Friday, January 18, 2013

Prove you’re gay or go home, Home Office tells Senegalese student

Prove you’re gay or go home, Home Office tells Senegalese student


A gay student has been told to prove his sexuality or face deportation to his home country Senegal, where homosexuality is outlawed.

London student Tacko Mbengue says he will be persecuted if he is forced to return to his home country

By Jim Norton
Serigne Tacko Mbengue, who studies at Newham College in east London, and is a LGBT campaigner for the NUS, fled to the UK in 2008 to escape homophobic persecution. But the 26-year-old is still going through the appeal process four years later because the Home Office doesn’t believe he is gay.
Around 40 supporters turned up outside his hearing in London on Wednesday, only for the case to be adjourned for the second time in three months. It was rescheduled due to new evidence revealing physical and emotional scars from two attacks he suffered in Senegal because of his sexuality.
The west African state remains a dangerous place for homosexuals — anyone caught will face a prison sentence of up to five years.
Mbengue says: “I’m a very outspoken gay man. I’m not going back to Senegal. If I do, I will be a dead body.”
Mbengue’s lawyer, Hani Zubedei, says they have all the evidence necessary, including credible witnesses and a medical record that shows he was tortured.
But the Home Office “doubts him on credibility grounds”, adds Zubeidi. They won’t issue him a status document – which would give him the legal right to live and work in the UK – until he has proved his sexuality.
Mbengue is a prominent gay activist and the LGBT representative of the NUS’s black campaign committee. He is also an activist for Movement For Justice, a student-led civil rights movement.
Antonia Bright, a volunteer leader at Movement for Justice, has known Mbengue since he joined the campaign group two years ago.
She says: “He is courageous, a role model. He has had such a big impact on others around him. He has drawn out the courage for other people to come out who were too scared to before.”
His prominence has brought repercussions however. Shortly before Christmas, Mbengue was attacked in London by a group of Senegalese men. The group taunted him with homophobic chanting and punched him.
Antonia Bright says: “If he can be attacked in Britain, then how can he be safe in Senegal?”
Mbengue says: “My case has more witnesses and evidence than any case that the Movement for Justice has ever had — and they’ve been working on LGBT cases for five years.”
Mbengue – who currently lives in Barking, East London – was born in the Casamas region of Senegal. He struggled to hide his sexuality from a young age and was sent by his father to a Mouride brotherhood, a Sufi Islam order, in his early teens to try and change.
He left a few years later and moved in with his aunt in Dakar to train as a welder — a job his father told him was manly. But he was forced to leave his aunt’s house when she found out he was gay.
Mbengue was alone — his family had died trying to flee their home town – and struggled to survive for the next few years. He contemplated suicide, but instead vowed to leave Senegal.
He says: “If I’d been around for just a few months more, who knows, I might have done it.”
He landed at Gatwick airport in December 2008 and was arrested on arrival. He spent the next two years in detention before starting an English course at Newham College in east London, where he began campaigning for gay rights.
Aaron Kiely, NUS Black Students’ Officer, says: “Mbengue’s case has highlighted the injustices faced by those seeking asylum in Britain.
“Tacko has shared his story with many students and has received overwhelming support from students across Britain and Ireland. Today saw around 40 people come out to support Tacko and in March we will see even more come to stand with him.”
Acts of homosexuality are outlawed in Senegal under Article 319.3 of the penal code. It criminalises “indecent acts” and “acts against nature” and anyone caught faces a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine. In 2008, nine men were arrested in Mbao for going to HIV and Aids prevention training.
Mbengue says: “My country doesn’t believe people can be gay. They just think it’s a sickness copied from the western countries.”
A Twitter hashtag — #TackoMustStay — has been set up for people to send messages of support. His next hearing is on 5 March.
Source: The GuardianUK

Melee Follows Noise Complaints At Brooklyn Apartment

Melee Follows Noise Complaints At Brooklyn Apartment

A simple noise complaint about Brooklyn resident Jabbar Campbell’s Gay Pride house party this past Sunday quickly escalated into a full-scale NYPD raid, in which Campbell was beaten, charged with resisting arrest, and homophobic slurs were hurled at his guests, the host’s lawyer said today.

