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  • February 24, 2010

    The would-be basher beats his bashee

    Posted by: Chris

    Angelica lesbian bbb10 big brother brasil
    If you took the time yesterday to go to the Big Brother Brasil website to vote to eliminate Marcelo Dourado, the homophobic contestant who once threatened to beat a female contestant because she's a lesbian, then thanks. It turns out that last nights "paredão" -- elimination showdown -- pit Dourado against Angélica, that same lesbian, and Dicesar, one of two openly gay male participants, who also does drag.

    Bbb10 paredao dourado angelica dicesar Despite an online campaign among gay folks and their friends, and despite his neanderthal machismo, Dourado survived elimination, receiving 38% votes, behind Angélica's 55%. Only 7% of voters wanted popular Dicesar to leave.

    My co-blogger Kevin, who first alerted us to Dourado's offensive conduct, characteristically pulled no punches himself in response:

    Thanks for your support everyone, but Globo just announced that Dourado will remain on the show, and the lesbian he said he'd love to beat until she was sent to the hospital was eliminated. Globo said it was a total of 77 million votes (a new record), and Angelica received 55%, vs 38% for the homophobe Dourado (and 7%... for the drag queen, Dicesar).

    If you believe  that was really the votes (Globo doesn't submit to outside verification, to my knowledge) I have a bldg to sell you in the Cracolandia section of Sao Paulo. But if it was the real voting, why watch this vile show any longer? I won't be watching.

    Marcelo dourado gay sergio
    "I just lost my appetite," said mixed martial artist Marcelo Dourado, after hearing a gay contestant on "Big Brother Brasil" talking with a friend about going to The Week, a popular São Paulo gay club.

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    February 23, 2010

    Vota now, vota often

    Posted by: Chris

    Marcelo dourado homofobico homophobe big brother brasil bbb10
    Cooking up homophobia on "Big Brother Brasil," Marcelo Dourado needs to go, and you can make it happen. From meu amigo and co-blogger Kevin comes this call to arms:

    Attention to my American friends: There is a huge favor for gay rights you can help with in Brazil right now. … Please go online TODAY and vote as many times as possible (there is no limit to voting) -- vote to ELIMINATE Marcelo Dourado, the most homophobic and revolting participant ...that Big Brother Brazil has ever had, the same season they have put three openly gay participants in the house.

    If this guy continues to win the contest, it will be a horrible day for Brazil. PLEASE HELP! You have to vote TODAY because the voting on this week's elimination ends tonight! If he is not eliminated, one of the gay characters will be...

    Big brother brazil paredao marcelo dourado homofobico A bit of background from my friend Juliano at Made In Brazil:

    There are three openly gay contestants in the Big Brother Brazil house this season: a 20-year-old boy, a drag queen, and a lesbian. I did not necessarily expect any of them to be the favorites to win the R$ 1.5 million prize, but what I also did not expect is the fact that the only homophobe in the house is current favorite to win the big prize, perhaps a sign that the majority of viewers across the country are not ready for all the gay exposure on the show.

    Over the course of the last 50 days, Marcelo Dourado, a castaway from season 3 of Big Brother Brazil who was brought back to the show this season, has made sure to let Brazilian viewers know that he is not only  homophobic, but also ignorant, and misogynistic. Earlier in the season he caught the media attention by saying that heterosexual men could not contract the HIV virus even by having sex with HIV positive women because AIDS only affected gay men.

    According to him, the HIV virus is spread only through homosexual sex. After that statement, which was obviously addressed by Globo network, Dourado refused to have conversations which involved any gay topics saying that it disgusted him. He also said he wanted to beat the lesbian contestant and send her to the hospital, but that he couldn't do it because if he were to  physically attack someone he would be automatically eliminated from the show.

    This might strike you as another case of political correctness, like the flap over a faggy lion mascot at Missouri Southern, but the difference is not only the outrageousness of the remarks and the absence of any apology. "Big Brother Brasil" has huge cultural influence in Brazil, along the lines of "American Idol" here in the U.S.

    So imagine an Idol hopeful spewing ignorance of the sort of Marcelo Dourado, and click here to vote to eliminate him -- the deadline is today!

    For those who understand Portuguese (or even Spanish, Italian or French will do), here are some of Dourado's homophobic highlights:

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    December 22, 2008

    How to lose friends and influence

    Posted by: Chris

    USBrazilPride2 Unless you've traveled outside the U.S. and Europe, or have friends from places like Latin America, Africa and Asia, you probably didn't know that one of the biggest black eyes on America internationally is this country's arrogant approach to immigration -- on the temporary kind.

    As in so many other areas, the Bush administration used the horror of 9/11 and the specter of another terrorist attack to make temporary visas, whether for work, study or tourism, much much more difficult to obtain, even from parts of the world with no significant history of terrorism.

    I've been asked more times than I care to count why my partner doesn't just come to the U.S. to visit when I max out my Brazilian tourist visa. Would that it were so easy. For just a taste, check out this story by São Paulo native Jose Guzzardi, who managed to get one of those visas to study at the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas:

    I personally invited [one of my best friends, considered part of the family] to come to my graduation from UCA. Even though she had work responsibilities, she made arrangements to come and scheduled her visa interview [with the U.S. Consulate]. …

    After her interview was over, she called me to tell me that the American consulate in Sao Paulo denied her visa because there was not enough evidence that she would come back to Brazil, even though she had already made flight reservations to return one week after my graduation. The person interviewing her rejected to even look at the flight reservations or any of the other documents that she brought with her, which included a letter of recommendation that I had written for her.

    Besides being saddened by not being able to come to my graduation, she was extremely upset with the “arrogance of the American people.” She told me, “I cannot believe how arrogant Americans are… she didn’t even look at my documents before denying my visa.”

    Consulate officers in the Bush State Department make it clear to citizens of most any country outside Western Europe that they are presumed liars who intend to overstay their visas and live in the U.S. indefinitely, until proven otherwise. So porous borders result in 11 million illegal immigrants, but those who follow the rules and come prepared with documentation are treated with disrespect and disdain based on little more than their country of origin.

    The impact -- besides reinforcing an arrogant tone set from the White House down for the last eight years? The loss of billions in tourist tollars. Guzzardi explains:

    The U.S. travel Industry is worth about $713 billion dollars a year and creates 7.5 million jobs across the country. Tourism is one of America’s most important industries, and … a strong tool for public diplomacy and a great way to improve America’s image abroad.

    However, the number of foreign tourists coming to the United States has decreased considerably in the past few years. In 1992, 9% of people who crossed international borders came to the United States. In 2000, this number was reduced to 7.5%, and just last year, it went down to 6%. … One of the major reasons for this decrease is the difficulty for foreigners to obtain tourist visas to come to America. …

    In Brazil, the visa application process is very complex and time-consuming, taking an average of 100 days for someone to obtain a tourist visa. All Brazilians must be personally interviewed for the visa, and they have to pay a $100 dollar, non-refundable fee for the interview. These interviews last for about three minutes, and the interviewer at the consulate must determine whether the applicant is someone who is “eligible” to come to the United States.

    All of this hardship to obtain a visa has directly affected the number of Brazilians visiting the United States. In 1998, 1 million people from Brazil visited America. In 2000, this number was reduced to 750,000 and just last year, it dropped to 500,000. This has a direct effect in the American economy, since Brazilians are big spenders - the average Brazilian spends about $2,000 dollars per trip. This means that the United States just lost $500 million dollars from the Brazilians, who decided to visit Europe instead (the number of Brazilian tourists in Europe increased from 500,000 to two million in the past six years).

    Will Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton restore respect to citizens of Latin America, Africa, Asia who follow the immigration rules and apply for temporary visas? Hope But Verify.

    P.S. Don't forget to click on the "Change America" badge along the lefthand side of the blog and vote for "Equal Immigration Rights" as a policy priority for the Obama administration. It's still ranked No. 2 among all 121 immigration proposals on Change.org.

    (Pictured is "U.S.-Brazilian Pride" painted by the love of a certain blond blogger's life).

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    December 16, 2008

    It's raining gatos e cachorros in Rio

    Posted by: Chris

    Madonnario That's "cats and dogs," for you non-Brazilianizers. Like poor Madonna, for example, performing Monday night in Rio's massive Maracanã stadium, built for last year's Pan Am Games. About 30 seconds into this video, our dear Madge performs some on-stage maneuvers that were definitely not choreographed.

    Even so, she recovers mighty damn well for someone past the half-century mark. I imagine vogueing could be a real bitch after hip-replacement...

    (Hat tip: Made in Brazil)

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    November 02, 2008

    Another year, another separation

    Posted by: Chris

    Rioaptovisto Hello there, dear blog readers. I know it has been a good long time since I was keeping up with regular blogging duties, and a number of you have even expressed concern about how I'm doing. Well, the honest answer is that I've been better. Regular readers know that the year 2008 has been a very difficult year for me personally, and the last couple of weeks have unfortunately brought a new challenge.

    You may remember that around this time last year, my partner and I moved to Buenos Aires for three months because I had used up the 180 days I am allowed to be in Brazil each year under my tourist visa. This time around, after a lot of thinking and discussing and soul-searching, we've decided we are going to have to be separated for the last two months of the calendar.

    So this week I'll be headed back to the U.S., and meu bebezinho will be headed back to his hometown to be with his familiy. After almost four years together and more than two years of living in limbo down here, the prospect of being separated for two long months has been particularly discouraging, even disheartening, for us.

    But endure it we must, and after a whirlwind week or so of winding up our apartment rental and moving things into storage, it's time once again for us to say "goodbye" -- if only temporarily.

    I will arrive back home just in time to cast my vote in the presidential election, something I hope each and every one of you will be doing as well, if you haven't already.

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    October 13, 2008

    The Left plays the homophobia card in São Paulo

    Posted by: Kevin

    KassabgaybaitingIn the most important election taking place in Brazil this year, the mayoral election in the country's largest city (and my current home) São Paulo, a desperate opponent who once fashioned herself the great champion of the city's gay community is now using blatant gay-baiting in desperation.

    It is a sad and hypocritical plunge into dangerous territory for President Lula da Silva's Worker's Party (or PT, its Brazilian acronym) in a city that remains a springboard to national politics.  And the barrage of television and radio ads blatantly questioning the sexuality of incumbent Mayor Gilberto Kassab comes at a time when vicious anti-gay attacks and murders have been taking place.  And given the current state of politics in the city, the use of blatant gay-baiting by the PT is fanning the very flames of hate that has cost the lives of several innocent people in and around a neighborhood that gave Kassab his largest margin of victory in the first round of voting on October 5th.

    The history which brought us here makes this turn of events even more galling for the city's gay residents.  The PT candidate, former mayor Marta Suplicy, was elected in 2000 as the first candidate for major office in Brazil who openly campaigned for the support of gay and lesbian voters.  She marched in the city's world-record-setting gay pride parades, helping add to the momentum of the event as it became the largest annual gay pride event in the world and a major focus for the whole country's gay population. 

    However, her management of the city was widely seen as a disaster, racking up a huge debt and tying traffic up in knots with badly planned public works and out-of-kilter priorities that seemed designed to favor her base of supporters rather than the whole city.  In turn, she was soundly bounced from office in 2004 by the center-right opposition party, led by José Serra, the likely center-right presidential candidate in the race to succeed Lula in 2010.

    Serra was elected governor of São Paulo state in 2006, and his vice-mayor, Gilberto Kassab of the conservative party, the Democratas (DEM), assumed office.  Kassab is a life-long bachelor, and is a very popular mayor.  He has spearheaded several popular projects, including the Cidade Limpa law which banned all billboards and public advertisement displays inside the city limits and restored a sense of pride and conservation in the city's eclectic architecture.  He also restored São Paulo's finances, and has backed a revival of the city's old downtown, which was a sad hellhole for more than a decade.  Crime is way down in the city and continuing to drop.  The city's health services are being reformed to improve efficiency, and public works priorities seem more sane and less erratically political.  And in a marked symbol of the city's growing pride in itself, a major TV campaign promoting the city as a tourist destination was launched on CNN International earlier this year.

