All posts by Jesse Monteagudo

Jesse’s Journal

Do we need "role models?

Is Perez Hilton a Gay role model? Not according to many readers of the Advocate, who protested vigorously when the magazine put the celebrity blogger on the cover of its August issue. There was such a strong reaction that Advocate editor in chief Jon Barrett had to issue a response. Even so, when asked its readers if “Perez Hilton [is] an appropriate spokesman for marriage equality and other gay rights issues,” 3.1% of respondents said yes while a whopping 95.6% said no. “Perez Hilton is a major embarrassment to our entire culture. No one likes a gossipy, hateful, self-serving bitter queen. He needs to be silenced for the good of the WORLD, not just the gay community,” read a typical comment. There is even a Facebook group, “1,000,000 AGAINST Perez Hilton being the GLBTQ SPOKESPERSON,” devoted to Hilton haters within the GLBT community. Unfortunately, as an openly-gay man who is often in the spotlight, Hilton has come to represent GLBT people, whether we like it or not.

Role models The online Wiktionary ( defines “role model” as “a person who serves as an example, whose behavior is emulated by others. Wiktionary’s sister Wikipedia ( elaborates, adding that the term “first appeared in Robert K. Merton’s socialization research of medical students. Merton hypothesized that individuals compare themselves with reference groups of people who occupy the social role to which the individual aspires.“ An even better online description was found in, which tells us that “true role models are those who possess the qualities that we would like to have and those who have affected us in a way that makes us want to be better people. To advocate for ourselves and our goals and take leadership on the issues that we believe in. We often don’t recognize our true role models until we have noticed our own personal growth and progress.”

Nichols There was a time when Gay, Lesbian, bisexual or transgender people had precious few role models; men or women who showed us what it was like to be queer. WhenLige Clark  I was a kid in the 1960s, the only Gays I knew of were Liberace and a swishy “artist” who live with his mother in the apartment across the hall. It was only later that I learned about the likes of Franklin Kameny, Barbara Gittings, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, and Jack Nichols (left) and Lige Clarke (at right). Kids growing up today have a larger group of models to look up to, ranging from out athletes like Martina Navratilova, John Amaechi and Esera Tuaolo to entertainers like Ellen De Generes, Neil Patrick Harris and Wilson Cruz. Even more inspiring are young GLBT activists who began their work at an early age, like South Florida’s Waymon Hudson and Tobias Packer. “Elder statesmen” like “Pompano Bill,” Larry Friedlander, Bill Mullins and Dick Rogers (just to name a few South Florida models) teach us that Gay men can lead active lives well into their golden years.

Unfortunately, even role models are human, and too many of them fall off their pedestals. We have seen too many famous or beloved athletes and politicians, of all genders or sexual orientations, get caught having illicit sex, committing petty or major crimes, or using illegal substances. Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter (Milk) and Advocate cover boy, got into a pickle when photos of the comely Mr. Black, naked and enjoying bareback sex, appeared in various web sites. Though Black has every right to enjoy bareback sex (as stupid as it is) doing it in front of a camera doesn’t help the reputation of someone who – like Ranger Doug of the country comedy group Riders in the Sky – is an idol of (Gay) American youth. 

Black has since responded to the scandal the way people usually do, by suing the messengers: “The Oscar-winning screenwriter’s henchmen at Lavely & Singer – the bulldog law firm behind seemingly every celeb’s sex tape lawsuit threats – are going after and its proprietors, which the lawsuit alleges distributed photos (and supposedly has video) of Black and one X [my deletion] having anal sex (without a condom, as everyone has noted!). Something about invasion of privacy and copyright infringement,” notes the web site Let’s see how this goes. Meanwhile, we should all heed queerty’s sage advice: “NEVER TAKE PHOTOS OF YOURSELF NAKED OR HAVING SEX, EVER, BECAUSE THEY WILL BE RELEASED.” (Caps were in the original, though I share the sentiment.)

Even worse is the case of Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss. Back in March the South Florida Gay Blade wrote a glowing article about the openly Gay Deputy, noting that he “received the 2008 Employee of the Year award for the Oakland Park Division for his outstanding work, at a ceremony on the evening of Wednesday, March 4, 2009 at the Oakland Park City Hall. This is the first time an openly Gay deputy received this award from BSO [Broward Sheriff’s Office]. . . . Among Bleiweiss’ accomplishments are his capture of two robbers and recovering their AK-47 weapons, his arrest of a serial arsonist, and having made over 100 arrests in the last year that were directly related to quality of life issues in OaklandRolemodel  Park.” Five months later, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, this “pioneering, openly Gay Broward sheriff’s deputy who fought discrimination within that agency earlier in his career” was accused of being “a manipulative sex offender who preyed on illegal immigrants too scared to contact authorities. . . . Bleiweiss, arrested [August 3], faces 14 charges, among them three counts of sexual battery by a person in authority, four counts of battery and one count of stalking. He’s accused of intimidating at least eight men in his Oakland Park patrol district into performing sex acts with him during traffic stops.” Ouch! Though Gay activist Michael Rajner said that “this is not an act that necessarily impacts the gay community,” I cringed when I read the headline: “Deputy accused of sexual abuse was fighter for Gay rights” Already the bigots have come out of the woodwork, flooding the Sun-Sentinel’s message board with hateful messages about all Gay men, based on the actions of one Gay man. Though Deputy Bleiweiss is of course innocent until proven guilty, his precipitous fall from grace robs our community of one more role model.

Role models are good to have around, but we cannot always depend on them. So we should be our own role model; and be the best Lesbian woman, Gay man, bisexual or transgender person that we can be.

