Sunday, October 30, 2005

What to Wear, What to Wear?

Halloween proves a tricky holiday for me. It is, after all, the holiday of my gay brothers. Living in small-town Texas, however, grants few opportunities to take full advantage of this day. Local churches push hard to forbid their children from trick-or-treating. They cry out that it is Satan’s holiday (or do they say it is Santa’s holiday? Sometimes I have trouble understanding their Texan accents). These mega-churches offer alternative events such as hay-rides or carnivals. What confuses me, though, is that by organizing such events, aren’t they still acknowledging Halloween as a day for celebration? Okay, so they cut out the candy and the costumes, thus making it 100% less fun. Still, they give it credence even in their denial of it.

Regardless, scarey, evil Christians do not make me wonder about this holiday. Those bible-beating bastards could not deflate my love of Halloween. What does shake me, however, is that I can never create the costume that I desire. Let me give you some examples of what I aim for and the disappointing results.

    What I would aim for: Wonder Woman. No surprise here. Lynda Carter remains the bench-mark for human incarnations of the Amazon heroine. As Diana Prince, Carter also had the distinction of being one of the few Latinas on television (few people outside the Latino community, btw, ever know that Carter is Latina). Who wouldn’t want to slip on those star-spangled panties and deflect some bullets?

    What I would end up with: Bad Drag Wonder Woman. Lynda Carter has quite the size 6.5 red boots to fill. It would be impossible. (Note: Not an actual picture of GayProf).

    What I would aim for: Mary Richards. What gay man hasn’t sung “I might just make it after all?” Mary’s merry disposition makes her a favorite among gay folk. Pulling off Mary Tyler Moore’s iconic television character would mean that I could also light the world up with my smile.

    What I would end up with: Mary Cheney. This is one scarey, self-hating woman. Far from turning the world on with her smile, she sells out her queer sisters at every moment. Aiming for Mary Richards, but appearing as Mary Cheney is too much to risk.

    What I would aim for: Jacqueline Kennedy. This woman had a cool, sophisticated, style that we all should aspire to attain. She redecorated the White House, insisted on the value of being literate, and set trends with her suites and hats. Man, that woman knew how to use accessories! On a trip to Chicago I attended the Field Museum’s Jacqueline Kennedy exhibit. I was within inches of her pill-box hats! Inches! It would be a dream to slip one on my little head for Halloween.

    What I would end up with: Ladybird Johnson. Don't get me wrong, there is a soft-spot in my heart for Ladybird. Her campaign to blanket Texas with wild flowers makes Spring the only bearable season here. Plus, she genuinely intended good things for the nation. Still, let’s face it, she had some terrible luck following Jacqueline Kennedy. Plus, I would love to have her nose filled with nickels. It would make me a rich man. I know -- I can be a mean bitch sometimes. Honestly, I would be lucky if I could pull off Ladybird.

    What I would aim for: World War II Sailor. Gay men and sailors go together like, oh, I don’t know, gay men and sea-men. From their nifty hats to their crackerjacks, these men embody queer masculinity.

    What I would end up with: Gilligan. No disrespect to the recently departed, but Gilligan hardly inspired lust in many viewers. Rather that an alluring man of the seas, I am more likely to end up as someone’s “little buddy.”

    What I would would aim for: Ann Marie. Who doesn’t love Marlo Thomas’ zesty feminist ways? As That Girl, she had a fabulous apartment, her own theme song, and a cherry-sweet outlook on life. For an unemployed actor, she also had an astounding wardrobe.

    What I would end up with: Lilith. Sadly my public affect does not emote the bubbly giggles of Ann Marie. Instead, I would end up being the severe and reserved Lilith. Not to mention that recreating Ann Marie’s trademark flip would require enough Aquanet to burn an ozone hole over Texas. Still, we are free to be you and me.

    What I would aim for: Mr. Clean. This man of house-scrubbing fame is one of my all-time favorite gay icons. He seems as obsessed with ending soap scum as I. Plus, his hunky, white tight t-shirt would delight all the queer folk at any club, if I could pull it off.

    What I would end up with: Dick Cheney. Believe me, this could be the scariest costume out there. Young children would easily wet themselves seeing this thing approaching them in a haunted house. Still, I want to be lemony-fresh Mr. Clean, not criminally-insane Dick Cheney.

    What I would aim for: James Dean. Over a half-century later, James Dean still can get my blood going. Queer and cool, Dean’s angst epitomized a generation’s struggle with stifling conformity.

    What I would end up with: Marlon Brando. Even in his best days, Brando never appealed to me. His screeching for Stella or his other portrayals of rough trade working-class brutes always fell flat for me. My quest for Dean would result in the unwashed Brando.

    What I would aim for: Eva Gabor. Along with her sister Zsa Zsa, Eva has the accent and aristocratic flair that pleads for gay men’s imitation. I forgive Eva for Green Acres. As a costume, she would ooze style.

    What I would end up with: Thunderbirds’ Lady Penelope. Okay, so she has the same wardrobe as Eva. She even gets to drive around in an ultra-fabulous pink Rolls Royce. Still, my shot at being Eva would leave me as plastic as Penelope.

    What I would aim for: Diana Rigg. Here is somebody who not only had the chance to marry James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but also kicked ass as Emma Peel in the Avengers. Could there be an icon of cool other than Rigg?

    What I end up with: Me in a fur hood: enough said.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Warp Factor -- Fabulous

So, I am slower than other bloggers on commenting on the recent self-identifying of Hikaru Sulu George Takei and Sheryl Swoopes as gay. Being a major-nerd, Sulu's Takei’s outing is great news for me. Sorry, I am just not into the sports thing. On principle, though, I support the WNBA, at least more than I support any other sporting activity. Unless, of course, you count the Annual Challenges on Themyscira as sports.

