Tuesday, May 29, 2007

GayProf in Thirty Questions

Over the weekend, I made a dip down to New York City. Thanks to the generosity of a non-blogger friend, I was able to stay at her apartment. It also gave me a chance to meet some of the many cool blogger folk in New York.

This, in turn, gave them the opportunity to find out that the whole “gravitas” thing is not really a joke. Disappointingly, they also found out that I can’t change my clothes by spinning in a circle while an orange explosion emanates from my navel – yet.

Since returning to Boston, I have been swamped with work. Plus, one of the most insidious of my former Texan colleagues sent me a note asking a favor.

This is the same insidious-colleague who loudly complained that white straight men were being terribly mistreated in that department. Of course, white straight men composed 90 percent of the full professors and the majority of the executive committee. White straight men also served as the associate department-head, the director of graduate studies, the undergraduate director, the department head, the dean, the provost, and the president of the university (and most administrative positions in-between). Latinos, gays, Asians, and African Americans held no (zero) administrative positions in that department last year. Yeah, I can see how he had it so tough as a white straight man.

Regardless, if he had not sought to undermine women and minority junior faculty, I really wouldn’t care. As part of his white-straight-male plight, though, he often suggested that women and minorities in the department were less qualified than their white, straight, male counterparts.

Given his history, I am not really motivated to help me out. I know -- Being petty is the easy route (fun, too).

All that aside, I didn’t notice that my little bloggy’s odometer hit 150,000 hits. That seems like a milestone in my book.

It also reminded me that this blog has drifted away from what is most important: Me. I thought that I would give my faithful readers the opportunity to prove their devotion to GayProf. That is very sweet of me, no?

Sharpen those number 2 pencils, I have a little exam for you all. Leave your answers in the comments (or leave comments in the comments). The first person who scores a 100% or the person with highest score by the time that I post the answers (whichever comes first) wins a super-secret prize! Note: the super-secret prize has minimal monetary value, is fairly useless, and will not cure any physical or mental aliments that you might have.

So, if you have committed all of my previous entries to memory, now is the chance to put that knowledge to use.

Or if you just think that you know me well enough to make educated guesses, now is your chance.

Or if you just want to randomly jot down letters and numbers – that’s cool, too! Take the exam – Make a comment – win a super-secret prize (of minimal monetary value (Images and Videos Do Not Necessarily Imply Correct Answers -- No purchase necessary, Void Where Prohibited)).


1. Among other reasons, GayProf doesn’t like the department-store Macy’s because:

    A. He worked there during college.

    B. They insisted on changing the name of Chicago’s Marshall Field’s, thereby destroying a piece of local history just to save a buck.

    C. They once double charged him for the same item and he has never forgiven them. GayProf can really hold a grudge.

    D. He finds their new slogan “There’s a Macy’s Near Your” too scary and threatening. It seems as if Macy’s is stalking him.

    E. GayProf is a nudist and therefore never buys clothing.

2. GayProf once referred to the term “MAD-C.” What did this stand for?

    A. Middle-Aged Disgruntled Colleague

    B. Mothers Angry at the Dean’s College

    C. Mormons Attending Disco Clubs

    D. Money At Disposal -- Ca’Ching

    E. Morons Always Ditching Classes

3. The first real image of GayProf ever posted on this blog showed him:

    A. Teaching class

    B. GayProf has never appeared in a photo on this blog

    C. Typing on his blog

    D. Wearing a fur hood

    E. Wearing Nothing at all

4. Whose image is always on GayProf’s refrigerator?

    A. His own

    B. His cat’s

    C. James Dean’s

    D. The Virgin of Guadalupe’s

    E. Blake Harper's

5. Where was GayProf born?

    A. Albuquerque, New Mexico

    B. Lubbock, Texas

    C. Idaho Falls, Idaho

    D. Las Cruces, New Mexico

    E. GayProf was not technically born. He was crafted out of clay and brought to life by the gods.

6. What mishap did NOT occur to GayProf during the move from Texas to Boston?

    A. His cat shit in his lap.

    B. He got his first speeding ticket ever.

    C. The moving van had a flat tire, thus delaying him a full day.

    D. He was forced to load and unload the moving truck by himself.

    E. He crossed all of these states: TX, LA, MS, AL, GA, TN, VA, MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT, and MA.

7. Which Science Fiction movie was GayProf’s favorite at age 5?

    A. Star Wars (1977)

    B. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

    C. The Black Hole

    D. E.T.

    E. Gremlins

8. As a child, who bought GayProf the Mego Wonder Woman doll for Christmas?

    A. His mother – against his father’s wishes.

    B. A sympathetic aunt – against his father’s wishes.

    C. His father – against his father’s wishes.

    D. GayProf never actually owned the Mego Wonder Woman doll as a child. He just coveted it.

    E. GayProf saved his own damn money and bought it himself -- against his father's wishes.

9. As a general trend, which of the following topics usually generates the LEAST number of comments on CoG?

    A. Entries on race or ethnicity.

    B. Entries on porn.

    C. Entries on being a professor/academic life.

    D. Entries where GayProf confuses himself with Wonder Woman.

    E. Entries on dead presidents.

10. Which one of these blogs is run by the person who first linked to CoG?

11. What is GayProf’s favorite Christmas dish?

    A. pan de polvo

    B. cranberries

    C. tamales

    D. turkey

    E. bisochitos

12. Where did GayProf go to graduate school and earn his Ph.D.?

    A. the West Coast

    B. the Midwest

    C. the Northeast

    D. New Mexico

    E. Texas

13. The Pope is to Hitler Youth as GayProf is to:

    A. Student Government

    B. Homecoming Court

    C. Justice League

    D. College of Cardinals

    E. Baseball

14. Which of the following has NOT been a parenthetical reference to Liar Ex?

    A. (Who Told Many Lies)

    B. (Who is a Total Fuckbag)

    C. (Who Should Just Die)

    D. (Who Left No Promise Unbroken)

15. What is GayProf’s soda of choice?

    A. TaB

    B. Diet Coke – with Lime

    C. Mexican Coke (made with sugarcane rather than high fructose corn syrup)

    D. Fanta

    E. Blood of Virgins (with Splenda©)

16. Which of the following was NOT true about the house that I co-owned in Texas?

    A. One Realtor quit because she saw no means of selling it.

    B. It was built in 1939.

    C. It was Liar Ex’s idea to buy it.

    D. I had to spend hours stripping the walls because it was covered in so much flowery wallpaper. The interior looked like Holly Hobby had thrown up and then exploded inside.

