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Montgomery exec asks Fillmore to cancel band

Leggett expresses concern over Molotov’s anti-gay lyrics

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Molotov, music, Gay News, Washington Blade
Molotov, music, Gay News, Washington Blade

Activists are threatening to protest Moltov’s upcoming show in Silver Spring, Md. at the Fillmore. (Promotional photo courtesy Molotov)

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett sent a letter on July 18 to the Fillmore Theater in Silver Spring, Md., asking its manager to cancel a performance next month by a Mexican band that includes anti-gay lyrics in several of its songs.

Leggett’s letter followed concerns expressed by LGBT activists that the hip-hop group Molotov uses lyrics in Spanish that are interpreted widely to mean “faggot,” including a phrase “kill the faggot.” Activists call the lyrics hurtful to the LGBT community and have warned that they could encourage anti-LGBT violence.

“I have serious concerns about this booking,” Leggett told the Fillmore’s general manager, Stephanie Steele, in his letter. “I am personally offended. I understand that the First Amendment provides for freedom of speech, and that even distasteful speech may be protected speech,” he said.

But he added, “Just because one might argue that everyone has the right to say, show, or sing something doesn’t mean they ought to exercise that right…In addition to expressing my displeasure I would ask you to reconsider the Fillmore’s decision to book the Molotov band.”

The theater and the California-based company that owns it, Live Nation Entertainment, have not responded to calls from the Washington Blade seeking comment on the controversy. The Washington Post reported that Steele did not respond to its request for comment for a Post story on the controversy last week.

But according to the Post, Live Nation spokesperson Jim Yeager said the performance by Molotov scheduled for Aug. 26 would not be cancelled.

Members of Molotov and its supporters have argued that the controversial lyrics, including the Spanish words “puto” and “maricon” that many interpret as slurs against gay men, are meant to target corrupt politicians in Mexico, not gay people.

A spokesperson for the LGBT organization Equality Maryland said the group is considering staging an “informational” protest outside the theater on the night of the performance.

A petition posted on the website change.org by local gay activist and attorney Gabriel Rodriguez-Rico, calls on the Fillmore Silver Spring to “not provide a stage for violently anti-gay messages.”

Donna Biggler, a spokesperson for Leggett, said the Fillmore had not responded to Leggett’s letter as of Tuesday.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Irwin Alvarado

    July 24, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    This is a ridiculous misinterpretation of the lyrics and it's similar to protests against that song in Spain more than a decade ago where the word is used as an insult-slang related to homosexuals. Puto is obviously not a nice word, but the context in which it is used has nothing to do with attacking the BGLT community. A proper translation within context would be "assh*le", as in -'You're being an assh*le for making such a deal out of this'.

    In fact, you shouldn't protect and help identify that word as an insult to homosexuals, I find that very offensive. You should be thanking Molotov instead because thanks to their popularity in Latin America the meaning of the word has been de-sexualized and it's now more commonly used to identify cowards, bigots and assh*les alike.

  2. Irwin Alvarado

    July 25, 2013 at 1:35 am

    I'll share a letter I wrote to Gabriel Rodriguez, who started a petition in Change.org about the issue:

    Hi Gabriel,

    I believe you're greatly misinterpreting the song Puto from Molotov. Besides the difference in regional slang use of the word, you have to also understand the political and cultural context in which the song was written. You have to go back to 1995 and understand the frustrations on Mexicans due to corruption, a huge economic crisis and threats to personal liberties and free speech.

    The link to the translation provided in your petition is poorly done and does not reflect at all the sentiment of the song. To begin with, the word "faggot" is not an accurate translation for "puto". A more appropriate word to the context would be a combination of "asshole", "fucker" and "coward". As you can see, literal translations are not easy if you don't understand the underlying context in which the words are used.

    I've been a very strong supporter of gay rights and I've done a lot of work in my community to promote a equality and respect towards everyone. Believe me, I would be the first one to protest hateful lyrics. But I also grew up in Mexico and understand the powerful social and rebellious message that this song conveys which has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with personal freedom, taking action and standing up against injustice and corruption.