I firmly believe that the more visible gay folk who are out there, both famous and at the local level, the better our chances are for fighting for our rights. One should also note, however, that both Takei and Swoopes tied their outing to other quests for social justice. Many people still presume queer folk to be white, or that sexuality trumps race and gender.

Each of these two high-profile cases, though, should prompt new discussions within the gay community about race and gender. Takei linked his sexuality and his racial identity together. He drew a moment to note that racism and homophobia still impacts individuals in the U.S. Likewise, Swoopes spoke candidly about the ways that sexism and homophobia influence the general public’s perception of women’s sports.

Though many gay activists are quick to draw parallels to the African-American quest for civil rights, they often presume that the two movements had been divorced. This ignores the many queers of color who have been intimately involved in both movements. Mainstream gay publications and images still focus on white men.

Until we change that, let's salute Swoopes and Sulu Takei. Warp-speed, Mr. Sulu Takei. You score, Ms. Swoopes (Again, I don't really do the sports thing, so it is the best I could think of).

On a side note, I wonder if there is new significance to Sulu’s line in STIV:TVH, “San Francisco, I was born there.”

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Antonio Banderas’ impending sequel reminds me of my complicated relationship with Zorro. “What?” you ask, “GayProf has a complicated relationship with a mainstream-media icon? How unusual.” Yeah, yeah, I know. I am nothing if not predictable.

Still, blogging on Zorro is better than, say, dealing with my breakup (Does it show that avoidance is one of my coping strategies?). It is also better than writing the two encyclopedia articles that are now three weeks overdue.

It is not so much the new Zorro film that interests me. After all, Banderas hasn’t held my attention since he stopped working on Almodóvar movies. Rather, it is the interesting ways that the character Zorro crosses two intersections of my identity: queer and Latino.

When I was growing up, there were very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very few Latino characters in the mainstream media. Connect that with my life-long love of flowing capes, and you have an explanation for Zorro being my second-grade Halloween costume. I would provide a picture, but given I was the third child, my parents had pretty much lost interest in keeping a photographic record of their family by the time I was in the second grade. It's just another thing to add to my therapy sessions.

Annnnnnnyway, GayProf must stay focused. So – Zorro -- right.

Zorro’s many incarnations provide rare opportunities for us to see a Latino hero. Zorro contrasted the stereotypical Latino images that plagued U.S. visual culture. He was smart, handsome, charming, and committed to fighting social injustice. For those who don’t know Zorro’s original story (basically ignored by the Banderas’ movies), Diego de la Vega turned to vigilantism when Spain’s imperial authority over Alta California became corrupt. During the day, he lived out his role as the lazy son of a wealthy land-owner. Whenever the bumbling Sargent Garcia wrongly arrested somebody, though, Diego dashed off to the cave below his house. He put on a black costume, cape, cowl, and a small brimmed hat. With this outfit, he suddenly became invincible. He could burst apart corruption and help the weak, only stopping to carve Z’s into his enemies’ underpants.

In many ways, Zorro inspired the subsequent generations of superheroes who emerged in comic book form. Zorro, created in 1919, predated Superman, Green Lantern, and others by at least twenty years. Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, found more than a little inspiration from Zorro. Both characters, after all, are wealthy bachelors who, after going to their secret cave, play dress-up in long flowing capes. Indeed, Kane had young Bruce Wayne and his parents watching The Mask of Zorro before their untimely demise. All of this suggests Zorro’s strengths as a Latino icon.

Yet, Zorro’s story is not that simple. In contrast to many people’s assumptions, a Latino did not invent Zorro. His actual creator, Johnston McCulley, participated in the existing racial and national discourse from his time. Creating his hero for a popular pulp magazine, McCulley made Zorro an exception to the otherwise blood-thirsty and corrupt Latinos who surrounded him. Moreover, Diego de la Vega existed as a “racially pure” Spaniard in his first incarnation. The mixed-race and indigenous people who surrounded him appeared incompetent or in need of his rescue.

McCulley allegedly based Zorro on Joaquín Murrieta, a real-life California folk hero. Murrieta, however, fought gold-hungry Euro-Americans who threatened and harassed the existing Mexican population in the 1850s. McCulley apparently did not like this element of the story, probably because it exposed the negative elements of U.S. westward expansion.

McCulley made his version of Murrieta safe for Euro Americans by turning back the clock. Because Zorro’s stories took place before the arrival of Euro Americans in California, he never drew attention to the injustices that Latinos faced in the U.S. If anything, his adventures justified the U.S. invasion by showing most Latinos as incapable of self-government. Zorro’s archenemies, particularly the corrupt alcalde and incompetent Sargent Garcia, served as excuses for Manifest Destiny a hundred years later.

Zorro’s relationship to Latinos, though, is not the only element that intrigues me about this character. Zorro also has a peculiarly queer history. In many of his appearances, Zorro showed some sexuality-bending tendencies, the aforementioned flowing cape not being the least of which (Seriously, when are capes ever going to come back into fashion for men?). One has to wonder, for instance, just why did he always stop to cut off other men’s trousers? What are we to make of his carving his initial in their underpants? Was he marking his territory? And we won’t even begin to explore his love of the whip.

During the day-light hours, Zorro’s alter-ego, Don Diego de la Vega, spent time lounging about, often in a fey manner. Supporting characters in the 1940 Tyrone Power version probably came the closest to calling Diego a big-flaming queen, but hints existed through most of his many incarnations. Power, incidently, had a reputation for being a man-loving-man himself.