    E. It was ginormous.

17. As a child, GayProf’s favorite Halloween costume was:

    A. Zorro

    B. Wonder Woman

    C. Sailor

    D. Charlie Chaplin

    E. A History Professor

18. GayProf’s most recent (and most frequent adult-era) Halloween costume was:

    A. Zorro

    B. Wonder Woman

    C. Sailor

    D. Freddie Mercury

    E. A Heterosexual

19. According to this blog, which of the following happened at one or more universities in Texas over the past four years?

    A. Students made a blackface video and posted it on YouTube

    B. Students defaced a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

    C. Students hosted “ghetto parties” where primarily white students were invited to dress as racist stereotypes.

    D. The mother of a student phoned the dean's office and asked that GayProf be fired immediately for assigning a text about gays and lesbians' experiences during World War II.

    E. All of the above.

20. Did GayProf go to his high-school senior prom?

    A. Yes

    B. No

21. Last year, GayProf had a photo meme about his Texas apartment. Which item did GayProf own?

    A. A 1960s warming tray, for serving a hot brunch.

    B. A hot-water bottle, for an ailing stomach.

    C. An ice-crusher, for festive cocktails.

    D. a KitchenAid mixer, for his massive baking hobby.

    E. A replica of the I Dream of Jeannie bottle.

22. Before becoming a history professor, GayProf worked as a:

    A. substitute teacher

    B. prostitute

    C. priest

    D. secretary

    E. senator

23. How did GayProf get the tiny scar on his forehead?

    A. It was a tragic childhood hair-styling-related accident.

    B. He was in a car accident at age nine.

    C. One of his sisters took revenge on him for playing with their Charlie’s Angels dolls.

    D. He cut his forehead on a jagged piece of metal on a playground slide.

    E. Skiing

24. Exactly 7 persons - P, Q, R, S, T, U & V - periodically offer GayProf gifts to show their gratitude and admiration. All 7 always deliver their gifts at the same time. During each round of gift giving, none of the gifts are ever of equal value. The following statements about the gifts are always true:

V always gives a more expensive gift than P
P always gives a more expensive gift than Q
Either R gives the most expensive gift and T gives the least expensive gift, or S gives the most expensive gift and U or Q give the least expensive.

If S gives the sixth most expensive gift and Q gives the fifth most expensive gift, which of the following can be true?

    A. V gives the most expensive or forth most expensive gift

    B. R gives the second or third most expensive gift

    C. P gives the second or fifth most expensive gift

    D. U gives the third or fourth most expensive gift

    E. T gives the fourth or fifth most expensive gift

25. For Hispanic Heritage Month 2006, GayProf:

    A. Wrote an entry critiquing Chico and the Man.

    B. Wrote an entry critiquing Univision.

    C. Ignored the month entirely on the blog.

    D. Contacted Che Guevara using a Ouija board.

    E. Grew a mustache like Emiliano Zapata's.

26. What is GayProf’s least favorite month?

    A. March

    B. May

    C. October

    D. January

    E. February

27. What was GayProf’s first car?

    A. 1975 Dodge Dart

    B. 1966 Dodge Charger

    C. 1978 Ford Pinto

    D. 1970 Dodge Challenger

    E. 1961 Chrysler New Yorker

28. Is GayProf circumcised?

    A. Yes

    B. No

29. Besides Wonder Woman, what 1970s televison show is most frequently mentioned on CoG?

    A. The Bionic Woman

    B. Charlie’s Angels

    C. That Girl

    D. Isis

    E. Barnaby Jones

30. Which of the following is true about GayProf?

    A. Is universally adored.

    B. Is the most desirable man on the blogosphere.

    C. Should be honored with a bronze statue.

    D. Knows too much about Wonder Woman.

    E. All of the above

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Keep Me Movin'

Moving sucks. Don’t get me wrong – I am happy to be starting a new job and relocating to Midwestern Funky Town. It’s not about the place or the idea of establishing a life somewhere else. All of that is actually very exciting. No, I mean the actual labor and logistics of getting one’s shit from door A to door B. If I were moving down the block, I would still come to the same conclusion: Moving Sucks.

When I was in graduate school, I stayed in a crumbling apartment for four years just because I hated moving so much. Sure the building’s plumbing was so bad that the upstairs neighbor’s bathtub periodically emptied into my bedroom closet. Hey, it was better than moving!

Yes, I was willing to trade somebody else’s scuzzy wash-water rather than pack all my belongings and relocate. If I stayed much longer, I was going to ask her to start showering with Tide detergent so at least my clothes would end up spring fresh. Clearly it takes a lot for me to move. Usually only the offer of a better job prompts me to move.

Nobody enjoys moving, I recognize. Some people, though, seem to find it more of a nuisance than the trauma I imagine it as. One of my sisters moved every year, sometimes twice a year, for almost a decade. She changed apartments more often than I changed the oil in my car. If that had been me, I surely would have left my sanity behind by the third move. You would have seen me wandering down the street mumbling to myself and popping a roll of bubble wrap.

Maybe part of my hesitancy about moving can be found in astrology. As we know, I was born under the super, sacred sign of Cancer the Crab. Real crabs hate moving so much that they carry their house with them on their back. Wherever a crab goes on the beach, they are always in their own little studio apartment. It’s only when they are being served up with butter and some cheesy rolls that you see a crab separated from his home. Now there’s a creature that hates moving.

Something about moving must be against our basic natures. The uncertainness about having basic shelter is really stressful. Once I am all moved into a new place, I know that I will feel just fine. In the meantime, there is an irrational fear of not being able to find any place to rent and ending up roaming the streets. Should this be the case, please remember to come and shoo away the pigeons from GayProf as he sleeps.

