Friday, April 28, 2006

Queer Misogyny

Queer men face a serious problem within the community that does not receive much attention or discussion. A pathological current spreads among gay men that has reached epidemic proportions. No, I am not talking about the growing dependency on spray-on tans (although...). Rather, I am constantly struck by the level of misogyny that comes into play during many informal gatherings of gay men. Misogyny, the irrational fear and hatred of women’s bodies, too frequently creeps into our conversations when we are in exclusively gay-male groups.

Regardless of the racial, educational, or class make-up of the queer group, I have been dumbfounded by how easily self-identified gay men fall into misogynist dialogues or jokes. For many gay men, degrading women’s bodies as dysfunctional, inferior, or just plain icky becomes a means through which they attempt to build unity with other gay men.

Come on, boys, we can work this out. Loving cock does not mean hating vaginas.

More times than I would like to recount, however, I have witnessed exclusively gay male partygoers descend into discussions about their disdain of vaginas and women’s bodies in general. Even the most sexist straight guy would probably blush at the unchecked misogyny in queer-told jokes about vaginal penetration and/or menstruation. If you are a gay man who claims that he has never witnessed this type of discussion within a circle of gay male friends, you are either lying or not paying attention.

We shouldn’t be particularly surprised by the level of misogyny that some gay men harbor. All men seem to be socialized to bond through a common contempt of women. Misogyny, as many feminist scholars have consistently argued, is so pervasive and normative that we often don’t even see it. One needs only tune into mainstream U.S. television for five minutes to witness an unabashed disparaging of women’s bodies. All of the commercials for “women’s products” would lead one to conclude that women are always in a desperate state of infection and disrepair. If we take these ads literally, we could only assume that being a modern woman involves nothing but itching, burning, involuntary urination, and unending discussions about “freshness” with their co-workers.



Degrading women’s bodies as both exclusively sexual and also dysfunctional serves as a means for many men (regardless of sexuality) to claim unity in the alleged superiority of their own bodies. Perhaps some gay men take this even further as they deem women as less worthy because they have no desire to even fuck with them.

Gay men, though, know better. Much of the success of gay men, both politically and in our personal lives, depended on the active engagement of feminists in discussions about sexuality. Before gay men establish themselves within a community of gay men, they often report that the surrounding women in their lives helped them come to terms with their sexuality. In other parts of their lives, gay men continue to have strong personal bonds with women in their lives. Their mothers, sisters, and gal-pals all serve as much of their central support.

Yet, even gay men who consider themselves liberal can have a tendency to express sexist ideas or make jokes poking fun at women’s bodies. This type of contradiction suggests ambivalence about sex and gender within the gay community. Undoubtedly, the women in these men’s lives would be hurt and frightened if they were privy to the negative comments directed at women’s bodies.

Despite their other relationships with women, some gay men probably feel a type of empowerment by degrading women. Fears of being labeled “feminine” haunt many gay men’s lives. Our society still construes “masculine” and “feminine” as polar opposites. To obtain status as “manly,” we are taught as children that any trace of femininity must be obliterated within ourselves. Many gay men’s sense of self-value has been constantly threatened and attacked by claims that they are not “masculine” because of their sexual preferences, which are presumed to be “feminine.” These gay men wrongly attempt to recover their sense of self by verbally assaulting women within the security of the gay community.

I am not suggesting that misogyny within the gay community is the greatest threat to women. On the contrary, straight white men have the most power and ability to exploit and oppress all of us. Gay men’s allegedly humorous devaluing of women, however, makes us complicite in women’s oppression. It upholds assumptions about gender and sexuality that also keep us trapped.

I recognize that simply saying “Stop it” will not be enough to end misogyny within the gay community. Ignoring this problem, though, costs us much more than we realize.

We have to strengthen our solidarity between feminism and gay men’s quest for sexual freedom. If we become more vigilant about the ways that misogyny operates within our community and even in our own ideas about ourselves, we can start to recognize the critical links between gay liberation and the women’s movement. Solidarity between gay men and women increases our power and ability to further our resistance to the status quo.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Day in the Life

Recently, Money Magazine ranked “College Professor” as number two in their list of the fifty best jobs (we lost to software engineer for number one). Many people have started asking, if it’s such a great job, what do you do all day?

Hey, I am the first to acknowledge that being a prof (particularly being a gay-prof) is one sweet gig, if you can get it. Much of my day is spent thinking and wondering. I am a thinker.

Let’s take a look at how a typical day for me usually goes:

    9:30 am --10:00 am: Wake-up/shower. Nothing forces me to be at the office at any particular time.

    10:00 am -- 10:30 am: Coffee, Read the news. Wonder how 51% of the U.S. voters could have been so feebleminded in 2004.

    10:30 am -- 10:35 am: Check e-mail.

    10:35 am -- 10:40 am: Lament the lack of personal e-mail. Well, except for a note from a very nice barrister who wants me to be a business partner with him. Apparently, he has access to a secret bank account and needs my help to free up this money. All I have to do is give him my bank account, then I will be rich! Perhaps, though, I have said too much.

    10:40 am -- 10:50 am: Arrive at the office and read snail-mail. Open the tenth box of free textbooks sent to me that week. Wonder why free textbooks seem to be the only Swag associated with this job.

    10:50 am -- 11:00 am: Meet with a disgruntled student who feels he/she should have gotten a better grade on an exam/paper/quiz. (During Normal Semesters – This semester, this is blog-reading time).

    11:00 am -- 11:05 am: Finally get the student to admit that he/she did not read the book for the exam/paper/quiz, thus resulting in his/her low grade. Lie Promise that the reading will get easier as the semester progresses. (During Normal Semesters – This semester, this is coffee drinking time).

