Sunday, December 31, 2006

Be Resolved, 2007

Last year I was too emotionally exhausted to make my own New Year’s resolutions. This year, it just seems like a lot of work. All that self-improvement takes so much effort. You have to decide what elements about you need fixing and come up with some type of tangible plan to accomplish the repair. That could really interfere with my having a good time.

I figure I am better off taking the next year’s wild ride as it appears. Fate will be the guiding force. Well, maybe not just fate. Liquor and Xanax will play significant roles as well.

Deciding New Year’s Resolutions for other people proved much more satisfying last year. So much so, I think that I will repeat it. For me, deciding resolutions for people feels like community service. At least, that’s what I would tell the judge.

George Bush, Jr.

    Oh, George, last year we talked about a resolution for you to learn to read. I even tried to set you up with the whole Hooked on Phonics library. This really hasn’t been your year, though. Your war in Iraq keeps deteriorating and you obstinately refuse to face the facts. Of course, probably the illiteracy makes it harder for you to even learn the facts.

    Everybody knows that you are failure. You know it; I know it; the American people know it. Even Gerald Ford recognized that invading Iraq would have disastrous consequences. Now, I don’t mean to disrespect the recently dead, but Ford didn’t have a reputation of being a super-genius. Lyndon Johnson used to say, “The problem with Gerald Ford is that he played football before they required helmets.” Yet, even Ford thought you to be a bit dim.

    George, make this the year that you resign the presidency. Really, you spend most of your time on vacation anyway. Don’t resign, though, before you fire Cheney. That way, our good friend Nancy Pelosi can be President. Wouldn't that be nice?

Hillary Clinton

    Resolve not to run for president. I have nothing against you really. In fact, you would probably make a competent president. Let’s be honest, though, anybody would look like a political genius following the disaster that is Bush, Jr.

    Really, Hillary, you just can’t win the presidency. People on the right hate you. Now, I don’t mean that they find you mildly annoying. I mean they confuse you with a little demon-like creature.

    This means you would be unelectable. Taking the Democratic Party’s nomination would cripple the party. Plus, some of your political positions kinda annoyed me over the past few years. Taking a hard anti-video-game stance? That’s just lame, Hillary. Talk about pandering.

    You are a young woman. I recommend becoming a power-house in the Senate. You know, under the Constitution, the Senate should be one of the most powerful government bodies. If you play your cards right, you could reign there indefinitely. Why not be a Senate kingpin? Doing so would also mean that people would no longer talk about your never-ending-change of hairstyles. Nobody seems to care what senators look like.

Ronald Moore

    Resolve to refocus Battlestar Galactica back on the human struggle to survive. Don’t get me wrong. This season brought some of the best episodes so far. In particular, exploring the ethics of suicide-bombing made for some darn good television. We also had a little fun looking into the Cylon baseships. The hybrid has all intrigued.

    Now, though, scale back a bit. Two things will destroy this show (and the fans seem to be in constant fear of the show falling apart): 1) Reaching earth and 2) Having the Cylons lose their edge. Only an idiot would do number one (*cough *Galactica: 1980* cough*). As for the second, you are treading close to the edge, Ronny. On one hand, the Cylons can’t be a mystery forever. On the other hand, the more we know about the Cylons, the less interesting they become for the show. Keep an eye on it.

Mary Cheney

    Resolve to get that spine transplant. Mary, I know that I have been critical of you in the year 2006. You earned it, girl. With all of your hypocrisy and smug dismissal of other queer folk. Not to mention your face looks like you have been washing with Comet.

    Let’s make a fresh start, though, in 2007. Right now, you are carrying around a human-worm-larvae. Personally, I have never understood the desire to have children. Apparently, though, you wanted one. So be it. Prove that your baby’s mama isn’t a fool.

    The evil right-wing Christians have attacked you and your baby since the day you sent out announcements. In you little book, you trashed lefty-gay-activists. Yet, those very same lefty-gay-activists have been the only ones supporting your selfish ass for the past few months. Now it’s time for you to step up and defend your own damn family.

Wonder Woman

    Resolve to reclaim your costume from that annoying skank Donna Troy. Okay, you needed a little time off to recoup. Killing Maxwell Lord gave you a bit of an ethical conundrum. Paradise Island’s disappearance into another dimension, yet again, couldn’t have been easy.

    After all that, anybody would need to reassess their life with a bit of solitude. Taking a year to swim in the big pool of Diana seemed reasonable. You got a new haircut, slipped on a white jumpsuit, and contemplated the meaning of life.

    At some point, though, all good Amazons take charge of their lives again. With Batman’s help, you have your Diana Prince alias back. Now it’s time to slip on that golden bustier and red-and-white boots and kick a little mortal ass. I am just sayin’.


    Resolve to sell my Texas house. Sure, you could spend your time cruising the earth curing sickness or ending wars. Selling my house, though, involves me. Therefore it really, really matters.

    Finally dumping that house would end my long financial nightmare and be the last bit to rid me of the repugnant Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies). Can’t you swing a little divine intervention for a queer-brown-eyed boy?

    If not, maybe it’s time to kick a little mortal ass. That pope guy sure seems to need a Virgin-smack-down. I am just sayin’.

Queer Community

    Resolve to make this a year of honesty. Certainly 2006 exposed some prominent queer liars: Ted Haggard, Mark Foley, Sesame Street’s Burt. Telling lies benefits nobody in the end, except yourself. Even then, it usually makes things much worse.

    Are you frustrated by the way that your local, state, and national community views queer people? You have the ability to alter that view by being up-front about your sexual desires. The easiest and best strategy for making the world safer for queers is still being honest, out, and open about our sexual identities. Yet, it still is news.

    Now, I know it’s not easy. If you are feeling daunted or alone, though, remember that I am on your side. With GayProf around, things just seem less scary.

Friday, December 29, 2006

If We Weren't Different, We Would be the Same

I have returned to Boston. Some personal disappointments and a persistent cold kept this holiday season from being spectacular for GayProf. Such is the way with holidays it seems. All that anticipation usually leaves us with a touch of ennui.

As you know, I spent my holidays in the Land of Enchantment. Each time I visit New Mexico, I always try to gauge its political status. For many decades, New Mexico stood as the patch of Lefty Blue surrounded by the evil Right Red of Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah on the electoral map. For most of the twentieth century, New Mexico’s populace adopted a “live and let live” attitude. The people of the state probably weren’t progressive as much as they simply became disinterested in interfering in others’ lives.

Of course that attitude emerged after a bloody and difficult coexistence in the nineteenth century. Contrary to popular mythology, Mexicans in New Mexico had no desire to become part of the United States. Indeed, the people of Santa Fe wept as the U.S. military raised Ol’ Glory above the governor's palace. U.S. soldiers reported being haunted by the women’s anguished wails for years after the event.

With such an unhappy invasion, nobody (except President Polk) found it particularly surprising that violence ensued. Mexicans relieved the first U.S. governor of his mortal toil just a few months into his administration. Americans, of course, extracted a bloody revenge.

Perhaps the greatest stronghold of antipathy to the U.S. existed in southern New Mexico. Mexicans there rarely put up with Americans or their shenanigans during the nineteenth century. In one 1860 incident, Mexicans forcibly cleared out all the Americans from their town after a Euro-American gambler shot a Mexican woman in the street (he missed his intended target of another gambler). Don’t get the idea this was just an armed-Mexican mob. No, no. An elected Mexican official issued an order stating that Americans were no longer welcome. He then deputized the townspeople to accomplish his purpose.

It all seemed reasonable to the Mexicans. “We gave it a good try to share our town with you, Americans,” they said, “It turns out that you were all gun-packing, greedy little monsters. Now it’s time for you to go. No hard feelings. If you have left anything behind, we will mail it to you. Good luck – Go with God.”