Keep in mind, I am still two months from actually departing Boston. If I am already whining, you know that you are in store for many, many blog posts filled with complaining. This isn’t even really a post about my moving. It’s really a post about the expectation of the stress of moving. To be fair, though, the last time that I moved I ended up speeding down the highway with a pile of cat shit in my lap. After that, I had to use my little stick arms to singlehandedly lug my crap up to the third floor of my apartment house. I might have reasons to loathe recreating that scenario.

This time things should be a bit easier. For one, my new institution will actually reimburse moving expenses. This is a big change from Texas. The legislature of that state imagines that state employees should be so grateful that they can move to Texas that they are required to pay their own moving expenses. I am surprised they don’t tax us when we cross the Oklahoma border.

Maybe it's just that a few minor events from this past week have left me feeling a little edgy about the move. First, because of a bureaucratic snafu, my new university won’t be able to give me my first paycheck until a month later than they originally promised. That was not good news to credit-challenged GayProf.

It turns out, also, that finding movers is a tricky business. I’ve learned something about moving companies. They hire some of the sweetest, most chatty people to answer their phones. That friendliness, however, has nothing to do with actual moving abilities.

I phoned up one company where the operator couldn’t have been nicer. Talking with her felt like making a new friend. She was filled with questions. Indeed, I don’t think my own mother expressed as much enthusiasm for my new job. If she could have, this operator would have telephonically poured me a cup of tea. She told me to tell you all hello, by the way.

All I really needed from her, though, was to send some people out to my apartment and give an estimate (I am no fool: I am shopping around for movers). I waited dutifully for three hours for them to show up.

Eventually I called my new friend back to find out if I should keep waiting or maybe start a novena for their deliverance. Though midday, only an answering machine picked up the phone. Several days later, she did phone back to say that their computer had broken down that day (which I guess must control all of the phones as well...?). She was more than happy to reschedule.

Um, yeah, no. If they can’t even figure out how to make it to my place for an estimate, what’s going to happen when they have all my worldly possessions? If a glitch in Outlook shuts down their whole operation, I think that I will pass on their services. Sometimes it just seems like it would be easier to tuck my cat under my arm, douse everything with kerosene, and toss a match over my shoulder as I walk away.

Alas, I am much too sentimental for all of that. How could I possibly leave behind my copy of The Odyssey which I have been lugging around for the past ten years? True, I haven’t read the The Odyssey in over fifteen years (if not longer), but the mood might strike me at any moment.

Whatever the case, I will think more about the whole moving thing on Monday. In the meantime, I hope to meet some members of the gay-blogging aristocracy this weekend.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wages of Straightness

Comments from Harry Jackson (which I first saw mentioned by JMG) caught my attention the other day. Jackson, a diva religious zealot, is looking to build his reputation as an African-American leader by disparaging gays and lesbians. So far, he has received a great deal of attention due to his outspoken opposition to hate-crimes legislation currently pending in Congress.

It is already a federal crime to violently assault an individual based on race, religion, color or national origin (all of these laws require, though, that the victim be engaged in a federally monitored activity when the attack occurred (such as voting or pursuing interstate commerce)). The new measure, which passed in the House of Representatives, expands those existing federal laws by adding sexual orientation and gender. Jackson opposes the measure because he believes that it will threaten radical Christians’ ability to harass gays (which it doesn’t – the measure is about violence, not speech).

Jackson has been explicit about his disdain for gays and lesbians. In particular, he feels gays and lesbians should not be welcomed in African-American churches. Using the old double-speak of “loving the sinner, hating the sin,” Jackson stops just short of calling for a witch-hunt within black churches. He argues that African-American churches have traditionally followed a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” about gay and lesbian Christians. “In my view,” Jackson writes, “the ‘don’t-ask-don’t-tell’ approach to this problem is the height of hypocrisy . . . The Church, on the other hand, should be a place of conviction and truth. The Bible is clear in its statements against gay sexual activity.” Like so many religious zealots, Jackson imagines that the nation needs to regress to the times of the Old Testament. If people would go Biblical with their sex lives, he promises “there would be fewer out-of-wedlock births as well as fewer practicing gays in the black church.” Hey, what doesn't say "Christian love" like driving people out of the Church?

If Jackson is really concerned about decreasing the number of out-of-wedlock births, shouldn't he be encouraging more homo sex? Homo sex is the best and most reliable form of birth control (aside from masturbation).

From my vantage point, if there were fewer practicing gays in the black church, then they would have more time to practice being gay. Let’s be honest, you are never going to learn how to give a great blow job sitting in church.

Too much? Hey, Center of Gravitas isn’t a blog for kids. Go somewhere else for coloring books and lollipops.

While I think Jackson a bit looney, I really don’t care that he preaches such dribble. If that is his religious belief, so be it. Perhaps he and Jerry Falwell can swap stories when Jackson’s time for hell arrives.

What does bother me, though, is the way that Jackson and similar conservative minority figures help undermine civil rights in this nation even as they claim to be the inheritors of the movement. News media love the idea of presenting civil rights as if it is a limited commodity. They know it makes a compelling story if one oppressed group wrestles with another. In the meantime, the injustice that both groups suffer is sidelined. Giving disproportionate attention to somebody like Jackson also perpetuates the notion that gays and African Americans don’t have common goals or work cooperatively (either historically or in the present). Gays are presented as defacto “white” and African Americans as defacto “straight.”

Jackson likes to point out that Black churches historically served as places where African Americans organized and fought for civil rights. Truthfully, religious imagery was often critically important to many (but not all (more in a moment)) of the campaigns in the twentieth century. Of course, Jackson has decided to ignore Coretta Scott King or the recently deceased Yolanda King, who both advocated for gay rights as part of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy.

Likewise, Jackson conveniently ignores that religious imagery was also critically important to the opponents of desegregation as well. Southern whites used their own churches and vision of “Biblical” morality to justify the inhuman treatment of their fellow citizens based on race.

Indeed, even some conservative African-American religious leaders used their positions to advocate against Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil-rights leaders at mid-century. According to some sources, for instance, Rev. John Wesley Rice, Jr. (father of the current Secretary of State) either ignored or, much worse, disdained the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties. Rice, according to one Birmingham resident, called preacher and civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth and his congregation "uneducated, misguided Negroes.” This explains a lot about ol' Condi.