    11:05 am -- 11:55 am: Teach first class (During normal semesters – This semester, this is blog-reading time)

    11:55 am -- 12:15 pm: Lunch – These days consisting of Hello Kitty! Pop-Tarts ©.

    12:15 pm -- 1:10 pm: Teach second class (During normal semesters – This semester, this is vintage gay-porn watching time – strictly for historical research)

    1:10 pm -- 1:30 pm: Chat with a colleague about newly-acquired historical documents that show how much money Thomas Jefferson spent on flax seed. Secretly be smug that my research interests don’t seem so arcane in comparison.

    1:30 pm -- 1:45 pm: Open word-processing program to my research project. Stare blankly at the screen for fifteen minutes. Realize that my current research project is so arcane that it makes the price of Jefferson’s flax seeds seem downright riveting.

    1:45 pm -- 2:00 pm: Debate about which character from the movie 9 to 5 I would most resemble if I were a woman and an office-worker. Conclude that I would be a mix between Lilly Tomlin’s tough and pragmatic Violet and Jane Fonda’s na├»ve divorcee Judy.

    2:00 pm -- 2:05 pm: Feel sad that I could never be imagined as Dolly Parton’s perky and sexy Doralee.

    2:05 pm -- 2:10 pm: Return to word-processor and pledge to write something on the research project in the next hour.

    2:10 pm -- 2:15 pm: Question how many times a cursor blinks each minute. Decide to count.

    2:15 pm -- 2:20 pm: Suddenly wonder what ever happened to my best friend from the second grade. What was his name? Matt? Mark? Melvin? Decide to google him.

    2:20 pm -- 2:30 pm: Listen to a senior traditional-history colleague who stopped by my office. Be informed that he has doubts that I will ever get tenure because Latino history is too “narrow and regional.”

    2:30 pm -- 2:45 pm: Regret moving to Texas.

    2:45 pm -- 3:00 pm: Actually write two new paragraphs for my research project, mostly out of spite for the senior traditional-history colleague.

    3:00 pm -- 3:15 pm: Celebrate having written something by reading more blogs.

    3:15 pm -- 3:30 pm: Take a well-earned coffee-break with a friend and junior colleague in the department. Have discussion about which word-processing program, MS-Word© or WordPerfect©, is better able to handle our needs. Take a firm stance for WordPerfect, but secretly think we are both hopeless dorks for having an opinion on this subject.

    3:30 pm -- 4:00 pm: Stare at research project on computer screen again. Maybe write one more paragraph. Wish drinking tequila in the office wasn't such a taboo.

    4:00 pm -- 4:30pm: Spend quality time hating and despising the liar-ex.

    4:30 pm -- 4:45 pm: Contemplate if I hate the liar-ex too much. Conclude that he deserves the hatred. Make a note to increase the time spent hating him to a full hour tomorrow.

    4:45 pm -- 5:15 pm: Search e-bay for golden, silver, and bronze-age Wonder Woman comics.

    5:15 pm -- 5:30 pm: Make one last effort to write something on the research project.

    5:30 pm -- 6:20 pm: Attend therapy session to find more healthy ways of dealing with my life. Question legitimacy of psychotherapy, but decide to keep attending therapy for access to Xanax.

    6:20 pm -- 8:30 pm: Gym time – Divide time between straining muscles and wondering if this will be the day that the hunky guy in the blue shirt will actually talk to me. He does not.

    8:30 pm -- 9:00 pm: Return to apartment and prepare dinner. This usually involves punching holes in some type of bag and tossing it in the microwave.

    9:00 pm -- 9:50 pm: Read new history book for work. Wonder how I will ever get my own research done.

    9:50 pm -- 10:00 pm: Pledge to spend less time reading blogs and more time working on my research project tomorrow.

    10:00 pm -- 10:40 pm: Watch re-runs of Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie on DVR. Be pleasantly surprised by how dreamy Larry Hagman used to be. Be equally horrified by how grim both Darrins used to be, especially compared to Samantha.

    10:40 pm -- 11:00 pm: Write a new blog entry – Wonder why I can’t have a career writing and reading blogs.

    11:00 pm –- 12:30 am: Write e–mails chronicling my action packed day.

    12:30 am -- 1:00 am: Suffer from insomnia. Contemplate drinking a fifth of vodka to solve the problem.

    1:00 am -- 2:00 am: Decide, instead, to watch Wonder Woman on DVD to solve insomnia problem. Play game trying to deduce which scenes involve Lynda Carter wearing a wig and which show her real hair.

    2:00 am: Sleep. Dream of something historical.


Yeah, it’s a real mystery why people think being a college professor is such a cushy job. Look at my day! All I do is slave, slave, slave – work, work, work.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Exposed!

Over the past few days, the inevitable occurred. Two colleagues from my university found my little bloggy and deduced the true identity of GayProf. Perhaps I should not have worn that gold and red bra with matching Old-Glory short-shorts to faculty functions.

Still, it came as more of a shock than I expected to be exposed to local colleagues. Diana Prince found it so much easier to keep her secret identity. All she had to do was put her hair in a bun and toss on some glasses and nobody ever asked questions. In my case, though, people kept noticing that GayProf and I were never in the same room at the same time. They also found the invisible jet in my parking space.

My detectors are friends, so it’s not such a big deal. Still, the lack of local anonymity prompted some probing questions for me about the blog. “What?” I hear, “GayProf having a moment of existential crisis? That’s so unusual.” Hush-up, sarcastic voice in my head.

