Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mind the Gap

Because I teach a class on the history of sexuality, student groups occasionally ask me to give short talks as part of their programming. Usually I am asked to prove to the administration that their group is more than just a random collective of drinking buddies. That’s cool – I don’t mind creating my own version of the “More You Know” in between keggers.

The other night I presented such a talk to a group of eager students (by eager, I mean this group offered free pizza, thus increasing attendance). In my little blurbs, I usually give an overview of the state of the field. I discuss how historians approach ideas about gender and sexuality as socially constructed ideologies. I end by moving away from the theoretical to the day-to-day consequences of those ideologies today. Usually I make a quick comment about the importance of thinking about how our modern assumptions about race and gender inform current debates about gays and lesbians in the U.S. This time around, though, the Q&A prompted a suggestion about the challenges and tribulations facing the future of the queer community.

One student, in an earnest way, asked “GayProf, isn’t this kinda old fashioned? I mean, most young people [by most, he really meant him] don’t want to be thought of as ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ anymore. They just want to have sex and relationships with whomever they want, free of labels.” It reminds me of a similar flurry of debate that occurred on Joe.My.God around generational and/or political divides within the queer community.

Keep in mind, I am hardly aged. Granted, living in Texas might have added an extra five or ten years to my appearance, but for the most part I actually think of myself as fairly young. For many (not all) queer folk age 25 and less, though, I could just as easily be 131 rather than 31.

Many in the younger generation see those of us who still find utility in organizing around sexual identity as the fossilized remains of the Reagan era. A significant number of younger queer folk feel ambivalent about sexuality as an identity. We hear more and more often that sexuality is just one element of their lives and therefore does not warrant extra attention. They seem torn between a political consciousness that would improve and protect their rights and a desire to break away from the imposition of sexual categories on their daily lives and choices. They also have taken to heart notions taught by academics (like myself) who offer queer theory as a means to destabilize the hetero/homo divide.

This generation gap, though does not only occur in one direction. Time and time again I hear a constant clamor from “older gay folk” about how easy the younger generation supposedly has it. Believe me, I can fall into this whine myself. After all, it boggles my mind that national chains like Barnes and Noble sell a publication like XY Magazine, which itself is marketed exclusively to young (16-24) queer folk. Though silly and glossy, it’s hard not to see the existence of XY as a type of progress. It’s also understandable to feel a bit cheated that such things didn’t exist and/or didn’t have the national circulation when older queer folk first ventured to have same-sex sex.

Generational splits constantly reappeared throughout the twentieth century. That's hardly new. Few people would disagree that youth and beauty reign supreme in most gay men’s clubs. That, though, is another entry.

The current identity-generation gap within the queer community appears more serious to me. At the heart of this divide is whether it continues to make sense to claim a shared identity based on our sexual activities. This is a greater divide than the political gap between “liberal” and “conservative.” Queer conservatives might have currency in the mainstream media, but they simply do not represent the majority of queer folk. I also already know queer conservatives won't lift a finger for the collective good. Younger queer folk, however, will be the caretakers of both the movement and also (I hope) our elderly asses when we qualify for Social Security.

Young queer folk feel like they could never identify with a shrill old crone like me who seems to want to play "identity politics." Shrill old crones like me, in contrast, feel bitter that young folk didn’t walk to dance clubs in the snow like we did.

There seems to be a tendency among younger queer folk to reject the notion of a unified community. Likewise, older queer folk feel alienated from the younger generation.

Both sides of the generation gap, however, wrongly presume that the revolution has been won. Each group points to surface appearances as evidence that life is easier now for those who want man-on-man or woman-on-woman sex. Thanks to decades of queer activism, my consciousness about my desires is different than previous generations. I had opportunities to read, hear, and see other queer men. Those younger than me have had even more opportunities. The older generation fails to recognize that having a slightly easier time realizing your desires, though, is not freedom. Likewise, the younger generation seems to confuse sexual experimentation (something every generation has done) with overturning exisitng sexual identities.

Despite our best efforts to historicize and undermine the hetero/homo divide, these divisions still play a fundamental role in organizing our society. It seems premature to declare their death as local, state, and federal governments take an increasing interest in regulating our basic sexual practices. For me, it’s too early to claim victory and too early to abandon a sense of community and shared identity. Though I would love to have the postmodern utopia of perfect sexual freedom come to fruition, we still live a society where sexual desires define our identities.

Though socially constructed, we have a connection through our experiences as queer men and women. Putting sexual identities in historical context allows us to see how others have grappled with same-sex desire in hostile contexts, how they embraced a shared vernacular, and how the organized for group solidarity. The current queer community originates from those struggles. It does not exist free of the historical or contemporary discourse.

I also reject the notion that so-called “identity politics” of the 1960s and 1970s somehow destabilized the political Left in this nation. Acknowledging difference (gender, racial, or sexual) does not automatically connote disunity.

There is nothing shameful or backward about joining a coalition based on shared desires and experiences. Whenever we see two men dining together in a small restaurant or smile knowingly at two women jointly pushing a baby carriage, we connect. We know each other and have a common frame of reference. Regardless of the things that currently divide the queer community, we need to adopt the old union slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all!”

