Thursday, March 29, 2007

Future Imperfect

Alright – GayProf must confess. I know some have conjectured about this and some have taken strong positions in the debate. Rumors have abounded. Now, though, the time has come for me to confirm what some have suspected. Ready?

Yes, I have attended a Star Trek convention in my life. No, I did not wear the ears.

Until I went to that convention (around the age of 12 or so), I thought that I was a Star-Trek fan. I could tell you details from ever episode and I had the technical manual for the Enterprise. Therefore, I thought I would be well acquainted with the other people at the convention.

No way, man. I didn’t even come close. Nobody told me that I should have sewn my own uniform or cast a phaser out of plaster of paris. Star-Trek fans take the show very seriously.

Recently I read a piece on 365Gay about an unofficial Star Trek program that has been gathering a loyal following. Apparently Star-Trek fans have developed their own series, Star Trek: New Voyages, which they film and distribute via the internet. What caught 365Gay’s interest was that fans had adopted a gay-oriented script originally intended for The Next Generation. The new, revised version will have James Kirk’s nephew turn out to be a big homo. One can only hope that we will get a green male go-go dancer at some point in that episode.

Star Trek provided much solace through my exceptionally lonely adolescence. It started when my entire family came down with Chicken Pox all in one go. I got a particularly bad case that invaded every part of my body, including my eyes (Yes, I had pox IN MY EYES). Sleeping proved impossible.

In the middle of the night, therefore, I discovered that the sixties Trek lived on through reruns. Only one incarnation of Star Trek existed at that moment and it centered on Kirk and Spock. The first episode that I saw involved the crew fighting off a doomsday machine that ate planets. Between the phasers and the battle with an insane Starfleet Commodore, I was hooked.

Star Trek always offered a rosy glow to the future. Enterprise operated because of a multi-cultural crew. The first version of Trek created a multi-cultural and egalitarian future. For the 1960s, it appeared almost radical to have Asians, African Americans, and women (of all different backgrounds) in high-ranking positions. As a result, part of the mythology around the series has been centered on its inclusiveness.

So, when Nichelle Nichols came to Albuquerque for a Star Trek convention, I made my parents drop me off for the entire day. She was way cool on the series with the giant beehive hairdo, gold-hoop earrings, a mini mini-skirt, and go-go boots (and I am sure all of that was super practical for working 12-hour shifts on a starship).

Yet, Star Trek’s inclusiveness had its limits. None of the shows addressed two basic constituencies in its audience: the gays and the Latinos.

I have already complained about the lack of Latinos on Star Trek on this blog. Still, when a show implies that Latinos, as a people, don’t exist in the future, it's worth repeating -- many times.

When Next Generation appeared, the pilot episode seemed like it was going to offer a corrective to both of these issues. After all, they had men running around in the mini-skirt and go-go boots that Uhura wore so proudly. Early in the episode, the show also introduced the character Lt. Torres who manned the helm. Finally a Latino character who would fill the void from the first series! Alas, no. Lt. Torres didn’t even survive the first full episode as the mysterious alien “Q” froze him to death.

After the Latinicicle, we had to wait until Voyager before we even came close to other Latino characters. Even then, things remained muddled. While the Chicano actor Robert Beltran played the first-officer, his character was Native American, not Latino. Even there, his character skirted dangerously close to indigenous stereotypes. He also lacked any type of specific tribal affiliation, existing as a cross between Pueblo, Navajo, Apache, Cherokee, and seemingly Mexica (though that probably reflected the interests of the actor). To the creators and producers of Star Trek, Native Americans were both interchangeable (one tribe is the same as the other) and also indistinguishable (How can we possibly know the difference?).

Likewise, a new (female) Lt. Torres appeared. Though this Torres got to live through the whole series, she was also half-Klingon. Indeed, much more time went to exploring her Klingon side than ever mentioning her Latino father (who apparently abandoned the family when she was just a baby).

Queers fared even worse than Latinos. In 1988, Star-Trek creator Gene Rodenberry promised that The Next Generation would include gay characters. This, he believed, went with the spirit and concept of the show. Unfortunately, his health had started to fade. Rick Berman entered the scene as the Executive Producer and quickly quashed any notion of a queer story. None of the following three series included gay characters, either. Kate Mulgrew often lobbied Rick Berman to add a gay character to Voyager, but he always declined.

The half-assed attempt by Next Generation to appease queer audiences came in 1992. They decided to air a very special episode where the Enterprise visits a planet without gender. Riker soon develops a relationship with one the planet's people. He discovers that she has a gendered identity as female. The people on her planet discover her “secret” and she is promptly sent to a “rehabilitation camp.” After she emerges, she claims that she is cured and 100 percent androgynous.

On the surface, that episode kinda hinted at issues surrounding sexuality in this nation. The parallel, in particular, to hiding one’s gender identity and “rehabilitation” would be the most obvious. Yet, it really just enforced heterosexual standards and gender presumptions.

It was only through quasi-monsters (aliens) that the existence of queer people could even be suggested in Star Trek. Even then, those aliens contrasted with the perfectly healthy, all hetero crew of the Enterprise. The mere presence of the aliens threatens to take down the ship and embroil the entire federation in intergalactic war!

The message of the episode further presumes that our social constructions of gender are natural. The romance between Riker and the planet’s citizen is explicitly heterosexual, as she considers herself female. She looks to emulate the other women on Enterprise, such as the doctor and Counselor Troi, as she asks for hair and make-up tips. Star Trek tells us its okay to be gay, as long as you are really straight and adopt a proper gender performance.

Once the ship leaves the planet, Riker never again mentions or thinks about this love affair. Though I think he might have sold the massage table on e-bay. Personally, I always hoped for an episode where we see her take revenge on her “therapists” through some type of bloodbath.

Paramount, the owners of the Star-Trek franchise, have expressed confusion about why their recent movie attempts and series failed. Now they want to make a new movie that focuses on a young Kirk and Spock. Unless that film shows them getting it on, I doubt it will leave much of an impression.

Part of their failure, it seems to me, is that Star Trek stopped being relevant when they stopped focusing on social issues and started focusing on big explosions. If fans of the show can produce a program that is more cutting edge than the studio that holds the license, there is a problem.

Or maybe they just need to use more of the ears. What do I know?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Smiles Everyone -- Smiles.

All Things Bitter recently had a little entry that had my mind awhirl with nostalgia. I decided that I would steal plagiarize borrow the idea. Actually, I think that he stole copied found inspiration from another site as well. Let’s just do what all bloggers do when they copy some other webpage for an entry: We’ll call it a meme.

