Tuesday, October 31, 2006

One GayProf, One Vote

Because I am only in Massachusetts for the year, I stay a voter in Texas. It took me some time and a couple of phone calls to figure that out, too. Or maybe I just would have preferred to be a Massachusetts voter. In the end, though, I am still technically a resident of Texas. Yuck! After filling out what seemed like an unusually complicated set of web and paper forms, Texas finally allowed me to send off my absentee ballot this morning.

I am astounded by the number of people around me who have declared that they are “sitting out this election.” How do you sit out an election? Did your voting finger get tendinitis? Are you drunk with giddiness because you voted for the winning contestant from American Idol? After that, other elections, like for the leadership of the nation, just seem too shallow?

Of course, the media doesn’t help matters. Over the past week I have seen too many news stories that told Americans that voting would be useless. Either they said the two political parties are interchangeable, the elections were already decided by polling, or that voting machines would simply discard their votes anyway.

CNN came up with one of the more bizarre voting conspiracies that I have seen to date. They showed that a Venezuela corporation manufactured a few voting machines. Of course, the next logical jump is to assume that Hugo Chávez will be deciding the composition of the U.S. Senate. Yeah, that's how the historical relationship between the U.S. and Latin America has worked. The U.S. is just a puppet of leftist Latin American dictators.

Trust me, I can understand how people get turned off of voting. Voting in Texas elections depresses me. For over a century and a half, Texas has worked to keep people like me from expressing my voice in elections. Today, voting Left in Texas is a lot like running around the Hindenburg with a seltzer bottle. No matter how hard you try to put out the fire, the Nazis still controlled both burning piles of wreckage. Oh, the humanity!

Disappointment can be found even deeper. The Democratic Party has become so useless that many of the local Texas elections don’t even have a Democratic candidate. I mean, they couldn’t find anybody who wanted to run as a Democrat for the state legislature from my district? Anybody? Somebody's Aunt Sally? Anybody?

The Democrats should be fielding candidates in every single election. Maybe the party does think it's an uphill battle. I don’t care. On principle, they should put out a candidate. It doesn’t matter to me if the Democratic candidate is a twenty-six year-old-stripper. Heck, there are many reasons why I would trust a twenty-six-year-old stripper over 95 percent of Republicans, and 99 percent of Texas Republicans.

Since I have arrived in Boston, here is the question I get asked most often: “Is Texas really as scary and hateful as it seems?” The question presumes the answer. What can I say? “No, man, Texas is just fine. When Governor Rick Perry told all gay people to leave the state, it was just his way of encouraging tourism for the other forty-nine states. He wants to spread our queer Texas dollars around a bit. Why be greedy?”

To be honest, I also don’t really care about the future of Texas. I hope not to return, if I can help it. In the last major Texas election, 76 percent of Texan voters favored a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Though good people live in Texas, for the most part, Texan voters are riddled with hate and malice for people like me.

I think we should treat Texas like an Etch-a-Sketch©. Let’s put the whole state over our head and shake it until it’s clear again. Start over from scratch, is what I say. Either that or we need to start learning from the deceptive practices of the Christian Evangelicals to fight back a bit.

Some states have warped the notion of “informed consent” for women trying to obtain her legal right to an abortion. In these instances, women have to sit through a lecture about the alleged consequences of having an abortion. Often times, these present unconfirmed or disputed information about abortions as “facts.” We can flip the tables and start applying “informed consent” laws when people register to vote.

A voter who registers as a Republican would immediately be referred to a voting “counselor.” The voting counselor would ask some basic questions:

I see you marked “Republican.” Is your annual income over $200,000 per year?

Are you white?

Are you male?

Are you hetero?

If the answer to all these questions is "yes" and you are white, straight, and male, off you go. Good luck.

If not, the Counselor responds with a predetermined set of warnings:

“I am obligated by law to inform you that voting Republican will adversely affect your standard of living. Under Republican administrations, real wages have either stayed static or actually decreased while inflation has risen.

Those who want a small federal government should know that Republican administrations since Ronald Reagan have actually increased the scope and size of the U.S. federal government by many fold.

Voting Republican will decrease your child’s chances for an adequate education.

Voting Republican might mean the end of certain civil and/or human rights in the U.S.

Women who are pregnant, or thinking of getting pregnant, should not vote Republican.

Voting Republican has been linked to signs of depression and, in extreme cases, psychopathic behavior.

