Monday, December 28, 2009

Obama Fail on Terrorism

It wouldn't be Christmas in the post-9-11 era without a terrorist attempt on an airliner. As if the sluggish economy and two wars overseas weren't enough of a downer, the very real threat of terrorism aimed at U.S. citizens in our skies and on our land still looms large. The worst decade ever, as Time magazine says, may be over, but what the hell do we have to look forward to in 2010? That, my friends, is for a later blog post. Today, however, we have to talk about President Obama's loose grip on national security. In short: when a passenger plane is nearly blown out of the sky, don't you think the president should have a word or two with the nation?

Well, our president is on a much-deserved vacation in Hawaii. I say that seriously, the man has a right to some sun and golf and quality time with his family. But the "blackberry" president, he who is supposedly always at the ready, he who can answer that 3am call, has a responsibility to address any significant attempt on our nation's safety and tell the American people what next steps are in place to keep us safe. It is not the job of a bumbling administration official, one Janet Napolitano, to get on CNN to say the system "works" when the system just allowed an avowed terrorist - one whose family reported him to the FBI just a few weeks ago - to get on a plane with enough TSA-approved equipment to blow up a plane.

Then again, this is the same president who told the nation to not jump to conclusions after the killing spree at Fort Hood last month. A man who has since been revealed to have been in contact with religious extremists in Yemen shoots up an army base and it's preposterous to assume any connection with Islamic jihad. Uh, right.

This is where liberals rightly get it on the chin from conservatives. In the liberal mindset, national security is put in dismissive quotation marks to represent the hysterics of the barely literate. And even when the doom and gloom scenarios of the illiterate come true, liberals are quick to shrug these off and say they're the product of, well, insert any social ill here that can be blamed on capitalism and that, my friends, results in terrorism.

As much as I hate to reference Dick Cheney, that man did say that Obama's approach to national security puts our safety in danger. Now, Obama is no more responsible for this attempted attack than George W. Bush was responsible for 9-11. The idea, however, that Obama is soft on terror and is more inclined to court the Muslim world rather than chastise them for the unrelenting violence of their faith, lingers. For reputation's sake, the president should have by now addressed the nation and put on a brave face for an ongoing conflict.

Obama fail, as they say in Twitter speak, when it comes to our safety.

Monday, December 21, 2009

One Step Closer to National Health Care

America is one step closer to providing health care to all its citizens following a 60-40 vote in the Senate early this morning. What conservatives fear most, and what liberals perhaps thought would never come to pass, might just become a reality. There's no telling now what other sorts of progressive, inclusive legislation the Obama administration can introduce if we pass the healthcare bill (ahem, DOMA, DODT).

In spite of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson's antics and the unanimous discontent of senate republicans, the $870 billion bill is moving forward toward a final vote this week, but not without some major adjustments.

Among the compromises the dems made to keep the bill alive: the government-run public healthcare option has been scrapped, the minimum age for Medicare will not go down to 55, and public funds will not be used to subsidize abortion.

As for costs, well, CNN says: "Individuals under both plans [House and Senate plans] would be required to purchase coverage, but the House bill includes more stringent penalties for most of those who fail to comply. The House bill would impose a fine of up to 2.5 percent of an individual's income. The Senate plan would require individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or face a fine of up to $750 or 2 percent of his or her income -- whichever is greater."

Both versions of the plan represent significant increases in income tax for the wealthy, and the demands on small business are quite hefty - "the Senate bill would require companies with more than 50 employees to pay a fee of up to $750 per worker if any of its employees relies on government subsidies to purchase coverage."(CNN) That's a lot of money, even for a company that can afford to have 50 people on their payroll. I guess none of the people who wrote this book have heard of "working under the table."

And then there's the issue of undocumented residents - what to do with them when they're sick or injured? That there is no provision in the bill for this group still smacks of the short-sightedness that has kept universal healthcare at bay for decades.

While the dems can withstand a little in-fighting and some name-calling from the republicans, if this bill doesn't pass then the whole course of the Obama administration could be derailed. Not that the President has lost his lustre, but Americans are a little less fired up nearly a year into his administration. Some of that is to be expected, but with the war effort being the mess that it is and unemployment still hovering at 10 percent, we need to see our president be able to exert some form of control on a major issue.

It all comes down to Tuesday's vote...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Houston's Gay Mayor...See? They Like Us, They Really Like Us

Beyonce's hometown has elected an openly gay woman as mayor of their city. This past Saturday, Houston City Controller Anisse Parker was elected by a margin of 53%; it's a fascinating development for the reddest of the red states "that overwhelmingly voted to outlaw gay marriage four years ago and in a city where voters have rejected offering benefits to the same-sex partners of government employees." (USA Today)

So, yes, the gays are everywhere. And most Americans don't seem to mind our presence. Except when we start making demands for equal rights and ask for society to confer the same recognition to our relationships as they do to heterosexual couples. Is it simple homophobia? Are all Americans really so obtuse and closed-minded that they'd vote in a near single block to deny (or, in some cases, take away) their fellow citizens' rights?

Or are we the problem? We meaning the gays of course. If Americans have no qualms letting Ellen into their homes everyday and they're electing openly gay candidates to positions of power, what's keeping marriage and domestic partner benefits out of our grasp?

A few years ago I probably would have wagged a finger at some of y'all and had said something like, see? your nasty porcine ways have cost us our rights. But that wouldn't be fair. The older I get the more heterosexual people I've seen pissing all over the institution of marriage (I refuse to talk about Tiger Woods here but you know what I'm talkin' about). So why are gays not allowed into the club? We can mess things up too, if given the chance.

Simply put: we haven't adapted our message of same-ness to the liking of most Americans. There's something missing in the gay/straight dialgoue when it comes to our basic rights. Could things change if we approached the issue from a "may we, too, please?" perspective rather than the current "you have it, so should I" model which annoys many, many people. Granted, there is a significant number of Americans whose faith would make it impossible for them to support our rights. We have to accept that. However, the public can be swayed. I wouldn't have a job otherwise. So I think the problem lies within ourselves. The gay community hasn't really put up a credible case for the recognition of our rights and relationships.

Parker's election is a foreshadowing of the great things that are on the way for gay people in the U.S. There is something to be learned from this victory that can turn the national debate on marriage in our favor.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings Shouldn't Have to Talk about Fisting

For a few months now conservatives have been lobbying for the removal of president Obama's safe schools czar, Kevin Jennings. That a homosexual should hold the title of Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools is too much for some conservatives to handle, and as such, a host of allegations have been drummed up to scare Americans into thinking that a lone gay is single-handedly "queering" our nation's youth. Such is their dismay over Jennings' sexuality, and the fact the he founded GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, that conservatives are actually spouting the words fisting and dental dams over the airwaves. Yes everyone, hide your kids because the gays, and all of their corporate backers are on a mission to rape America's children.

Outlets like Queerty and the Huffington Post have been following this story since September, when allegations against Jennings were first voiced by the conservative right. The chief complaints against Jennings, and GLSEN, are as follows:

1. Jennings all but applauded a sexual relationship between a 15 year-old boy and an adult male back when he was a schoolteacher in Massachussetts over 20 years ago
(When Fox News jumped on the story they then had to retract and say that the student was in fact, 16 at the time of the incident, which is the age of consent in that state)

2. Jennings supports an avoid pedophile
(Jennings lauded the activism efforts of one Harry Hay who unfortunately is an avowed member of NAMBLA, the National Man Boy Love Association)

3. GLSEN is an exploitative organization trading in pederasty and the advocacy of fisting and incest
(The group does provide bar guides to LGBT youth, information on gay chat lines and offers education on safer sex practices - may I say, however, that minus the gay chat lines, these are all integral elements of the Gossip Girl story line? Those kids are NASTY underage drinkers.)