In this case, we are thinking about the television theme songs and opening sequences that best encapsulated the show’s spirit. Over the past decade, networks have quietly phased out the theme song. This did not result in an extra thirty-seconds of television entertainment. Rather, they realized they could toss in one additional commercial per half-hour.

Most of my selections show me to be a child of the seventies. I became quite disturbed early in the year when I realized that the majority of television that I currently watch is at least twenty years old. (As an aside: I just now became disturbed to realize that when I say “early in the year,” I really mean September. For me, the academic calendar dictates my life-cycle rather than the Gregorian calender. New things start for me in September, not January. Perhaps that is another reason why I think January sucks).

Anyway, they don’t make them like they used to when it comes to opening titles. Let’s take a look at the title sequences that captured my imagination:

Wonder Woman

    We have to start with the obvious. Perhaps, though, the really die-hard CoG fans will be surprised at which title sequence that I selected. Sure, the first season’s lyrics “In your satin tights, fighting for your rights” have more emotional resonance than any Shakespearian sonnet.

    The title sequence that I remember most from my childhood, however, appeared in the middle of Season Two. The more disco-oriented song just felt streamlined. Besides, the image of Wonder Woman holding the two cars in place while the tires screech will forever be etched in my memory. Seriously, I might be riddled with Alzheimer’s and not remember my own name, but I’ll still be able to recall Wonder Woman’s grip on that orange truck and red car (Dodge Aspen?).

    Of course, I also just liked Wonder Woman better when they moved the show to the modern era. Instead of wearing the same old uniform week after week, Diana got to dress in designer clothes (and never in polyester, as she made clear in one episode). People around her also stopped pretending that Diana Prince was a homely slouch. I can suspend belief enough that people wouldn’t be able to recognize that Diana was really Wonder Woman simply because she tossed her hair into a bun and threw on some Lenscrafter specials. I can’t suspend belief, however, that anybody would ever imagine Lynda Carter as “plain.”

Hart to Hart

    After the collapse of Wonder Woman and the near collapse of Charlie’s Angels (we never discuss the Shelly-Hack era of that show), I needed some sort of action/mystery hour. The networks obliged by providing Hart to Hart. The opening credits neatly outlined the premise of the show. The couple’s butler discussed the basic traits of each character (this show also came on the air when I had a strange ambition to become a butler in my future life (don’t ask)).

    Besides Dallas, nobody could have conjured a more perfect show to usher in the eighties. Hart to Hart centered on wealth, glamor, conspicuous consumption, and sex (but within the confines of heterosexual marriage). It was sort of a cross between James Bond and Murder She Wrote, with maybe a little Horatio Alger tossed into the mix.

    Jonathan Hart, a “self-made millionaire” and his beautiful wife, Jennifer, flew around the world in their private jet solving crimes. Apparently the police never got suspicious that this wealthy couple always landed just minutes before somebody died. Nor did the police seem to mind that the Harts were always the first to point the finger at somebody else.

    Excess and leisure-time marked the Harts’ lives. They also spent at least ten minutes worth of the show’s dialogue engaged in baby-talk with each other. This segued into the show’s unending hints that the Harts had a very healthy sex life. I don’t know about you, but when I am solving murders (especially ones that have major international consequences), it always helps to leap into the sack for awhile.

    I will say, though, the Harts’ marriage seemed a lot more interesting and healthy than other marriages on television. They weren’t saddled with mewing and screaming children (even as a child myself, I disliked the presence of children). They also liked spending time with each other. They liked it so much that they even took their baths together (though I am curious why Jonathan Hart is reading a copy of Marie Claire magazine in that scene).

Charlie’s Angels

    I am heavy into camp. I know that my blog probably doesn’t at all give this impression. Truth be told, though, I always gravitated to the campy. To the young queer me (and the adult queer me, too!) Charlie’s Angels' over-the-top genre-bending can’t compare with the purest of heroin.

    Susan Douglas already gave the show a solid critique in Where the Girls Are. It would be hard to compete with that, so I won’t. For our purposes, Charlie’s Angels’ opening title sequence proves irresistible.

    In a nutshell, Charlie, the disembodied boss of the Angels, narrates the necessary exposition. He creates a fairytale situation in which the “three little girls” decided to attend the police academy. While there, we find that these allegedly little girls became experts with guns and learned to toss men over their shoulder with expert judo skills. Despite investing all that money into their training, though, the police force relegated them to traditional women’s jobs of typing, crossing guard, and meter-maid. Charlie informs us that he has rescued these not-quite damsels and given them the excitement that they always craved.

    The rest of the intro sequence seems like a schizophrenic mix between Police Stories and a fashion shoot for Vogue. For every clip of the Angels firing a gun, there is an equal shot of them tossing their hair or trying on a bikini. It all ends in a fiery explosion. What’s not to love?

Remington Steele

    One might expect that the young GayProf would have had a serious crush on Pierce Brosnan. In truth, I was more inclined to want to be like Remington Steel than lust after him (though, as an adult, I recognize those priorities to have been disordered). This show had it all: mystery, a debonair leading man, and Laura Holt got to drive around in a Volkswagon Cabriolet

    Remington Steele, in retrospect, exploited the eighties’ tensions over feminism perfectly. On the one hand, Laura Holt owned the detective agency and had the professional training that made it a success. Those inside the agency understood her to be the real boss even as Steele took all the credit in public.

    Still, as the opening title sequence made clear, nobody would really believe that a woman could be a detective. Her talents and entrepreneurial instincts had to be hidden behind the guise of a man. She created the fictional Remington Steele to give her agency legitimacy.

    On the surface, Laura’s position critiqued society’s sexism. She points out the injustice of a retrograde society that won’t allow women to do “men’s jobs.” Yet, the premise of the show and the character of Steele upheld that idea as well.

    In the show, Brosnan discovers Laura’s secret and assumes the identity of the fictional Steele. Though he had spent most of his time as a thief, Laura quickly forgets about the new Steele’s nefarious past. Moreover, it is often Steele who solves the crime despite Laura’s superior training and experience. We are supposed to believe that Steele has a “natural” ability and instinct that comes, in part, from having been a fanatical movie buff.

    The show suggested that even with superior skills and training, women just couldn’t compete in a man’s world. Remington Steele's premise started with the ultimate version of “behind every good man, there is a better woman.” Very quickly, though, Laura Holt became a victim of her own creation.

Mary Tyler Moore

    When I think of gay men’s Sacred Texts, a number of things come to mind. There are Tales of the City, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, and, of course, the Joy of Gay Sex. For gay men of a certain age, though, the Mary Tyler Moore theme song could possibly trump them all.