Republicans want to eliminate people who desire same-sex sex. If you currently, or have in the past, had sex with somebody of your same sex, you should not vote Republican.

Side effects of voting Republican can include poverty, anxiety or nervousness, abnormal sweating (particularly if your last name is Nixon), change in appetite, constipation, diarrhea, headache, nausea, sedation, seizure, skin rash, homlessness, stomach cramps, trouble sleeping, and dry mouth.

Voting Republican does not protect against STD’s. In some cases, it might increase your chances of contracting a STD by reducing your access to condoms.

Voting Republican is habit forming. You can become physically and psychologically dependent on the party and lose the ability for independent thought.

If you experience any of the above serious side effects, stop voting Republican immediately and seek emergency medical attention or contact your doctor immediately.

After they hear all of that and sign a release, they can register as a Republican. I am tired of poor folk voting against their own economic interest just because they hate gays, or people of Islamic faith, or because they think George Bush watches NASCAR.

So, yeah, I know that voting can seem like a losing battle sometimes. All the same, I ain’t giving up what I think of as my basic right and obligation. Too many people fought and died for my right to punch a hole, mark an x, blow out a candle, or whatever to register my voice in the government. Even if my ballot ends up in the shredder, at least somebody will know my disapproval of the status quo.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Love Inaction

On Saturday night, I attended a Halloween party hosted by the glamorous Joe and Whit. Without doubt, Whit won the prize for best costume in my book. Who can cobble together an authentic eighteenth-century nobleman’s costume from things mostly found in his closet? That’s not just about planning and being clever – That’s an entire lifestyle choice. That’s deep, Holmes, and Whit deserves some props.

Despite my costume debating, I went with my old reliable. By “reliable,” I really mean, “the shit that I already own.” For me that’s the U.S. Sailor work uniform. Once you have the dixie-cup hat, you are pretty much good to go. Like so many things in life, it all comes down to what you want to say with your hat.

While at the party, one of my conversations turned to the current state of queer youth. The presumption in the nation today is that young queer folk have an easier time and are coming “out” much earlier in life. Without doubt, some of this is true. Clearly there is a different national perception and visibility of queer people than when I started coming out a short fifteen years ago. We have also already discussed the queer generation gap here at CoG.

Still, I wonder sometimes if we are becoming blinded to the struggles that continue to exist for most young people coming to terms with their sexuality. My party conversationialist suggested that those who are in strictly religious households are not being permitted to express their sexualities. They are still as likely as anybody from forty years ago to be trapped in the closet by social pressure and fear. I think that he was probably right. Given that Evanglical Christians are rapidly becoming a major population in states like Texas, it’s hard to believe that everything is sunshine and roses for queer young people.

While most of the media and much of queer activism has focused on the issue of marriage, another set of sinister stories have sporadically made it to the surface. Over the weekend, a group known as Love in Action International (LIAI) settled its lawsuit against the state of Tennessee. Last year, LIAI briefly caught the national media’s attention when a sixteen-year old blogger wrote of his despair over being sent to the LIAI camp. His parents sent him, against his will, in an effort to rid him of his homosexual desires. Sometimes I worry that we queer folk have become distracted by the marriage issue to the point that we miss other serious crap like this story.

Tennessee investigated the LIAI camp after the blogging story broke. Allegations arose that the LIAI employees kept young patients from doctor prescribed medication. In the end, the state of Tennessee also stated that the camp needed a state issued mental health license. Probably because the LIAI’s methods would never withstand the scrutiny of trained psychologists and psychiatrists, LIAI balked at the proposition. Instead, they filed a lawsuit against Tennessee, claiming that they had been discriminated against because of their religious affiliation. Tennessee backed down and decided not to require the camp to have an actual medical license.

Here’s the deal with my view of the “ex-gay folk.” Hey, if you’re an adult and you want to subject yourself to that type of nuttiness, I say go forth. If you think listening to some minister tell you over and over again that you are going to hell is more pleasurable than wrapping your tongue around another man’s wang, that’s your decision. That sounds sad and pitiful to me, but I really don’t care. It’s your life. Sexual liberation means that you should have the right to make that choice.

The “ex-gays,” however, have no authority to speak for other queer folk nor have they ever demonstrated any tangible ability to “change” their innate sexual interest. As far as the debate about queer civil rights, they have nothing to contribute and we need not consider them worth discussing. They are a non-entity, kind of like the EPA under the Bush adminstration.