The incident reminded Americans that they were the uninvited guests at the dinner party. Even the Chicago Tribune fretfully noted that, in New Mexico, Mexicans “appear determined on revenge, and being largely in the majority, the danger is indeed serious.” For over a day, the Mexicans kept their town totally American-free. They did so without injuring a single American. They might have implied injury would follow if the Americans didn’t leave the town, but they didn’t actually shoot anybody in retaliation. Then some crybaby called in the U.S. army, which quickly deposed the democratically elected official.

Yet, even that incident showed the compromise that would later dominate New Mexico’s politics. Mexicans in the town probably knew they could not keep Americans out forever. U.S. Army officials knew they couldn’t keep coming back every other month simply to allow Americans to live in the town. Therefore, they brokered a compromise with the townspeople. Mexicans could retain control over most civic functions, conduct government affairs in Spanish, and police the town. In exchange, they wouldn’t run the invaders out at gunpoint. It all seemed so fair.

Eventually the violence subsided and an uneasy peace emerged in the form of institutionalized multiculturalism. While certain problems existed with this model, the territorial (and later the state) government guaranteed that New Mexico’s Euro Americans and Mexicans would be considered equal, including access to government services. That might seem obvious, but it was not the governing philosophy of neighboring Texas or Colorado during the same period.

New Mexico and Hawai`i (another blue bastion) were the only states with a non-white majority for most of the twentieth century (joined recently by California and Texas). The past few elections, however, have shown that New Mexico might be overrun with a new population coming from its hateful neighboring states.

During this trip, I had an anecdotal encounter that confirmed my worst fears about the changing demographics. Now, I don’t normally go out of my way to eavesdrop. True, people watching can pass the time. Most times, though, I don’t leave home thinking about intercepting other people’s conversations. My own life is much more interesting. In this case, though, I found it impossible not to overhear.

I had made arrangements to meet a friend for coffee at an Albuquerque Starbucks© near the university. My friend became a bit delayed and I had forgotten to bring a book with me. So, as I drank a grande hot chocolate (why didn’t I order the venti?), the conversation from the next table drifted over to me.

From what I pieced together, the lead woman at the table recently moved to New Mexico from the dreaded state of Texas. Her table companions, originally from Seattle, came for a ski trip to the Land of Enchantment. They had little to say, though, as the Texan dominated the conversation.

Much of her time went to trashing the state. Nothing, according to her, was right about New Mexico. Here are some of the insights that she gave to her silent Seattle companions:

“There aren’t any Christians in this state. They are all Catholic.”

“I hate the food here. It’s always so spicy. People seem to like to see if you can tolerate the heat. It’s like a contest or something to see who can eat the hottest pepper.” [GayProf Note: This is true, though I have found that most restaurant food in the past decade has lost its edge to accommodate people like Texan-Girl]”

“Santa Fe is the only good place in the state. That’s because the Hispanics don’t control it anymore. If you go to the Hispanic towns, everything is run-down.”

“I went to a restaurant here and they had a section on the menu called ‘Gringo Food.’ That’s where they put things like hamburgers. I told the waitress that food was American food."

"Everything here is in Spanish and English: all the street signs, everything. This is the United States. We speak English in the U.S. This place has been part of the U.S. for, like, four hundred years. Get over it.” [GayProf Note: The U.S. invaded New Mexico in 1846, a mere 160 years ago, not 400. The U.S is currently 230 years old. Clearly she would not win any history awards.]

“It’s not like Texas. People here aren’t friendly. Some have even told me that I should go back to Texas if I don’t like it here.”

Now, I am not a psychologist, but it seemed to me that this annoying Texan-Girl had a mild case of culture-shock. She saw difference, became afraid, and reacted with hostility. Though Texan-Girl probably did not know it, her complaints and fears have circulated for the 160 years that Mexican-Americans have been part of the nation. Euro-Americans have long tried to stamp-out signs of cultural difference.

For whatever reason, they often obsessed about food. Much like Texan-Girl complained of the local cuisine, so also 1920s-Chicago social workers fretted about Mexicans’ diets in their city. They demanded that the recent arrivals to the city conform to their own arbitrary assumptions about “proper living.” They even established a recommended menu to replace the Mexican food that allegedly angered up the blood:

Breakfast: cornmeal mush with top milk, toast, coffee
Lunch: dried peas, bread with oleo, and stewed rhubarb
Dinner: pot-roast, bread, raisin pie, and coffee

Almost a hundred years later, it turns out that the Chicago social workers’ notions of “good American food” did not withstand the test of time. For some reason, most Americans just don’t find cornmeal mush a satisfying way to start their day. Meanwhile, Mexican food, or at least bastardized versions of it, has become so ubiquitous in the U.S. that few even think about it anymore. To my memory, I haven’t seen throngs of protesters circling the Taco Bell for being “un-American.”

Though her comments had racial undertones, I actually don’t think that racism per se fueled Texan-Girl’s disenchantment. In reality, I don’t think that her reaction would be unique to New Mexico or its population. I suspect that if she had gone to Massachusetts, she would have felt equally at odds with her surroundings and neighbors. Her complaints would be different, but not her basic frustration. What bothered her was that people lived and believed things different from herself. She did not expect to find a difference between Texas and the rest of the U.S. When she encountered it, she had nothing but ill-will.

This, it seems to me, is one of the (many) problems with the United States. A mythology exists that claims that “American” identity is universal. As a result, most Americans assume that how they live their lives must be how all Americans live. They interpret the expression “E Pluribus Unum” to mean that the nation must crush the differences of the many to make one.

Nostalgia for a mythical time of national unity paralyzes the nation. No such period ever existed. Instead, individuals and groups have come to understand their role in the United States based on their own experiences and practices.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Below my apartment window, children from the neighborhood cheerfully play. Public schools have closed for the holidays and they are clearly enjoying their freedom. As I listen to their laughter and games, I think to myself, “Isn’t there some factory where they could be working?”

I leave in a couple days for New Mexico to spend the holidays with my family. “GayProf,” I hear you saying, “Before you go, we must know how the most desirable man on the blogosphere spends his holidays.” Fear not, kiddies, all your questions will be answered via a meme found at Cooper’s:

    Eggnog or Hot Chocolate? You can have Hot Chocolate anytime, but Eggnog is only around once per year. Moreover, one has liquor, the other does not. What do you think?

    Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Santa used to leave gifts in a stocking by the fireplace. Isn’t that his deal? Why would he leave them under the tree? That’s just crazy talk.

    Colored lights on tree/house or white? I like clear.

    Do you hang mistletoe? Yes, when I decorate (which I did not do this year). One never knows when Anderson Cooper might pop into your apartment. I believe in being ready.

    When do you put your decorations up? When I decorate, I usually set things up around December 15.

    What is your favorite Christmas dish? Tamales

    Favorite Christmas memory as a child? My oldest sister would always wake us up as early as possible to start going through our stockings. Unlike the presents under the tree, my parents allowed us to see what Santa left before they woke-up (my parents liked the extra sleep). My sister’s excitement was infectious, even if it appeared at three in the morning. From what I understand, she currently makes her seven-year-old son get up at about the same time.

    When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I can’t remember if it was second or third grade, but several classmates and I were at a friend’s house shortly before Christmas. We weighed the possibilities, listened to testimony from both sides, and came to a conclusion. I didn’t find it particularly traumatic. Actually, I more remember not wanting my parents to be disappointed that I knew the truth.

    What tops your tree? Usually an angel. Some years it’s Farah Fawcett, other years it’s Jacqueline Smith.

    Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes – Usually my sisters and I would have spent the previous week debating which gift we would open December 24. This involved some serious calculations and estimations, including literally weighing some packages.

    What kind of cookies does Santa get set out for him? Santa didn’t get cookies. I think he had an early commitment to a low-carb diet.

    Snow! Love it or hate it? Usually, I love snow. Since I left my car in Texas, however, I am more than fine with Boston’s mild winter this year. Given this city seems to have an anti-bus shelter agenda, I am content with the sunshine provided by global-warming.

    Can you ice skate? I have only been ice-skating once in my life, my freshman year of college. To my recollection, I would say “no.”