Religion can be tricky like that. Both sides on the civil rights moment believed they were right – both claimed moral authority – and both found their answers in the same sacred texts. Why, one could almost question their validity in deciding civil matters.

Some, however, did not find religion important to their sense of social justice at all. Jackson would probably be loathe to acknowledge the role of African Americans who were gay and/or not religious. Perhaps the most prominent example is Bayard Rustin, a gay African American leader. For all of his adult life, Rustin worked tirelessly as a civil-rights advocate for African Americans as well as queer folk. During his early life, Rustin was a committed socialist. He participated in the first “freedom rides” that challenged segregation on transregional buses. For his trouble, North Carolina rewarded Rustin with thirty days on a chain gang.

In 1963, Rustin was the principle organizer of the famous March on Washington where King gave his “I Have a Dream Speech.” Neither the alleged handicaps of being non-religious or non-straight kept Rustin from making a difference for this nation's pursuit of social equality. I am also going to go out on a limb and suggest that all that practicing Rustin did at being a homo didn’t radically impair the African-American community. And, let me tell you, he practiced a lot.

Near the end of his life in 1987, Rustin stated, “"The barometer of where one is on human rights questions is no longer the black community, it's the gay community. Because it is the community which is most easily mistreated." While I might not fully agree with that assessment (race still seems a darn easy way for people to be denied their rights in this and other nations), one could hardly refute Rustin’s credentials in making it.

We should interrogate claims that those who are religious have the exclusive ability to decide moral issues. This should especially be the case when such religious claims are accompanied by attempts to curtail the rights of entire groups of people.

Perhaps Jackson could learn something from another major African-American figure in U.S. history: W. E. B. DuBois. At the turn of the twentieth century, DuBois became one of the most well-known African-American intellectuals in the nation. In particular, he often wrote about social injustice in this nation's history.

DuBois wisely recognized that poor whites faced harsh conditions in the U.S. and had many legitimate grievances with the status quo. Yet, he argued, poor whites did not revolt because they received a “public and psychological” wage of imagined racial superiority. In other words, DuBois suggested that poor whites were given the illusion of better social standing against an oppressed African-American population rather than improved economic conditions. When monetary wages fell short, they could at least claim to have the nonmonterary compensation of social superiority over African Americans. Modern-day historian David Roedirger would use this idea to discuss the “wages of whiteness.”

In much the same way, conservatives like Jackson offer the “wages of straightness.” Rather than addressing unfair racial, economic, and social structures in the U.S. that affect the African-American community, Jackson suggests that real satisfaction can be taken in not being one of those sinful homos. As long as gays are disempowered, he reasons, African-American heteros are empowered.

We saw this same notion used triumphantly in the 2004 election. Bushie and crew (especially Karl Rove) understood the wages of straightness. Pollsters and social scientists scratched their heads at why so many poor whites and a few Latinos and African Americans voted Republican when the party was clearly against their personal economic interests. One of the answers centered on “gay marriage.” By placing anti-gay measures on the ballot, conservatives promised heteros a nonmonetary wage instead of actual economic security. Claiming that their relationships/marriages were “special” and needed “protection” gave those who voted against gays a sense of purpose (if not also a sense of moral and religious duty). Much like the wages of whiteness, however, it did little to improve their actual daily lives (With Haliburton, tax cuts for the wealthy, soaring gas prices, and a decrease in social services all thanks to the Bush administration, it probably made most straight people’s daily lives worse. Thank God, though, that Tim and Frank can’t be legally acknowledged as a couple!).

Figures like Jackson remind us why coalition building and a unified sense of social justice is critical to continuing the fight for civil and human rights. Though imperfect, many of the legendary social movements of the 1960s and 1970s had a language of solidarity across race, gender, and sexuality (even if they fell short in practice). The Black Panthers, for instance, aligned with the Gay Liberation Front out of a sense of shared commitment to social justice.

Today, though, I would suggest that Jackson has not faced significant challenge from the GLBT community because the existing queer organizations in this country no longer consider issues of race or racism as a core part of their agenda. Groups like HRC and others operate with a distinctly white, middle-class agenda and have proved unable to engage or understand the needs of queers of color (much less the larger hetero communities). When asked to explain why African Americans should support the hate-crime protection legislation for queer folk, HRC comes up blank.

Understanding and fighting all forms of social injustice must become part of our daily lives if we want to counter conservative ideologies. The reality is that the queer community includes people across racial and class lines. Supporting and defending the African American community is supporting and defending the queer community and vice versa.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I Go to Museums

Over the past few days a friend from Texas had been visiting me in Boston. It was great to catch up with him and learn about the news at my former Texas institution.

I really need to work on being a bit more gracious about leaving Texas, however. Even the mere mention of the state can send me into a diatribe about the lack of civil protections for minorities, women, and queer folk. Then I usually end with special attention given to certain people in my former department who just weren’t very nice (and this almost always includes the professors who attempted to eliminate the department’s non-discrimination clause). If I can’t even muster a gracious exit with a friend, how will I possible contain myself when I meet the people who were mean to me at that institution?

Regardless, we went to a few of the city's attractions while he was in Boston. We made it to both Harvard’s Fogg Museum and also the Museum of Fine Arts. The MFA had a special exhibition of Edward Hopper’s paintings. How can anybody not love Hopper? Tell me that his commercial-design style coupled with his vision of American urban-life’s bleak isolationism wouldn’t prompt you to make out with him for awhile.

Yeah, I know some of you out there are saying, “But, GayProf, he was nasty homely.” Look, I didn’t say that you had to take Hopper’s balding ass home with you. I just said that his paintings would make anybody make out with him for a bit. As if you never made out with some homely dude (or dudette) just because they had a clever turn of phrase. Or at least it seemed like a clever turn of phrase after four tequila shooters and six long-island ice teas.

If Hopper showed up at my door, he would at least get some tongue action based on his portfolio. Well, that’s also assuming that he wasn’t some reanimated-zombie Hopper who just wanted to feast on my brain. You can never tell about these hypothetical situations involving the dead.

Being in the MFA also made me wonder why I don’t go there more often. I had visited the MFA once on a previous trip to Boston, but had not set foot in the building since moving here. Why don’t I take advantage of such cultural venues? Oh, right... because I am a philistine.