    To his credit, Kassab's government signed a landmark cooperative agreement one year ago with the state government which would join public defenders in both jurisdictions to provide more resources to citizens who seek redress for any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation.  It was perhaps the most significant move by any executive branch in the country in recent memory to more concretely safeguard the rights of gay citizens in Brazil in the most meaningful way.  And despite some initial criticism (including from me) during the spate of anti-gay murders last year, the state and municipal police forces managed to apprehend every one of the perpetrators of these crimes and put them behind bars.

    In the first round of voting, Kassab leaped into the top position, eliminating a fellow center-right opponent and a scattering of minor candidates.  His approval rating tops 60%.  Marta Suplicy came in second place, and a picture emerged of a city sharply divided between the bairros of the city center (Kassab) and those in the poor periphery (Marta).  Marta is polling as much as 17 points behind Kassab in the latest published surveys.  Her only hope of squeaking to victory is to manage an enormous turnout in the periphery, and cut into his support in some parts of the city center.

    And alas, she is playing the gay card as a key element of her strategy in the second round.  As the two candidates participated in a tense debate on the Bandeirantes TV network last night, Marta's campaign launched a TV and radio ad campaign which asked voters about what they "don't know about Kassab." The screen has a pixelated black-and-white picture of Kassab's face, and it asks a number of questions about him, the last of which is: "Is he married?  Does he have children?" And the tone is clearly meant to suggest the mayor is gay, and that it's a dirty, shameful thing that should disqualify him as mayor.  And quite rightly, Kassab has filed five separate motions with the electoral commission to force Marta and the PT to take the ads off the air. 

    This comes only a year after a wave of anti-gay attacks and murders hit the Jardins neighborhood in the city center, in and around where many gay residents and gay hangouts are concentrated.  (I've written on this anti-gay crime wave extensively here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.) Jardim Paulista is, ironically, the bairro where Kassab won his biggest margin of victory anywhere in the city in the October 5 first round (and I'm proud to add, it's where I live and work).  And the attackers in nearly all of the murders and beatings have been skinheads and self-described "punks" who purposely come into this neighborhood from the poorer periphery neighborhoods, the very areas to which Marta is directing her gay-baiting message, and where Marta won every bairro in the first round.

    So the so-called champion of São Paulo's gays is now throwing us to the wolves in a desperate ploy for the votes of the homophobic periphery.  She is intentionally dividing the city along lines that have flared with murderous violence for years.  And she and the PT have the gall to still claim the mantle of being the protector of gay Brazilians.  Que merda essa.

    While I cannot vote in Brazil, I am giving all I have to volunteer and agitate for Kassab's re-election.  In this case, to say this election is a matter of life and death for the gays of São Paulo is no exaggeration.

    UPDATE: This has exploded into a major story on the front pages of all the city's newspapers and websites, with near universal condemnation for what Marta's campaign is doing.  This is a huge relief, but alas the journalists of this city are not from the periphery and, in turn, are often seen as only a partial voice of the full electorate.  It is very heartening, however, to hear that highly respected political analyst Alberto Carlos Almeida told the Estado de São Paulo newspaper that Marta has "committed a fatal error that will mark her entire career" with the ad campaign.  And columnist Ricardo Noblat, who blogs for the #1 newspaper in all of Brazil, O Globo, wrote today that her ad campaign "is indeed bigoted, and is indeed sexist.  As it would be similarly sexist and bigoted to run an ad insinuating that Marta cheated on her first husband [Senator Eduardo Suplicy] before she left him." Even her own (second) husband, Luis Favre, has posted on his own blog that personal lives should be off the table in this election.  (And then defended her campaign in the very next post.  Bizarre.)

    But at an editorial meeting today with the #1 newspaper in the city, Folha de São Paulo, Marta spoke out of three different sides of her mouth, and deepened the controversy by repeating the charge, then saying she's the real victim, and then denying she even knew about the ad to begin with (my translation from Folha's report):

    "I am someone who is against bigotry.  You will never hear a single prejudiced word from my mouth.  [...] But I think that you're interpreting this all too much," Marta said, when questioned as to whether the content of the ad wasn't invasive and prejudiced. 

    The candidate denied that the ad made insinuations about the mayor's life.  "For me it's just as important is he's married, widowed or single.  People have to know." [...]

    "I think people ought to know about the candidate.  My whole life, the person with the most invaded privacy has been me.  For this reason I'm against it," affirmed the PT candidate, who said that the TV ad was the responsibility of the marketing director for her campaign.  "The decision is with the marketing director [...] I didn't even see the ad."

    This has now become, perhaps, an even more profound decision for São Paulo's voters over what kind of city this will be going forward.  Not just a question of economics, public works or taxation -- but about the very soul of this city.  Will division, resentments and hatred win, or will São Paulo take another step forward among the major cities of the world and toss this kind of manipulative politics into the trash?

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    October 06, 2008

    Obamamania and McCainiacs in Brazil

    Posted by: Chris

    Claudiohenriquebarackobamadabaixada The U.S. presidential election isn't just making news headlines here in Brazil; it's producing its own sideline stories. For instance, there were eight "Barack Obamas" on last weekend's municipal election ballot. How's that?

    Due to a quirk in Brazilian electoral law, candidates can put any name they want on the ballot, as long as it isn't offensive. At least eight candidates have chosen to be known as "Barack Obama" in the Oct. 5 elections.

    The Illinois senator is hugely popular in Brazil. The prospect of a black U.S. president has generated enthusiasm across the country, where more people call themselves black than anywhere except Nigeria.

    A variety of Brazilian candidates are hoping they can ride his distant coattails into office.

    Claudio Henrique dos Anjos, who's running for mayor of Belford Roxo on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, took the name "Barack Obama de Belford Roxo" and said he's gone from third place in the polls to a tie.

    Unfortunately for the Brazilian Obamas, the soaring fortunes of their American namesake didn't exactly rub-off:

    At least eight "Barack Obamas" who borrowed the Democratic presidential candidate's name to run in Brazilian local elections lost.

    The defeat of the so-called Obamas came in municipal elections on Sunday that selected mayors and council members in more than 5,000 cities across the nation — and saw the ruling Workers Party and allies of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva make gains across the nation.

    Claudio Henrique dos Anjos, the Belford Roxo mayoral candidate, swears the name "opened doors" for him, though the official tally shows he did not receive a single vote.

    Amd_extra145x260 Maybe he should have tried "John McCain." The GOP presidential nominee also has his Brazilian fans, none more rapturous than Maria Gracinda Teixeira de Jesus, who describes the 72-year-old senator as "tasty, loving and romantic."

    She should know, the 77-year-old former model had a brief affair with McCain back in 1957 when his ship was stationed in Rio De Janeiro. McCain briefly recounted their torrid romance in his book "Faith of our Fathers," and the Brazilian media tracked her down last month.

    Then last week, taking a page out of Sarah Palin's "You Can See Russia From Here" handbook, McCain's top foreign policy adviser, Richard Fontaine, claimed McCain's affair with Gracinda more than a half-century ago was actually evidence of his interest in Latin America:

    In fact, I saw, I guess it was last week, that his old girlfriend in Brazil has been found from his early days when he was in the Navy and was interviewed. She's a somewhat older woman now than she was then, but it sorta speaks to the long experience he has had in the region -- in the most positive terms.

    By that measure, I should be a leading candidate to be McCain's ambassador to Brazil.

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    August 22, 2008

    Nervous Norteamericanos in Brasil

    Posted by: Chris

    Usbrasilwomenfootball2 These are tense times for us "Norteamericanos" in Brazil, as Americans are often referred to here. Brasileiros are huge sports fans -- imagine Philadelphia or Boston multiplied by a country of 200 million -- and intensely patriotic about their national teams. Forget "U!S!A!" chants. You haven't heard anything until you watch TV here and hear the pre-recorded, echoed shriek "Bra-ZIL! ZIL! ZIL!" after every decent play or performance.

    Beachvolei_2Of course their passion for "futebol" (pronounced something like "footy-ball") is unmatched worldwide. So you can imagine how their blood was boiling when the men's soccer team was ousted in the Olympic semifinal by hated arch-rivals Argentina. The sarcastic headline in Globo said it all: "Now, the women's team is all that's left."

    The U.S. women took care of that, defeating Brazil in the gold medal match in overtime, just as they had in the Athens Olympics, even though the Brazilian women had completely dominated the game.

    Volleyball is Brazil's other great sports passion, with loyal fan support for professional leagues for both men and women. For obvious reasonsbBeach volleyball is also hugely popular here, which explains why two of the three men's teams on the medal stand in Beijing were Brazilian. But it was a pair of Americans looking down from the golden perch on the Brazilians in silver and bronze position.

    Now the Olympic tournaments for team volleyball have finally reached their climax, and the gold medal matches are set for men and women. It will be the U.S. vs. Brazil. In both.

    There will be some nervous gringos in Brazil this next couple of days . . .



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    Filed in: Brazil , Sports

    August 16, 2008

    Obama at Saddleback Church vs. . . .

    Posted by: Chris

    . . . Cauã Raymond on the novela (nighttime soap) "A Favorita" (see below)

    Three guesses who won the staring contest between me and the b.f. over what to watch tonight.  But I am at least catching John McCain's Q&A and will find Barack Obama's turn somewhere online.

    I will say this, I absolutely count myself among those who object to such an important joint forum being held at a church and moderated by a minister, any minister, much less an evangelical like Rick Warren.

    A couple of interesting side notes about "A Favorita (The Favorite)" and the role played by Raymond, who is a hugely popular beefcake actor here (for obvious reasons). The queeny character opposite him in the video snippet above is Iran Malfitano, although he's hardly recognizable in the role. Before this soap, he was hands down the Brazilian actor who most pushed my buttons.

    Here's a very different sample of his work in "Donas de Casa Desperadas," reprising the "Desperate Housewives" role of the hunky gardener played by Jesse Metcalfe who seduces Gabrielle:

    It's a little disappointing that the soap's producers felt Malfitano had to so queen it up to play a gay role, but since that's an exception to how previous gay roles have been handled on popular novelas, I'll chalk it up as about the character, not his sexual orientation.

    Much more disappointing is the way that O Globo, the omnipotent media near-monopoly that broadcasts "A Favorita" has inserted itself into the storyline. Early on in the novela's run, Raymond's character was using Malfitano for a place to stay and a ritzier life. In the original storyline, however, Raymond realized he had real feelings for Malfitano and ended up having a real relationship and coming out.

    But the network said that wouldn't do, and now Raymond's character has dumped Malfitano (who still pines) and goes on to bed a succession of beautiful women. What a unique story -- not.

    But what can we expect from a network that not once but twice has demanded that gay male characters in novelas who were scripted to kiss in greatly anticipated finales share a big hug instead. It would be too much for the kids watching, O Globo reasoned, unlike the nightly portrayal of very steamy hetero sex scenes and graphic talk.

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    Filed in: Brazil

    August 08, 2008

    Back in business

    Posted by: Chris

    Riodejaneiro It has seemed like a lifetime that I've been on the road, living out of a suitcase and relying on the kindness of friends in Memphis, Atlanta, São Paulo and Washington, D.C. Finally yesterday I arrived back in Rio De Janeiro -- reunited with my other half and ready to resume my regular blogging schedule.

    My two months back in the States were almost double the longest length of time I've had apart from my partner since we met almost four years ago. The distance seemed multiplied by illness and death in both our families during this same period and at times it felt like we would never be together again.