    Do you remember your favorite present? Mego Wonder Woman

    What's the most important thing about Christmas to you? The holidays designate a period when we consciously reflect on the important people in our lives and express our love for them. Or, maybe it’s all the gifts. Whatever.

    What is your favorite holiday dessert? New Mexico state law requires that I say biscochitos. Only, though, if they are made with brandy and lard. Don’t try to pass off a dry, teetotaler, lump of a cookie on me. I want a holiday cookie that will wreck your health all in one go.

    Favorite tradition? I always liked the satisfaction of creating and arranging luminarias (really called farolitos, but that is another story). Normally I detested physical labor as a child. Spending most of Christmas Eve, however, filling bags with sand, coming up with interesting ways to arrange them, and then lighting them never felt like work.

    Now, though, luminarias have become too common, electric, and plastic. Thank you, commercialism, for destroying a regionally-specific tradition. Eh – Given my parents moved to the mountains, where luminarias would be a serious forest-fire hazard, it’s moot anyway.

    Which do you prefer - giving or receiving? I am versatile.

    What is your favorite Christmas Carol? "2,000 Miles" by the Pretenders

    Candy Canes? Maybe one per year. I don’t tend to like sugar-candy – only chocolate.

Before heading out, I will offer these last bloggy things. Editors at Time magazine decided to make a joke of their publication by naming “you” as person of the year. Tell me somebody isn’t going to be fired for that.

Being helpful, here are my recommendations for who would have been better choices (hat-tip to Red Turtles for the link to the template):


Laura Roslin, President of the Colonies

It goes without saying:

Of course, the most worthy:

Happy Holidays and Safe Travels, My Blogger Friends!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Not Just Queer -- Queer of the Year

Joe, from Joe.My.God, wants to know which queer person you (yes, YOU!) think made the most significant impact on the fight for queer rights this past year. Ol’ GayProf happened to serve on the nominating committee that selected the final choices. After a weekend of debate and some independent drinking, we culled the nominations from all the ones submitted by his readers. Six candidates ultimately made it through the rigorous screening process.

Who will take the title of Queer of the Year? Will celebrity triumph in the form of Rosie O’Donnell? Or will the ground breaking, but little known, transgender public official Kim Coco Iwamoto take the prize? Their fate rests with you (yes, YOU!). I can only surmise that Joe is currently reworking the lyrics to the “Miss America” theme which he will then sing to the winner as they make their triumphal walk down the runway.

Vote below in a poll that will be open until January 3. One need not be queer to take a position and vote. Which queer person captured your imagination the most for 2006?

Here are the contenders in a nutshell:

    Laurel Hester served for 23 years as a police officer in Ocean County, New Jersey. Upon learning that she had terminal lung cancer, Hester became concerned about the fate of her partner, Stacie Andree. Heterosexuals passed on their police pensions to surviving partners, but a Republican Controlled county board rejected allowing such benefits to transmit to same-sex partners. Shortly before her death in February 2006, Hester filmed an impassioned plea to be delivered to county officials. Upon learning her story, the board reversed their initial decision and granted surviving same-sex partners equal access to pensions. Hester’s story also brought the issue of same-sex partners’ rights to national attention.

    Lane Hudson became frustrated by a lack of action both on the right and the left regarding Congressman Mark Foley. Hudson first exposed Foley’s years of sexual harassment against interns on a blog. Many people attribute the Foley scandal to the demise of the Republican Congress in 2006. Hudson, however, also exposed the HRC’s internal failures as well. The HRC administration disavowed Hudson and ultimately fired him for exposing Foley. This has left many people wondering, just what type of mission guides the administration at the HRC?

    Kim Coco Iwamoto had a long career as a civil rights attorney (having earned her law degree at the University of New Mexico (so, you know she already has a special place in my thoughts)). This past year she won a position on Hawai`i’s State Board of Education. That victory made her the highest elected transgender person in the nation. Iwamoto argues that Hawai`i could be a model for the rest of the United States. “This election speaks less of me and much more, I think, of the place and the people of Hawai`i,” she said, “the fact that Hawai`i's always been a place of fair-minded, critical thinking voters who vote on the issues and who see people for the substance of their character."

    Mike Jones became the most well-known male escort in the United States when he outed über-evangelical Ted Haggard. Jones claimed that Haggard paid him for both sex and drugs during a three-year relationship. Haggard had a long career and made lots of money fomenting homophobia based on his religious interpretations. His exposure has shown that the evangelical movement has some disreputable people at the helm. Many people discount Jones because he worked as a prostitute; however, I am leery of such moralistic judgments or such easy dismissal. There are many male prostitutes who have sex with men like Haggard. Few, though, have ever bothered to tell their story. Moreover, even Karl Rove attributed Republicans’ 2006 failures, in part, to Jones’ revelation. "The profile of corruption in the exit polls was bigger than I'd expected," said Rove. "Abramoff, lobbying, Foley and Haggard added to the general distaste that people have for all things Washington, and it just reached critical mass.” By “all things Washington,” Rove really meant “Republicans’ lies, greed, deceit, and hypocrisy.”

    Rosie O'Donnell garnered numerous nominations on the JMG web-page. Rosie’s fans point out that she is one of the most recognizable lesbians in the nation. During her new stint on the television program The View, Rosie often talks openly about being a lesbian mother and making a family with her partner. She has also used her platform to draw attention to homophobia and sexism. Many argue, though, that her greatest contributions come from her daily appearance on The View by providing a human face to queer issues.

    Soulforce, founded by Mel White and Gary Nixon, organized a program called “EqualityRide” this past year. In 51 days, White and Nixon drove young students to 19 military and religious universities that currently ban LGBT people from enrolling. Soulforce operates as an interfaith organization which seeks to end “spiritual violence” against queer people. They have adapted and altered strategies articulated by Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Mahatma Gandhi that emphasize non-violent confrontation and civil disobedience. The organization currently has a youthful following, particularly among queers who identify as Christians. Many in the group consider themselves inheriting progressive movements from a weary older generation.

Who Is The Queer Of The Year 2006?
Laurel Hester
Lane Hudson
Kim Coco Iwamoto
Mike Jones
Rosie O'Donnell

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Better to Give?

Winter brings us the non-sectarian, non-denominational holiday season. I never look for lots of gifts at this time of year. No, no. Just give me cash – folding money. Like GayProf always says: Cash is the right size and the perfect color. Or give me something with sentimental value – Something from your heart -- like a couple lots in Boston, on or off Charles Street. I am not particular where I live. That’s good enough for me.

Okay, now that I have paid homage to Pearl Bailey, we can talk more about those tricky holiday gifts. Shopping for our non-sectarian, non-denominational holiday presents can be stressful. We all want to give something meaningful, but often run out of time. Fretting about what message our gift sends to the other person can keep us awake. Moreover, we also wonder why we got certain gifts from people. Just what did they want to tell us?

Don’t worry – GayProf is here to help you with all of your holiday gifting. Here is a list of gifts, what the giver meant by giving them, and what the receiver thinks upon getting each.

The Gift: A Dictionary.

What the Giver Meant: I don’t think that you can spell. (Given my blog entries, I expect many of these).

What the Receiver Thinks: Oh, I can use this. My coffee table is a little wobbly because of that short leg.


The Gift: A Wii

What the Giver Meant: I am trying to buy your love.

What the Receiver Thinks: I love you.


The Gift: X-Box 360

What the Giver Meant: I am trying to buy your love.

What the Receiver Thinks: Eh – I am indifferent to you.


The Gift: A Playstation 3

What the Giver Meant: I am trying to buy your love.

What the Receiver Thinks: Oh, I can use this. My coffee table is a little wobbly because of that short leg.

The Gift: Three-Month Membership to a Gym

What The Giver Meant: I think that you are fat and/or am the type of person who claims to be “helping you” by making you feel badly about yourself.

What The Receiver Thinks: You’re an asshole. On top of that, only giving three months makes you a cheap asshole.


