky Martin's official site here

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Steven Mackin, remembered

    Four years ago today my friend Steven Mackin passed away from Erwing Sarcoma at the age of 27. He thought he had beat the rare form of cancer a few years earlier when he'd gone through surgery and chemotherapy but when it came back it was stronger than ever and took his life in a mere few months.

    When the cancer first struck, Steven had been living in San Francisco and loving it.  The surgery left him with the need to use crutches in order to walk and forced him to relocate back to his hometown of Bardstown, Kentucky.

    Although Steven just adored his mom Sheila and loved his family, it was hard for him to go back to live in Bardstown.  I remember the hours we spent chatting and talking about his desire to move on with life and move somewhere else: San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas.  Somewhere where he could continue his life as a young gay man which was interrupted so suddenly by the cancer diagnosis in San Francisco.

    Personally, I have never met anyone who took more pictures of himself.  Maybe it was a way for Steven to constantly remind himself he was a survivor.

    He also loved this blog, at least in it's earlier form, and a couple of months before he knew the cancer was back we had a conversation in which he made me promise that if he passed away I would talk about him here, show people his pictures, make sure he wasn't forgotten.

    So every year on this date, I write about Steven and share his life with the world - and share his pictures.

    He was just an amazing, beautiful man and it's still tremendously sad he is no longer with us.

    Steven also left behind an incredible testimony of his fight with cancer in the form of a LiveJournal which he very appropriately called "Things I've Found in My Butt".   It's an incredibly touching, irreverent, funny, maddening, sad and moving diary of his life in Bardstown.

    In 2007, the Associated Press featured Steven's story based on the writings he left behind.

    It's an amazing read if you have some time on your hands, and a living testament of the great Steven Mackin.

    Oh, and, by the way, Steven Mackin IS prettier than you!


      Wednesday, October 27, 2010

      He who mistreats a woman is a fag

      When it comes to the usage in Latin America of Spanish-language terms that most people would deem homophobic, I admit sometimes I am left feeling a bit flummoxed.

      There is, for example, the song "Puto" by the legendary Mexican rock band Molotov. The literate translation of the title is "Faggot" and it has a quaint chorus that says "matarile al maricón" ("kill the fag").

      But whenever I've called it a homophobic song I've gotten push-back from people who say that in the song's context "Puto" does not really refer to gays but, instead, to the powers that be. And, to be sincere, I partly get it. The band itself has said as much and, in the face of criticism, insists on playing it live during their tours.  But even if "fag" can be contextualized to mean something else in a song, do their fans make the distinction?

      These thoughts come to mind today in light of a new campaign launched today by the National Women Services Ministry of the Chilean government (SERNAM):

      SAY WHAT? Yes, the Chilean government says a "fag" is he who mistreats a woman (official government announcement here).

      Speaking to La Tercera, Carolina Schmidt Zaldivar, Director of SERNAM, explained:
      [Domestic] violence is based on the abuse of power and a poor understanding of what true masculinity is.  Does it make you more of a macho man to mistreat, beat up or denigrate a woman?  The answer is clear: He who mistreats a woman is a lesser man... let's say things as they are.
       I do think the Minister makes a relevant point which actually is also pertinent to the discussion about the Molotov song: The Mexican rock band and the Chilean government might argue that "maricón" and "puto" is in no way related to "fagness" but they both admit they use the homophobic terminology as a means to question a man's masculinity.

      Here is what complicates things somewhat: The first man you see in the video is Chilean soccer referee Pablo Pozo who has previously denounced soccer fans calling him a fag at several games and directly challenged homophobia in one of the most homophobic sports in the world.

      The second man is television personality and talk show host Jordi Castell who is one of the few openly gay personalities on Chilean television.  They both say they decided to participate in the campaign as opponents of domestic violence.

      The ads also have the backing of the country's leading LGBT rights organization, the Homosexual Movement of Integration and Liberation (MOVILH), who tweeted the following tonight:
      With the SERNAM campaign things are left clear: Relatives and people you know who are gay aren't fags. The man who beats up his woman is. 
      MOVILH, really?

      There are a couple of things that strike me as very wrong with this brief statement. MOVILH lets SERNAM use the word "faggot" in a campaign and backs it up.  They also buy into the meme that 'fagness' can be used to denigrate a man's masculinity.

      In addition, the campaign assumes all domestic violence in a heterosexual partnership comes from the man, which is not always the case.