Monday, March 27, 2006

Blog Love

Though I still think of myself as new to the blogsphere, I have noticed a trend when I find a new blog. Like any relationship, there are cycles and a flow to blog love. Yes, there are many stages for the blog readers:

Stage One: Flirting

This is the stage when you first find the new blog. Probably you noticed a new link on a reliable site. Or maybe you happened across the site by accident. Whatever the case, you like what you see. The most recent entry makes you think and chuckle a bit. You add a bookmark to your browser and plan to return the next day. You leave comments on every new post, hoping the author will look at your blog.

Things you might say at this stage:

    That’s a tight entry – I wish I had wrote it.

    I wonder why I never came across this before now.

    Look at me! Look at me!

    Oh, I hope they like my blog.

    Maybe my therapist is right. Maybe I do need friends who aren’t on the internet.

Stage Two: Infatuation

It’s all chemistry and obsession at this stage. You religiously check back at this site every hour to see if it has been updated. Every new entry on their blog seems like gold.When you write an entry, you hope that the other blog author will agree with you.

You stay up way too late methodically going through every month in the archive. This is not so much to read the past posts, but to find pictures of the blog author.

Things that you might say at this stage:

    This is the best blog I have ever read, EVER!

    I have fallen in love for the first time and this time I know it's for real!

    I already have the bridesmaids dresses picked out. My colors are blush and bashful.

    I wonder if they noticed me watching them from the bushes.

Stage Three: Marriage (Never Monogamous)

At this point, you have a committed relationship with the other blog author. There is a link to their blog on yours and vice versa. Each of you exchange comments and maybe an e-mail or two. You know the other blog author’s writing patterns and can predict when a new entry will appear.

Things you might say at this stage:

    I wish I could meet this blogger in person.

    I can’t wait until their next post.

    Is it possible to have sex via blogs?

    This is much more satisfying than actually finding a steady boyfriend.

Stage Four: Doubt

Now that you have the mutual links, second thoughts start to haunt you. Their last entry didn’t really inspire you. What if this blogger isn’t as cool as you thought? There are some things in the blog that make you wonder if they really think like you do after all. At this point, you start to wonder about other blogs that might be out there.

Things you might say at this stage:

    Eh -- It’s an okay blog.

    Why does that blog spend all its time with its loser friends? Can’t they get a job?

    When are they ever going to fix all those broken links? It’s driving me nuts.

    Didn’t somebody write a post just like that two months ago?

    I can’t believe that blog just drank all the milk and put the empty carton back in the fridge.

Stage Five: Stability

The doubts have passed. For every great entry, there are three fluffy ones (kinda like this one). That’s okay. Each of you comments on the other blog, but not every post. Still, you value their companionship and insight.

Things you might say at this stage:

    What a nice blogger, I am glad that we encountered each other.

    I look forward to the next post – if there is nothing better on television.

    What was the name of that all-gay-man porno site I found the other day?

    I wonder what sunlight feels like on my skin.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Face of Gravitas

One of the things I love about the emergence and dominance of DVD technology has to be the Director’s Commentary function. My inner (and outer) nerd, for instance, loves to hear about the blow-by-blow decisions that Ridley Scott made in the production of Alien. Who knew they tortured the shit out of that poor cat?

Alas, my plans of being a great film-maker have not come to pass – yet. This failure might be related to a lack of an imaginative plan for a big screen epic. One of the reasons I became a historian, after all, had to do with my limited ability to create fiction. History already had all the characters and plot laid out.

Actually, I really am not all that interested in technically directing a movie. That seems like a lot of work and I don't have that much spare time. Tomorrow, for instance, I want to learn how to make pancakes. Rather than actually doing all of that work, I just want to deliver my own director’s commentary.

Where can I channel all of my internalized dialog? Why, of course, my little bloggy. So, dear readers, let’s go behind the scenes of the Center of Gravitas and discover how I made a key decision. When one thinks of this blog, one can’t help but think of Wonder Woman. What other figures, though, contended for the face of gravitas?

Captain America

    Pluses: Using Captain America would have connoted a certain level of irony in the blog. Juxtaposing the unquestioningly patriotic Captain with a blog that has a healthy suspicion of U.S. foreign and domestic policy appealed to me. Who couldn’t love the Captain's campy existence?

    Reasons for Rejection: The pluses of the irony simply couldn’t erase Captain America’s innate squareness. Moreover, no matter how campy, Captain America covers always seem to be a bit of a downer. Even in the forties, somebody always seemed to be shot or stabbed. Everybody knows that's not war is really like. Finally, Bucky grated on my nerves like the Bee Gees.

Doctor Strange

    Pluses: I groove on the good doctor’s vision of the universe. He has a firm commitment to cosmic justice and works to maintain balance and harmony. Oh, who am I kidding? It’s really all about the long flowing cape and glittery fashion accessories.

    Reasons for Rejection: Though I knew he existed, I hadn’t really read much of Dr. Strange until Dean pointed me to him some three months after the start of the blog. Sorry, Doc.

The Mighty Isis

    Pluses: Like the Amazon Princess, Isis held me captivated when she appeared on televison. Plus, her alter-ego worked as an archeologist. That’s kinda close to being a historian. She also can kick some serious ass while looking great in an Egyptian mini-skirt.