Then there was Guy Williams’ basket in the Disney televison show. I hate to go to the gutter, but take a new look at this old show. Diego’s costumes showed that Williams was packing. His matador trousers, I am sure, helped many queer boys discover their real interests. No wonder he had such following! But, I digress. . .

Though Zorro wooed women, Diego de la Vega spent most of his time dressing and undressing with his faithful servant, Bernardo. The early eighties even took this character divide to its logical extreme with the parody Zorro: The Gay Blade. In this version, the Diego character split into two twin brothers (Freud calling on line one). One brother, straight, becomes injured and can’t continue as Zorro. The other brother, gay and named Bunny, becomes an outrageous Zorro figure. Losing the traditional black costume, Bunny adds a splash of color. Still, he appears as competent as his straight brother in fighting injustice.

My love-hate relationship with Zorro, as you might deduce, is based on all of these conflicting elements. Oh, who am I kidding? I just want to wear that cape . . .

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I Get Phone Calls. . .

Despite my heartache, I know that the rest of the world is continuing with its business -- bastards. Given my self-obsession over the past few days, I hadn’t been thinking too much about the impending vote on Texas’ constitution. For those who don’t know, the governor proposed an amendment to the state constitution that would outlaw gay marriage. My first-ever blog entry even mentioned this. True, the state legislature has already passed hateful laws like this. But why miss an opportunity to harass gay folk? If people don’t vote “no” on proposition two, the state constitution will have an explicit measure designed to deny folk of their rights.

Last night I was cycling through a period of numbness over my personal woes when the phone rang. Rather than a well-wisher or a concerned family member, this caller identified himself as an automated political message. His text went something like this:

    Hello – I am Reverend Hick McHick and I am calling to tell you to vote no on proposition two. I fully support this measure’s intention. Gay people threaten traditional marriage and the safety of our families. The constitutional amendment, though, puts at risk straight people! It has sloppy wording and it is not explicit enough about naming gay people. Real families might suffer. Remember, vote no.

What the fuck? If this is a message from the right, who is doing their market research? I couldn’t be on more gay, pro-choice, anti-hate mailing lists if I tried.

Because the message suggests to vote no on the amendment, however, I fear that this is something actually coming from the left. It has the end-result (voting “no”) we want, but it goes about it in a hateful means. To convince people to vote no, they side-step the impact on gay people, and try to frame it as something that threatens the most important people in our society: happy, married, straight folk. If this does come from the left, have they simply decided that people can’t be convinced that gay people deserve basic human rights?

It reminds me of the local battle for the U.S. House of Representatives during the 2004 election. Our district fell under DeLay’s master gerrymandering re-districting plan (may he rot in prison). In this instance, the Republicans attempted to use our area, which is profoundly right-wing, to unseat a Democratic Representative. The election became ugly. The Republican, a wicked woman named Arlene Wohglemuth, appeared slightly to the right of Benito Mussolini. She plastered our area with television, radio, and printed ads that talked about her burning hatred of all things queer.

The Democrat’s response to Arlene's campaign of hate? He began running ads with ministers who testified that he, also, despised gay people. Just like Arlene, the Democrat promised he would never vote for anything that protected gay people.

I understand political expediency, but do they have to sacrifice us? How badly has the left deteriorated if they don’t even take basic principal stands on human rights anymore? If our only goal is to win elections, even if it means tossing out equal levels of hate, are we actually accomplishing anything?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Queer Images: The Good and the Bad

Allow me to be a pale imitator of Susan Douglas’ Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. If you don’t own this book, buy it. It is too funny to put down. While you are at, pick up Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet. It is old, but worth reading as well.

Douglas discusses the media’s relationship with women viewers. In the same spirit, I want to think about the ways that the media also plays a coy game with gay men. Many times, gay men become the fun joke or the “adult-theme” that adds zest to their shows, magazines, or films.

Most of these images deserve condemnation as homophobic. Soon-to-be-Ex, for instance, rightly gets outraged at these representations and writes about them in his blog (see his post on "Brokeback Mountain," for instance). Most times I agreed with him.

Where I split with him and others, though, is that I also think popular culture offers means of resistance. As much as the mainstream media derided (and continues to deride) gay men and women, it also created (and creates) opportunities to claim queerness through these same images. We have collectively interacted with the media, both accepting and rebelling against their assumptions about our sexuality.

It is too simple to limit our understanding about our queer past to iconic civil-rights leaders or events. Obviously, I am not at all minimizing these leaders. Believe me, I spend many of my classroom lectures informing my students about Bayard Rustin, Alan Ginsberg, Stonewall, Gloria Anzaldua, Harvey Milk, among others. It would be impossible for me to claim my queerness or enjoy my rights in this country (such that they are) without them.

Yet, I am willing to gamble that most queer folk don’t know about many of these leaders. Many of us learn about these figures after we have already come out (sometimes decades later). Instead, it is through popular media, I believe, that many (most?) gay men and lesbians ultimately claim their identity in the United States. Unlike queer civil-rights leaders, almost everyone could identify the list of characters below. Probably the media was one of the first places that we all learned about “men like that” or “those women.” We, therefore, have much invested in media representations. Simply condemning these images ignores the many queer folk who also find validation in them.

Certain television shows come to mind. These offered some of the most prolific queer images, and many of them continue to live on through endless cycles of re-runs. These visions of queer men sent contradictory messages. Often these characters had the most popularity of their shows. Because they broke with gender expectations, they had much more fun than their hetero counterparts. Straight male characters faced lives of responsible drudgery working in stale offices. Straight women characters faired little better. Their days seem to center on pondering new ways to clean fingerprints off windows.