By Nathan James
The gathering, held in the Crown Heights section, caused neighbors to call the 77th Precinct with a noise complaint around 2:50 AM Sunday morning. The NYPD sent a car to the location, and advised the black, gay Campbell and his drag-costumed guests, to lower the volume of his party. That radio-car crew, Campbell says, departed the scene without further incident.
However, some 10 minutes later, Campbell recalls, a second group of cops arrived, “banging with their flashlights” on the locked vestibule door, and attempting to disable a surveillance camera on their way in. After a few moments, Campbell unlocked the door, and the police allegedly “bum-rushed” inside, “screaming and cursing and saying things like ‘fag’, ‘homo’, a__hole’, just a bunch of anti-gay slurs.”
The police severely beat Campbell, according to his attorney, after arresting him on trumped-up charges of “resisting arrest”. “Resisting” is often used as a catch-all charge by police to rebut defendants’ claims of police brutality, said Bill Rowling, a litigator who specializes in police-misconduct cases. “It’s an easy way to nullify a prisoner’s claims of abuse.”
Campbell’s lawyer, Herb Subin, pointed to a screen grab of a uniformed officer moving the surveillance camera during the incident. “They were trying to conceal the evidence by turning the camera away,” he noted, “These officers committed a hate crime.” Campbell was held in police custody for 24 hours, and suffered injuries including a lacerated lip, swollen left eye, and other hematomas. Subin has said his client will sue the city over the incident

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gays mixed on Hagel nomination

President Barack Obama, right, nominated former Senator Chuck Hagel to be his next defense secretary. (Photo: Getty Images)

Senator Tammy Baldwin said this week that she wants to see whether Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel's apology for anti-gay remarks 14 years ago is "sincere and sufficient." But former Congressman Barney Frank said his opinion of Hagel has gone from opposition to reconsideration.
Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, made her remarks Monday, January 7, just minutes after President Barack Obama officially nominated the former Republican senator from Nebraska to the top Pentagon post. During an interview with MSNBC, Baldwin said she did not know Hagel, but that she plans to ask him "some tough questions."
Baldwin does not sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee but, as a member of the Senate, will vote on Hagel's confirmation.
She told MSNBC she plans to give Hagel's nomination a "thorough review" and will "be fair."
"But I do want to speak with him particularly about his comments 14 years ago to ... see if his apology is sincere and sufficient," said Baldwin. "I want to see how he's evolved on this issue in the last 14 years" and how he will contribute to the successful implementation of the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'"
Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who retired last week, told the Boston Globe Monday that while he was hoping Obama would not nominate Hagel to the position, "With the attack coming out of the right, I hope he gets confirmed." Frank, who is both gay and Jewish, said last month that he thinks Hagel would be "very good" with respect to Israel and the defense budget but that his anti-gay comments in the past were a "disqualification from being appointed."
"Then-Senator Hagel's aggressively bigoted opposition to President Clinton's naming the first openly gay ambassador in U.S. history was not, as [former] Senator Hagel now claims, an aberration," said Frank, in the statement released last week. "He voted consistently against fairness for LGBT people and there does not seem to be any evidence prior to his effort to become secretary of defense of any apology or retraction of his attack on James Hormel. And to those of us who admire and respect Mr. Hormel, Senator Hagel's description of him as aggressive can only mean that the senator strongly objected to Hormel's reasoned, civil advocacy for LGBT people."
Last week, Frank expressed interest in being named Massachusetts' interim senator should John Kerry, the current occupant of the seat, win confirmation to be Obama's next secretary of state, which is widely expected.