It’s not that I have been particularly zealous about preserving my anonymity. There has been the occasional picture. Anyone who e-mails me will know my actual name (btw, it’s not really “GayProf.” That’s my middle name. My parents were very forward thinking). Plus, there just aren’t that many gay, Latino history professors in Texas. No, it’s true.



This blog started for two major reasons. One, my liar ex (who told many lies) had declared me “clutter” in his life and decided to treat me as such. The bloggy offered distraction as he focused all his energy on any other man showing him half-a-minute’s attention. Yeah, he turned himself into a real winner of a human being. He thought he was the shit, but, in truth, he isn’t worth shit to have treated me that way. Too bitter for you? Hey, let me remind you again that the blog is the Center of Gravitas. Go somewhere else for lemon drops and rainbows.

My overwhelming acrimony aside, the blog allowed me to concentrate on something else while our eight-year relationship limped to destruction last fall. Secondly, the blog provided a connection to an outside world. Having spent the previous few years in East Texas, I felt banished to a town remote beyond compare. The bloggy offered a means to link to folk who didn’t necessarily drive giant pick-up trucks and attend Baptist services every Sunday.

Still, given that I often referred to some of the other professors here as sexist, racist, homophobic vipers, I thought it wise to conceal my blog from most people at this university. Yet, not telling your local friends about a blog can be uncomfortable.

Finding new friends through a blog is great. However, when your already existing friends find the blog that you never told them about, it’s a bit like being caught masturbating. Sure, we all do it. Yet, your friends will never look at you quite the same again. Especially if you were masturbating on a cross-town bus. Uh – I imagine.

I always envisioned that local detection of my blog would result in my deleting it. It turns out, though, I like my little bloggy quite a bit. In particular, it has allowed me to meet some really cool people out there.

My original reasons for keeping the blog have transformed. Now I find the blog a great place to try out some new ideas on race, gender and sexuality. I get feedback from the really smart people out there on the blogsphere. I would miss bloggy and all of you.

Upon reflection, I also don’t think I include anything in the blog that I wouldn’t tell people in my day-to-day life. So, my stories include references to some fellow academics as sexist, racist, homophobic vipers. In general, though, I think I would probably say it to their face. Well, maybe not the “viper” bit. That might be over the top. Probably I would use the kinder moniker “worm-creature.”

My point is, though, I don’t think the blog contains anything incriminating. When my blog includes stories about running the meth lab in the back of a minivan that pays for my male hookers, then maybe I should rethink it. Of course, I am joking. I would never drive a minivan.

Perhaps, though, I should refrain from calling some of my colleagues sexist, racist, homophobic vipers. Cold turkey seems so harsh, though. Maybe I will taper off.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Kitty, You Bitch!

My department completed the arduous voting process to select our new super-senior historian. It came as little surprise, but the traditional historians won by a landslide. If the candidate decides to take the job, I am sure he will be a fine addition. He seemed nice enough during the interview.

I am disturbed, though, by the way the vote became a referendum on the direction of the department. Traditional history seems poised to reclaim its never lost dominance. It also makes me blue that so many of my colleagues have so much anger towards “diversity” hires.

The last couple of posts, though, have already been filled with angst and civic duty. Even I think there is such a thing as too much gravitas. So, why not direct ourselves to the most extreme mixture of camp and sugar to ever hit the shelves? No, I am not talking about Pixy-Stix© (the former reigning champion).

GayProf likes to eat when he feels low. It’s a sad state of affairs, but if I am counting calories, I will actually choose sugar over alcohol – most times. Until Adam makes good with the cookies, I needed to find other food stuffs to feel better. My local market provided the astounding Pop-Tarts© based on Hello Kitty! You can find another review of this snack item here.



We already know that GayProf can be a sucker for food that comes in pink packaging. You add onto that Hello Kitty! and I am giggling like a Japanese School Girl.

Nothing appears natural about the Kitty tart. The frosting’s color simply doesn’t occur in the wild. The top of the tart (I like using the word “tart” as many times as possible) has been coated with neon yellow stars and moons. It looks like a magical elf used the tart as a tissue. Kellogg’s had the nerve to call the tart’s filling “Meow Berry,” which they probably used because it sounds less threatening than “sugar flavored sugar with red dye number 5."

The sad part is that I actually liked them. My conscious mind said not to like them, but my weak stomach said to eat them all. Did I mention they have lots of sugar? I think I might be suffering renal failure. I might not finish this post because of the sugar coma.

No wonder the U.S. has an obesity problem. If, through the modern miracles of science, Kellogg’s can make me consume dry pasty-dough like it was filled with crack, what hope do we have? Speaking of crack, I swear by the third tart the Hello Kitty image on the box started talking to me.

We have a collective obsession with sugar and fat. If we can get those two things served together, we will pay top dollar. This seems magnified in Texas. I have been to a restaurant that served deep-fried cheesecake. I can’t make this shit up. Somebody at some point said, “Gee, I love that taste of cheesecake, but wish it involved more fat. Maybe I should wrap it in philo dough and let it rest in a little lard Jacuzzi first.” You know I ordered a piece, too.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I Want Some Damn Cookies

For those who don’t know, Hypoxic wanted queer bloggers to devote today to voting and registering to vote. Adam, meanwhile, has been tormenting his readers with pictures of homo-made baked-goods. Does he hook GayProf up with any of those cookies? Oh, no, he wants bloggers to talk about civic duty and public responsibility just to get a chance to maybe have some cookies.

Fine, I am not above working for the oatmeal raisin. Heck, it’s better than trying to come up with an idea for my blog on my own.

So, how to get people to vote? How to get people to register to vote? How? How? How?

How about if we framed voting as a new reality t.v. show? I live in fear that American Idol will eventually attract more actual voters than mid-term elections. If you can’t beat them, join them.