    But here we are, back in Rio, and now life may resume what has passed for normal for us for two years now.  I want to thank many friends for their support, with special appreciation for William, Cynthia, Steve, Jeff, Chris and Robert, as well as to my parents, for going above and beyond each in their own way. Last but not least, thanks so much to all of you who have taken the time to post comments or send me notes expressing your support and sympathy. It's meant the world to me!

    Now back to the business of blogging, and thanks again to Andoni for doing such a wonderful job holding down the fort in my absence.

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    May 27, 2008


    Posted by: Kevin

    10_mvg_sp_parada06_5 It's almost surreal to stare into the enormity of the annual São Paulo gay pride parade (known here simply as the "Parada") and to see within that image the past, present and possible future of the gay movement in the United States all at the same time.  The picture is a mash-up of self-discovery and self-destruction, incredible power and pathetic weakness, great hope and miserable failure.   And we should all be drawing lessons from it.

    The event is universally seen as the largest gay pride event on Earth -- last year's gathering brought together more or less 2 million people and broke all previous world records.  While the authorities gave up on crowd estimates this year, it was clear from any observer that the numbers either matched or exceeded those of 2007. 

    The success of this event's ability to call on Brazilians from all over the country to come and participate is, in itself, a testament to the potential of the gay Brazilian community nationwide.   And as anyone can attest, the parties that are thrown all over town during the Parada weekend have become world famous, and are attracting hundreds of thousands of gay foreign tourists.  The event has now become an important source of revenue for the city's economy, and politicians are scrambling to ensure it never abates, and the multitudes keep coming every year.

    But with all these incomparable strengths, what is most remarkable about São Paulo pride is its utter failure to articulate even the most basic message.  Beyond a few pronouncements and a banner or a website, a coherent message of any kind fails to reach anyone in the street.  Instead, the Parada is a sea of drunken recklessness, criminal violence and disturbing overcrowding which has begun to actually drive the resident gay population of the city away from it.  The organizers are very competent in breaking world attendance records, but are hopelessly inept at finding some way to truly organize the attendees around any sense of mission or purpose beyond getting loaded, and getting laid.

    Ideas will always be more powerful than mere feet on the pavement.  When people gather, they want to be led.  They aren't motivated to travel great distances just to wander aimlessly in a confused mob.  And if chaos reigns, then only bad can come of it.  The level of public intoxication was so excessive that the medical facilities set up along the parade route were quickly overwhelmed.  The crush of people was so intense that the reserved areas for media were overrun.  The police were either unable or unwilling to stop violent robberies that were happening only feet away from them.

    My understanding of gay pride events is that they provide a zone of safety for gay people to come out and feel more confident and secure against a tide of intolerance in society.  Ironically, at the biggest such event in the world, gay people feel ever more insecure and unsafe.  Last year's Parada was marred by a brutal, anti-gay murder in the heart of the Jardins neighborhood just hours after the event ended.  A gang of "punks" picked out a man at random outside a gay bar/restaurant and stabbed him to death right on the sidewalk.  The police hunted down the perpetrators and began cracking down on gangs as a result.

    But this year, the death of a 25 year old gay Brazilian has come to symbolize the growing failure of this event to leave any sense of greater meaning behind than a sense of insecurity, distraction and self-destruction.

    On Friday afternoon, Lucas Cerqueira Leite Cardoso de França was found dead, face-down in the pool at the Mercure Hotel in the heart of Jardins.  A new resident of São Paulo, he'd been partying the night before, and was a guest of two men staying at the hotel - Rodrigo Vaz, a doctor from Brasília, and Diogo da Sá, a journalist from Recife, who he'd just met at Pacha, a nightclub hosting Thursday night's circuit party (there was one every night from Wednesday through Sunday).  The three men had arrived at the hotel earlier in the afternoon from the party, briefly visited Vaz's room, and then Vaz and Lucas went to the pool.  After dozing on a chair, Vaz awakened to find Lucas floating, dead.  He tried CPR to no avail.  What we do know is that Lucas had taken alcohol and GHB, which is a lethal combination even in relatively small doses (something most gay clubbers know about). 

    It's unclear when Lucas took the various drugs in his system, in what order, or why he was in the pool.  But the jarring reality is thatLucas2_2 by all accounts, he was a happy guy, full of life, and was looking forward to starting a new job at a store in the fashionable Shopping Higienópolis mall.  Not the profile of someone who self-destructs at a hotel pool on a sunny Friday afternoon.  But alas, he apparently did.

    The anguish is evident on a page of mourning ("luto") that his mother, Priscila, has started on the social networking site Orkut.  It is filled with pictures of a very handsome young man with a loving family, as well as messages from openly gay friends from around the country who were just as shocked at his death.  His sister also grapples hopelessly with why this happened.

    And this is indeed why Lucas' death is symbolic of what the Parada has come to represent.  It was big and utterly pointless.  It was a tragic search for pleasure in vain, and a  moment which made a beautiful sense of life and purpose appear worthless in the end.  It left nothing behind but questions.  It made none of us feel prouder, or more secure.  It taught us nothing, and betrayed a sense that we have learned nothing.

    I get emails from American gays fairly often which tell me of a rising level of disgust at gay politics in the United States.  To many of them, it is run by a group of hacks who lack vision and courage, who cater to politicians of both parties that have no qualms about throwing us overboard.  And these critics are not outraged so much as ready to turn their backs on something that was once an inspiring movement full of hope and joy.  One of them, an activist who started in the 1980s, wrote me that she felt like she was watching "my baby, all grown up, just laying there dying and I can't do anything about it."

    Today, I read a comment by a Brazilian posted today on the gay news portal, MixBrasil.  The frustration I saw in it matches the frustrations in emails from back home.  And I wondered, will we end up defeating ourselves more handily than our enemies, simply because we don't have a message anymore? 

    Here is "Mau"'s posting, translated by me into English.  And it left me thinking of HRC black-tie dinners, gay magazines obsessed with straight celebrities, and how circuit parties have filled the void of thoughtful action in the United States.  I share his grief here:

    When I went to my first gay pride (in São Paulo) seven years ago, it was an incredible experience.  It wasn't perfect, of course, but everyone tried however possible to make that parade really be something to be proud of, and set a real goal to gain visibility and tolerance in society.  Last year, when I went to it with a friend, after two hours trying to walk along one of the floats, we decided it was impossible because of the number of people and we gave up and went home.  Now at home, thinking about the parade, we also feel like we don't have that sense of pride when we left the party, as it's no longer the party it was.  Today I live in London and I compare the gay scene of São Paulo with the one here, and I have to say that for all the ways our scene is better, it has a lot of growing up and learning to do.  Along with this, after reading the details here and on other sites, and the comments of some friends, I have to say I'm disappointed to see our parade and it's not even Paulista or even gay, it's been turned into a party that sadly promotes just the opposite of what it proposes.  Tourists coming to São Paulo to hit the parties in the clubs instead of going to Avenida Paulista, people afraid to get up on the floats or dress up for fear of some kind of retaliation - robbery, crimes, violence and breaking the rules of its own participants is shameful.  We have to be more aware and do something that really lives up to being proud.

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    Filed in: Brazil

    April 22, 2008

    Tough times for Brazilian friends

    Posted by: Chris

    041508_2 My friend Marcos Costa, who blogs at Carioca Virtual, has been drawing attention to an outrageous case of mistreatment inflicted on Jose Ávila, days after the death of Fabio, his partner of 10 years. That's Jose and Fabio in the photo; Jose's on the right.

    Days after Fabio's death, his family met Jose in the street and unceremoniously informed him that since the apartment was in Fabio's name and he died without a will, Jose was no longer welcome. All the belongings inside, accumulated over a decade together, were sealed away as well.

    Jose sued and, to the credit of gay-friendly legal treatment in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, won a temporary order that restored him in the apartment and made him executor of Fabio's estate. But the family fights on, demanding a trial to test Jose's claim of a long-term relationship.

    I have known both Jose and Fabio socially -- a genuine, happy, fun-loving couple like so many I've had the honor to know in my time here. Jose is trying an unusual tactic to prove the relationship: a petition available at Foch clothing stores popular with gay men in Rio, São Paulo and Curitiba. Those who knew the couple are encouraged to sign, providing additional evidence of the legitimacy of their relationship.

    I've never understood how the families of gay men could be so heartless in the treatment of long-term partners, no matter how they felt about the morality of their relationship. Whatever biblical passages they might use to condemn, they violate countless more by acting in such a vicious, mean-spirited manner.

    I'm not sure many readers of this blog can help out in Jose's case, but it's a reminder of why gay couples everywhere need and deserve legal recognition. It's also a reminder why all of us need to take the time to draw up the necessary legal docs to protect our partners, should the unthinkable happen.

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    April 17, 2008

    Big gay immigration news from Brazil

    Posted by: Chris

    Lula Some potentially great news out of Brazil this week. The center-left government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva -- known here as Presidente Lula --  has announced a legislative proposal that would extend to gay Brazilians the same right straight Brazilians have to sponsor foreign partners for temporary or permanent resident visas. It's a Brazilian UAFA (Uniting American Families Act), if you will.

    The proposed law would simply remove any distinction of sex from existing provisions that allow Brazilians to sponsor foreign partners. In reality, Brazil is already one of two-dozen countries that already allow gay citizens to sponsor foreign partners for residence, but that right is based entirely on vulnerable judge-made law.

    As a result, the process is long, cumbersome and expensive. Presumably this new legislative right would streamline the process and reduce the cost, although it would still require review of each request on a case by case basis.

    My partner and I have thus far chosen not to follow that route, partly due to the expense and partly because our goal is to live together in the U.S. But if this proposal becomes law, and it should given Lula's backing, we could at least have a stable life here until we find a way back home to the States.

    The article (in Portuguese) is in the jump to this post.

    For more about gay immigration issues, click here.

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    April 08, 2008

    Travel days and the GNW 5

    Posted by: Chris

    Yesterday was a travel day, hence the dormant blog. I've had a lot of those recently -- D.C. to N.Y. (March 28), N.Y. to Memphis (March 31), Memphis to Atlanta (April 4), and Atlanta to D.C. (yesterday). I have another big one tomorrow, flying back to Rio for the first time in almost five weeks. I'll enjoy my last day -- my birthday! -- here in Washington with friends today, but for obvious reasons I'll be very happy to be "home" in Copacabana as well.

    Just to play catch up, here are the top stories now on Gay News Watch:

    1. Shame over being gay leads retired teacher to suicideShame over being gay leads retired teacher to suicide: QUICK LOOK: A former teacher took his own life in Hampshire, U.K., because he was afraid people would find out he was gay, an inquest heard. Clive Richards, who was prominent in... (MORE)
    2. Gayle King to Letterman: Oprah and I aren't lesbiansGayle King to Letterman: Oprah and I aren't lesbians: QUICK LOOK: Gayle King is single and ready to mingle. Promoting the ABC show "Oprah's Big Give" on Letterman, King laughed off reports she and best friend Oprah Winfrey were more... (MORE)
    3. Appeals court hears Ill. student's claim to wear anti-gay T-shirt: QUICK LOOK: A three-judge panel heard testimony Friday in a Naperville, Ill., high school student's appeal to wear a T-shirt expressing opposition to homosexuality. Alexander Nuxoll, a Neuqua Valley High School... (MORE)
    4. Hitch tells Andrew Sullivan, 'Don't be such a lesbian'Hitch tells Andrew Sullivan, 'Don't be such a lesbian': QUICK LOOK: On the April 5 edition of MSNBC's Tim Russert, Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens debated the significance for Sen. Barack Obama of comments made by his former... (MORE)
    5. Bravo, Lifetime in tug of war over 'Project Runway'Bravo, Lifetime in tug of war over 'Project Runway': QUICK LOOK: NBC and Bravo aren’t letting “Project Runway” jump to Lifetime without a fight.
      Peacock has filed suit in New York Supreme Court against “Project Runway” producer... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last 24 hours. You can also view the most popular stories of the last week or month, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.

