Thursday, December 29, 2005

What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

I’m back from New Mexico and just waiting until I leave again for New Year’s. Time in my former home-state, as I mentioned before, usually does me some good.

Yet, I have one tiny complaint. When, oh when, did the radio in Albuquerque get to be so bad? My parents live in the mountains, so it is at least a thirty minute drive to see anybody/anything. Sure, I could have used that time for quiet contemplation, but I wanted some tunes, man. What did I find instead?

First, evangelical Christians seem to control forty percent of New Mexico radio. Next, that Spanish-language stations in New Mexico gear their stuff to mariachi rather than modern. Finally, Albuquerque must be filled with some easy-listening fanatics (I suspect it is all those Anglos who are constantly sunning themselves on rocks).

Basically, my drives into the city consisted of forty minutes of the following:

“. . .The first time ever I saw your face . . .”
“. . .Personal savior. . .”
“. . .Aye, aye, aye. . .”
“. . .John Tesh Radio Hour . . .”
“. . .Reborn in his greatness. . .”
“. . . De Colores . . .”
". . . Lady in Red . . ."
". . . Mi Rancho Grande. . ."
". . . God spoke to me in a wetdream . . ."
“Welcome to the all Bee Gees network. . .”


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

You Mean There's a New Mexico?

Santa came and left his gifties. Many good things came GayProf's way. Still, I did not get that golden tiara and bullet-deflecting bracelets I wanted -- Next year, Santa, next year.

I know I have blogged about it before, but allow me to repeat my love of New Mexico. At night, there have been thousands and thousands of stars. During the day, the sky shows its crystal blue color. D. H. Lawrence once wrote of this place, "In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the old world gave way to the new." Indeed, I feel my own soul returning to health.

Some might call my and Lawrence's love of New Mexico spiritual, some might call it silly. Whatever the case, I am devoted to my home. If that whole academic thing doesn't work out, perhaps I will become a booster for the state.

Other things, though, make me sad and worried about New Mexico's future. Each time I return, Albuquerque shows itself to be growing unwieldly. Driving to see friends and family, one can't avoid noticing the poverty that plagues many people's lives here. A tremendous gap appears between those with money and those without.

My fears also focus on the environment. Believe me, I suck when it comes to personal responsibility for helping the environment. Recycling seems like a noble dream, but I prove very lazy about it. I have to be careful, therefore, to realize I can't get too damn judgmental. Still, the massive development here threatens the scarce water that sustains all life here.

The rapid influx of new residents brings good things to the state, I recognize. New Mexico needs capital if it wants to survive. Still, I also fear that all this growth threatens our way of life. Over the generations, the people of New Mexico developed distinctive ways of viewing the world and approaching their day-to-day challenges. It kills me to see those things slowly eroded by the ever-encroaching U.S.

Perhaps there is much truth in the old expression: ¡Pobre Nuevo México! Tan lejos del cielo y tan cerca de Texas.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Closed for the Holidays

I leave tomorrow for New Mexico. It will be an opportunity to lick some wounds, visit family, and reconnect with some friends. Trying to find an inner balance jumps high to my list, as well. At some point, I also need to start thinking about preparing for a conference interview in early January.

Today I spent in my office. The history building seems completely deserted except for a couple of straggling graduate students. I romantically cast myself as the last little boy who has not left for the holidays.

Still, I got some work finished and wrote some letters of recommendation, which should make some students happy.

The past year has been a tough one for GayProf. For all of us, friend or foe, I hope that the holidays bring peace and contentment. Yes, I even wish goodwill for George W. Bush (though it would be nice if he gave the nation the gift of his resignation).


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tough Questions for the Amazon

We all know that I sometimes confuse myself with worship the Amazon Princess. Yet, there are a few things that always troubled me about her. I know I am not the first one to question these things, but sometimes you just have to know. These are questions that Diana needs to answer:

    Wonder Civics: Okay, you like to “fight for your rights and the good ol’ red, white and blue in your satin tights.” What troubles me, though, is why, as a princess next in the line of succession in an absolute monarchy, you claim to care about democratic governments. So, democracy is fine for man’s world and mortals, but the Amazons need strict rules and hierarchy? Amazon sisters, rebel against your cruel oppressors. End Queen Hippolyta’s two-thousand-year reign of terror. You have nothing to lose but your bullet-deflecting shackles.

    This is what you wear to fight crime:

    This is what you wear when you go swimming:

    Diana, it seems like you might be a bit confused about appropriate attire. Not that I am complaining about your red, white and blue playboy-bunny suit. Believe, I am also not one of those people who is going to whine about you wearing six-inch heels. Sure you risk breaking an ankle running and jumping, but at what price fashion? It is just that usually we wear less clothing in the water than out. Just a hint, Diana.

    While we are talking about your outfit, why change the eagle on your bustier to the WW? The eagle made sense. The eagle went with the general patriotic fervor of the whole outfit.

    Okay, I understand you are not really a U.S. citizen. But, then why keep the star-spangled panties?

    The WW seems to bare an uncanny resemblance to the following images:

    VanHalen Symbol – Did you find a penchant for eighties hair bands?

    Whataburger symbol – Do you secretly gorge on greasy mystery meat patties?

These are the mysteries of an icon. . .

Too geeky of an entry? Hey, it's almost the holidays, cut me some slack.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Latino Is, Latino Ain't

From a certain perspective, I don’t do a good job of living up to expectations about being Latino. In most of the U.S., racial identities start with visual cues. Since I am of mixed ancestry (Have I ever mentioned that? It seems like I intended to say that at some point...), my Irish and Mexican features seem too sharply blended.

Depending on my current location, some feel at liberty to offer (unsolicited) observations about my appearance. “Oh,” some will say, “You are Latino? I thought you were Italian!”

Or: “Yeah, it makes sense that you are Latino. You look like a conquistador.” This one seems kinda scary to me. Perhaps, though, I shouldn’t wear that suit of armor so often.

A more perplexing response, though, goes, “I knew it! It’s your eyebrows!” Who knew that Latino folk have a distinctive eyebrow look?

One overly amorous Latino suitor once called me “A bronze Aztec god.” Either he was drunk, blind, or delusional (I was also much younger then). My skin can be as pale as a bottle of milk in the winter.

