Sunday, December 12, 2010

Art on AIDS

Keith Haring
"The Life of Christ"

David Wojnarowicz
"A Fire in My Belly"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I do, I'm in (hopefully we'll worry about the big elephant later)

We’ve all heard of the wonderful gayness of San Francisco and the Castro District, the heated battles (in the vein of two steps forward, one step back) in different U.S. states such as Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, etc. Some people may even know that Mexico City became the first jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriages in Latin America. What many people do not seem to know, to my surprise, is that Buenos Aires is a gay Mecca. And if we thought that was awesome, Cristina Fern├índez de Kirchner has a plan in the works for us: her government has introduced a bill to be voted on today by the Senate. It’s no less than a bill to extend all marital rights to homosexual couples. Yes, that includes ceremony, inheritance and adoption rights, along with everything else. No exceptions. No ifs or buts. Just pure marriage equality.

Not to our surprise, the Catholic Church is vehemently opposed and has been organizing protests all over the country. The opposition party has denounced this as a totally self-serving political move designed by the Kirchners to remain in power once the 2011 elections come and go. Truth is, however, that the Kirchners are taking a risk: this bill is not city-wide, but country-wide. Support for gay rights may be strong in Buenos Aires, but not necessarily in the rest of the country. I guess we may wonder if the Kirchners’ semi-monarchy is so in trouble that they are taking desperate measures to salvage their positions. But we must remember that Colombia and Uruguay already recognize civil unions nationwide. And that Argentina also began to recognize civil unions nationwide on 13 December 2002.

Marriage is a tricky subject. Particularly as it has become the centerpiece of the gay movement. It’s an exclusionary institution by design that continues to legally reinforce religious and capitalist values for all. Couldn’t we fight for the abolition of marriage, instead of fighting for the inclusion into something that we know for a fact is still leaving other people out and is still privileging some relationships over others? Is all this even imaginable?

Nonetheless, as we have taken the turns we have taken. As we have defined the discourse we have defined. As we have held the banners we have held. As we have selected the pressure and leverage we have selected. As we have chosen how we want the rights we have chosen. (And as my wish seems to be nearly impossible at the moment.) Count me in.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A ridiculous review inspired by Sex & the City 2

Once upon a time in the ‘90s, two lovely British ladies called Edina and Patsy created all sorts of trouble for themselves in the confines of a stage that we were supposed to believe was a luxurious, yet tiny and hardly decorated, apartment in London. These two women were inseparable, and together consumed large amounts of booze and drugs while raising Saffron, a too-serious college student who did not seem to be able to leave her mother’s home and who, as we all remember, was Edina’s daughter.

Amidst an explosion of utterly dysfunctional female bonding, everything was a joke: substance abuse, child neglect, emotional blackmailing, co-dependency, feminism, cougars, fashion, wealth, you name it. It was a ridiculous set-up. We as the audience may have been in love with Edina and Patsy, and we may have even respected and longed for some aspects of their lives (i.e. endless time to hang out with your best friend, an enviable sense of humor, speaking your mind, etc.), but we did not necessarily aspire to be like them, and surely we knew we could not be exactly like them. And that is because it was an obviously absurd world, a shameless impossibility, a total absence of consequences, an endearing fantasy that delved head first and unapologetically into the ridiculous. The obvious joke was on Edina and Patsy, and they carried it proudly. It was awesome.

This weekend I went to see Sex & the City 2. Not against my will, I admit. But, yes, in spite of myself. Everyone keeps repeating, apologetically, that the TV show is better than the movie, and I sure hope that’s true, considering its amazing popularity. Otherwise, panic may paralyze me into a coma, and I may subsequently die perplexed by the epiphany of some cruel cosmic irony that had been lost on me all along.