Queer characters, however, appeared above these hopelessly boring activities. In many ways, they seemed to offer an antidote to the tedium of suburbia. They also usually arrived with the best jokes, always made at the expense of straight-folk.

Still, these characters traded in stereotypes and appeared clownish. Almost all of the images that could be read as queer were white and middle class. As such, they served as a warning about failures to conform to those racial, gender, and class expectations. Their fun always came to an end. Queer characters appeared as threats to the domestic ideals of straight-white families. Always coming from outside of these happy homes, their time in the domestic sphere usually resulted in unsettling an otherwise happy family. While they may have laughed for twenty minutes, queer men ultimately faced banishment in the last two minutes of these shows. They almost always appeared alone and divorced from sexual activity.

Uncle Arthur

Before Paul Lynde became the iconic “Center Square,” he captured the nation’s attention in Bewitched. Samantha always welcomed visits from her fun uncle, at least initially. Spending your days avoiding Mrs. Kravitz and mindlessly mixing cocktails for Darrin would prompt you to welcome Arthur’s quirky humor as well.

On the one hand, Arthur made no apologies and offered no explanations for being single. He delighted in his catty bitchiness. Arthur thumbed his nose (literally) at Darrin’s gender conformity, refusing to take on the conventional guises of masculinity. With his magic-driven practical jokes, he broke the stifling dullness of Samantha’s suburban prison. Arthur also appeared unique as the only one in the Bewitched world who never feared Endora (a lesbian icon waiting to be unpacked).

On the other hand, any explicit queer desires that Arthur may have had went unnamed in the show. The queerness that he did manifest was only permissible because of his association with Samantha’s secret magical world. Like most of her relatives, Arthur could not function, and was not welcome, in the day-to-day hetero mortal world. Arthur’s exaggerated theatrics inevitably became a nuisance to Samantha, his only consistent friend on the show.

We, the audience, weren’t suppose to identify with Arthur. Rather, his bitchiness and refusal to adapt to suburbia ultimately isolated him from other people on the show. In the end, he always returned to the magic world alone.

Lost in Space’s Dr. Smith

Smith existed as an unhappy and unwanted addition to the ultra-perfect space-family Robinson. Seemingly he was as smart, or maybe smarter, than the Robinsons. He worked as a medical doctor for NASA, but he kinda forgot his medical training as the show progressed. He also was the only one besides the ever-eager Will who could repair the robot (most times he repaired it as an instrument to try to murder the aforementioned Will). Like Arthur, he offered one-line bitchy zingers to the hapless heteros who surrounded him.

Though a popular character, Smith portrayed the worst stereotypes for someone who bent gender expectations. In the first episode he took a bribe from some unknown traitor to murder the Robinsons. Throughout the rest of the show, he continuously brought chaos and destruction to the real heroes of the show: the happy, white, suburban family. He screeched and screamed whenever the robot warned “danger-danger.” Time and again, his lack of proper masculinity imperialed everyone around him.

Cowardly and shrill, Smith served as a warning to young queers about being too flamboyant. If one didn’t settle down, even your best friends would hate you (or maybe even die!). Smith, who had the sex appeal of a pencil eraser, affirmed that queers were often fools and really needed a stronger, heterosexual man to save them in the end.

Jack Tripper

Three’s Company offered a character who explicitly identified as gay, at least part of the time. True, he wasn’t really gay. Instead, he only claimed to be gay so that he could live in a hot apartment.

For those who are under the age of thirty and/or don’t have cable, the premise of the show revolved around a straight, single man living with two straight, single women. The landlord of the apartment building (first Mr. Roper, later Mr. Furley) didn’t want any “hanky-panky” (his words, not mine) in his building and, thus, would have forbidden Jack from living there if he knew the truth.

Clearly the show traded on homophobia for cheap laughs. Whenever the landlord appeared, Jack began to swish and mince around the apartment, batting his eyelashes at the dim-witted landlord. These were the ways he pretended to be gay.

Still, Jack didn’t usually see claiming gayness as threatening to his own sense of masculinity. Despite his harsh and explicit homophobia, Mr. Roper/Furley accepted Jack as part of the family. Oddly, he even preferred to have a gay man living in his apartment building than a straight man. Jack Tripper’s character also opened the opportunity for me to ask my sisters (my source for all worldly information until I was 12) what it meant for someone to be “gay.”

Will and Grace Jack

Does anyone even watch Will and Grace anymore? I haven’t seen an episode in five or six years.

Regardless, for the first time network television offered a long-lasting show about openly gay characters. Unlike their queer predecessors, who mostly appeared as guest stars, Will and Jack had a guarantee to return week after week.

Taking their inspiration from The Object of My Affection, the show centered around the relationship between a straight woman and her gay best friend. Will and Grace made queerness safe by asserting a heternoramtive model of domesticity. Beyond the sex (and I think they might even had sex at some point), they looked like every other hetero couple on television.

We already know my feelings about Sean Hayes (click here to read that diatribe). His character Jack, though, is a recycled version of Uncle Arthur. Just like Arthur, Jack brings chaos to the happy domestic world of Will and Grace. Jack lacks a job, lives alone, and is the constant joke of the show. Like Smith, he is often cowardly and shirks any real responsibility.

Together, Jack and Will make an uncomfortable gay couple, with Grace as an unwieldy third. The show tells us that gay people exist, but that being a gay man does not involve dating other men. Rather, being gay seems to be about fluttering around apartments and drinking.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

Much virtual-ink has already been spilled over the queer-eye guys. Still, they became such a media sensation it is hard not to comment on them.