    In the first season, the opening credits set the tone perfectly. Mary, leaving behind the dull life of small-town Minnesota, ventures to Minneapolis/St. Paul. Sonny Curtis poses the musical question “How Will You Make it on Your own?” The film answers that she makes it just fine and has a hell of a good time in her new town. She goes for long walks around frozen lakes, pets a dog, and even buys French bread! Then, with exuberance, she tosses her hat in the air while the old woman in the background judges here quietly.

    Of course, the producers wisely edited out the bit where Mary had to retrieve her hat from the street and dodge the on-coming traffic. Nor does the opening show Mary’s lips cracked and bleeding from trying to smile in that bitter cold weather. It’s probably better that way.

    For lots of gay men, Mary’s upbeat beginning seemed like something that related to us. Few gay men, after all, move from their parents house directly into a LTR. There is a period of coming to terms with ourselves and learning what it means to be on our own. We eventually find, though, love is all around! Which is why we also learn to carry lots of condoms.

Fantasy Island

    Back in the late seventies, Saturday nights couldn’t be beat for television, at least for a five-year old. The Love Boat provided a steady paycheck for washed-up actors and Charo who guest starred week after week on that modern update of Ship of Fools. Directly following Love Boat, Fantasy Island provided (by seventies’ standards) a darker venue. It also provided a steady paycheck for washed-up actors and former Brady children who guest starred week after week.

    From the opening credits, the iconic “The Plane, The Plane” made its way into the nation’s lexicon. How many secretaries had to politely laugh as their office-mates’ imitations of Tattoo?

    For those who never saw an episode, the premise of the show centered on the mysterious Mr. Roarke who granted visitors to his island any wish they wanted – for the right price. The show always started the same way: Mr. Roarke provided exposition about the guests’ fantasies to Tattoo. Tattoo, who was supposed to be the business manager of the island, apparently never bothered to look into the island’s reservations until two seconds before he met the guests. I think that he later managed the Intercontinental Hotel chain.

    As I have mentioned in previous entries, my parents always explicitly pointed out any Latino actor on television. To me, the Mexican-born Ricardo Montalbán proved a much more appealing visage than the ever-servile Chico from Chico and the Man. In an almost unheard of move for the networks, they allowed a character with a Spanish accent on television who was neither a dim-wit nor somebody’s servant. In the case of the ethnically-ambiguous Mr. Roarke, they even played up his accent as one of his alluring and intriguing elements.

    Throughout his career, Montalbán managed to walk a tightrope between being a “Latin Lover” stereotype and a genuinely interesting character actor. In many ways, Mr. Roarke continued that same balancing act. On the one hand, Fantasy Island cashed in on the notion of the mysterious Latin who had exotic ways. Still, Mr. Roarke proved smarter than everybody else around him. He also owned his own damn island. That ain’t bad.

    Montalbán garnered special recognition from my father because he had refused to change his name to accommodate his career (Hollywood agents and producers suggested that Ricardo Montalbán go by the name “Ricky Martin” to sound less “foreign.” He refused. I am not sayin’, I am just sayin’.) In the 1950s and 1960s, he made a number of B-level films and did some musicals. By the 1970s, television audiences would also have recognized Montalbán as the Chrysler pitch-man who cooed about Corinthian leather’s softness. Mr. Roarke probably brought the actor his most mainstream recognition. In the middle of filming Fantasy Island, though, he also strapped on a giant plastic chest to resurrect his role as Khan (Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!) for Star Trek II.

    The first season of Fantasy Island offered the most entertainment. In that early incarnation, Mr. Roarke turned out to be a bit of a dick. Sure, he granted people’s fantasies, but he always found ways to manipulate those fantasies so that they turned into nightmares. Taking a lesson from the "Monkey’s Paw," he often put his guests in mortal danger to fulfill their fantasies. Did you want to live like a millionaire? No problem! Of course, all of your money will come from grim dealings with mafia leaders who will be looking to off you. Enjoy your fantasy!

    Somewhere in the middle of their joyless vacation, Mr. Roarke appeared to take delight in his guests’ predicaments. When they pleaded for him to stop, Mr. Roarke clucked at them about “being careful what they wished for.” They had no choice but to finish the fantasy that they started. Beaten, burned, or emotionally devastated at the end, the guests then had to listen to Mr. Roarke tell them why they had misled their lives and wasted all of their money (which he kept) on a pointless fantasy.

    Roarke’s moralizing became so intense that the producers later decided to imply that he was really God. In one episode, he even battled Satan mano-a-mano! Just when we didn’t think the show could have more camp, Rody McDowell popped up as the Prince of Darkness, complete with an all-black suit to contrast Roarke’s white one. Hey, nobody said seventies television had subtlety.

    Since Fantasy Island, I have always had a soft-spot for Ricardo Montalbán. Of course, it also helped that Montalbán leant his voice to New Mexico’s automated tourist radio that dotted the highway. It also really didn’t hurt that he voiced Señor Señor for Kim Possible, either.

    During the late seventies, the only other Latinos on mainstream t.v. mutely served Miss Ellie her morning coffee at the Southfork Ranch. With those options, Montalbán really did seem like God. Mr. Roarke might have been campy, but at least he was in charge.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Sometime last summer I packed my meager possessions and escaped Texas for Massachusetts. I have had some time to reflect on the differences between the two states. One would imagine, being the same nation and all, that there wouldn’t be such disparities. Yet, the attitudes in either are far removed. In the best spirit of compare and contrast (and, hey, we all know that I am nothing if not formulaic at this point), here are the salient issues between the states:

    Massachusetts: Has a quasi-functioning, though crumbling, public transportation system. Instead of increasing this service, especially investing in expanding the underdeveloped T lines, the corrupt MBTA decides to hire “customer service specialists” who can be polite about the lack of service.

    Texas: Imagines public transportation is a communist plot. Has announced that it will instead construct an 18-lane highway for Houston. Why be stuck in traffic in a meager 10 lane highway when you can be stuck in an 18-lane highway?


    Massachusetts: Has civil laws protecting gays and lesbians’ basic rights, including marriage.

    Texas: Has a governor who told gays and lesbians they should leave the state in the summer of 2005. The good people of Texas reelected him in 2006.


    Massachusetts: Has aggressive regulations about owning firearms.

    Texas: I think that I was the only one who wasn’t packing. I am still amazed I didn’t get blown away in my classroom.


    Massachusetts: Has a long name which is difficult to spell.

    Texas: Has a name so short that even I can spell it.


