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Reporter who covered Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico comes out

David Begnaud tweeted picture with partner

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CBS News reporter David Begnaud reports from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth. He came out publicly as gay on June 24, 2018, when he tweeted a picture of him with his partner. (Photo courtesy of CBS News)

A CBS News reporter who has received widespread praise for his extensive coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico came out publicly on Sunday.

David Begnaud tweeted a picture of him at a dinner with his partner, Jeremy, and wrote, “reporting the truth includes my own.” The tweet also includes the hashtag “happy Pride.”

“It just felt right,” Begnaud told the Washington Blade on Monday during a telephone interview from South Texas where he is covering the impact of President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that includes the continued separation of immigrant children from their parents. “I was inspired by what I was seeing in New York City for the Pride celebration.”

Begnaud and his partner, who lives in Los Angeles, have been together for nearly seven years.

Begnaud, a Louisiana native who is currently based in Dallas, told the Blade he came out to his family a decade ago. Begnaud added “it just felt right” to share the picture of him and his partner on his Twitter page.

“It was on my heart,” said Begnaud. “Jeremy, my partner, is the salt of the earth.”

Begnaud told the Blade his sexual orientation “is something that is as old as I am.”

“It’s also not a banner headline for me,” he added. “It’s who I am. It’s who I love.”

Begnaud has ‘an obligation’ to Puerto Ricans

Begnaud was in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, when Maria made landfall on the island’s southeast coast with winds of 155 mph. He also covered the hurricane’s immediate aftermath; which included a lack of electricity, running water and cell phone service across the island and a shortage of food and other basic supplies.

Begnaud interviewed Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and other officials in the U.S. commonwealth about Maria, its impact and the status of the relief effort. Begnaud also helped Puerto Ricans contact their relatives in the mainland U.S. after Maria.

The hurricane’s official death toll remains 64, but it is likely much higher.

Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Colorado School of Medicine and other institutions have concluded Maria may have killed upwards of 4,645 people. Other estimates place the death toll at around 1,000.

Residents of the Candelero Arriba neighborhood of Humacao, a city on Puerto Rico’s southeast coast, had no electricity last month when the Blade was in the area last month. Begnaud on Monday noted residents of Utuado, a town that is located in the U.S. commonwealth’s mountainous interior, have not had electricity for more than nine months.

Begnaud on June 23 tweeted 2,669 “customers still do not have power” in Puerto Rico and “it may be another months (sic) before they get it.”

He retweeted an article from El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, on Monday that says “at least 248 critical facilities” across the island are running on generators because they still do not have electricity. Begnaud in his tweet noted it costs $2.1 million a day to keep them running.

Begnaud told the Blade he has “an obligation to not let people forget about Puerto Ricans, our fellow Americans” even as he “moves on to other stories.”

Workers begin to install a roof onto a hurricane-damaged house in the Candelero Arriba neighborhood of Humacao, Puerto Rico, on May 26, 2018. Some of the neighborhood’s residents had no electricity more than eight months after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

‘A piece of my heart will always remain in Puerto Rico’

The organizers of New York’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade earlier this month honored Begnaud. He was unable to attend Los Angeles Pride with his partner because the parade took place on the same day.

“A piece of my heart will always remain in Puerto Rico,” Begnaud told the Blade. “The love they have shown towards me has just humbled me.”

CBS News reporter David Begnaud, center, interviews Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth. (Photo courtesy of CBS News)

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTI advocacy group, on Sunday applauded Begnaud.

“The award-winning journalist who has won the hearts of Puerto Ricans — because he has made Puerto Rico one of his priorities — today during this month of the LGBTT fight shared who has won his heart,” tweeted Serrano. “Congratulations David Begnaud.”

LGBT Puerto Rico, an LGBTI website on the island, in a tweet that congratulated Begnaud for coming out describes him as a “hero of Puerto Rico.”

Begnaud conceded to the Blade he felt “a little trepidation” about coming out publicly, in part, because of the teasing he said he suffered as a child. Begnaud said he was “overwhelmed” by the positive reaction he has received.

“I thought it was so profound,” he said.

Begnaud added he wants to “inspire other people to feel comfortable telling their story.”

“I want to encourage them by saying: It took me 24 years to get to the place where I was ready to tell my family and another decade before I was ready to do so publicly,” he said. “So, whenever you’re ready there’s a world of love waiting to embrace you.”

Many structures in La Perla neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico, still have temporary roofs — “techos azules” in Spanish — more than eight months after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

David Begnaud sale del clóset públicamente

Un reportero de CBS News que ha recibido elogios generalizados por su amplio reportaje de las secuelas del huracán María en Puerto Rico salió del clóset públicamente el domingo.

David Begnaud twitteó una foto de el a una cena con su pareja, Jeremy, y escribió, “reportar la verdad incluye la mía.” El tweet también incluye el hashtag “feliz Orgullo.”