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    Filed in: Brazil

    March 20, 2008

    Mildly offensive can be funny, too

    Posted by: Chris

    Bardaboa If you'd like a good laugh, take a minute and fill out the form on this website promotion for Antarctica beer from Brazil and watch the humorous, gay-themed video that follows, incorporating your name and that of a friend. Here's all you have to do:

    1. Go to this site: http://www.tatuagemdaboa.com.br/
    2. Type your first name on the first line.
    3. Type the name of a "crazy friend" you want to punk on the second line.
    4. If you want to go whole hog, type your email on Line 3 and your friend's email addy on Line 4 (but that's optional).
    5. Click "Visualizar" and watch the video that follows OR if you typed in email addresses, click "Enviar por email" and you and your pal will be sent emails with a link to the video.

    You can get the gist of the joke even in Portuguese, but I've translated it for you on the jump. Be forewarned that my translation spoils the joke if you read it before you see the video.

    All in all it's harmless fun, and I'll admit to laughing out loud.

    (Hat tip: Rob Bob)

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    February 05, 2008

    Super Duper Fat Tuesday

    Posted by: Chris

    Theweekrio By an accident of the calendar, the last few days leading up to Super Tuesday have coincided with Carnaval here in Rio De Janeiro, and today is Fat Tuesday, the climax of celebrations. And as much as this political junkie is loving the neck-and-neck Democratic primary and the historic movement behind Barack Obama, the pull of the samba is also very, very strong.

    Compounding the competing time commitments has been a bit of personal drama brought on by my being victimized by high-tech highway robbery. Soon after we arrived back in Rio several weeks ago, I went to the HSBC across the street from our apartment to withdraw cash. Someone had used a lighter to melt the plastic opening closed on two of the three ATMs there, so like everyone else I used the remaining machine.

    It turned out that apparently the ATM had been tampered with, and my card was "cloned" and over the following days, the bandidos withdrew more than $6,000 from my checking account. I even received a phone call from my bank warning me of unusual activity on the card, something I deal with almost on a weekly basis from my bank and Visa cards -- since I am traveling abroad. But it just so happened that the only two transactions I was asked to verify were, in fact, my transactions, so the fraud continued. I would normally check my account online anytime I get a call like that, but we are still waiting for the Internet to be installed in our new apartment so this one time I did not.

    The days following have been a nightmare of international phone calls and bank bureaucracy here in Brazil. Happily, however, the money has finally been returned to my account and the fees refunded. Tomorrow, supposedly, I'll even get my new bank card.

    So between the financial drama and the exhilirating but exhausting schedule of Carnaval, my blogging has been minimal. My thanks to Andoni and Kevin both for keeping things going.

    As for what happens today on Super Tuesday, I'm betting on a very good day for Obama. There is some indication that Hillary succeeded in halting the remarkable Obamomentum that closed a 20-percentage point gap within a matter of days. But he will win states beyond Illinois and Georgia, and Hillary will do much much worse than she long anticipated in the mega-states of California, New Jersey and (yes, even) New York.

    Either way, there's almost no chance that the Democratic contest will be effectively wrapped up today, as is likely on the GOP side and for weeks the Clinton camp had expected for their race. And Obama's incredible January fund-raising total ($32 million vs. Hillary's $13.5 million) puts him in a great position to compete in the states that follow Super Duper Fat Tuesday, including Ohio and Texas.

    Photo from The Week/Rio on Saturday night via Made in Brazil.

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    January 15, 2008

    So long and thanks for the tango

    Posted by: Chris

    Darioflavio OK so we never actually danced the tango, but this morning my partner and I wind up our three months in Buenos Aires exile from exile. Our time here passed by quickly, except for the recent 90-plus degree days in our apartment with no air conditioning.

    It was by some measures much easier to be here than I expected and every bit as hard in others. B.A. is everything you've heard it is: very European, beautiful architecture, wide streets, clean, very safe, cultured. Making friends wasn't as easy as in Brazil, but we certainly did -- and we can't thank you enough for your hospitality Flavio and Dario (pictured above, as we welcomed in the New Year with a few thousand of our closest friends), Gustavo, Eric, Javier, Marco, Omar, Romina, Gonzalo, Fede, Steven, Rafaela and Marcelo and many, many others.

    Being away from home -- and in my case away from home twice removed -- for the holidays was tough, but our friends here came through, always making us feel welcome and well-cared for.

    Now it's back to Brazil -- first a few days in São Paulo and then back to Rio De Janeiro, just in time to set ourselves up in our new pad in Copacabana before Carnival comes to town. If my calendar is correct, the Fat Tuesday is also Super Duper Tuesday in the primaries this year -- so you can guess who won't be live-blogging the results that night.

    One final thank you before we leave: to you.  Anderson and I have both been touched by all the emails we receive from other couples in our same situation.  There is real truth to the old cliché about how much better you feel just knowing someone else is going through the same thing.

    So muchas gracias and hasta luego, Buenos Aires, and bemvindo ao Brasil!

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    January 12, 2008

    Why I love Brasil: the language

    Posted by: Chris

    Bbb8fernandomesquita1 One thing I thought I would do more of on here is share with you a few things I love about Brazil, my home-in-exile. I'll never be as good at it as my friend Juliano who blogs (in English) at MadeInBrazil, but I have my own perspective to share.

    We are actually in our last week of three months here in Buenos Aires and fly back to São Paulo next week. A few days later, we will be back in Rio De Janeiro.

    Locals in Rio are called "cariocas" and they have the kind of laid back attitude you would expect in a sun-loving, beach-going people. Think Californians but more genuine -- no offense, Californians.

    Brazilian portuguese with a carioca accent and way of speech perfectly conveys that attitude. Take a look, for example, at this homemade audition video by Fernando Mesquita for the Brazilian version of "Big Brother."  The show in insanely popular, and fun to watch for obvious reasons. After three months here of castellano Spanish, very clackety-clack and not particularly romantic, the carioca accent will be even more welcome.

    Yes, the guy is incredibly attractive -- and made the cut, debuting on the show's season premiere this week. But that attitude is cool to the nth degree, even if you don't understand a word that he's saying. (I can make out about two-thirds of it, including that he lived in D.C. for a year.) I miss the carioca attitude, and look forward to being in the thick of it again soon.

    Hat tip: Made in Brazil

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    Filed in: Brazil

    December 14, 2007

    Love is a question of faith

    Posted by: Chris

    1_2 I wrote last week that the second issue of new gay Brazilian glossy Junior Magazine featured a story about six "real life love stories," including a bit about Anderson and me. I've now gotten my hands on a scan of the page about us and thought I'd share it with you. If you click on the image, it will enlarge for you.

    The feature was great, and we enjoyed the photos as well. Brazil has needed a professional, porn-free national gay magazine of the likes of Out, Genre or Instinct, and it looks like Junior is making the grade.

    Junior_swimmer My pal over at Made In Brazil will be doing a full review of the second issue and the debut of another national gay mag, DOM, next week and I'll link to it. Both have eye candy, of course. A photo feature on gay swimmers included one athlete (pictured on the right here) who we know from our gym in Rio.  DOM featured a fashion spread with model André Ziehe. As always, Made in Brazil has the best of the pics.

    Our amigão Marcos Costa has already compared the two -- albeit in Portuguese -- over at Carioca Virtual. His take is that DOM is for the more sophisticated, older gay man, more focused on daily lives than fashion or glamor. Junior is younger, more visual, and stylish.  How we wound up in Junior and not DOM, in that case, there's no telling.

    Here's my attempt at translating the article from Junior:

    Chris Crain, 42, journalist and lawyer, and Anderson Freitas, 32, student, have been together for almost three years and wear rings. In Amsterdam, they were attacked in the street for walking holding hands. Their story was in the newspapers, and the city government even invited them back for the Gay Pride Parade, months later, as a way of apologizing.

    "Our relationship is caught between the immigration laws of Brazil and the United States," explained Chris, the American. "The U.S. doesn't recognize gay relationships for immigration, so Anderson can't live with me there. And Brazil doesn't permit foreigners with tourist visas to stay in the country for more than six months per year, which prevents me from living here. In order to stay together, we have to travel to other places so we don't have a fixed residence and all of our things are stored in boxes. We plan to marry in some country that recognizes civil unions between gays to get recognition for our relationship."

    "It hasn't been easy living like this. We are always saying goodbye to the other without knowing how much time we will be apart," says Anderson. "But I think when you love someone, barrier don't exist. In the beginning of our relationship, are biggest problem was communication. I didn't speak any English and Chris didn't speak any Portuguese. We were still able to establish a connection because we wanted to so much." Chris agreed completely: "Love is a question of faith"

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    December 08, 2007

    Ready for our close-up

    Posted by: Chris

    Junior_cover_2 Just before my boyfriend and I left São Paulo for our three-month purgatory here in Buenos Aires, we agreed to an interview for the second issue of Junior, a fantastic new gay magazine published by MixBrasil, a gay web portal itself a part of UOL, which is something like the Brazilian version of AOL.

    The idea behind the article, "Amor vida real" ("Real Life Love"), is to tell the true love stories behind six Brazilian gay male couples, including our half-Brazilian half-gringo relationship. Unfortunately Junior is only teasing the issue on its website, so we'll be bugging our friends (you know who you are) to pick up a copy to send over here.)

    Pg5_6_5875 The photo shoot by Carlos Kepfer was its own unique and enjoyable experience, with an aim to have us dressed modern but posing in a more formal way like people did in the early days of modern American photography.

    Marcoscosta Thanks to our amigão Marcos Costa, who blogs (in Portuguese) at Carioca Virtual, for suggesting we talk to the good folks at Junior. Marcos has some news of his own to crow about. First he got a gig to write a gay column for ultra-chic Drops magazine. Now he's been named to write a gossip column about São Paulo for Cena Carioca, a popular nightlife website. Parabens, Marcos!

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    Filed in: Brazil , Media

    November 29, 2007

    A refreshing HIV prevention message

    Posted by: Chris

    In recognition of World AIDS Day, the Brazilian government has produced a series of safe-sex advertisements that are running on television. There's even one with a refreshingly positive message for young gay men.

    Son: I'm heading out...
    Dad: Be careful.
    Mom: Don't forget to take a condom.
    Dad: Son, take it just in case. You never know if your boyfriend is going to have one or not.
    Son: Thanks Dad, thanks Mom.
    Negra Li: You don't expect all parents to be like this, right? Wearing a condom should be your attitude, and it is important in the fight against AIDS.

    The spokesperson at the end of the spot is singer Negra Li. If only our government would invest in messages like this, or our TV networks would even air World AIDS Day messages like this in primetime. So much for our leadership role in the global fight against AIDS.

    The translation and hat tip go to Made in Brazil.

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    November 18, 2007

    You say 'Parada,' they say 'Marcha'

    Posted by: Chris

    Bsas_pride1blog This is Gay Pride weekend here in Buenos Aires, where my partner and I are living for the rest of this year. My first reaction was to the small size of the event, since B.A. bills itself (repeatedly) as "the gay capital of South America." I would put the numbers at tens of thousands, certainly smaller than most big city Pride events I've attended, and a tiny, tiny percentage of the millions who filled Avenida Paulista for the world's largest Gay Pride, in São Paulo, Brasil, back in June.