    Reasons for Rejection: Isis existed first as a televison creation with a comic book that followed. With a scant eight issues, there simply would not be enough cover art to keep the blog afloat. Also, unlike Wonder Woman, I never owned the Mego Isis doll. I figured I had pressed my luck enough with my father. Besides, Isis always seemed like a pale imitator of the greatest superhero ever – Wonder Woman.

Various Semi-Naked Men

    Pluses: There would be a quasi-legitimate reason to search fo semi-naked men every few days. It would also leave little doubt that the blog had a gay, gay man as its creator. Further, it's pictures of semi-naked men. It’s win-win.

    Reasons for Rejection: Everybody reads blogs at work.


    Pluses: I am actually, you know, the author of the blog. There would also be the appeal to my vanity. Let’s face it, anybody who keeps a blog has a certain level of love for themselves. I also can kick some serious ass while looking great in an Egyptian mini-skirt.

    Reasons for Rejection: Ultimately, my self-criticism would outweigh my vanity. Looking at images of myself over and over would get less appealing as time passed. Not to mention I only have a total of three digital pictures of myself.

Evil Queen from Snow White

    Pluses: She is an evil queen -- Enough said.

    Reasons for Rejection: Some people might object to her whole homicidal mania --Whatever.

Ann Marie

    Pluses: Watching reruns of That Girl informed much of my identity between the ages of thirteen and fifteen. True, I never quite mastered that flip. My allowance did not permit the thirteen cans of Aquanet per day that she must have used. Still, I did envision that my adultlife would involve living as a struggling actor in a funky New York apartment that I decorated with $50,000 worth of furniture.

    Reasons for Rejection: I love Marlo Thomas and her lefty, lefty ways. Still, her character, in retrospect, tended to be a bit of a bubble head. What type of message is that for the kids today? Additionally, Ann Marie committed the unforgivable sin of dating the biggest dork in New York, Donald.

Mr. Clean

    Pluses: Mr. Clean runs a close second to Anderson Cooper as the most frequent guest star in the blog. What isn’t there to love? He spends most of his days gossiping cleaning with bored housewives. He has an astounding body that would draw lots of attention on any Big Muscle site. I imagine he also knows the proper way to load a dishwasher.

    Reasons for Rejection: Alas, Mr. Clean still refuses to be totally out of the closet. That will just never do for me. Also, I fret enough about my own receding hair-line (see above). Selecting Mr. Clean as my alter ego would create too much of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some people might also object to his whole homicidal mania as well.

In the end, there could only be one face of gravitas. Wonder Woman has the full package. She is as beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, swifter than Mercury and stronger than Hercules. Just like me.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to finish sewing those star-spangled panties.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I Think About Race

Roger Owen Green left a comment on my bloggy a bit of time ago that had me thinking. Since around 2001, the media has been expressing their perpetual shock that Latinos actually constituted a significant portion of the U.S. population. Indeed, they couldn’t believe that Latinos had somehow displaced African Americans as the largest “minority” in many parts of the nation.

Americans hate talking about race/racism as much as I loathe talking about NASCAR. Talking about racism makes some people uncomfortable because they believe that even acknowledging racial difference would somehow implicate them as racist.

Yet, the U.S. also has an obsession with racial tensions. I can’t help but feel that the news outlets want a gang scuffle to erupt between Latinos and African Americans. They want the great ratings that urban riots always create. Each new announcement about Latinos’ population growth brings the media one step closer to being that obnoxious kid who raised trouble on the playground.

“Hey, African-American-folk,” one can imagine NBC news saying, “Latino-Folk told me that they are the nation’s biggest minority now. What do you say about that? Yeah, Latino-Folk are talking all sorts of smack. Latino-Folk said that their father could kick your father’s ass. Are you just going to take that?”

Then NBC news runs to the swings, where Latino Folk hang out. “Yo, Latino Folk,” NBC says breathlessly, “African-American Folk say that you are keeping wages down. They also talked about your mama. They said that your mama’s legs are like the Red Sea: They both have been parted one too many times. Don’t you defend your mama’s honor? Get over there and kick their ass.”

Much to the dismay of network news, large scale animosity has yet to develop between African Americans and Latinos. This is not to say that the two groups have a perfect relationship (which they don’t – trust me), but neither side seems to care as much as the news would like. Most African Americans seem unconcerned about changing demographics. “What?” They ask, “Latino Folk are the largest minority now? Okay – whatever. Tell them good luck with that. It didn’t really do great things for us for the past two hundred years.”

The media is so hungry for dissent between the two groups that is has mostly ignored the real efforts by African Americans and Latinos to cooperate in various communities. It doesn’t take an extra eye to see that these two groups grapple with many of the same problems because of the ways that economic class and race have been linked in this nation.

In the mid 1990s, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) started a massive campaign in Los Angeles and other urban areas known as Justice for Janitors. The campaign looked to unite custodial employees who clean high-rise buildings, hospitals, and other public zones. During a period when union membership declined, the SEIU had astounding success in recruiting new members. Not surprisingly given the racial composition of service employees, SEIU’s newly emerging membership drew on both Latinos and African Americans.

This union’s success hinged on articulating a joint cause between African Americans and Latinos. Rather than playing one off the other, Union leaders argued that African Americans and Latinos could only improve their working conditions if they worked together. In their official mission statement, SEIU states that economic justice “means building stronger communities and getting involved in the fight for affordable health care, immigration rights, racial equality, and equal opportunity for all.” SEIU has more immigrant members than any other union in the U.S.