Think of voting like your opportunity to cast somebody off the island. We can force all of the elected officials (who we will call “contestants”) to live in one giant house. Let’s call that house, oh, I don’t know, the Capitol Building. Within that house, we will dived the contestants into two teams: the Mars-Senators and the Mercury-Representatives. We will put cameras everywhere capturing their movements and interactions.

There can be the usual astounding realizations for reality t.v. We will likely find that Thomas Tancredo doesn’t wash his hands after using the restroom or that Katherine Harris can’t hold her liquor and starts hitting on whoever happens to be in the hot-tub.



Each week, all the contestants will face some type of “challenge.” One week, they could be forced to balance the budget while keeping a tiki torch lit. Another week, they might reconsider Puerto Rico’s status while they stand on logs for twelve hours.

Every evening, we could have video-summaries that shows that day’s events. Those who tune in regularly will be able to discuss who lies too much in the house and who just wants to be on t.v. For those who want a constant feed, we can set up an entire cable network that does nothing but show the proceedings of the Congress – er – I mean the house.

At the end of two years, if you registered to vote before hand, you can have the chance to decide who stays on the show. Because, in government, you are either “in” or you are “out.” Yep, the voters can toss out anybody who is part of the Mercury team every two years. Because of predetermined rules, though, only a third of Mars contestants can be eliminated every two years. Those contestants who survive elimination win a million dollars from their local lobbyist.

Have I convinced you to vote yet? Great – Now I have some suggestions to help the rest of the nation:

    – To increase the number of gay men voters, let’s make the voting machines dual purpose. Why not be able to cast your vote within a tanning booth? Elections are always in November, just the time that your summer glow starts to fade. With the tanning option, you can save democracy and look unseasonably golden brown. Lines at polling places would be around the block in West Hollywood.

    – Let’s follow the lead of some other nations and tax the shit out of the lazy-ass people who don’t vote. The fate of the national debt, war, the education system, and environmental disaster might not be big enough issues to get some people to the polls. If not voting means, though, they have to pay a tax the size of their monthly Starbucks tab, they’ll drive their Escalades right into the voting booth.

    – Speaking of Escalades, why not give out a free gallon of gas with every voter registered? Have you seen gas prices these days? Those Escalades burn-up four gallons just to roll down the windows. Toss a little petroleum in to sweeten the voting deal.

    – Voting booths can dispense drugs depending on which party you opted to choose. After the pull of the lever, Democrats could get Xanax. This should dull the pain of voting for the “lesser of two evils” and knowing that you likely lost anyway. The Green Party, naturally, would receive a joint. It can replace the one that they smoked while they were voting. The Republican Party could receive Acid. After all, they live in their own reality already, so why not have a legitimate excuse?

    – How about penalties for not voting on human rights issues? Is your state trying to cut welfare, keeps gays from getting married, or deprive immigrants of healthcare, but you are too lazy to even voice an opinion? Then I say you get a one-way ticket to being a bus-person at your local Denny’s. Screw public service that involves picking up trash on the highway – that’s too easy. People get nice tans doing that work. If you had to spend an hour washing syrup out of your hair each day, you would get your sticky ass to a voting booth.

    – Show the American voters what a great success it has been to bring elections to Iraq. We can show all the smiling, appreciative faces as they go to the polls. Yeah, many of those voters don’t have decent water, healthcare, or access to education, but surely the ability to elect a Parliament that never convenes brings them joy. Hmm, maybe we better wait on this one.

    – We should make it clear that Wonder Woman would vote if she was a U.S. citizen. Well, if she allowed elections on Paradise Island. Given that she is the heir to an absolute monarchy, though, she isn’t particularly inclined to start allowing voting now. It’s great for the U.S., though.



Though all of the above ideas show my brilliance, alas not many of them are likely to be picked up – except that tanning booth idea. That’s hot. Still, we are left with the reality that voting is a duty and a responsibility. Now is the time when we all have to come forward and demand that republicanism (the governmental system, not the political party) actually work in this country.

Are you a white man over the age of 21 who owns a large parcel of land? If not, then sometime in the past people like you (yes, YOU) fought for the right to vote because they thought it kinda important. Much of U.S. history has revolved around questions about who could and could not vote. Indeed, the U.S. has been historically pretty stingy with the vote (We won’t even go into the complicated ways we used to get Senators). Yet, people like you (yes, YOU) gave every ounce of their energy to ensure that subsequent generations of yous could participate in the government. Do you want to let down the dead by not voting? The dead will haunt you. Nobody wants Elizabeth Cady Stanton on their ass from beyond the grave.

Most importantly, GayProf wants to live in a nation that cares about human rights, that works within a world community, and provides for the basic needs of all its citizens. So, unless I move to the Netherlands, I am going to need you American folk to start voting more.

Visit vote-smart.org to learn how to register to vote in your state.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Truck

GayProf has a tough truth to put out there today. We might not like to hear it. It’s key, however, to my reasons for why queer people must continue to choose a sense of community. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy entry.

About ten years ago or so, Noble-Prize winning author Toni Morrison gave an interview to 60 Minutes. Asked to explain her suspicion of Americans of white heritage, Morrison gave the following statement:

With very few exceptions, I feel that white people will betray me; that in the final analysis, they'll give me up. If the trucks pass and they have to make a choice, they'll put me on that truck. That's really what I feel. There are some white people whom I have known over the years that I know would not do that, because they know I wouldn't do it to them. But there are very few of those people. By the way, there are lots of Black people who'd put me on that truck also, so I'm not trying to demonize the white race. It's just a kind of a constant vigilance and awareness that maybe these relationships can go just so far.