Appearance, though, isn’t the only thing that throws people off. Here is a true confession: My Spanish sucks. After several generations in the U.S., my father’s parents decided that being bilingual would mark their children with a disadvantage. Like many Mexican Americans of their generation, they hoped that English-only would speed Latinos’ incorporation into the mainstream U.S. (It didn’t, fyi). I regret their decision given my job. Having better Spanish skills is really, really, really important. Darn them! Of course, I am also really, really, really lazy about improving my Spanish as well. Eh – It’s on my to-do list.

Finally, my ability to become a Mexican house-frau is seriously questionable. Though I love every Mexican dish my family prepares, I lack an ability to cook. It’s not because I don’t try, either. I spent many hours watching my grandmother prepare fantastic meals. My grandmother’s tortillas always turned out like light, fluffy puffs of blissful dough. Even my father can do some pretty swift things in the kitchen.

My stiff, hard tortillas could replace the hubcaps on my car. Even the Anglo Ex eventually prepared a better red chile sauce than me. That really hurt! True, he cheated in his preparation, but my red chile sauce has an uncanny mud taste.

So, why bring up my mixed visage, pitiful language skills, and culinary handicap? It’s not that I doubt my status as Latino. On the contrary, growing up in New Mexico, surrounded almost entirely by other Latino folk, it was an unquestioned part of my basic identity. Yeah, my sisters and I were of mixed ancestry (I swear I meant to mention that), but within the particular circumstances of New Mexico, that mattered little. I didn’t (and still don’t) think of my identity as either obscure or nebulous.

It wasn’t until I moved to other parts of the U.S. that suddenly my racial identity became radically important. Being of mixed ancestry occasionally throws people, but, in the end, the U.S. operates on monolithic assumptions about race. Millions of Latinos currently live in the U.S. While we share some common experiences, not one of our lives could be interchanged with another.

Yet, many Euro Americans, and even some professors of color, make presumptions about my background based only on assumptions about my name and origin. Some have laid negative stereotypes on to me, like a supposed cultural tendency toward a lack of ambition.

More often, though, my status as Latino comes into play as a means for some individuals to dismiss me. “Oh, sure,” they will say amongst themselves, “Of course GayProf wants the department to have a nondiscrimination clause. He is Latino! AND Gay!”

In these cases, it is not that I could, just as a human, be interested in issues of Social Justice. Rather, any position I advocate is always suspect because they perceive me as having a self-interested position. When straight, Euro-American men advocate for these types of issues, they are generous and charitable. When I advocate for these issues, I am operating out of greed or self-preservation.

What occurs to me, though, is that they are partially right, even if they ascribe the wrong motivations. It is because I identify as a gay, Latino that I have such an interest in Social Justice issues. Seeing first hand how power works in terms of race, gender, and sexuality has made me skeptical about this society.

All of us with identities that fall outside of the established hierarchy (those who are not straight, narrow-minded, Anglo, and male) need to consider our potential as visionaries for a new cultural order. We can be cultural guerrilla warriors. None of us fully satisfy the stereotypes of our racial, gender, and sexual identities. Naming our divergences shakes apart the static markers of difference. Likewise, shared differences unite us, granting us a more complex perception of dominant society.

Our unique visions can make a better life for everybody and end the stratification in our society. Let us build on our experiences and challenge the status quo.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

I Demand a Recount!

Your results:
You are Batman
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
The Flash
Iron Man
You are dark, love gadgets
and have vowed to help the innocent
not suffer the pain you have endured.

No offense to the Dark Knight, but clearly I am supposed to be the Amazon Princess. I have no particular love for gadgets. It has to do with that push-up bra question, doesn’t it? Damn it!

Hat-tip to Roger's blog for the quiz.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Queer Gender

Gay men navigate conflicting visions of gender ideologies. We should think of ourselves as being gender renegades. Drag queens, at one end of the spectrum, show that gender and biology needn’t be assumed as linked. Likewise, the rugged, mountain-guy can disrupt assumptions that all gay men conform to the popular media image of effeminacy.

Some gay men, however, harbor fears of femininity and become corrupted by desires to prove their masculinity. An undercurrent of hatred of all things feminine exists in many queer circles. One need only glance at gay men’s personal ads to see the ever-present “no fems” listed in numerous postings.

I think of gender as socially constructed. In other words, what we presume to be “naturally” male and female is contingent on the particulars of society and time-period. We learn to recognize certain behaviors as supposedly performing masculinity (playing sports, carving a hunk of wood, etc.). Other behaviors we presume to be feminine (cooking, caring for mewing brats, etc.).

I can’t explain why some individuals are more drawn to one set of performances over another. The queer community, though, has tremendous complexity and we see examples of all sorts of expressions of individuals’ sense of gender identity. Yes, they are carvers of wood hunks and gourmet specialists (and even individuals who do both). In most instances, people express themselves as they feel they want to be seen. Still, I am concerned that some elements of the queer community become unknowingly enslaved to their desires to be seen as “manly.”

What bothers me are the ways that expectations about gender performances destroy these queer folks’ sense of self-esteem. They, in turn, seek to police other queer folk’s gender identities.

In European/ Canadian/ U.S./ Australian cultural milieus, sexuality and gender identities intertwine. We learn early, for instance, that effeminate men and same-sex desire have a link in our society. One needs only think about the 1950s film Tea and Sympathy. In the entire movie, the words “gay,” “homosexual,” or “hot-man-on-man action” never once appeared. Yet, the audiences know that the students accuse Tom Lee of being a homosexual. Why so? Tom played folk music, sewed his own drapes (!), and liked to attend tea parties with faculty wives.

Tom’s fellow students tormented him by calling him “Sister Boy.” Really, they should have harassed him for making some ugly-ass drapes. Instead, Tom’s violation of gender norms leads to an automatic conclusion of same-sex desire (Tom, by the way, wasn’t really gay in the film. The message of the film is to be nice to sensitive straight boys, but does nothing for gay men – that, though, is another post entirely).