    Massachusetts: Has some of the highest income taxes in the nation. Most consider paying those taxes an obligation and duty of their citizenship.

    Texas: Likes to pretend that because it doesn't have an income tax they have accomplished something. In reality, they have regressive taxes on property and a crushing sales tax that unfairly burdens the poor.


    Massachusetts: Considered one of the most liberal states in the nation, if not the most liberal.

    Texas: Pitifully claims that Austin is “liberal” when, in reality, it is simply less conservative than the rest of that ultra-conservative sink hole.


    Texas: Has the very tasty Blue Bell ice cream.

    Massachusetts: Has the vastly superior J.P. Licks, Toscanini’s, and Herrell’s. To be honest, though, I would just stop eating ice cream if Texas was the only place in the world where it was produced.


    Massachusetts: Its capital, Boston, ranks as one of the most fit cities in the nation.

    Texas: Has three of the ten fattest cities in the nation: Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston (the fattest city in the nation).


    Massachusetts: Is poised to become the first state in the nation to offer universal health care.

    Texas: Has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation at a shocking 20.3 percent. Now, I am not keen on the idea of there being more Texans in the nation. I think Texas should institute universal birth control. Still, once the little Texan bastards have been born, one would think that the state would recognize the basic human right to health care. Instead, they feel that 1/5 of all the children in Texas are expendable.


    Texas: When I wear this t-shirt to the gym, it is construed as a radical statement in favor of equal rights.

    Massachusetts: When I wear this t-shirt to the gym, it is construed as a signal that I want to have anonymous sex in the sauna.


    Texas: Terms like “honey,” “dear,” or “sugar” give a false impression of friendliness that really cover a deeper layer of contempt.

    Massachusetts: Statements like “Get out of the road, shithead” are expressions of endearment.


    Massachusetts: Was the first state to have a public school system and to require compulsory education.

    Texas: Thinks education makes the majority population uppity.


    Massachusetts: The liberalism of the state often leaves many complacent or unaware of implicit racism that has real economic consequences for the state’s minority populations.

    Texas: Is fine with explicit racism. In fact, the entire state’s economy is based on it. I think they might also be making explicit racism the basis of their tourist campaign as well.


    Massachusetts: Is home to Harvard University, the oldest university in the nation.

    Texas: In fits of delusion, refers to its universities as the “Harvard on the Brazos” or “Harvard on Lake Travis.” Most likely these delusions results from all the drugs one needs to take while living in Texas.


    Massachusetts: Won the Civil War.

    Texas: Lost the Civil War.


    Massachusetts: When GayProf is in residence, he is often looking for new cultural and/or intellectual events to attend.

    Texas: When GayProf is in residence, he is often looking for a window to toss himself out of.


    Massachusetts: Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts have shockingly ignored the changing demographics of the nation. Neither has yet to hire a historian who studies Latinos in the nation.

    Texas: Is a non-white majority state, yet its flagship universities don't even come close to the state's demographics. The student body at both institutions are shockingly between 85 and 90 percent white.


    Massachusetts: Has a noble motto: “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.”

    Texas: Has a smug motto: “Don’t Mess with Texas.”


    Massachusetts: Does not accept the death penalty as an ethical punishment for crime.

    Texas: Considers execution by electric chair an appropriate pyrotechnic display for the Fourth of July.


    Massachusetts: During the nineteenth century, Massachusetts witnessed the shocking popularity of black-face minstrelsy among the working class.

    Texas: In the twenty-first century, Texan university students produce black-face minstrelsy that they post on YouTube.


    Massachusetts: Irish-Americans have an astounding amount of political control.

    Texas: Still doesn't think that the Irish are legitimate U.S. Citizens. Yeah, for Texas, it's 1855 all the time.


    Massachusetts: Brought into the U.S. during the revolution and gained the nickname “The Cradle of Liberty.”

    Texas: Brought into the U.S. by greedy Euro Americans who had illegally immigrated into Mexico. Earned them the nickname “diablo Texans” by Mexicans.


    Massachusetts: Has the JFK presidential library. He had a remarkable reputation for being eloquent and smart.

    Texas: Has Bush, Senior’s Presidential Library. He has a remarkable reputation for siring losers. Texas will also soon have Bush, Jr’s library. One can only imagine that it will have walls that bleed spontaneously and wailing ghosts who haunt it for all eternity.


    Massachusetts: Abolished slavery in 1780.

    Texas: Whites illegally immigrated into Mexico and instituted slavery despite being explicitly forbidden by the Mexican federal government.


    Massachusetts: The general population is thankful that they don’t live in Texas.

    Texas: The general population is thankful that they don’t live in Massachusetts.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Change, Not Demise

Over the past couple of weeks, two different theories emerged that predicted the future end of “gay culture.” In the first, a Baptist minister speculated that babies would eventually be chemically altered invitro if scientists discovered a “gay gene.” This, he argued, would prevent gay men and lesbians from ever being born. The second, seemingly less sinister prediction, involved an Associated Press story that noted that “gay villages” are disappearing from urban landscapes. As urban demographics change, major cities’ explicit or implicit gay neighborhoods, like the West Village and Chelsea in New York City, Washington's Dupont Circle, or Boston's South End, have become diluted with (mostly white) heterosexual couples. Some argue that queer folk have become so accepted by mainstream society that such neighborhoods are no longer viable as queer-only spaces.

To my mind, there are many things wrong with each of these arguments. Both presume that there is an essentialized gay identity. One bases gay identity in biology. The other bases it in geography. Neither, though, pays attention to the complexity of sexuality.

There is not much to say about the Baptist minister’s desire to wipe queer people out of existence. Of course, it warms my heart to be construed as a “biological error” or some type of evolutionary dead-end. These types of arguments suggest nothing about actual biology. Rather, they speak to the tremendous emphasis this society still places on sexual practice to structure social relationships. Some have suggested that the minister’s acknowledgment of the possibility of a genetic “cause” of homosexuality is a step-forward by itself. In the immortal words of Shania, that don’t impress me much.

On the contrary, the history of twentieth-century homophobia is a story of science looking for same-sex desire to be rooted in some type of somatic pathology. Looking for the “cause” of homosexuality in order to “treat it” is not novel, even among radical Christians. We can find plenty of evidence of gay men and women who suffered horrific medical experiments to end their same-sex desires. Perhaps the only change here is that the minister is proposing that those experiments take place on embryos rather than actual adult individuals.

These “scientific” efforts are never accompanied by studies seeking to find the “cause” of heterosexuality. If we find the heterosexual gene, would the good Baptist consider it my right, as a parent, to ensure that my children came out gay? I am going to guess no.