Morrison’s statements might seem chilling to many (even most), but people-of-color instantly identified with her remarks. Historical examples abound of otherwise fine and decent white folk getting caught up in the fervor around them that resulted in African Americans’ brutal deaths. Lynching involved entire communities, even the allegedly “tolerant.” If one is part of a dominant majority, it takes unique courage to challenge that group, even if real people are dying in front of your eyes. Kind words might have been spoken during times of peace, but when push came to shove, most ignored or actively participated in the violence.

Sexual minorities, however, have been slower than racial minorities to realize this icy truth. We must not flinch, though, from thinking about our vulnerability. Without trying to sound histrionic, we simply can’t depend on most heterosexuals. Should a secret police force, or even an angry Christian mob, arrive at your apartment door tomorrow, are you confident that your heterosexual neighbors will defend you? Or will they simply shake their heads, saying it’s a shame, but relieved that they weren’t gay and therefore subject to the same abuse?

There are, of course, some uniquely brave heterosexual folk who would intervene. There are also way too many queer folk who would simply hide in their own apartment. I don’t mean to indict people wholesale. I am not always confident that I would have the individual courage to fight either. After all, I couldn’t even heckle John McCain.

However, we need to discuss more openly the real dangers about being a minority. The majority can turn against us quicker than you might expect.

Sound extreme? Maybe – but history is on my side. It’s time to trot out the Nazis. Because of the scope and horrors of the Nazi regime, it is tempting to dismiss the Nazis as “forever ago.” Let us remember, though, that most of our grandparents were alive during the Nazi period in Germany. We aren’t talking about ancient Rome here.

The Nazi regime gained an astounding level of support from the general public for their persecution of gay men. As early as 1928, the Nazi party released explicit statements about their agendas. “Anyone who thinks of homosexual love is our enemy,” the party announced, “We...reject any form of lewdness, especially homosexuality, because it robs us of our last chance to free our people from the bondage which now enslaves it.”

On January 30, 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. By the summer of 1933, the Nazi SA raided and destroyed gay bars throughout Germany. By 1935, the German government instituted a full-scale campaign against gay men. In July 1935, the German courts claimed any action was punishable as a crime if the “inborn healthy instincts of the German people” demanded it.

At the same time, the SS announced its support of the death penalty for gay men. Heinrich Himmler declared gay men “propagation blanks” and a menace to German health because they spread homosexuality as an infection. Being gay, the Nazis declared, was “unnatural.” The Nazi government even established a special office, the “Reichs-Center for the Fight Against Homosexuality and Abortion,” as a division of the criminal police.



The same callousness among the German public that allowed over 6 million Jews to perish in the camps also permitted the persecution and death of gay men. Sixty percent of the gay men sent to Nazi prison camps did not live to see the arrival of Ally troops. Tens of thousands of gay men simply vanished. Very few objected.

When the Allies did liberate the camps, gay men found little sympathy. After all, Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union all had their own laws against male homosexual behavior. Therefore, the allies declared that homosexual inmates of Nazi concentration camps had not been wrongly imprisoned and, as a result, deserved no compensation for their suffering.

If Nazi Germany seems too far removed, we need only remember the general public's depraved indifference towards the AIDS crisis in the early eighties. As Brian noted in an earlier comment, in the early days of AIDS, gay men, because of their sense of community and shared identity, united and worked to provide social and medical services that the rest of the nation simply didn’t want to give out.

We should not deceive ourselves that this can’t happen again. The current level of religiously motivated hatred against gays and lesbians in the U.S. is real. Remember that 76 percent of Texan voters, along with voters in many other states, amended the state constitution to explicitly deprive gay men of the right to marry. Where were our heterosexual allies? Most of them simply stayed home and didn’t vote at all. If they objected, they didn't take ten minutes out of their day to prevent this change. Can we assume, then, that they would really stand in front of a truck?

This entry has much reference to death. So, I will end with another incident of persecution against gay men that simply makes heterosexuals look foolish in their paranoia. Our neighbor-to- the-north’s homophobia took on comical proportions during the middle of the twentieth century. Canada, following the lead of U.S. McCarthyism, became committed to purging gay men from the government in the fifties and sixties. Canadian officials found, though, we queer folk can be a tricky lot. If only they had some sort of machine to easily determine which of us was gay or not. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Yep, the Mounties) supported pseudoscience attempts to create just such a machine.



The RCMP dubbed the project “The Fruit Machine.” Though ultimately scrapped, the RCMP invested a great deal of effort in trying to detect gay men in their ranks. They attempted to measure perspiration in response to words like “queen, rim, wolf, tea room, and top men.” Another “study” required subjects to view picture of seminude men in physique magazines along with Playboy magazines. Scientists attempted to measure their eye movements as a means to determine their attention span. Silly, scared heteros!

From the deadly reality of Nazi death camps to the absurdity of the Mounties’ fruit machine, gay men faced a hostile heterosexual majority in the twentieth century. Though we should hope that many heterosexuals will come to our aid, we need to renew our commitments to each other. We can only depend on those with shared experiences and a shared position. If we, as queer folk, aren’t there for each other, the reality of the truck will loom before us.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

He Ain't Got Rhythm

TornWordo proved insightful in the pervious post’s comments. Friday’s meeting and some other minor annoyances (not worth mentioning) put me in a cranky mood over the weekend. To break the funk, I went with a friend to a belly dancing exposition on Sunday evening.

Why belly dancing? For starters, I felt that I should know more about this dance form than what I remember about Kelly infiltrating a Middle-Eastern restaurant in a Charlie’s Angels episode. I suspected that Jaclyn Smith’s performance may not have been entirely authentic. Besides, it’s good for me to get out and take advantage of the few quasi-interesting things that occur in this town.

