Ann Coulter’s grade-school intelligence and vocabulary has suddenly taken second-stage to another queer event at the CPAC. Who knew that this relatively unknown extremist right-wing convention would result in so much queer fodder?
During the CPAC conference, for those who aren’t plugged in, the far right fell over themselves to honor a Marine, Matt Sánchez, who cried foul at Columbia University. Well, if there is one thing that we gay boys like to do, it’s to play Angela Lansbury. After some digging, gay sleuths deduced that Sánchez had starred in some well-known gay porn. When that didn’t pay his bills, he also worked as a prostitute (As an aside, why does the media always refer to male prostitutes as “escorts” but women prostitutes as “prostitutes?”) The exact history of how these revelations came to light are a bit murky to me, but Joe.My.God put a spotlight on it. He also caught an interview with Sánchez.
This news certainly has me upset. Next time I hire a male prostitute, I am going to ask to see his voter registration card. Porn? Prostitution? Why are these conservatives infiltrating our most basic cultural institutions? Won’t somebody think of the non-children? Do Republicans hold nothing sacred?
When the hypocrisy of any queer is exposed, it always brings up some unsettled issues about outing, politics, and individual desire. As Atari points out, though, this isn’t about a former lover selling his tell-all story about the Marine. Sánchez produced images where he had sex with other men. He knew that they would circulate as a matter of public record. That’s not really an “outing” as much as it is a video rental.
One interesting element about the whole debate is the way that Sánchez’s racial identity has been subsumed or now lacks comment in relation to the porn issue. Yet, in the initial confrontation at Columbia, race played a critical factor in Sánchez’s rise to [minor] fame.
Sánchez, who identifies as Puerto Rican, stated that his racial identity became a salient issue in his conflict with other students at Columbia. According to Sánchez, an Anglo student at Columbia accused the military of using “minorities as cannon fodder” and told Sánchez, “You're too stupid to know that you're being used.” Sánchez and another Marine officer candidate, Marx Xue, stated explicitly that they believed racism to be an instrumental factor and felt harassed. "They were telling him that he was stupid and ignorant, that he was being brainwashed and used for being a minority in the military," Xue said, "Regardless of what you think about military recruiters, those comments were racially motivated."
It’s a forgone conclusion that I would probably not agree with Sánchez on any major political issue; however, I think his circumstances did suggest certain racist presumptions that exist among some people on the left (and right). I have little doubt that the lefty Anglo student in question probably did not have a sophisticated or complicated way of imagining race in the United States. To presume that any minority who serves in the military is simply “stupid” shows a serious lack of understanding about the motivations that individual people of color have for joining the armed forces.
One can argue that complicated economic and institutional structures exist in the U.S. that leave few other options for minorities (and many poor whites). That should not, however, discount that individuals are making conscious and clear choices. Some see it as their only means to improve their economic standing. Others see it as a genuine sense of patriotic duty (or a combination of the two). Only white middle-class privilege would presume to know better than the actual people in that situation.
In this way, Sánchez had an opportunity to create a real dialogue about race, nation and military service. Goddess knows that the nation is starved for such a discussion. Unfortunately, Sánchez decided not to pursue that route. Rather than calling for a deeper discourse, Sánchez called for an end to discussion. He wanted those who held a contrary view to him to be silenced, even punished. A position that ironically won him a “Free Speech” award from the right-wing CPAC.
Certainly there is not the same discussion about people on the left being harassed on conservative college campuses. At my former institution in Texas, for example, faculty (including myself) received many jeers and condemnation for opposing the poorly planned and executed military action in Iraq. Guess what, kiddies, that’s life in an open society. Rather than seeking some sort of retribution from those who disagree, our job is to refocus the discussion and debate. We can point out the foibles in their thinking, but telling them to simply shut-up is a mistake.
Sánchez, however, used convoluted arguments about “diversity” in an effort to make his own voice dominant. Sánchez never really engaged with Columbia’s institutional notions of diversity (which are probably not serving the interests of minority students, but not in the ways that Sánchez imagines). Instead, Sánchez mocked viewpoints different from his own. In an op-ed piece for the New York Post, Sánchez wrote, “ The university has chalked it up to free speech. All points of view are welcome at Columbia, from Venezuelan presidents to voices from vaginas. Unless you're in the military.” Yet, Sánchez has given little or no evidence that the administration has refused his right to voice his opinion. I have not seen or read anything where Sánchez’s right to free speech has been impugned. Instead, the subtext of his argument is that he has deemed viewpoints other than his own as less valuable and worthy of scorn. His argument seems to be that he expects the university to silence people who disagree with him.
Now Sánchez is feeling harassed again. Or he is building buzz for his book deal. I can’t really tell.
To his credit, he has not shied away from the discussion or entered re-hab to avoid the press. Still, he has allowed his own political ideology and individual ambition to short-cut another real potential for discussion about sex-workers in the United States. There is probably a great deal that we can learn from Sánchez’s experiences in the porn world. Sánchez makes a gesture to the bad circumstances that porn workers face. In the end, though, he made the issue more about justifying his own political ideology and decisions than critically examining the exploitation of sex workers.
In a clumsy political gesture, Sánchez made the bizarre claim that he didn’t like porn because of its “liberalism.” Both Republicans and Democrats purchase porn, as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force pointed out in response to Sánchez. In the United States, it is estimated that porn is a $10 billion per year business. That’s a lot of porn and I don’t think it’s just us lefties who are buying it up. The right, however, undercuts sexual freedom and keeps sex-workers unprotected and at the lowest rungs of society.
Sánchez’s efforts to explain his involvement in porn felt disingenuous. He frames those past activities as part of an alleged “progressive” growth in his personal character. Moreover, he disassociates himself from other queer people. Joe.My.God. asked Sánchez if he considered himself gay. “Boyfriends: 0 Fiancé: 2 Wife: 1,” Sánchez responded, “I'd say I'm pretty bad at being gay.” Pretty bad? I would say he was down-right lousy at being gay. Clearly he just isn’t trying hard enough.
Whatever the case, doing gay porn doesn’t necessarily make Sánchez “gay.” However, it sure as hell means that he can’t claim to be straight either. Face it, buddy, you are firmly in the queer camp even if you never touch another man’s penis until the day you die. Neo-cons might be nice to you as an individual, but they are kicking the shit out of us as a group.
Sánchez faces scrutiny because his political choices betray people like himself. He used an accusation of racist harassment at Columbia as means to promote his individual ambition. Yet, he supports a racist political system that keeps Puerto Ricans from attaining full equality (It’s probably not necessary to point out, but Puerto Ricans on the island are still administered as basically a U.S. colony (with the sanitized title of “commonwealth”). Puerto Ricans, though U.S. citizens, are unable to vote in national elections unless they move to the mainland).
Likewise, the Marine made a living off of gay men’s lust, but now aligns himself with a party that wants to deprive those same men of their rights. While I respect his right to hold whatever political view he desires, he should not be surprised that such views will be seen as self-serving and hypocritical.