Links between violating gender norms and same-sex desire lead many gay men to an obsession with proving that stereotype wrong. Given that gay men often spent their lives besieged by negative imagines of gay men that traded on effeminacy, it is no wonder that some become hostile to all things feminine. Many of my gay male students, upon identifying as gay, quickly disavow any association with “flaming queens.” Part of this has to do with my location in Texas. Yet, I think that elements of what they say can be seen everywhere in the queer community. These students see any signs of effeminacy as only reenforcing stereotypes of gay men and “making it harder for the rest of us.” Some gay men get caught in the trap of not wanting to be seen as “sissy,” even as adults. I am not immune to these gender pressures. At times, I still find myself questioning if I will sound too nelly. We have to learn to lose this type of gendered garbage.

I have seen first-hand the extremes that some gay men will go to prove their masculinity to themselves. Rather than owning that they were the little boy who couldn’t catch the ball, they spend their adulthood compensating. Let’s call it, “Daddy Doesn’t Love Me Blues.”

Some gay men feel, probably subconsciously, that they must conform with masculine ideals because they are gay. They feel a desperation to distinguish themselves from other gay men. These men, though, continuously fail to recognize the actual diversity and complexity of the gay community. They don’t acknowledge that many gay men, unlike their experiences, had no problem catching that ball as a child and, therefore, feel no need to try so hard. Nor do they want to know the other gay men who find such ball-playing games silly (I am in the latter category, btw).

Gay men who unconditionally eschew either real or representations of queer effeminacy show the pervasive homophobia within the queer community. In their quest for an elusive and unattainable vision of a manly-self, they become determined to discredit epicene men from claiming their place within the gay community. They create a scapegoat within the community, but never truly part of their community. Effeminate gay men become those who can hold the blame for other gay men’s feelings of political, economic, social, and even sexual inadequacies. What enrages me is the attempt of these self-proclaimed manly men to rob other gay folk of their full dimensionality. These men claim to be above the performance of feminine traits, a claim both sexist and homophobic. Rather than being seen as one type of communal expression, effeminate men become a sign-post for what some gay men fear being. They dread being seen as deviant.

In many ways, gay men are more sensitive about attempts to perform masculinity. For this reason, we are also often better gauges of those with authentic inclinations and those who pretend to be something they aren’t. We need to challenge the poisonous dynamic of those who fear the feminine in themselves and others. Unquestioningly embracing a manly ideal of a strong, ball-throwing, impassive, independent individual sets us down a perilous road. It also distorts or eliminates the multiplicity of identities which inform our queer experiences.

Our silence obscures the truth of the total queer community. We should embrace that our queer desires make us deviant. Our sexuality means we will never truly be "one of the guys," regardless of how many home-runs we may hit. But that deviancy also creates our sense of unity. Our deviancy can challenge, rather than reenforce, expectations about gender.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I Have Returned

Over the past few days, I visited my family. There is something healing about returning to New Mexico for me. Looking out the window of the plane, I feel reassured seeing the familiar mountains stretching out in greeting. Breathing the scorched, red dust reawakens me.

I dreaded having to return to Texas and face the bad situation here. The consequences of my poor decisions and misplaced trust doesn’t make me happy. I have great hope, though, for my emerging future.

While home, I had a chance to meet a couple of friends that I literally had not seen in years. I also made plans to see others when I return again at Christmas.

My family, of course, offered the greatest comfort to me. When I go back to New Mexico, I don’t just see my parents and sisters. My father’s entire extended family still resides nearby and I made the rounds.

Despite my deep commitment to being out for political reasons, I often stumbled at being out to the larger extended family. Even years after telling my immediate family of my gayness, my bravado consistently evaporated around my extended family, for whatever reason. As only age can permit, I now recognize how foolish I had been. Their sense of family means they stay committed to us all, offering whatever support they can when things seem bleak. I did them a great disservice.

In returning home, my thoughts also turned to the oft-told family stories that inspired me to become a historian. As a child, I listened to these tales, often impatiently, and only understanding them a bit. My father’s family had been in New Mexico when it still belonged to the fledgling Mexican Republic. They had not migrated to the U.S. Instead, the U.S. came to them. The Mexican central government abandoned them to the miseries of the invading army. Like all the other Mexicans in New Mexico, they faced a new government that treated them as second-class citizens on their own lands. Their new neighbors offered them only contempt.

Generations, however, eked out their existence working the unforgiving lands of New Mexico. When needed, they picked up hard labor for extra money. Until my generation, all suffered crushing poverty at some point in their lives.

Yet, they had not been crushed. They had not whined. They had not cursed their fate, they fought for their survival. If they had not had fortitude to withstand the unbearable, I would simply not exist. My recent experiences seem trivial in comparison. Returning to New Mexico restores my perspective and increases my resolve.

I often wonder if I would feel similar things going to Ireland. Certainly, my mother’s family faced harsh conditions before and after their migration to the U.S. I don't know, having never been there.

In New Mexico, however, my father’s unknown progenitors seem to surround me. As I drifted off to sleep, their shadows offered words of encouragement. If they were really there or not, I offer my thanks to them all the same.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sacrificing Trees to the Tenure Gods

Every two months, the senior professors in my department revise the guidelines for reviewing all the junior faculty. You see, as a junior faculty member, my only goal in life is supposed to be obtaining tenure. Tenure means job security for life, but I must prove my worthiness to those who have already passed the tenure gates. How do I do this? In theory, through solid research and good teaching. In reality, through solid research and smart politics.

About this time of year, junior faculty assembly their dossier to show how much we have accomplished in the past year. The newest guidelines (version 10.01.01), however, has radically increased the amount of paper we must include. Let me give you an example from this new directive:

    File E. The fifth file in your dossier should include documents supporting your service file. When you receive letters pertaining to service – thank-you letters for serving on committees, invitations to deliver scholarly presentations on campus, or correspondence relating to planning or participating on panels at professional organizations – KEEP THEM!!! And include them in this folder. If you have given a paper at a professional conference, tear out the pages from conference programs indicating the panel on which you participated and put them in this folder. (Emphasis in Original)

What does all of that mean? Two things: 1) Seemingly, the senior faculty think that we lie about doing service and won’t believe it without legal evidence. 2) We must now search through our e-mail to find all of our “documentation” if we ever talked to students.