I would have included pictures of the dancers, but I don’t currently own a digital camera. My phone has that option, but the resolution makes the images fairly grainy. Besides, pictures only distract from talking about me.

Anyway, the performance went fine – until it threatened to expose one of GayProf’s deep secrets. As the music and dancing increased intensity, the audience began rhythmically clapping. If I joined the clapping, I would never keep the right pace. I am always a half beat behind. Most people can’t help getting into the tempo when surrounded by a hundred others all clapping at the same rate. Yet, for whatever reason, I just can’t do it.

You see, dear readers, I lack any and all sense of rhythm. No, it’s true. I could not find the bass beat of a song using a seismograph. I have been mocked (MOCKED!) on dance floors – by MY FRIENDS!

When I go to clubs, I often have to come up with excuses about why I stay chained to the bar all night instead of dancing. “You all go ahead,” I say, “I don’t want anyone to take your purses. What? Those aren’t your purses? Oh, right, I started robbing people before I came to the club. I better keep a low profile then and stay close to the bar.” If they persist in wanting me to dance, I have to come up with better reasons like, “Sorry, I lost a leg in Vietnam" or "I don’t want to leave the bar because, um, I am an alcoholic.” Actually, that last one is not technically a lie.

There are many reasons why one might expect that I should have a sense of rhythm. Christ, I played a musical instrument for six (6) years in school. Granted, I chose the clarinet and sucked at it. Still, you would think something would have stuck.

Small beads of sweat formed on my head as the wave of clapping fervor crested. I knew my friend would quickly notice my affliction. How could she not? What kind of dork can’t, you know, clap? I wonder if it is an inner-ear thing.

Thoughts of potential escape raced through my mind. Perhaps I could feign having caught that bird flu thing. Or maybe I could yell “Fire.” No, that wouldn’t be ethical unless there really was a fire. Wait -- I could start a fire.

Alas, there was no escape and I had to join the crowd. My friend instantly noted that I could never quite match the rest of the audience. She is no longer my friend.

Being gay and part Latino means people expect things. I have failed my people. At least I can take comfort in shattering stereotypes. That’s something, right?

All of this proves one thing that I always suspected. One should never question the validity of the original Charlie's Angels.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

I Attend Meetings

I recognize that I don’t have a particularly difficult job. Being a college professor doesn’t involve a lot of heavy lifting. We don’t need to keep canaries around just in case one of the classrooms collapses. Spending most of my time in an archive or looking at microfilm means that I don’t really have much human contact. For me, it’s great.

I think of the poor Barista at my local Starbucks who always has to be chipper to see us cranky folk jonesing for our morning fix. Trying to talk to me before I have some coffee is a bad idea. Yet, he is always so happy, or at least pretends to be so happy, to give me a cup of Joe. I learned long ago, my gravitas prevents me from making a good impression with the general public.

So, yeah, I like my job and I don't like to moan. Sometimes, though, I can’t believe how petty other academics can be. My department wants to hire a super-special-senior historian. A generous alumni decided we needed a better quality of historian in our department. Heck, who can blame him? So he donated a pile of money to make that happen. The problem being, though, that these types of hires always bring out the sharp divides that exist in our department.

Our department currently splits along the lines of “traditional” historians (think somebody who moves around flags-on-maps) and “cultural” historians (think somebody who justifies watching hours of vintage gay porn as “research.” See? I love my job). The “traditional” historians are quite angry about all the changes that occurred in the department over the past five years. I can’t say I really understand what fuels the anger.



Not all the white, straight men in the department are “traditional” historians; however, all the “traditional” historians are white, straight men. They claim to be under siege – which is readily apparent given that white, straight men currently constitute a mere 80 percent of our department, and barely 95 percent of the senior faculty. White, straight men also occupy the administrative positions of Director of Graduate Studies, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Associate Department Head, Department Head, Dean, Provost, and President of the University. Yeah, the poor dears have really been forced out of power. It’s a brand new day at our university.

I am not claiming that it is all about race, gender, and sexuality nor do I blame white, straight, men for all of the university’s problems – entirely. What astounds me, though, is that the “traditional” historians are the ones who are the first to claim that we cultural historians (read: gays, women, and racial minorities) infringe on their rights. They disparage our work as “too narrow” because we focus on minority populations or women. In their mind, white, straight, men are still the real story for history.

On Friday, we had a meeting to discuss hiring our super-special-senior historian. In that time, the “traditional” historians seethed with anger and venom. They demanded the department hire another historian just like them. One senior “traditional” historian actually stated, “We have gone along with all of these ‘diversity’ hires. We allowed the department to offer courses in things that are irrelevant, like ‘Border Studies’ and ‘Women’s History.’ How many women historians do we need? Now it’s time to give back to the department’s real strengths: Traditional History.”

These are the same folk who attempted to eliminate the department’s non-discrimination clause a few years back. I am constantly annoyed that they disparage our research as a means to feel better about themselves. I don’t feel an equal hostility to their work. On the contrary, I am glad that somebody else spends their time moving flags around on maps. There is too much vintage gay porn for me to watch. I don’t have time to think about which army regiment went to which battle.

When I think about hiring, I selfishly want to hire people who will be my friends. I get so lonely here. So, more than anything, I think, “Hey, is this somebody who I would invite for coffee?” For me, it’s just not that deep. The stakes in academia are so low.