4. GLSEN is promoting a salty reading list that is full of explicit sex
(Right. When it comes to sexualizing America's children, the gays did it first)

At the moment, bloggers like Michelle Malkin are calling for a boycott on GLSEN's corporate sponsors and she's making the rounds on the Fox News Channel to scare America straight on the "truth" behind GLSEN. She is all too happy to be talking about fisting and dental dams, and for the past week she's been linking to sites that are calling the Jennings controversy "FistGate."

Once again conservatives have shown that when it comes to gay rights they can't approach the topic without delving into the most crude elements of sexuality and promoting the idea of the homosexual as a predator with aims on innocent youth. It's trashy but effective - the sad thing is that the business of fear is quite lucrative and conservatives, and their minions at the Fox News Channel, are going to run with this story for as long as they can.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Surge on Afghanistan? It's 30,000:1.5 Billion

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rage on, President Obama has declared that an end to our efforts in the latter conflict will come in 2011. By then, an additional 30,000 troops will have been deployed to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, on top of the 55,000 soldiers who have already served in the region. You have to wonder if 85,000 or so soldiers can topple an army of one billion. That figurative army of one billion refers to recent statistics which found that one out of every four people, or 1.5 billion men, women and children, are Muslim.

Is it gauche and irresponsible, almost ten years into the war on terror, to think of the conflict as a war on fundamentalist Islam? Or on Islam altogether? Is it unpatriotic to think that this is a battle that we can't win because there are too many religious zealots out there who aim to lay waste to western civilization? Or the whole world for that matter seeing as jihadists are apt to kill anyone, even their own people (just look at today's car bomb attacks in Baghdad that have killed over 100 people).

At this point in the war, I do believe that the Muslim world's reaction to the events of the past decade has been tepid and, quite frankly, I've gone from not having an opinion either way on Islam to thinking that it is, in fact, a dangerous religion. If the corner mosque can be a hotbed for fanatical thought, as we have seen at Fort Hood in Texas or here in Brooklyn, then there is no place for this faith in the modern, civilized world. At least not in the west.

Our leaders never sold the war as a quick fix for the epidemic that is fanatical thought, but this war seems to have no end - and while our troop levels may be depleting - a terrorist seems to be born every minute. Some people would argue that aid, education and understanding are needed to win hearts and minds, but as we all know by now the world's biggest terrorist comes from one of the world's wealthiest families and the 9-11 jihadists had enough education to know how to fly planes into skyscrapers. And while the response to these attacks back in 2001 was rightfully careful to not condemn of all Islam, our overtures to this faith have gotten us nowhere. Our own president has traveled to the Muslim world, he's tried to strike a conciliatory tone in his speeches about the war and the role of the faith in this country, but to no avail.

It's no wonder, then, that even ever-neutral Switzerland has had to take a stand on the issue of Islam by banning the construction of minarets in the country. A lot of people are in a pique about this but I'm of the belief that we can no longer play host to a faith who seems fixated on the destruction of so-called infidels. I compare the minaret ban to the closing of bathhouses in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic here in the U.S. - when increasing numbers of gay men were coming down with the disease, public health officials saw a connection between the activities at the baths and the spike in AIDS infections. I don't think that was homophobia, that was a response to a plague. I would offer that fanatical Islam is a plague we've been fighting for quite some time as well.

So, fine, we can send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and sure, we can say that we "almost" found Osama, but the real problem, that seed which germinates and turns into terrorism and turns into a financial and spiritual drain on the west, still exists. So what do we do about that?

Monday, November 30, 2009

On Fort Hood: Beware of Pundits

Diversity is going to kill America. Or so say conservative pundits in the weeks following the shootings at Fort Hood. I think weak liberal pundits are going to be the death of democracy if they don't stop pussyfooting around issues of national security - in the case of the Fort Hood shootings the mainstream media has given conservative pundits plenty of ammunition (sorry for the gross pun) to voice all sorts of scandalous, racist opinions. To my friends at MSNBC and CNN: call a spade a spade - we are at war with Islam. And the shootings at Fort Hood were an act of terrorism. Neither statement is racist nor a call to violence - it's the fact of our times. While you're not talking about this, the Fox News Channel is having a field day playing upon Americans' worst fears. And guess what? This time around, I'm more inclined to believe their coverage of this incident over yours.

A summary of the attack on Fort Hood: The shooter is an army psychiatrist, but also a Muslim who had been exchanging e-mails with a radical cleric in Yemen for the past year and had made some shocking statements about non-Muslims, specifically calling them "infidels [who] should be beheaded and have boiling oil poured down their throats."

I shudder to think that I have gotten more information about this attack, and the link between the shooter and Al Qaeda, from the likes of Ann Coulter than, say, the New York Times. This time around Coulter has found a terrific platform to voice her idea that minorities (aka "victims") have their run of this country, and that it's possible to plan a terrorist attack here under the gaze of the law because the feds will be too scared of coming off as racist and insensitive. Here's her interview with Bill O'Reilly. If you can't watch, here are the three bits of information that are worth taking away:

1-The US media dropped the ball on reporting on the shooter's ties to Al Qaeda (:57)
2- The shooter had never been to sent to war (3:58)
3- The shooter wasn't treating soldiers coming back from war, he treated them before they went on their assignments (4:20)

But you know what else crazy said during her interview? When asked why government officials and the mainstream media have been slow to call the shooter a terrorist Coulter replied:

"We have a caste system in America with different levels of victimhood. You have the feminists, gays, blacks, Jews, but the number one victims, but only starting on 9-11 when they killed 3,000 Americans, became Muslims."

Crazy say what?

See, friends, when those of us on the right side of reason allow political correctness to get the better of us and we don't call things what they are, we lend credibility to the most far-right and un-American ideas. We are, in spite of what us urban elites think, a nation at war. Not just overseas, but here at home. If we can't question the place of Islam in our country, without fear of sounding racist or alarmist, then we stand to lose all of the gains made for minorities in this country. Step up your game, guys - now is not the time for Ps and Qs in journalism.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

That Adam Lambert...

I'm a little slow on the uptake with the whole Adam Lambert-oral-sex-on-live-TV fiasco - forgive me, it IS a holiday week after all. But I do have an opinion on the matter if you care to read on.

Artists doing shocking things at awards shows is nothing new - this week's faux-fellatio and boy-on-boy tongue action harkens Kanye West's stage raiding and Madonna's sapphic cougar antics. So the American Idol runner-up shoved his crotch in a dancer's face - big woop - at least he sang live! Janet Jackson wore Uggs, a bad wig and 60 extra pounds of chunk to open up the show. And if you want to talk about bad wigs and bad attitudes, Whitney Houston needs to come off her high horse, talking about her strength. Honey, there are real people going through real problems - that you had the "strength" to go on Oprah and blame your husband for your crack addiction isn't strength. It's brilliant marketing.

While marquee names are looking and sounding tired, sorting through the darkness of grief or addiction to come up with NOTHING, a new crop of artists is clawing at stardom - and if they have to commit all sorts of crimes, from vandalism (LOVED Lady Gaga's turn at crazy with her performance of "Bad Romance") and public indecency, well, dammit, this is pop culture isn't it? You wanna be on top? Set the stage on fire. Literally. And have at it like the proud homosexual that you are.

I personally don't care for Adam Lambert's voice or look. His spectacle looked more like a coming out party for a high school closet-case who shocks the bejeezus out of his little redneck town by turning the school's production of, say, Oklahoma! into a musical rendition of Cruising. Not my cup of tea, but do you, girl.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tear Down This Wall, But Build Another Here, Here and Here

I know everyone has moved on from the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, but I've been meaning to make a point about this historic event for a few days now. So here goes: while the world is celebrating the end of the Cold War and the unification of one country that would ultimately become a world super power, our country remains rife with division. In fact, we're very close to building our own literal and figurative walls within our borders.