Jesse Monteagudo is a South Florida-based freelance writer and gay activist. Write him at

Jesse’s Journal: Stonewall at 40

As an event and as a symbol, the Stonewall Riots of June 27-29 1969 continues to shape our lives.  Forty years later, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender generation that was not even born in 1969 looks back fondly at “the Stonewall girls” as role models for GLBT activism and resistance. Even so, there are many young people today who do not know what “Stonewall” was, or what is represents, or why so many of our institutions and organizations are named after it.
Stonewall_pioneers When “Stonewall” took place, I lived in Miami. I was sixteen years old, in high school and uncertain about my future. It wasn’t until I graduated from high school in 1972 that I learned about the events that shook Greenwich Village three years before.  By then the event that Martin Duberman (in his 1993 study Stonewall) called “the emblematic event in modern lesbian and gay history,” had already become a symbol of pride and resistance. The late Donn Teal, whose Gay Militants (1971) included the best account of the Riots prior to the one in David Carter’s Stonewall (2004), wrote that Stonewall “jolted awake . . . an only half-remembered outrage against straight society’s bigotries in those older, generally conservative ‘Boys in the Band’ who had been out of town on the weekend of the 27th-28th-29th, tanning their thighs at Cherry Grove and the Hamptons. And, as a slur, it posed a challenge to and goal for those younger . . . gays who’d had to make do with Greenwich Village and who’d seen [the] action.  It may have created the gay liberation movement.”
Though Stonewall inspired a generation of young New Yorkers (and others), its effect on the rest of us was more symbolic than real. After all, Stonewall was not the beginning of queer liberation. The Riots came after almost two decades of Mattachine Society and ONE and Daughters of Bilitis and Tangents and Janus Society and Society for Individual Rights and West Side Discussion Group; of demonstrations in Philadelphia and  Washington, D.C.; and of riots in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and elsewhere. It was the much-maligned Mattachine Society that got New York City to repeal its law against serving liquor to homosexuals in 1966, three years before Stonewall. (The NYPD continued to raid gay bars after the Riots, as it continues to do so today, though not because of the bar patrons’ sexual orientation.) Historian John Loughery was right when, in The Other Side of Silence, he pointed out that Stonewall was only the climax of a “maelstrom” year of gay resistance and activism.
New York City is the capital of America’s communications industry, and anything that happens there gets blown out of proportion. Though the New York media — especially the Village Voice, which had an office down the street from the Stonewall Inn – covered the Riots in their own unique ways, out of town papers largely ignored the event. And I was not the only gay person who lived through 1969 in blissful ignorance of Stonewall.  In fact, most gays at the time were not aware of the Riots till they became a symbol. For most lesbians, Stonewall made less of an impact on their lives than the feminist movement, then in its heyday. To this day there is still doubt as to what role lesbians played in the Stonewall Riots, or even if there were lesbians at the Stonewall Inn.
StoneWallInnLike any symbolic event, the truth about Stonewall lies hidden in myth and legend. To this day, the Uprising has been attributed to a variety of causes, from the full moon to Judy Garland’s death (her funeral was on the morning before the Riots). Even the names and number of Rioters are in dispute: for example, the transgender activist Sylvia Rivera, who played a mayor role in Duberman’s Stonewall, is absent from Carter’s Stonewall. None of the Rioters – Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Jackie Hormona, Zazu Nova or Jim Fouratt, just to name a few – achieved the mythic status given Diego Viñales, the Argentine student who was impaled on a fence while trying to escape the cops in the aftermath of a police raid on the Snake Pit, another Village bar (March 8, 1970). The Stonewall Riots were largely a group effort; and history has kept it that way.
Having said all that, one must give Stonewall credit where credit is due. Taking place in 1969, Stonewall was the culmination of a decade of political activism and resistance. Some Rioters were veterans of the 60s counterculture and/or the civil rights, antiwar, feminist or youth movements, and used their experiences to help create a new, more radical gay liberation movement. New York activists, living at the hub of American business and culture, used their privileged positions to launch a national movement.  For much of the seventies — until the rise of Harvey Milk, himself a New Yorker who moved to San Francisco — New York activists led most of the groups that we joined (or its local chapters) and published most of the books that we read.
All in all, the Stonewall Riot’s greatest achievement was their impact on the hearts and minds of several generations of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Though many heterosexuals remained firmly antigay, most of us who are G, L, B or T learned to accept and celebrate who we are. Thus it is significant that the anniversary of Stonewall has become the date of most annual GLBT Pride celebrations, not only in New York City but around the world. The late poet Allen Ginsberg, one of the fathers of our movement, saw the significance of Stonewall when he visited the site of the Riots soon after the first night: “Gay power!  Isn’t that great! . . . We’re one of the largest minorities in the country – 10 per cent, you know.  It’s about time we did something to assert ourselves.”
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and gay activist who lives in South Florida with his life partner.  Write him at