Because, you see, these women love to drink and party as well—although they could not hold a candle to Edina and Patsy, of course, who had ways more fun without even leaving the apartment—they are also obsessed with fashion, and rich as hell. The problem, however, is that, that’s not the joke. As a matter of fact, I want so badly for the joke to have indeed been lost on me. However, I suspect that the elusive joke was partly on Middle Eastern cultures, and, above all and ever so subtly, the big joke was on us. This is something I am still somehow trying to rationalize so as to not burst into rage, on both counts, but I will here only address the latter.

According to Sex & the City 2, we are supposed to believe that ridiculous tasteless yet expensive dressing is cool (go shopping!), that love in relationships is shown by gifting vintage Rolexes to men and black diamonds to women (go shopping!), that everyone everywhere in the world wants desperately to be (and shop!) like the U.S., and that you can revel in utter economic independence and have endless leisure time and great jobs (and go shopping!) without ever actually, well, working. But all of this is not a joke, and you are supposed to aspire to be (and shop!) like these women, as well as, under the pressure of a well articulated capitalist discourse, come to ignore the fact that you know you can’t, and, above all, feel very bad for not being able to do so. And go out and get a credit card if you don’t have one, and start purchasing your way into a lifestyle as close to this as you cannot buy but may be able to trade debt for. The difference will be, obviously, that as opposed to the superficial team of uninteresting characters in this movie, for you, there will be economic repercussions. Consequences, if you will.

In a nutshell, Sex & the City 2 is far from a parody of itself. It’s the very serious and troubling formula of consumerism+superficiality=happiness+women’s lib.

If Patsy and Edina taught me something well, it's that the best course of action for this situation would be revenge, along with a cocktail of my favorite licit and illicit substances. But I feel like I’m falling a little short. Sigh. What would Edina and Patsy do?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Homoerotica: Altar de Autores

Homoerotica is a literary collective formed in San Juan, PR, composed of a diverse group that makes LGBTTQI issues the core of their writing, which includes narratives, performance art, theater, music, and mostly, poetry. They hold public readings, on average, every two months, and usually on even months. Their first reading, Amor de Hombre, was held in February 2009. I did not become aware of them until August that year and finally made it to a reading later that November. Papaya, it was titled, and its theme was lesbian love. The idea was great: Puerto Rico is starved for LGBTTQI expression. It's not alone in that, of course, but I found the idea so romantic, so exciting, so promising, because I too was starved. I wanted to love it, but couldn't. The poetry was cliched, rushed, amateur. I'm no poet, mind you, and sharing your creative writing in such an experimental environment in front of a starved audience, well, as the emcee cries out in the documentary Paris Is Burning at some point, "It do takes balls." But I couldn't make more of it than it was, so I attended the next one and then, disappointed, stayed home.

Until tonight.

Altar de Autores tonight was not only better. It was good. Really good. People I had seen read before seemed so much more confident. The writing was much more complex. Raquel Salas and Abniel Marat actually made me cry. (Though Marat always makes me cry.) I was no longer so much starved as thankful. And inspired. Few things inspire me more than a group of people that bleed together and make something great out of despair and nothingness, who break silences and get their fingernails dirty to climb or dig or rip skin off their faces. Each presenter dedicated a piece to one or more authors who had inspired them. Garcia Lorca. Sylvia Plath. Sappho. Gabriela Mistral. William Burroughs. On and on and on. Beautiful black-&-white portraits projected onto a black background above an altar of colorful candles and books and drug kits and red slippers and flowers and seashells hypnotized me for hours on end while each poet stood there and told a story. Beautiful.

With this, and the UPR strike, living in Puerto Rico gets better by the day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monthly Free E-Book from the University of Chicago Press

The University of Chicago Press gives away a free e-book every month. This month you may download Freaks Talk Back, by Joshua Gamson.

"Using extensive interviews, hundreds of transcripts, focus-group discussions with viewers, and his own experiences as an audience member, Joshua Gamson argues that talk shows give much-needed, high-impact public visibility to sexual nonconformists while also exacerbating all sorts of political tensions among those becoming visible. With wit and passion, Freaks Talk Back illuminates the joys, dilemmas, and practicalities of media visibility."