Where my major concern comes in, though, is the attempts to control and damage queer youth. A screwed-up adult checking himself or herself into one these “camps” make his or her own choices. A teenager, however, sent to one of these camps has no choice and no legal recourse. He or she is at the mercy of the parents.

Won’t somebody think of the children? I mean, somebody other than Mark Foley.

Young queer people have faced different levels of medical experimentation in the quest for a "cure" through the twentieth century. It’s not that hard to find historical examples. Even as I looked through sixties-era newspapers for the previous post on Jenkins, I found such a case from right here in Boston. In December 1964, The New York Times reported on an experimental psychological program conducted on “delinquents” in good ol’ Cambridge, Massachusetts. One aspect of this program involved Dr. Ralph Schwitzgebel (if that was his real name) applying “behavior modification” treatements to queer men.

Schwitzgebel spoke of a particular 13-month program conducted on a young gay man. During this period, Schwitzgebel required the man to take an ipecac syrup concoction “whenever homosexual feelings were particularly frequent.” In other words, the good doctor literally made the man vomit every time he thought of hot man-on-man action. Schwitzgebel claimed success, pointing to the youth’s [heterosexual] marriage. My guess is the man was willing to do anything to stop vomiting. Hell, I have only had a cold for two weeks, but would gladly marry somebody if it meant I could get rid of it.

Of course, Schwitzgebel also acknowledged, “Not all of his homosexual impulses have been eliminated, but the youth, in his words, considers them ‘nostalgic reminders of the past.’” Um – Okay. In other words, despite vomiting constantly and having sex with women, this particular youth still wistfully remembered the days of yore when he yearned for the man flesh. I also can't help but wonder if it actually just made the man have a new Roman Shower fetish.

Keep in mind that Schwitzgebel’s study was one of the most mild and least invasive of the medical experiments performed on queer folk. We like to think of this 1964 study as “ancient history.” With all the queer visibility and alleged ease of high school students coming out today, we are told such events are part of an archaic past.

Yet, it’s not hard to imagine that Love in Action International using almost identical practices, or worse, on young people today. The vague references to “ex-gay” treatments all seem to revolve around the same type of coded language of “behavior modification.”

Before we go congratulating this nation about how easy young queer folk have it, I think we should make sure that all teenagers are being allowed to make their own choices about their sexuality. If we are committed to ideas of sexual liberation, then we might need to start digging into the murky and unpopular realm of parental authority. As long as parents are permitted almost total authority over teenagers’ lives, they will always be at risk of being subjugated to dangerous and damaging programs like Love in Action International. For sexual freedom to take hold, we might need to demand that the current laws be changed concerning teenagers and sex. They should not be subjected to the arebitary beliefs of their parents when it comes to decisions about their own sexuality.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

What to Wear, What to Wear -- Parte Dos

Now is the time of year when young queers’ hearts and minds are consumed by that special holiday that unites us all. Yes – the fourth week of October has the distinction of being National Radon Detection Week. It’s the silent killer, people. We all mark these special few days by installing devices to detect invisible, tasteless, carcinogenic gases in our homes.

Once that’s over, we begin to think about Halloween. Of course, the end of the month also signals yet another four weeks in which my Texas house did not sell. How much longer will I be saddled with a link to Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies)? No horror story could be more scary. Halloween offers a nice distraction from that grim reality.

Like last year, though, I have the dilemma of trying to figure out what to wear as a costume. Like last year, my aspirations for particular costumes never quite turn out right.

Here’s more of what I aim for when I build a costume and the disappointing results:

    What I Aim For: President Laura Roslin

    Laura Roslin makes the tough moral choices, inspires confidence, and can really rock a power suit. Once a humble school teacher, Roslin shows what keen intelligence and dedication can do for the leadership of a people.

    What I End Up With: First Lady Laura Bush

    Laura Bush makes almost no moral choices, inspires nothing, and really needs a new tailor. If anybody ever questioned whether the position of First Lady was useless, Laura proved that it was. Once a humble school teacher, Laura Bush shows how making really bad marriage choices can ruin your life. Tell me about it, Laura.


    What I Aim For: Zorro

    Don Diego de la Vega had a powerful sense of justice and remarkable fighting skills. During the day, he had an unassuming persona as the son of a wealthy nobleman. At night, Diego went to his secret cave, dressed all in black and a long flowing cape, and fought to save the weak. Though he had many weapons, like pistols and a whip, he favored the rapier and fought with elegance. Plus, Guy Williams' could really fill-out his trousers. Get my meaning? Nudge-nudge. His costume really bulged with his manly attributes, if you know what I mean. Nudge-nudge. He had a big penis. Not subtle?