    The location yesterday was perfect, however, on the Plaza de Mayo, scene of Evita's famous speech on the balcony of the Casa Rosada. From that picturesque square, the parade proceeded through the Centro to the Plaza de los Dos Congresos. The event here in BsAs is called the "Marcha del Orgullo," or Pride March, and it did have a more political feel than the "Parada de Orgulho" in São Paulo.

    There were political banners for the event's theme, "Equality, Liberty, Diversity," as well as, "The same rights with the same names," a direct call for marriage and not simply civil union recognition for gay couples. Still, drag queens dressed in wedding gowns, gyrating to "The Wedding Song" is unlikely to change many minds on the subject.

    Gay marriage is a hot topic right now in Argentina, since the election earlier this month of Cristina Kirchner, the current first lady and a former senator. A prominent Cristina backer in the Senate introduced a gay marriage bill in the weeks leading up to the election, but gay Latino blogger Blabbeando has raised a number of legitimate questions about whether that support can be attributed to the prime candidate herself. Reading his analysis, Cristina comes off a bit like her cautious and calculating counterpart running for president back home in the U.S.

    It's a mistake to judge a community by its Gay Pride, but overall I'm surprised that gay Argentinians are pushing for marriage. Moreso than in Rio or São Paulo, many gays here seem to be fairly closeted, although many would have you believe they are post-gay rather than pre-gay. Perhaps a bit of both is fair, but it speaks well of the activists here and the political scene that gays can be a political force with such a (relatively) small visible presence.

    More pics follow here and on the jump as well.


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    October 21, 2007

    Next stop, Buenos Aires

    Posted by: Chris

    300pxargentinabanderap2080016 Score another win for immigration law over your's truly and my partner. After spending part of 2006 and most of 2007 so far in Rio and then São Paulo, Brazil, we've been evicted yet again and this time my partner will be forced to go ex-pat for us to stay together.

    That's because this time the problem isn't the immigration laws of the United States, though they still prohibit me from sponsoring my partner for residence back home.  The problem this time is Brazilian immigration law.  You see my tourist visa is about to expire for this year and after much wringing of hands with fellow ex-pats, Brazilian friends and some knowledgeable lawyers, we have decided not to risk my overstaying.

    That decision came several weeks ago, and was followed by a somewhat scattered search for options, which eventually narrowed down to two: Buenos Aires or Cape Town, South Africa. The choices are not as crazy as they sound.

    Like many of my fellow gay Americans in binational relationships, I am applying along with my partner to become "landed immigrants" in Canada, which will recognize our relationship even in the visa application. But since we're not married, we have to prove one year of cohabitation. That's doable, since we have lived together since September 2006, when I left Washington and moved to Rio. But it's complicated, involved and carries a somewhat greater risk of rejection.

    Aside from our immigration issue, we would love to marry after almost three years together, but (as I've explained before) only five countries in the world marry gay couples: Holland, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa. The three European countries all limit marriage to residents, and while Canada does not, getting a Canadian tourist visa for my partner is almost as difficult as getting one to visit the U.S.  That leaves South Africa, which marries non-residents and (like all of Europe including the U.K.) accepts Brazilian tourists without a special visa.

    We received some wonderful assistance from a network of gay friends in Cape Town, even though they weren't even our friends -- they were on loan from a very dear friend back in Washington.  But when we added up the expense of getting there and living there, we decided to stay closer to "home" in Buenos Aires.

    200410buenosairesobelisconocturno Buenos Aires is hardly a back-up option, even if we can't marry there. I spent a day there at the end of my first trip to South America in February 2005.  (It was supposed to be a week, but I met Anderson and extended my stay in Rio every day until I had only one left.)  It is a beautiful city, very European, gorgeous architecture, friendly people, clean, safe and one of the few places the dollar still has any value. (It's dropped below 1.80 Brazilian reais for the first time since 2000; it was almost R$3 per dollar my first trip here.)

    Several kind folk, including fellow bloggers Kevin (Club Whirled) and Rex Wockner have also leant me their friend network, as have several of our Brazilian friends. I'm sure they will help us acclimate and get to know our new home, if only for three months.  In January, we can return again to Brazil.

    I will leave Brazil, even temporarily, with a heavy heart.  I love this country, even with all of its problems, and I especially love its people.  And having finally semi-mastered Portuguese, it's back to the Spanish drawing board for me.  Hopefully the three-year assault by Portuguese hasn't undone all the Spanish I learned back in school.

    I am writing about this move with optimism because it is the way that Anderson and I are approaching it.  Our lives remain in a semi-constant state of upheaval, and yet another move will be a jolt to the system.  But like many "love exiles," we are practically old pros at this now.

    I also remain hopeful that someday in the not-so-distant future, the U.S. government will join 20 other countries in allowing gay Americans the same right that straight Americans have to sponsor a partner for residence -- just as our government already allows non-Americans to do when the come to work temporarily in the U.S.

    Whether change comes through passage of the Uniting American Families Act or through repealing the half of the Defense of Marriage Act that blocks the federal government from recognizing gay marriages, it can't come soon enough for us and so many others.

    For a complete news summary on gay immigration issues, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/immigration

    For a complete news summary on gay Latino issues, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/latino

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    September 29, 2007

    Feliz aniversario a The Week

    Posted by: Chris

    260_2 Parabens e felicidades for The Week, the gigantic playground for gay nightlife here in São Paulo, which is celebrating its third birthday. My friend Marcos, who blogs (in Portuguese) over at Carioca Virtual, paid a visit last night for The Week's Angels party, a special event for the three resident DJs who have played a huge part in making the club what it is.

    I know (bitter) American gays poke fun at the cult of the DJ, and the dance club scene in general, but for those who actually appreciate the music, DJs like The Week's residents João Neto, Renato Cecin and Pacheco make almost as much difference as whether you're attending a concert by Celine Dion or the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

    Any of these three Brasileiros could compete with the top circuit DJs in the U.S, whether it's Neto's high-energy Abel-esque set, Cecin's Lehman-esque upbeat lyrical beats, or Pacheco's Rauhofer-esque aural journey.  Renato Cecin has single-handedly made my night on multiple trips to the week with his uplifting beats.  João Neto bring his infectious energy to the DJ booth when he spins, and is as adored by the guys here away from the turntables as he on them.  (I profiled João and The Week a couple of years ago for the Blade.)  It's great to these three in the spotlight, which often gets diverted by the "international DJs" who are invited to play at The Week. Parabens, caras.

    249 A special congratulations also to André Almada, whose drive and creativity would leave most American club promoters in the dust. The concept of The Week is in part that it changes week to week, no easy proposition for a club of its size and popularity. You know how fickle the queens can be.

    I couldn't help thinking last night that Almada had once again outdone himself, with an extraodinary set-up for the Angels Party and tonight's big birthday party, featuring my favorite transgender Israeli DJ -- actually my favorite DJ period -- Offer Nissim (pictured here with Almada). I have zero doubt an amazing time will be had by all.

    Don't expect any early posts tomorrow!

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    August 27, 2007

    Reunite this family

    Posted by: Chris

    300h Another happy gay couple, this one married in Massachusetts, faces forced separation after the U.S. denied the asylum request made by Genesio Januario Oliveira, who has now returned to Brazil.

    Tim Coco, 46, runs a successful advertising agency in Haverhill, Mass. Six years ago he met Genesio Januario Oliveira, who was visiting Boston on vacation from his home in Brazil. The two fell in love and in 2005, under rights protected by the Massachusetts Constitution, they were married. Since then, they have lived happily and quietly in a Boston suburb with their dog, Q-Tip.

    Except that two weeks ago Oliveira was forced to return to Brazil under orders from the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals, which denied his application for the asylum status he hoped would allow him to stay in the United States with his husband. The couple needed to pursue the asylum route because their same-sex marriage is not recognized by the federal government, and federal laws supersede states' when it comes to immigration.

    The culprit here isn't so much the standard for asylum as the Defense of Marriage Act, which prevents Coco from sponsoring his spouse for U.S. citizenship, as countless heterosexual Americans have done for decades.

    Relief for Coco and Oliveira will not come easily. Asking the U.S. Supreme Court to find the Defense of Marriage Act an unconstitutional violation of civil rights is a long shot at best. Building support in Congress to revisit the Defense of Marriage Act is a better strategy, but one that still could take several years. The most promising solution now probably is a bill in Congress that would establish "permanent partnership" status for unmarried couples so that a US citizen could sponsor a foreign-born partner for immigration.

    Actually, I'm inclined to believe repealing Section 3 of DOMA — or getting it declared unconstitutional — may prove easier than passing UAFA, the Uniting American Families Act. Either way, Coco and Oliveira now face forced separation or expatriation — the same horribly unfair Sophie's Choice confronting some 35,000 binational gay couples, including me and my partner.

    Please help reunite this family.

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    August 10, 2007

    MIA for the HRC/Logo forum

    Posted by: Chris

    I was living a bit of anti-gay discrimination during the Democratic presidential candidates' forum on gay rights issues tonight.  The event coincided with an incredibly long travel day for me, begun at 6 a.m. in São Paulo, Brazil, and finished as I arrived at the Washington, D.C., apartment of a friend at almost 3 a.m.

    The reason for the trip home? My 3-month visa was up for staying in Brazil, so I had to return to the States before heading back down.

    I've read some accounts of the forum and watched some of it online.  It looks like Richardson again fumbled big-time, this time on whether being gay is a "choice." It's sad to see a candidate who really does have the strongest gay rights record in the race implode in non-policy gaffes like his "maricón" moment and now this.

    For entirely selfish reasons, I had hoped to see the candidates pressed on immigration rights for gay binational couples, but I haven't seen sign of that so far in the coverage.  After I've had a chance to sleep, I'll be able to offer more coherent analysis.

    Boa noite!

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    July 07, 2007

    Finally…nightlife for Rio!

    Posted by: Chris

    Theweekriooutsideblog Update at the end of the post.

    Last night marked the arrival of The Week to Rio, as (my freind and) promoter-extraordinaire
    André Almada debuted the Carioca version of his mega-club in São Paulo that is, hands down, the hottest gay club in the world.

    For years, at least as far as the gay scene goes, Rio De Janeiro offered the "day life" — the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, juice bars, sidewalk bars like Bofetada — and São Paulo provided the "nightlife" — with New York-quality clubs and internationally known DJs.  With the exception of New Years, Carnaval and the occasional Revolution or X-Demente party, Rio gay boys and the bazillion gay tourists found the pickings surprisingly slim.

    Capa380_rj The arrival of The Week was big news in Rio, and not just for gays. The A-list magazine Veja-Rio featured a story about The Week, and the growing number of out gay couples in the city, on its cover. The headline reads: "The mega-club The Week arrives in Rio and adds to the city's list of attractions, which welcomes gay people without prejudice." A bit of hometown-hype/wishful thinking as far as Rio goes, but it's a nice goal anyway.

    If last night was any indication, the club will live up to its hype.

    The Week-Rio is a bit smaller than it's Paulista sister, but still by far the biggest regular gay venue in town and with plenty of room to grow, including an outdoor area that's rumored to be the future site of a pool, like the one in São Paulo. The interior is reminiscent of the São Paulo version without being a copy. Add in laser lighting and feather-clad go-go boys, and you've got The Week's signature look.

    Comportamento21It's curious to see Almada open The Week in Rio — with talk of additional locations in Florinapolis and elsewhere — just as the mega-clubs in the U.S. die off, one by one. To my mind, The Week is the answer to a not-so-hypothetical question I've heard on dance floors back home in the States. What would have happened to the party, if it hadn't been killed off by crystal meth?

    The answer? Come to Rio (or São Paulo), where Tina has never been welcome to the party, and find out for yourself.


    Update: The Week's second night in Rio was even better than the first: bigger crowd, higher energy level, cool video screens on the back wall of the dance floor, and powerful sets by São Paulo DJ Flavio Lima, who I can tell will be a new favorite for me, and visiting American DJ Eric Cullenberg.