The Gift: Massaging-Gel Insoles for Your Shoes

What the Giver Meant: I am concerned about your arch-support. (Could also mean that they are tired of hearing you complain about lower-back pain).

What the Receiver Thinks: Your sex-life must be equivalent to my great aunt’s.


The Gift: An Engagement Ring or a Commitment Band.

What the Giver Meant: The holidays have exposed my desperate loneliness – I am making rash choices without thinking.

What the Receiver Thinks: That better not be my only gift.


The Gift: An Iron

What the Giver Meant: Get to pressing my shirts, bitch.

What the Receiver Thinks: This iron will leave an interesting pattern imprinted on your face when I slug you with it.


The Gift: Tickle-Me Elmo – T.M.X – EXTREME!

What the Giver Meant: I think that you have the mentality of a five-year old.

What the Receiver Thinks: That cackling little doll better know how to do more than laugh, like make a cocktail.


The Gift: A Mix CD with Any of the Following Artists: Billie Holiday, Marlene Dietrich, Pearl Bailey, Cher, Donna Summer, Madonna, Scissor Sisters, P!nk, or Tina Turner.

What the Giver Meant: I am gay.

What the Receiver Thinks: You are gay – UNLESS, the receiver is also gay, then they think “ooh – I’ve got to dance.”


The Gift: Handmade Goodies.

What the Giver Meant: I care about you, but am really, really broke.

What the Receiver Thinks: That was thoughtful (I hope, because GayProf is really, really broke this year).


The Gift: A Diamond

What the Giver Meant: Television tells me that I am supposed to give these shiny rocks to you.

What the Receiver Thinks: I don’t care what television implies, I am still not having sex with you tonight.


The Gift: Airline Tickets to Anywhere in Texas (Yes, Including Austin)

What the Giver Meant: I secretly hate you and want you to suffer.

What the Receiver Thinks: Why does this person hate me so much?


The Gift: Wonder Woman comics, books, or dolls

What the Giver Meant: Who doesn’t love Wonder Woman?

What the Receiver Thinks: This person clearly has good taste.


The Gift: A Picture of Both the Receiver and Giver Together in a Happy Moment.

What the Giver Meant: I will always remember that moment together.

What the Receiver Thinks: Ah, how sweet.


The Gift: A Picture of the Giver, Alone.

What the Giver Meant: I think highly of myself and think you should as well.

What the Receiver Thinks: Well, it’s a nice frame. I bet the picture can be easily popped out.


The Gift: Store Gift Card

What the Giver Meant: I thought cash would be déclassé.

What the Receiver Thinks: Why didn’t he/she just give me cash?


The Gift: A New Car

What the Giver Meant: I only exist in television commercials.

What the Receiver Thinks: That giant bow better not have scratched the paint.


The Gift: Liquor

What the Giver Meant: I think that you are an alcoholic.

What the Receiver Thinks: Give me, give me, give me.


The Gift: Bayer’s Collectible Tin

What the Giver Meant: I thought of you when I saw this – in the 7-11.

What the Receiver Thinks: Well, it’s better than the can of baking powder I got from you last year.


The Gift: Sensuous Oils or Condom-Safe Lube

What the Giver Meant: I want to get you naked.

What the Receiver Thinks: We can use these tonight.


The Gift: Lingerie or Sexy Underwear

What the Giver Meant: I am tired of seeing you naked. Put some clothes on already.

What the Receiver Thinks: Oh, great – Something else to clutter up my drawers that I will never wear.


The Gift: SuperFriends on DVD.

What the Giver Meant: I wanted to share a cherished part of my childhood with you.

What the Receiver Thinks: I better not be expected to dress like either Zan or Jayna later tonight. If I find a pet named Gleek, I am so out of here.


The Gift: A Promise to Have a “Special” Christmas Together – on December 26.

What the Giver Meant: I am really married to somebody else – with kids. If queer, however, it could also mean that I still haven’t told my parents that I am gay.

What the Receiver Thinks: Man, I have made poor life choices and am in denial about the viability of this relationship.


The Gift: A 96-Page Report with 79 Recommendations about How to Solve the Crisis You Created in Iraq

What the Giver Meant: Worst.President.Ever.

What the Receiver Thinks: I like Legos.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Queer Villains

My previous post on Mary Cheney generated a comment from Antonio that got me thinking a bit more. “For one thing,” Antonio wrote, “let's not pretend gays are some highly-evolved group of progressive thinkers ready to roll America into a new realm of enlightenment. At the end of the day, we're subject to the same flaws and shortcomings that all people are.” Therefore, he argued, kicking Mary Cheney out of the queer group would be ridiculous. Of course, I only joke about kicking out folk like Cheney – Mostly. No, of course I am only kidding – for the most part. Seriously, no, I am joking – except when I am deadly serious about it.

Antonio’s statement, though, does raise the issue of whether queers, as a group, are actively engaged or invested in progressive politics anymore. It also poses the question of what we do with queer folk who seem, well, kinda villainous?

Indeed, many of the nominations for Queer of the Year have been ultra-conservative people like Ted Haggard, Mary Cheney, and Mark Foley. These, after all, are the queer people who received the most media attention (much to their chagrin) this past year. For the time being, we can sidestep those who are not out, like Foley or Haggard, as a different type of political issue for queers. Instead, let’s start with figures who, though out, adopt conservative agendas which sacrifice their queer brothers and sisters.

The media has a tendency when dealing with people like Mary Cheney or Andrew Sullivan to treat queer conservatism as something new. Anybody who has spent anytime with large numbers of queer people know that queer conservatism is both widespread and old (much to my chagrin).

Consider that white gay men live most of their childhood with the presumption that they are not lacking access to justice. Given the increasing level of segregation in the United States, they probably have had little serious contact with racial minorities. They look around their schools, see one or two African Americans or Mexican Americans sitting in the class, and think that all discrimination must be over.

One of the most rude awakenings about coming out of the closet for many white men, therefore, is the shock of realization that the United States is still a terribly unfair place. By simply acknowledging their queer desires, they forfeited a great deal of the social privilege that informed their lives. For most, this becomes a transformative moment both personally and politically. Though they probably didn’t even notice their privilege beforehand, its sudden elimination gives new insight into the need to fight the status quo in the U.S.

Others, though, take a darker path. They try to maintain the same social inequalities that had once rewarded them. Rather than seeing shared oppressions and opportunities across class, race, gender, and sexuality, they look to maintain their own shaky authority and petty self-interest by oppressing others.

Out conservatives like Cheney or Sullivan then turn around and claim that they are the real victims. No, they see no problem supporting a sexist, racist, and homophobic government. They do, though, think that a queer lefty crew is on the move to crush their individuality and silence them. They whine that they just aren’t understood or accepted in the queer community. They talk, talk, talk about the ways that their viewpoints are ignored.

In so doing, they give the mainstream media a means by which to dismiss the concerns of queer activists. “Look,” they say, “Not every single gay person wants sexual freedom. This one over here doesn’t think that she is oppressed at all. Some of them are even Catholic! Therefore, those other people demanding rights must just be crazy.” Queer conservatives become dependable spokespersons for maintaining the gender and sexual status quo. They garner disproportionate amounts of media time in relation to their actual numbers in the queer community.

Conservatives also manipulate those of us who want to be reasonable and inclusive within the queer community. Constantly claiming that they are not allowed to speak their mind gets many of us to bend over backwards to accept them or give them a platform. We do this even when faced with considerable evidence of their hypocrisy, dishonesty, or simple lack of smarts.

In reality, no lefty queer conspiracy keeps Cheney or others from living the type of life that they want. Their politics and devotion to conservatism, however, keeps many other queer folk from being able to live the type of lives that they would like to live (or even lives equivalent to Cheney’s).

Our reality, right now, is that the nation has no interest nor inclination to guarantee the social and political growth of queers. We can’t, therefore, just shrug it off when other queers actively contribute to our subjugation.