Rather than being swept up in the fervor of who gets to be America’s favorite minority, we need to pay closer attention to what actual people are doing to address the problems in the nation. As with many things, the media simply misses most of the story.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I Live in a Glass House

Over the weekend I contemplated which episode of Spenser: For Hire that I wanted to reenact first upon moving to Boston. During that time, though, I also noticed concerned e-mails and comments that took my last post very seriously. I appreciate the feedback and honesty. A few also expressed the idea that it made me seem like kinda of a dick. Let me put all those concerns to bed. Don’t be silly, of course I am kinda of a dick.

Seriously, the last post wasn’t that deep. I only intended to poke fun at the foibles of dating.

If I really grooved on a guy, most of that list would not really keep me from dating him (unless he was married/involved with somebody else who believed that they had a monogamous LTR – That’s just not cool, no matter what. Remember GayProf's Dating Rule #23: If he cheats with you, he will cheat on you.).

Believe me, I have plenty of personality quirks that would keep many (most?) men from asking me for a second date. What are they? Oh, I might have a list. Any one of these things will turn off a lot of guys:

    I confuse myself with spend an unusual amount of time thinking about Wonder Woman.

    There is the gravitas thing.

    I have an opinion about who was a better Darrin: Dick York or Dick Sargent.

    I have an opinion about just about everything.

    I expect everyone to know who César Chávez was.

    I use the following words way, way too much in casual conversations: dubious, salient, and Futurama.

    I am a major pain in the ass when it comes to buying wine. Not because I am wine snob, which I am not. However, I won’t buy wine from domestic vineyards that aren’t unionized. Likewise, I won’t buy wine from Latin America because of the labor issues there. With all of these restrictions, we are usually left with just one or two options on most restaurant menus. Don’t even get me started about table-grapes. To be honest, even I am tired of hearing me talk about this issue.

    GayProf has an annoying habit of referring to himself in the third person. He wonders why he does it, but yet he can’t seem to stop sometimes.

    I think there is a "right way" and a "wrong way" to load a dishwasher.

    I need constant reassurance. If I am not getting it, I will ask for it outright. At first, this seems endearing. After the tenth time, you begin to suspect I have OCD mixed with low-self esteem.

    My entire wardrobe only contains three belts and three pairs of shoes.

    I mumble.

    I stubbornly refuse to call Texas’ attempt to secede from Mexico a “War for Independence.” Instead, I call it the “Texas Rebellion.” This is a useless and silly thing to be stubborn over, but I won't give an inch.

    Actually, I am just stubborn and contrarian without good reason on many issues.

    I don’t eat any seafood, but I make the bizarre exception of processed tuna.

    I have more debt than many island nations.

    I know that Boston served as the backdrop for Spenser: For Hire.

    I have so much emotional baggage that I need to hire a SkyCap. It’s heavy, bulky, and unwieldily baggage, too. We are talking hard-sided Samsonite without any wheels.

    Usually I spend half of my days with disgruntled eighteen-year-olds and the other half with know-it-all academics. The sad part is, I kinda like them.

See? By many standards, GayProf is kicked to the curb as easily as he might kick somebody else to the curb. That’s okay – It’s just part of dating. After the past year, I know that I am better off alone than unhappy.

Dating is not the same as having a LTR. Dating is about finding someone whose qualities and interests match your own. Everybody has quirks. Though I poked fun at some in the last post, it really isn’t those types of superficial quirks that keep me from dating somebody. Rather, it’s looking for that emotional connection and deciding that you care about that person enough that their annoying idiosyncrasies just don’t bother you.

Friday, March 17, 2006

I Go on Dates

One of my Amazon Sisters recently suggested that I need to outline the qualities that I want and don’t want in a perspective boyfriend. In making my list, I discovered that I operate much more in the negative than in the positive. Really, though, the positive things we want (honesty, loyalty, sexually functional) seem too obvious. It’s those annoying traits that can quash romance.

If you want to love a man like GayProf, it takes a man to do it. I don’t mean that, either, in that homophobic, sexist, anti-femme way, either (We all know GayProf’s opinion of that). On the contrary, it takes a man who is secure in his sense of self and sense of gender. A man who never denigrates other gay folk – ever.

We single gay folk are in this together. This post is for all the men out there searching for a relationship one date at a time. We have all been on bad dates – and I don’t just mean when the harness breaks, either. I am talking about going out with someone who just doesn’t cut it.

Aren’t sure when to break it with the guy you are seeing? GayProf is here to help you. Here is a list of deal-breakers that will end any hope of a relationship with me:

    If he hasn’t read a book from start to finish since 1992.

    If he votes for Republicans.

    If on the first date he says, “I want something casual,” but then suggests we buy real estate together on the second date.

    If he doesn’t have his own checking account.

    If he tries to impress me by telling me he plays sports. Unless he plays for the NFL, MLB, or NBA, I don’t care. Any loser with free weekends can play sports on some local-yocal amateur team. If he does play for the NFL, MLB, or NBA, then he needs to get out of the closet.

    If he calls me “Mommy.”

    If he makes me call him “Mommy.”

