Monday, March 31, 2008

My Fire Island Summer Share

With today's cool and gloomy weather seemingly locked in the place, the fact summer is less than three months away may escape more than one skeptical reader as he or she grabs that sweater and even overcoat -- count myself among those ready for spring to officially spring in the five boroughs! My thoughts, however, have already begun to turn towards Fire Island for another summer at the Fire Island News.

I will be managing the bi-weekly newspaper in Ocean Beach, but the fascinating juxtaposition between the beach and Bushwick will remain one of the more fascinating parts of what promises to be an exciting summer. Manhattanites and others with money to spare descend upon the narrow barrier island each weekend, while people in Bushwick and other economically disadvantaged areas struggle to pay their rents each month. Lobster bakes, gay circuit parties and exclusive (and sometimes politically charged) community meetings are among the items routinely found on the social and political agenda throughout the more than a dozen communities that dot Fire Island, while the impact of gentrification, gang violence and even police brutality dominate the concerns of many of my Bushwick neighbors. And an absence of cars on Fire Island in comparison to the almost constant ConEd jack-hammering and industrial vehicle traffic remains another stark reminder of the sheer difference of the two places.

Fire Island remains a natural paradise to which I clearly look forward. The newspaper is a wonderfully positive place to work, and my expected deep tan by the end of the summer will certainly become an added plus, but this juxtaposition will allow me to maintain a sense of perspective as I traverse both the beach and Bushwick in the coming months. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Late Night Thoughts on the Downtown 1 Train

The trip from 207th Street to 14th Street on the downtown 1 train at 3 a.m. is often mercilessly long. I fortunately caught it within two minutes of arriving at the station after leaving the Escandalo Nights party in Inwood very early this morning, but I inevitably had nearly 45 minutes to think as I struggled to stay awake on the nearly empty train.

The reality that I have yet to come out to my grandmother consumed my mind as the train slowly traveled downtown. She is a conservative, bigoted and overtly homophobic Roman Catholic widow who lives in Southwest Florida. This reality obviously poses a number of potentially critical questions and concerns for me: What would happen if I formally came out to her? How would she react? Would she speak with me again? Millions of LGBT people around the world inherently face these questions as they consider coming out to various loved ones. And they face the consequences for better or for worse.

I've had conversations about this possibility with my mother, and the response has been less than enthusiastic. It seems rather ridiculous to say to her son that she doesn't want your grandmother to love you less than she does already. Indeed. The temporary solace comes in the fact I see her once a year at most, but the obvious issue remains that I am not 100 percent honest about who I am as an openly gay man who feels proud of this gift. Nothing in live is ever black or white. There are always shades of gray that tend to complicate our not so perfect world... and unfortunately this fact is one that muddied my thoughts during the long trek back to Bushwick at 3 a.m.

Monday, March 24, 2008

An open door: Gay Dominicans seek more visibility

With temperatures here in New York below 40 degrees this morning, I certainly yearn for the balmy breezes and warm beaches that I visited last month in the Dominican Republic... a girl can dream... but one of the most memorable parts of the trip was how my friend and I were able to gain some valuable insight into the everyday experiences of gay Dominicans in Santo Domingo and other places around the country.

My EDGE Publications article sought to examine these experiences first hand. The intent was to get beyond the gay tourists who may visit the country to have sex or to remain sequestered from Dominicans inside those horrible resort complexes that dot the coastline. And those with whom I spoke allowed us a glimpse into their world -- Parque Duarte, Cha and even the one-day mass migrations of gay Capitalenses to La Vega for the city's annual carnival. Gay Dominicans are certainly becoming more visible, at least in Santo Domingo, despite the homophobia and machismo that remain embedded in Dominican society. They remain hopeful, and perhaps all of us can take a page out of that optimism.

It was a balmy Friday night late last month as hundreds of gay men, lesbians and transgender people gathered in Parque Duarte in the heart of Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone to meet friends, drink and even cruise. A handful of "bugarrones" or male prostitutes discreetly worked the crowd, but Ariel, a 25-year-old from the northern city of Santiago, described the park as a haven of sorts for the capital’s LGBT residents.

"I come here for peace," he said. "There are many women who are lesbians and many men who are gay who can meet each other."