I feel this most when I think about immigration and gay rights in this country. Both debates have spun out of control to the point of hate speech - Lou Dobbs stepping down from CNN doesn't undo the thinking of too many Americans who openly refer to other human beings as "illegals" and who fear the take-over of this nation by an illiterate, incompetent, brown menace. After all, the Fox News Channel is alive and well. And so is the push for a fence along the U.S./Mexico border, as is the idea that "illegals" should not be covered under a new, universal healthcare plan. In other words, Republicans are happy to plunk down 10 billion dollars on a fence that people are already going to find a way around, as opposed to developing a smart guest worker program that provides a channel for immigrants to enter and leave this country legally and safely. That sort of thinking would benefit everyone, except the contractors building the fence.

But the Republican party is not aiming for visionary, problem-solving policy, so long as people are afraid that undocumented gay Mexicans are going to take over the schools and absolve heterosexual marriage, the GOP will be in business for years to come. That's why the party has decided to abscond the Latino vote altogether by voting in a near single block against President Obama's recent hate crimes law because it has a provision outlawing attacks based on perceived immigration status. In other words, the Republicans voted against the Matthew Sheppard Act because it also grants protection from violent crime against "illegals." (And y'all know I've been writing about hate crimes against Latinos for some time now - this is a real issue, people)

And then there's the issue of gay marriage - in 31 states Americans have voiced a resounding "no" to providing same sex couples the right to marry. The issue is as tired as it pressing - it seems stupid to think that some Americans can be so vehemently interested in controlling other citizens, but then, that's exactly what's happening - it's scary and it's un-American.

But that's where our country is at right now. While I have seriously considered building up my own wall and not engaging with people who don't share my beliefs, I realize that I would then be making these problems worse. So I'll remain open for dialogue, in spite of my lesser, more Latino and argumentative self, and I'll keep writing and advocating for change.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Guess Who's Not Coming to Dinner

When you're an opinionated blowhard like myself you often - believe it or not - check your feelings at the door when you engage in political debate. You gird your loins by smiling politely and resting your chin in the space between your thumb and index finger, clenching your jaw and such when the person in front of you says things like, "look, I love you but I won't support gay marriage," or, "honey, it's a religious issue. Do you see where I'm coming from?"

And my answer to this, if I were a hothead in anddition to a blowhard, would be "Why, yes, I do see where you're coming from. And if you weren't my mom, or dad, or a friend who I really like most of the time, I'd love for you to go back there, forever, and get the hell out of my life." But I'm almost 30 and I do yoga and at this point I figure the people and demons in my life are there for a reason and I might as well play nice with them.

Or should I? Or should we, LGTB Americans, put up with the polite rancor of a nation that continues to dash our rights while passin the bread and butter across the dinner table? Can we comprpomise and make allowances for people who claim to like us but then, in states like California and Maine, vote to tear apart our relationships?

I hate to think that I'm becoming one of these militant Democrats who can't be civilized and accept other people's point of view. But when Republicans are voting in a single block to thwart my rights there's little to nothing that I'm willing to agree on with these people. I'll remain conservative in my opinion on self-determination and personal accountability, but it is becoming harder for me to play nice with a party that thinks my citizenship is debatable.

Friends and family, of course, are another mess. In political debate one often talks about winning hearts and minds, so for me, it's especially heartbreaking that I can't win over some of the people I care most about. Do I shut them out? Do I remain intransigent and force them to see it my way? Or do I allow myself to bend and hope that my flexibility will win them over? I doubt that will work but even I can't force myself to tow such a hard line with those I love. At least for now.

Friday, October 30, 2009

You're Worth $700 Billion, Baby

The pink dollar is a fat wad of bills, yo. According to Fast Company, the LGBT community is a $700 billion dollar spending force to be reckoned with. Recession be damned, gym memberships must be preserved (and in my case, upgraded - hi Equinox!), vacations must be had and drinks must be sipped. While the government is debating whether gays deserve equal rights, our spending just goes into the ether - have we stopped to consider who has who grabbed by the um, well, you get it...Seriously, $700 billion! I feel like the government should pay for my trainer AND my much-needed Louis Vuitton duffel just as a thank you for being a spending gay.

The November issue of the magazine profiles a few companies who are making a profit by courting the gay community. American Airlines, Macy's, Wells Fargo and Viacom (owners of Logo TV) are featured for the work they're doing to attract gay consumers in a thoughtful and honest way. That means they're not just slapping a set of abs on a poster and telling you to spend, spend, spend. Each of these companies is looking for ways to become a part of the gay consumer's life - note: as someone who works in PR, specifically in consumer marketing, I can't help but sound a little academic here - but the point I'm trying to make is that these companies are acknowledging gay consumers' spending potential as well as their humanity (as the President said in his speech yesterday). So, American Airlines isnt just telling you "go to Miami 'cuz the guys are hot;" instead, they've created a whole page listing events and attractions around the world that may be of interest to gays with a case of wanderlust. Logo, of course, is in the business of creating TV shows exclusively for LGBT audiences - and while many thought the network would fail - it's now thriving and it is the launch pad for many companies that want to integrate themselves in the gay community. They should have included Bravo and my baby-daddy Andy Cohen in the mix, but maybe that'll happen next year.

In the meantime, spend spend spend guys...just do so responsibly.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thanks, Mr. President

President Obama has signed a bill that makes crimes against any individual based on sexual orientation, faith, place of birth or disability a federal offense. The Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act "extends provisions first passed in 1968 that make it a federal crime to target individuals because of their race, religion or national origin." (Source: Washington Post)

And yours truly, he who once called the President the Antichrist, couldn't help but be moved by the president's remarks following the signing of this bill. What a thrilling moment this is for our nation's history, to see a President so committed to building a nation as opposed to tearing it up. How thrilling it is for this young gay man who remembers the days surrounding the Matthew Sheppard murder in 1998 and went further into the closet during his freshman year of college because all things gay scared the hell out of him. Today is a new day for our community - the work doesn't end and sadly, this doesn't stop future crimes from happening, but the message is clear: gays belong in this country, they are appreciated in this country and they will be protected in this country. As will anybody who comes here to live their own American dream.

The pesky issues of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the Defense of Marriage Act, and an increasingly agitated GOP who will only use this victory to scare people into voting for them in 2010 and in the presidential elections of 2012, still loom large. In other words, nothing in our democracy is every really, really certain. For anyone concerned with the propagation of human rights in this country our work should not only focus on getting pen to paper for the signing of legislation, but on building our communities, and educating our neighbors - gay rights are everyone's rights and the marginalization of any group in this country only deters from the values that we all claim set us apart from the rest of the world.

I remain thrilled, hopeful, but ever more vigilant.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

About Being Latino in America

Last week I took a swing at CNN for their sensationalist depiction of Colombia as a country consumed by violence that worships at the cult of the drug lord, so I wasn't expecting much from the network's much vaunted Latino in America series. I wasn't expecting a ratchet job, but I was bracing myself for a condescending look at our community, a report that would be half Cosby Show (or, I guess, the George Lopez Show)and half "serious" journalism - perhaps a day in the life of a migrant worker or a maid. Such is the spectrum of Latino identity in the media today so what can one expect?

However, I thought the series was quite good - it was, in fact, bold. It addressed an issue that our community still hasn't figured out on this side of the border - the issue of identifying ourselves and asking: who are we? Ethnically, socio-economically, politically...we haven't figured out whether we're Hispanic or Latino, we still have issues surrounding color, and yet, by virtue of a shared language - which some of us may or may not speak - and the label of "other" that's imposed upon us in this country, we are, carajo, a community. For me and the millions of Latinos in this country (well, maybe not all of them, we do have some backwards people who couldn't care less what you call them but let's keep this post positive) this is a riveting topic - but why the hell would middle America care about it? That's a big question to ponder when you're a network competing against the right wing propaganda machine that is Fox News.