Seriously, though, walking among the paintings and sculptures gave me pause to think about humanity’s creative power. Each art piece took an excruciating amount of learning, work, and imagination to bring to life. Standing in their presence filled with me with a sense of awe – kinda how I imagine you all feel when you read this blog.

Visiting museums, though, also brings out another trait of mine: The desire to imitate Madeleine’s (portrayed memorably by Kim Novak) visits to the Palace of the Legion of Honor in the film Vertigo. For those who haven't seen the film, Madeleine claims to be the reincarnation of a woman in one of the PLH's paintings. With little encouragement, I could toss my hair into a bun, put on a sharply tailored gray wool suit, and spend hours staring at a painting representing myself from a previous life.

Of course, that leaves a tricky problem for me. Which painting would best represent my former life? Here are the art pieces that I have considered so far:

Munch’s Scream

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Subject of this Picture in a Previous Life: It pretty much sums up my experiences in Texas.

    Rejected Because: I am not sure that I want my former incarnated self to be the de rigeur art-poster for dorm rooms across the U.S.

Jackson Pollock’s No. 5

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Reincarnate Subject of this Painting: Critics would have a hell of a time proving that the picture wasn’t me.

    Rejected Because: I would like to think I was a bit more tidy in a previous life.

Edward Hopper’s Automat

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Subject of this Picture in a Previous Life: The urban isolation of the young woman speaks to me. Also, referencing it makes the opening part of this entry seem less disjointed and helps make the post have the illusion of coherency.

    Rejected Because: I don’t think that I would ever have worn that hat in a previous life.

Michelangelo’s David

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Subject of this Picture in a Previous Life: If I go to the gym from now until the end of my current life, I will never have that good of a body. It's just easier to claim to have had that body back in the day. Besides, if I am going to spend all day sitting in a museum, I might as well be gazing at a naked man.

    Rejected Because: In proportion to the rest of his body, David has a somewhat small penis. I am no size queen, but . . .

Sandro Botticelli St. Sebastian

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Reincarnate Subject of this Painting: It only makes sense that the very queer St. Sebastian would be reincarnated as a modern queer boy. Why not me? Besides, all those arrows might explain the persistent pain in my side.

    Rejected Because: It might interfere with my future canonization from this life.

da Vinci's Mona Lisa

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Reincarnate Subject of this Painting: If you are going to be delusional and claim a fantastical art-related previous life, you might as well go with one of the most recognizable images of all time.

    Rejected Because: My gravitas would never have allowed such an obviously saccharin smile.

Andy Warhol’s Jackie

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Reincarnate Subject of this Painting: I could get to claim two great previous lives for the price of one. Not only do I get to have been the inspiration for an art object, but also the woman who accompanied John Kennedy to Paris.

    Rejected Because: Jacqueline Kennedy and I were both alive at the same time. I am no theologian, but I think that reincarnation requires that one of us had to be dead first.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Whaam

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Subject of this Picture in a Previous Life: Who doesn’t love the ironic use of comics as inspiration here? Plus, the painting would suggest that I got to be a pilot in a previous life – that’s cool. It could also be claimed to have been the moment of my death and the start of my new life. Finally, it’s just fun to say Lichtenstein.

    Rejected Because: While Lichtenstein’s adapting a comic-book motif fits well with the blog, we all know there is only one DC comic image that I will ever really consider from that genre. It’s Wonder Woman or nothing...

Vertigo’s Carlotta Valdes (artist unknown)

    Benefits to Claiming to be the Subject of this Picture in a Previous Life: I could really, really imitate Kim Novak.

    Rejected Because: Well, it’s not all that great of a painting. Plus, the Palace of the Legion of Honor removed it after filming and it has seemingly not been seen since.

Alas, in real life I am not at all like Vertigo’s Madeline. I am really much more likely to be confused with Barbara bel Geddes' character, Midge.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Immoral Minority

Jerry Falwell is dead. One can’t turn on a television or a computer without seeing his rotund face. I personally take no satisfaction in his death, though I can understand why many queer people might do so. My personal (though largely undeveloped) belief in karma makes me inclined not to wish harm on anybody. Of course, I also suspect that at about this time Falwell is awakening to find that God is really a Latina Lesbian and that she’s kinda pissed with him.

Falwell’s death, I am sure, is hard for his three children and the friends who will miss him. I can’t fathom that anybody thought that he had more sex appeal than Jabba the Hut, but he apparently also had a wife. They all cared for him and they are probably mourning now.

That was the problem with Falwell, though. While I recognize that he had value to those who surrounded him, he never recognized the same in me as a gay man. I (and other people like me) existed as merely an abstraction to him. Apparently it did not occur to him that I also had a life, people who cared for and loved me, and my own ambition in life. Instead of that, he saw all queer people as an indistinguishable group that was responsible for bringing God’s punishment to this nation on September 11 (along with feminists, anybody who had an abortion, and “Pagans”).

Though I wished him no harm, I also don't want it to be forgotten that Falwell created a tremendous amount of pain and misery for queer people in this nation. His rise in power came from tapping into people's worst homophobia. Because of his status, many people listened intently to his rambling. His religious message likely resulted in some casting out their own sons, daughters, or other loved ones.

Jerry Falwell and his cronies provided a critical lesson in why we need to be vigilant in guarding our civil rights. Not only did he prevent our attaining basic civil protections, he and his friends actually worked to rollback already established laws.

During the middle of the 1970s, many communities started to listen to gay activists' concerns for their safety and security. Indeed, by 1977 more than three dozen states or local governments had added sexual orientation to civil rights statutes that protected citizens against discrimination. Many people expressed optimism that queer people might actually be treated like humans in the United States. The Religious Right, however, would put an end to all of that.

Unexpectedly, Dade County, Florida became a battleground. Why do so many bad things happen in that county? Is it cursed? Was the whole county built on a cemetery? Did they only move the tombstones and not the bodies?

In 1977, Dade County passed an ordinance making it illegal to discriminate against an individual based on their sexual orientation. Suddenly a woman appeared on the national scene who would make Darth Vader seem like my Aunt Molly. Anita Bryant created a massive campaign to take away civil rights that had already been protected by law. While many people credit Falwell with launching an era of extremist-religious driven political organizing, it was really Bryant who taught him some critically important tricks.