Jesse’s Journal

Homage to Gore Vidal
If I had to be stranded on a desert island with only the works of one author, I would pick the works of GoreVidal Gore Vidal. Brilliant, erudite, perceptive and sarcastic, Vidal is a one-man library. He is the author of twenty-three novels, five plays, two memoirs, numerous screenplays and short stories, and well over two hundred essays. By virtue of heredity, luck and talent, Vidal has witnessed almost a century of American political and social life. His most famous series of novels – Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Empire, Hollywood, Washington DC and The Golden Age – is a fictional history of the United States from the American Revolution to the recent past. A frustrated politician – Vidal ran for Congress in 1960 and the U.S. Senate in 1982, and lost both races – Vidal channeled his political genius into literary forms, chronicling the Decline and Fall of the American Empire in a series of perceptive essays that, as United States: Essays 1952-1992, won the 1993 National Book Award. Last year, Vidal’s best essays were collected in The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal, edited by his literary executor, Jay Parini (Doubleday; $27.50)
Myra-breckinridge-raquel-welch In addition to his contributions to historical fiction and political commentary, Gore Vidal has written some of the most important works of American literature dealing with Gay, Lesbian, bisexual or transgender people. Openly bisexual, Vidal rejects any attempt to sexually categorize himself or any others. His 1948 classic, The City and the Pillar, was one of the first mainstream American novels to deal with male homosexuality and bisexuality. Two decades later, Vidal’s stinging Hollywood satire, Myra Breckinridge, was one of the first novels ever written about a transsexual woman. Vidal also wrote a series of gay short stories, some of which appeared in his 1956 collection, A Thirsty Evil. Gay characters also appear in most of his historical novels.
I had the pleasure of seeing Gore Vidal in the flesh last November, when Vidal appeared at the Miami Book Fair International to promote his Selected Essays. Now 83, Vidal recently sold his beloved Italian palazzo, moved back to America and mourned the loss of his long-time partner, Howard Austen. Infirm, and barely able to walk, Vidal was nonetheless as brilliant as ever, like his 18th century French counterpart, Voltaire. An early and constant critic of President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” – an excuse to increase presidential powers and curtail civil liberties – Vidal welcomed the election of Barack Obama as our 44th Chief Executive: “The terrible time is over,”' he exulted. Vidal called Obama “an educated man, probably overqualified for the post” and hopes America takes Obama's message of change to heart.
But Obama should not get complacent, for Vidal is known for aiming his lethal pen at all politicians in the “United States of Amnesia,” regardless of political party. As he put it, “we have a political system which has been so crooked so long there's no rationalizing it. Everything is a lie and a cheat, and everybody is grabbing as much money as they can.” Vidal also predicted our dismal economic situation: “I was quite right, wasn't I?,” he said, with great satisfaction. “With the course we were set on, it was going to happen. You don't have to work for Goldman Sachs to think these things through.”
I sincerely hope that Vidal lives to a ripe old age, for our country needs writers like him, to criticize our politicians and inspire the rest of us. Like many of us, Vidal worries about the “dumbing of America.”  Americans, Vidal said, need to be “smarter people, better-read people, knowledgeable people. We wouldn't have had the Bush administration if people would read.” Those of us who read have gotten much out of Vidal’s wit and wisdom, and will continue to do so for a long time, desert island or not.
BRIEF NOTE: In a recent post about police harassment of Gays in New York City, I made short shrift of the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP), going so far as to leave out part of its name. The AVP, in fact, is one of our most vital organization, “dedicated to eliminating hate violence, sexual assault, stalking, and domestic violence in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities through counseling, advocacy, organizing, and public education.” It provides free and confidential assistance to LGBTQH people in all five NYC boroughs, and works with the larger community to educate the public and reform government policies.  The AVP also tracks and documents anti-LGBTQH incidents and uses this information to educate our communities about safe dating, safe cruising, signs of abuse, and much more. For more information about the NYC Anti-Violence Project, visit
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer, Gay activist and book buff who lives with his partner in a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. Write him at

Jesse’s Journal — In Praise of Books

I recently saw Mark Doty accept the National Book Award in Poetry for his book Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (Harper Collins).  During his acceptance speech Doty thanked his husband Paul; they Doty Fire to Fire were recently married in Massachusetts. Like Augusten Burroughs’s memoirs, and David Sedaris’s humor, Mark Doty’s poetry appeals to all readers regardless of sexual orientation. Needless to say, it is a great distinction for an out Gay poet to be honored, not as an "American Gay poet," but as an American poet, period. Doty’s honor was well-deserved. (He is, by the way, also the judge for the 2008 White Crane James White Poetry Prize, the winner of which will be announced in the spring issue of White Crane.)
Doty and dog Doty’s NBA acceptance speech was one of the most inspirational I have seen or heard in quite a while. Unfortunately, I had to go to the National Book Awards Web sit to see and hear Doty’s acceptance speech, and those of the other NBA winners. That is because, unlike awards ceremonies honoring movies, recorded music, television or theater, literary awards are never televised, except perhaps on C-SPAN (which, as the saying goes, “nobody watches”). The fact that literary awards are almost never televised is an indication of literature’s low standing in modern American society, gay or straight. While the major networks know that broadcasting the Oscars, the Grammys, the Emmys or the Tonys will win them large audiences, televising the National Book Awards would almost certainly be a ratings disaster and, even worse, drive away the advertisers.
There was a time, before recorded music, movies, radio and television, when literature was our culture’s most popular art form. Great writers like Voltaire, Goethe, Scott, Byron, Hugo, Dickens, Zola, Tolstoy and Mark Twain were celebrities in their own right, and their lives and loves enthralled the public the way that the antics of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan do today. Today, of course, we have a wide variety of media to give books and their authors stiff competition.  Books have to compete with movies, television and recorded music for the public’s time, money and interest, and books generally lose. Only a few writers dominate bestseller lists and make fortunes from their works. J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Stephenie Meyer (Twilight), TV preacher and homophobe Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) and, of course, Barack Obama are just four names in an all-too short list of popular and successful writers.
Xie - the MOMA Library 46-50 - oil on canvas For generations of Gay men, Lesbian women, bisexuals and transgender people, books were an important part of the coming out process. Books like Malcolm Boyd's Take Off the Masks, Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness, Donald Webster Cory's The Homosexual In America, Christine Jorgensen’s Personal Autobiography, Rita Mae Brown's Rubyfruit Jungle or Patricia Nell Warren's The Front Runner, helped many of us come to terms with our own sexual or gender identity. 
Sadly, interest in books and writers is not what it used to be, not even in the GLBT community. For many years GLBT bookstores served as de facto community centers. Today, there is only one GLBT bookstore left in Florida, Lambda Passages in Miami. Wilton Manors, Florida’s leading “gayborhood,” has many types of stores on Wilton Drive, but no book store. And while book reviews are still a major part of such publications as White Crane, the Lambda Book Report, the Gay & Lesbian Review and the online Books to Watch Out For, most mainstream GLBT publications have dropped their book columns altogether for lack of interest. (Most mainstream journals, Gay or straight, have done the same.)
At their best, books are an important part of our lives: they educate us, they entertain us, they enlighten us, they inspire us. Unlike most media, books do not require expensive equipment (unless you consider reading glasses to be “equipment”). Long before other media deigned to notice us, books spoke to us and about our lives as GLBT people. And books will continue to do so (I hope) when the other media are long gone. So I urge you to support good Gay books, writers, literary journals, book stores and book clubs, for they give us so much in return.
Jesse Monteagudo is a South-Florida based freelance writer and Gay book buff.  Write him and express your views at

Jesse’s Journal – Miami’s Gay Bar Scene in 1974.