      One Chilean LGBT rights organization is not having any of it.  Speaking tonight on Radio Bio Bio, Marcelo Aguilar of Acción Gay said the campaign was discriminatory and questioned whether the message would be received as intended.

      Tonight we have an answer to that: The term "maricón" [fag] became the #1 trending topic on Twitter in South America tonight thanks to SERNAM.

      I personally think it's an awful campaign, it elicits unintended consequences, and gives people license to use the word "maricón" as if it wasn't anything bad.

      But what's your take? Does the shock value make men respond? Is the campaign homophobic? Please let us know.


      Saturday, October 23, 2010

      Spain: Jacobo Piñeiro given maximum sentence in murder of gay couple after having been previously acquitted

      In March of last year I wrote about an unspeakable crime that took place in Vigo, Spain on January 13th, 2006.

      That early morning a man called Jacobo Piñeiro (right) killed a gay couple by stabbing them 57 times and then tried to set their apartment on fire to cover up the crime.

      In court, he acknowledged he had murdered the two men but argued that he had acted in defense after the couple had made unwanted sexual advances and threatened him if he didn't comply.  Piñeiro said he "panicked".

      Piñeiro's lawyer argued his client had become overcome by an "insurmountable fear of being raped and being murdered".  The good ol' 'panic defense'.

      It worked. A regional jury acquitted him of murder charges and, at first instance, also acquitted him of arson charges.  From my original post on that March 2009 verdict (link above):
      It was only after beginning to read the statement in court that the judge stepped in to correct some "errors" which led Piñerio to be charged in setting up the fire. When the verdict was read, jury members covered their face, perhaps already aware of the outrage that their verdict would elicit.

      He remains to be sentenced and is expected to be sent to prison for 15 to 20 years for setting the fire. If he hadn't been acquitted of the murder charges, he would have been sent to prison for up to 60 years.
      In other words, Piñeiro was acquitted of taking two lives but declared guilty of setting a building on fire.

      The worldwide outrage was fast.  There were protests in London and Spain and my friend Karlo organized a small protest here in New York outside the Spanish embassy.

      In October of last year, after the verdict was appealed, a higher court called it "defective, absurd, illogical and arbitrary" and ordered a new trial.

      On July 12th of 2010, Piñeiro walked out of jail a free man (video).  His attorneys argued that Spanish law forbid the authorities from holding anyone without being charged for more than three years and - since all previous charged had been invalidated - Piñeiro was released until the new trial. Obviously, the friends and family of the murdered couple were distraught and Piñeiro certainly didn't show any more resourcefulness than he showed in jail (check photo above).

      Good news: On September 26th a second jury found Piñeiro guilty of both murders as well as setting their place on fire and on October 14 he was sentenced to 25 to 58 years in jail, minus time already served- The maximum allowed time for the horrendous crime.

      It's always nice to learn that justice has been served.

      Thursday, October 21, 2010

      President Barack Obama: It Gets Better

      It's amazing it took the White House and President Barack Obama so long to release a statement or video addressing this issue but here you have it. President Barack Obama says "It Gets Better".

      A transcript provided by the White House:
      Like all of you, I was shocked and saddened by the deaths of several young people who were bullied and taunted for being gay, and who ultimately took their own lives. As a parent of two daughters, it breaks my heart. It’s something that just shouldn’t happen in this country.

      We’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage – that it’s some inevitable part of growing up. It’s not. We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe forall of our kids. And to every young person out there you need to know that if you’re in trouble, there are caring adults who can help.

      I don’t know what it’s like to be picked on for being gay. But I do know what it’s like to grow up feeling that sometimes you don’t belong. It’s tough. And for a lot of kids, the sense of being alone or apart – I know can just wear on you. And when you’re teased or bullied, it can seem like somehow you brought it on yourself – for being different, or for not fitting in with everybody else.

      But what I want to say is this. You are not alone. You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything to deserve being bullied. And there is a whole world waiting for you, filled with possibilities. There are people out there who love you and care about you just the way you are. And so, if you ever feel like because of bullying, because of what people are saying, that you’re getting down on yourself, you’ve got to make sure to reach out to people you trust. Whether it’s your parents, teachers, folks that you know care about you just the way you are. You’ve got to reach out to them, don’t feel like you’re in this by yourself.

      The other thing you need to know is, things will get better. And more than that, with time you’re going to see that your differences are a source of pride and a source of strength. You’ll look back on the struggles you’ve faced with compassion and wisdom. And that’s not just going to serve you, but it will help you get involved and make this country a better place.