The argument about geography, however, is also alarmist about the demise of “gay culture” as well. This vantage point, however, undermines queers’ agency just as equally.

An argument exists that queer folk have wider social networks than previous generations. Because of this larger network, they continue, there is not a need to have as much invested in a “queer community.” This, I think, is a dubious argument. Queers, as a minority, have always had to grapple with the larger population. Our social networks have always extended beyond bedrooms and bars. Perhaps what has changed is that those networks overlap more than they did in the past as the need for secrecy has been reduced for most people.

There are also branches of the queer community that hold divisive perspectives that celebrate these changes in urban life. One group advocates for total queer assimilation, exclusive monogamous marriage, and middle-class values as the only “legitimate” way to express one’s queerness. This group implicitly or explicitly argues that the more queers “act like” their hetero counterparts the more we will be “accepted” by general society. To them, “gay ghettos” are frustrating reminders of that difference.

In a similar tone, there are a few advocates for the intellectually hollow “post-gay” identity. This group claims to have “evolved” beyond what they imagine as urban-gay life. They have decided that they way they live their identity and express themselves is more “authentic” than other queer people. Both of these positions are self-serving as a means to claim a smug superiority over their queer brothers and sisters. They also naïvely believe that sexual difference no longer matters in this nation (even as they are perfectly willing to deploy their sexuality in social and economic situations where it will benefit them (such as working for a queer-oriented company)).

Just because we are no longer arrested for our sexual practices does not mean that we have achieved sexual freedom. Ignoring that a difference exists between queers and heteros is not helpful. Even worse is naming those differences as being the “fault” of stubborn urban queers who refuse to assimilate.

To be honest, I neither celebrate nor mourn the changing geographic organization of this nation’s cities in relation to sexuality. Rather, I think that we need to be more cognizant, as a group, about why these changes occur and how we interpret them. Moreover, we also need an awareness about the historical circumstances that resulted in the creation of the these neighborhoods in the first place.

I don’t believe that we are on the verge of an era of sexual ambiguity or that gay identity is about to disappear. First, people with desires for same-sex sex are always going to be inclined to congregate with each other. The mere desire to have sex, especially a desire for efficiently finding a sex partner, is going to prompt people to find predominately queer establishments.

While the urban landscape might be changing, I find that the number of queer-only venues to be on the rise. Gay and lesbian cruises, for instance, have become a tremendous cash boon for the tourist industry. Likewise, internet services exist that specialize in everything from random hook-ups to long-term marriages. This has provided new means to increase the level of contact among the queer population. We also live in an era with countless magazines and a television network that market exclusively to the queer community.

Changes in the urban geography, I believe, are not necessarily rooted in a decreased desire among queers to associate together. Rather, I think that commercialism has temporarily usurped those spaces. Instead of clamming that queer identity is fading, I believe we need to be more aware of who is controlling the image of that identity. In a trend appearing across the urban and suburban landscape, major corporations are seeking to create a “sameness” of experience in order to peddle their wares. Pottery Barn might have replaced a local gay bar, but that does not necessarily mean that there was a lack of interest in the that bar. Rather, any locally owned establishment simply can’t compete with economic power of such enterprises.

Moreover, my anecdotal encounters with various gay men in Boston suggests a dissatisfaction with this trend. Most gay men that I have met express a desire for more queer establishments and neighborhoods. It’s just a matter of time before entrepreneurial individuals meet this demand. Probably these new centers will be located in different areas, but they will still serve community needs.

We can’t ignore that changes in information technology, social concepts of sexuality, or economic shifts that have opened the possibilities for greater queer mobility and interaction. What this means to me, though, is that a sense of queer community has become increasingly diverse. We need to resist the notion of queer identity as waning or the idea that society is becoming more homogenous.

Both the Baptist minister and arguments about the “loss of gay culture” presume that we, as a group, are powerless to define our own identities. Notions of a shared identity do not emerge from biology or by simply living in the same neighborhoods. Searching for a single source or meaning for queer identity collapses the diversity of our community. Rather, community and shared identity emerge from our interactions. It is the acknowledgment of shared experiences and a shared position within the larger society that has the potential to unite us queer folk.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Who Are You Calling "Amigo"?

I’ve noticed something within the past few days. Everybody in Boston had a smile on their face. They have flocked to the Common in order to romp with their dogs or toss a ball around with each other. At first, I thought all this giddiness resulted from the sudden warm temperatures after frigid, frigid cold. Then I realized it’s that special feeling we all get when Bushie is out of the country. Yes, nothing makes our hearts feel lighter than knowing that Bush is some other country’s problem, even if just for a little bit of time. Every moment like it is precious.

You know that the pilots on Air Force One must be tempted to just leave him behind one day. The Brazilian Ambassador will arrive at the airport and find a note pinned to Bush’s jacket:
“Here is little Georgie. We can’t take care of him anymore. Please find him a good home. He takes his nap at four.” Can heads of state be foundlings?

This time Bushie (who has to be the least traveled president in recent memory (not counting his never-ending vacations at his ranch)) decided that he would pretend to care about Latin America – or, for that matter, pretend that he even knew where Latin America appears on a globe. No matter which Latin American nation he visited, Bushie must have been surprised at the almost universal condemnation.

During his tour, Bush claimed that he cared about Latin America and wanted to improve relations. In the United States he is used to being able to simply say that he cares and people take him at his word. For some peculiar reason, the people in Latin America wanted actual proof of said caring.

How did he try to make good on that? Well, he started by barely spending six hours in Colombia. Hey, he said he wanted to improve relations, not spend the night. After visiting three other nations that he never knew existed before last Tuesday, Bush jetted up to Mexico. Once again, Bush took the opportunity to reiterate his support for a massive wall along the border between his nation and the other. Some in Mexico pointed out that the money spent on the wall, which will accomplish nothing, could actually be used to provide direct aide to the poor in Latin America. This, in turn, might negate the need for migration in the first place. Bush, however, was too busy trying to find a Taco Bell to listen.

Really, though, Bush’s incompetence and his half-hearted interest in Latin America doesn’t surprise me. Another story on Latinos caught my attention much more.

PBS commissioned yet another Ken Burns documentary. This time, Burns set out to chart the little discussed Second World War. How often have I said, “If only somebody would stop and think about that forgotten war!”

Bitch, please. Does the United States even remember that it fought in any other war?

Burns, however, decided that Latinos’ experiences during World War II were simply not important. In seven episodes (fourteen-hours of television), Burns does not once mention any Latino veteran – at all.