Still, CNN put forth all sorts of stories from within our community, some of which made my blood boil (like those about violence against undocumented immigrants, and teens who act out and make life difficult for themselves and their families because they feel they don't fit in) and others which were inspiring (Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the work Latino actors are doing in Hollywood). These stories set the tone for an informed, objective series - and what I had feared most, that somehow CNN would justify everyone's misconceptions about Latinos, even those that us Latinos harbor about ourselves - just didn't happen.

I worried that somehow the series would give some Latinos a free pass on issues like education (our high school drop-out rates are way high)and language - I worried that the series would focus on how hard some Latinos have it in this country and thus only discourage some people from even trying to better themselves and roil those Americans who feel they've been blamed enough for other people's problems. It's a tall order to tell the story of millions of people who, even among themselves, haven't reached consensus on who they are. But CNN took on this challenge and delivered a terrific program.

I think I've talked lots on this blog about what it means to be Latino - so if people aren't flocking here for the gospel, I hope they'll tune in to CNN.

Monday, October 19, 2009

CNN's "In-Depth" Coverage of Colombia Lacks Context; Reads Like Trashy Telenovela Script

Last week ran a three-part series on Colombia's drug gangs, an expose on lives ruled by violence, greed and sex. It was hardcore journalism - the kind you need a flak jacket for - delivered with the pathos of a telenovela script. Reporter Karl Penhaul's reporting could have delivered an insightful series on an imporant topic that many Americans aren't familiar with, but instead, his three stories rattle off the tired narco-narrative we've heard before: people are poor so they kill; without one big boss petty thugs run amok; behind every great drug lord is a bedazzled beauty queen.

The stories are filled with graphic photos and quotes that make Colombia look and sound like a country on the brink of implosion - a Wild West with all sorts of thugs running around guns a-blazin'. That's simply not the case. These stories could have happened anywhere, but what makes the phenomenon of cartel violence distinctly Colombian is sorely missing from the report, as is an acknowledgement of the U.S.' culpability in the drug trade - Were it not for this country's demand for coke there would be no violence in Colombia. Penhaul's indictment should be spread around but instead it's focused solely on one country.

If you want to read about guys inhaling cocaine powder out of a blender or about shoot-outs in a poor neighborhood, and a naive beauty queen who was imprisoned in a "golden cage," then please click over to CNN. But you should know this: Colombia's drug trade is the developing world's version of capitalism. In spite of the violence within and the rising tide of socialism in neighboring countries like Venezuela and Ecuador, Colombia has remained one of Latin America's most stable democracies. In short, the drug caretls are a portrait of 20th century entrepreneurialism - albeit a bloody one. The cartels blew the lid off the country's class system and created a middle class, they created opportunities for people to stay and invest in their country. Of course, this was a double-edged sword - for every opportunity to send one's children to school or learn English, or even buy a house and a car, came full-scale terrorism: planes were blown out of the sky, restaurants were shot up and market places were attacked with grenades. No one in Colombia today is unscathed by the drug trade, and it's often pointless to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys - they're both probably at the same family function.

On that last point, Penhaul leads the reader to believe that, regardless of their victimization, "Ordinary Colombians seem to have an unshakable attraction to glamorous narco-lifestyles judging by the sky-high ratings of two TV soap operas." I'll admit I'm reading these articles on the defensive, but am I the only person who remembers "Growing up Gotti," "Goodfellas" and "The Real Housewives of New Jersey"? Again, it's the singular attack on one country, when there's a whole world, our nation included, that's complicit in the crimes outlined in this series that smacks of bias and sensationalism.

We have a saying in Spanish: no se puede tapar el sol con un dedo - you can't cover the sun with your finger. In other words, I know how bad things are in Colombia. I can't write this post and not tell you that I've seen violence in Colombia and that my own family has been a victim of the kidnappings and other violence stemming from the drug trade. But I can also tell you that it's not the worst place in the world, that there is culture, civility, and legitimate enterprise down there. That this vital part of Colombia's present is not included in an article about the drug trade is plain irresponsible.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kylie Minogue Slays the 212

Glitter, lasers, high-high heels, muscles and feathers - Kylie Minogue's first-ever U.S. tour has finally landed in New York, and last night's opener at the Hammerstein Ballroom had all the elements of a gay pop revival. Can I get a witness? And a cosmo?

Miss Minogue, who descended on the stage on a large silver skull, was all sugar and spice, giggles and sass - she may as well have floated in, such was the air of expectancy and sheer queeny delight pouring from the 3,000-or-so gays that packed into the theater. Some women were in the audience, too - but this was a boys' affair. And homegirl knew it - one set featured her male dancers in a piquant locker room video that had all the fixins: speedos, showers and bulges of all sorts. Thanks, K!

With a nod to old Hollywood and showgirls of yore, Kylie's show covered the essential basics of her song catalogue (yes! the Locomotion, wooo!) and she introduced a new song, Better than Today, which will appear on her upcoming album. Yours truly, as I mentioned last night via Twitter, queened out like I never had (at least in the past week)when she sang In My Arms, which is one of my favorite songs ever.

What a fabulous time it was, and can be for you, too...if you're in town, Kylie is playing tonight and tomorrow. Tix here.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Is the National Equality March Worth a Trip to DC?

By now it seems silly to think that issues gay are, well, issues at all. If you live in a Bravo TV bubble like me and spend most of your day surrounded by svelte men in designer denim you'd furrow your brow in puzzlement at the thought of driving down to our nation's capital for a weekend to demand your rights. You'd ask What are we demanding? When do we want it? What does one wear for a rally?

Some people, however, don't live in a haze of indolence.

When a community is oppressed,the response to bigotry through the ages has been thus: some people will advocate for a no-sudden movements approach, hoping that gradual assimilation will sway hearts and minds, while others will want to seize the gilded gates of power, shake the powers-that-be by the lapels, and demand reparations for egregious wrongs. What everyone wants, however, is for the Red Sea to part and for the down-trodden to be delivered.

This weekend, hundreds of thousands of people will descend on Washington with such a hope as they gather for the National Equality March , a call to action by Equality Across America, "a network of decentralized organizers in every one of the 435 Congressional districts. These organizers form Congressional District Action Teams (CDATs) that will do the work on the ground in their own communities to achieve full equality." They're demanding full equality for the LGBT community, from the right to marriage to workplace protection, and they want it now.


President Obama (who can now add Nobel laureate to his distinguished resume) will address high-faluttin' gays and their sure-to-be-well-coiffed fruit flies tomorrow at an HRC dinner in Washington to lend his support for Sunday's march. While the President hasn't been parting seas for gay rights as much as skipping toward the water and then scurrying back everytime his toes get cold, it's a nice gesture.

And that's how one could dismiss this weekend's march. While I do love a parade and the spectacle of costumes and forgotten disco legends, to march aimlessly on Washington for a poorly publicized effort (I'd heard about the march earlier this year but didn't think it would really happen) seems counter-productive. At the same time, if the march is happening, and no one shows, isn't it my responsibility as an informed and concerned gay man to go? I'd almost hazard the trip but I'm traveling to LA for work this weekend. HONEST!

Elder statesman and gay patriarch Barney Frank has called the march "useless." Calling instead for the mobilization of gay activists to educate their local representatives on the importance of their issues, Frank, in an interview with the Washington Post, asked the gays to choose their battles: "'We don't have the votes to [repeal] DOMA,' he said, referring to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law explicitly stipulating that marriage is between a man and a woman. 'We do have the votes to pass hate crimes, the employment non-discrimination acts and get domestic-partner benefits for federal employees. To divert energy for that, to a bill we have no possibility of passage, doesn't sound smart to me.'"

The time for action, when faced with injustice, has always been now. A group can't idle in the petty allowances made by politicians who have no right to dictate who is more American and more entitled to the rights of citizenship. With our right to existence on the balance, with our legitimacy of our citizenship the subject of debate and when lies are being spread about our community's alleged attempt to rob America's children, it is time to seize the capital and (politely) shake some sense into our leaders. This should be a non-issue but too many people on the right are making careers out of keeping the gays down. It has to stop. Now.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

FARC Supporter on Short List for Nobel Prize

Via Bloomberg: "Colombia Senator Piedad Cordoba and Afghanistan’s Sima Samar, two women promoting peace and human rights in conflict zones, are among the top contenders for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo said [...]Colombia Senator Piedad Cordoba and Afghanistan’s Sima Samar, two women promoting peace and human rights in conflict zones, are among the top contenders for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo said."