Over the past four years, I have been asked numerous times to talk to student groups about Latinos in the U.S., or gays in the U.S., or gay Latinos in the U.S. I don’t mind providing this evidence per se, but it seems silly. In the end, speaking to 100 student groups would not get me tenure. Only research and politics hold the key to tenure. Speaking to zero student groups would not deny me tenure, either. Again, only research and politics. So, why the façade?

One has to think that the senior faculty imagine themselves as a cross between Perry Mason and a tax auditor. I have visions of being called into a little room with a spot light as they ask questions like: “So, GayProf, if that is your real name, you say that you spoke on a panel on March 23. None of us bother to attend anything where you are speaking, so why should we believe you? Admit it — You are bulking up your service file even though it will not result in any greater pay or increase your chances for tenure in any way.”

It also makes me wonder what they are going to start asking for next. They won’t believe we finished grade school, so will they want class photos from first grade? Maybe they will go all the way back and believe we weren’t born unless we preserved our umbilical cord.

Not including any of my research, my newest dossier file required an entire ream of paper (and I am still printing). If they are really reading all of this stuff, the senior faculty members have too much time on their hands. They ask, though, so we obey.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fun with the Center of Gravitas

While away on my interview, my blog had its 5,000th visitor. For many bloggers, I know that is small potatoes. For me, though, I feel like frickin’ Edward R. Murrow if even two readers visit my blog.

As a thanks to all who have stopped by my little bloggy, I devised a drinking game for the Center of Gravitas. Not that you need to drink to read my blog, but, hey, it doesn’t hurt.

Don’t drink liquor? No problem! This game works with pills as well.

So, bring out the Patrón Tequila and take a meander through the archives to see how often the following occur:

    Take one drink for every Golden Age Wonder Woman Cover.

    Take two drinks for every Bronze Age Wonder Woman Cover.

    Take a drink if you know the difference between Golden and Bronze Age Wonder Woman (You big Geek, I love you).

    Take one drink for every time GayProf uses the word “dubious.”

    Take one drink for every time GayProf refers to himself in the third person.

    Take two drinks for every time GayProf refers to himself as a minor deity.

    Take one drink for every mention of Anderson Cooper.

    Take two drinks for every mention of Anderson Cooper being in the closet.

    Take three drinks for every mention of Cydney Bernard.

    Take four drinks for every mention of racism, sexism, or homophobia on GayProf’s campus (For this one, the number of drinks is merely to dull the pain, not an indication of infrequent mentions in the blog).

    Take two drinks every time GayProf threatens to wear Star-Spangled panties.

    Take one drink if you just conjured an image of GayProf wearing Star-Spangled panties. You deserve it.

    Take one drink every time GayProf whines about Futurama's cancellation.

    Take two drinks if you miss Futurama (You big Geek, I really, really love you).

    Take three drinks for every entry with zero comments (because that just makes me sad).

    Take one drink for every television reference.

    Take two drinks for every time that GayProf admits to watching a t.v. show simply because some hunky male actor happens to star in it.

    Take five drinks for every arcane historical reference.

    Take four drinks for every time GayProf mentions the tenure process. Take an extra drink on GayProf’s behalf.

    Take two drinks for every time GayProf promises to “be more positive” on his blog.

    Take one drink for every time that a negative post follows a promise to be more positive.

    Take one drink for every mention of the evils of Texas.

    Take two drinks for every time GayProf notes that he is blogging instead of working and/or grading.

    Take a drink if you don’t yet have alcohol poisoning.

SUPER BONUS ROUND: Fragments of obscure song lyrics hide within many of my blog entries. Take the whole bottle if you can find them.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Job Search, IV

Yesterday, I returned from my on-campus interview (thanks to all who sent good wishes!). I am proud to report that I needed no Xanax to make it through the interviews.

When I left, I hoped that the interview would provide me with a clear-cut better option than my life here. Sadly, easy solutions simply never exist.

Much about the university seemed positive. The department had an extremely collegial atmosphere. They seemed to respond to my research and presentation. The department has a fairly young and energetic faculty. Despite their heavy teaching-load, they also remain fairly productive. Also, my current research record would allow me to apply for tenure fairly shortly as their expectations are much more modest than my current position. Of course, the job is also not located in Texas, a major selling point in itself.

Things about the job made me cautious, though. Clearly the university gave preference to teaching over research. While I like teaching, my major interest has always been research (even if I am not that great at it). The teaching load would add an additional class each semester compared to my current job. Right now, I feel I am barely able to juggle all of these things with my current teaching load, and I don’t want to sacrifice my research.

I had also hoped for a university free of the racism, sexism, and homophobia that plagues my current institution. Certainly, that university had a much friendly environment (which isn't hard to acheive). Then again, when I stopped for a pee in the Student Union, I noticed that some angry student had etched “Kill All Beaners” on the wall above the urinal. A minor piece of graffiti, but it didn’t make me feel particularly welcome.

When I met with the director of Chicano Programs, she told a story typical to almost all universities. Administrators starved Chicano Programs from funding, but hope existed for change in the near future. She laid out the difficulties that Latino students face on campus, despite their being almost 40 percent of the student body. These things should not surprise me (Eden does not exist). Perhaps I wanted a rosier picture than is possible at any university.

My interview also had moments that just seemed simply weird. Given I am “out” in my job applications, the university arranged for me to meet with other queer faculty. This is actually a nice gesture on their part. It just turned out that their choice of people needed to think a bit more about her role in the hiring process.

Since no queer faculty currently works in the history department, they sent me to meet with a lesbian from another department. Clearly, she intended to be positive, so I don’t want to slam her at all. Yet, what she offered as a potential for a gay, single man in that small town seemed poorly thought out as a selling-point.

“If you don’t have a partner,” she offered, “I know that the first-floor men’s room in the library is a major cruising zone. It’s supposed to be easy to hookup there.” I don’t judge those who find these avenues rewarding (though I am very, very concerned about their health and safety), but the tearoom trade has never been my thing. It also strikes me as an odd image to put forward for a potential gay candidate without knowing anything about him.

The pay scale presents another major issue. Though some negotiating would occur if they offered me a job, that university’s pay-scale is radically lower than my current salary (without a significantly lower cost of living).