Around 500,000 Latinos joined the various branches of the U.S. armed forces out of a total population of about 2.7 million (To put that another way, almost a fifth of all Latinos living in the U.S. served in the military during World War II). The Latino enlistment rate, as would be the case for Korea and Vietnam, was higher than the population at large in relation to their percent of the total population.

Latinos served in both theaters, often with distinction. In Italy, Company Z of the 141st Regiment of the 36th Division consisted entirely of Tejanos, most of them from El Paso. This regiment won wide praise for heroics on the battlefield In particular, Lieutenant Gabriel Navarette from El Paso and Sgt. Manuel S. Gonzales from Fort Davis, Texas, both won the Distinguished Service Cross.

Latinos disproportionately served in the Pacific theater. Government officials specifically selected Mexican American units for service in the Pacific based on a belief that their alleged racial characteristics meant that they could “better endure the hardships.” The War Department, for instance, converted a major chunk of New Mexico’s national guard into the 200th Coast Artillery Corps to defend the Philippines. This unit faced inhuman torture during the infamous Bataan Death March after the U.S. abandoned the islands to Japan early in the war.

Mexican Americans were one of the most highly decorated ethnic groups in the U. S. Armed Forces. Mexican-American soldiers won scores of Silver and Bronze Stars, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart. Twelve Mexican Americans received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Stories of Mexican American service to the United States are easily found. Joe Martínez, born in Taos, worked the sugar-beet fields of Colorado before he enlisted in the army. Posthumously, Congress awarded Martínez their medal of honor for gallantry in the Aleutians.

Of course, this is just a tiny number of things that I could mention. It also totally ignores the home-front.. Nor have I mentioned the Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles. During that event, white sailors traveling in groups of 10 to 150 men entered Mexican neighborhoods targeting Mexican-American teenagers wearing Zoot Suits. That, though, is a story for another day.

PBS is claiming that they didn’t intend to exclude Latinos. They argue that they couldn’t tell everybody’s story. Apparently if you can’t tell everybody’s story, the stories you decide not to tell are the ones given by Latinos.

Burns and his crew decided to focus on the experiences of four “typical” American towns. Apparently what made these towns “typically” American was their total lack of any Latinos. Still, it’s hard to imagine that not a single Latino family lived in or near Sacramento, California, one of the towns selected for the documentary.

Historically, Mexican Americans in California sacrificed a great deal. During World War II, California Congressman Jerry Voorhis observed:

    As I read the causality lists form my state, I find anywhere from one-fourth to one-third of these names are names such as Gonzales or Sanchez, names indicating that the very lifeblood of our citizens of Latin-American descent in the uniform of the armed forces of the United States is being poured out to win a victory in the war. We ought not to forget that..

Not only did PBS forget, they are entirely unapologetic about this historical omission. To add insult to injury, PBS announced that they would release the documentary on September 16 – The starting day of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Burns’ production company has claimed the documentary is “a look at the human experience” during the war. There’s the problem, in my mind. If Burns said that this documentary was narrowly focused on the experiences of just a few people, the absence of Latinos might be more acceptable. The language he uses, however, suggests that he believes this documentary to be greater than just the people he interviewed. Even the title, “The War,” implies that we are supposed to consider these stories “universal.”

When Burns set out to chart what he imagined as the “human experience,” he already had certain presumptions of who he considered typically “human.” Latinos’ experiences during World War II are Latinos’ experiences. Who other than Latinos could relate to that? The experiences of white Americans, however, shows the human condition to which we should all relate.

Sure, Burns included some stories from African Americans. PBS was also quick to point out, in response to the criticism about Latinos’ absence, that they did include a section on Japanese-American internment. Because, apparently, all minorities share the same experience and acknowledging one groups’ story is really acknowledging all minorities' struggles. So, why bother to learn what is unique about each group? Latinos, PBS seems to claim, are just too sensitive. So what if PBS never acknowledges your existence or contributions to this nation?

In reality, there is nothing more “typical” about Mobile, Alabama than there is about Los Angeles, California. Luverne, Wisconsin is not more “American” than Santa Fe, New Mexico. Burns made clear and conscious choices about those towns based on his own hidden assumptions about which stories he wanted to tell. We are told once again that the white experience is the real American experience, everybody else is just a footnote.

Sometimes we hear a defense of this thinking based on numbers. Latinos, Asians, and African Americans, after all, are “minorities.” Of course, the United States is rapidly becoming a non-white majority nation. In Texas, Hawai’i, California, and New Mexico, that is already the reality. Based on that logic, should we feel at liberty to now ignore whites in the history of those states? Should I break out my Sharpie marker and history book every time we take a new census?

Latinos remain on the margins of U.S. history even after decades of concerted effort by dedicated scholars to recover and write those experiences. If this is how the U.S. treats its own citizens of Latin American descent, is it any wonder that Latin America is a wee bit suspicious of the nation’s intentions?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Feel the Burn

Boston’s arctic blast has passed. While I always prefer cold weather over a humid hell, that was just too damn cold. Maybe it’s just because the cold reveals my laziness. Having to be so bundled up requires so much effort. It really affects my desire to exit my apartment.

Wearing my winter boots, for example, takes several minutes to lace them up entirely and an equal amount of time to take them off. I can tell you this, if I am going to the trouble of putting those boots on, there is no way that I am having sex. That’s just too much effort to put them on and off again. My winter boots prevent more sex than any chastity belt ever did.

Unless I met a guy with a boot fetish, in which case I wouldn’t need to take them off. Thank goddess that I am gay. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that a hetero could probably find a woman with a such a boot fetish if he put some effort into it. Being gay, though, I could get ten men lined up just by choosing the right bar. Too bad I don’t find some guy rubbing his crotch on my boot all that hot – Well, it’s kinda hot.

More than anything else, though, the arctic cold really tests my motivation to go the gym. Somehow, I still drag my carcass into that sweaty pit. After all, I don’t have enough chest hair to ever qualify as a bear. So, that just leaves staying relatively thin as my most basic option in the queer world. I suppose there’s some health benefits to exercising, but, whatever. We all know that it’s just about the sex.

While at the gym, though, I rarely have a positive attitude. Some people, I imagine, must be totally focused on the gym. They must get into it and need it. I, in contrast, think fairly negative thoughts while there. Here is what typically runs through my mind:

    Man, this sucks.

    I will be skinny.

    This time could be spent doing something more pleasant – like having a lobotomy. At least then I wouldn’t care if I gained an extra ten pounds or not.

    I wonder if this is how Steve Reeves started out.

