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?