Parque Duarte has become the de facto hub for the capital’s LGBT residents as they slowly become more visible. Homophobia remains pervasive throughout much of the Dominican Republic, but cosmopolitan Santo Domingo attracts LGBT Dominicans from across the country because its residents tend to be more tolerant of homosexuality than others who live in the countryside.

"Gay people from across the country come to live in the capital," journalist Glaen Parls Rosario said as he drank a beer with friends in Parque Duarte. "They are less abused and there is less resistance to the movement."

Santo Domingo activists have organized a variety of low key LGBT conferences and even pride marches in recent years, but the city’s gay bars and clubs draw locals and tourists alike on any given weekend. Television personality Chachita Rubio, who also performed at La Escuelita in New York, opened Cha along Santo Domingo’s dramatic oceanfront in February 2007. And hundreds of LGBT Dominicans pack the crowded dance floor each weekend as DJs spin merengue, salsa, American and Latino pop, hip hop, reggaeton and local drag queens, often wearing elaborate costumes, take to the stage.

Santo Domingo resident David Baez, his boyfriend Miguel and their friends are regular patrons. He acknowledged many older gay Dominicans remain in the closet because of homophobia or conservative attitudes towards homosexuality from within their families, but Diaz, 25, added he feels these attitudes continue to change.

"At the beginning, a lot of people judged us, but society is more accepting now," he said while having coffee inside a coffee shop along Santo Domingo’s pedestrian-only shopping district near the Colonial Zone. "If people see you walking and holding hands, there is no problem. People may see you, but they won’t judge you. You can do what you want."

Dominicans in New York moderate societal homophobia

Puerto Plata native Alberto Fermin, who is a club promoter in traditionally Dominican-dominated Washington Heights in upper Manhattan, agreed. He suggested the large Dominican diaspora that began to settle in New York in the 1960s have helped to temper homophobic attitudes in his homeland.

"People are being more open than before," he said. "People feel free to go down there and to be themselves."

Blogger Anthony Montgomery moved to Santo Domingo from New York in January 2004. He manages a gay-friendly hotel in the Colonial Zone. Montgomery echoed Fermin’s assessment while adding many LGBT Dominicans he meets either deny their sexuality or simply remain in the closet.

"I actually feel much more comfortable being gay here than in the States, but it’s still very homophobic and hard to be out," Montgomery said. "There are no [prominent] gay Dominicans. There are rumors about prominent gay people in the government, but there is no one who’s going to come out and say I’m gay."

Church remains hostile towards LGBT Dominicans

Activists have attempted to pressure the Dominican government to enact pro-LGBT legislation, but the Roman Catholic Church and Cardinal Jesús López Rodríguez in particular remain outspoken opponents of any attempts to expand right to LGBT Dominicans or to even give them a more prominent role in society.

He described gay men as "maricones" or faggots in an editorial published in a leading Dominican newspaper last October. And Rodríguez criticized gay American and European tourists in the Colonial Zone in an April 2006 interview with the Associated Press.

"Take all of them away," he told the news agency. "We cannot allow that this place, the historical center of Santo Domingo, to be converted into the patrimony of foreign and Dominican degenerates."

Rodríguez and other church officials and religious organizations have pressured local police to impose curfews that curtail the hours the capital’s bars and clubs can remain open. The Spanish-owned Arena closed in March 2007 after police ordered it shut down following a raid that reportedly found two 17-year-old boys in the club.

HIV emerges as a new threat

Increasing HIV and AIDS rates in the Dominican Republic is another problem facing the country. The Presidential Council on AIDS (COPRESIDA), a commission former President Hipólito Mejia created in 2001 to combat the epidemic, estimates nearly 80,000 people in the Dominican Republic live with HIV and AIDS and heterosexual sex accounts for 81 percent of all infections.

COPRESIDA has launched a variety of initiatives in recent years aimed at reducing these rates of infection and extending anti retroviral drugs and other treatments to Dominicans living with the virus, but Amigos Siempre Amigos in Santo Domingo seeks to reduce the number of new HIV and AIDS diagnoses among men who have sex with men through education, condom distribution and other outreach initiatives. ASA founder Leonardo Sánchez could not be reached for comment, but Gay & Lesbian Dominican Empowerment Organization (GALDE) executive director Francisco Lazala told EDGE in an interview from his Manhattan office his organization regularly sends condoms and other resources to the capital.