Rather than the isolated sadness of Uncle Arthur or Dr. Smith, for a change we got to see five gay men who worked together and seemed to have fun. They still acted in a bitchy manner, but they also showed that they cared about each other. Each had talents that went beyond one-line zingers and practical jokes (except maybe Jai, who seemed fairly useless).

Each episode could easily be interchanged with another. Some hetero guy, who apparently can’t figure out how to work a toaster (probably because Mommy always did that for him), calls for queer help to set him straight(er). The queer-eye men appear at his door, instantly bond with him, and serve as his gay mammies. They take him shopping, show him how to order food from a caterer, and give him lots of free stuff for his house. Countless episodes culminate when the queer guys help the dumb-bell het propose to his hapless girlfriend (as if she could say “no” with an army of cameras zooming in on her face). All the time, the queer-eye guys never mention that they lack the same rights to marry their loved ones. Instead, we are treated to close-up shots of the queer eye guys getting teary-eyed as the proposal unfolds before them.

The queer-eye world contends that there isn’t an oppressive and homophobic nation that keeps many gay people in fear. Instead, queer men in the show are consumed by solving superficial problems (how to get a straight-guy to wash his face, for instance).

Though they express genuine fraternal affection with each other, nothing is ever said about their individual romantic lives. Like Will and Jack, for these men being gay is about everything except having sex with other men.

After twenty something years with televison, I hoped that they would offer more rounded versions of gay folk. Television executives, instead, offer us a bad compromise. We have a few more images of gay men, and they actually get to identify as gay. They exist, though, in a never-never land that we could never mistake for own reality.

Yet, these images also provide contradictory opportunities for us to identify with them. This helps explain why many queer men are quick to defend things like "Brokeback Mountain." Rather than simply dismissing them as trivial, we need to consider our own complicated relationship with these visions of queerness. These images simultaneously provide a form of validation even as they lock queer folk into perpetual stereotypes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Homophobia reigns supreme at this university. One has to spend only twenty minutes on campus or the nearby vicinity to hear some type of anti-gay remark. It does not take long.

Yet, the university is riddled with homoerotic undertones. I have already noted that campus “art” centers around glorified images of muscle-bound men. Other elements of campus-life, however, show an even deeper level of unquestioned homoeroticism.

    Terms to Live By:

    Take, for example, terminology exclusive to this campus. All of these are real terms (Like Jimmy Carter, I would not lie to you):

    Whipping Out: A greeting when two members of the university’s paramilitary group meets each other. If only they did “whip it out,” my days would be so much more interesting.

    Redass: Someone who shows exceptional school spirit. Maybe because he has been pulling the train all evening?

    Pulling Out: Shouting out the graduating year of the class before you. Remember kids, your partner "pulling out" does not prevent STDs.

    Off the Wood: This is more of a command than a term. It means that people need to step off the bleachers during the campus song. Sometimes you just don’t want people on your wood.

    Old Lady: Your male roommate. Seemingly all the men students are in some type of gay marriage. Good for them!

    Then there are student “traditions” that seem loaded with homoerotic flair. Let’s take, for example, the fact that the university does not have any (zero) women cheerleaders. It is an all-male activity. I guess they don’t want women getting too close to the “tight-end” on the football field.

    This manly-man squad offers the most interesting of cheers. I could not make this up. Believe me, I wish my sense of imagination had that depth. At some point during athletic competitions, these young men shove their ass out, mimicking “humping.” What do the call this cheer? "Humpin it." According to a quasi-official description of “Humpin It,” one must “bend over with the hands placed just above the knees, properly aligning the mouth, throat and back to allow the maximum amount of volume.” A date once offered me this same advice.

    Men intentionally excluded women from other activities as well. When students constructed bonfires, women students could not touch certain parts of the structure. In particular, only men could make the center pole erect. Frankly, it is a policy I have adopted in my personal life.

    Perhaps it goes along with:

    When I was a band-nerd, I played clarinet. So, I don’t necessarily know the most relaxing position to hold one’s trumpet. Still, is it me, or do they seem to be compensating for something?

    Honestly, I have never hung a flag off of my trumpet, either. Well, okay, maybe once at a party. . .

    You don't have to be a cheerleader or a band member to get involved with this action, though. What better way to show your school spirit than leaving your house almost naked? How about painting your body muddy red? Even better, get some of your best friends to wear identical paint schemes.

    It is just good male-bonding, I say, to roam around the streets with you best-buds in a Speedo and body paint. After all, don’t we see this time and again at circuit parties? Oh, wait, that is something else. . .

    Fancy Dress Ball

    As a historian, I am always looking for explanations in the past. Luckily, I think I found the origin of these homoerotic elements in the university archive.

    For most this university’s history, it was an all-male school (until the 1970s). Men had their urges, though.

    As with all college-aged men, Spring Semester always turned their thoughts to the fancy dress ball. What did they do, though, without any women students? “No problem, “ they said, “We will simply dress the younger classmen in drag!” Look closely at this picture from university archives. Click it to make it bigger.

    Most of these men enjoyed their pretty, pretty dresses. Who wouldn’t?

    This is the type of “can-do” attitude that is missing from today’s university students. Sure, some residual elements remain of this great history through whipping out, old ladies, and pulling out. Where, though, are the drag balls? Bring them back! Bring them back, before it is too late!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Random Realizations from a Weekend Away

At some point during this weekend, each of these thoughts crossed my mind:

Watching jets take off still impresses me.

Flying in jets still stresses me out.

Phoenicians (thanks Adam for the proper terminology) feel water is not too precious to spare on countless fountains, despite the fact that their city is in the center of a desert.

Leaving Texas is a good thing.