So, I end up being more ambivalent about the job than I anticipated. If they don’t make me an offer, I don’t predict I will be totally upset. If they do make an offer, I will have to do much thinking. Weighing the pluses and minuses would be tricky.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Sexism and Sexual Violence

Shakespeare's Sister has an important posting about the prosecution of a woman who filed rape charges. She raises vitally important issues in this case that we should all be aware about if we are interested in Social Justice (or actually, in this case, just Justice). Read the posthere.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Job Search, III

I am off today for my on-campus interview, which will last three days. Let’s see: I have packed a copy of my presentation in my brief case and my suitcase (just in case one should get lost). I also have a copy of my power point slide show on my USB drive, my handheld, and a disk (just in case one should get lost). I also packed a couple extra ties and shirts (one never knows). Plus, I have some extra Xanax, should things get rough. I should be set.

As I mentioned, it is a one out of three chance for me to get this job. So, the odds aren’t great. All the same, I am giving it my best. It is part of my new plan to be more of an active agent in my own life after a year of being tossed around emotionally. Along those lines, I have also arranged an apartment for myself starting at the end of the month. This should get me out of a very bad situation. For this weekend, at the very least, I should have some good food over the next couple of days!

If you have good thoughts for GayProf, send them to me as I could use the positive energy. If you are hostile to GayProf, wish me no harm, as I wish none on you.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Men in Funny Hats and Dresses

Some nights ago, I zoned out in front of dreamy Anderson Cooper’s news program. As one of his minions reported on the Catholic Church’s recent attempt to expunge gay men from seminaries, I began to think of my own relationship with “the” church.

Having been raised Catholic, I have plenty of complaints about the Catholic Church. One could never know when the priest would suddenly start screeching about sexuality. What you could count on was that, when he finished, you needed to say 250 rosaries. That could take forever.

My parents both had tremendous devotion to the Church, eventually becoming mayordomos for their parish. Even as a child, however, I tended to be suspicious about the Catholic Church’s rigid structures. Catechism teachers, for instance, required us to learn the names of each piece of the priests and nuns’ outfits. Even at that young age, I thought that heaven would not possibly refuse admittance to people because they couldn’t distinguish wimples. Then again, I don’t have evidence that it doesn’t.

Historically, Catholicism most often encouraged blind reverence and fear of authority. Priests and Bishops demanded obedience, often thwarting social change. In terms of sex, the Church created generations of men and women dominated by shame, guilt, inhibitions, and a lack of self-esteem.

Back in the day, though, the Catholic Church had some consistency. They hated all sexuality. According to these men-in-dresses, all sex resulted in burning torment in hell whether it was gay, straight, or single-handed. Sure, the priests made some distinctions of degree. For instance, they really, really hated birth control. Yet, they also hated fertility research, which they argued was as “unnatural” as birth control. Nor did they encourage people to have a zillion children. Rather, they (unrealistically) told everybody, married or single, not to have any sex whatsoever. More children, after all, delayed the second coming. The current Catholic Church, however, has become increasingly hateful as they now specifically target gay men and women as the ultimate threats to civilization as we know it.

Discussions about Catholics’ obligation to fight for Social Justice, in contrast, seem long forgotten. The current pope even persecuted Liberation Theologians in Latin America before he put on the miter.

Organized religion appeals to people because it provides a purpose for living and explanations about dying. It is not hard to understand, therefore, why people would be hesitant to let go of their religious institutions. These meta-discussions prove too complex for me to grasp. After all, I am equally suspicious of claims that humans have figured out everything about the universe through scientific reasoning.

What I also can’t ignore is that much of my sense of morality and understanding of the world also resulted from childhood Catholic teachings. I have already noted that the saints occasionally come to my aid when in trouble. When we weren’t learning about the priests’ wardrobe changes, our catechism class also emphasized a connection and obligation between all people. Certainly these ideas created my nascent understanding of our common humanity.

Cosmic balance and justice seem to be ideas that flow through many religious systems. You would be amazed at how easily Catholic training can be translated to ideas about karma. The expression “If you sow tears, you will reap sadness,” works for both Catholicism and Buddhism, for instance. Religious symbols also can be powerful allies in efforts for community mobilization. It was not an accident that the UFW marched under Our Lady of Guadalupe when they sought fair and safe working conditions. The image of a Virgin who kicks ass for social justice appeals to me.

All of our religious backgrounds need acknowledgment, even if we no longer find them valuable for our day-to-day life. If we now identify as secular, we also can’t allow institutions like the Catholic Church to continue to claim authority over all of our histories and symbols of morality. After all, many of our ideas about justice developed from those earlier teachings.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Judging, Judging, Judging

Lately I have been feeling out of step with mainstream culture. Yeah, I know being gay and of mixed ancestry means I am always already out of step with U.S. mainstream culture. Still, some elements in popular culture seem overvalued. Yet, other things that I think are dandy receive almost no attention. Do I need to rehash the Futurama cancellation horror? Other examples? I might have a few:

    Overrated: CSI: Las Vegas, New York, Miami, Little Rock, or wherever. When I visit my childhood home, my parents have an obsession with these shows. Don’t get me wrong, I can be a sucker for the hour-long drama (keep reading). These incarnations, though, just don’t do it for me. I am no forensic scientist, but their methods always struck me as implausible. One episode, in particular, had them solve the crime by enhancing a digital picture to show the reflection in somebody's eyeball. If this was a possibility, how come when I use Photoshop to magnify my images, I just end up with a pixilated mess? Unless that digital camera had 200,000mpi, it just seemed unlikely.

    Underrated: Quincy, ME. Back in the seventies, our television shows didn’t even put on a pretense of good science. Instead, it depended on gruff character actors to keep us engaged. Quincy got the job done and usually pushed some lefty, though simple, political message (hey, television audience, Quincy says that racism is bad -- oh, and stay in school -- oh, and don't do drugs -- oh, and live on a boat). Plus, he had his friend Sam to watch his back.

    Overrated: Snow White – So what if is she was the “fairest of them all?” Snow White seemed like a terrible bore to me. That whistling-while-you-work thing would drive me nuts. Plus, why didn’t she have breasts? I could hardly be accused of being a “boob-man,” but her total lack of cleavage strikes me as a bit, well, creepy. Was she supposed to be prepubescent? If so, doesn’t that make both the magic mirror and Prince Charming pedophiles?