Bryant, who had been a beauty contestant (for the scholarship money, I am sure) and also the pitchwoman for Florida Orange Juice, proved immensely shrewd at manipulating the media. Bryant told eager reporters, "I will lead such a crusade to stop it as this country has not seen before." Man, she wasn’t foolin’.

The Dade County ordinance seemed innocuous enough. More or less, it said that treating queer people unfairly was bad and would be illegal. Stop the bus, cried Bryant. She authoritatively stated that the civil rights measure was just an elaborate trick to launch a more sinister agenda. Bryant claimed that “hidden behind obscure legal phrases, is the legal right to propose to our children that there is an acceptable alternate way of life.” Yes, Bryant suggested that evil gay folk had the audacity to say that it might be okay to not live your life like your parents lived theirs. Wouldn’t somebody think of the children?

Well, Bryant thought of the children – She thought they made a great centerpiece for her campaign as she organized a massive grassroots organization. Bryant knew the importance of the soundbite and quickly steered the debate away from civil rights. Instead, she created a distinction between people whom she personally saw as “normal” and her opponents, whom she dubbed “those people.” According to Bryant, the very fabric of society hinged on being sure that queer people could be fired from their jobs or deprived of housing (She would later ensure that queer people in Florida would not be able to adopt children).

Bryant milked homophobic stereotypes for every drop of attention she could squeeze out. Incendiary statements became her forte, especially as she exploited (unsubstantiated) claims about child abuse. The former Miss Oklahoma argued that queer people, allegedly cursed by not being able to have their own children, wanted everybody else’s. Once safely in our clutches, we would make short work of turning those children gay (I am guessing through a daily regiment of disco music, decorating courses, and fern gardening). The general public ate it up. When Bryant said things like “Some of the stories I could tell you of child recruitment and child abuse by homosexuals would turn your stomach,” nobody ever asked her to prove it.

She ultimately named her campaign “Save Our Children.” I guess calling her organization, “Treat Queer People Like Garbage” didn’t test well (though she did often refer to us as “human garbage.” Wasn’t she a delight?).

In the midst of all that circus, who should appear on the scene but Jerry Falwell? Already a well-know Baptist preacher, Falwell flew to Florida to add religious authority to Bryant’s histrionics. The press dutifully quoted everything that Falwell said about queer men and women. “So called gay folks,” Falwell warned, would “just as soon kill you as look at you.”

Isn’t that the truth? All that anal sex just drives us to kill, kill, KILL!

More importantly, though, Falwell took a look at Bryant’s success at building a massive grassroots political organization (not to mention raising a handsome amount of cash) based on the hatred of others. He figured he could do likewise. In 1979, he founded the Moral Majority (which was neither). Using his Old Time Gospel Hour television show, Falwell eventually enlisted seventy-two thousand ministers and four million lay members. He claimed that he and his loyal followers battled “secular humanists and amoralists [who] are running this country and taking it straight to hell.”

Who were these people who fastracked the nation to sulfur and brimstone? Falwell frequently named the true culprits as gays, feminists, and (sometimes) Jews. He said that he was fighting a “holy war” and never shied away from talking about his hatred of people like me. In 1981, he also learned that he could literally raise a quick million dollars by asking his followers “Do you approve of known practicing homosexuals teaching in public schools?” Practicing homosexuals? Silly, Jerry – If we don’t practice, how will we ever be any good at it?

Some twenty years later, Falwell continued to make the same types of statements and usually found success. “If we do not act now,” Falwell told his frantic audiences in the late nineties, “homosexuals will 'own' America!” Yeah, gays owning America would have been a real travesty given the great shape that heterosexual people have left it. We would have gotten away with it, too, if he hadn’t uncovered our secret operative, Tinky-Winky.

Of course, I don’t at all begrudge Falwell his religious beliefs. If he wanted to imagine me burning in hell for all eternity, so be it. My vision for his afterlife might be comparable. What I did mind terribly, though, was that he confused his personal religious beliefs with civil government. I also really, really, really minded that the mainstream media often gave him a free pass and rarely bothered finding counter voices to his message.

It is interesting to me that Falwell and his kindred spirits like to claim that being queer is a matter of “choice.” From my perspective, it is they who have a choice. They are actively choosing to believe in a hateful form of their religion. Clearly Falwell made conscious decisions about which elements from Christian texts that he wanted to believe and the others that he disregarded. Given his appearance, for instance, I am guessing that the sin of gluttony hit the cutting room floor.

To me, Falwell represented the worst elements of this nation. He used religion to tell people that it was okay to hate. In doing so, he made a fortune.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Summertime and the Livin' is Easy

My few days with my mother in Boston were nice. I am really glad that she came for a trip. I give props to Huntington and V.U.B.O.Q.for suggesting much more clever monikers for the mother of GayProf. Of course, the obvious decision of naming my mother after Wonder Woman’s mother (Queen Hippolyte) didn’t seem to occur to anybody. Clearly I need to work harder for you all to confuse me with the amazing amazon.

My time as a loaned scholar is coming to an end as well. This means that I need to make my plans for this summer. Here are the things that I need to accomplish by the time the Fall Semester starts:

    *Travel to Midwestern Funky Town and obtain a place to live.

    *Stop the song “Funky Town” from playing over and over in my head.

    *Return to Texas one last time to pack up my office there and retrieve my car.

    *Instead of flipping off the senior faculty in Texas who were mean to me, take the gracious route of merely acknowledging that I am off to a far better place than they will ever know.

    *Write a lengthy letter to the MBTA outlining why their service was often inadequate. Explain, in particular, how buses are not a legitimate substitute for a subway line (nor should it all be legal to call any bus a “line” as if it were one). Come to the frustrating realization that Boston public transport is designed for people who have a car, but prefer not to use it, rather than people who don’t have a car at all.

    *Express shock at the new stories that I have heard about my former Texas institution which include a) junior women faculty being harassed b) a white senior faculty member calling on an African-American student in his class and asking him to “speak ebonics” for the rest of the (mostly white) class and c) a deans office that is in chaos.

    *While in Texas, reconnect with a Sassy friend and resume drinking wine while sitting on her couch.

    *Find new ways to thank Guadalupe that I will not be returning to Texas.