Let me tell you something about Piedad Cordoba's attempts at promoting peace. In 2008, when millions of Colombians within the country and around the world rallied to decry the abuses of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), Cordoba took to the airwaves from a remote jungle location to dismiss the effort as another display of elitism and classism.

When she's not arm in arm with Hugo Chavez, who is amassing missiles so he can point them at her own country, she's gallivanting with the Castro brothers, singing the praises of socialism.

This woman has turned a blind eye to the countless kidnappings, bombings and other abuses perpetrated by the FARC. Her complicity with the group's leaders - men who are the new face of the country's drug trafficking industry, I might add - makes her worthy of handcuffs, not the same award that has been given to the likes of Martin Luther King and Jimmy Carter.

The ignorance behind the committee's support for Cordoba's nomination and their lack of understanding about the role Cordoba has played in legitimizing the terrorist activities of the FARC is disheartening and infuriating.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Supreme Court is Back in Session: Let's Talk About Guns on Amtrak, Shall We?

From Reuters: "The U.S. Supreme Court will again consider gun rights and decide an important case that could loosen restrictions on corporation spending in political campaigns in its new term beginning on Monday."

Now that the fearmongering behind Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court has abated it's time for liberals and other concerned citizens to voice a resonding "no" to a measure passed by the Senate last month which would allow people to bring firearms on board Amtrak trains.

The proposal, which was introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss, aims to redress the unfairness of a legal system that penalizes hunters in this post-9-11 world. From a release issued by the senator in April and quoted in "under current Amtrak policy, a lawful citizen who wants to take the train for a hunting trip could not because they are prohibited from storing a gun in any checked luggage.”

Um, how about letting GCL bring his colonge, moisturizer and a bottle of water on an airplane? While crazy-McCrazy Roger Wicker is advocating for the rights of blood-thirsty, flannel-clad rednecks, who the hell is looking out for the millions of barefoot Americans who brave swine flu, foot fungus and surly TSA staff at our nation's airports? When did the national security debate swing from water bottles on airplanes to guns on trains?

Senator Wicker embodies the short-sightedness and insensitivity that are pandemic in the Republican party. The same party that rails against the president for his alleged trespasses on national security has once again turned a blind eye to the all-too-common occurrences of public violence in our country to introduce a pointless and certainly lethal bill before the Senate.

When it comes the Second Ammendment and the right to protect ourselves from a foreign army I ask: how many guns prevented 9/11? A shotgun by the bed is one's right - I guess, especially if you live in the boonies - but guns on trains? In classrooms? Are we a nation or the Michigan Militia?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Perfect Weekend for a Birthday and a Wedding

...or a wedding and a birthday, depending on how self-centered one chooses to be.

I entered my 29th year of life with a margarita in one hand and my too-handsome boyfriend on the other. We were celebrating the marriage of our dear friends (and new neighbors) Anne and Kevin. It was a proper New England affair, from the chowder to the chilly sea air and creaky floor boards of our colonial inn, and the festivities distracted me from the fact that I have now begun the last 12 months of the number 2 prefix in my age.

But back to the newlyweds...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

World Savers Unite

It's a pretty lofty (self-congratulatory?) name for a conference, but the World Savers Congress, hosted by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine yesterday, underscored the point that the tourism industry has tremendous potential to effect positive social change. From green operations to promoting fair compensation and education for workers and their families - your next vacation, if you do your research, could have a huge impact on our planet.

Have you ever heard GCL get this preachy?

There were some great speakers at yesterday's conference - including Wyclef Jean who spoke lovingly and optimistically of his native Haiti, and Mandy Moore (I know, wtf, right?) who is now covering Sudan in mosquito nets with Five & Alive, an organization that aims to stem the deaths of children in the developing world from preventable diseases, including malaria. All of them touted the same message: the billions of dollars generated by tourism, as well as the immeasurable good will that's sparked in someone's heart when they go somewhere new and are given an opportunity to help preserve the site they've visited, are a formidable force against the trend of poverty, disease and even conflict.

I loved the example shared by the CEO of Gap Adventures, an adventure tour operator, who said that travelers who had been to Peru with his company raised over $100,000 in a matter of days back in 2007 when an earthquake hit the country. Then there was a sobering message from Accor Hotel group, which owns thousands of properties around the world, about the AIDS epidemic. The hotel is taking prostitution head on, providing condoms and information on safer sex in all of its rooms - it's aggressive, forward-thinking and much needed.

One point that was made yesterday and hit home with me was "if you don't go you don't know." I got to thinking about how lucky I had been as a child to go to places like Colombia and Venezuela to see what poverty looked like - to come away from those trips smarter, more grateful and more informed has had a profound impact on me. I remember meeting people who couldn't read and people who lived without running water - I lived among them for a while, at age ten, no less. My mom not the least bit worried about my safety, she just thought it was brilliant that I was seeing how good I had it back in the U.S. I would say those trips helped shape the way I see the world, and I'm all the better for it. I went, therefore I know.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On Juanes' "Peace Without Borders" Concert

I'm watching Univision's live webcast of Colombian singer Juanes' "Paz Sin Fronteras" (Peace W/Out Borders) concert in Havana and it's easy to forget, listening to acts like merenguera Olga TaƱon singing about bad boys and dark-skinned hotties, that this is a major (x a million) event in Latin American politics. A free outdoor concert is a common occurrence anywhere in the world, but when the image of Che Guevara looms large in the background, the stakes are higher and everybody has to make their opinion heard.

More often than not, I find the Cuban exile community to be a little, um, militaristic and self-righteous. A lot of people in Miami are making a public spectacle of trashing Juanes' CDs and calling for a boycott of anything associated with the singer. And my response to that is really? Come on guys, we all know embargoes don't work. I'm no fan of Castro, but fifty years of towing the hardline of starving Cuba into democracy hasn't worked. Isn't it time to change our approach?

In the meantime, I do love The Simpsons rendering of Juanes as a Pied Piper of socialism.
Image: Adventures of the Coconut Caucus

I want to know where these exiles were when the U.S. was only too happy to play along with China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics? It was communism's greatest feat - having the world bow down before China, worshipping Chairman Mao's vision at the Bird's Nest stadium -- the whole world watched the opening ceremonies in awe and here we are, a year later, in debt to China, but anti-communist Cubans are in a nit over a concert. Como que les falta perspectiva, no? Perspective, people. Please.

Juanes lends a much-needed legitimacy to this latest attempt at dialogue with Cuba. As a Colombian, as someone who has seen the devastation that a socialist revolution can cause, as someone whose country is being threatened by a socialist agitator nation (that would be Venezuela), Juanes lends a spirit of compassion, understanding and forward-thinking that is sorely needed in this debate. If Juanes can extend an olive branch to Cuba, a country that is regarded by Colombia's leftist insurgents as a beacon of what government should look like, then maybe the U.S., which is not the least bit threatened by Cuba at this point, can cut the crap and help the country embrace democracy?

Well done, Juanes. And if Miami gets too hot for you, eff the haters and move to NYC.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Big Day for NY Dems and for GCL

Today's a big day for NY dems: it's primaries and everything from the district attorney's post to the party's nomination for Mayor are up for grabs. As for me, Im in a car hurdling toward JFK for a conflagration of client events. There are mayors, helicopters, nobility and pinstripes. And yes, reporters. I should be a free man by noon, but in the meantime, competing with Obama, the UN and these pesky elections has me sweating in my starched white shirt as I think about how to make these events matter to news outlets that purportedly have 24 hours of programming to fill. Doesn't NY1 care about my ensemble today?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Seeing as We Need More Out, Proud Latinos...