If I ever have a graduate student: A) I must send them to academic conferences before they give a paper so they know how they work and B)I must watch them practice giving a paper before their first presentation at a conference.

I miss the mountains.

I don’t miss my skin cracking and bleeding from the lack of moisture in the air.

People in my sub-field are not terribly professional. For those who have never had they joy of attending an academic conference, the days are divided into sessions. Scholars sent in proposals to present their work probably about a year ago. Competition to get on the program can be intense, especially for bigger conferences. When one gets a slot, it means you have taken it away from somebody else. This is why I am dumbfounded by one panel member who simply didn’t show up to his session. He didn’t send a paper for someone else to read and only sent a lame excuse of “I am too busy with administrative duties.” Ah, the joys of being a Prof. BigName.

In another instance, a commentator on another panel spent a total of ninety seconds saying “I am glad the panelists did this research. But, I will leave it to the audience to provide questions.” Again, only a Prof. BigName could get away with this.

Gay-men scholars dress better than their peers.

Gay-men scholars make bad choices in terms of jewelry, negating their better skills at dressing.

Not all historians appreciate understand share my sense of humor. At the conference’s big reception, I chatted with a delightful scholar who is at Small Midwestern College in NoWhere Midwest. During the chat, she noted how odd it was to live somewhere that people felt safe enough to leave their children in the car while they shopped in the grocery story. My witty response: “Is that why you decided to start trafficking in human infants?” She didn’t seem to think it was funny...

This conference brings us one-step closer to the major History-Geek National Convention in January. A significant percentage of the nation’s historians will converge in Philadelphia. Desperate historians will be seeking the few jobs available in the U.S. (and sometimes Canada). University Presses will be schilling their newest books. Cultural Historians and Social Historians will come to fisticuffs in the hall. Prof. BigName(s) will make drunken and salacious proposals to YoungGradStudent(s) in the hotel bar. People will be talking about obscure historic figures that only they know existed. Sound like a party? You bet!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Go West, Young Man!

I leave today for an academic conference in Phoenix. Spending the weekend away should be a good opportunity for me to obsess about forget my personal woes.

Still, I have mixed feelings about academic conferences. On the one hand, I really enjoy listening to the paper presentations. It is exciting hearing research so new that few others know about it. Fresh scholarship can rejuvenate your own interest in research and writing.

On the other hand, I suck at networking.

One of the many chinks in my academic armor centers on my slowness in meeting other academics across the nation. Part of the goal of these types of conferences is for young scholars to hunt-down senior colleagues and gain their attention. Without being too zealous, you want to be able to chat with them and explain why your work is interesting. GayProf, however, is a shy, shy, boy.

Others excel at this type of socializing. They are the academic-equivalents of Scarlett O’Hara. They don’t sit at tables, because a scholar only has two sides at a table! Instead, they become the center of a small group of scholars who seem mesmerized by their wit.

There are still others who attempt the O’Hara model, but fail horribly. It is not uncommon to see a typical Prof. BigName cornered by an overeager grad student. “Oh my god!” the grad student squeals, “I LOVED your last book so much! It touched my soul! Let me tell you what I did! I ripped out the last two pages and made a cup of tea out of them so I could drink your wisdom! -- Will you write me a letter of recommendation?” I am not an O’Hara (though I would KILL to wear a hoop-skirt), nor am I a sycophant.

Only one part of these conferences really bothers me: the dreaded “wall of shame” during meal time. What is this wall? Just like in highschool, mealtimes show your place in the academic world. Groups of scholars gather together, laughing and giggling at the center tables in restaurants. Scholars, though, who did not make new friends eat alone. Restaurants always seem to line us up against a back wall, out of the way, each with our own individual table. We then study the conference program intently, hoping we don't leak sadness. Sigh.

Seriously, it is not that bad. I actually look forward to academic conferences, oddly enough. Plus, any opportunity to escape Texas must be welcomed. So, dear readers, think of me this weekend and send good vibes for social bliss.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Fun with Campus "Art"

Our university does not have a formal art program and, boy, does it show! The university’s statues and buildings rarely move beyond the obvious. I don’t want to say these artists lacked imagination, but their work makes it seem like Salvador Dali inspired Soviet Realism. Nothing abstract could possibly touch our campus grounds. Instead, the university regents feel that art should have a clear meaning.

What intrigues me about many of these pieces, though, is their subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) homoerotic elements. Or, maybe as a friend often accuses me, “I just like to take the rubber raft down to smut town.” It is true that my sense of humor is stuck at a sixth-grade level.

Still, given that our university has a notorious reputation of being homophobic (usually in the top five universities across the nation “where alternative lifestyles are not an alternative”), I am surprised that they would allow any piece that would offer such obvious jokes. GayProf, by the way, likes to take advantage of the obvious.

So, dear readers, let me take you on a tour of campus art in honor of "National Coming Out Day." Not only will we look at the homoerotic, we will also see the simply bizarre.

    Guy with Big Pole

    I am sure that “Guy with Big Pole” is not the real name of this piece. It just seems to work for me.

    One has to wonder about the imagery. Some artist surely must have had to sell this piece. How did he describe it? “So,” he must have told the board of regents, “I will have a muscle-bound man in tight clothing struggling to wrap chains around his giant pole. It will signify man’s aggressive struggle to contain the power of his tall, erupting pipe.”

    Yes, I know, anything longer than wide is always being called “phallic.” Come on, though! Are they kidding me? If the university retires this piece I am going to open a leather bar with this man as the central attraction.

    Man with His Dog

    Here we have a realist image of a young man, after a busy day of work. Not homoerotic per se, but you know what they say about a single man with his dog. I can’t say for sure he is cruising. But can you say positively that he is not using his dog as bait in the local park?