      It will mean that you’ll be more likely to help fight discrimination – not just against LGBT Americans, but discrimination in all its forms. It means you’ll be more likely to understand personally and deeply why it’s so important that as adults we set an example in our own lives and that we treat everybody with respect. That we are able to see the world through other people’s eyes and stand in their shoes – that we never lose sight of what binds us together.

      As a nation we’re founded on the belief that all of us are equal and each of us deserves the freedom to pursue our own version of happiness; to make the most of our talents; to speak our minds; to not fit in; most of all, to be true to ourselves. That’s the freedom that enriches all of us. That’s what America is all about. And every day, it gets better.

      Andrew Sullivan: Big Think

      Andrew Sullivan is perhaps the best known and most influential political gay blogger out there.  His The Daily Dish blog, which is hosted at the online site for The Atlantic magazine, recently celebrated it's 10th year online (that's like 100 years in blog-life!).  In light of this milestone, the site Big Think has just posted a fascinating interview with Andrew on the blogging life, his politics, his appreciation for "South Park" and the fact that President Abraham Lincoln was probably gay. He is certainly someone whose intellect and passion I have long admired, even before his blogging days.

      In this segment, Andrew talks about marriage equality, the current political moment and Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" Project (be patient as it uploads):

      You can watch the full 42 minute interview here. Big Think has also split it up into segments.


      Wednesday, October 20, 2010

      It gets better for queer Latinos - sometimes

      In the wake of a recent increase in reported suicides by young queer folk in the United States, gay journalist Dan Savage had a little idea back in September: What if people could upload short videos on YouTube and speak from personal experience telling younger folk who might be going through rough waters or be considering suicide that their lives mattered and to stick it through the hard times?

      Using his nationally syndicated sex-advice column and highly visited blog, Savage launched a YouTube channel he called The "It Gets Better" Project and invited people to post their videos there.

      The response has been overwhelming. In just one month, the site has posted more than 2,000 videos which have garnered more than 10 million views.  Just yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton posted her own take.  Accordingly, there has been the need to create a stand alone site called, not surprisingly, "It Gets Better" which allows you to submit videos and also provides links to The Trevor Project for kids who might be feeling bullied and overwhelmed and might be thinking of taking their lives.

      That's the background.  What I wanted to highlight is that a friend of mine, Emmanuel Garcia, has been taking a look at the videos and been compiling a list of those submitted by Latino folk ("Latin@s: It Gets Better / Se Pone Mejor").

      I have posted a couple of the videos featured by Emmanuel. If you have leads on any other "It Gets Better" videos submitted for the project not listed on Emmanuel's blog, please go to the link above and leave a reply message on his post indicating which videos he might have missed.

      Tuesday, October 19, 2010

      My New York: "Jackass 3D" but for real

      Above: The Doug, the Bam and I
      I went to see "Jackass 3D" on Sunday with my friend Doug.  He'd met some of the guys from the movie the previous night - and got a new tattoo with them - and wanted to see the movie. I wasn't so sure. I've loved the Jackass crew and the stunts they've pulled over the years but the reviews for the movie were lukewarm to bad.  Was it the best "Jackass" movie? No, but I ended laughing my ass off anyway.  Then again, I've always loved a good fart joke, so take that for what it's worth. 

      Walking out of the movie, Doug realized he'd gotten a text message asking him to go hang out with the guys some more. I was invited along and ended up hanging out with Jackassers Bam Margera and Brandon Novack, a guy from the crew and some girls.

      I got to quiz Bam on international politics and Novack on other stuff (I know, right?). There'd been a few rounds of drinks already by the time we joined them. We got to hear how Bam had been sized up by a guy at the urinals at a gay bar on Christopher Street earlier in the week. As gay friendly a straight guy as I've met, I tell ya. I left early, Doug stayed. Some gayish shenanigans followed. Not sure I regret leaving but it was fun hanging out.

      The movie made $50 million on opening night alone. You are welcome for the money Johnny Knoxville and crew! The End.


      Thursday, October 14, 2010

      Equality California stands up for marriage equality in Mexico

      Photo: Geoff Kors, Executive Director of Equality California, at a global LGBT justice conference hosted by the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute on March of 2009 (courtesy of yours truly).
      Back in March, Equality California, the largest LGBT rights organization in California, released a statement congratulating the first same-sex couples who took advantage of Latin America's first marriage equality law and decided to get hitched.