    Man, this sucks.

    God, I hope those shower stalls are cleaner than last time. I could have sworn the mold was cruising me.

    At least this gym doesn’t have the mold problems of Walter Reed Hospital.

    How is Bush still in office?

    Man, this sucks.

    Isn’t that the guy who spit in the water fountain three months ago? I don’t forget those things – Ever. He’s nasty. Still, he’s kinda cute too.

    I bet I am the only man in this gym who has the Wonder Woman theme song on his work-out playlist.

    I bet I am not the only man in this gym who imagines himself as Lynda Carter while running on the treadmill. I am not sayin’, I am just sayin’.

    Man, this sucks

    That guy sure has a lot of tattoos. I think I will nickname him “Illustrated Man” in my own mind.

    When was the last time I read the Illustrated Man? Middle school?

    Maybe I should get a tattoo.

    Man, this sucks.

    Even though I hate it, I think it looks cool when I do the declined bench press.

    Did I remember to turn off the coffee maker before I left?

    Man, this sucks.

    Hey, there’s that woman with the cool hair. I nicknamed her “cool hair.”

    Maybe I should be more imaginative in my nicknames.

    I wonder if cool hair is a lesbian.

    Man, this sucks

    Ugh, that’s heavy.

    I could make fat sexy again.

    I wonder if the other gym patrons are disturbed that I do a Freddie Mercury pose when Mika’s “Grace Kelly” song plays on my i-pod.

    Man, this sucks.

    Eating that bag of guacamole-flavored chips before coming here was a serious mistake.

    I wish this gym had a liquor license.

    Illustrated Man sure can lift a lot weight. I bet under all that ink, he has a good body.

    Man, this sucks.

    I wonder if I could get a blog entry out of this.

    With all this work, I deserve a treat. When I get home, I am going to eat a whole cheesecake.

    Cheesecake always makes me think of the Golden Girls.

    Man, this sucks.

    Damn – Illustrated Man started using the machine that I was going to use next. I now despise Illustrated Man.

    Maybe I should just get my stomach stapled and skip all of this unpleasantness.

    I wonder if Swingline makes the staples they use in that stomach operation. They seem to have some sort of staple monopoly.

    Man, this sucks.

    I can’t believe that I pay for this pain.

    Fuck the gym.

    Fuck society’s expectations for beauty.

    Man, This sucks.

    Only another five minutes on the treadmill and I will be done.

    If I keep doing the treadmill, I wonder if I will have any ligaments left in my knees by the time I am forty.

    Hey, I am done. Now I don’t have to worry about the gym for another 48 hours. That wasn’t so bad.

    It kinda sucked, though.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Not Gay, But Queer

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.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Beware of Strawmen

Bloggers and the news media are buzzing and fretting about Ann Coulter [indirectly] calling John Edwards a faggot at a prominent right-wing political gathering. To me, this is actually a distracting ploy that dangerously obscures the right’s greater insidiousness.

True, Coulter’s popularity baffles me. I always suspected that she suffered from undiagnosed Tourett’s syndrome. Whatever hateful thing enters her mind, she says freely. Concern for other humans does not register in her mind. This suggests to me that she needs serious medical treatment.

Whatever the case, Ann Coulter just isn’t smart. Her writings, instead, appeal to people’s worst elements. These types of slurs, which are common for Coulter, show her intellectual poverty. She gets attention more for her bizarre irrationality than any type of reasoned argument. Indeed, Coulter never puts forward interesting or insightful plans for government, whatever her political agenda.

All of that means it’s better to simply ignore her. If people read her or don’t read her, I don’t really care – She just isn’t that important. People in power (on either side of the political spectrum) seemingly consider her an irrelevant side-show.

What I find dishonest is that she becomes a means for the other right-wing extremists to make themselves seem more palatable. Every single Republican (and most Democrats) who have declared their intention to run for president have stated that they think queer relationships are less valuable than hetero relationships. Most Republicans, moreover, explicitly argue that queer people are less worthy citizens than their hetero counterparts.

Mitt Romney, for instance, is building his presidential campaign around the unusual strategy of disparaging the state and people whom he governed. In particular, Romney disdains the “radical” idea that equality should exist under the law. This has recently won him the top-spot in a poll among conservative activists. To get that honor, Romney has firmly come-out against sexual freedom. Indeed, he has ignored the social (and even religious) complexity of the nation and created his own fantasy vision of the United States.

Romney outright rejects queer relationships and parenting. "Today, same-sex couples are marrying under the law in Massachusetts. Some are actually having children born to them,'' he told a mindless crowd of fanatical conservatives, "It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact. Every child has the right to have a mother and a father." It's funny, I always thought that children had a right to a safe and loving home, access to medical care, and a free education. Apparently, though, I was just way off base. All of those things are much less important than making sure that every household has a little penis-vagina sex going on inside.

Romney argues that even being friendly with gay folk disqualifies you as president. He has attempted to discredit his political rival Rudy Giuliani by calling him “pro-gay” (an appraisal of Giuliani that I, as a gay man, would not share). In Romney’s mind, being “pro-gay” and Republican don’t mix.

Don’t think, though, that Romney only hates the queers. He has plenty of hate to go around, including single hetero parents. "The family structure is critical to our society,” Romney recently stated, “We will not succeed if 60 percent of our children are born out of wedlock," he said.” For this candidate, they only possibility of success is if the nation conforms to a narrow model of “family” based on heterosexual marriage. Romney, I can only guess, must watch a lot of Donna Reed reruns.

Even as he takes stabs at single hetero parents, Romney knows that [verbal] gay-bashing will bring in the most votes and cash. He can predict doom and chaos if queers form families or are too visible in society. Romney has basically argued that God granted the hating of queer people as the special privilege and duty of fanatical Christians.

Like any good Republican, Giuliani quickly responded to being wrongly labeled “pro-gay.” The former New-York mayor assured the nation that he believes that gays and lesbians should always be treated as second-class citizens. "Marriage should be between a man and a woman," Giuliani told the conservative talk show host Sean Hanity, "Here's exactly the position I've always had. And it's the same — and I feel the same way about it today that I did eight, ten years ago when I signed the domestic partnership legislation: marriage should be between a man and a woman. It should remain that way."

Now we all know that I don’t think gay marriage should be the number one issue for queer activists. Like it or not, though, gay marriage has become the means through which the right-wing can mobilize the existing hatred and fear of queer people in this country for their own political purposes. Let’s not forget that Bush’s 2004 election victory was built, in part, on the backs of gay-men. All of these Republican candidates figure they can do likewise.