...I'm happy to stand beside Perez Hilton as a trash-talking, high-profile, gay Latino.

According to CNN, gay Latinos are coming of age - there aren't that many of us to talk about besides Perez Hilton, but we're out there. And while deeply seeded notions of masculinity and homophobia still exist in our community, our home countries are one step ahead of the U.S. when it comes to gay rights - "Uruguay, Colombia and Mexico have passed laws granting rights and protections to gays and lesbians."

I've always felt that the Latino community has a love/hate relationship with homosexuality. Yes, it's derided in the church, but popular culture - from daytime talk shows to our telenovelas and our literature, are all laden with strong gay characters. From cross-dressers to fashionistas (after all, Latin America's biggest export is beauty queens - who do you think gets those girls show-ready?), Latinos here in the U.S. and back in our home countries are not immune to things gay - and guess what? They love it.

Of course, I'm writing about how fun it is to be gay and Latino from the perspective of a college-educated man with a white-collar job. I've been fortunate enough to create a community for myself and live the life I want with the man I want, out of the closet and with as much denim and leather as I like. But I do remember how frightening it was to come out of the closet, how horribly embarassed I felt for myself and my parents to confirm the rumors that I was a "pato" - Puerto Rican slang for gay - an insult that first came my way from a kindergarten teacher who thought I was too swishy.

When I think about the role of the church in some Latino communities, I think it's a blessing and a curse for gay teens to be around pious people who make no qualms about condemning gays. I was lucky enough to take the best parts of my Christian upbringing to build a life for myself, but I can see how the same messages that empowered me can devastate someone, sap their will to forge ahead, and ultimately render them another sad statistic.

But this was supposed to be a happy post. I do think things are changing, for the better, for gay Latinos. We just need more of them out there...soooo, maybe I should get a show on CNN? Just axin'..

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Are We Done Being Scared of Healthcare Reform Yet?

It all came down to a speech.

In forty-five minutes, President Obama made a clear and logical case for healthcare reform. I was sold on the new plan when the president said that this effort would cost $900 billion - less than the war in Iraq - and would be paid for with money that's already being spent on a flawed system. In short, everyone gets basic healthcare and then additional care, with controls to ensure that rates remain competitive and citizens don't go broke to pay for medical care. No death panels, no dipping into medicare or social security to pay for it, no adding to our deficit, no coverage for illegal immigrants (I have a problem with that last part but I'll talk about that in another post).

Twice he cited the efforts of his former opponent and senate colleague John McCain in the area of healthcare reform; he invoked the late Ted Kennedy, asking us all to look beyond party lines and address a fundamental flaw in our nation's character that allows our least fortunate citizens to die of preventable or treatable illnesses because they can't afford care. The president asked us to stop the same quibbling that stalled social security during the Roosevelt administration and medicare in the 60s. We're on the cusp of much-needed and rather painless change - why, he asked without asking, are we addressing rumors and lies when we have the resources to fix a problem that can eventually save us money? If the dying people angle doesn't move you how does a $4 trillion reduction to our deficit sound?

To some people, specifically the long-faced, immovable republican block who scowled throughout most of the president's address, healthcare reform smacks of socialism. To those people, I would say that healthcare is as much of a national security issue as the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. And it's an issue that does require government oversight - when the markets imploded last year (a year to the day, actually) it was the government that eventually had to sweep in with a bail-out that has spiraled from an initial $700 billion loan to something in the trillions. Why, then, can't we safeguard the idea that everyone deserves access to basic medical care and that insurance companies should compete for consumers' business?

The democrats have a small window of time to push this bill through the House and on to the Senate. Next year is an election year and there are some on-the-fence dems who fear losing the support of ther conservative base. The White House needs to help these lawmakers make the case to their constituents that this plan is what's best for them and the country. This could very well be the issue that shakes up the balance of power in both houses of government, as New York magazine's Michael Tomasky pointed out this week. I doubt that will happen, I remain optimistic about the future of this plan.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Dems Haven't Sold Us on Healthcare

President Obama is taking to the airwaves tonight to make a case for healthcare reform. The question that looms large and isn't being talked about is this: Should taxpayers really have to pay for everyone else's healthcare?

It's a tough question but I wonder: if we already have Medicaid and people can sign up for programs like Health Plus, why do over 45 million people in America still go without access to basic medical care? And is the solution to this problem really government oversight? The same government that signed off on legislation that gave everyone with a dollar and a dream a home they couldn't afford now wants to control billions of dollars of taxpayer money to dictate which doctors we can go to. That doesn't sit well with me.

CNN posits a frightening scenario: "the Obama platform would mandate extremely full, expensive, and highly subsidized coverage -- including a lot of benefits people would never pay for with their own money -- but deliver it through a highly restrictive, HMO-style plan that will determine what care and tests you can and can't have. It's a revolution, all right, but in the wrong direction."

President Obama, in an opinion piece that ran in the New York Times last month, said his plan will give Americans "a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for yourself and your family — coverage that will stay with you whether you move, change your job or lose your job...reform will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable."

That sounds great, but at what cost? Are we all going to be lumped into the same category to pay for care and services we don't use? Our neighbors up north are happy with that arrangement - except when they're not - and other countries' similarly libertine health spending are breeding lazy dependants of the state.

These are the issues the Democrats have to address if they're going to sell Americans on healthcare reform. We have to position reform as cost-effective and break it down in dollars and cents so the average American can understand exactly how much this new system is going to cost. In the meantime, we're getting nothing but bogus and convincing figures from both sides of this debate.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Spare the Children from Obama's "Indoctrination" - We'll Pay for it Later

And now he wants to talk to the children.

Conservatives have been in a tizzy over the past few days because of President Obama's decision to address schoolchildren in a live, televised address today.

"Indoctrination!" "It's not the speech it's the subtext!" "Homeschool your children!" "I'm afraid for this country!"

These are the cries from the far right's minions who will come up with any excuse to thwart the Obama administration. And as the crowds grow ever more vociferous in their indignation and fear of big government (ahem, Patriot Act anyone?), I just want to put this thought out there: Fine, leave your kids at home, don't let them develop critical thinking skills, let's put out another generation of stupid kids who can't even tie their shoelaces unless mommy and daddy are hovering nearby. Wanna know what that kid is going to be like at 25? Popping out kid number 3, recovering from some form of addiction, and with a penchant for fire or firearms. Or both.

Some parents aren't sending their kids to school today, some parents want to be in the classroom to watch the President's address; some parents, if you ask me, shouldn't be parents in the first place. But that's for another blog post.

Here's a link to the much-ballyhooed speech direct from the White House (via Twitter!).

"[...]we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed. And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself."

As you can see, it's some pretty incendiary stuff. Especially the part about personal accountability and respecting adults.

What the right is really doing is re-directing our attention from the most pressing issues facing our country: job scarcity, the need for healthcare reform, two wars and the one-year anniversary of the implosion of our economic system. How does a simple, welcome-back-to-school-now-hit-the-books pep talk from our Commader in Chief rank against the mammoth agenda of repairing our nation?

The right should know when to pick its battles. On this issue, they've only made a mockery of themselves.

**Image: Leo Alberti via Michelle Malkin

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Learn Somethin' From Those Kids on the Rachel Zoe Project

I'll admit it, I watch The Rachel Zoe Project on Bravo. Not only because I support everything my other baby-daddy (and fellow BU alum) Andy Cohen does, but because I glean valuable career lessons from the show. Yes, I approach my job as a publicist just like Rachel does, with a swath of fur hanging over my shoulder (well, I will this fall/winter) and a venti latte in hand, thinking very hard about consumer engagement. While Rachel calls up designers to alter their confections, I turn trends into...headlines. But as obsessed as I am with Rachel and her catch-phrases (sadly, I have none except "please," "thank you," and "have you eaten")I also love watching the dynamic between her two assistants, Brad and Taylor. These three characters represent the trinity that I think exists in any creative/professional environment - it's a union that's fraught with tension and angst, but ultimately, if everyone knows and embraces their role, can be quite fulfilling for all parties. Sadly, Taylor hasn't gotten the memo and that's probably why she'll soon be fetching coffee for Brad, her whiny and tear-prone underling (with a devastating proclivity for oversized bow-ties).