    This Friday will bring Boy George to the turntables at The Week, just in time for the arrival of the Pan Am Games here in Rio.  Let's hope he's on his best behavior, given his recent run-ins with the law and the press. On second thought, a bit of mischief could be fun as well. His Karma Chameleon-ness will be spinning alongside The Week's São Paulo resident DJ, my friend João Neto.

    Check out this video for a view from the stage of The Week-Rio and DJ Flavio Lima:


    Click here for a complete news summary of gay news about Brazil, compiled by Gay News Watch.

    Follow the jump for more photos:

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    June 29, 2007

    Voices from Brazil's Bermuda Triangle

    Posted by: Chris

    Jardins_protestMore than 200 people marched through a São Paulo neighborhood protesting violence against gays. The banner reads 'Homophobia Kills: We want a Brazil without homophobia.' (Photo courtesy of ClubWhirled)

    Kudos to my pal Kevin Ivers over at ClubWhirled for bringing international attention to the recent murder of two young men in the Jardins neighborhood of São Paulo, Brazil, and the lackluster reaction from the local police and gay population.

    Johnclaytonbmp The unexplained violence, which many suspect is the work of neo-Nazi skinheads, has some gays calling the wealthy neighborhood a "Bermuda Triangle" of sorts. 

    The recent violence is by no means the first time, either. I wrote back in April 2006 for the Washington Blade Blog about another apparent gay-bashing in Jardins, when a group of swastika-toting skinheads stabbed a 22-year-old in the chest. The attacks this week were also stabbings.

    So Kevin was justifiably proud to participate in a protest held in the neighborhood two days ago calling for hate crime legislation, and posted about it here. Our mutual friend over at Made In Brazil also helped spread the word.

    I agree with Kevin that it's curious the protest organizers chose not to make specific mention of the two murders or pause at the sites where they occurred. But the important thing, as Kevin points out, is that they put some pressure on the police to take action and hopefully encouraged closeted gay residents to report attacks when they occur.  You'll can watch one short video taken by Kevin of the protest here; he posted a second as well over at ClubWhirled.

    With the help of Kevin and some very close Brazilian friends, Anderson and I plan to move to São Paulo in a few weeks. One of our reasons was the city's reputation as being safer than Rio. Obviously we'll be watching things closely there and look forward to helping Kevin spread the word internationally about anti-gay attacks in the area.

    Click here for a complete summary of gay news from Brazil, compiled by Gay News Watch.

    Click here for a complete summary on news about anti-gay hate crimes, compiled by Gay News Watch.

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    June 14, 2007

    São Paulo Pride in pictures

    Posted by: Chris

    Faceincrowd I've uploaded my favorite photos from the São Paulo Gay Pride Parade into a photo album so you can get a sense of the scope of this massive event and some of its participants.  Since we were up high on a float from The Week International nightclub, I wasn't able to get very many "face in the crowd" type photos.

    You'll find many more of that variety on the Made in Brazil blog, which also includes links here to some of the other gay and mainstream media sites that chronicled the world's largest ever Gay Pride Parade in pictures.

    Enjoy — and make plans to visit next June!

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    June 12, 2007

    Remembering the party has a purpose

    Posted by: Chris

    Dscf2954 More than three million people gathered last weekend in São Paulo, Brazil, for the world’s largest ever Gay Pride parade. The sheer size and spectacle weren’t the only reasons the event was one I will never forget.

    Anyone who has been to Carnaval in Rio De Janeiro knows that Brazilians know how to throw a party. Gay Pride in São Paulo, a city of 20 million, is no exception. The parade down Avenida Paulista was a gigantic street party, with 23 massive trailers, each sponsored by a gay organization, nightclub or business, fitted with a powerful sound system, decorations and spotlights — the parade starts in the early afternoon and lasts for eight hours well into the night.

    This was not a parade like we are used to in the U.S., with floats and official participants in the street, cheered on by spectators on the sidewalks. This was a celebration for everyone, with no distinction between those of us on the floats and the people dancing alongside in the streets and spilling over onto the sidewalks.

    Dscf2951 Strangers danced — and occasionally locked lips — with strangers, gay men partied alongside lesbians, with the expected contingent of dolled-up drag queens and a healthy contingent of straight couples, with smiles on their faces as broad as the gay participants.

    I wish the energy and the spirit of Sunday could be bottled and delivered back home to the U.S., where so many Gay Pride parades have begun to feel a bit stale, a bit stereotyped, and a bit adrift from their original purpose.

    Latin America in general, and Brazil in particular, still trails Europe in the U.S. in cultural acceptance of homosexuality, even if they’ve managed to achieve more rights than many of their American counterparts. Brazil is home to conservative Latin machismo and the largest Roman Catholic population in the world, so Gay Pride in São Paulo is still a vital opportunity for lesbians and gay men from smaller cities across the country — and elsewhere in Latin America — to feel free to be themselves.

    Of course, any event with more than three million participants will have its hiccups. Watching safely from the float for The Week, São Paulo’s legendary nightclub, my partner and I were at times worried for the surging mass of people below, where happy partiers could be caught up in a crush of humanity in the blink of an eye.

    Police presence was minimal — too minimal — so pick-pockets had themselves a field day. Pride organizers complained afterward that special observation towers and tents set up for the police were left empty, overcome by street revelers. The few police I saw simply stood and watched, and played no active role in controlling the massive crowd.

    But the biggest problem is one familiar to those of us who have watched Gay Pride events in the U.S. change their focus over the years. This is supposed to be a parade with a purpose; the theme in São Paulo was ending racism, sexism and homophobia. But it appeared a bit lost amidst the bacchanalia.

    I have seen the same thing in Washington, D.C., where the political focus fell by the wayside in the 1990s as a (supposedly) gay-friendly president took the White House and the worst of the AIDS crisis subsided. I knew an unfortunate corner had been turned the year Capital Pride organizers actually chose as keynote speaker Tammy Faye Bakker, who preached from the Gay Pride stage that homosexuality was a sin but we were all sinners.

    Untitledbmp_2 In São Paulo last weekend, too many missd the message. As the parade drew down, a gay tourist from France was stabbed to death outside a gay restaurant and bar only blocks from the parade route. He had just left a well-known gay restaurant with some gay Brazilians he had met earlier, when they were approached by three youths dressed as “skaters,” typical of local skinheads. Without a word or a demand for wallets, the Frechman was stabbed repeatedly in the abdomen.

    The next day, the gay Brazilian who blogs in English under the name Made in Brazil wrote about the incident, and a number of other gay Brazilians responded angrily that he shouldn’t cast Gay Pride in a negative light. Even as the mainstream media here picked up on the murder as a possible hate crime, local gay websites — the only form of gay press here — downplayed the tragedy or ignored it entirely.

    Ending homophobia had been the theme of the Gay Pride parade, but how quickly some of its participants forgot. Brazil’s gay and lesbian leaders haven’t managed yet to harness the energy of São Paulo’s massive Pride celebration — or at least make the message last once the music has stopped.

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    May 30, 2007

    My big gay announcement

    Posted by: Chris

    Gaynewswatch_capture I have an announcement to share with those of you who've been nice enough to visit and contribute to my blog these last months.  You've been wonderful and loyal and charming and, well…there's someone else.  Yes, I've been cheating on you, for weeks really, and "the other man" is a new website, Gay News Watch.

    After leaving the Washington Blade and Window Media last fall, I spent a good deal of time thinking about what's next step for media generally, and of course gay media in particular.  I decided there was a real need for "one stop" that tailors news and views to each person. 

    The idea is by no means original to me, of course.  If you want to know what stories have a "buzz" in the MSM, you go to Drudge Report.  If you want to know what general-interest stories have a groundswell of interest on the Net, you go to Digg.  But where's a poor homosexual to head? You guessed it.  Gay News Watch.

    There you'll find all the latest gay news and views from the MSM, the gay press and the blogosphere, but that's just the beginning.  Gay News Watch is set up to tailor the way you view the news to your interests.  For instance, you can:

    • View articles by the state, country or region of the world that interests you.
    • View which articles are the most popular or rated the highest by other visitors.
    • View articles according to the categories — politics, crime, lesbian, sports sex, "weird" etc. — of interest to you.
    • If you register, you can even set the site to give you a "custom view" every time you visit, showing only the types of stories, or articles from the geographic areas that interest you.  Not bad eh?
    • Follow ongoing stories by seeing all the headlines, blog posts, viewpoints and comments conveniently grouped together.  Interested in the controversy over Isaiah Washington using the "F*word"? Click here.  Want to follow how gay issues are playing out in the presidential race? Click here.  Pretty nifty huh?
    • You can sign up for email alerts that let you know — instantly, daily or weekly — when new stories in the categories and/or regions of interest to you get posted.
    • You can even sign up for email alerts to find out right away when a new story is posted about an ongoing controversy or story subject.
    • Know about a story or blog post or op-ed that isn't on the site? Submit it with a few clicks of the mouse, either anonymously or not.

    That's really just the tip of the iceberg.  Rather than blab on more about it here, just visit the site for yourself, take a few minutes to surf around using the navigation bars on the left and the right.  Let me know what you think!

    If you like the site, then please bookmark it and visit often.  Let your friends know about it.  If you have a blog or your own web site, then please link to it.  All the good stuff that makes a fledgling web site grow.

    Last, but not least, I want to thank some folks who were very important to making Gay News Watch happen.  Since I haven't asked in advance to broadcast your involvement on here, I'll just say you know who you are. 

    Two sets of folks, however, were absolutely critical:  Douglas Blocker, the brilliant (and I mean that) programmer who worked with me to design the system, and Matt, Chris and Austin at Virtual Atlantic, the company that executed the design of the site.  I put this idea in their hands, and they came through amazingly, along the way putting up with my somewhat exacting demands. (Those of you unfortunate enough to work with me through the years can no doubt feel their pain).

    Because some have asked since the press release launching the site went out yesterday, I'll reiterate that Gay News Watch is my baby.  I'm still an owner of Window Media, but this project is completely independent.  Of course I'll be posting many articles from the publications in Window Media's family because my former colleagues (and those who've arrived since) continue to do important journalism that deserves the widest possible audience.  That's true of many other gay publications as well, and I hope Gay News Watch will offer a venue for them to compete for attention with "the big boys" in the MSM.

    So enjoy, and enjoy often, and thank you in advance for the contributions you can make — through comments, ratings, submissions and links or just visiting — to realizing my hopes for Gay News Watch.

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    May 25, 2007

    Broken link…mil desculpas!

    Posted by: Chris

    Clodovil3 I've just learned that I used a broken link in my earlier post about the hilariously vicious gay Brazilian congressman Clodovil.  I've corrected it there, but I offer it again here because, I'm telling you, you don't want to miss this one.

    Mil desculpas (a thousand apologies) to my friend Kevin for screwing that up.

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    May 23, 2007

    That's Rep. Bitchy Queen to you

    Posted by: Chris

    Clodovil For anyone even under the delusion that the U.S. has cornered the market on loony politicians, consider Clodovil, the first openly gay member of Brazil's national Congress.  In an outrageous burst of mysogynism and plain ole bitchiness, Clodovil managed to reduce a leading female member of Congress to tears, and to the point of requiring medical attention.

    It's less serious than it sounds, and Clodovil gets his just desserts in the end.  Whether or not you're interested in Brazilian politics, take a few moments to read an absolutely hilarious recitation of Clodovil's misadventures by my friend Kevin Ivers, who blogs over at Club Whirled. (Many of you will remember Kevin as the No. 2 over at Log Cabin during the Rich Tafel years.  This year he, like me, has moved to Brazil to be with his boyfriend, a handsome business school student by the name of Vinicius.)