    If he tells me that he is going to dress like Wonder Woman just to please me. Taking an interest in my quirky interests is great. Making my quirky interests his quirky interests is creepy. Besides, there can be only one Amazon Princess.

    If he asks me to deliver a package for him in the middle of the night that I can’t ask questions about and can’t open.

    If he asks me if “he seems gay.”

    If he tries to sell me AmWay products on the first date.

    If he says he would love to know what I look like inside out.

    If he tells me that he hates history.

    If he asks, “Who are our current Senators?”

    If he tells me, “You would be perfect – if you were five years younger and took better care of yourself.”

    If he doesn’t know the difference between Diana Prince and Princess Diana.

    If he asks, “Who was César Chávez?”

    If he currently has more than four (4) dogs and/or cats in his one-bedroom apartment.

    If he says, “You should know that it’s totally over with my boyfriend, I just haven’t told him yet.”

    If he doesn’t have any of his own friends. This might indicate that he has some social problems.

    If all of his friends are straight, evangelical Christians. This might indicate that he has some religious problems.

    If he drives a truck bigger than my apartment (Remember: I am in Texas).

    If the only, and I mean the only, music he listens to is from Wilhelm Richard Wagner.

    If he fetishizes a racialized group, regardless of what racial group he claims for his own identity.

    If he says that he will pick me up, then shows up on a bicycle. What am I supposed to do? Ride in the basket?

    If he asks if we can stop to “touch base” with his parole officer before we have dinner.

    If he asks if we can stop to “touch base” with his wife before we have dinner.

    If he asks too many questions, like “What’s your name?”

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Future is Not Ours To See

Thanks to all who sent good wishes. I am excited about Boston, but I am coming back to the realization that I still have at least five months left in Texas. Plus, there is that whole work thing I still need to do, but, whatever.

In the meantime, Oso Raro posted this nifty Magic-8 Ball© type game on Slaves of Academe. All your questions about life, love, and fate can be answered through i-Tunes (Is there nothing that i-Tunes can’t do?).

Yeah, okay, it’s an easy way for me to get a post. Even GayProf gets lazy sometimes. Still, it entertained me nonetheless.

Simple directions: Open i-Tunes to your entire digital library (not just a playlist), then use the shuffle function on your music player and see what you come up with in answer to the following questions. I added my own rule that no artist could be repeated twice (otherwise Billie Holiday would have sung ten of these songs). For statisticians out there, I have 577 songs in my current library.

    1. How does the world see you?
    "Nothin’ for Nothin’," Pearl Bailey (I am going to interpret this to mean that the world sees me as a gay, gay man.)

    2.Will I have a happy life?
    "When the Heartache Is Over," Tina Turner (Fair enough.)

    3. What do my friends really think of me?
    "This Drinkin’ Will Kill Me," Dwight Yoakam (Hey – That’s not nice.)

    4. Do people secretly lust after me?
    "Mad About the Boy," Dinah Washington (Okay – That’s not so bad – I’ll take it as a yes. What? It’s a yes, right? RIGHT?)

    5. How can I make myself happy?
    "Trouble," Pink (Is my i-Tunes trying to be facetious?)

    6. What should I do with my life?
    "Wake Me Up When September Ends," Green Day (Well, at least it makes sense given I should be in Boston by the end of September)

    7. Will I ever have children?
    "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," Billie Holiday (Because I don’t care for children, let’s just say that’s a no.)

    8. What is some good advice for me?
    "Dancing Queen," ABBA (I can live with that.)

    9. How will I be remembered?
    "The Seed (2.0)," The Roots and Cody Chestnutt (Um – I don’t want to question the all-knowing i-Tunes, but I am not sure this is right.)

    10. What is my signature dancing song?
    "Diamonds Are Forever," Shirley Bassey (Damn Right! Diamonds can stimulate and tease me – I don't need love. What good will love do me? Diamonds never lie to me. For when love is gone, they luster on. Unlike men, diamonds linger. Okay -- I will stop. How does one dance to this, though? Better find some go-go boots and a cage.)

    11. What do I think my current theme song is?
    "Skyliner," Carmen McRae (Okay – I guess, maybe – Yeah, not really.)

    12. What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
    "Red, Red Wine," UB40 (Jesus – Between this and question 3, i-Tunes is telling me that my friends think I am a lush. I do NOT have a drinking problem. Get off my back. I can quit at any time.)

    13. What song will play at my funeral?
    "Queen Bitch," David Bowie (It’s okay – I kinda hoped for “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”)

    14 What type of men do I like?
    "One Way or Another," Blondie (I don't get it. What, oh oracle of i-Tunes, are you trying to tell me?)

    15. What is my day going to be like?
    "Lift It Up," Inaya Day (At least my day will have a good beat.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


We all know GayProf’s quest for a new job didn’t yield the high-quality results we wanted. Just when I became resigned to another year in Bush country, the Goddess smiled on me. A certain academic institute invited me to be a visiting fellow for the 2006-2007 academic year. Come August, it is likely that I can say goodbye to Texas for at least nine months (assuming my current university grants me a year away (which they likely will) and fate keeps going my way). Really, who could be fond of the Back-of-Beyond?