 Miami’s Gay Bar Scene in 1974
Miami Beach Miami in the 1970's was a great time to be young and Gay.  As my fictional alter-ego Joe Martinez said in one of his adventures, “Miami was a candy store for a young Gay guy just out of the closet.”  With no AIDS in sight, and most venereal diseases treated with a simple shot, it was “the golden age of Gay sexuality.”  It was also a golden age for Miami-Dade County’s Lesbian and Gay bar scene.  Not only were there far fewer raids than before, but local laws that made it a crime for “known homosexuals” to be served liquor or congregate in a tavern were overturned.  The legal drinking age was 18, which made things very convenient for a young Gay man who was just coming out.
Bathhouse A Gay kid had many places to choose from in 1974. In fact, there were more Gay watering holes in Miami Beach – and certainly in the Miami mainland – than there are today. In his 1972 directory, "The Gay Insider USA," author John Paul Hudson (writing as John Francis Hunter) listed 15 Gay or mixed pubs and clubs in the mainland (including Coconut Grove and Coral Gables) and 8 queer watering holes on the Beach. A 1975 bar rag, "Where the Action Is" – whose only claim to fame is that one of its contributors was a 21-year old newcomer named Jesse Monteagudo – listed 13 mainland bars and 6 Beach bars. They did not include the “down low,” mixed taverns that catered to minorities. Nor did they include the other places where Gay guys cruised and socialized: the Club Miami and Regency Baths; the 21st Street and Virginia Beaches; Bayfront Park; Florida Pharmacy; Rio Theater; Danny’s Book Store; Downtown YMCA; the Greyhound Bus Station, and so on.
The years between 1974 and 1975 were also my Gay bar years. Never before or since would I frequent so many pubs or clubs, or as often, as I did back then. Lack of money did not bother me; since student discounts and the kindness of friends and strangers often helped me get through. The lack of a car was a detriment, since it limited me to a great degree to bars that I could get to by foot or bus or Tom Cat Chronicles ride. Interestingly, I never went to the Cactus Lounge on Biscayne Boulevard, which till its demolition a couple of years ago had the distinction of being the only 1974 gay bar in South Florida still in existence.  And I was too late to enjoy Googie’s, a hot spot immortalized by Jack Nichols in his memoir "The Tomcat Chronicles."  But somehow I managed to visit virtually every other openly Gay male bar in Miami-Dade County, save for a couple of Miami Beach or West Miami taverns.
Significantly, my first Gay bar (1973) was the Nook, Coral Gables’ only Gay bar. I found out about the Nook by chance: I was working as an usher in a theater on Ponce de Leon Blvd. when one of my co-workers happened to mention the existence of a “queer bar” nearby. Though I visited the Nook several times it was never my favorite hangout. Located on a side street, the Nook acted as if the Stonewall Riots never happened. Discreet gentlemen in dark suits sipped martinis while listening to Judy Garland or Barbra Streisand records on the jukebox. Fortunately, I soon learned from the Gayvine where the action really was.
In 1974, Miami’s Gay action was centered around the Warehouse VIII. Located on S.W. 8th Street and 36th Avenue, this former warehouse (hence the name) boasted a huge dance floor, a Levi-leather bar in the back, a cruise bar upstairs, and a rooftop where anything could happen. "The Gay Insider USA" described the Warehouse as a “Huge place; [with a] suspended horse-drawn cart; [and] pool tables.  Upstairs is a swinging bar, but not too friendly to outsiders,” unless, of course, you were young and cute. It was also a late bar  (closing time, 5 a.m.), which allowed us to party all night, drag ourselves over to the Dunkin’ Donut across the street for coffee, and get back to our family homes before Mami and Papi woke up.
Near the Warehouse VIII, there were several Gay or mixed taverns. I never cared for El Carol, a long-lasting “mixed” bar on LeJeune Road, a block South of Calle Ocho. I much preferred the nearby Second Landing, so much in fact that I was a regular there. Located on the second floor of a building on the S.W. corner of 8th Street and Le Jeune – the first floor was occupied by a straight strip bar – the Second Coctails and dreams Landing began its career as Step Mother’s, was Bachelor’s West in the brief period it was owned by the same people who owned Bachelor’s II on Coral Way, and became the Second Landing in 1975. An ad in "Where the Action Is" bragged about the Landing’s “intimate Cruisy Atmosphere, For the Late, Late Crowd,” open till 5 a.m. “that wants a cozy place to cruise,” with “Most Drinks 75¢” – certainly a plus for a kid who was working his way through college. The Second Landing was a great place for young Latinos looking for older Papis (and vice versa), which was what I was into at that time. The Second Landing was a thing of the past by the 1980's; and since then the entire building was torn down and the site is now occupied by a Walgreen’s.
Bachelors II, with a restaurant on the ground floor and a cruise bar on the second floor, was located on Coral Way between S.W. 28th and 29th Avenues. Though Bachelors II then boasted the “delightful piano stylings of the famed Walter Lena and Neil Martin,” to me it was just a place to grab a drink on my way to the nearby Club Miami Baths. The Hamlet, located on Main Highway in Coconut Grove – at the time Miami’s “gayborhood” – was a great place to hang out in the daytime or early evening.  Also in Coconut Grove was the tony Candlelight Club, a members’ only restaurant and lounge.  Since financial affluence was required to be a member, I only went to the Candlelight Club as a guest or, later (1976), when it hosted the early meetings of the Dade County Coalition for the Humanistic Rights of Gays.  Historian James T. Sears, in his 70's Gay history Rebels, Rubyfruit, and Rhinestones," described “this Coconut Grove landmark among the banyan trees” as a place one could “sometimes spot celebrities like Roy Cohn and Barry Manilow dining on rack of lamb and drinking Chateauneuf du Pape.”  It was definitely not my kind of bar.  I was more at home in Downtown Miami’s Levi-leather bars, the Rack and the Ramrod (later the Double R).
Space limitations keep me from mentioning some of the bars on Miami Beach, particularly the Mayflower Lounge – Billie Lee’s Bar during Jack Nichols’s “tomcat” years (1962) – and Basin Street, both on Alton Road. The same goes for Broward County bars that I managed to visit now and then: Keith’s Cruise Room in Hallandale, Tee Jay’s in Hollywood, and Tacky’s and Venture Inn in Fort Lauderdale. All in all it was a great time, and I might write about it again some day.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance author and a Floridian since 1964.  Write him at