      That - in some ways - was easy for Equality California to do. It came after the fact, it sounded really pretty, and it probably endeared Equality California to many a Latino guy or gal who read about it.

      Then came a local 18-1 vote to ban recognition of same-sex marriages in Baja California in late September.  I wrote about it earlier this month and shared some video of the proceedings...

      On the surface, the vote was a slap against the Mexican Supreme Court which ruled in August that all same-sex marriages conducted in Mexico City were constitutionally valid and had to be recognized across the nation as such. In fact, if the Baja California vote becomes law, it will probably head to the top jury of the land  - and probably declared unconstitutional.

      In the meantime, though, the Baja California vote has to be ratified by 3 of the 5 municipalities represented by the regional deputies who voted to slam marriage equality and that has yet to take place.

      Rex Wockner, who has been doing an amazing job following the story, writes:
      Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors has joined calls for municipal councils in Mexico's Baja California state to reject a state constitutional amendment that seemingly bans recognition of same-sex marriages.

      Meanwhile, local LGBT activists are organizing marches on Oct. 16 in the U.S. border city of Mexicali, the Baja state capital, and on Oct. 24 in the border city of Tecate
      As for Equality California, here is the statement provided by their Executive Director, Geoff Kors, to Rex:
      It is extremely disappointing that there is an effort to amend the state constitution to not allow or recognize same-sex marriages in Baja California. Mexico's Supreme Court has upheld marriage for same-sex couples and further required that legal same-sex marriages from Mexico City be recognized throughout the nation. We call on the municipal councils in Ensenada, Mexicali, Rosarito Beach, Tecate and Tijuana to reject this discriminatory effort by voting against ratification of the constitutional amendment -- and to go on the record in support of marriage equality for same-sex couples.
      It might have been easy to send out a congratulatory message to same-sex couples in Mexico City back in March, but to step in and proactively state an opinion in light of imminent passage of a homophobic piece of legislation in one of the states in Mexico is unparalleled for a major LGBT rights organization in the United States.

      For that, I applaud Geoff Kors and Equality California and say 'thank you'.


      Senator Ruben Diaz to Blabbeando: Thank you

      One more post on the Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr. and the anti-gay crime that took place recently in the Bronx.

      Yesterday I admitted I was wrong in stating earlier in the week that Senator Diaz had been mum on the attack. But I agreed with New York Daily News political reporter Bob Kappstater when he said the statement could have been stronger and not evade the use of the word gay.

      I also said that the only way I found out about the statement was through an article that ran over the weekend in the Spanish-language newsdaily El Diario La Prensa.

      Admittedly, it's not Diaz's fault that other newspapers didn't pick up on his press release but, yesterday, I also criticized that the statement was nowhere to be seen in what is arguably his most public presence on the web: His Senate page.

      I wasn't expecting a response and the Senator's office has certainly not reached out to me but a Google alert just... ehm... alerted me to some developments.

      The Senator's office has posted the Reverend's full statement online as a top news story on his website. It's titled "Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz Outraged by Depraved Acts of Violence" and it reads as follows:
      I am appalled by news reports of depraved criminal acts committed by nine young men who tortured and robbed teens and men in a building on Osborne Place in The Bronx. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

      No one deserves to be brutalized or victimized. Predatory crimes like these are among the most heinous. Our laws must be enforced. Each criminal involved deserves the maximum penalty upon conviction.

      Violence in our society is out of control. Too many young people act on impulse and don’t think about the consequences of their actions for themselves or others. We need to teach our youth to respect each other and remind them about the importance of reflection.
      There's a second story at the top of the page, though, and that one reads "Senator Diaz to Blabbeando: Thank You!". I. Kid. You. Not.  From the Senator's statement:
      I deeply appreciate the honesty of blogger Blabbeando to correct himself on his website and through his twitter account about the press release I issued on Saturday expressing my outrage about the heinous crimes committed by Bronx youth on Osborne Avenue.

      Even though Blabbeando criticizes me, I love honesty – and unlike Gerson Borrero – Blabbeando is honest.

      I publicly thank Blabbeando for his sincerity and for his refusal to perpetuate any claim that I was “mum” over the weekend.
      As you know, yesterday I also pointed out a blog post at the WNYC radio station's website in which Latino political pundit Gerson Borrero took Senator Diaz to task for the homophobia he has seeded throughout the Bronx as a political representative from the borough.  I'm not sure if the Senator - or his press handlers - missed it but I did categorize Mr. Borrero's essay as "a great, great, great - and important - column".