Every marginalized group has faced this type of internal dissension as they fought (and continue to fight) for full civic and social equality. Go ask bell hooks. She would feel what I am putting down.

We can respect queer conservatives’ right to express themselves (I, after all, worship at the altar of free speech) without allowing them to be the face of queers in the mainstream media. Queer conservatives’ dominance in this past year’s media coverage gave us only two options. With people like Mark Foley or Ted Haggard, we ended up being presented as lying, predatory, and dependent on chemical substances. Or, with people like Mary Cheney, we saw somebody who didn’t appear particularly persecuted. Though Mary Cheney was literally surrounded by Christian fanatics, she lived in her insulated bubble of wealth and privileged. Mary could afford to get pregnant, buy homes, and travel the country free of harassment. Indeed, little Mary claimed that it was really other big, bad queers who made her life hard.

Responding to queer conservatism requires a reinvestment in a queer rights agenda. Movements for social justice, however, do not emerge as well-organized, coherent entities. We can’t just phone each other up and make a schedule of events. There will never be a queer central authority who can divvy up the necessary tasks that will transform society.

Instead, creating and sustaining a renewed queer “movement” means that we, as individuals, will need to grapple with making our struggles and demands known in our daily lives. We will all be out writing, reading, and thinking about the type of nation that we want. To attain it, we have to be vocal, visible, and political with our family, friends, and coworkers. Moreover, we have to be willing to refute the conservatives in our queer midst who only harm our larger goals.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Baby Makes Three

News of Mary Cheney’s pregnancy has the nation talking. Such a high profile lesbian having a baby must be giving the far right wing many nightmarish nights. Those on the left can only see Mary Cheney as a colossal hypocrite. She has a lot of nerve after spending so much time working for a campaign that undermined the rights of people just like her to have children.

For me, though, I am just horrified at the idea of any Cheney reproducing again. Obviously, notions of eugenics scare me. In the case of the Cheneys, though, I might make an exception. As a nation, can’t we say that family should just end with the current generation? How much more evil must we endure?

Some argue, though, that such a public right-wing figure having a baby in a same-sex family does the whole queer population some good. Indeed, Mary currently has several nominations for Joe.My.God’s Queer of the Year. If you think that there are other queer folk more deserving of this honor, amble on over to Joe’s and submit a nomination by December 15.

As for me, you know how I get. Though Mary lacks basic human decency, I still think that all queer folk need to support each other. As distasteful as it is, we can’t just disown Mary from our ranks . . . Can we? Seriously, I am asking. Is that possible? Maybe some sort of petition? Or a legal ruling that would prevent her from calling herself a lesbian? Can we trademark that term?

Of course, I kid. In the non-sectarian, non-denominational spirit of the winter holidays, I want to help Mary plan for her new baby. Therefore, here is a potential gift list that will cater to the specific needs of the Cheney-Poe baby:

    Baby wipes – You can never have too many.

    Extra blankets

    Packages of onesies – I hear from parents that you go through tons of these, what with all of the vomiting and shitting. Why does anybody ever want a baby?

    Terrycloth mother substitute from the Harry Harlow monkey experiments – Lord knows with a mother as cold and soulless as Mary Cheney, that child is going to need something warm to hold.

    Full translation of the Qu’ran for those rebellious teen years.

    A Constitutional Amendment protecting her mothers’ basic civil rights.

    The complete Curious George set. This isn’t really for the baby, but to keep Uncle Georgie Bush entertained when he visits.

    Thank you note from all the other children born at the exact same time expressing their gratitude for not having ended up as the grandchild of Dick Cheney.

    Extra cases of formula. Breast-milk is usually best, but would you want to put your lips on Mary Cheney’s nipple? Think of the child’s basic human rights.

    The number for Christina Crawford’s literary agent. Tell me that this baby’s life won’t be a NBC telemovie in thirty years.

    Gift certificates for plastic surgery. Would you want to look like a Cheney?

    Get-out-of-jail-free-card to smack Mary around if his or her name includes the word “Coors.” Ditto if it includes the words “George,” “Walker,” or “Bush.” Why not just name the baby Adolf and be done with it?

    Baby monitor – Well, come to think of it, that might not be necessary. Alberto Gonzáles probably has the whole house wired up. He can just come over when he hears a crisis.

    Multiple orange vests to prevent being mistaken for a quail by a certain grandfather.

    Snoopy sheet set.

    Round-the-clock tutors. If this child’s intelligence comes from the rest of the Cheneys, it’s going to be one dumb little monkey. Let’s hope that Mary paid a few extra bucks for some Noble-Prize winning sperm.

    Written guarantees that this baby is not actually property of Halliburton or one of its subsidiaries.

    Flash cards so that the baby can learn the tiny differences between its grandfather and Penguin, Batman's archenemy.

    Court-ordered weekends with a well adjusted lesbian couple. This baby, after all, will want to be around healthy queers and surely appreciate the time away from crazy Mary and Heather.

    Baby’s “My First Ethically Questionable Act” photo frame.

    Pre-filled out paperwork to change her or his last name upon reaching adulthood. Who would want to be a Cheney? Save the child some work when he or she is eighteen.

    Photo albums of the happy times in the United States before the baby's grandfather screwed over the nation.

    A well-reasoned explanation about why he or she had to be born into a political family that made the Kennedy’s look downright normal.

    Snake repellent, in case Condoleezza Rice drops by unexpectedly.

    A copy of the book Heather Has Two Mommies. Alternatively, you can substitute Lynn Cheney’s lesbian erotica Sisters.

    Twenty million dollars from Concerned Women for America for making this baby’s life an unpleasant living hell. Isn’t being a Cheney enough of a burden? Why do the Christian nuts have to make it even worse.

    A fresh copy of the U.S. Constitution with the basic civil rights guarantees highlighted. Heck, somebody in that family should have one.

    A t-shirt with the statement, “I am not self-hating, but my moms are.”

    Years and years of prepaid therapy.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's All Perfectly Normal

DykeWife, currently swamped with the end of the semester, tagged me with a meme. Here are the general guidelines:

"According to the rules...Each player of this game starts with the '6 Weird Things about You.' People who get tagged need to write a blog of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says 'you are tagged' in their comments and tell them to read your blog!

Here are six odd things about ol’ GayProffy:

    1. I don’t eat any type of seafood or fish. If it spends more the 50 percent of its life in water swimming, sitting, or floating, I don’t want to eat it.

    Why is this case? Yeah, yeah, I know seafood is so good. Blah-blah-blah – Not to me, people.

    My current working theory is that I got food poisoning at one point. Growing up in New Mexico didn’t exactly guarantee me the catch of the day. You know what I am sayin'?

    From time to time, I try to eat some fish or seafood to see if I still don’t like it (usually because I am at a dinner party serving seafood and I have no choice). Each time, I realize that it makes me almost gag. It’s visceral. Blech.

    All of that is not necessarily odd, but here is the wonky bit. I make the exception for processed tuna. Then again, I am not convinced it still qualifies as fish by the point it reaches the shelves.

    2. Phone conversations don’t interest me. With the exception of my family or friends who live 500+ miles away, I almost never initiate a phone call.

    Text messaging? Couldn’t live without it.

    E-Mail? The best thing to happen to human communication in the last fifty years.

    Seeing people in person? My preferred way to communicate with people. Let's meet for lunch!

    Something about the phone, though, just seems like so much effort. There’s the dialing, and the ringing, and the actual talking. I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

    When in high school, I remember spending hours on the phone with friends. Well, okay, friend. Somewhere along the way, though, I lost my interest in telephonic conversations. Maybe it has to do with that year in college that I worked as the telephone operator for a hospital.

    3. Secretly, I think less of people who don’t know how to drive a standard-transmission car. Intellectually, I know that such a judgmental stance reflects more about my own arbitrary life experiences.

    Still, I am always sizing people up in case I need a get-away driver. We live in dangerous times. I think that I saw Alberto Gonzáles lurking around my bushes the other day. Or maybe it was a pussy-cat.