Jesse’s Journal: A Glass Half Full

Glass half The longest presidential election season in history is over. The campaign that gave us Joe the Plumber, Ralph Nader (again), Sarah Palin, Ron Paul and lipstick on a pig also gave us our most inspiring leader since John F. Kennedy. Historians will look back at the election of Barack Obama as a watershed event, similar to the elections of Thomas Jefferson (1800), Andrew Jackson (1828) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1932). Obama’s victory may be attributed to a brilliant campaign carried out by him and on his behalf, along with a collapsing economy and a near-total repudiation of George W. Bush and his eight year reign. Though John McCain is not responsible for much of the Bush Administration’s crimes, follies and misfortunes, he linked himself to the president’s policies at a time when they were becoming increasingly unpopular.
The Bush Administration, with its “my way or the highway” foreign policy, preemptive wars, disregard for civil liberties and the environment, its use of water boarding and other torture devices and creation of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp, has earned the enmity of the entire world. Since this election, for the first time since 2001, Americans are once again liked and respected by others. Though Barack Obama is far from perfect, and is likely to disappoint us the way that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton did before, his administration will be a welcome change from the Bush regime. Thanks to Obama, black and brown boys and girls will dare to dream high; even to achieve the highest post in the land. And while women were not yet able to break the glass ceiling, the example of Hillary Clinton – and, yes, Sarah Palin – will inspire other women to reach for the stars.
Not everything came out right in the elections of 2008. The biggest disappointment was the passage of constitutional amendments in Arizona, California and Florida that banned same-sex marriage in those states. Combined with passage of an amendment in Arkansas that will prohibit the adoption of children by “unmarried” (mostly Gay) couples, these initiatives gave social conservatives a degree of satisfaction that was denied to them on the presidential level. Though the Arizona and Florida amendments were bad enough, the California initiative (Proposition 8) was especially cruel, for it deprived Lesbian and Gay couples of a right to marry that they had already enjoyed. In approving Proposition 8, Californians also voted against their own self interest, for the Gay marriage industry brought much-needed revenue to the Golden State.
Too much has been written about Black support for the anti-Gay amendments, in California and elsewhere. Some white Gays complained that African-Americans, themselves longtime victims of discrimination, voted to deprive the rights of others on the same day that they helped elect one of their own. But it is unfair (if not racist) to blame the “black vote” for our recent defeats. Proposition 8 would have passed even if every African-American voter had stayed at home on November 4. The majorities of all colors who voted for Proposition 8 and the other anti-GLBT initiatives shared a conservative religious and cultural bent. Catholics, Evangelicals and Mormons of all races joined forces to “protect” the institution of marriage from the specter of same-sex unions. On the other hand, liberal Jews, Unitarians and freethinkers voted against these measures.
  Gay Freedom That the GLBT community is disappointed, shocked and angry by recent electoral losses is no surprise, and I share those emotions. But we have gone through electoral ups and downs before, and always managed to come through. On a happier note, Connecticut voters failed to call for a constitutional convention that might have repealed that state’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage. And Jared Polis, a Democrat for Colorado, was elected to Congress, joining Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Barney Frank of Massachusetts. So is 2008's electoral glass half empty or half full? The glass is more than half full with the promise of an Obama presidency (and a more progressive Congress), and less than half empty with the passage of homophobic state initiatives. But when you think about it, all things considered, our glass is really half full, even in California. This is not the end, and we will carry on. We must not become despondent by our electoral defeats, nor complacent by Obama’s great victory. Instead, we must continue to work as hard as we can, in good times and bad, in order to make our world a better place to live in.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance author and gay activist who lives in Florida, “a great state with horrible rulers.”  Send him a note at