    What I End Up With: Batman

    Batman is just a cheap knock-off of Zorro. Don’t believe me? During the day, Bruce Wayne is unassuming son of a wealthy business man. At night, Burce goes to his secret cave, dresses all in black and a long flowing cape, and fights to save the weak. Need more proof? Bob Kane frequently depicted young Bruce Wane watching the film The Mark of Zorro the night of his parents’ murder.

    Regardless, Batman is so over exposed at this point. Batman also always seems to get underfoot as Wonder Woman tries to do important heroic type stuff.

    Yeah, don’t tell my nephew, though, who totally adores Batman at the moment.

    What I Aim For: Hawk from Spenser: For Hire

    When I was a wee queer lad, I thought Hawk to be one of the coolest figures on television. As an adult, he now seems like a bizarre pastiche of racist stereotypes. Still, he was one sexy mother-fucker. What? The Center of Gravitas ain't a site for kids.

    Hawk exuded strength and dominated every scene. Never speaking that often, he still intimidated everybody around. Plus, he really knew how to dress!

    What I End Up With: Captain Sisko

    The least likeable Star Trek show, Deep Space Nine depended on character development rather than, you know, actual adventure to drive the series. Sisko didn’t help matters. Often indecisive, directionless, and stodgy, Sisko lacked cool. To make matters worse, his whiny son made Wesley Crusher seem down-right pleasant.


    What I Aim For: Lisa Simpson

    Precocious Lisa serves as the moral center of nation’s favorite cartoon family. Having converted to Buddhism somewhere in the show’s twenty-ninth season, Lisa remains at peace in a world of chaos. She values learning and remains calm in desperate circumstances.

    What I End Up: Meg Griffin

    Nobody likes Meg – not even her parents. Sales clerks have been known to immolate themselves rather than view Meg in a new pair of jeans. Few people even know the purpose of her character.


    What I Aim For: Macbeth

    Sure Macbeth had some bloodthirsty tendencies and a lust for power. He might also have murdered the rightful king, Duncan, thus overturning the natural order of things to the point that horses started eating each other. I call Macbeth a self-starter, myself. Clearly, he is one of the sexiest of all of Shakespeare’s tragic historical characters.

    What I End Up With: Hamlet

    Did Shakespeare have a more whiny character? Ninety percent of this play is all about Hamlet debating. He debates whether or not to kill the usurper king. He debates whether or not to get it on with Ophelia. He debates whether or not to commit suicide. He debates whether he should use jam or butter on his toast. Geez – We could be spared a dozen soliloquies if he just had the balls to stab, poison, or bludgeon himself to death in the first act. Hamlet is just a whiny brat at the end of the day.


    What I Aim For: Betty la Fea (Mexico's Ugly Betty)

    In Colombia's smart reinventing of the telenovela, Betty became the unlikely hero. The Mexican version perfected the story. Instead of the usual dramatics, histrionics, and sex of traditional telenovelas, Betty la Fea offered an unusual amount of humor (coupled with dramatics, histrionics, and sex). Though I never saw that many episodes, Betty la Fea seemed smart and sassy.

    What I End Up With: Ugly Betty

    While I still have enjoyed the U.S. version, and I think Selma Hayek can walk on water, elements of the new version still bother me. As I have mentioned before, the fact that Betty and her family are the only Latino figures in the show makes the title a bit more problematic. Likewise, the fey assistant caters to some horrific homophobic stereotypes (though he did redeem himself a bit when he shared a moment with Betty’s nephew). Maybe I am just predisposed to distrust U.S. remakes. Or perhaps my therapist was right -- Maybe I should really just relax sometimes. Eh.

    What I Aim For: Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters

    Though Del Marquis has my heart from the Scissor Sisters, one can’t deny Shears’ electric personality. He has a tight little body that he generously shows off as he prances about the stage in revealing costumes.

    What I End Up With: Carol Channing

    Carol also shows offer her tight little body as she prances about the stage. In this case, though, it’s just too much camp, even for GayProf.

    What I Aim For: The Grim Reaper

    Empowered with the icy touch of death, the Grim Reaper strikes fear in all who have seen him. He has a cold dark presence, no soul of his own, and thrives on decay.