I can hear what you are saying: "GayProf, we love your crusty, cranky demanor! Will leaving horrid red, red Bush-country end the blog? Help us, GayProf. You are our only hope." Okay -- maybe that last bit isn't there. Don’t worry, escaping Texas will not affect my bloggy. It will take more than a fabulous city and major career boost to off-set my perpetual gravitas.

Still, kiddies, I will be spending next year in Boston, yo! I will be able to go to museums and not see statues of dead slave holders! I will be able to get a decent cup of coffee! I can order cocktails that won’t be dispensed out of a slurpee machine! I will conduct my research in a world-renowned library! I will be able to dine out without being surrounded by people who pray over their food! Hell, I will be able to dine out at restaurants that would never think about forcing people to wear a funny hat for their birthday. It's these little bits of civilization that I look forward to in blue, blue Boston.

A year away will also give me the much needed space to decide what my next step will be. Will this put GayProf over the edge for tenure? Will GayProf return to Texas? Actually, that's an easy question. If he can't find another job next year, then yes. Will GayProf starve in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S.? Will GayProf meet an eligible Massachusetts Congressman and complete his destiny to be the gay-version of Jacqueline Kennedy?

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Oh Say Can You See?

This weekend I participated in a quintessential Texas activity: I went to the Houston Rodeo with my new bud Fred. Yep, they had cows. Yep, they had horses. Yep, the whole event had strong undertones of homoeroticism. Yep, cowboys can be hot – assuming a bull hasn’t stepped on their face at some point.

The opening ceremony struck me the most, though. Since I avoid most sports events, I had not seen a public performance of the U.S. national anthem in quite some time. When did the national anthem gain corporate sponsors? In the case of this rodeo, Coca Cola brought us The Star-Spangled Banner.

We all know that I am hardly a flag waver. You will never see me demanding patriotism and I think the flag invites incineration. Something about this performance struck me as fundamentally wrong, though. Consumerism has taken over every element of our lives to the point that even patriotism has a capitalist patron.

What did Coca Cola money provide? Apparently our national attention span has become so short that we now need lots of eye-candy to keep us interested in the national anthem. At the line “Bombs Bursting in Air” we had a full pyrotechnic display. On top of that, the stadium glistened with an electric light show while a pretty-girl-in-tights waved a flag pole emitting a shower of sparks.

At the moment that the right-wing demands an unquestioning allegiance to the nation state, Americans seem unprepared or unable to commit their attention without being entertained. No wonder the American public has become so poorly informed about world news. Without a dazzling display of fire and noise, they can’t be bothered to take notice.

Friday, March 10, 2006

If It Ain't Brokeback, Don't Fix It

So much media ink has been spilled over gay men in the past month that I am starting to feel like a sack of trade goods. I mean, not literally me, but the me as a gay man. We are the current hot commodity, and this leaves me both pleased and annoyed. The media has been debating the “authentic” gay men’s experience in the light of marriage and adoption laws. Why are they so interested in us? Why have gay men become the central subjects of news-magazines, feature films, and academic texts?

Don’t get me wrong. After generations of neglect and/or scorn, it’s not altogether a horror to finally have some attention. What makes me nervous, though, is that actual living, breathing gay men don’t usually get attention. It’s not a celebration of gay men’s accomplishments or contributions to history. Rather, we have become one of the central icons of the cultural and political divides that plague the U.S.

We have become an exotic and commercially precious commodity. The Right Wing depends on a hatred of us to get votes. They believe zealous Christians prefer to burn us at the stake rather than have decent healthcare or education for their children. Guess what? It works for the Right Wing too.

The Left looks to us as a means to prove their own liberalness. With a sympathetic wink, they claim to understand our oppression. Everybody seems to want a memento from us. In the traffic jam of domestic politics, gay men live in fear of being run over.

Nowhere did this tension become more apparent than the endless discussions of Brokeback Mountain and the Oscars. Many others have already spent time dissecting the conflicting images within the film, so I won’t dwell on the actual film. Rather, I am interested in the response and discussion of the film.

Brokeback Mountain appealed to many people (queer or not), because it condemned U.S. homophobia. I am not surprised, therefore, that many queer folk are quick to defend the film. Likewise, their disappointment at its loss makes sense. For many straight folk, Brokeback Mountain generated the shock of realization that not all men who have sex with men hook up in bars or pride parades.

The problem being that, despite all of its hoopla, Brokeback Mountain was not a product of gay men. The original story, the screenplay, the direction, and the acting all came from self-identified heterosexuals. Brokeback Mountain demanded our approval without actually bothering to include any of us in its creation. What, if anything, does it mean that the most salient images of gay men did not develop out of our community? How do we respond to heterosexual imagery of gay oppression? Gay men have been left with the precarious problem that their fiction has become our reality.

I don’t claim to have anything particular insightful to say about the above questions. I am trying to work out my own ambivalence and, perhaps animosity, over the ways that the mainstream media seems poised to appropriate our hard fought battles for recognition. It’s not that I think that heterosexual folk don’t have important things to say about queer sexuality. Nor do I claim that there is an essential “gay identity” that can only be authentically produced by particular queer individuals.

Still, I am concerned that we queer folk are being pushed out of the discussion of our own lives. We didn’t need Brokeback Mountain to discover that being gay in the U.S. isn’t a pleasure cruise. Even the sex in Brokeback seemed dubious to me. It smacked of what heterosexuals imagine gay sex to be like.