“Simplemente se sentía bien,” Begnaud dijo al Washington Blade el lunes durante una entrevista telefónica desde el Sur de Texas donde está reportando sobre el impacto de la política migratoria de “cero tolerancia” del presidente Trump que incluye la continúa separación de niños inmigrantes de sus padres. “Me inspiré en lo que estaba viendo en Nueva York para la celebración del Orgullo.”

Begnaud y su pareja, quién vive en Los Ángeles, han sido juntos por casi siete años.

Begnaud, un nativo de Luisiana quién vive en Dallas, dijo al Blade que salió del clóset a sus familiares hace una década. Begnaud añadió “simplemente se sentía bien” para compartir la foto de el y su pareja en su página de Twitter.

“Estaba en mi corazón,” dijo Begnaud.

Begnaud dijo al Blade que su orientación sexual “es algo que es tan viejo como yo.”

“Tampoco es un gran titular para mí,” añadió. “Es quién soy. Es a quién amo.”

Begnaud tiene ‘una obligación’ a los puertorriqueños

Begnaud estaba en Puerto Rico el 20 de septiembre de 2017 cuando María tocó tierra en la costa sureste de la isla con vientos de 155 mph. También reportó sobre las secuelas inmediatas del huracán que incluye la falta de electricidad, agua potable, servicio de teléfono celular, comida y otros suministros básicos.

Begnaud entrevistó al gobernador de Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló, a la alcaldesa de San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz y a otros funcionarios en el estado libre asociado estadounidense sobre María, su impacto y el estatus de los esfuerzos de ayuda. Begnaud también ayudó a los puertorriqueños de conectar con sus familiares en el continente estadounidense después de María.

El número oficial de muertos del huracán sigue siendo 64, pero es probable que sea mucho más alto.

Investigadores del Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health y otras instituciones han concluidos que María puede haber matado a más de 4.645 personas. Otras estimaciones situán el número de muertos en alrededor de 1.000.

Residentes del barrio de Candelero Arriba de Humacao, una ciudad en la costa sureste de Puerto Rico, no tuvieron electricidad el pasado mes cuando el Blade estaba en la zona. Begnaud el lunes dijo que hay personas en Utuado, una municipalidad en las montañas de la isla, no han tenido electricidad por más de nueve meses.

Begnaud el 23 de junio twitteó que 2.669 “clientes ya no tienen luz” en Puerto Rico y “pueden pasar otro meses (sic) antes de tenerla.”

El retwitteó un artículo de El Nuevo Día, un periódico puertorriqueño, el lunes que dice “al mínimo de 248 facilidades críticas” por toda la isla están funcionando con generadores porque todavía no tienen electricidad. Begnaud en su tweet indica que cuesta $2.1 millón cada día para operarlas.

Begnaud dijo al Blade que tiene “una obligación de no dejar al público se olvide de los puertorriqueños, nuestros compatriotas estadounidenses,” aunque “pasa a otros temas.”

‘Una parte de mi corazón siempre permanecerá en Puerto Rico’

Los organizadores del Desfile Nacional Puertorriqueño en Nueva York a principios de este mes honraron a Begnaud. No pudo asistir el Orgullo de Los Ángeles con su pareja porque se celebró el desfile el mismo día.

“Una parte de mi corazón siempre permanecerá en Puerto Rico,” Begnaud dijo al Blade. “El amor que han demostrado hacía mí acaba de humillarme.”

Pedro Julio, el fundador de Puerto Rico Para [email protected], un grupo LGBTI puertorriqueño, el domingo aplaudió a Begnaud.

“El galardonado periodista que se ha ganado los corazones de los boricuas — porque ha hecho de Puerto Rico una de sus prioridades — comparte hoy quien ha ganado su corazón en este mes de la lucha LGBTT,” twitteó Serrano. “Gracias David Begnaud.”

LGBT Puerto Rico, un sitio web LGBTI en la isla, en un tweet que felicitó a Begnaud para salir del clóset le describe como “un héroe de Puerto Rico.”

Begnaud concedió al Blade que se sentía “un poco inquieto” sobre salir del clóset públicamente, en parte, por las burlas que dijo haber sufrido como niño. Begnaud dijo que estaba “abrumado” por la reacción positiva que ha recibido.

“Pensé que era tan profundo,” dijo.

Begnaud añadió que quiere “inspirar a otras personas de sentirse cómodo de decir sus historias.”

“Quiero alentarlos diciendo: Me tomó 24 años llegar al lugar donde estaba listo para contarle a mi familia y otra década antes de estar listo para hacerlo públicamente,” dijo. “Entonces, cuando estás listo, hay un mundo de amor esperando abrazarte.”

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards

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Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade

 

A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami

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Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)

 

MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness

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Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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