    Whatever the case, when shit is going down, I can’t be saddled with somebody asking me, “Why is there a third pedal in this car?” You’ve got know how to handle the stick, man. Preferably, I want somebody with double-clutching action.

    I do make exceptions to this judginess: a) If you never learned to drive any car, ever. Or, b) If you learned to drive in New York or San Francisco – those two cities, and only those two cities, qualify for exemptions.

    4. The gravitas thing.

    5. I am much more likely to pop in a DVD of a television program that went off the air thirty years ago than watch any modern sit-com. Actually, I can’t even think of the last “current” sit-com that I saw. They aren’t making Mary Tyler Moore anymore, are they? I stopped watching that show when she cut her hair. Only long-hair Mary works for me.

    Come to think of it, Ugly Betty might be the only network show that I currently watch with some regularity. Everything else appears on cable, like Battlestar Galactica. Heck, I don’t even watch the new Law and Order. Give me the old days with Jill Hennessy pretending to be Jacqueline Kennedy pretending to be an Assistant District Attorney (at least in my narrative version of the show).

    Of course, watching any film or television program with me also revolves around mocking it and assessing its gender, racial, and political ramifications. At first it’s cute, but most people get really tired of it.

    6. I hate opening gifts in the middle of a crowd. Don’t get me wrong, I like getting gifts. Festive wrapping also makes everything look special. There’s something about being at a party and having gifts opened. Having all eyes turn to somebody unwrapping presents makes me as squeamish as Brittany Spears shopping in a Victoria’s Secret.

    Opening gifts one-on-one is fine by me. Giving and getting a gift seems so intimate to me. Somebody took the time to find an item just for you based on what that they think of you and your relationship. Shouldn’t that be shared in private? Or anonymously? What really makes me uncomfortable is how everybody else at the party secretly scrutinizes your reaction to the package just handed to you. It’s the same reason why orgies just don’t work out for me.

So, there you have it. Is it me, or do my quirks also make me seem kinda cranky? Eh – It figures.

Because I believe in free-choice and personal agency, I won’t specifically tag others. You will know if this meme is the right one for you.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Screw the Middle

Beloved blogger Angry Black Bitch (I hear there’s some type of movement to have her declared a National Treasure – It could just be a rumor) recently posted her criteria for choosing a presidential candidate. It got me to thinking about an academic discussion on the mid-term election that I recently attended.

By the way, I attend academic discussions often. In my mind, it counts as “working” instead of, you know, actually working. I am an academic. They are academic discussions. Therefore, it’s part of my job. Plus, being totally broke, they are free entertainment. Sometimes they even serve snacks.

Anyway, one of the key speakers had previously been a strategic consultant for Democratic candidates. Though Democrats clearly dominated the audience (It is Boston, after all), the general reaction was surprise at the recent win. This particular strategist argued that it was really not the Democrats who won, but rather Republicans who lost. He stated his belief that the only way for a Democrat to win the presidency in 2008 is to focus on “the middle” and ignore the lefty base. The key, he suggested, was for a candidate to figure out what all those undecided people in the middle wanted to hear.

See, here is where I start getting all pissy over the established Democratic leadership. Why should we cater to the undecided folk? If that can’t decide, why should they be given the power to decide for everybody else?

Being elected as a leader should involve showing and explaining why you are the best person for the job. I don’t like the idea of a candidate being elected because he mastered polling. To be honest, most Americans don’t have enough information to form solid judgments about the nation. We don’t have time. That’s why we elect people who are supposed to know more than us. Most Americans couldn’t even answer who the U.S.’s biggest trading partner is (Canada, btw) or when it acquired Puerto Rico (1898, fyi). So, why should we try to base a campaign on what they imagine to be the major world issues? Why not just break out a Ouija board? You would probably get more informed answers.

Republicans don’t bother listening to what Americans actually think. Instead, they just sell the hell out of their candidate. No matter which way you slice it, Georgie Bush should never have won any election, ever. Technically, of course, he did not even win in 2000. Somehow people managed to vote for him in 2004 despite his obvious inability to do the job.

Everything Bush junior ever touched failed horribly. Large sections of his life are unknown, even to him, thanks to some serious drinking between the ages of 16 and 40. I think that he currently divides his day between Playstation, coloring books, and trying to figure out why his etch-a-sketch won’t draw a diagonal line. He should have been unelectable.

Still need convincing about how unelectable Bushie was? Consider this – His own father has never shown much emotion about his son in the White House. Yet, today he broke down in sobs over Jeb. When it comes to tears, Bush Senior apparently feels more pride for the son who has been a mediocre governor of Florida than the son who is President of the United States. You just know it has to do with the fact that Bush, Sr. secretly suspects that Laura ties George, Jr’s. shoes every morning.

Yet, people voted for the dumb-ass in 2004. The Republicans didn’t bother to care about what direction that the “undecideds” thought the country should go. Instead, they just buzzed the local NASCAR stadium with Air Force One a couple of times. When that didn’t work, they tapped into people’s racism and homophobia. They delivered a message to the undecideds. They did not take one from the undecideds.

So, the Democrats should have it easy. After all, the basic goals of the party would actually improve the daily lives of most Americans. Yet, Democrats are scared to have a message. The Bush camp labeled Kerry a “flip-flopper.” How did he respond? Well, first he took some polls to find out how Americans wanted him to respond. Then he ran it by a focus group. After that, he did a few media tests. Finally, after several weeks, he had an answer.

Hey, Democrats, instead of running campaigns listening to polls, why not field a candidate who is actually ethical and committed to some basic civil rights issues. After that, learn to sell his or her actual strengths. If you have a candidate who is stiff, don’t toss him in a cardigan and call it a day. Explain why the nation would actually benefited from having somebody so level headed. If somebody says that they imagine that they would rather “hang-out” with the Republican, tell them that’s great! Remind them that the “boring” candidate wants to guarantee all Americans’ basic access to medical care and work on reducing the national debt. Or, just ask them who they would rather hire to watch the store. If the Democrat is more boring because she was never a drunk frat boy, she is likely going to be a better employee. At least use the same criteria to pick a president as 7-11 does to hire clerks: No lushes, no felons.

I recognize that "spin" and "selling" are part of the game. Winning elections, however, does not need to be about catering to the lowest common denominator. I am not even really sure when that started happening. I am going to guess that it occurred about the same time as when somebody invented the job title “Political Consultant.” Let’s try an old fashioned approach of trying to sell a good candidate rather than trying to make one out of pollster play-dough.

Or you all could just install GayProf as your new Emperor and Overlord. Whatever.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Sorry Doesn't Cut It

Not all of my time goes to changing my Mego Wonder Woman doll in and out of her Diana-Prince outfits. No, no. Sometimes I also spend time thinking about race in the U.S. Allegedly it’s part of my job or something. Then again, I seem to think that my job involves blogging and watching That Girl on DVD. So I am often confused.

Over the past couple of weeks, a has-been sitcom star and his handlers went into “damage control” mode after he delivered a racist tirade. Okay, so this story is a bit old and well-discussed at this point. Hey, I never promised that CoG would be a timely blog.

For those who don’t know, Michael Richards, who played Krammer on the nineties sitcom Seinfeld, has been apologizing everywhere from David Letterman’s late-night show to Jesse Jackson’s radio program. He has also planned a tête-à-tête with those whom he attacked to make a personal apology and probably offer monetary compensation.

All of this started when four African American men interrupted Richards’ performance at a comedy club, noting that he was simply not that funny. Despite years of being a stand-up comic, Richards claims that he just had no idea how to handle hecklers. He therefore reached into the ol’ U.S.-white-bag-of-tricks. Apparently he was just so flustered that he decided to call the audience members “niggers” no less than six times and wistfully allude to a time when people like Richards lynched black men for such uppityness.

The next day Richards’ had a kicking bigot-fueled hangover. Shouting all those racial epithets felt plenty fun at the time, but dawn brought the pounding realization that his career could be even further in the grave if he didn’t offer some type of mea culpa.