COPRESIDA’s Web site contains links to ASA, other Dominican and international LGBT and AIDS organizations, but Lazala maintains President Leonel Fernández and his administration needs to extend more resources to combat the epidemic among LGBT Dominicans and MSM.

"It’s really, really bad," he said. "They don’t have adequate services for anybody."

Baez conceded HIV and AIDS remains a threat, but he quickly quipped LGBT Dominican themselves often cause their own problems.

"There are a lot of people who don’t accept themselves and go against each other," Baez said.

He remains proud, however, of the progress he contends his country has made as it becomes more tolerant of LGBT people.

"This country is like any other country," Baez said. "You can find good people and bad people."

Friday, March 21, 2008

World marks fifth anniversary of Iraq war

With the myriad of deadlines that loomed this past Wednesday, I did not have adequate time to reflect upon the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. President George W. Bush announced the invasion had begun during a televised address on March 19, 2003 as networks around the world broadcast dramatic images of American air strikes across Baghdad.

I was studying in Granada, Spain, at the time and I vividly recall a handful of men huddled around a radio inside a newspaper kiosk around 3:30 a.m. as I was walking home after spending the night out with my visiting friend Becky. She had flown into Madrid the day before, and the added security at the airport was a clear signal to me that something was going to happen in Iraq. And the blaring newspaper headlines the following day confirmed the beginning of the war to which I had concluded the men were listening on the radio.

Former Prime Minister José María Aznar supported the war, but nearly 90 percent of the Spanish public vehemently opposed it. And this opposition certainly shaped my perception of the initial air strikes, Bush's decision to attack Iraq and the subsequent campaign that continues into its sixth year.

War, by its very nature, is a sustained, large scale and violent proposition. The highly politicized debate about whether Bush should have authorized the invasion of Iraq, increased the number of troops on the ground or even exert more pressure on Baghdad to expedite desperately needed political reforms will certainly continue in this election year. But war also, by its very nature, produces a number of unintended consequences.

The United States' reputation around the world remains the most conclusive example of the war's global impact. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in anti-war marches across Spain before the conflict began and in the days after the first missiles fell onto Baghdad because they strongly opposed the Bush administration's plan. These manifestations took place countries around the world, and sent a very powerful and profound message that more or less remains today on this fifth anniversary: war is the worst case scenario whose perpetrators must carry out with the utmost foresight and moral integrity. It arguably remains unlikely those who authorized the war in Iraq used this judgment.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Polish president uses gay activist's wedding pictures to express oppositon to same-sex marriage

A Queens gay activist has filed a formal complaint against the Polish president after he used images of his wedding in a speech that expressed opposition to marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

President Lech Kaczynski used images from Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton’s 2003 wedding in Toronto during a nationally televised address to explain his opposition to the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty based, in part, because he vehemently opposes same-sex nuptials. Kaczynski and other Polish government officials have a long history of anti-LGBT rhetoric and supporting anti-LGBT legislation.

Human Rights Watch wrote former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in March 2007 to warn against passage of a bill that would have banned the discussion of homosexuality in Polish schools, while the EU and activists across the world widely panned assertions a leading Polish official made last May that suggested the popular cartoon Teletubbies promote the so-called homosexual lifestyle.

Homophobia and even violence against LGBT Poles remain concerns, but some activists expressed optimism newly elected Prime Minister Donald Tusk would begin to address these issues upon his inauguration last November.

Fay said he plans to meet with the Polish Counsel General in New York next week. He added he will also request to meet with Kaczynski.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Paterson takes office

Hope seemed to run eternal as Gov. David Paterson took office in Albany yesterday after one of the most turbulent and surreal weeks in the history of New York politics. The scandal and hypocrisy that brought down former Gov. Eliot Spitzer seemed light years away as Paterson assumed the helm of a state facing a $5 billion budget shortfall, growing woes on Wall Street and a citizenry that almost certainly needs reassurance of the state's political system.