    As for Clodovil, what can you say?  If only Barney Frank could tap into his true inner-bitch as effectively…

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    April 08, 2007

    Parabens e feliz aniversario

    Posted by: Chris

    Feliz_aniversario I have generally avoided the kind of personal commentary found on many blogs, but I thought I would share briefly some of the events of the last week, which like many in my recent past have been filled with highs, lows and a lot of travel.  The highlights included a return trip to Brazil, a day in Rio before Anderson and I flew to São Paulo together to spend my birthday weekend with good friends there.

    Some of our closest friends here gathered on Saturday night for a small party, before we hit the dance floor at The Week, which I continue to believe is hands down the hottest gay nightclub in the world.

    Here in Brazil, for the most part they say "parabens" ("congratulations") instead of "happy
    birthday," and I like the way it recognizes a sense of accomplishment at another year completed.  But "parabens" would feel more in order if we had sorted out the basics of our lives, or at least the next chapter.

    In the last week, my condo in Washington finally went under contract, only to have the buyers subsequently withdraw — after I had paid $150 to change my return ticket so I could move my things out before the closing date they suggested.  So six months after I left Window Media, the company I co-founded, my partner and I still don't know in what country, or even what continent, we will settle down and truly begin a new life together.

    Jeffshewey Even still, I am grateful for the friends in Washington, Atlanta, São Paulo, Rio and actually around the world who continue to offer us support and encouragement. They have no idea what a difference they've made. I treasure them even more since receiving the shock that a friend, Jeff Shewey, died unexpectedly last week. I won't even try to explain the unexplainable, but I know all of us who knew Jeff will miss him terribly, and remember to make every day count as if it were our last.

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    Filed in: Brazil

    February 22, 2007

    Groggy Thursday, post-Carnaval

    Posted by: Chris

    Sambodromo Fat Tuesday is history and with it an amazing Carnaval celebration here in Rio.  The festivities were cut short for me a day early when a burger I ate at the legendary Sambodromo on Monday night leveled me with food poisoning the next two days.

    I'm not much of a travel blogger, so I'll leave it to my pal Jeff DeKorte to fill in all (or at least some) of the sordid details on his blog "Traveling in Pants."

    Two years ago, when Carnaval was in early February, I met my boyfriend at the weekend's opening party.  This time around, we shared the whole experience together: the street parties, the samba school rehearsals, the overflowing beach in Ipanema, the breathtaking pageantry of the parade of samba schools in the Sambodromo, and not one but four big gay dance events (including one with my favorite DJ, the Israeli phenomenon Offer Nissim).

    The first time, Carnaval was whirlwind, exotic and exhausting. This time around, it was a true celebration, with my partner by my side, surrounded by good friends like Jeff and many of the new friends we have made in São Paulo and here in Rio. Now, hopefully, after another good night's sleep, I will have recovered enough to get back into the real world, including this here blog.

    Até la, Bom Carnaval por tudo!

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    Filed in: Brazil

    February 14, 2007

    I miss my Fourth Amendment

    Posted by: Chris

    Rj_road_trip_01 On an otherwise beautiful drive from Rio De Janeiro to Buzios, a beach resort town three hours away, we came face to gun barrel with the ugly remnants of Brazil's military dictatorship, a full two decades after the civilians wrested control of the government.

    About 20 minutes outside of Buzios, a military police roadblock stopped traffic, but not in a random manner.  Locals were waved right through, but taxis and private cars holding tourists were pulled off the road by cops holding rifles. 

    Ours was no exception.  This alone would be a clear violation of constitutional rights back in the States.  Police must have "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity to stop a vehicle unless a roadblock is truly random, or stops everyone.

    Once stopped, we three passengers were searched by hand, all pockets emptied.  Our Brazilian driver was asked for documents, but no effort was made to search his person.

    Coming up empty, the police turned to our bags, and they were meticulously searched; no pocket was left unzipped, no potential hidden gap left unchecked.  These searches were done with absolutely no probable cause, an even more serious violation of the Fourth Amendment, if we were home in the U.S.

    I had a sinking feeling as the military police officer began searching the plastic bag where I carry my random medicine and workout supplements.  I've used the same bag for years, and it holds all sorts of meds that aren't in identifying bottles or packages.  I was a sitting duck, and the cop didn't miss the opportunity.

    He produced five hard white tablets, about the size of Rolaids or Tums, several of them so weathered from months in the bag that they had turned brown on the edges.  The officer proceeded to tell me that he didn't recognize these pills from any Brazilian medicine he'd seen, and he suspected they were synthetic narcotics, possibly ecstacy.

    It was a riduculous claim, given the size and hard shell of the tablets, and the fact they were just sitting open in a bag full of meds, but the officer was undaunted.  While he went to confer with his partners, another officer approached my boyfriend, and warned us that we would be losing a great deal of time while he "verified" the contents of the tablets.

    As the officer warned and warned and warned about the need to call in other officers, the shakedown was clearly on.  It was crystal clear to all concerned that, regardless of the tablets' actual content, we could make the inconvenience go away for a price.

    We stood our ground, though our hearts were pounding.  They could take all the time they wanted.  We had nothing to hide.  We all sat down in the shade, giving a clear indication that we were prepared for a long delay.

    After more consultations with more officers, and more cell phone conversations, the officers returned, lectured us about carrying medicine outside its packaging, and gave us the Portuguese equivalent, "We'll let you go this time."

    Back in the car, our driver told us these sorts of police stops are routine on the road between Rio and Buzios, as we've heard they are between São Paulo and Rio, and they're not aimed at confiscated drugs. They're aimed at confiscating money, whether from tourists or well-heeled Brazilians.

    In retrospect, we should consider ourselves fortunate.  I had been carrying a wad of cash with my passport, which the searching officer no doubt saw before he came to the medicine bag in my second piece of luggage.  Without blaming the victim, I'll certainly take it as a life lesson not to carry any unmarked medication or supplements.

    It's the third time during my stay in Rio that we've been stopped without cause and searched by the police, but by far the most serious and threatening. On one level, it angers me to think that we were stopped without cause and searched as if we posed some sort of threat.  It frustrates me on an entirely different level, of course, that the goal of the search was blackmail. 

    But what really enfuriates me is that the Brazilian military, which still operates with far too free a hand, is wasting precious resources shaking down tourists and not fighting the grotesque rate of violent crime throughout the country, but especially in Rio De Janeiro city and state.

    In fact, our shakedown occurred the same day that nine people were killed in gun battles in ongoing violent battles for control of the city's "favelas," or shantytowns. From the BBC:

    In recent months some favelas have been taken over by militias - consisting of retired and off-duty police officers. They offer to rid communities of drug gangs in return for protection money. The new state governor, Sergio Cabral, says he won't tolerate the involvement of serving police officers in parallel security forces.

    The drug gangs that operate in the favelas and from inside the country's prison system would be a serious problem, if the police were rife with corruption or not.  But whether due to chronically low compensation or poor discipline, far too many law enforcement officers succumb to the temptation of illegal profit-making.

    The violence is so bad that there's a web site, RioBodyCount.com, that's tallying the dead and wounded — 138 dead and 73 injured since Feb. 1 — to pressure the goverment into taking stronger action.

    Aside from the contribution that dirty cops make to the violence that plagues this beautiful country, I am reminded of the warning that "absolute power corrupts absolutely."  The constitutional protections we Americans take for granted — including our Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure — aren't just protecting us from overzealous law enforcement and "anti-terrorism" measures, they're protecting us from the corruption that would inevitably follow if the police were given more power over the citizenry.

    (Photo of the highway leading into Buzios courtesy of my friend and fellow passenger, Jeff DeKorte, who is blogging about his Brazilian travels.)

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    January 30, 2007

    AWOL in São Paulo

    Posted by: Chris

    Saopaulopic_1 My apologies to regular visitors that the blog went dark over the weekend.  I've tried to post consistently ever since I launched the blog in October.  Those of you who've blogged yourselves know how difficult that can be, and it has certainly been a big change from writing every week, or every other week, for the Washington Blade, Southern Voice and their sister publications.

    Speaking of which, Window Media, the gay publishing company I co-founded in 1997 with William Waybourn, announced last week that it was closing the Houston Voice, which the company purchased in 1998.  It was a very sad development for all of us who have worked with the publication over the last eight years, but one that was understandable and certainly not unexpected.  Only those of us who have been on the inside know how much time, effort and money was spent trying to make the publication a financial success.

    The Houston metro area ranks in the Top 5 nationally in population, but the city generally eschews zoning laws and so is sprawled out over an enormous area.  The gay community is sprawled as well, though its soul has always been in the Montrose neighborhood.  Houston's gay leadership was also especially decimated by AIDS in the '80s and '90s.  In my travels, only San Francisco seemed as hard hit emotionally and psychologically.

    The Voice never really found its voice, despite all our efforts.  Houston has a solid, quality gay monthly in Outsmart magazine, but the Voice struggled to find its place amidst an ever-changing roster of competitors, including the beloved weekly bar rag TWT (which folded in the early '00s and then re-emerged last year), the weekly statewide newspaper the Texas Triangle (which also folded around the same time), several publications launched by the Dallas Voice to move into the Houston market, all of which they eventually withdrew, and a half-dozen smaller independent ventures, which also eventually failed.

    With the rise of the Internet, gay Houstonians can get their national and international news online, of course, but the Houston Chronicle does a spotty job of local gay coverage and Outsmart can only do so much on a monthly schedule.  The passing of the Voice leaves a void that hopefully will be filled soon.

    As for the void on this blog, I blame São Paulo.  My good friend Jeff DeKorte is visiting us in Brazil for a few weeks, and we took him to Sampa this weekend to see the sights and meet our many friends there.  An amazing and exhausting time was had by all.  (In the photo above, Jeff is in the orange, I'm in the blue and Ipanema Boy is in the green. In the yellow is João Neto, one of the Brazil's top DJ's.)

    I even met the man behind Made In Brazil, hands-down the best gay Brazilian blog (in English or Portuguese), though unfortunately it was only in passing.  Who knew he was as gostoso (that's "hot," as Paris Hilton would say) as the Brasileiros he so often features in his blog?

    I'm ashamed to say my friend Jeff, who started a travel blog as he left the States, managed to post over the weekend, even as I didn't. Jeff and I have been good friends ever since I moved back to Washington in 2001, and I've had a great time introducing him to Brazil.  He is no stranger to travel, having headed up AOL's travel channel until he left last month. 

    But his style of travel is distinctly different from my own.  Those who know me know that I tend to travel by the seat of my pants, not worrying especially much about planning packed agendas, preparing hours in advance for flights or pondering the wiles of traffic before deciding when to call a taxi.  I go with the flow, and probably enjoy the adrenaline of rushing last-minute more than arriving early at the airport and sitting in the gate.

    I knew, from a few short trips with Jeff in the past, that he was a different sort — the type that begins packing three days before a flight and worries at least 24 hours before about when to leave for the airport.  So it should have come as no surprise when my boyfriend and I returned from the gym about two hours before our flight from Rio to São Paulo that Jeff was already sitting on the sofa in his pressed polo and cargo pants, packed bags sitting beside him.  We were sweating from the gym, with packed bags only a twinkle in our eyes.

    "Why are you so dressed up?" I asked without thinking. 

    "I like traveling in pants," came his reply.

    "Yes you do!" I laughed. "And you ought to call your blog that — 'Traveling in Pants.'  Because I much prefer traveling by the seat of mine."  And so he did.  Check it out when you can.

    Speaking of travel blogs, I've been remiss in not pointing out the remarkable adventures of a former Washington Blade colleague of mine.  Fernando Junco, or Nando as he went by at the office, worked on the sales staff as something of a traffic cop and managed to keep his head and his sense of humor while the rest of us harumphed about on deadline.