“I'm not a racist, that's what so insane about this," Richards said when he first addressed the issue, "And yet, it's said, it comes through—it fires out of me.” Hmm – One wonders if there could be a less convincing way of phrasing that. How about: “I’m not a racist, I just play one on stage and screen.” Or, “I’m not a racist, I just say racist things.” Or, “I’m not a racist, I am really Trent Lott.”

The Associated Press noted that Richards had won the support of at least one individual: Mel Gibson. No, I am not joking. GayProf’s sense of humor is far more developed than that. "I felt like sending Michael Richards a note," Gibson told Entertainment Weekly,"I feel really badly for the guy. He was obviously in a state of stress. You don't need to be inebriated to be bent out of shape. But my heart went out to the guy." Apparently hate really can bring people together.

Gibson stopped just short of implying that he and Richards were the ones really being persecuted for their anti-Semitic or anti-black spews. Don’t people understand? He was bent out of shape? What else can you do in that situation but dehumanize an entire group of people? It’s hard out here for a Klans man.

You can just imagine, incidentally, how much enthusiasm I have for seeing Gibson’s celluloid-interpretation of indigenous Mexican civilizations. For over five centuries, white Christians have loved making themselves feel smug by castigating Mexica and/or Mayan civilizations. In particular, they love, love, love talking about “human sacrifice” as the ultimate sign of “barbarism.” I guess this makes the five hundred years of conquest seem more legitimate. Of course, they conveniently ignore that contemporary Europeans burned, drowned, or otherwise murdered Jews, heretics, witches and others to appease their own god. That, seemingly, we don’t consider “human sacrifice.”

Given Gibson’s history, just try to tell me that his helming a project about the “collapse of Mayan civilization” is not going to be fraught with problems. Early reports on that film suggest that Gibson decided to merge Mexica (Aztec) and Mayan history, beliefs, and practices. Seemingly in his mind all of those brown folk are interchangeable anyway. I will likely need to be restrained from slugging the first person who asks me if Apcocalypto "was really how it was." That, though, is another entry.

Now, which racist was I talking about? Oh, right, Michael Richards.

Richards’ rant shows how quickly all of those nineteenth-century racist mechanisms of oppression can be mobilized in a flash. Like the Texas A&M blackface video (No, I am still not over it), Richards shows how all of the racist language and stereotypes are instantly at hand when whites decide to pull them out of the trunk.

Racism is real. It has real consequences in this nation for people’s daily life. It has not gone away.

That seems like news to the few people who wishfully imagine that we live in a color blind society. Yes, it would be a good ideal if we didn’t “see race, but just saw people.” That’s just not possible, however, given this society and popular culture in which we were all raised. Racist language always stands ready in the side-curtains to come out when whites feel too challenged or at risk of losing their power.

For those who control major media, the Richards’ tirade was an unpleasant and uncomfortable reminder of all of that. At first, the media tried to present it as just the rambling of a single has-been nut. People of color, though, looked kinda pissed. As a result, the media decided that they needed to say something else.

Most newscasters, though, seemed at a loss on how to report on Richards’ racism. How many white, blonde newscasters have I seen within the past two weeks slip into a whisper when they said “the n-word”? Literally, they say “the n-word,” not “nigger.” Yet, they still felt the need to whisper. Their discomfort suggests just how hard it is for the media to even broach the concept of racism. No, I am not saying that I would prefer newscasters to feel at ease shouting “nigger” from the roof tops. Still, their lack of confidence or ability to talk candidly about racism means that racism is simply not discussed in this nation. It also makes words like "nigger" all the more powerful for whites' use and entertainment.

Most networks decided to sidestep this problem by dragging out any person of color they could find to talk about the incident. They didn’t have to be African American, either. As long as they weren’t considered “white,” the media shoved a microphone under the nose for any sound bite. It also didn’t really matter if these people supported or disparaged Richards, just so long as they kept the good white folks from having to talk about racism. So, as I sweated on the treadmill in my gym, I saw an endless parade of people of color stepping up to comment on the incident. Even comedian Paul Rodriguez had a comment. I was astounded. Who knew Rodriguez was even still alive? George Takei must have been out of the country

This tactic makes racism a problem with people of color. “If only people weren’t different,” they media claims, “then we would all be the same.”

This event, especially coupled with the New York shooting of a young African-American groom, should remind us just how much race still plays an important role in the United States. It should also bust apart the naïve vision that we now live in a “color-blind” society.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Wonder

Over the weekend, I had a friend over who had not previously been to my apartment. Eying my few Wonder Woman figures, mugs, and books, he expressed some surprise. Clearly he has never known a true comic geek aficionado, who would consider my meager number of Wonder Woman items light-weight. Taking a closer look at Mego Wonder Woman’s fully-rooted eyelashes, my friend asked, “But why do you like Wonder Woman? What’s so special about her?”

At first the question took me totally by surprise. How could anybody, especially another gay man, not see Wonder Woman’s innate fabulousness? Doesn't Wonder Woman’s appeal simply resonate through her very visage?

After I ordered my ex-friend to leave my house, I began to think about his question. Part of my affection for Diana, of course, centers on some childhood memories (discussed a bit in this post). She is one of the few childhood pop-culture memories that hasn't yet been totally burned. George Lucas’s abominations, known as Episodes I-III, ruined the Star Wars mythology forever. Forever. The Black Hole, as we have discussed, is far too creaky to really obsess over as an adult. So, from those big three of my childhood, that leaves Wonder Woman. I have little doubt that Joss Whedon will soon trash that as well. Whedon's interviews have shown almost no understanding of the character. Instead, he wants to simply make a brunette Buffy. That, though, is another entry.

I am hardly alone in my love for the Amazon Princess. Gay men of a certain age often share the Lynda-Carter series as a fond childhood memory. Some take it to far greater extremes than even I. For instance, I only joke about sewing a Wonder Woman costume. This guy sewed his own costume, wore it, and won an award. That’s real devotion and I want to be his friend:

All of this makes me wonder, just why are gay men drawn to certain iconic women figures? Their names are easy to conjure and border on the gay stereotype: Cher, Bette Davis, Jacqueline Kennedy, Lucille Ball, Wonder Woman, and countless others. Anecdotal evidence suggests that queer interest in these women starts in our childhoods, long before most of us even have the language to express our queer sexual desires.

Not every gay boy, obviously, loves every gay icon. I, for instance, found neither Streisand nor Bette Middler all that interesting. Yet, even if we don’t personally share the love for particular figures, we can’t deny their durability within the community. Attend any large gathering of drag queens and you will find all the usual suspects.

Young gay boys don’t just randomly select any woman to idolize. Joan Crawford slinging a gun captures our imagination. Or, even better, Faye Dunawy playing Joan Crawford slinging a can of cleanser really gets our blood going. Few queer boys, though, remember or care about Veronica Lake or Gene Tierney. What makes us choose one figure over another probably has some of the same randomness as what makes the larger public suddenly make any individual a star.

Queer boys, though, focus on women characters that share some basic elements. From Cher to Wonder Woman, our women icons all blended and bended masculine and feminine gender expectations. The women who attract our attention generally fought for success in traditionally masculine roles. In films or in real life, queer-women-icons did everything from shrewdly running a business to making the axis powers fold. Because they succeeded in men’s realms, they often faced sexist criticism.

Yet, they also retained their sexual attractiveness throughout. They were not at all asexual. If anything, they appeared above the mundane middle-class concerns about sexuality.

During our youth, most of us couldn’t claim a desire for same-sex sex. During the seventies, finding a positive image of a gay man was as rare as a tank of gas. We therefore clung to anybody who rebelled against the gender status quo.

In our society, ideas about sexuality and gender intertwine. In the twentieth century, the most popular images of gay men and lesbians showed them as either androgynous or as clownish imitators of heterosexual men and women. Medical authorities even named homosexuals “the third sex” during the first half of the century. Real happiness, these experts told us, only came to men who behaved like Neanderthals and women who spent their days mindlessly baking cookies. Everybody who fell outside those roles were trapped in a gender purgatory.