    *Come to grips with the fact that I am actually going to have to teach again. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the teaching part of being a professor. Still, after over 18 months out of the classroom, it’s hard to remember that teaching is a key part of my job description. . . allegedly.

    *Experiment with more efficient ways to fold fitted sheets.

    *Complete the never-ending research project of doom.

    *Solve world hunger (Heck, I have a better chance of this one than finishing the never-ending research project of doom).

    *Consider which of Dante’s circles of hell will host George W. Bush after his death. My current theory is that he will replace Cassius in the mouth of Satan where he will perpetually be chewed for all eternity.

    *Convince Anderson Cooper to come out of the closet -- 'cuz I don't date people who are in the closet. By "date," I really mean "stalk."

    *Explain to my non-comic blogreaders the critical difference between Wonder Woman and Supergirl (not to mention the difference between Wonder Woman and the non-entity Superwoman). Come on people – Get on the trolley.

    *Be grateful that I don’t have to teach summer school this year.

    *Replace my incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs in an effort to battle global warming.

    *Become horrified by how haggard and old I look under the harsh glow of fluorescent light. Decide to screw the environment and switch back to the soft, youthful glow of incandescent bulbs.

    *Avoid seeing the new Spiderman movie as if it would give me glaucoma.

    *Add an additional ten pounds to my bench press – and/or stop buying the ten-pound bag of M&M’s.

    *Seduce a radical Christian thereby making sin his new master.

    *Rekindle my appreciation for Dib.

    *Briefly consider why nude beaches always attract the people who really shouldn’t be naked in public – or in private.

    *Enjoy refreshing TaB cola.

    *See a doctor about that sharp pain in my kidney – which I am sure is totally unrelated to the TaB drinking.

    *Travel to New York City.

    *Figure out ways to convince people that being a professor is a glamours career choice.

    *Decide if this will be the first summer in over a decade that I get more than a farmer’s tan.

    *Find a moving company to pack and haul all my crap to Midwestern Funky Town.

    *Come to terms with the fact that I will choose the wrong moving company and probably never see my crap again.

    *Lose a weekend in Provincetown.

    *Commemorate my 33rd Birthday with a specially designed Franklin Mint collector plate. Remember: Not all commemorative plates in the Center of Gravitas collection go up in value. Some may go down.

    *Mourn my departure from Boston.

    *Celebrate my arrival in Midwestern Funky Town – a town to keep me movin’, keep me groovin’ with some energy. . .

This is quite a list. I better get started tomorrow. Well, maybe not tomorrow. Tomorrow I want to learn how to make hash-browns. After that, though, I am so on this list.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Take Your Mother Out...

Although I didn’t expect it to affect my mood one way or another, the end of the house has actually left me in a pretty darn good place. The sun has been shining in Boston and the temperatures have been mild. What more could a gay boy want?

My mother is also coming for a visit for the next few days. I thought about dubbing her “MotherProf,” but given that she is not a professor, it seemed like I was forcing it.

In preparation, the apartment has received a massive cleaning. Battling mold can be remarkable satisfying to me. I am not sure why... Probably some type of control issue. Great – More therapy.

Annnyway, I plan to do some touristy-stuff in Boston that I have not yet had a chance to do. I am also considering a drive to Salem where there is a Bewitched statue! Oh, and I guess something historical happened there, too. But, whatever...

While I am away, be sure to talk among yourselves. I left some money on the counter for a pizza and there is some beer in the fridge.

Also, watch this video. As with most things, I heard about it first from Dorian:

Sunday, May 06, 2007

¡Por Fin!

One of the longest nightmares in my life has finally ended. No, I am not talking about the Ugg boot craze. After over a year on the market, the Texas house that I co-owned with Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) finally sold on Friday. Thank Guadalupe!

Of course, I haven’t actually lived in the house for even longer than that. Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) announced that he had “evolved” beyond me some eighteen months ago (Yes, he actually said that). Just because he was leaving me, though, didn’t mean that he was bothering to, you know, leave. After all, why should he have been inconvenienced (being the newly evolved life form and all)?

Apparently he thought that I would enjoy a front-row seat as he continued to build a relationship with somebody else. Why not stick around so that I could come home and find little packages that his loser boyfriend had sent him waiting on the doorstep? Yeah, they were sweet like that – not even putting on a pretense of considering my heartbreak. After eight years together, I would have thought that I would be granted a bit more consideration. I was mistaken.

In retrospect, I wonder why I didn’t burn those packages . . . or douse Liar Ex with acid. Sigh – So many missed opportunities. Live and learn, I suppose.

Instead, I scrapped together what little dignity that I had left (which wasn’t much) and moved out. This plunged me into financial chaos as I struggled to pay rent and my portion of the mortgage. Yet, Liar Ex had the temerity to complain about taking care of the house (which he refused to move out of in the first place).

Making the terrible choice of having trusted Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) cost me a lot financially and emotionally. If love is a war, it was he who won. I hope it gives him a great deal of satisfaction.

It’s hard, of course, to recount these stories without sounding bitter -- probably because I am. Each bad memory is like some sort of macabre memento in a collection that I keep in an old cigar box under the sink. Periodically, I take them out for examination. Each time I expect to find some sort of larger meaning. In the end, I don’t think there really is any. He was an asshole. I was a gullible idiot. That’s about the sum of the story. It’s not a particularly original one either.

Even I have grown bored with recounting all the bad feelings and heartbreak from the past. Sure, we can add texture to the story and search for explanations. I was only 22 when we met and pretty naïve. The longest relationship that I had with anybody up to that point had been two months. When I first started dating Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies), my best friend in grad school warned me with Cassandra-like clarity that he was a mediocre soul. All this I ignored because I looooooooooved him.

Now, though, Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) exists in my world mostly as a punch line for the blog. To me, the relationship was over so long ago that I hardly feel like the same person. At some point, I need to take responsibility for the future.

As a result, I am working on letting go of the bitterness. From what I can tell, the bitterness and anger are the last and hardest emotions to kill off. One of my fears is that I won’t have the strength to finally let it all go. It actually keeps me awake some nights. That's when I decide to get out of bed and go home.