Others opposed
It's not just gays who have tough questions for Hagel. A number of Republican senators, including John Cornyn (Texas) and Dan Coats (Indiana) are opposing Hagel's nomination. Coats told Fox News that Hagel "has moved from a conservative Republican coming out of Nebraska to someone that looks like they are out of the most leftist state in the country..." Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) predicted "very little Republican support for his nomination." Neither pegged their opposition to Hagel's apology for anti-gay remarks, but there was widespread media attention last month when Hagel issued a statement apologizing for his remarks against the nomination of Hormel to become ambassador to Luxemburg under Clinton. At the time of those remarks, in 1998, Hagel characterized Hormel's openness about his sexual orientation as an "aggressive" act that could inhibit his ability to represent the United States in a foreign post.
"My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive. They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of 'open service' and committed to LGBT military families," said Hagel in his statement.
The Human Rights Campaign initially criticized the choice of Hagel but backed off after the apology.
HRC President Chad Griffin issued a statement last month when Hagel's name was floated as a likely nominee, saying Hagel's past comments on gays and his congressional voting on gay-related issues "unacceptable." But after Hagel issued his apology HRC softened its opposition.
"Senator Hagel's apology and his statement of support for LGBT equality is appreciated and shows just how far as a country we have come when a conservative former senator from Nebraska can have a change of heart on LGBT issues," said Griffin. "Our community continues to add allies to our ranks and we're proud that Senator Hagel is one of them.
"The next defense secretary should get off to a fast start and ensure LGBT military families have access to every possible benefit under the law," added Griffin. "Every day these families continue to face unfair treatment and the Secretary can take meaningful action to remedy this discrimination."
This week, HRC added, "We look forward to Senator Hagel's testimony on how he intends to ensure equal benefits for gay and lesbian service members and their families."
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force initially expressed "grave concerns" about Hagel and this week said it continues to have "concern."
"Though Chuck Hagel has recently apologized for past anti-gay remarks, we expect him to fully explain his views during the confirmation process and what steps he intends to take as defense secretary to demonstrate his support for LGBT members of the military and their families," said NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey. "We recognize that people do evolve on these issues and we hold out hope that, if confirmed, Hagel will meet the bar set by other cabinet secretaries and the administration when it comes to ensuring fairness for all LGBT military families and for women in the military."
Log Cabin Republicans is bluntly opposed and says he's "not the right nominee."
The national LGBT Republican group ran a full-page ad in the Washington Post Monday, saying Hagel's apology for past anti-gay remarks is "too little, too late." The ad highlights his previous opposition to repealing the military ban on gay service members and his opposition to allowing equal marriage rights for gay couples.
"Until his name surfaced as a potential nominee for secretary of defense, he has stood firmly and aggressively against not only gay marriage, but also against gay people in general," said Gregory Angelo, who took over as interim executive director of Log Cabin less than two weeks ago. "Log Cabin Republicans helped lead the charge to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and is extremely invested in seeing that we don't lose any ground due to a lack of sincere commitment to gay people and their families on the part of the incoming defense secretary."
In a phone interview Monday afternoon, Angelo said he thinks people should "pause and question" the timing of Hagel's "so-called apology."
"I'm not about to hypothesize what was in his head, but the timing of the apology does seem rather suspect – that his evolution [on gay issues] came days after his name floated" as a nominee, said Angelo.
"Log Cabin Republicans spent a lot of time and money on repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' – a bipartisan effort," said Angelo. "Now is not the time to roll the dice on a nominee who may or may not smoothly implement" that repeal.
"He's not the right nominee," Angelo added.
Zeke Stokes, spokesman for OutServe-SLDN, said his organization never opposed Hagel's nomination and believes the apology was worth consideration.
"Senator Hagel pretty quickly addressed those remarks and apologized for what he said 14 years ago, so we certainly want to give him the same space we would give anyone to evolve over 14 years on this issue," said Stokes. "He's indicated he has [evolved] and, just as we would with anyone, we are communicating to him and to the White House things we believe need to happen."
Specifically, said Stokes, OutServe-SLDN wants to hear from the nominee whether he will "take a serious look at the inequities" for gay troops serving today "and make an immediate commitment to remedy those inequities..."
In a press release January 4, OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson said Hagel "clearly has the military credentials and experience" for the secretary's job but that it is "incumbent upon him during the nomination and confirmation process to lay out demonstrable actions he will take" to support his words.
The press release said OutServe-SLDN wants the nominee, if confirmed, to add "sexual orientation" to the language of the military's non-discrimination policies and extend "all benefits" possible to married same-sex couples while the Defense of Marriage Act is still in force.
HRC's scoring of Hagel's voting record while the Republican represented Nebraska in the Senate earned him the lowest grade possible on LGBT-related issues – zero in two of his last three congressional sessions, and a 20 out of 100 in the last session he served. Hagel opposed an effort to ban same-sex marriage nationally through an amendment to the federal Constitution.
Neither the president nor Hagel referred to any opposition to the Hagel nomination during a White House news conference Monday afternoon.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