The narrative arc of Brokeback Mountain hardly appears unique to those who have read any gay short-fiction or gay history. Let’s consider the life story of an actual man who had sex with men in the past.

In 1901 a man who adopted the pseudonym Claude Hartland published a memoir of his sexual and romantic relationships with other men in the rural U.S. (for more context on Hartland, see Jonathan Ned Katz's Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality). With surprising candor, Hartland gave his readers a glimpse into the sexual escapades of a youthful queer boy in turn-of-the-century America. One such passage included his first sexual experience. A young male visitor spent the night at his parent’s farm home somewhere around 1886:

    I could hear my heart beating and it seemed that the blood would burst from my face. He then unfastened my clothing and his own and brought his organs and body in close contact with mine. I was simply wild with passion. All that pent-up desire of years burst forth at that moment. I threw my arms around him, kissed his lips, face and neck, and would have annihilated him if I could. The intense animal heat and friction between our organs soon produced a simultaneous ejaculation, which overstepped my wildest dream of sexual pleasure.

In a similar passage, Hartland recounted his night with a “handsome” minister who also stayed at his parent’s home:

    I was convinced by his poor attempt at snoring that he was not asleep, I gently placed my arm around his great manly form. This was enough. He turned toward me, placed his arms around my neck, pressed his lips against my own and – forgot to snore. For once I had met my match. We slept but little more, and the next morning when my brother asked him how he had rested, he glanced at me and said “I never spent a more pleasant night.”

Yet, these lively and seemingly celebratory visions of sex with other men did not mean that Hartland escaped the homophobia of his era. Rather, Hartland claimed to write his book as a warning. He offered it to medical experts so they could check “the progress of the malady” and “relieve such sufferers as myself, and preventing the existence of others yet unborn.” As one of those sufferers who was as yet unborn, I am glad that his text failed.

Here, though, is an actual historical text that suggests the realities of homophobia in turn-of-the-century U.S. Unlike Brokeback Mountain, this text developed from actual experiences of a real-life queer man. His life and loves, though, has never made it onto the silver screen.

As queer folk we need to be more attentive about claiming our actual past and understanding how historical oppression informs our current lives. If Brokeback's goal was to inform a straight audience about the perils of being queer in the U.S., we need to be certain that actual queer folk's experiences get documented next time around. Hartland’s mixed feelings of erotic satisfaction and self-doubt proves a more important story for us than why Jack can’t quit Ennis.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Nature's Cruel Mistakes

In our society, being a man who desires sex with other men leaves one in a select minority. Not better, not worse: Just a minority.

Sometimes, though, one can’t help but think that more folk really should have been born gay men. They do their best to live a normal life, but always yearn for what they should have been: a man-loving-man. It’s sad, but true. These men and women become insanely jealous of our fabulousness and curse the gods for having left them lamentably heterosexual.

Here are a few folk who battled the demons of heterosexuality, but really should have been born gay men:

John F. Kennedy

    Kennedy had style and spent an unusual amount of his day thinking about his hair. He frolicked shirtless on the beach more times than Tab Hunter. Plus, he spent tons of time with gay icons Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy. If he hadn’t been heterosexual, he wouldn’t have wasted all that time having sex with them. Instead, he could have talked with them about style and fashion. It was a sad, sad loss for him.

    Rather than being a Cold-War-Warrior, he could have been much happier looking for a Daddy to pay for the Champagne. I can't claim that JFK wouldn't have caught a bullet if he was gay. Then again. . .

Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie

    Jeannie had all the flare and style that every gay man has, but found herself trapped in a heterosexual genie’s body. Let’s face it, only certain gay men and Barbie loved pink more than this girl. She matched her interior decorations to her outfits, including a round couch and sparkly mirrors on the wall. Plus, one does not need an extra eye to see that Jeannie lived in a giant phallus. I mean, come on!

Darth Vader

    If Vader had not been cursed by his heterosexuality, he could have avoided his fall to the dark side. Yeah, it was all about his heterosexual love for Amidala that left him twisted and evil and resulted in three dreadful movies. Had he simply been born gay, he would have lived out his life in peace and spared audiences across the globe from some true cinematic crap.

    Vader’s love of leather outfits and long flowing capes would not seem nearly as unusual as a gay man. Indeed, he would certainly have placed in Chicago’s International Mr. Leather Competition. Such a shame that his heterosexuality disqualified him and left him damned.

    As a gay man, he would only have paused to discover Amidala’s super-astounding hairstyling secrets.

    Come to think of it, her gravity defying hairstyles qualify Amidala for this list as well. No queen could do better with hair than that Queen.

Dolly Parton

    Parton recognizes and embraces her inner gay man. She has often been quoted as saying, “If I was not born a woman, I would be a drag queen.” Don’t worry, Dolly, I think you still qualify as a drag queen!

    Plus, the Academy Awards robbed you of your Oscar. Didn’t they see your tiny little waist and giant bosom? Lugging those things around for the past twenty years warrants a reward all by itself. I digress, though.

    Parton had a love of big, blonde wigs and fantastic performances. Any five foot woman who can pull off six-inch platform boots and a size forty bust has to have wanted to be a gay man at some point.

Chris Evans

    Okay, his life may or may not be different if he was a gay man. My life, though, would be greatly improved.