Paterson was hopeful and optimistic in his brief speech, but he is, perhaps most importantly, a stark contrast to the combative style his predecessor during his all too brief 14-month tenure. New Yorkers across the state are almost certainly looking for a fresh start in Albany, and are looking to Paterson to deliver. Let's hope he can.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Penn. official seeks to become state's first openly gay lawmaker

The upcoming April 22 primary in Pennsylvania has begun to galvanize local LGBT activists and politicos across the Commonwealth. The race between Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton continues to garner a bulk of national (and even local) news coverage, but Lansdowne Borough Councilmember Kevin Lee hopes to become the first openly gay lawmaker in Harrisburg this fall.

He launched his campaign against long-time incumbent state Rep. Nicholas Micozzie [R-Upper Darby] last July as indicated in this article posted on EDGE Philadelphia last week. A lot remains at stake in the capital with this crucial local, statewide and national election, and Lee may very well make history himself if elected.

With the Pennsylvania primary less than six weeks away, one Delaware County legislator hopes to become first openly gay lawmaker in the state Legislature.

Lansdowne Borough Councilmember Kevin Lee announced his candidacy last July to challenge 15-term incumbent Rep. Nicholas Micozzie [R-Upper Darby] in House District 163. Lee, a registered nurse who is the first openly gay elected official in Delaware County, criticized his opponent for voting against a bill that would have expanded health care to women based on what he described was his opposition to abortion. And he further blasted Micozzie for supporting a proposed Constitutional amendment to ban marriage for same-sex couples in the Commonwealth.

"He has been detrimental to the community - and the LGBT community in particular," Lee said in a recent interview. "He has no clue about the real issues for the people in Pennsylvania."

Lee said he feels it is important LGBT people have an ally in Harrisburg, but he added expanding LGBT rights is one piece of a broader platform he hopes to advance if elected.

"The kind of things people - including LGBT people - want to see are health care and [lower] taxes," Lee said.

First appointed to the Lansdowne Borough Council in 2004, voters elected Lee the following year. He was instrumental in the implementation of domestic partner benefits to borough employees and the addition of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to Lansdowne’s non-discrimination statute, but Lee has faced criticism during his political career.

He told EDGE Philadelphia he faced a small amount of criticism after he was the grand marshal of the Philadelphia Pride Parade in 2005. Lee faced sustained verbal harassment and even death threats after Repent America director Michael Marcavage published his phone number on his Web site. Lee said his home was broken into twice and someone took his trash away after he placed it outside.

"It was just very nasty stuff," he said. "It all came after he put us on their Web site."

The Victory Fund, the Delaware County Democratic Party, Congressman Joe Sestak, state Rep. Bryan Lentz [D-Swarthmore], Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) are among the groups and elected officials that have endorsed Lee. He described himself as a political outsider while expressing optimism going into the April 22 primary.

Lee further concluded voters are ready for a change.

"We’re going to pull out all the stops," Lee said. "The time has come we make changes in Harrisburg."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

LGBT organizations weigh in on Spitzer

With New York appearing to take a collective sigh of relief over Gov. Eliot Spitzer's resignation earlier today, LGBT organizations have echoed many in the state in expressing their optimism to work with incoming Gov. David Paterson.

Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle praised the former state Senator's record on LGBT rights as he pointed out Paterson's support of hate crimes legislation and the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act of 2002.

"David Paterson’s leadership is a story of commitment to civil liberties and human rights," Van Capelle said in a statement posted on the Pride Agenda's Web site. "He believes in equality and justice for all New Yorkers and has demonstrated this time and time again—in both words and actions."

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, agreed.

"We know we can count on him to continue his decades-long commitment to winning full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers," he said.

Paterson supports marriage for same-sex couples at a time when activists across the state have looked to a Democratic take-over of the Republican controlled state Senate in November in hopes of securing passage of a marriage bill next year. It remains to be seen whether this effort will succeed, but it appears as though LGBT activists have followed the apparent lead of state Democrats in their efforts to quickly move forward from this tumultuous period. In many ways, it appears as though they want Spitzer to become an after thought with upcoming local, statewide and national elections. He became a significant distraction in the coming days (and arguably since he took office in January 2007), and partisans (and arguably some LGBT activists in New York and around the country) are quietly happy to see him go.