    A few months ago, he decided to set out on a budget adventure through Mexico and Central America, and finally down through South America to Brazil.  Reading his travel blog, he's had some incredible experiences, though the loooong road has no doubt taken its toll.  Take a look for some vicarious thrills through a part of the world that gay American travelers so rarely manage to tred.

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    January 02, 2007

    Próspero Ano Novo!

    Posted by: Chris

    Rionewyears A very Happy New Year to all of you visiting my blog.  This weekend has been truly incredible for me — my first in Rio De Janeiro, known for its massive Réveillon New Year's celebration. 

    While short on the pageantry that makes Carnaval in Rio so special, Reveillon was an incredible experience I was able to share with not only my partner (who despite being Brazilian had never spent New Year's in Rio) but also friends from Atlanta and Washington, D.C., down for the occasion.  And of course new friends from São Paulo and Rio as well.

    Fergieblackeyedpeasrio We dressed in white, watched the fireworks in Copacabana beach, and joined those throwing flowers into the ocean in hopes for a happy and prosperous new year.  Sound crazy?  Then explain to me the American tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day.  Never did understand that one.  Speaking of the Black Eyed Peas, they played a concert on Ipanema beach after midnight, and a good time was had by all.

    We also enjoyed a few of the many gay dance parties over the weekend, though the highlights were without a doubt the Revolution party on New Year's Eve and the Revolution pool party on Jan. 1. In a very short time, Rosane Amaral has come up with a perfect formula for a successful dance party: good music, great atmospherics, and a bit of glitz thrown in for good measure. 

    The pool party on New Year's Day was truly unforgettable, set in the Clube Internacional de Regatas in downtown Rio with a view of Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Azucar) and the water.  Even though the weather didn't cooperate, the light rain was the perfect way to cool things off — something that the Alegria party on Dec. 29 desperately needed.  Parabens to Rosane for pulling off such successes!

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    December 08, 2006

    Porque eu adoro Brasil

    Posted by: Chris

    Riosurfers I know other people's photo albums can be tedious, but for those who are interested I've posted a visual sample of pictures I've taken during nine trips to Brazil over the last two years.  American and Brazilian friends alike had encouraged me to visit for years, and almost immediately after arriving I understood why.

    The Cristo Redentor statue on Corcovado mountain in Rio is the perfect symbol for the country, whose people open their arms to embrace visitors, even Americans. Brazil is not without its share of challenges, and a progressive yet corrupt government  results in two steps forward always being accompanied by one step back.

    But as exiles go, however temporary, I'll take it.  I can't encourage you strongly enough to visit and see for yourself.

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    Filed in: Brazil

    December 04, 2006

    Making Lemonade

    Posted by: Chris

    Lemonade It's that time again. Time to uproot myself again and fly 5,000 miles away from home, to what will be my new home, in Rio De Janeiro. It was great for me to have some time back in Washington, albeit at a long distance from my better half. If we had the choice, Washington is where we'd call home.

    But when life gives you lemons, you do your best to make lemonade. And as lemonade goes, Rio is mighty, mighty tasty.

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    November 27, 2006

    Hi, I'm Anderson

    Posted by: Chris

    Andersoncooper Even thousands of miles from the U.S., standing in an airport in Salvador, Brazil, poor Anderson Cooper can't cruise guys in private.  From today's Page Six gossip report in the New York Post:

    Anderson Cooper was friendly at a Brazilian airport on Friday. "Hi, I'm Anderson," he said to the "attractive" man standing next to him at the flight connection monitors in the Salvador terminal, a spy told the Post's Braden Keil. The 25ish fellow was wearing a tight T-shirt, cut-off shorts and an earring. According to our witness, the unshaven, solo-traveling CNN star chatted for 20 minutes with the stranger before the fellow had to say goodbye and board his flight to Rio.

    Anderson Cooper is among the highest profile openly closeted celebrities — by that I mean, he is unwilling to identify his sexual orientation. (Something, by the way, no straight man in history has been unwilling to do.) He is joined in those illustrious ranks by Sean Hayes (queeny "Jack" from "Will & Grace"), Ricky Martin, Clay Aiken and former New York Mayor Ed Koch.  Talk about strange bedfellows.

    But unlike those others, Anderson has at least strongly hinted that he's gay, albeit long before he was lead anchor at CNN.  Back in the late '90s, Anderson showed up at a black-tie dinner for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in New York. Before making a presentation, he joked with the audience that he was at the event "hoping to find a date."

    Looks like all these years later, despite rumors of another Latino boyfriend, he's still doing the same.

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    November 24, 2006

    Leaving America behind

    Posted by: Chris

    The "land of the free" fell another step behind the largest Roman Catholic country in the world on Wednesday when Brazil's lower house passed a law adding gender, sexual orientation and gender identity to the country's hate crime law, which currently covers race, color, ethnicity and religion. (My description of this good news comes with the caveat that I did my best to translate it from Portuguese.)

    Up till now, most of the gay rights advances in Brazil have been from judicial rulings, making the legislative action this week all the more important. The legislative success follows closely on the heels of a ruling by a judge in São Paulo granting a second-parent adoption to the partner of a gay father. Brazil already recognizes a type of common law marriage for gay couples, and extends to them immigration rights, among other benefits.

    And the country's AIDS prevention efforts have been recognized as groundbreaking by most international public health groups, though the U.S. withdrew $40 million in funding because the country's safe-sex campaign to prostitutes was insufficiently condemnatory.

    As the Democrats take full control of the U.S. Congress for the first time in more than a decade, the minimum we should expect is passage of a hate crime law and employment non-discrimination, both backed by overwhelming majorities of the American public. The global gay rights movement has made, and is making, great strides toward basic equality. It's long past time for the U.S. to do the same.

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    Filed in: Brazil

    November 22, 2006

    In the news…

    Posted by: Chris

    • Connecticut Lawyers for eight gay couples in Connecticut have filed a brief with the state supreme court, challenging the constitutionality of the state's Vermont-style civil union law, passed after the  couples originally sued in 2004. Lawyers for the couples are arguing that passage of the civil union law only proves the state knows gay couples should be treated equally, and only opening up marriage truly accomplishes that. Even if the arguments are valid, they may sandbag efforts elsewhere to pass civil union laws, if legislators worry such measures will be used to then sue in courts for marriage. Again a case of good law making for a bad result for gay couples.
    • Barbarawalters Barbara Walters has declared the Kelly Ripa-Rosie O'Donnell-Clay Aiken feud officially over: On Wednesday’s "The View," Walters said, "Rosie O'Donnell is one of the kindest, most sensitive people I know. And so is our friend Kelly Ripa. And Rosie and Kelly talked yesterday after the show. Rosie and Clay Aiken have talked. And all is well with the world, and all is well with them."
    • The Bush Justice Department is defending in court the Child Online Protection Act, signed by Clinton in 1998, that threatens fines and prison times for Web publishers who fail to block material "harmful to minors." The ACLU challenged the suit, along with Salon.com and Philadelphia Gay News, because software filters are overbroad and often block non-graphic sites on subjects like gay rights and sexual health. A federal judge heard closing arguments in the trial on Monday after four weeks of testimony.
    • A judge in São Paulo, Brazil, has ordered the government to permit a gay man to be the second parent on the birth certificate of his partner's daughter. The court-ordered second-parent adoptions is the latest court ruling expanding gay rights in the world's most populous Roman Catholic country. No doubt Pope Benedict XVI, set to visit Brazil soon, will not be pleased.
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    November 01, 2006

    Another Rio gay-bashing?

    Posted by: Chris

    At this point the report is secondhand, but I was told by a gay American living here in Rio De Janeiro that there was a gay-bashing Sunday night in Ipanema. According to the account, a gay man was sitting inside Bar Bofetada (which means "slap" in Portuguese) when he looked at a man on the sidewalk outside.

    BofetadaBar Bofetada is located on Rua Farme de Amoedo, the "gay street" leading to the "gay beach" in Ipanema (and is visible in this picture from a few months ago, if you can ignore the cheesecake in the foreground.)

    The man on the sidewalk apparently thought he was being cruised and went a few doors down to a bar, recruited three friends, and returned to Bofetada to drag the gay man into the street, where he was cut in the face with a broken bottle and beaten up pretty severely. The crowd at Bofetada apparently cleared out as a result of the attack, heading to another gay bar a few blocks away for refuge.

    The victim reportedly left the scene without calling the police, who are not exactly well-known for protecting gays from bashers. Back in March, during Carnival, a gay couple were attacked by five men for the crime of kissing on the gay section of the beach in Ipanema, at the end of Rua Farme de Amoedo. Police showed up, interviewed the agressors, and let them go, according to media accounts posted by gay blogger Juliano over at MadeInBrazil.  Only after protests were the bashers arrested.

    Bashings can happen anywhere, even places well-known for being gay-friendly, but they are a reminder that with progress (legal, political, social and otherwise) inevitably comes backlash. The important thing is not to intimidated back into the closet.

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    October 27, 2006

    Back to the music

    Posted by: Chris

    Theweekgogo2 And now for something completely different… After all, life is about more than politics — even for a junkie like me. In fact, one of the great discoveries about myself that I credit entirely with accepting my sexual orientation is, drum roll please, that I love to dance.

    Not exactly profound, you say? Then my guess is you don't share my passion for the dance floor. I've always loved all kinds of music, but the disco years weren't kind to my adolescence. I still remember with a mental grimace trying out my best John Travolta moves in 7th grade, only to earn stares from my classmates in Germantown, Tenn. I guess a gawky blond couldn't channel a suave Italian-American, though he and I apparently do have some things in common.

    Fast-forward almost a quarter-century, and I've come to see the club scene — done right — as a treasured cathartic, tribal and just plain enjoyable way to spend an evening. "I take my problems to the dance floor," and when I hear Inaya Day belt out lines like that, I  just can't help following her from the sidelines and into the action.

    Weekgogo Unfortunately, the scourge of crystal methamphetamine (a.k.a. "Tina") has almost ruined the party scene in the U.S. We saw it happen close up in Washington, D.C., where the big weekly gay dance party, Velvet Nation, fell victim first to a changing scene and second to the construction of a new Major League Baseball stadium.

    DJ Ed Bailey — who went to Vanderbilt University the same time I did — was the music man behind Velvet Nation's success, and he described the downward spiral much more eloquently than I can, in an interview with MetroWeekly:

    It was always about the music and everyone coming together to be inspired by the music. There's something about that that's kind of tribal. That was intoxicating to me. …  [Then] in the middle of this run at Nation, it got a little stale where I wasn't feeling it for a few years, where I thought the music became too dark. A lot of things have happened in our industry that have, I think, aided in [dance music's] decline — and the drug use is a big part of it. Whether the music is a reflection of the drug use or whether it's just a trend, the music just seems to be darker and deeper and scarier. It sounds meaner. It's not the happy, ''put your hands in the air'' kind of music of the '90s. …

    By the time a song gets to a club, the music has been chopped up, sectioned off and partitioned into this or that, so that a lot of the musical quality has been lost. And that's unfortunate. I think it detracts from the overall spiritual experience. I know it sounds corny for me to say that, but I really believe it. When all you hear is thump, thump, thump all night where you used to hear a lot of vocals and pianos and happiness, it changes the environment.

    Amen, Brother Ed!  Fortunately, crystal meth hasn't infiltrated everywhere, and dance music that sounds like music still survives and thrives in Europe and Latin America. It's been a major upside to my self-imposed semi-exile in Brazil that I've been able to enjoy the scene there (actually here, as I write this).  And no club I've been anywhere — in the U.S., Europe or anywhere else — can showcase the dance scene better than The Week in São Paulo, as I described in a feature article for the Washington Blade.

    Follow the jump for photos and video from last week at The Week:

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