      Mr. Borrero, as I did at first, probably wasn't aware of the statement because it was certainly not disseminated publicly and was only picked up by few media venues, making it easy for people to have missed it.

      But, in his thank you statement to Blabbeando, the Reverend (or his press handlers) are directly evading the larger point that Borrero was making in his essay: Homophobia has an impact and the Reverend has blood on his hands for seeding it all over the Bronx all these years.

      Yes, I sincerely thanked the Reverend for putting out the statement because I sincerely appreciated it.  But one single statement does not make up for the incredible damage the man has done to the LGBT community in New York throughout the years.

      I am aware the two men - Diaz and Borrero - have a longstanding feud over Borrero's criticism of the Reverend (Borrero calls Diaz "a man of the Devil" so there is no love lost on either side).  I for one don't appreciate to be thanked in a statement that only serves to get back at Borrero.

      Two final points: In releasing the Senator's statements against the crime in the Bronx, the Senator's office also state the following:
      Last week, Senator Reverend Diaz joined with community leaders to denounce crimes committed against Bangladeshi residents in Parkchester. In August, he joined with members of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization to denounce bias attacks against Mexican residents of Staten Island.
      Well, he might have joined those communities publicly at press conferences and rallies, but he certainly was nowhere to be seen when advocates held a press conference over the weekend denouncing the crimes.  Now, think about the opposite: What would have happened if the Reverend had stood publicly with LGBT community advocates and deplored the homophobic basis of the attack? THAT, my friends, would have been big news.

      And about Kappstater's comment on the avoidance of using the word "gay" in the statement Diaz released to media: As Kappstater noted, the word "gay" is indeed absent from the official statement and it's also absent in the Senator's 'thank-you' statement but, surprisingly, it appears in the intro to the note:
      New York State Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz issued the following remarks today in response to online postings by Blabbeando about the Senator’s repudiation of the widely reported predatory attacks of two gay men in The Bronx... 
      So, in a sense, the Reverend has yet to utter the word "gay" in deploring these attacks. As for the statement that two gay men were attacked, the alleged victims are four, not two, and, as far as I know only one was known to live an openly gay life.  The fact that two of the gang members who were victimized are alleged to have admitted to having sexual contact with the openly gay man does not necessarily mean either man was gay or identified as such.

      PS: The Reverend is still blocking me from following him on Twitter. LOL!

      Wednesday, October 13, 2010

      Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr.'s response to the anti-gay attacks in the Bronx

      I admit it. I was wrong. Yesterday I said the Reverend (and New York State Senator) Ruben Diaz, Sr. had yet to respond to the horrendous anti-gay attack that took place in the Bronx earlier this month and it turns out the Reverend had indeed put out a statement repudiating the crime.

      You wouldn't know it, though, if you visited the Senator's official website which currently lists two top stories:

      The first one challenges New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his support of marriage equality.

      The second highlights the Senator's support for Bangladeshi Americans in denouncing "hate crimes" in the Bronx against their community.

      Having checked there first, and not having found any statements decrying the attacks, I asked some Bronx LGBT advocates and they hadn't heard a thing from the Diaz camp either.

      I should have asked his office directly or read the Spanish-language press.

      On Sunday's edition of El Diario La Prensa published an article titled "Indignation at attacks against gays in the Bronx."

      According to the paper, they received a press statement from the Reverend which said the following:
      I am surprised by reports in the press about the depraved criminal acts committed by nine young men who tortured and robbed two adolescents and a man in an Osborne Place building in the Bronx. My prayers go with the victims and their relatives. Nobody deserves to be brutalized or victimized.
      I am grateful to the Senator for speaking up. I truly am. Still, there is a couple of glaring omissions from the statement and at least one journalist noticed one of them.

      From a column published yesterday in the New York Daily News authored by political reporter Bob Kappstater ("Bronx hangs its head in wake of heinous gay-bashing attack"):
      State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. is against gay marriage. That's his religious belief as a Pentecostal minister - and his right. But he could have been a bigger man when he issued a statement Saturday, condemning the attacks - but not once using the word gay [italics mine].
      Some may say that people are stretching facts a bit too far to find any fault in the statement. But consider the fact that said statement is nowhere to be found on his official site under blog entries, news items or press releases.