13 Fabulous LGBTs Of Color 2012

13 Fabulous LGBTs Of Color 2012

As the year rolls to a close, I thought it would be fun to count down the thirteen LGBT people of color who epitomize the word “fabulous”–a synonym for what we all are in this community.  Here’s a “baker’s dozen”–to signify the New Year, even as we look back on the old. Let the fanfare–and the inevitable debate–begin!

Nathan James
Nathan James

#13 Sahara Davenport
Reality TV star and drag performer Sahara Davenport makes our list because she’s not just another drag queen.  Before appearing on LOGO’s RuPaul’s Drag Race, Davenport earned a Bachelor’s degree in classical dance.  As a vibrant, visible icon of our community, Sahara Davenport was an outspoken advocate of our rights, and often appeared at local NYC happenings, such as Drag Night at Bartini’s in Chelsea.  Sahara was fabulous because no matter how glamorous her TV life, she always found time to connect with all of us, everywhere she went.  Although Sahara passed away far too soon, she earns her posthumous inclusion on her list for being “meowingly” sweet and sassy!
#12 Justin Terry-Smith
Justin Terry-Smith is the well-known HIV/AIDS activist, leather-community favorite, and children’s book author, who does so much to enrich the lives of our LGBT community, fabulously.  Terry-Smith appears regularly on television to educate the public about living with HIV, and his video blog, Justin’s HIV Journal, has put a very human face on the plight of gay men of color struggling with this modern-day plague.  His children’s book, I Have A Secret, is an illuminating look at a fictional child born with HIV, written to enlighten other kids.  For his diligence, caring, and sometimes brutal honesty, (which makes him fabulous) Justin Terry-Smith joins our list this year.

#11 Tona Brown
Tona Brown_outmusic
No list of fabulous LGBT people would ever be complete without Tona Brown.  She is an accomplished concert violinist, gifted vocalist, and leader of the Aida String ensemble.  She’s also the first transgendered person ever to sing for a sitting President of The United States–President Obama–when she delivered the National Anthem in June 2011 for him.  Tona also devotes time to teaching children and young adults how to play musical instruments, and continues to be a source of encouragement to LGBTs everywhere.  Classically fabulous! 

#10  Marck Angel
Marck Angel is the voice that sings the songs which play in our heads long after we’ve heard the track.  With his unique style and mesmerizing melodies, Marck is always exploring new ground in the pursuit of his art.  His work was featured in the soundtrack of the hit film, Finding Me: Truth and has been included in several TV series as well.  He recently performed at the Out Music Awards in Las Vegas, and is always ready to make the stage fabulous!

#9. Ardranae (Data) Byer
Bringing us the inspiring and intriguing stories of LGBTs every month, is IKON-ic publisher and photographer Ardranae ‘Data’ Byer.  She’s the person behind IKONS Magazine, which has become a staple of the lesbian community.  With the need to make our own voices heard every year, Ardranae is passionately dedicated to doing just that.  Her willingness to make it fabulous and noteworthy is her lasting contribution to all of us, and places her prominently among her peers on our list.

#8.  Dwight Allen O’Neal
Now you KNOW you can;t have fabulous without putting it on the big screen for all to see!  That’s the raison d’etre of actor, screenwriter, and producer Dwight Allen O’Neal.  Through his production company, Off The Clock, Dwight has created shows that explore the issues that are unique to gay men, without ever losing sight of just how extraordinary we really are.  Beginning with Christopher Street TV (CSTV), he has endeavored to bring his artistic vision to the world.  Educated in New York at the American Music and Dance Academy, Dwight’s latest project is a continuation of the story begun in CSTV.  Entitled CockTALES, this new “dramedy” takes a bold new look at all the different kinds of men in our community.  Fabulously entertaining!