    Underrated: Evil Queen – She came up as second most fair in all the land. I am here to tell you, that ain’t bad. Okay, so Evil Queen might have been a little blood thirsty. I have been to plenty of gay clubs, though, where queens have done much worse than ordering the woodsman to cut out prettier folk’s hearts. So, let’s not cast stones at Evil Queen. Plus, Evil Queen could run down castle steps while wearing some ultra-hip high heels. I dare you to even try that!

    Overrated: Jordan from Crossing Jordan. My shallowness resulted in me watching episodes of Crossing Jordan when dreamy Jerry O’Connell guest starred. You would be astounded at the crap I will watch on the off-chance that some hunky actor will remove his shirt. I know, it shows a shallow character flaw. Leave me alone – I live in a really small town.

    Jill Hennsey’s Jordan, though, just never seemed to be able to pull of the vibe the show wanted. I mean, the idea of a rock’n’roll coroner sounds appealing. But, it’s not like Joan Jett is carving up cadavers (which I would watch, fyi).

    Underrated: Clair from Law & Order. Why, oh, why did Jill Hennessy leave Law and Order? Why, oh, why did the producers murder her character, thus preventing her from ever returning? This was the golden age of hour-long crime dramas, people. Plus, Clair had that certain something that made the show special. Was it the Jacqueline Kennedy style suites? Was it the page-boy haircut? Was it the sexual tension with Jack McCoy? Was it the sexual tension with Anita Van Buren? Whatever the case, Clair offered the full package. Secretly, I want to be Clair – but that is another entry entirely.

    Overrated: Gay Marriage – Oh, sure, it starts with him giving you a ring and promising to always make you his priority in life. It turns out, though, that what he really meant to say was that he would be committed to you only until he grew bored, restless, and/or met people he thought were more interesting than you. Oops, am I leaking bitterness again? Give me a break, I am still “in process.”

    Underrated: Gay Single-hood – For the past year, I endured things ranging from callous indifference, forgotten anniversaries, to just plain silly statements about him having “evolved” beyond me. Boy, in comparison to all that nonsense, gay single-hood looks great!

    It’s not that I am happy about the situation or agree that it was the right decision (which I am not and I don’t – some histrionic blog entries attest to that). Whatever the case, I am starting to look forward to building a new life after I finish mourning. It will take time for the pain to clear even after we finally sell the house and go our separate ways. Now, though, I eagerly await being free. Given my heavy-duty belief in cosmic karma, I am also working hard not to wish him harm (hard work indeed!). Instead, I want to reach a point where I can wish him only peace and an answer to his unsolvable longings and discontentment (an answer, I hope, found far, far, far away from me). Like Alanis, I want to get to a stage where I also can thank India.

    Overrated: Tax Cuts – When did our nation become filled with such greedy bastards? For the amount of money we all make, Republican tax cuts don’t help us much. What could I buy with Bush’s big 2001 tax cut? Delivery Pizza? It’s just not worth it.

    Underrated: Public Services – Call me a crazy liberal, but I like having free roads, post offices, and decent public schools. I would be in love with also having universal health care, federal utilities, and greater pensions for all Americans. What do we need to make these dreams come true? Less war, more taxes. That’s not exactly a winning campaign slogan, though.

    Overrated: G.I Joe Usually I am sucker for a man in uniform, but I think Joe sends kids the wrong message. His only ambition seems to involve killing – at least in-between wardrobe changes. At times, his gun appeared bigger than Joe’s whole body. I am not Freudian, but it seems like Joe might be compensating for something.

    Underrated: Big Jim – Created as a peaceful alternative to Joe, Big Jim had a brief moment of fame in the seventies. Responding to the decade that shunned violence, Jim didn’t own guns. Rather, he devoted his time to camping and showering with his friends. He also seemed to go to the gym quite a bit. I don’t like to gossip, but Big Jim and Big Jack often slept together in the big camper.

    Overrated: Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor – Okay, we gay folk are falling over ourselves in honor of Madonna’s latest album. Don’t get me wrong, “Hung Up” keeps me going on the treadmill. But, is it really as good as we want it to be? Or do we simply find relief that Confessions on a Dance Floor is not the totally unlistenable American Life?

    Underrated: Madonna’s Erotica – After the whole Vogue craze, Madonna would never please everbody. In this case, she found much critical derision for Erotica. In retrospect, though, the album had its moments. How many albums can you name with songs dedicated to S&M? Likewise, “Deeper and Deeper” always seemed underrated as a song. Or maybe I am just partial to the video with Madonna in a big, permed bubble-do getting in a pillow fight.

    Overrated: The Wizard of Oz: The Film. I know, I need to turn in my gay card. I just haven’t been able to work up any enthusiasm for this film since I was six. Yeah, there is the witch, but she is no Evil Queen from Snow White. Yeah, there are the flying monkeys, but they kinda creeped me out. Yeah, Judy Garland eases on down the road (or was that somebody else?). Now, it just bores me.

    Underrated: The Wizard of Oz: The Book. Many historians argue that the book, unlike the film or sequel novels, actually appeared as a satiric critique of now antiquated monetary debates in the late-nineteenth-century U.S. You see, it was all about whether the U.S. should base its national currency strictly on gold or a combination of gold and silver. In the book, unlike the movie, Dorothy has silver slippers (not ruby) as she skips along the golden brick road. You see where we are going? She meets the tin woodsmen, who represented the inhumanity of the industrial revolution that turned men and women into extensions of machines. The Democrat's Presidential Candidate for 1896, William Jennings Bryan, made a guest appearance as the cowardly lion and -- wait -- Did you just fall asleep reading my blog? Man, why does that keep happening to me?

    Overrated: Barbara Streisand It’s another reason why they are going to make me turn in my gay card. The Babes thing, though, just leaves me stumped. Maybe I don’t get it because she’s from a previous generation of gay men. Or maybe my tastes lack the proper camp aesthetic. While I appreciate her lefty ways politically, her voice grates on my nerves like the Bee-Gees. I also find it peculiar that she keeps releasing Christmas albums.