For the “traditional” historians, though, the next hire clearly will impact their mental well-being. They have all the power and the numbers, but they feel quite persecuted. This is why I have started sitting close to the door during department meetings. One of them might show up to the next meeting with a shotgun should we hire somebody who is not white, straight, and male. In a blaze of bullets, they will be shouting “Where are my blue flags? Where are my blue flags?”

As the department’s gay Latino guy, I know my ass would be first on their list too. That’s why I stretch my calve muscles before each meeting. I like my job and all, but I am not going to give my life for it. If one of these mother-fuckers finally snaps, I am out. GayProf will just be a blur. My speed out the door will qualify me to be the next Bruce Jenner on the Wheaties box. Before they have time to reload, I plan to be at my parking garage.



I just don’t understand it. The “traditional” historians have the same job as me,except they are paid more and have tenure. I am here to tell you, it’s a cushy job. Whoever we hire will not be paid out of their bank account nor are they going to be fired (tenure prevents that). The women, gays, and minority folk don’t sneak into their offices and rearrange the flags on their maps during the middle of the night. Why are the “traditional” historians so incensed? My guess is that they simply aren’t watching enough porn.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

GayProf, The Coward

Dear readers, it turns out that GayProf still has his moments of cowardice. “No, GayProf! That can’t be true,” I can hear you saying, “Surely you are being hard on yourself. We all turn to you as a beacon of hope and freedom shining through the darkness of our lives. Lead us, GayProf, into the light.” Okay, maybe you aren’t saying that last bit – at this exact moment.

Still, it’s true. I totally chickened out from a planned moment of exercising my free speech.

Not so long ago, my campus entertained Senator John McCain. You all know McCain, right? The man currently competing with Tony Blair to be crowned Bush’s poodle.

A sassy friend of mine and I decided we would attend McCain’s little talk and heckle him. We had big plans, too. Given that McCain promised to discuss immigration reform, we thought we would shout out, “THOUGH YOUR PROPOSALS SEEM SLIGHTLY MORE REASONABLE THAN YOUR REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES' IDEAS, WE FEEL YOU SERIOUSLY UNDERESTIMATE THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC FACTORS THAT MOTIVATE MIGRATION ACROSS AN IMAGINARY INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY AND YOU REJECT THE IMPORTANCE OF A MULTI-CULTURE, MULTI-LINGUAL NATION.”

Upon reflection, we decided that the above might be a bit wordy. Instead, we shortened it to “SELL OUT!” We also planned an ending with “QUEER RIGHTS NOW!” given McCain’s recent decision to lick Jerry Falwell’s boots speak at Jerry Fallwell’s Liberty University.



Our grande plans, though, quickly came unraveled as our nerve evaporated. McCain drew a robust audience of adamant supporters from this campus. Arriving late on the scene, ushers relegated us to the furthest balcony of the auditorium. Shouting, we quickly deduced, would require some serious lung power. More importantly (and something that does not speak well for our character), we became cowed by the sheer giddiness of the people who surrounded us.

A young student look earnestly at me with Bambi eyes, exclaiming, “Isn’t this exciting? We get to see Senator McCain!”

“Um,” said I.

“He is a real American Hero,” the student gushed with, I imagine, a slight erection.

“Well, I appreciate his service,” I tried to offer as an olive branch, “but as a gay man, I am angry that he has done nothing to defend my rights and seems to be getting into bed with religious extremists.”

“Uh – Oh,” the student said looking a bit like I had eaten his piece of birthday cake. He immediately forgot about me, though, as he turned away and started fumbling with his phone’s camera settings.

McCain’s time on the stage elicited a quasi-rapture from the audience. People applauded when McCain commended Bush’s handling of the war. People applauded when McCain gave homage to the “young men and women currently defending freedom.” People applauded when McCain made balloon animals out of condoms. Okay, he didn’t actually do that last bit.

My point, though, is that the audience was an applauding machine. He received questions from the audience along the lines of, “Gee, Senator McCain, how did you get to be so smart?” or “Senator McCain, do Democrats really eat kittens?” Our balcony section, for mysterious reasons, did not have a microphone or any other means to ask questions.

My sassy friend and I tried to muster our shouty voices during several instances, but each time chickened out. True, we gave a running commentary to each other throughout the speech. This annoyed everyone around us, including Bambi-student. Our only moderate success was to start a feeble chain of applause when McCain noted the Senate’s approval rating was 25 percent at the moment. We applauded loudly and, proving that people are sheep, many others followed our lead. McCain looked a bit baffled and actually said, “Please don’t applaud that.”

What did I learn from my attendance? Regretting not doing an act of civil disobedience is a bitch. I could have at least tossed my golden tiara at him.

Starting tomorrow, I am going to work on building my internal courage in the face of massive crowds of zealous right-wingers. Well, maybe not tomorrow. I want to focus my energy on regrowing my goatee tomorrow. The day after that, though, I will build up my intestinal fortitude – after happy hour.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Border Wars


Yep, I had some fun claiming to be a fictional creation for April Fool’s Day. Let’s be honest: It would be so lonely on the blogsphere without me.

Still, I have other duties that I must perform. This weekend that included attending an academic conference on my campus. While I could highlight the great elements of the conference (including a fantastic performance by Teatro Luna), that simply wouldn’t match the tone of the blog. After all, it is the Center of Gravitas. So, let me talk instead about something that made my skin crawl.

Part of the conference included meals for the participants. On the second day, the organizers ushered us into a nondescript hotel banquet room to enjoy “Tex-Mex.” You can imagine my displeasure when I discovered that the hotel staff had placed two, twelve-inch “sleeping Mexican” figures as bookends to the buffet. Who, in God’s name, thought this was a good idea? One has to wonder if they had served southern food if they would have placed two “Mammy” cookie jars to set the mood.