Jesse’s Journal

Coming Out Politically

“Coming Out” has many meanings and can happen more than once in a person’s life. In previous articles I wrote about “coming out” as a Gay man, a Jew, a bear and a nudist. Now I want to talk about my “coming out” into politics. Though I never served in public office I consider myself to be a political person, if we define politics as a citizen’s healthy concern for his society and the way that it is governed. My political views, like those of other people, were shaped by my upbringing, my environment, my education, my life experiences and by events that changed my life. Two events were particularly influential in determining my life and politics: the Cuban Revolution (1959) and the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Movement (1969).
My political bent, unlike my thick dark hair (now greying), soft brown eyes, left-handed dexterity or homosexual orientation, was not inherited. But it was definitely shaped by my upbringing. My friend and fellow activist, Allen Young, once wrote about growing up as a “red diaper baby,” the son of Jewish-American Communists. My parents were the opposite: proudly conservative, fiercely anti-Communist, Couche_rouge Cuban exiles. Like most men and women of their generation, my parents experienced the Revolution as a disruptive force that destroyed everything they held dear and forced them to leave their home. Once settled in Miami (temporarily, they hoped) most Cuban exiles were firmly opposed to Communism and to anything that they thought led to it: socialism, progressivism, liberalism, homosexuality, etc. They saw the Democratic Party as hopelessly liberal and tainted by John F. Kennedy’s “betrayal” of the Cuban people after the Missile Crisis. The Republicans, on the other hand, seemed more willing to stand up to Castro and his henchmen, however ineffective their stand might be. For that reason, almost alone of all Hispanics in the U.S., Cuban-Americans vote overwhelmingly Republican.
Cubaposters Like other Cuban-Americans of my generation, I grew up in this conservative atmosphere. However, by the time I graduated from high school in 1972 I had developed a political bent of my own, one at odds with that of my parents or for that matter most people in my “hometown” of Little Havana. My political nonconformity can be attributed to several factors: my sexual orientation, which allowed me to question authority and the status quo; my natural curiosity, that encouraged me to go beyond my schooling to explore new ideas and personalities; and my own stubborn and rebellious personality. Whatever the causes, I was liberal where liberal wasn’t cool. I also realized, unlike my parents, that I was in the U.S. to stay. So on June 6, 1973 I became a U.S. Citizen, the first one in my family to do so. I also registered to vote that day.
Obviously, there was no political future for a liberal Democrat in Little Havana. In any case, by that time I had come to the conclusion that I was Gay, and that my sexual orientation trumped other issues as far as my politics were concerned. Many activists look back to a pivotal event in their lives that shook them out of their apathy and got them involved in the fight for GLBT rights and equality. In my opinion being openly gay in a homophobic society was in itself a political act; and my rights and freedoms as a gay man must not be taken for granted but fought for every day and in every way. For that reason, and in a time and place when most Gay men and Lesbian women were still in their closets, I refused to hide my identity.
Anita Being openly Gay in Miami in 1976 and 1977 was not easy, and it probably kept me from building a career or making a lot of money. But I did what I had to do and I think I am a better man for having done so.
I came out politically at an important time in our history, when Miami-Dade County first considered adding affectional or sexual orientation to its Human Rights Ordinance. The resulting campaign, which led to the repeal of the “Gay rights ordinance” by a 2 to 1 margin (June 7, 1977), did more than make singer Anita Bryant a symbol of religious bigotry. It also made people realize that there were homosexuals all around them, and that Jesse Monteagudo was one of them. Though I was not a polarizing figure like Bob Kunst, I was president of Latins for Human Rights, a vain but notable attempt to encourage Gay Hispanics to come out of their closets. As if that wasn’t enough, the day after the election my smiley face appeared on the pages of the now-defunct Miami News, wistfully embracing my then-partner. At a time when the most influential Gay group in Broward was fondly known as “Closet Clusters,” just being photographed was a radical act.
During the next few years (1977-1982) I graduated from Florida International University, moved to Broward County, and changed my job a few times. And I served on the boards of the Dade County Coalition for Human Rights and the Broward County Coalition for Human Rights. A new crop of gay activists emerged in those days, political realists who knew how to play the game: Tom Bradshaw, Brad Buchman, Karl Clark and Gary Steinsmith (all sadly gone) among others. They created the Dolphin Democratic Club in Broward County (1982) and made it the political force that it is today.  And while I was a member of the Dolphin Club from the beginning, I never served on the Board, nor did I ever seek public office.  A non-partisan, activist, “in your face” group like the now-defunct GUARD – Gays United to Attack Repression and Discrimination – was more my style.
But while I am not a politician in the traditional sense of the word, I remain political to this day. Instead of running for office I channeled my political energies into another direction, as a writer for the then-flourishing Gay and Lesbian press. In 1980 I began an opinion column, now  “Jesse’s Journal”, in The Weekly News (twn), for 29 years (1977-2006) South Florida’s gay community paper. Writing a column gives me the opportunity to express my political views in a medium that I am comfortable with.  And it’s good to know that people read my work, if only to complain about it. I took it as a compliment when certain people, including some who knew me from way back, wrote angry letters to the paper, calling me a radical, a socialist and a communist along the lines of Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Al Gore or John Kerry. When you’re compared to Ted Kennedy, you must be doing something right.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and proud liberal who continues to disappoint his mother by not keeping his mouth shut.  Reach him at