      In addition, it's striking that the Senator would deem fit to criticize Bloomberg on gay issues and never admit in his statement that the attacks in the Bronx were in any way related to homophobia.  More striking is the fact that ten days ago he was highlighting his work to combat hate crimes against Bangladeshi-Americans in the Bronx and that in his statement about the horrific homophobic crime in the Bronx he also holds off from mentioning the term "hate crime".

      It's definitely not the kind of leadership in the Bronx that Gerson Borrero is calling for.

      Gerson Borrero: The elephant in the room when it comes to the anti-gay attacks in the Bronx

      If you are among those New Yorkers who have Time Warner Cable and tune in to "Inside City Hall" on NY1 on weekdays, you might recognize Gerson Borrero as the guy who spars with conservative radio host and former Guardian Angel Curtis Sliwa over the political news of the week.

      But for Latino residents of the city, Mr. Borrero is a journalistic legend, having been the Editor-in-Chief at El Diario La Prensa, the largest Spanish language newspaper in the city, and a political radio personality as well.  He still has a weekly political column at the paper called "Bajo Fuego" ("Under Fire").

      Over the years, he has also emerged as one of the strongest straight allies of the Latino LGBT community by challenging the homophobia of some of our elected Latino political leaders.

      Mr. Borrero, who blogs at The Borrero Report, is also a guest blogger at WNYC Radio's It's a Free Blog and yesterday he penned an amazing post titled "Loud-Mouthed Homophobes Have Made Gay Violence Acceptable for Too Many" in which he takes on homophobic New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr., his son, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and even gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo.

      An excerpt:
      Let me point to the elephant in the room: Every individual involved in this odious crime is Latino. The vile act occurred in the poorest congressional district in the nation. All of the elected officials at the municipal, state, and federal levels representing the neighborhood where the crime was committed are Puerto Rican and Dominican.
      Of these elected officials, the most vociferous anti-LGBT person in the Bronx is Rubén Díaz. The state senator has built his political career by vilifying the LGBT community at every turn [...] And yet, no critics have made the connection between the crime and the terrain, which has been poisoned against gays for so long by Rubén Díaz.
      It's a great, great, great - and important - column and Borrero doesn't mince words.  I hope you take some time to click on the link above to read it.

      In the meantime, I was invited to contribute a post to National Public Radio's Tell Me More blog on the same topic ("It's a Matter of hate, and a matter of safety"). I took a different tack and I'm not sure I was as successful as I intended. I did want to thank those people in the Bronx who did speak up to say 'not in our streets.'

      By the way, Borrero also has a weekly segment in the Spanish-language NY1 channel called "Para Que Lo Sepas".  This week, he spoke about the topic in Spanish to the viewers.  You can watch that segment here.


      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr.: Mum on Paladino, mum on horrific anti-gay crime in the Bronx

      Word came tonight that the usually loquacious New York State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. finally spoke up about the homophobic statements made by embattled conservative gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino over the weekend.

      Or, rather, someone at The Albany Times Union reached Diaz and got the following:
      Just got off the phone with Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., vocal same-sex marriage opponent. He declined to comment on @CarlPaladino's comments #nygov
      No big surprise there. You might remember the 'good' Reverend made a show of inviting and embracing the anti-immigrant Tea Party candidate to the Bronx where he was "warmly embraced" by the Reverend and his religious acolytes back in August, according to NY1 ("Paladino stumps in the Bronx, receives warm welcome").

      Now, as the Paladino candidacy seems to be going down in flames, we can certainly understand why the Reverend would rather stay quiet about their short-lived BFF status and clamp down on the bromance.

      What is more difficult to understand is why the 'good' Reverend, who represents parts of the Bronx, has also stayed mum on the horrific crime committed by a Latino gang in his neighborhood against people they thought were gay.

      After all, he did cast a rather surprising vote in favor of anti-bullying legislation back in June - which led to its passage.  Furthermore, a week ago, the Reverend proclaimed he was standing up against hate crimes when it came to a spate of recent attacks against the Bangladeshi community in the Bronx.

      His non-homophobic son, who happens to be the current Bronx Borough President, did put out the following statement:
      The news of these hate crimes sadden us all, and I am grateful that the NYPD has moved so quickly against those responsible for these homophobic attacks. Bronxites will not tolerate any form of bigotry in our borough, and we stand together as 1.4 million residents to condemn these actions and to oppose hatred in all its forms.
      The Reverend? Still mum.  And Bronx Borough President Diaz, Jr. can't cover for him forever.