The saga will continue to evolve, but the collective consensus is arguably to begin to move forward. Stay tuned...

Spitzer resigns

A stunning and utterly sad fall from grace has come to pass.

Spitzer saga continues to unravel

The politically charged scandal surrounding expected soon-to-be former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer continues to unravel around him as an estimated 70 percent of New Yorkers want him to step down. A very convincing argument can be made for the former Attorney General's resignation -- his patronization of the Emperor VIP Club and his vigorous prosecution of alleged prostitution rings proves him a hypocrite unworthy of the public's trust.

LGBT activists across the state rejoiced last April after Spitzer introduced a bill to extend marriage to same-sex couples. The Empire State Pride Agenda briefly mentioned the scandal and an article Advocate news editor Kerry Eleveld wrote about Lieutenant Gov. David Paterson's pro-LGBT record on its blog this morning. And blogger Andres Duque discussed the bill's future on his blog yesterday, but arguably the most telling sign Spitzer is politically doomed is the fact Democrats have not publicly rallied to his defense since the scandal broke in the New York Times on Monday.

A colleague told this writer Monday night the scandal is akin to watching a Greek tragedy slowly unroll. Indeed!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spitzer linked to prostitution ring

Today's revelation that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer is linked to a prostitution ring is truly a shock to this writer and to millions of other New Yorkers who are only now beginning to hear of the stunning news. And I strongly suspect LGBT activists across the state are simply mortified over these developments.

Spitzer became the first governor in the country to introduce a bill to extend marriage to same-sex couples last April. The Republican-controlled state Senate ultimately blocked it, but Spitzer kept a promise he made during his 2006 gubernatorial campaign. And he also gave the keynote address at the Empire State Pride Agenda's 2006 fall dinner in Manhattan.

The former attorney general has certainly had a rocky gubernatorial tenure to this point -- repeated clashes with Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno [R-Saratoga Springs and even some fellow Democrats, Troopergate, drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants to name a few. This announcement could potentially impact the future of Democratic attempts to reclaim control of the Senate and even the future of marriage for same-sex couples in New York.

LGBT activists will almost certainly join with other New Yorkers as they hold their collective breaths and wait for the potential second show to drop. Stay tuned!

Zapatero wins re-election in Spanish election

As an American who studied abroad in Spain in 2003, I remain keenly interested in Peninsular politics and the events that so often shape them. The re-election of Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero yesterday is certainly among them.

Spanish voters first elected Zapatero on March 14, 2004 -- three days after terrorists detonated a series of bombs on Madrid-bound commuter trains that killed 191 people. Many expressed outrage over former Prime Minister José María Aznar's initial assertion the Basque separatist group ETA was behind the attacks, while others blasted him for his support of the war in Iraq. These two factors were key in Zapatero's victory.

Fast forward to 2008: the Socialists have spearheaded a very progressive agenda that includes the legalization of marriage and adoption for same-sex couples in 2005. Immigration and economic stagnation are among the issues that continue to concern many Spanish voters, but Zapatero and his party have arguably transformed Spain into one of the world's most progressive countries -- at least in terms of LGBT rights. This record stands for itself.

Friday, March 7, 2008

LGBT Clinton supporters stand by their woman

Former President Bill Clinton famously described himself as the Comeback Kid after a stronger than expected showing in the 1992 New Hampshire primary. His wife, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, appears to have carried the torch as she proved the media and pundits wrong with her victories in the Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas primaries this week. Her supporters in New York were obviously elated as my article in EDGE New York proves. The main lesson to learn from this past week, however, remains the fact that the campaign on the Democratic side is far from over. Stay tuned!

As New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama continue to battle it out on the campaign trail, LGBT New Yorkers who back the former First Lady could barely contain their excitement over her victories in the Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas primaries on Tuesday.

Dirk McCall, an activist in Astoria, Queens, described Clinton’s victory as ’wonderful.’ And he added he feels it provided added momentum for her campaign going into the Pennsylvania primary on April 22 and the Democratic National Convention in Denver this summer.

"She’s definitely making her case to the American people," McCall said.