Brad, like many gay men, is only too happy to swaddle his boss in attention and praise. Whereas Taylor wields her superior skill over everyone, including her boss Rachel, Brad just tosses on a pom-pom hat and makes Rachel laugh. He cares about his boss, whereas Taylor sees her as a stepping stone. In the trinity of creative pursuits, there's the scatter-brained ringleader (Rachel), the know-it all martyr (Taylor) and the smart but more importantly likable heart of the operation (Brad). Though I don't cry at work, I empathize with Brad because I, too, have a heart. And that's what I bring to work - before I deliver bad news or assail my boss with a litany of boring client updates and my own personal demands I make sure the big cheese has a coffee and biscuit in hand.

Is this a gay trait or a human flaw? I don't know, but I definitely see it as a competitive advantage in an increasingly topsy-turvey career landscape. What I'm trying to say, kids, is that those rumors about the gays taking over the world are quite true. And they're not doing it with huffing, puffing and sass, they're doing it with charm. Learrrn somethin', Taylor.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Showtunes and Ambition

Last night my friends and I were celebrating the end of another manic Monday - it's not an unusual occurrence except for the fact that our employer has moved us down to oh-so-cool Tribeca, forcing us to leave Times Square, and the proximity of gay hotspots in Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen, behind. In the dark of the downtown night, we meandered uptown, past quaint but not gay, bars and restaurants. Where could we go in our skinny ties and pocket-squares to talk about ourselves, how smart we are and, most importantly, look at boys? Stay with me folks, there's a point to this post.

They say you learn something new every day. Last night, I learned that I better get my act together lest I wind up having to cozy up to octagenarian johns at a piano bar off Christopher Street to pay my rent (and let's face it, I'm pushing 30, who's gonna want this in a few years?). While Greenwich Village may be the historic center of gay life, it's also a modern-day hovel. Walking into the fabled Stonewall Inn on a lark, we were overwhelmed by the stench of history (?) or a smoking, but empty, hot dog roaster. Across the street at the Monster the crowd by the piano was merry, but a bit sad in my eyes. I wondered, will I too, one day after 30, be sitting at a piano singing "pa-pa, pa-pa-razziii" while some 19-year-old reaches for my wallet?

These are the questions one ponders as they near the end of their twenties. But, as I've said time and time again, I am a man of faith and I fully expect great things in life. So, yes, maybe one day I will have James tickle the ivories to play my favorite gay tracks, perhaps It's Not Right but it's OK in b-flat or something, but it'll be in my own home, perhaps overlooking Park Avenue or a bevvy of muscle marys in Rio, but I'll be just fine.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Ted Kennedy's Search for Redemption: Mission Accomplished

Over the past week we've heard a great deal about Ted Kennedy's accomplishments as an elder statesman, an unexpected patriarch, and an adventurer. What has struck me most about Ted Kennedy's life, which has played out in the periphery of all Americans' lives, even those disinterested in politics, is his search for redemption. It is, what I believe, inspired the Senator's unique brand of liberalism.

This past weekend the Kennedy family revealed that the ailing Senator had sent Pope Benedict XVI a letter asking for the pontiff's prayers as he battled the cancer that ultimately killed him. The senator wrote: "I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines [...] I have done my best to champion the rights of the poor and open doors of economic opportunity. I’ve worked to welcome the immigrant, to fight discrimination and expand access to health-care and education. I have opposed the death penalty and fought to end war. Though I’ve fallen short through human failings, I’ve never failed to believe and respect the fundamental teaching of my faith.”

In that letter, Kennedy lays bare what it really means to be a liberal. At least for me. His acknowledgement of his own human flaws and his belief in the attainability of God's forgiveness through good works is inspiring. As a gay man of faith, I can't tell you how many times I've had a similar dialogue in my head and in prayer: I know I'm imperfect, but I believe in God, I try to do what's right by family and fellow man, etc. Ted Kennedy used the name and privilege that happened to him by chance and used it to spend his life championing human rights. Yes, mistakes were made along the way, but I expect that not a day went by when that man didn't try to make up for these.

To the gay community, Ted Kennedy was more than an ally. He was someone who saw the blatant wrongness in a system that robs any American of their basic rights and he was able to bridge the gap of faith, politics and public opinion to cry foul and demand change. For that he is to be honored, and today, as a new workweek begins, I implore our representatives to pause and reflect on his example and focus on the business of fixing our system.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Guns at the Town Hall: Healthcare Protestors Crossing a Dangerous Line

Let's call the fringe element on the right that is hosting tea parties and disrupting town hall meetings on healthcare what they really are: a lynch mob. Healthcare and wasteful spending be damned, these nut jobs want to string our black President up a tree. And they'll think of any reason to undo the results of last November's election.

The healthcare debate has everyone in a tizzy and many questions remain unanswered or half-answered by un-truths. Everyone I know is confused about why Obama's plan would or would not work. But one thing remains clear: some folks on the right want an all out war with the President, and they're showing up to their demonstrations with guns slung over their shoulders. Second Amendment my foot, these people think America has forgotten how the Klan used to intimidate people of color simply by showing up outside their churches and other gathering spots with guns. We all know the message these people are sending Americans: let us handle the Negro.

Am I playing the race card too soon? Am I over-reacting? Am I ignoring the fact that there are people who are rightfully angry about wasteful spending?

No, no, and no.

Where the hell were these fiscal conservatives when George Bush kept asking for hundreds of billions of dollars for the war in Iraq? Why do these people love that our government spends billions, if not trillions, on war but when the issue of healthcare comes up everyone wants to grab an abacus and make sure no one's precious tax dollars are spent on penicillin for kids or proper nursing for the elderly?

There are some people in life that one will never win over. President Obama will never win over the far right and that's fine. And while it's up to all of us to inform ourselves on the intricacies of the healthcare debate, this issue now takes a back seat to the fact that the President's safety is in danger. Many of us who voted for President Obama have feared for his life and this new trend of showing up armed to supposedly peaceful gatherings is setting a dangerous precedent. I say turn the hose on these loons and set their houses on fire. Or, remain vigilant - I hope the White House is keeping close tabs on these people. For everyone's sake.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Leaving This Town Before I Do or Say Something Stupid

Sigh. I can't hide it from you, dear readers: yours truly is tired. Tired of trying, of playing nice and being all sorts of eager and ambitious. Hello, Gap Inc, it's me, David, are you hiring? I still know how to fold T-shirts from my days at Banana Republic. I've hit a wall and before I say or do things that can't be taken back, I'm going to take a break. Yes, kids, I'm going on vacation.

So what's on the agenda for my time away from things public relations? Milling about town catching up with friends over boozey lunches and a trip to New Orleans with my parents. I'm gonna live, y'all - wooo!!

And I'm going to re-connect with my blog in the most controversial and button-pushing of ways. I have completely neglected the healthcare debate and I haven't said boo about California gay rights groups' decision to push a referendum on gay marriage on hold until until 2012.

I should think about my time-off as just that: time-off to recharge and come up with smart posts (and outfits, see left); but a part of me feels like I'm starting a new chapter in my life - perhaps the life of an opinionated gay male pushing 30 who has a blog...there's something the world has never seen!!

Wherever I'm headed, I'm headed there with my head screwed on tight and in a fabulous ensemble. It's summer, y'all - finally! So let's raise a glass (a marita if you're me), show some skin and have fun. I certainly plan to do so.