    Underrated: Dolly Parton My ex does deserve credit for breaking down my knee-jerk reaction to country music. Previously, I tended to ignore and disparage all things country. Now, though, I understand that country music is really white people’s jazz. Dolly leads the pack, in my mind. We will ignore her recent dreadful album of covers. Instead, think about her coat of many colors, working from 9-to-5, or making plans for checking out, Dolly has tremendous talent as a writer and a performer (did Babes ever actually write a song?). Dolly always seems to have a warm spot for us gay men. It might be because we keep dressing like her, I don’t know.

    Overrated: George Pérez’s Wonder Woman – This borders on sacrilege for some die-hard Wonder Woman fans (no, I am not the only one - there are at least two others). I understand that Pérez actually got people reading Wonder Woman again after some hard times for the Amazon Princess. His emphasis on Greek mythology also had its moments. For me, though, Pérez pushed Wonder Woman off track. She got a bad perm and her breasts eventually grew as big as her head. She just didn’t have the campy fun of yore.

    Underrated: William Moulton Marston’s (aka Charles Moulton's) Wonder Woman. Did somebody say campy fun? Real-life inventor of the lie-detector William Moulton Marston had some pretty darn quirky ideas about gender and sex. In his spare time, he loved, loved, loved being tied up by two women (think golden lariats). He also fantasized desperately wanted envisioned that women would soon rule the world. Combine these two ideas, and you have the trippy first issues of Wonder Woman.

    Overrated: Gay Academics Gay Academics can prattle ceaselessly over arcane subjects (like the difference between the film and book versions of The Wizard of Oz). They often take themselves way too seriously, proclaiming to be the “Center of Gravitas,” or some such nonsense. Pfft – what do they know about anything?

    Underrated: Gay Porn Stars – Be honest, which would you rather be doing now: Reading this blog or watching porn (straight or gay)? You are likely at work (where we all do our blog reading), so the latter is not really a possibility. Let’s face it, Gay Porn Stars are infinitely more interesting than Gay Academics, at least in the short term. I know I have learned much more watching thirty minutes of porn than entire semesters of some classes. Plus, Gay Porn Stars are almost never as pale as Gay Academics (we border on the translucent).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Job Search, II

Here we go, kiddies. In a couple of weeks, GayProf will be one of three candidates for an “on-campus” interview at a southwestern university. This means I now have a 33 percent chance of being able to leave Texas. You may recall, I have every intention of becoming a Perry-evacuee.

Currently, I operate totally based on self-preservation. After all, I don’t want to be somebody who endlessly complains about their job and nasty colleagues, but is too lazy, or makes excuses, about not trying to leave.

While we are on the subject of my resolutions, I am also going to make a better effort to keep my little bloggy from being too morose. Sometimes I need to vent, but lately I have been feeling overly toxic. Perhaps the blog isn’t the best place for that.

“Wait, GayProf,” I can hear you calling out, “We care about you. Don’t bottle-up your emotions. We unquestioningly worship you as a deity who can answer all our prayers. Glory to GayProf in the Highest.” Okay, maybe you are not saying that last bit – yet.

Seriously, I do appreciate all the good wishes from posts where I was down. While I offer no absolute guarantees (GayProf can be fickle. Well, I call it fickleness, my psychiatrist calls it “bipolar.” Pfft – whatever.), I will try to keep my personal perniciousness limited. After all, there are so many other avenues to direct my perniciousness (politics, popular culture, the academic world). What? I only said personal perniciousness – it is the Center of Gravitas, after all. Read another blog for sunshine and flowers.

So, let us chat again about the academic job search process. Nobody tells you in graduate school, but your dissertation is really just a five-hundred page job application. Universities across the nation decide which positions they will be filling all at the same time in the early Fall. Each department then advertises in their discipline’s major journals. For each discipline, there is usually a national convention where departments send search committees to conduct initial interviews. What makes my interview with southwestern university unusual is that they have decided to bypass the convention and move immediately to the “on-campus” interviews.

Still, what would such a conference interview look like? Glad you asked. For history, this meeting occurs in January. The search committee selects about ten people for an interview at the conference. The lucky applicant gets to sing his/her little heart out about why they are the bestest historian ever, ever. You suddenly become Ron Popeil as you discuss the merits of your research: “Do you want to know about urban history? My work takes place in a city!”-- trying to look positive, smiling often, “Oh, you want somebody who can teach rural history? No problem! I meant to say that most of the people I study lived on farms before they came to the city. Did I mention my research is self-cleaning?”

If you pass this test, you move onto the bonus round: the on-campus interview. During this grueling process, you come to the university and meet every faculty member in the department individually. It may surprise you, and I hope I am not giving out secrets of the profession, but some academics don’t have what we call “people skills.” Most of these individual meetings, of course, are pleasant. Sometimes, though, they can drag on forever. It is in these instances that we realize that we have met a MAD-C (Middle-Aged Disgruntled Colleague). Every academic department has at least one MAD-C. Just as a coincidence, most MAD-C’s happen to also be white, straight, men. I am not saying -- I am just saying.

MAD-C’s constantly harass the department head about how unfairly they are being treated. Having been granted tenure some twenty years earlier, they long stopped doing their own research. Thus, MAD-C's have plenty of time to fill their day.

One MAD-C in my current department, for instance, recently spent his day going through each faculty member’s operating expenses. He even double checked the current cost of printer toner to ensure that we were paying the least possible. Perhaps he imagined that the department would give him the discrepancies out of gratitude. Unfortunately, and totally predictably, he found no dishonesty among the faculty, at least in their use of paper clips. Still, he is confident that somebody is screwing the department and he remains vigilant.

During interviews, MAD-C’s use their individual appointments to harass the job candidate by informing him/her that they must “defend” their research strategies. Usually the MAD-C has never even looked at the applicant’s file, rather they are pissed off that the department isn’t hiring their best friend for the job. Still, the candidate must accommodate MAD-C if he/she wants that job.

Next, you are whisked off to the dean’s office. The dean is the most important person during your day because A)he/she can hire or not hire you regardless what the department votes and B)he/she is usually the only person who will tell you what your salary would be if the university does hire you. This meeting will also probably be the last time you ever talk to your dean one-on-one again. All of this fun is capped by a presentation on your research. The department’s faculty gather, pretend to listen to your work, and ask some questions that are more related to their research than yours.

