Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Obligatory Michael Jackson Post

If one is going to refer to oneself a political and pop culture blogger, then it would be irresponsible to not write about the biggest pop culture story of our time, the death of Michael Jackson.

Sigh. I really couldn't care less about Michael Jackson. I love his songs but the unitards, crotch-grabbing, his Jackie-O whisper of a voice, his self-mutilation to the point of looking like a cross between an elf and an octogenarian female Wasp and, oh yeah, those child-molestation charges, made him less than palatable for me. So, why beat a dead horse (or circus freak)? Michael has crossed over to the beyond, he can finally rest from what seemed like a tortured life. Instead of talking about Michael and the lurid details of his life and untimely death, I'd much prefer to talk about his tacky family, attention-seeking monsters who in the days following his death have shown the scrappiness of street hustlers. Joe Jackson, this one's for you.

Everyone may want to shake Michael's doctor down for keeping the now deceased pop starlet on a steady diet of pills, but MJ was his own problem, that was a train headed toward collision. Period. But if fingers must be pointed, let's focus them on the Jackson family patriarch who thrust his kids into the limelight with fists and gall. The same man who is known to have beaten Michael as a child was able to muster up a red carpet ensemble to hock his wares on the red carpet at this past Sunday's BET Awards. Yesterday, in a black fedora standing next to Al Sharpton (speaking of fists and gall), Joe Jackson was the consummate pitch man, promoting his new record label and bemoaning his son's death. Wretched.

And then there's Janet. Miss Jackson. How nasty is she? Nasty enough to show up in her weave and faux tears at the BET Awards to thank the public for loving Michael, who wasn't an icon to her, but family. Womp womp. Can these people let the poor man's body get cold before they take to the airwaves to make a spectacle of themselves?

We're not even a week into this story and already I'm sick of the Jacksons. The only thing that will keep me sort of interested in this fiasco is the obligatory funeral, which will be the ultimate celebrity conclave. After that, I hope the entire Jackson brood skulks away into obscurity, leaving good music - and just the music - in their wake.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Happy Pride from GCL and Friends

I'm chomping on one of three dozen bagels that James and I bought for the Pride brunch we hosted yesterday. It was a day of air kisses and camaraderie, pecs and pressed flesh, disco and trance, mimosas and sequins. Our little brunch was the run-up to the parade along Fifth Avenue and the Heritage of Pride Pier Dance (VIP access this year for GCL and friends thanks to the job, holla!). I've bored y'all with what Pride means for me last week, so the day after the festivities which culminated in a spectacular fireworks show on the Hudson, here are some pictures for your Monday morning amusement...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Brash and Entitled, 40 Years After Stonewall

In the run-up to this weekend's Gay Pride festivities in New York, forty years after the floodgates of identity politics were opened by the death of a starlet, some gays wonder if the "struggle" rages on - as it should, or if it should.

Hence the "gay generation gap" cited by writer Mark Harris for this week's issue of New York magazine. Whereas one generation of gay men had to act up for their rights, my generation - according to some - just shows up and expects a round of applause for our mere existence. Our slouched stance on everything from politics to work is infuriating, according to Harris, to some gays whose identity is perpetually linked to a fight. That the fight has yielded exactly what our predecessors envisioned, an unencumbered gay life that exists seamlessly in the straight world, is unnerving to some.

For my friends, DOMA, Prop 8 and DADT are sidebar discussions - we're mostly consumed with ourselves, our careers, our bodies and our boyfriends. And AIDS, thank God, isn't even a topic of discussion. We get the significance of these debates, though, and we're reasonably appalled by the fact that our right to exist is a subject of debate, but then, what would we do about it? A few weeks ago when the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8, there was a call for a rally from Christopher Street to Union Square. Only one of my friends went while some of us went out for drinks and dismissed the event with a yawn, we figured "what is getting upset going to do, anyway?"

That the most community-centric things I've done are limited to the Pier Dance and scoring (not buying) a seat at the GLAAD Media Awards can either be seen as disgusting or just a casualty of normalcy.