#7.  Dane Joseph
Another thespian of stage and screen who makes our list this year is Dane Joseph, co-creator and star of the runaway hit Web series Drama Queenz.  This engrossing saga of three struggling actors trying to get their big Broadway break, has captured the imagination of the black gay community.  Dane is also a filmmaker, with a new feature, Langston’s, on the way.  His depictions of gay men of color range from the poignant to the absurdly hilarious, but all are fabulously real!

#6.  Aurora Jonez
Real Talk is Aurora Jonez’ watchword.  She’s the no-holds-barred host of the acclaimed radio show, Living Life Aurora, the worthy successor to the highly popular Bent Radio series.  Both programs delve deeply into the inner workings of the LGBT community, with guests both subtle and boisterous, all speaking out loud about the trials and turbulence we face every day.  Aurora herself is unflinchingly, fabulously unpretentious, and when she broadcasts, we all sit up and listen!

#5. Carson Hall
Young, talented fashionista Carson Hall is Giving You A Look…and it has “fabulous” written all over it!  It’s a delightful treat to watch Carson as he continually reinvents his style, and teaches the LGBT nation even as he learns more all the time.  A rising star in the trendy NYC fashion world, Carson is never at a loss for an eye-catching ensemble, because all the street’s his runway.  His indomitable spirit in the face of adversity makes Carson someone we’ll be admiring for years to come.

#4.  Lonnell Williams
Atlanta native Lonnell Williams has had it on and popping for years now!  Best known for his unforgettable 3LWTV and Pillow Talk online video series, Lonnell has always kept us on the cutting edge of the latest happenings and hottest personalities in our community.  Not one to shy away from controversy, Lonnell has kept it real and encouraged honest dialogue about issues some of us are often too squeamish to address.  Looking towards an even more fabulous future, Lonnell has recently befriended media queen Oprah Winfrey, and there are great things coming down the pipeline with both of them in 2013!

#3.  DeMarco Majors
DeMarco Majors, athlete, actor, model, and LGBT advocate, has been a definitive presence among the gay community for a long time.  A former pro basketball player (with the ABA), DeMarco went on to star in the irresistible LOGO TV series Shirts & Skins, launched his modeling career, appeared in the covers of all kinds of gay publications, and became a public LGBT activist, making HIV-prevention public service announcements.  His unforgettable beauty is stunning, and his candor and grace are uplifting.  Larger-than-life, but unmistakably fabulous!

2. Delvon Johnson
Stylist to the stars, author, actor, producer, and television show host Delvon Johnson makes our list of fabulous LGBTs, with a whole slew of superlatives.  He’s written two hit novels, Love Yourself First and its sequel, Be Careful What You Ask For, acted on stage (the Off-Broadway production of Cybersex), screen (CockTales, Drama Queenz), produced a TV series (Justus), appeared in national magazines (Fashion Avenue News, Women’s Essence), styled celebrities (most recently reality star Karen Gravano of VH1′s Mob Wives), and is now hosting his own fashion-oriented TV program, Style ‘N Beauty Cafe, on new national network UBC-TV.  Delvon also works closely with noted fashion designers in the NYC area, such as Adrian Alicea, and his own personal, unique look adds to his fabulous cachet.  Delvon has also been active in LGBT causes, serving in the Executive Board of NYC Black Pride, and marching in protests against gay-bashing.  Fantastically multi-talented, he’s the very meaning of “fabulocity”!   

#1. Frank Ocean
The chart-topping R&B singer Frank Ocean rocked the music industry last summer, when he came out to the world on his blog.  ”I feel like a free man,” he wrote, describing his love for a young man he had a relationship with several years ago.  Bravely facing the possible consequences to his career (retail giant Target, for example, refused to sell Ocean’s CD, Channel Orange, after he came out), Frank admirably encourages LGBT youth to be themselves.  As an artist and as a person, Frank Ocean has shown that sexuality is part and parcel of our humanity, even as he demonstrates that talent transcends sexual orientation or identity.  For fabulously filling our hearts with PRIDE, Frank Ocean tops our list this year!