Jesse’s Journal – the GLBT South, from Red to Pink

I have never been to Dallas, Texas, a city that I long associated with the Kennedy Assassination and J. R. Ewing. Unlike Austin or even Houston, Dallas is thought to be a very red city within a very red state.  Wrong! No less an authority than Jason Dottley, star of the LOGO TV series Sordid Lives, lists the city of Dallas as # 2 in his list of “the Gayest Places Down South.”
“If West Hollywood is the Gay Mecca of the West, Palm Springs the Gay Mecca of the desert, and South Beach the Gay Mecca of all coastal cities, then Dallas must be the Gay Mecca of the South…For a city to be loved by me, it must be able to provide the best-of-the-best in five key areas: Dining, shopping, accommodations, entertainment and culture,” all of which Dallas has aplenty. Only one Southern venue beat Dallas in Dottley’s list, and that place is in Dallas itself: The Rose Room, a show bar at the ever-popular (or so I’m told) Station 4, which, Dottley tells us, “is home to nightly drag shows that will blow your socks off!”
Dottley’s enthusiasm is seconded by, according to which Dallas is no less than “Texas’s Biggest Gay Community.” “Dallas has one of the largest Gay populations in the US and is home to the largest GLBT church: The Cathedral of Hope. Gay Dallas is primarily centered around the Oak Lawn neighborhood with bars, restaurants, and stores found throughout Cedar Springs Rd and Oak Lawn Avenue. The intersection of Throckmorton and Cedar Springs has been called the ‘crossroads’ of Oak Lawn and is the home to a bunch of Gay and Lesbian Bars within walking distance.  Being a big city, there is a wide variety of people and scenes, so you are sure to find what you seek.”
Eddie Sanchez, writing about Dallas in the Gay Guide, agrees: “The US’s ninth-largest city, Dallas isDallas5  cosmopolitan and beautiful, with world-class architecture, a booming arts district (soon to be the country’s largest), and, like all of Gay Texas, a sense of duty when it comes to giving back to their community. What truly amazed me is how inclusive Gays are in Dallas. Sure, there are Gay bars and Lesbian bars and Hispanic bars, but people feel free and comfortable going from one to the next. Dallas’s Gay life is concentrated mainly in the Oak Lawn area with bars and clubs catering to varied Gay tastes, along with stores and restaurants.” As befits a city that’s smack in the buckle of the Bible Belt, Dallas is home to the world’s largest “Gay church,” the Cathedral of Hope, which used to be a Metropolitan Community Church but is now affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Dallas is also home to the world’s most famous “men’s chorus” (it denies being a “Gay chorus,” though most of its members are), the Turtle Creek Chorale.
Though Texas is one of most reliably “red” states,” at least during presidential elections, it is not as extremely conservative as I used to think, especially in its major cities: Dallas, Austin and Houston. In this matter the Lone Star State is not alone. There are many pink spots in the red South, including Asheville, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; New Orleans, Louisiana; and half a dozen municipalities in my own state of Florida. Though I have never been to Dallas (as I said before), I have visited most of those cities and, honestly, I’d feel safer there than I would in some  rural areas in California or Massachusetts. Like their sisters and brothers in Dallas, Texas, the women and men who live in those cities have made the best of their lives in spite of the existence of some of the most homophobic state governments. In short, the GLBT communities of the urban South have taken their lemons and made a nice Lemoncello liqueur out of it.
South_carolina_2 On the other hand, there are still places in the South that seem to be homophobic through and through.  One of those, with apologies to those GLBT people who live in the Palmetto State, is South Carolina. Recently Amro Worldwide, a Gay travel agency, ran a series of ads in London subways that promoted Gay tourism in the United States. According to the ads, Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Washington D.C. and South Carolina are “so Gay.”  Though officials in the five cities appreciated and paid for their ads, South Carolina state officials went into a tizzy at the idea that anyone would actually think that South Carolina is “so Gay.”  Republican Governor Mark Sanford called the posters “inappropriate,” and Republican State Senator David Thomas demanded an audit of the state’s advertising budget: “South Carolinians will be irate when they learn their hard earned tax dollars are being spent to advertise our state as ‘so Gay,’” huffed Thomas, in a statement. The state refused to pay for the ad and the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department employee who approved of it resigned.
South Carolina politicians need not worry.  After this hoopla made the news around the world, there is no one left who still thinks the Palmetto State is “so Gay.” But once again the GLBT community was able to make a tasty lemonade out of a sour lemon. The South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement, which paid for the ad after their state government refused to do so, has adopted its discredited slogan for this year’s Pride events. On September 20, “South Carolina Will Be So Gay” when the GLBT community celebrates its pride in the state capital of Columbia.
Jesse Monteagudo, a Florida-based freelance writer and Gay American, is celebrating his 30th year writing for the GLBT press. Reach him at

Jesse’s Journal – “Is It Hip To Be Square?”

Aaamarriagecake_3 In his New York Times (April 27, 2008) feature story “Young Gay Rites,” the delightfully-named Benoit Denizen-Lewis wrote about the “normal” world of young, white, married Gay men in Massachusetts, till recently the only American state that allowed same-sex marriage. Unlike previous Gay generations, Denizen-Lewis wrote, “Gay teenagers are coming out earlier and are increasingly able to experience their Gay adolescence.  That, in turn, has made them more likely to feel normal.  Many young Gay men don’t see themselves as all that different from their heterosexual peers, and many profess to want what they’ve long seen espoused by mainstream American culture; a long-term relationship and the chance to start a family.”
If Denizen-Lewis is to be believed, young Gay men are rushing to the altar as soon as they are allowed to do so. Many of these queer couples are married with children, acquired naturally or through adoption.  In some cases, the partners hyphenated their surnames; or one partner took the last name of the other.  Also breaking with gay stereotype, many of these young gay marrieds practice monogamy, or at least they tell us theat they do. In short, these Gay men turned Gay clichés on their head, opting for “straight” normalcy over gay rebelliousness. But is it hip to be square? (For the record, this writer has been in a Gay relationship himself for 23 years, though we have kept our distinctive surnames: “Greenspan-Monteagudo” is just too cumbersome.)
The number of young Gay men who choose marital bliss over circuit parties will no doubt increase now that the California Supreme Court ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.  Even states that only allow civil unions or domestic partnerships have witnessed many same-sex couples rushing to the registrar’s office. The current Gay penchant for matrimony is a sharp contrast to the post-Stonewall gay ideal of sexual freedom and promiscuity. Many Gay men in the 1970s agreed with film director John Waters, who thought that the best thing about being Gay was that he did not have to get married or serve in the military. Though there were partnered Gay men in the seventies, many of them were like the twosome in the Doric Wilson play A Perfect Relationship (1979), who have sex with other men but not with each other. The two lovers in Michael Denneny’s book Lovers (1979) were not exceptional because they broke up but because they stayed together for so long.Aaagaymarriagelegal
So what happened to change all of this?  There was AIDS, of course.  And a conservative political climate that discouraged sexual promiscuity.  Keeping pace with the political winds, “Gay” activist organizations — now evolved into GLBT (or GLBT) groups – began to demand for our people those privileges that the heterosexual majority takes for granted, like getting married or serving in the military. Young queers who came of age with none of the trauma experienced by previous generations see nothing unusual in doing what their straight peers have been doing since time immemorial; dating someone, “going steady” with them and, eventually, getting married.
So far so good, but what about the rest of us?  Open any Gay bar guide and you will see photos of hot Gay “boys” who are living lives far removed from those of the young couples in Denizen-Lewis’s article.  For them, as for many Gay men before them, being gay is an act of rebellion, a break from the restrictions of straight society. These guys are “boys” in the best senseMarriage_cover_issue_61_final  of the word, not protracted adolescents but males who kept their youthful exuberance and their willingness to take chances and try new ideas and new experiences. Though the Gay party scene is conformist in its own way, and fraught with many dangers — drug use and unsafe sex being the most obvious ones – no one is gong to accuse gay party boys of trying to imitate heterosexual men. On the contrary, in matters of physical fitness and attire, straight men are imitating us…
Of course, not all Gay men are made for the party scene, just as not all Gay men are made for the settled married life in the suburbs. Our community encompasses all lifestyles; and if there is anything we can agree on is that we all have the right to shape our lives the way that we want to. Though GLBT conformity is not as repressive as heterosexual conformity – because our community does not have the power to enforce it – it is no less objectionable.  In this, as in so many other things, our enemies are wrong: There is no such thing as a “Gay lifestyle.” There are as many “Gay lifestyles” as there are Gay lives and we should all have the right to choose the one that suits us best.
Jesse Monteagudo, a South Florida-based author/activist, is currently celebrating his 30th year writing for the GLBT press. Write him a note at