Given these societal pressures to conform to gender roles and heterosexuality, it’s not hard to see why claiming a gay identity felt like a scary and alienating divorce from the rest of society. We simply didn’t see many happy alternatives for men-loving-men. Developing into an adult filled many of us with dread if it meant we had to conform to a heterosexual world. In reality, we also saw that marriage trapped many of the heterosexuals who surrounded us as well. We searched for any alternatives.

Seeing powerful women toss out the expectations for feminine gender roles and heterosexual marriage resonated with our desires to avoid the same traps. They also showed that having feminine traits was not the same as lacking power or agency. Every time Cher disparaged Sonny’s height or announced her dissatisfaction with married life, we saw alternatives, however small, to the vision of gender handed to us from every other angle. Even endlessly recycled images provided options, like Scarlett O’Hara. The Southern belle succeeded both in business and in getting all the men at Twelve Oaks (through she accomplished the first using slave labor and the latter through lies and manipulation – but that’s is another entry entirely). Despite doing decidedly masculine behaviors and bucking social conventions, Scarlett was never a bridesmaid. She somehow always ended up the bride.

These iconic women also often tapped into a familiar pattern of constantly inventing a public self. The masks, poses, and costumes donned by people like Cher and Madonna spoke to the performance and gender-drag that we all do. Taking it to extremes, these women showed the farce of gender.

In the case of the television version of Wonder Woman, we got some basic fantasies about super powers and magic. Others have also suggested that all comic heroes appeal to gay men because of the “secret identity” and “double-life” narratives.

Wonder Woman had other appeals for young queer boys as well. You didn’t need to be Freud to piece things together about her single-gendered homeland. Even the youngest child thought to ask, “If there were no men on Paradise Island, just how did they have babies?” The slightly more precocious kids cut to the chase, “What about sex? Did this mean that *gasp* they had sex with each other? Can two women have sex together? Does that mean two men can too? Is that a possibility?” Boy, howdy, is it!

The ABC and CBS versions of Wonder Woman downplayed the homoerotic elements of Diana’s Amazon sisters. Instead, Paradise Island appeared as a never-ending slumber party, complete with flouncy, shortie nighties that all the Amazons wore. Those must have been really convenient for all that building, hiking, and jumping they did. Apparently the Amazons spent their days alternating between Olympic competitions and tickle fights. The comic, especially the Marston-era comics, suggested a much more erotic island paradise.

In either version, though, Diana appears as both the greatest hero and the largest outcast on both the island and in “man’s world.” Contrary to attempts to name Wonder Woman a lesbian, it was actually her very heterosexual screaming-thigh-sweats for Steve Trevor that made her seem so queer to her Amazon sisters. They all liked being without men. That was normal. Diana seemed peculiar because of her desire for a man.

When Diana appeared in the United States, she found life confusing. Yet, her life also became a constant adventure. She never apologized for being herself. She didn’t get stuck always doing traditionally feminine tasks, like vapidly vacuuming, nor did she become a masculine dull jock thud. She had far more physical strength than all the men around her (what young queer boy didn’t want to be physically stronger than all the hetero boys surrounding him?), but she also had all the men’s attention. Even while stopping an airplane with her bare hands, she made sure her hair stayed in place.

Like many of us queer boys, Wonder Woman occupied a liminal space of gender and sexuality. She merged traditional masculine and feminine roles, packing them all in her nifty ol’-glory swimsuit.

Perhaps the more images we have of actual queer men, the less younger queer generations will canonize such female figures. For better or worse, the next generation of gay men came of age with shows like Will and Grace and Queer as Folk as common place. While very flawed, these types of shows gave them actual gay characters to look at. I, though, hope Wonder Woman always stays around the queer circles.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Look Out! He's Off His Meds!

I recently decided to phase off of the antidepressants pills that I had been taking. My decision revolved partly around a desire to see if my brain chemistry had gone to a state of self-regulation. The other part involved my pure laziness of not wanting to go through the hassle of finding a psychiatrist in Boston. Yes, I am really that lazy.

Don’t worry, though. I still have enough Xanax to immobilize a small rhinoceros or enough to make a large rhino feel pretty darn good about his life.

I have gone through different periods of needing the ol’ head meds. While in grad school, I found that I suddenly had some serious anxiety issues. “You, GayProf?” I hear, “No, you are so calm! Nothing suggests that you are predisposed to an anxiety disorder. You never worry about anything.” Shut up, sarcastic voices in my head.

By anxiety, I don’t mean, “Oh, gee, flying makes me feel little queasy.” Rather, I mean, “How many years in jail will I spend if I force this pilot turn around the plane so that I can get out of this flying tube of toothpaste?”

During that time, I found out that depression and anxiety involved the same chemical processes in the brain. This information made me both sad and worried.

Going through the stress of a divorce and a quasi-hostile work environment only brought these feelings back once again post-grad school. In both instances, meds proved critically important to keeping me functional. Well, they kept me as functional as I ever could be.

I bring this up because in my tours around the blogosphere I have found that there is still a major stigma associated with antidepressant medication. Other bloggers have discussed either their decision to go on or off meds. While well meaning, time-and-time again they get commentators who claim that they “should try to be stronger” or that “meds are just a crutch.”

This type of thinking leaves me cold and prevents people from obtaining some valuable treatments that can improve their life. Just a crutch? Um, don’t crutches help keep people mobile? Would you say that the guy with a broken leg is better off just laying on the floor? Better he be an immobile blob than use a crutch. Using a crutch, after all, is a sign of weakness.

In other circumstances, the same well-meaning people suggest that I and others should try “natural” solutions. Um, okay, that’s akin to the Vatican’s stance on the birth-control pill, which they see as "unnatural." Both the pill and antidepressants work with the body’s existing chemistry. Of course the “natural” rhythm method proposed by the Catholic Church has also earned the nickname “Vatican Roulette” due to its level of effectiveness. Such “natural” cures for medical depression have the same dubious results.

Look, I take pretty okay care of myself. I eat more than I should, really. As a result, I also spend a good amount of time at the gym. Most times fruits and vegetables make it in my diet somewhere. I also make sure that I am always in bed by ten. Of course, I don’t get home until one, but that’s another issue.

At this point, we should all know that serious depression and anxiety occur from physiological irregularities. My body simply breaks down from time to time in its ability to regulate the level of serotonin in my brain. If I can take a pill to make that work again, don’t sweat me, man.

As with all medication, I understand there are people who abuse antidepressants. There are also doctors who wrongly prescribe them. These, though, are the minority of cases.

Comprehensive studies on antidepressant use have not yet materialized. From the information available, though, use of antidepressants are on the rise in the United States. Most people, though, report initial hesitancy about starting such a drug, largely because of the social stigma or that it is a sign of “personal failure.” Yet, most people who start antidepressants also phase off of them within a couple of years. They usually report that the drugs helped return a sense of balance during the period of use.

Contrary to popular belief, the drugs do not end one’s emotional consciousness. Rather, they provide a space to both balance one’s internal chemistry and also come up with strategies for living.

Of course, the drug companies are not helping matters. In a quest to sell ever more of their product, they trivialize the seriousness of depression or anxiety. Instead, they imply that simply taking a pill will solve your greatest problems from shyness to bankruptcy. There are also legitimate concerns about giving children medication created and tested on adult physiologies.

Still, a myth continues to exist that if you need an antidepressant then you are slothful, lack self respect, and are probably self-indulgent. Over and over again, we are told that a “successful” human would simply walk off the pain and just get over it. Quite frankly, that’s not always possible.

That’s why I am not inclined to obscure my use of antidepressants. As I phase off them now, I know it is likely that I will need them again at different points in my life. Like an asthmatic sometimes needs an inhaler, antidepressants have kept me in the game. And I am not alone.