James, my boyfriend, came of age at the height of the AIDS epidemic. But when he talks about his college days, it's not with a clenched fist and rancor in his voice, he just has a lot of fun stories to tell. And after college, the fun seems to have continued with other out-and-proud gay men in the world of business. If anything, James' 80's experience is more Wall Street than Philadelphia. I suspect the guys have always been as brash and entitled as my friends and I are. Had they not been, we'd all be living a completely different experience now. For that, we say thanks.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, GCL!

GCL turns 3 today! Feel free to roll your eyes but I'm gonna celebrate. For the past 36 months I've been tapping away at this laptop trying to make sense of my life, politics, and pop culture. I've made some enemies, I've caused trouble, I've said some incendiary things - in short, I've had an amazing time.

When I started this blog I was just getting smart to this whole "digital revolution" and what it meant for a PR underling like myself who was trying to get ahead in the world. The goal was, and still is, to share a screen with Larry King or Anderson Cooper - but in the meantime, being a relentlessly gay conservative liberal has brought me tremendous satisfaction and even professional gain. I never articulated this thought until now, but I'm proud of this blog.

Over the past three years I've been able to write about some pretty exciting stories, most notably the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency of our country. That was without a doubt the most exciting time for me as a blogger. I know I ticked off a lot of people with my skepticism about his candidacy(yep, I called him the Antichrist), but I stand by what I said then - we were on the cusp of a monumental election, it wasn't the time for blind allegiance, it was a time to ask questions, it was a time to make demands from democrats who had lost two elections to the worst President in our nation's history. I was also glad to write about the situation in Colombia, my mom's homeland, both from a political and personal perspective - the release of the U.S. hostages along with Ingrid Betancourt, whose story was one of the first I ever followed on this blog, was a thrilling moment for me. It was equally thrilling, though in a different way, to make the trip to see my grandma in Colombia, in spite of our differences about my "lifestyle," and enjoy the city and home that had been such an important part of my childhood. Speaking of my lifestyle, I've delved into my own issues with gay life through this blog; it's been an exploration that has found me expanding on my faith and the place it occupies in my life. Some people have found this insightful, others have found it preachy, self-hating and backwards. Quite simply, it's an on-going dialogue that will likely never be resolved for this Jehovah's Witness kid from Brooklyn.

So what's ahead? Let me tell you, it's been hard for me to keep up with this blog these days. And it's not for lack of material - what with Prop 8, DOMA, Iran and my crazy family, I could spend all day writing. This anniversary is the kick in the pants I needed to rev up my posts - there's a lot going on in the world and I firmly believe that someone, a gay conservative liberal perhaps, should be out there talking and getting people to think, or at the very least, get them pissed off.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Getting Away with Murder in Pennsylvania

From CNN:Two teens were sentenced to at least six months in prison for the beating death of an undocumented Mexican immigrant in Pennsylvania. The victim, 25-year-old Luis Ramirez, was attacked by a drunken group of teens who shouted racial epithets at him and later succumbed to wounds so severe that at one point "brain tissue oozed out of his skull during surgery at a hospital."

The defendants, Brandon Piekarsky, 17, and Derrick Donchak, 19, were portrayed as two fun-loving, all-American teens (they were on their school's football team!) who fell into an unfortunate situation. They were just hanging around doing what small-town teens do, which is drink and look for trouble, and then came across a person of color who was beat to death. For that, you get 6 to 23 months in jail. The judge on the case, William Baldwin, was unmoved by a letter from Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell asking for the case to be considered a hate crime and following the verdict, though he did tell the defendants "You picked out a guy who was not one of you and just beat the pulp out of him." Governor Rendell sent another letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking to pursue civil rights charges.

I've written about this before, the rise in hate crimes in this country, the rise in attacks against Latino immigrants in particular, and I couldn't be more offended by the verdicts handed down in Pennsylvania. For me, an educated Latino who doesn't feel vulnerable in the eyes of the law, it's infuriating to see a system that I (mostly) believe in disregard the rights of certain people. I refuse to believe that minorities are powerless, but it's certainly crushing to see acquittals or lenient sentences in case after case of white-on-black or latino violence. That these issues should divide people along political lines is also disappointing, as there shouldn't be a middle ground when discussing the death of an innocent person.