Jesse’s Journal – Tales from the Gay Outdoors

by Jesse Monteagudo
Tales from the Gay Outdoors
Body593 Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people love camp, in both senses of the word.  According to CampGayUSA, there are over a hundred GLBT-owned or GLBT-friendly campgrounds in the United States alone. My own State of Florida has two popular gay campgrounds:  the Sawmill Camping Resort in Dade City and Camp Mars in Venus.  Most of the time, GLBT campgrounds were created with little or no controversy.  This is not the case of a camp established on Route 226 near Casar, North Carolina; one which bears the provocative name of Camp Lickalotta.
Camp Lickalotta is the child of Nancy Leedy and Joanie Beasley, two business and life partners who describe themselves as “unabashed environmentalists, Christians and lesbians.”  According to the Camp Lickalotta Web site, “our dream is to establish a LGBT Campground for adults in Western North Carolina that is earth-friendly.  A SAFE place, where ALL who come are welcome to enjoy camping in a non-threatening environment. Where they can relax in nature.” According to an article published in the Gaston Gazette (a local paper), Leedy said that she and Beasley chose the name Lickalotta because their goal is to “Lickalotta prejudice,” “Lickalotta pollutants” and “Lickalotta pessimism.” To these ends, the women rented space at the straight-owned Golden Valley Campground, and planned to inaugurate Camp Lickalotta with the first annual Bushstock, a women’s music festival, on May 16-18. Leedy and Beasley planned to use the money raised at Bushstock along with public donations to buy land for a permanent Camp Lickalotta. Lickalotta
Unfortunately, Leedy and Beasley reckoned without the residents of their Bible Belt community. When the women tried to attend services at nearby churches, they were told to leave outright or to attend early, less-attended services. When news about Camp Lickalotta spread around the community, the neighbors were outraged. They complained to Golden Valley owners Joe and Lynn Hoyle, threatening to keep themselves, their children and their grandchildren away from the camp if the Hoyles allowed the dykes to stay. Though Leedy and Beasley expected a fight – they knew what they were getting into when they picked the name Lickalotta – Mr. and Mrs. Hoyle caved in. According to a letter that they wrote the women, the Hoyles “decided that the best thing for all parties involved is for [the camp] to find another place to host their events. This also means that Nancy Leedy and Joanie Beasley will have to find another campground to park their camper.” The Hoyles also complained that the women promised that Bushstock was going to be a “family-oriented” festival, not the “adults-only” event that it eventually became.
Perhaps Leedy and Beasley were foolish to make their intentions so blatantly clear, and to give their Camp a name that served as a red flag for the local bigots. But the Hoyles were wrong to cave-in to local pressure, out of fear, greed and prejudice, even as they claimed that “there has never been any dispute between any of these parties related to or arising out of the sexual preferences of Joan [sic] Beasley and Nancy Leedy.” “Joe and Lynn have a strong commitment to the citizens,” said the Hoyles’ lawyer, O. Max Gardner III, “and would never knowingly and willingly take any actions that would do anything to tarnish the image of this area with respect to our high moral standards and commitment to traditional family and religious values.” Beasley and Leedy were only given seven days to pack and leave Golden Valley, under the protection of the local sheriff’s office. Undeterred, the women found a new location for Bushstock and are working hard to find a new home for Camp Lickalotta. We wish them all the luck.
Lickalotta_women_2  Whatever you might say about the wisdom of their methods, Joanie Beasley and Nancy Leedy were clearly in the right. More controversial are the Gy and bisexual men who, since time immemorial, have used public parks and preserves for sexual activity. In the Dutch city of Amsterdam, long-known as a center of sexual liberty, men have sought sexual satisfaction in the city’s Vondelpark, around the rose garden (or so I’m told). Recently the City government shocked conservatives there and elsewhere when they moved to allow public sex in the Park. (However, most of the complaints came not from moralists but from dog owners, who still have to keep their dogs on leashes.) Even so, City Alderman Paul Van Grieken defended their decision, asking “why should we impose a rule on something you can’t impose a rule on?  Moreover it isn’t a nuisance for the other visitors and gives a lot of pleasure to a certain group of people.”  Cruisers are still expected to pick up their used condoms and other trash, stay away from the children’s playground and limit their sexual activities to night hours. The Netherlands Police National Diversity Expertise Center asked other cities to follow Amsterdam’s example, noting that it would free the police to deal with more serious matters, such as anti-gay violence. The Dutch approach to park cruising is sensible, reasonable and humane, which means it will never be adopted in the Untied States.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and Gay American who lives in South Florida with his life partner.  Write him a note at