    Perhaps it is an homage to Kevin Spacey’s “walking his dog incident.” You know, when he was mugged by some rough trade hooligans.

    Naked Man of Engineering

    I am not prudish – Hell, I like to look at a man’s penis. What offends me about this piece is his sad Brady perm.

    I am just curious, though, why the university decided that the plaque that greets visitors to the Engineering building should be nude and anatomically correct. They even made him circumcised (Now that is attention to detail!). For a medical school, a naked man makes good sense. A life science building? Of course, I can understand this. How many engineers, though, deal with the nude, male form? Perhaps they were jumping on the heady days of the Voyager exploratory space craft.

    For some reason, I am the only one who ever notices this image. . .

    Oil for Education

    This does not really fit my homoerotic theme, but I had to toss it in anyway. When I first saw this, I thought it was a complex satire of the state’s exploitation of natural resources. While not great, I thought it was a piece of art that at least showed some critical thinking.

    It turns out, though, it is just a way the university makes some extra cash. Pumping the ground dry means more money for football. Good for us!

    The “Bum” Building

    Perhaps it is just me, but I only think of bum as either 1)a cute reference to one’s ass (e.g. “That guy has a nice bum!”) or 2)an ill-chosen reference to someone who is economically destitute (e. g. “That bum is out of money”). Apparently, however, “Bum” was a nickname of some student who has now given the university tons of money. I wonder, though, what he did to earn his reputation. If he can afford a building, he is not economically destitute...

    Perhaps the "Bum" building should hook up with:

    The Gla$$cock Building

    The Gla$$cock Building houses my office. When I first arrived here, this building’s name was the “History Building.” It turns out, though, that Mr. History did not have any money to give the university. Mr.Gla$$cock, in contrast, gave our university millions of dollars, thus getting a building named for him.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for Mr. Gla$$cock. His generosity has given the humanities at this university a desperately needed boost. I also know that he must have heard all the jokes imaginable about his name at this point.

    Still, it is unnerving working in a building named after a rejected Austin-Powers’ villain.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Tired, So Very Tired . . .

Last night, at about half-past-eight, I went to a friend’s house for poker. She invited a number of faculty members from different departments and promised cocktails. I was looking for a little fun and a nice Cosmo (I thought of you, Helen!). Even GayProf must unwind and forget the troubles of the day.

The evening, though, left me even more unhappy. Foolishly, I left my shield and sword at home expecting that the evening would be free of the usual crap.

Last night bothered me because I think it showed a problem that the “left” faces across the U.S. In my own mind, I am trying to work out what exactly happened. So, pour yourself a glass of wine, this will be a long, long entry . . .

Half way through the evening, conversation turned to the upcoming Distinguished Lecture (you can find a reference to it here). This soon-to-be-visiting scholar claims that Mexicans/Mexican Americans threaten U.S. national identity because they supposedly refuse to “assimilate.” His argument is historically dubious, to be sure. It also hints at his deeper racism.

We all know, though, that GayProf jealously guards the academic freedom of universities (almost as much as he likes to refer to himself in the third person). Once the university invited DistinguishedLecturer to speak (which, by the way, I wish they hadn’t), we were committed to giving him a venue. I absolutely reject the notion of censoring speakers on university campuses, even crazed ones like DistinguishedLecturer. Universities, I believe, have to stand behind the rights of everyone to voice their ideas. Most of the response to DistinguishedLecturer has also kept this in mind (not, for instance, advocating a recall of his invitation).

At poker, however, two white, straight male professors moaned that responses to the speaker showed the left strangling their freedoms. As best I as I could piece together, these two believe that white, straight men have become victims of the left. They argue that the left too easily points out racism, sexism, and homophobia, making it impossible for them to do “real scholarship” (which, I guess, they imagine must include racism, sexism, and homophobia (?)).

Yes, yes, I know I live in Texas and that I should expect these things. Let’s be clear, though. These are two men who identify as “left.” They vote Democrat (or even Green), if that matters.

As a nasty tag-team, they took turns whining about how the left was not giving Distinguished Lecturer a “fair chance.” The first, let’s call Prof. RecentlyDivorced, argued that the left was trampling on DistinguishedLecturer’s “rights” by protesting his lecture. The other, who we will call Prof. WhiteEntitlement, even stated, “Isn’t DistinguishedLecturer really right? Are Roman Catholic Mexicans really fitting into our Protestant Nation?”

Where to begin with this statement? One could start at a personal level. It is odd, to say the least, that Prof. WhiteEntitlement envisions the U.S. as “our Protestant Nation” given that he converted to Judaism. One could point out that this imagining of the U.S. is narrow and wrongly presumes an “American essence.”

Oddly, though, these things are not what bothered me the most. The thing that really left me dazed was that Prof. WhiteEntitlement asserted that only he and Prof. RecentlyDivorced had ever truly faced discrimination based on ideology. Obviously the nonwhite, non-straight, non-male figures at the table protested.

The university faculty is more than 90 percent whites and more than 70 percent men. Prof. WhiteEntitlement is fully tenured. Tell me how white, straight, men suffer so? They control every element of this university from the top administration to the individual departments. I pointed out, in contrast, that I have had senior colleagues (white, straight, men btw) mocking gay people outside my office door. “But that is because of who you are,” Prof. WhiteEntitlement claimed, “It is not because of your ideology.”

This really left me confused at first. On thinking about it, though, it suggests a problematic vision of race, gender, and sexuality that still circulates in the U.S.