Of course, I kid. I am quite thankful to even have an interview. It is a competitive market out there. Let’s just hope I have some employment options outside of Texas.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wanting to Make the Cut

Shakespeare’s Sister has advocated for all good lefty bloggers to come forward and nominate themselves for Bill O’Reilly’s enemies list. I don’t want to feel left out (I wonder if I submit to peer pressure too easily), so here is my note the Fox pundit:

    Dear Mr. O’Reilly,

    Blogs are aflutter about you building an “enemies list.” It would pain me if you don’t include my little bloggy, The Center of Gravitas, on your enemies’ list.

    You see, Billy-boy – Can I call you Billy-boy? Thanks. You see, Billy-boy, I break with others who call for your termination based on your hateful declarations against San Francisco. What separates you and me, Billy-boy, is that I appreciate and value your basic rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

    What are these rights? Well, free-speech, for instance. I actually believe you have every right to spew your hateful lies and I don’t want to censor you. That would be, well, wrong. I know, you disagree. You think anyone who does not follow you should have their microphone silenced or be added to your paranoid enemies’ list. See, though, we are different again. I am much more concerned that everybody be open to listening to multiple perspectives. It is my hope that if people were actually granted more perspectives from the mainstream media, the left wouldn’t need to campaign against you. It will be much more satisfying to have low ratings end your reign of hate than any “lefty” campaign against you. I am optimist, though.

    I know you are busy making that list and coming up with ways to keep the public immobilized with fear and hate, so I won’t take much more of your time. I just want to note one other thing. San Franciscans voted their conscious against military recruiters. You see, Billy-boy, that is what we call a “democratic” decision. A government issue was put to the people, and the people voted based on their sense of ethical values. I know, you like the top-down dictator stuff. That’s your prerogative. Alas, that is also why I must be your enemy.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mint -- NRFB

Depression elicits several obsessive compulsive responses in me. When feeling blue, for instance, I am guaranteed to start cleaning the house. Don’t know why, but doing battle with mildew seems like a victory when my life is in shambles.

Issues around food seem to be another major component. Either I stuff myself silly or I simply stop eating all together. No happy medium can be found around eating when I feel down.

Finally, I spend money in totally ridiculous and unhealthy ways. Shopping becomes the most dangerous salve to my wounded soul. Given that I live in a town remote beyond compare, few possibilities exist to spend money in brick-and-mortar stores. On-line shopping, however, has resulted in some bad decision-making on my part. My credit-card balances could easily rival the national debt of some small island. Surfing through on-line auctions, though, temporally stops me from thinking about my sadness. It is also much easier than working on the encyclopedia articles that are still overdue and not even close to completion. So, what insane purchase did I recently make? A 1977 Wonder Woman Doll produced by Mego Corporation.

I have no idea what I will do with Wonder Woman now that I am victorious in my auction battle. Given her Never-Removed-From-Box status, it seems foolish for me to send her out on missions or even change her into her Diana Prince outfits. Nor does she exactly compliment my art-deco furniture.

Obviously, my blog points to an unhealthy fixation on the Amazon Princess. I have a long history, though, with the Mego doll in particular. It was the first toy that I distinctly remember wanting and asking my parents for based on my own interests. My best friend at the time, Ramona, had one of these dolls and it made me green with envy. Mego didn’t skimp in making her super cool, at least for the late seventies. Not only did Wonder Woman come with the tiara (which she used as a boomerang, fyi), the bullet-deflecting bracelets, and the magic lasso, but she also had outfits for her alter-ego, Diana Prince. I wanted one and badly.

This desire for Wonder Woman put me on a collision course with my father. Weeks of pleading did not sway him. “Enough,” he furiously said one day, “Boys do not play with dolls.” When angry, his eyes turned coal black. It was the same anger that he had when he found me playing with my sister’s Charlie’s Angels dolls. I knew he could not be moved. I also knew that any further requests would result in more than stern words.

Many gay men have similar stories about their fathers. A friend of mine went on a Barbie©-binge when he came out of the closet. Having always been deprived of Miss Golden Pinkness, he built a shrine to her in his adulthood. Barbie©, though, never caught my attention. I just wanted that damn Wonder Woman doll.

Even at that young age, my father had made his disappointment with me known. He fully believed and accepted gender divisions. Both before and after the Wonder Woman doll incident, my father pushed sports and athletics on me as part of “being a man.” Enter Exhibit A: The picture below (by the way, I would later grow up and drive the red car in the background, but that is an entirely different entry):

I just never, ever had an interest in sports. My father, on the other hand, loved every sport. In high school, he played on both the football team and the baseball team. Despite my overt lack of interest, he instituted mandatory hours of sports practice for me (he, btw, wasn’t ever actually present at such practice, he just made sure that I went). Given my already existing disinterest in sports, it's no mystery that those hours in the New Mexico sun built my burning hatred of all things sports related.

During holidays and birthdays, my mother left the shopping for my gifts mostly up to my father. This resulted in many balls, clubs, bats, and I think even a croquet set. All things I rarely wanted or used. My father proved determined to find some sport, any sport, that I wanted to play.

On my fifth Christmas, however, I found that my father had tidily wrapped a Wonder Woman doll and left it for me under the tree. To this day, it still stuns me. It also stands out as one of the happiest Christmases of my childhood.

I loved my Mego Wonder Woman doll. She had quite the adventures, eventually losing her left hand during some super-battle. Of course, after a couple of years, my interests had changed. Wonder Woman got deposited in a toy box and forgotten. By my seventh birthday, I became a capitalist slave to Kenner’s unending Star Wars line of toys. This, though, appeared much more gender appropriate. My father seemed relieved, at least for the time being.

Still, the Wonder Woman doll showed an unusual level of kindness and love from my father that touches me today. We have had a difficult relationship, to say the least. Even though he abhorred the idea of his son playing with a doll, however, he still bought one because he knew that it would make me happy.

Yesterday, my recently-purchased Mego doll arrived in the mail. Seeing the familiar package and revisiting these memories made me feel a bit better.