Yet, at the news of Coulter’s remark, these same Republican candidates made it an opportunity to present themselves as not at all hateful. Romney’s spokesman Kevin Madden said, "It was an offensive remark. Political discourse ought to be more substantive and thoughtful." McCain and Giuliani called Coulter's words “inappropriate,” according to the New York Times. These carefully crafted responses did not actually make any reference to the real violence and harassment that queer people face at the hands of people like Coulter. Instead, the best they could come up with was that such words just weren’t nice.

Much of the attention on this issue has been focused on how unfair it was that John Edwards, a straight man, should be subjected to such torment. The fact that gays and lesbians face this type of harassment on an almost daily basis in some parts of this nation gets little mention.

These Republican candidates get to play it both ways. They can appear magnanimous by condemning a hateful epithet, but promote policies that guarantee that heterosexuals have special rights and privileges denied to queer people. These campaigns tacitly make us the objects of both verbal and physical assaults even as they claim such things are "unfortunate."

Romney, Giuliani, and McCain might say that it’s not right to call us faggots, but they make it clear that it’s just fine to treat us like faggots.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Sing for the Meme

Much discussion appeared over the last post. In those comments, I found that we can easily become side tracked or mired in negative feelings. At times like these we need to be reminded of what is really important: This blog is about me.

What? You didn’t think that I was going to make some call to think about our common humanity, did you? Yeah – We are all human – The world is a little flower – blah, blah. blah. Whatever – All eyes back on GayProf.

To that end, ROG had a nifty little meme that would help me create the soundtrack to my life. As you know, 20th Century Fox will surely be buying the rights to my life story at any moment. I imagine it will be titled: Valley of Gravitas or maybe GayProf Dearest.

Whatever the case, here is how the meme works. Open your music player and select your entire library. Place it in “shuffle” mode and see which songs come up for each of these questions (As usual with music memes, I altered the rules to prevent the same artist from being repeated. Otherwise, my entire life would be one long Billie Holiday song (which may have its own accuracy, but still)):

    Opening Credits: “Transistor” by the Scissor Sisters -- It’s only appropriate that a queer band opens my queer, queer life. The slow quasi-distorted feeling seems mood appropriate.

    Waking Up: “Good Daddy Blues” by Dinah Washington – Hey, what gay man isn’t looking for a daddy to pay for the champaign?

    First Day of School: “Juke Box Blues” June Carter – Oddly enough, this song does have a youthful feel to it – There’s something about nickels (the most useless form of currency) and jukeboxes that connotes childhood.

    Falling in Love: Anastacia “One Day in Your Life” – Yeah, great. Why does itunes always select songs in which my falling in love results in disaster? Oh, right, because all of my songs in itunes are about love ending in disaster.

    First Song: ”Waltzing Along” by James -- This song was once recommended to me by the glamorous Helen. It has some basic truths that keep my life in perspective – Help does come when you need it most -- And all roads do lead to death row. Who knows what comes after?

    Breaking Up: “Just Friends” by Billie Holiday – Of all the Holiday songs to connote my most major break-up, this is the least appropriate. Holiday built a career singing about low-down, scummy, liars (who told many lies) – Out of all of that, itunes came up "Just Friends?" If there is one thing that I know, I will never be friends with Liar Ex (Who Left No Promise Unbroken). I much prefer Kelis' "Caught Out There" as the ultimate break up song. Give me something with lyrics about setting a truck on fire. Unless this song is still supposed to be about high-school -- Then we are talking about dating girls, in which case it makes perfect sense. This meme is a bit unclear in its chronology.

    Prom: “This Can’t Be Love” by Ella Fitzgerald -- Apparently itunes thinks that I am thirty years older than my actual age and speculates that I went to prom in 1956. Eh -- I get that a lot – It’s the gravitas. Of course, given that I went to my prom with a girl (in 1992, fyi), Ella might have a point about it not being love. I fall in love with the menz.

    Driving: “One Man” by Pearl Bailey – It doesn’t strike me as a dynamic driving song – Still, who can’t appreciate the sentiment? One man just isn't enough, darling. Sing it, Pearl: “Someday one man might call my bluff, but until then, more men, ‘cuz one man ain’t quite enough....” Really, it's often about the strippers for GayProf.

    Flashback: ”I Cried a Tear” by Lavern Baker. In my life, I have cried many tears – That’s kind of a downer, though. Based on this soundtrack, watching the movie on my life will drive the audience to a mass suicide.

    Starting a New Relationship (I changed this from “Getting Back Together,” because I don’t condone keeping dysfunctional relationships together): “I’m Gonna Be Alright” by Jennifer Lopez – Okay, so seemingly this new relationship is based on a presumed disaster – again. I have really got to invest in some more optimistic music.

    Wedding: “Solitude” by Helen Humes -- What a romantic song for a wedding – an entire song devoted to aging, regret, and being trapped in your solitude. Nice. Clearly that will be a healthy marriage.

    Birth of Child: “Home for Sale” by Dwight Yoakam – Well, if I ever got saddled with a human-worm-larvae, you can bet your bottom dollar that I would put my home up for sale and move as far away as possible. Thank the goddess that I am gay and the chances of that accidentally happening are basically zero.

    Final Battle: “Pity” by the Creatures – Seemingly my final battle will occur with a subtle island theme. I like the idea of my final battle being so low-key – no harsh themes or screeching synthesizers. They should serve tropical cocktails and everybody should wear festive clothing during my final battle. Just because I am busy triumphing over the forces of evil doesn't mean that other people shouldn't be having a good time.

    Death Scene: “Overnight Sensation” by Tina Turner – Well, if I am dying, it might be a bit late to think about being an overnight sensation. Still, I did spend a long time working in the backline. You know it never was right. Then I said, “Girl, get up and get out of this mess.” Now I am an overnight sensation.

    Funeral Song: “Runaway” by P!nk – Well, I can’t think of a more extreme way to runaway than being dead. Still, I presume that “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” will by my actual funeral song. I imagine that all the school children will be let out for the day, banks will close, and the nation will stop to remember the greatness of GayProf. What -- Too vain?

    End Credits: “Thursday” by Asobi Seksu – Recommended by that brown-eyed, handsome man Cooper, this feels like a good way to end the film. I imagine that the audience will hear the lines, “since you’ve lost your way, you’ve let our love fall apart” and regret ever losing focus of GayProf. In exiting, they will all pledge themselves to be devoted priests in my cause. Or so I imagine.

Hmm – It seems my itunes is filled with music that's a tad obscure. With this soundtrack, maybe you should just wait for the DVD.