    I'm am really debating internally whether I need to re-translate and explain the song to you verse by verse, but that might not help accomplish anything if you already believe that this is purely anti-gay propaganda.

    I believe the LGBT message that we've been promoting for a long time is one of equality and freedom to live the lifestyle that we were born with and without fear of being subjugated against someone else's will and norms. Wouldn't you agree? Well, that's what "Puto" stands for as well.

    I would like to share with you a more appropriate translation of the song's message:

    Puto is the one that doesn't jump, rejoices and express the joy of being free.

    Puto is the one that conforms to what society dictates.
    and to the one that believes the lies our politicians say.

    Puto is the one who takes away our life, freedom and liberty.

    Puto is also the one who protects, covers or ignores the issues.

    Puto is one who does not have the courage to liberate him or herself from society's norms.

    and if you live subjugated by those norms, you'll die by them.

    Regards,
    Irwin

  3. Activist

    July 24, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Irwin, your argument is the same one that the band made when it was confronted with protests by gay activists — Mexican and Spanish gay activists — about their song. It just does not ring true. Even if people concede your claim that Puto means “assh*le,” which I don’t concede, but let’s just do so for the sake of this point, then how do you defend the band’s use of the slur “maricon?” What do you say about that? Does it also miraculously mean something other than “faggot” when the band uses it? Don’t think so.

    Your argument, and that of the band, is essentially the same as when adolescents in the US call this or that, or someone, “gay” and then say that they did not intend the word to mean to refer to homosexuality but instead to refer to something weak, lame, etc. That argument is almost as insulting as the slur itself. The anti-gay animus behind the slur is still fueling it, even when it is used to attack something else. Gay, in other words, means something bad, undesirable, unacceptable, etc.

    Lastly, “puto” as you say has various meanings across Latin America. In Mexico, however, a PRIMARY meaning is “faggot,” especially when it is coupled with the other slur, “maricon,” whose meaning universally is a slur for a gay male.

  4. Irwin Alvarado

    July 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Hi Activist,

    Yes, "maricon" also means something different than "faggot" in Mexico when used on a different context. It means "coward". For example, if my brother doesn't want to go play paintballs with me I would tell him -"no seas maricon" and that has zero sexual connotations and he'll just laugh. Maricon derives from the word Maria, or Mariquita which is a diminutive for the name. Initially it referred to as "sissy" which is obviously an indication or lack of "manliness". But the word has adapted over time and will have very different meanings depending on the usage context.

    In fact, that part or the song, "Amo maton, matarile al maricon" is a reference to an old Spanish song that goes "Ambó ató, matarile, rile, ron". The word play used with "Amo maton*" refers to a bully being called on for being such a coward. "Matarile al maricon" would translate to "down with that coward".

    Across all cultures there tends to be a semantic change in word usage that adapts organically to subcultures and social changes. This is just an example of it. If you interact with younger generations of Mexicans you'll see that friends will call each other in a friendly "puto" or "wey" or "cabron" or other terms that have drifted from their original intent or meaning and adapted over time. This happens across all cultures and all generations.

    (*By the way, maton means bully not killer http://es.thefreedictionary.com/mat%C3%B3n ).

  5. Activist

    July 25, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Irwin, I understand your argument, but you really are proving my point. Yes, Latinos like you and me may use “maricon” to refer to people other than gays, but the definition of the term is still “faggot.” Look up the word in any Spanish dictionary and you will see that the primary definition is that of the derogative anti-gay slur. That people in Spanish AND in English call people and things “gay” and “faggot” because they want to define them as queer and weak and cowardly and stupid does not change the fact that the words themselves primarily refer to homosexuals. The connotation is that the target is queer and weak and cowardly because the slurs mean “gay.” In other words, you are getting bogged down in semantics and, with all due respect, defending an indefensible use of anti-gay slurs and lyrics. Even if “puto” were in a gray area, “maricon” is most certainly not. It means “faggot” throughout Latin America. It’s like defending the use of the terms “retarded” or “bitch” by saying that the target was neither intellectually disabled nor a female dog and that you used them solely to mean “dumb” or “unpleasant.” Thing is that those uses are still highly offensive to the intellectually disabled and to women as well as to their allies.

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Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville

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Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

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