Cases like this place a huge responsibility on educated people of color who can and should talk back to the system and who should speak up for those of us who have less recourse to defend themselves.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On DOMA: Repeal Brown vs the Board of Education

President Obama thinks that the issue of gay marriage is one that's best left to individual states without interference from the federal government. Except it isn't - the feds are unequivocally anti-gay and last week our President submitted a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act. No federal benefits for same-sex married couples and no reason for states to recognize same-sex marriages.

In an editorial that appeared in yesterday's New York Times, the paper noted that the most distressing part of the Obama's administration's support of DOMA is the hurtful way with which it addresses the issue by saying that same-sex marriages deserve no more recognition from states than incestuous unions. In light of such blatant bigotry and discrimination, the administration's stance is a resounding "yeahh, sorry about that."

Or in legal speak:

"[DOMA amounts to] a cautious policy of federal neutrality towards a new form of marriage. DOMA maintains federal policies that have long sought to promote the traditional and uniformly-recognized form of marriage, recognizes the right of each State to expand the traditional definition if it so chooses, but declines to obligate federal taxpayers in other States to subsidize a form of marriage that their own states do not recognize."


How about we repeal the Supreme Court's decision on Brown vs the Board of Education then? Or, let's take a trip back to 1954 and tell the black families of Topeka who just wanted the same access to education as white people that "Segregation is a cautious policy of federal neutrality toward race integration. Segregation maintains the view held by our slave-owning founding fathers that negroes aren't the same as white people, so, if some states want to race-mix that's fine, but we can't force everyone to subsidize education for people they wouldn't even sit next to on a bus."
See my point? There are no two ways around the issue of gay marriage anymore. Either you believe that tax-paying, law-abiding, same-sex couples deserve the same protections and benefits as heterosexual couples or you don't. If it's the latter then you're a bigot.

So which side of the fence are you really on, Mr-benefited-from-a-not-so-neutral-stance-on-desegregation-President?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Holocaust Museum Shooting: How Easy is it to Kill in America?

A few months ago I wrote about the troubling trend of racially motivated violence in US cities and what I feared was the unraveling of our humanity. In the wake of an abortion doctor's murder followed by the murder of a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Museum by a white supremacist, my argument - that we're losing our humanity - holds true.

So I wonder, how easy is it to kill in America? From the legality of obtaining a firearm to the societal factors that make shootings in schools, museums, malls and churches a common occurrence on the evening news - have we gone from being a nation that suffers occasional random violence, to, I don't know, Iraq? And to what extent is our decency and humanity compromised when we examine these issues through the prism of our political beliefs?

Regardless of your political leanings the fact remains that in the U.S. the phenomenon of random gun violence happens more often than in other developed nations. We have every which excuse to explain these acts but no one is any less dead for all of our conjecture: the assailant was crazy, the assailant was a Nazi, the assailant couldn't speak English, etc. So I'm still right: we're a nation of murderers.

Or are we not? This is, first, an issue of gun control - forget the Second Amendment and the public's so-called "right" to bear arms. This is also an issue about our values; as the American public continues to mire itself in divisive, incendiary political debate that ultimately demonizes people who hold different beliefs from ours, we set the stage for bloodshed. Does this sound like a huge leap? I don't think so. I think Americans have been stirred into a tizzy, overloaded with information, caffeine and entitlement - we've become murderers, predators and all sorts of crazy. And I wonder, what's next?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

GCL @ Santigold Show @ Terminal 5

Yours truly is an uppity gay who does not like people, crowds, children and other gay men. Hence weekends are spent at home, with what's-his-face, watching things like the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency. But sometimes I like to go out and wild out. And thankfully, my other gays are always ready to direct my attention from things like this and take me to, oh, I don't know, the Santigold show at Terminal 5.