Note: Day 1 of living found me with Hunt and Peck (aka James) down in Chinatown having dim sum. As I said on Twitter, it's a charming concept - having surly, English-challenged people pushing carts of chicken feet and other treats before you while you sit with strangers slirping on God-knows-what - but I don't like getting pushed and yelled at by anyone, let alone people who handle my food. Still, Chinatown is a fitting backdrop for where I am right now in life. Trying to make sense of things, I find myself saying "Forget it, GCL. It’s Chinatown."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Let's Talk About Me and My Five Year Anniversary

If I were any sort of mature adult, I probably would have titled this post "Let's Talk About James and Me and Our Five Year Anniversary," but at this point in our relationship, neither Mr. James nor I expect any sort of mature behavior from me. If anything, said self-absorption and disregard for James and his wants have kept our relationship alive - keep homey wanting more - I always say.



This past weekend James and I celebrated our five year anniversary. No one is more shocked, and thrilled, about this milestone than yours truly. Over the past five years, homey and I have weathered three joint-family vacations, exchanged rings, changed jobs, painted our apartment with splashes of gold, and fixed the hinges on our murphy bed so as to avoid a future head-splitting adventure like the one we had a few Thanksgivings ago. It's the little, life-prolonging things, that have made our relationship work.

I could go on and on about all the wonderful things my boyfriend does for me, and you'd probably roll your eyes and think "I guess GCL still hasn't figured out what the Health Care bill is about so he's stalling and writing about his relationship." And you'd be right.

But I have good reason to step off my soapbox for a minute to give my man a shout-out. James has made me a better person and he's given me a happiness I never thought I deserved. He's also exceedingly patient. If some of you can't stomach a couple of posts from me every week think about what it's like to live with me when I'm "brainstorming" topics for this blog and just spouting my opinions out loud. Now you see why he's so special.

Baby, you're the greatest.

*This picture pretty much summarizes why I'm lucky to have James. Who else would look at me so lovingly while I shovel cake down my mouth?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

American Psychological Association Rejects Gay-to-Straight Therapy

From the NY Times, USA Today, CNN and pretty much every other news outlet this morning: "The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments." However, the association also acknowledges that some individuals may choose their faith over their sexuality - says the Wall Street Journal: "According to new APA guidelines, the therapist must make clear that homosexuality doesn't signal a mental or emotional disorder. The counselor must advise clients that gay men and women can lead happy and healthy lives, and emphasize that there is no evidence therapy can change sexual orientation."

It seems like a well-balanced and compassionate compromise for an issue that can be a non-issue for some, and a matter of life or death for others. For that reason, I think that we should add yet another group under the LGBTQ umbrella: IA, or, In-Absentia. These people, who choose to not be in our community, still matter - they're dealing with the same issues all gay men and women grapple with and have made their own choice about how to live their lives. Their decision is no less authentic or courageous than someone who decides to come out at, say, 16. As a dear friend recently told me, everyone has the right to come out in their own time, if they want to at all.

My own experience with this sort of religious angst found me stuttering through an "I'm gay" declaration that went more like "I'm confused...I think I like...well, I don't think I want to be with a woman...well, actually..." I was 20 and sought the guidance of two elders in my Jehovah's Witness congregation in Boston. It was, in the end, a very pleasant chat and there was no dousing of the fag in holy water (mostly because Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in Holy Water) nor was there an exorcism. We simply read from the Bible and I was given the choice the APA is putting forth now: I could learn to build a life around my sexual orientation and use the challenge as a way to draw closer to God, or I could see what else was out there.

It was the hardest decision I ever had to make. The more I think about it, I never minded being gay, I just hated what I thought I was doing to my relationship with God. When I left my congregation (it was a Sunday morning in the summer and I was about to leave my house when I just decided to turn around, take my suit and tie off, and go to back to bed) I felt the pangs that come with the disruption of a routine - a 20 year routine for me - and within weeks I was consoling people from my congregation who were asking me to come back. It's a loss that I still grapple with - I had to decide whether to stay within the cushy comforts of kind, God-fearing (yes, a little judgemental, too, but aren't we all?) and macaroni-salad eating people, or venture out into, well, what my life has become (quite boring, five years on with James this week...holla!)

My point is that I was given a choice. And I made my choice which I am very happy with. But I also understand how incredibly hard it is to make a decision that pits someone against God, their family and their community. It's a process that never really has an end for people of faith - you're always going to try to make right with God as you understand him - but it's a process that I think everyone has the right to work through on their own terms. I applaud the APA's new guidelines on this issue and I hope it relieves some of the pressure that many gays in-absentia are dealing with.

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Worst of Times for Latinos? Two Stories

In an interview with NPR's "Latino USA," author Sandra Cisneros ("The House on Mango Street")lamented that right now is the worst time in history for Latinos in the U.S. Deportations, the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and crippling poverty for many in our community, are the evidence she uses to paint a bleak portrait of the Latino experience in this country. And while I've written about some of these things, specifically the uptick in violence against immigrants and the inflamatory rhetoric of the anti-immigration movement, her comments shook me up. They made me feel like the uppity, self-made and self-righteous villain in a Tyler Perry movie. I realized, listening to Cisernos' interview on my iPhone at the gym, that I have deliberately distanced myself from the issues of the 'hood I grew up in and I have made every attempt in my life to never go back there.

But my parents - whom I love dearly and whom I'm lucky to have a wonderful relationship with - are still there. And they probably won't ever leave. So they'll keep it real with me and they'll tell me about the things that are going on around them in el barrio. In between our conversations about the trips they're going on and where they'll meet James and me for dinner, there are real, true and disturbing stories about people who can't get their act together or who simply were never given a chance to do right by themselves. My mom is on the front lines of this divide - she works in the public school system, making sure kids are fed and that they have somewhere safe to go to until 6 when most of their parents can pick them up from work. She sees parents younger than me picking up 10 year-olds, she talks to teenage mothers who are raising their kids out of shelters, and she consoles children who are missing a parent. But sometimes there are problems that can't be hugged away or laughed and talked about in Spanish in the schoolyard. For many Latinos it is indeed the worst of times, as Sandra Cisneros said. Here's one such story.

On July 17, Yorceli Flores,a 26-year-old immigrant from Puebla, Mexico, was stabbed to death in her apartment in Sunset Park. She was pregnant, and left behind two boys, aged two and six. One week later, her 22-year-old boyfriend - who claimed to have found her body - was arrested and charged with murder. The children, with no father, are now in the foster care system.

Yorceli's oldest son spent a year in my mother's classroom at the after-school program at P.S. 24. She didn't form much of a bond with his mother, who had obtained a restraining order against the boy's stepfather - who has since been deported - and then took up with a younger guy who would ultimately kill her. The alleged killer had come on numerous occasions to pick the boy up from my mom's program - even while the boy's stepfather would come in and ask my mom and her colleagues for help, saying that the kids were not safe in their home. My mom spoke up about this, but ultimately, there wasn't much the school system could do for the kids.

So you have the perfect storm of domestic violence, broken families, dubious immigration status and all-around hard living here. Was Yorceli's death avoidable? Did her kids really have to suffer as they did in the months leading up to their mother's death - there are claims that the children were underfed and lived in a cramped apartment with other families - was there anything that the victim could have done for herself and her kids to avoid all of this? And while Yorceli was being sentenced to death and her alleged killer was making small talk with my mom, I was across the river, sipping cocktails and toasting life.

The victim was two years younger than me but, as we say in Spanish, had done a lot more living. She probably came to my neighborhood long after I had left, seeking opportunity that I never thought existed there. And our common denominator is my mom - always eager to help, always uber-involved, always unnervingly task-driven. I wonder if these two women had formed a relationship if Yorceli's life would have turned out differently - I don't underestimate my mom's power of persuasion.

Where Yorceli's story and mine begin and end, in the place I grew up but always wanted to leave, the divide between esos Latinos who are making it and those who are scraping by isn't really that wide. It's a fact that gnaws at me and questions everything I thought was good and fair about a system that has worked for me.