In trying to discuss these issues with them, I wrongly assumed that they imagined everyone at the table as equal members of the “left.” To these two figures, however, when I speak about the left, I am really only speaking as a “Gay Latino.” Therefore, my views are suspect as they imagine I lack an “ideology.” Rather, the implication is I have some sort of instinctual response that automatically forces me on the left. The same, I think, they would imply is true for women (regardless of race or sexuality).

They, on the other hand, have the amazing power of white-maness behind them. Therefore, their decisions about being on the left are more legitimate because they chose to be left. Unlike gays, women, and people of color, they had to think about their reasons for joining the left and develop complex ideologies. It is unfair, therefore, that we (gays, people of color, women) aren’t super-grateful for their largess. Instead, we just keep whining about racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Maybe these ideas aren’t circulating nationally, but white privilege still seems alive and well. Regardless, I really, really, really need to find a new job . . .

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Latinos of the Future?

Being of mixed ancestry (my father was Mexican-American, my mother was Irish-American) predisposes me to be sensitive to representations of race. Obviously the main-stream media rarely reflects my day-to-day life. This is something we all expect.

Still, sci-fi’s consistent exclusion of Latinos stings a bit too much. When I started this blog entry, I intended it to be a critique of sci-fi representations of Latinos. It turns out that I couldn’t even think of enough Latinos in mainstream sci-fi to fill the blog. Don't worry, though, I think highly enough of my opinion to fill plenty of space.

It baffles me that sci-fi so conspicuously excludes Latinos. According to these predications of the future, do we, as a people, simply stop existing? Did all of the Latinos in these alternate universes board a massive spaceship and leave earth behind?

It should come as no surprise that I am a huge nerd. Star Trek, Star Wars, comics, and really bad movies are all guilty, guilty, guilty pleasures in my world. Couldn’t they toss in a single Sanchez or Gonzalez into these things?

Yes, I know there are a few. Over the past two decades the mainstream media keeps “discovering” that Latinos actually account for a large percentage of the U.S. population. During these moments, we see a few blips of representations. Those images, however, are most often hasty creations that rarely last.

Marvel, for instance, created the comic character “Firebird” during one of these moments of Latino “celebration.” What was her story? Why was she named after a badly built car?

Well, Bonita Juarez grew up in New Mexico (this, I like). One day, a comet hit Juarez while she was wondering in the desert. I can’t say that I spent much time mindlessly roaming through New Mexico’s desert in my twenty years there. Apparently this is how Juarez enjoyed spending her free time, ultimately leading to her super powers.

If Marvel really wanted to be political, they would have made her poisoned from all the federal government’s nuclear testing in New Mexico’s deserts. This might have at least explained her unfortunate fire-engine red face. Regardless, with newly imbued comet-powers, she joined an X-Men knock-off group called the “Texas Rangers.”

I don’t like to moan, but why would someone living in New Mexico join the “Texas Rangers?” Not to mention that the real-life Texas Rangers brutally harassed and murdered thousands of Mexican Americans along the border in the past century. Wouldn't a Latina superhero, therefore, bristle at joining a group called the “Texas Rangers?” Seemingly Juarez was willing to let bygones be bygones.

Juarez, like every other minority superhero character ever-ever, worked as a social worker by day. Superman got to be a reporter. Wonder Woman got to be in the navy and, later, the UN. Batman lived off of his wealth. Minority comic characters, though, are always tied to the ghetto and are always playing the "good role" of social worker.

What’s that you say? “GayProf,” you cry out, “I never even heard of Firebird.” Don’t fret, you aren’t alone. Only the most die-hard comic fans would ever know her story. Indeed, I didn’t know she existed until I was bemoaning the lack of Latino superheroes during my childhood. A hyper-comic-collector friend of mine offered Firebird as a (the only?) 1980s option. The problem is, though, she never seemed to do anything beyond existing. Just try to find a comic featuring Firebird. Go on -- I dare you. Firebird pledged her life to helping the people of the Southwest and then promptly disappeared from comic-book racks across the nation.

How about television, you ask? Star Trek, despite its claims of a rosy, multi-culture future, rarely included Latino characters. Only Star Trek Voyager offered a few Latino actors as constant figures. Yet, as they gave with one hand, they took away with the other.

When I whine about the lack of Latinos in Star Trek (and I whine about this often), many of my friends instantly name Chakotay. While it is true that Robert Beltrain is a real-life Mexican-American actor, Chakotay (the character) was Native American (not Latino). We won’t even delve into the fact that the show couldn’t seem to name Chakotay’s origins (at different times hinting he was Pueblo, Cherokee, Apache, and/or Navajo). For the purposes of the U.S. Census, though, Chakotay would not technically qualify as “Latino.”

Then there was B’Elanna Torres. Gee, no racial problems with this character. Her mother was Klingon, her father was human/Latino. So, we still don’t get a character that is just Latino. Her Latino father, moreover, abandoned B’Elanna when she was a child. As a result, we are told, B'Elanna and her mother had to subsist using space food stamps. Torres grew up hating every aspect of her human/Latino heritage. What a great message for the kids! Didn’t Daniel Patrick Moynihan use B’Elanna as one of his cases in his racist report “The Intergalactic Latino Family: The Case for National Action?” Thank you, Star Trek. You are a true friend of the Latino people.

So, I call on you, dear readers. Are there positive images of Latinos in sci-fi out there? Am I just missing them? I will take anything -- comics, films, tv (No, Jimmy Smits playing Bail Organa does not count. I hate to be picky, but in the Star-Wars universe, Organa was Alderaanion, not Latino). I will give bonus points if you can also name positive images of gay Latinos in mainstream media. Triple points to the person who can name images of gay Latinos in sci-fi.