      Perhaps the 'good' Reverend will call the Capital Tonight's Liz Benjamin tomorrow and respond to this blog post?

      I'd ask him myself but, shoot! He's blocked me from his Twitter account (I wonder why) - See image on the left.

      You, on the other hand, can still follow him on Twitter! Just click on @RevRubenDiaz and follow! And let me know things he wouldn't want to tweet to me!

      As for Paladino and his unfortunate remarks at a Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn this weekend, The New York Times has an illuminating article posted online today ("Alliance with a rabbi has risks and rewards for Paladino") which follows Liz Benjamin's post earlier this weekend ("Paladino snubbed in Boro Park").

      I mention this to point out that Paladino chose to align himself with the fringest of the fringestest conservative Orthodox Jewish figures in the city - Rabbi Yehuda Levin.  I also mention this to nicely tie up this post into the obligatory scary Paladino-Diaz-Levin triumvirate they will now escape from...

      And yes, I have got video of Levin blessing Reverend Diaz and...

      "Sodom on the Hudson" indeed! That's from an anti-gay rally held in May of 2009.

      Nobody can say that rabbi Levin's statements weren't out there for anyone to find. Specially by Paladino who is now trying to place the blame on Levin for his statements.

      The whole Paladino thing has certainly marginalized rabbi Levin to the sidelines. He'll probably never be reached by a political campaign ever again. And that is a very good thing we have to thank Paladino for.

      If only the scandal would also help to marginalize the 'good' Reverend as well.

      [Leading image of Senator Diaz and Carl Paladino courtesy of NGBlog].

      Sunday, October 10, 2010

      Carl Paladino: "I oppose the homosexual agenda whether they call it marriage, civil unions or domestic partnership"

      Never mind the recent rash of suicides among young gay men over the last few weeks, including that of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi who jumped off the George Washington Bridge in Upper Manhattan on September 19th.

      Never mind the unfolding horrific details of a homophobic attack perpetrated by members of a Latino gang in the Bronx last week.

      The understatement of the year might be Carl Paladino, conservative Tea Party NYS gubernatorial millionaire candidate, showing a little-itty bit of tone deafness by going nuclear on the gays as he sought the Hasidic Jewish vote in Brooklyn today.

      First came a Tweet from journalist Azi Paybarah about four hours ago:
      In williamsburg speech, @CarlPaladino says: "I don't want [kids] brainwashed into thinking homosexuality is an equal valid...option" #nygov
      Then there is the video Azi posted on his YouTube page to back up his Tweet (above).

      Apparently Paladino was upset at being snubbed by a number of other Hasidic Jewish leaders earlier today, according to Capital Tonight's Liz Benjamin, which is why he ended bunched up with ultra-homophobic Rabbi Yehuda Levin.

      In addition, I've also grabbed this video in which Paladino frames the "homosexual agenda" and says it's something he would oppose as a governor (at the 1:34 mark):
      I oppose the homosexual agenda whether they call it marriage, civil unions or domestic partnership.
      I have to say that I am lukewarm, so far, on leading gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo. But if the choice is this, I'll have no problem pulling the lever for the Democratic candidate.

      Tonight, the Cuomo camp pounced. They released the following statement from Josh Vlasto, campaign spokesperson:
      Mr. Paladino’s statement displays a stunning homophobia and a glaring disregard for basic equality. These comments along with other views he has espoused make it clear that he is way out of the mainstream and is unfit to represent New York.
      Methinks Paladino is done, don't you?