If you're like me and you get your hip music recos from Gossip Girl, then you know the song "Shove It," which thumped menacingly as one Dan Humphrey stared down a ticked-off and vamped-out Serena van der Woodsen in one of the many encarnations of their tumultuous teenage love affair.

Anyway, last night's show was a lot of fun. Santigold took charge of the stage with a pimp strut and a gold track suit. That's boss. Way boss. Then homegirl rocked the mic with such gusto that the fans throwing hands up didn't think twice about the fact that her vocals were, um, hyper-stylized. As in, chick was definitely lip synching. But that's cool, the show was still raw, loud and edgy enough to warrant a $20 ticket. You probably want more details than this, so check out my boy Jay Williams over at OMFG New York for a more learned recap of the show.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

L is for Legitimization

According to some conservatives, gays have all the rights they need. So the push for marriage equality or for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (which, sadly, is still in effect following a Supreme Court decision)is really just a ploy for the legitimization of our "lifestyle."

Well, duh. This point got me to thinking about how the vernacular of gay rights is ever-changing: we've gone from lovers to partners, gay community to LGBT community, unions to marriage. And now we want legitimization - not acceptance. To me, it makes perfect sense. See, you can accept that there is evil in the world but you don't have to condone it. And in spite of what you've heard about me, I'm not evil, so acceptance means nothing to me and countless gays and lesbians. I want the same rights my straight friends have, period. And until that happens, I am not a legitimate U.S. citizen.

That's the realization that the gay community is coming to. Forty years after the Stonewall riots we're no longer fighting for the right to live as outsiders in our country (as in, "fine, we're different but please let us keep our jobs"). Now we want the legitimization of our place in American society. If you want to be crude about it, yes, we want the red carpet of citizenship rolled out for us. The Mormons did it (and they got a whole state in the end!), the black community did it, and now the gays are doing it.

Let's all rally behind the new L word.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Spotted: GCL at Queens Pride

Hop the 7 train to Jackson Heights in Queens and you'll find, amid the mash-up of South American and Asian stores and ads for American brands in anything but English, an outer-borough version of Chelsea. There's room for everyone in this part of the city, Colombians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, and yes, the gays.

So it's fitting that between the rowhouses and empanadas there should be a five block long festival of boys and girls in various states of undress celebrating gay pride. Church-going families scurried past the drag queens, and other passer-by stopped, looked around, and went about their business. Under the tracks of the 7 train, the gays poured out of local hotspots Atlantis and Friends Bar and into family-owned restaurants like Mario's and Mi Pequena Colombia, all of which were adorned with rainbow flags. Some shots below:

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Gay Pawns

When it comes to gay marriage, says the Washington Post, Dick Cheney is resolutely left of the Obama administration's stance on the issue. Well tickle me pink.

While our President hails the achievements of the LGBT community and, in his words, is the first president "to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration," he still refuses to support gay marriage and prefers to tow the Republican/Democrat agenda of civil unions. At this point it's fair to say that neither gays or conservatives want civil unions - it's an all or nothing proposition.

So, what's up with Dick Cheney getting air time...again...on another issue that helped define his administration? A few weeks ago the former vice president was sparring with Obama over torture, saying that waterboarding has kept us safe, now Tricky Dick v2 is tackling gay marriage and next week he'll be swapping strudel recipes with Rachael Ray. Me thinks the shamed former VP doth protest too much.

While significant gains have been made in the gay rights movement over the years we're still nothing more than a hot button issue that sells news. Politicians, for the most part, feel no obligation to us - they stump for our issues on the campaign trail but once they're in power they prefer to sweep us under the rug. I'm talking to you, former President Clinton, he of Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. Rudy Giuliani used to march in the Gay Pride parade here in New York until he decided to run for President.

That's why I've stopped listening to what politicians have to say about the issue. They'll do whatever the public tells them to do when it comes to gay marriage and gay rights in general - so the strides made in Vermont, Iowa and perhaps New York do matter and can turn the course of events throughout the country. But the hot air and posturing from our nation's leaders is all a show - gays, you mean nothing to them.