Like we all do, I know several individuals, both gay and straight, who launch into the tragic tale of the bad end to their former long term relationship. At first, one gets the impression that they are talking about a recent break-up given the rawness of their anger. One finds out later, though, that their relationship had been over longer than the conflict in Vietnam. I definitely don’t want to morph into one of those people who carries around the bitterness for more time than the actual relationship existed (though I can easily understand how that happens).

"Um, GayProf," I hear, "that train has left the station." Shut up, voices in my head. That train has another seven years before that really happens...

On the other hand, I find the opposite to be just as baffling. I don’t mean the people who come to a mutual understanding that their relationship wasn’t working and they part ways honestly and amicably. Though not my experience, I can understand that as a possibility.

Instead, I mean the people who had a horrible relationship and then insist upon being friends. “Sure he lied to me and there was also that time that he stabbed me,” they say, “but I felt being an adult meant that we could still be buddies.”

You know what? I am willing to concede that I am childish and petty if it means that I don’t have to ever have Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) in my life. Hell, I’ll own up to being a lesser human if it means never seeing or hearing from him ever again.

The house finally selling feels like an insignificant coda to a pretty nasty composition. Of course, buying the house in the first place was all my idea. Next to getting into a relationship with Liar Ex, it stands out as the penultimate worst decision of my life.

I had some romantic ideas about that house. All of them, though, were against the basic rules of real estate. People will tell you to buy the smallest house in the best neighborhood. Instead, I went for the largest house in one of the least desirable neighborhoods in that forsaken Texas town.

It wasn’t the size of the house that appealed to me. In an area where everything historical is torn down, that house had survived seventy years. Clearly it needed some work, but I thought it would be labor of love to restore it. Really, I had simply watched too much HGTV. You know the shows that I mean. They depict some happy, smiling gay couple who tell us that rescuing a collapsing heap of house is just as easy as ripping out the formica and shag carpet. GayProf, it turns out, has no skills in the industrial arts.

I also had some pretty serious delusions of grandeur. As Carly Simon might say, “I had some dreams. They were clouds in my coffee.” With so many rooms open for entertaining, I could fancy myself as the modern-day gay incarnation of Mabel Dodge Luhan. The house could become a salon for people from a variety of backgrounds to gather. There we would discuss matters like race, gender, and sexuality. Or, if not those topics, at least we could assess the strengths and weaknesses of different Charlie’s Angels episodes. As the new Luhan, I would also get some kickin’ new outfits. Though I probably wouldn’t wear chunky turquoise jewelry like ol’ Mabel – probably.

It turns out, I had totally the wrong colleagues, neighbors, and spouse to support such a salon environment. While there were some exceptions, my colleagues weren’t interested in talking with me in general. Their vision of history consisted of moving around little flags on maps. My neighbors who weren’t associated with the university often scared me silly (small-town Texas is not a safe place for those who aren’t white, straight, married, Christian, and have children). Finally, Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) might have learned some key phrases to parrot from cultural studies, but he had no talent for critical thinking. None of those elements would make my self-aggrandizing salon possible.

As a result, the selling of the house is one of the last steps to finally ending my connections to Texas. There is not much more to say about that time in my life that I haven’t said. Well, except, of course, “Fuck you, Shaun.”

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

By the Cover

Books are becoming a casualty of the digital age. Academic publishers, in particular, are hard hit by the changing trends. The presses that publish scholarly works never really turned a major profit, if at all. Now, though, even major university presses are faced with the reality of market demand. Most are simply deciding to publish fewer books which they hope will sell.

This got me to thinking. What is it that makes one book more appealing than another? While the proverbial “judging by the cover” might not work, there might be clues as to the title and author.

Here are books that I imagine would be a hit and others that would be destined for the bargain bin:

    Best Seller: Power as a Means of Seduction by Bill Clinton

    Bargain Bin: Pantsuits in Every Color: A Wardrobe for Success by Hillary Clinton

    Best Seller: My Cat is Smarter than My Husband and Other Regrets by Laura Bush

    Bargain Bin: Everybody Poops by George W. Bush

    Bargain Bin: The Genius of George W. Bush by Tony Blair

    Best Seller: What the Fuck Went Wrong with Our Prime Minister? By The British People

    Best Seller: James Bond Made Me a Sex Symbol by Daniel Craig

    Bargain Bin: James Bond Made Me a Sex Symbol by George Lazenby

    Bargain Bin: My Favorite Recipes (Made With Real Human Souls) by Condoleeza Rice

    Best Seller: How to Use Another World Leader’s Incompetence to Distract from Your Own Rising Dictatorship by Hugo Chávez

    Bargain Bin: 100 Percent Heterosexual Except for the Times that I Hire Male Prostitutes by Pastor Ted Haggard

    Bargain Bin: Leading an Authentic Life by Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies)

    Bargain Bin: I’ll Shoot You in the Face: A Story of Friendship by Dick Cheney

    Bargain Bin: I'll Shoot You in the Face: My Time at the National Endowment for the Humanities by Lynne Cheney

    Bargain Bin: I'll Shoot You in the Face: My Relationship with the Gay Community by Mary Cheney

    Best Seller: Dear God, Take Their Guns Away by Mary Cheney's Baby

    Best Seller: Comedy as a Better form of Journalism by Jon Stewart

    Bargain Bin: Lies as a Better Form of Journalism by Rupert Murdoch

    Best Seller: The Genius of Star Wars by George Lucas (published 1978)

    Bargain Bin: The Genius of Star Wars by George Lucas (published 2007)

    Best Seller: My Life in Pictures by Jacqueline Kennedy

    Bargain Bin: My Life in Pictures by Karl Rove

    Bargain Bin: How Viagra Cost Me a Job at the World Bank by Paul Wolfowitz

    Best Seller: We Were Just Shocked that Somebody -- Anybody -- Would Sleep With Paul Wolfowitz by The World Bank Board of Trustees

    Bargain Bin: More Hate, More Executions, More Poverty: A Blueprint for America by Texan Republicans

    Best Seller: At Least We Aren’t the United States by the People of Canada

    Bargain Bin: I Don’t Recall: The Inner Workings of the Department of Justice by Alberto Gonzalez

    Bargain Bin: How to Make Smart Choices in Love, Real Estate, and Finance by GayProf