Eric McCormick

    McCormick made a name for himself playing a gay man. He works more diligently for gay rights than his co-star, Closet McCloestedly (a.k.a. Sean Hayes). Much of his desire for social justice probably comes from his Canadian background (they do things differently in the frozen North).

    Still, one can’t help but think that, deep down, McCormick would have been happier as a gay man. Probably he would have had the self-respect not to perform in such an annoying show (unlike Closet McClosetedly). Alas, he liked the women. Poor guy.

Snoop Doggy Dogg

    So much tragedy could have been avoided had Cordozar Calvin Broadus, Jr. been born a gay, gay man. It’s likely, for instance, he would not have changed his name to a Peanuts cartoon character.

    Dogg loves to shop for clothes. He also understands that sparkling diamonds are a guy's best friend. The Dogg clearly considers style more important than dependability when purchasing a car.

    Only the curse of wanting to sleep with women holds Snoop back from actually being able to accomplish all his goals in life. It’s like he has most of the right pieces to the puzzle, but can’t quite assemble the picture. It’s a shame, really.

Captain America

    Captain America probably reigns supreme as the squarest hero in the comic world. All that über-patriotism just seems too extreme, even in the era of Fox News. Had he been a gay man, though, that über-patriotism would have been reinterpreted as über-fabulousness.

    Captain’s back story suggests a certain queerness. Longing to hang around sweaty Army men (in a totally straight sort of way), Captain lacked the physical strength for military service. He opted for secret and mysterious injections (well, okay, they were just steroids and not that secret). With a new body by Mattel, Captain America hooked up with a gay sidekick named Bucky. Yet even his constant association with Bucky could not “cure” Captain’s stubborn straightness. Alas, now he is just a cruel joke. I mean, just look how uncomfortable Captain America looks in the above picture of Bucky's S&M dungeon party.


    Back in the old days, Moses loved to hang around flaming bushes. Leading his people around the desert for decades, Moses kept talking about the need to get on one’s knees and worship a single man in the sky. Heck, I am only slightly convinced by his heterosexuality at the moment.

    Alas for Moses, despite his love of long flowing gowns, he had to resign himself to never quite being gay. It’s sad, but true.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Not Much to Say, But I Will Take Up Your Time Anyway

It’s been a busy week for little GayProf. Instead of soothing, comforting quasi-anonymous interactions on-line I had to deal with harsh, impersonal face-to-face interactions involving actual human contact. *shudder*

Over the previous couple of days, I ventured off to Texas’ capitol city for an academic conference. I served as the chair of a panel, which was the best conference duty ever, ever. No need to prepare a paper. No need to prepare a comment. All I had to do was rattle off some short bios of the panelists, pretend like I was listening, and ask for people to applaud them. All that and I still got a line on my c.v. Score for GayProf.

I also ate with some friends at a local jazz club/steak house (Yes, I am in Texas). We had excellent food, but Philadelphia’s Zanzibar Blue still ranks as my favorite jazz club to this point.

Sadly, I have little to add to my bloggy this weekend. Beyond waiting to watch the gayest night on television (a.k.a. The Oscars) with some in-town buddies, I have nothing to report in my own life except that I am fighting off a cold.

I will point your attention to Helen’s call for supporting Democracy Now. Personally, I do everything Helen commands in her blog. Yeah, I am so her bitch. I will be in serious trouble if she ever starts talking about whipping up a special blend of Flavor-Aide.

In this case, though, Helen (in league with Joe.My.God) is all about undermining the current administration. Let’s bring those approval ratings down from 40 percent to 10!

Finally, a personal message to George Michael: What the fuck? George, George, George. In my tween-teen years, you reigned supreme. I graciously ignore your Wham! era. Your album Faith, however, made you every schoolgirl’s pride and joy. Plus, you got a brand new face for the boys at MTV.

For me, though, Listen Without Prejudice has to be one of the queerest albums ever released in mainstream media. You may not have been out, but with songs like “Cowboys and Angels” and “Freedom” only clueless hets didn’t pick up on your true desires and messages in that album.

So, nothing you produced after that album captured much attention. Let's be honest, that album didn't really hold up that well either. That’s life.

Why, though, can’t you stay clear of Johnny Law? Cruising for anonymous toilet sex is your business. GayProf doesn’t judge, though I am concerned for your safety. Can’t you spot a cop, though? The ability to spot copper should be more finely tuned than your gaydar.

We forgave your previous gaff because you decided to come out. Hey, we gay folk will accept anything from people if they do it while coming out the closet. If Enron Exec Kenneth Lay had said he embezzled all that money and cheated people out of their retirements because he was conflicted about his sexuality, we would have created a legal defense fund for him and baked him a Bundt cake. It’s our way.

George, though, you only get come-out sympathy once. We learned that the police arrested you again a few days ago. This time you came dangerously close to drowning in a pool of your own drool as you lay passed out next to a toilet-sex cruising zone. Now you are just getting weirder and weirder and creepier and creepier.

Make a lenten pledge, George, to keep the pants zipped, the nose powder free, lose the creepy face-hair, and try, just try, to come up with some decent music that doesn’t sound ten years out of date. Can you do that for me? Shouldn’t all this prison time be inspiring you or something? Thanks and kisses.