These annoying lumps of terra cotta appeared at the very moment that Latinos supposedly have the nation’s attention. Debates and protests over immigration “reform” appear in media and political centers. Yet, for the caterers of this event, that debate clearly had little do with the zesty food stuffs they prepared.

It does not surprise me that the current anti-immigrant hysteria focuses on Mexican migration. Reporters and politicians give little time to discussing [white] Canadians or European immigrants who take what are essential skilled jobs in the U.S. Rather, the diatribe focuses on a supposedly invisible flood of sneaky Latinos looking to have dozens of babies at U.S. taxpayers’ expense.

Being a historian who actually researches the lives of Latinos in the U.S., none of the current delirium seems particularly new to me. The U.S. has a long history of anti-Latino sentiments. What few seem to note, though, is that the laxity of the border occurs in one direction: from the U.S. to Mexico, not vice versa.

The border allows U.S. citizens to exercise their greatest tourist fantasies. They easily cross into Mexico to drink cheap liquor, buy drugs, find male or female prostitutes, and explore dropping their other taboos in the supposedly “lawless” border zone. Most of these partying American border- crossers simultaneously disdain those moving from the South looking for jobs.

Likewise, U.S. capital, thanks to NAFTA, freely crosses the border as well. U.S. companies exploit “cheap” labor and lax environmental regulations. Though rarely discussed in the U.S., the rapid building of maquiladoras (U.S. owned manufacturing companies located just south of the border) compounded existing internal stresses within Mexico. In 1987, 1,200 of these types of plants accounted for almost 323,000 jobs. By 1990, 2,014 maquiladoras employed half a million people. Today there are over 4,000 maquiladoras employing over a million people. By 2010, it is estimated that 4 million people will move to the northern cities in Mexico because of the maquiladoras.

What has this meant for Mexico? It has created incredible instability as workers abandon Mexico’s agricultural sector, which can’t compete against U.S. agribusiness (which also has almost free reign thanks, again, to NAFTA).

Working from sunrise to sunset, maquiladora workers can hope to earn between $3.50 and $5 a day in these U.S. owned plants. This provides just barely enough to survive in the border towns, where the cost of living is 30 percent higher than in the rest of Mexico. Many of these workers have literally not seen what their homes look like in the daylight because they spend all of their waking moments in these plants. They only return to their houses to sleep.

Little interest is given to workers’ rights in these U.S. plants. In at least one instance, a U.S. company required employees to take "vitamins" which turned out to be amphetamines as a means to increase production. Women employees, who compose the majority of maquiladora workers, often face constant sexual harassment – something not prohibited by Mexican law.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Border Patrol has ballooned in size since the 1970s in an effort to ensure that the border flow stays one-sided in favor of the U.S. During the 1990s alone, the budget went from $1.5 billion in 1994 to $3.9 billion in 1999. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 authorized the hiring of 1,000 new Border Patrol agents per year during the period 1997-2001, more than doubling the number of existing officers.

The larger the Border Patrol grows, the more abussive it seems to become. In 1998, Amnesty International issued a report condemning U.S. policies and actions along the U.S./Mexican border. The human-rights group documentated cases of individuals caught by the Border Patrol who had been beaten, punched, kicked, raped, and verbally insulted. Amnesty International also noted that the Border Patrol often detains individuals without legal representation, under conditions that do not meet international standards.


Following September 11, 2001, the agency grew even more rapidly. Now under the Department of Homeland Security, immigration services employs over 15,000 officers authorized to carry weapons and make arrests. That’s more gun-wielding folk than in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Prisons, the Customs’ Service or the Drug Enforcement Administration.

I think, therefore, the debate about the U.S./Mexican border is largely skewed in the wrong direction. If we continue to permit free U.S. capital to cross into Mexico without free labor, we support a system that exploits individuals. What would happen if we allowed for a truly free border? If we really have faith in capitalism, free labor would mean that companies would have to compete for the available labor supply. Migrants, after all, only move to find better pay and better jobs. Should we end the artificially created restrictions on migration that keep an abundance of laborers trapped in Mexico, U.S. companies on both sides of the border would be forced to pay a decent wage.

When I think of the sleeping Mexican figures that sat ominously on the buffet line, I think of them as what many Americans would like Mexican migrants to be. They are anonymous, docile, and interchangeable. Perhaps it is because those images have been so ingrained in popular culture that the recent protests seemed to take many Americans off guard.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Research Statement

This informs readers that the Center of Gravitas (hereafter referred to as “the site”) has been part of study funded by the University of Texas. This study sought to understand and document the ways that sexual minorities interact in on-line environments. It represented the collaborative efforts of the Department of Communication and the Department of Psychology, under the guidance of Carlotta Coburg and Margaret Mitchell, the principal investigators.

Coburg and Mitchell created the site and the persona “GayProf” as a means to enter conversations on Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender issues (GLBT). In particular, this study considered the ways that GLBT individuals responded to stimuli from "popular culture". The investigators postulated that the GLBT community finds common ground through established communication referents in U.S. society.

Coburg and Mitchell received endorsement from the university’s Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS). Though the study required deception, the CPHS agreed with the investigators that the study did not violate the Belmont Report of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research (1979) For more information, please visit http://ohrp.osophs.dhhs.gov/humansubjects/guidance/belmont.htm.

Participation in the study involved minimal risk (i.e. the level of risk encountered in one’s day-to-day life) and could be strictly anonymous.

Follow-up interviews with randomly selected participants in this study have found no adverse reactions. If you feel, though, you require counseling as a result of this study, please contact the investigators through the site’s e-mail address. Your participation, though unknowing, has greatly benefitted this academic research.