      Update 2: Statements from different organizations...
      • Empire State Pride Agenda: Ross D. Levi, Executive Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda and Foundation, released the following statement:  “In the wake of the hate crimes sweeping New York State, including the sickening abuse and torture experienced by three young men in the Bronx last weekend, and the rash of LGBT youth taking their own lives all across our country, it is unfathomable that Carl Paladino could espouse the homophobic position that the lives of gay New Yorkers are not as valid as his.  Law abiding, tax-paying LGBT New Yorkers, and parents of LGBT children, should not have to worry that their governor will be siding with those who feel we are less than, that we are second class citizens living less valid lives than our neighbors.  Apparently, Carl Paladino is fine with schools teaching that sentiment as well, and believes that to teach otherwise is brainwashing.  Fortunately, what Carl Paladino calls brainwashing most New Yorkers call getting along. 
        Will every New Yorker who fails to meet Carl Paladino’s personal morality code have to worry about being deemed invalid? Our extraordinary diversity is part of what makes New York great, and we will all need to work together to address the challenges we face in the coming years. This will be far harder if New Yorkers are divided or distracted by a governor and a government who are making judgments about whether or not some law abiding citizens are leading ‘valid lives.’  
        Carl Paladino seeks to be governor, but by confirming anti-LGBT sentiments, he shows that he is clearly not cut out to be the leader of our state.  New York needs a governor who is committed to equal treatment and equal respect for all its citizens, not one who finds a whole segment of the population he would be representing to be invalid and dysfunctional. The days of elected officials refusing to give LGBT people the dignity and respect we deserve as citizens are long over. We expect and demand better from those who seek to represent and lead our great Empire State.”
      • Queens Pride House (excerpt): “Carl Paladino’s outrageous invective against members of the LGBT community demonstrate clearly his homophobic bias and his complete disregard for common decency,” said Pauline Park, president of the board of directors of Queens Pride House. “We call on all responsible elected officials and community leaders in Queens to condemn Paladino’s bigoted and reprehensible statements,” she added.
      • Human Rights Campaign: “By his own words, Carl Paladino has made himself the poster boy for the kind of divisive leadership that makes young LGBT people question their self-worth and gives license to those who use violence to advance their hate,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Carl Paladino is either homophobic or stunningly tone deaf to the needs of the community – two qualities New Yorkers don’t want in a Governor.” 
      •  GLAAD: "Paladino's outrageous remarks are an embarrassment to fair-minded New Yorkers," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. "This vile language is putting lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people in harm's way. It does nothing but contribute to a climate that encourages incidents like the recent brutal anti-gay attacks in New York City and the anti-gay bullying that led to numerous teen suicides over the last month."
      • Log Cabin Republicans: "Carl Paladino's statements are unfortunate and show he lacks an understanding of what it means to be gay. Allow me to offer a counter to his misinformed statement: I think gay men and women -- my neighbors and your neighbors -- would be much better off and much more successful if they were allowed equal rights and the option of getting married and raising a family. I don't want New Yorkers to be brainwashed into thinking that ignorance is an equally valid and successful option. It isn't."

        Monday, October 04, 2010

        Mexico: Constitution? What constitution? We won't let gays marry in Baja California

        Last Wednesday, Sept. 29, by an overwhelming vote of 18-1, the Chamber of Deputies of the Mexican state of Baja California decided to send a message to the country's Supreme Court by voting for a statewide constitutional amendment banning the recognition of marriages between same-sex couples.

        From my friend Rex Wockner's reporting (read his entire report here):
        Same-sex marriage is legal in Mexico City, and the nation's Supreme Court ruled this year that all 31 Mexican states must recognize gay marriages from the capital city.

        As a result, the state legislature's move could set it on a collision course with the federal Supreme Court, although some amendment backers claimed they only want to prevent gay marriages from taking place in Baja.
        It's not a done deal.  Again, from Rex:
        To be valid, the amendment has to be ratified by the city councils of three of Baja California's five municipalities -- Ensenada, Mexicali, Rosarito Beach, Tecate and Tijuana. Any municipality that fails to report the result of its vote within a month of receiving the amendment will be counted as having approved it. (All towns and areas of Baja California are within one of the five municipalities, which are somewhat similar to U.S. counties.)
        In the meantime, my friend and Mexican human rights advocate Gabriel Gutierrez sent me a link to an 11 minute video of the day when the actual vote took place.  In it, you can see that it was a standing room only event packed with LGBT rights advocates and marriage equality rights opponents vying for space.

        I won't be translating this one but you have to have heart to the LGBT advocates standing in the room as only one of seventeen of their representatives stood up for them.

        At the 8:03 mark in the video, after the vote has been taken, an unidentified man in white reacts in anger to the overwhelming opposition to his rights:
        Rapists! We are also citizens and we pay taxes... ridiculous moralists!... None of you want to adopt anyone, children are dying of hunger and we want to help them. And you come here with your pedophile priests leading you. Trash is what you are! Double morality! Your husbands are with the prostitutes and you are just being ridicule here! Where are your marriages? Where? You have children dying of hunger and you just vouch for your priests! But you come here and say that marriages are between a man and a woman. We are also worthy!... We are human beings just like you!
        Click here for a 2nd video taken at the meeting.

        Keep your eye out for updates...