Jeff Campagna, a member of Clinton’s LGBT Steering Committee, agreed.

"There is tremendous momentum," he said.

Jon Winkleman, a gay Clinton supporter from Woodside, Queens, handed out buttons for Clinton at gay bars in his native Rhode Island ahead of Tuesday’s vote. He also campaigned for the former First Lady in Iowa and New Hampshire ahead of their respective caucuses and primary in January. Winkleman added he had little doubt Clinton would do well.

"I’m excited, but I was really confident it was going to happen," he said.

Clinton has received widespread LGBT support in New York since she announced her candidacy in Jan. 2007. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, state Sen. Tom Duane [D-Chelsea], state Assemblymembers Deborah Glick [D-Greenwich Village], Daniel O’Donnell [D-Upper West Side] and Matthew Titone [D-Staten Island], New York Trans Rights Organization director Melissa Sklarz, long-time gay activist Ethan Geto and Tonio Burgos of the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT caucus are among those who serve on Clinton’s LGBT Steering Committee. And nearly 1,000 people attended a Clinton fundraiser at the Hiro Ballroom at the Maritime Hotel in Manhattan on Jan. 25.

The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York has also endorsed the former First Lady, but some, such as Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Alan Van Capelle, have previously expressed their disappointment over Clinton’s failure to support marriage for same-sex couples. McCall was quick to defend her LGBT record.

"She has been a very strong supporter of the LGBT community," he said. "She’s always stood by the LGBT community - even in dyer straights. It’s important to continue to stand by her."

Local supporters also dismissed pundits and others - especially those in the media - who claimed Clinton’s campaign was in trouble after Obama’s string of caucus victories following Super Tuesday.

"The same thing happened in New Hampshire - everyone said she was dead and they were wrong," Stonewall Democratic Club of New York President Matthew Carlin said.

McCall agreed.

"I don’t think she was ever faltering," he said. "She was just focusing her efforts. She was focusing on the major swing states."

Campagna echoed these sentiments. He singled out Clinton’s Super Tuesday victories in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California. Campagna further argues they, combined with her wins in Ohio and Texas on Tuesday, give her campaign further momentum.

"There is tremendous energy and enthusiasm to charge into Pennsylvania," Campagna said. "A case is being made that she is the stronger candidate."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Gays Partisans Remain Engaged in Political Banter

I remain somewhat disconnected from the political back and forth between New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama last week due to my vacation in the Dominican Republic, but last night's election results proved yet again this election cycle remains historic.

A number of gay sources told me today they feel LGBT voters -- especially those in Ohio and Texas -- played an important role in Clinton's victory in those two states last night. Others used their interviews as an opportunity to portray their respective candidate in a favorable light (or to criticize their opposing White House hopeful). Journalists are certainly a cynical lot, I confess the continued partisan banter among pundits and political operatives in our community provides at least this reporter with a plethora of good sound bites and story ideas about which he can write.

The Pennsylvania primary is more than six weeks away, but this historic exercise in American democracy will certainly continue as the Democrats battle it out over they hope is the best candidate to lead their party into the November general election. LGBT partisans will certainly continue their partisan brinkmanship as they make the case for their respective candidate. Let the games continue!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Reflections of the Dominican Republic

Vacations are a time to escape from the rat race, recharge one's batteries and to of course have fun. All of these things and even more happened during the seven days I spent in the Dominican Republic with my gay Dominican friend David and my good friend Paul from Boston.

Problems remain in the country -- deep poverty (especially in the countryside), a lack of regular electricity and running water and political corruption to name a few -- but the window David provided us into gay life in Santo Domingo was a truly wonderful experience. The site of an American and a British-born United States resident must have been an interesting visage for those who gather each weekend at Parque Duarte in the capital's Colonial City or dance the night away at Cha on the Malecón or at the carnival in La Vega, but the Dominicans whom we met during our week in the country humorously welcomed us with open arms into the world for which they have created for themselves.

The Dominican Republic obviously must continue to confront the problems facing many of its citizens, but its gay residents allowed at least this gay American an opportunity to step away from the pink Gotham rat race, reflect and simply enjoy. ¡Pa’lante!