    What I End Up With: Donald Rumsfeld

    Empowered with the icy touch of death, Donald Rumsfeld strikes fear in all who have seen him. He has a cold dark presence, no soul of his own, and thrives on decay – Huh – maybe that’s why I keep ending up with him when I aim for death personified.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Americans are Foolish

No, I am not talking about Americans' refusal to endorse and fund universal heath care. Nor am I talking about Americans' complete apathy when it comes to voting. I am talking about something really, really important. Why don’t Americans clue into just how great the Scissor Sisters are as a musical act?

Last night, Atari and I saw the Scissor Sisters perform at Boston’s Orpheum Theater. Atari, obviously, is a good amount of fun with whom to go and see such an event.

Having never been to the Orpheum myself, I liked it as a theater. I liked the fact that the Orpheum served liquor even more. Given that Atari is more than willing to be an ennabler codependent a drinking buddy, things worked out just fine. Who needs to listen to the opening band when red wine is around?

Right – Back to the Scissor Sisters. True, the Orpheum’s dreadful sound system made them almost unintelligible. Our seats were, shall we say, a bit distant. All the same, the band exuded coolness. Come on, Americans, hundreds of thousands of Europeans can’t be wrong about this band. The Scissor Sisters self-titled album ranked as the highest selling CD in Britain for 2004. Right now, the new album's first single, “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” floats around number one in the UK charts.

Yeah, we aren’t going to mention that David Hasselhoff is number four on the UK charts right now. Discussing that hurts my cause. I mean, we expect that lunacy from Germans. Brits, though? Nah, man, that’s just not right.

Scissor Sisters, though, deserve more consideration. Let’s take a look at some of their genius lyrics from a few of their songs:

    If lies were cats, you would be a litter.

    I don't need another tube of that dime store lipstick
    Well I think I'm gonna buy me a brand new shade of man

    If Jesus had the power than so do I
    To rise up from the dead and take up to the sky

    I feel so much better
    When I read your dirty letters

So, why do the Scissor Sisters rate so low in the U.S. charts? For the most part, the Scissor Sisters don’t make the play lists of the mega-radio chains. Instead, the airwaves reverberate with the unending rotation of Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé.

Critics and a few snotty queer folk have also disdained the Scissor Sisters. They call them a novelty act or just plain silly. They see no point to their feather boas, high-waisted pants, and sequin suits.

With the second album, though, I think it’s hasty to dismiss the Scissor Sisters flat out. The audience clearly adored the band during last night’s performance. Composed mostly of gay boys and seemingly straight women, the audience took every song as if an individual anthem. They enthusiastically played along with the band. This included one zealous fan close to us who enacted each song through a stunning form of dancing pantomime.

Behind all the glam rock and cheery songs about death, the Scissor Sisters offer an appealing message. They call on their audience to reject expected gender standards or heteronormative ways of viewing the world. The over-the-top costumes suggest that violating gender norms can be playful, fun, and even revolutionary. Jake Shears’ falsetto singing alone connotes a vocal form of drag.

Three of the four men in the band are openly gay. At a time when the most visible gay men are Mark Foley and James McGreevey, the Scissor Sisters offer a refreshing counter point. The band has three gay men who are, well, happy being gay and having gay sex. In fact, they even sing about it! Their bouncy tunes remind us that we can escape the shackles of mediocrity and enjoy moments of fabulousness even in the most mundane of settings.

Their songs often focus on specifically queer notions, like taking your mother to gay dance clubs or dressing in drag. They talk of being united as queer folk, demanding space, sexual freedom, and dumping losers who don’t treat us right.

Most of the band’s videos make little narrative sense. Instead, they are usually visual splurges with dazzling costume changes and Shears in various states of undress. Scissor Sisters both figuratively, and sometimes literally, call on their fans to break free, have fun, and not take any shit for doing so.

Sure, we have heard from other queer performers before the Scissor Sisters. Indeed, they pay homage to the David Bowie and Queen era of glam rock. What makes them different, though, is that their sexualities are not as obscured or veiled. Unlike Bowie or Queen, who often played with sexuality with tongue-in-cheek gestures, the Scissor Sisters put it all out there.

Nor are they like Elton John, their current producer. Despite his long-known queer sexuality, John still insists on releasing songs with opposite-sex pronouns. John’s recent music speaks more about social complacency or commercialism than a liberating message for queer folk. His songs for the past twenty years have never called on queers to enjoy being queer in the same way as Scissor Sisters. Heck, even “All the Girls Love Alice,” one of John’s early ditties about a dead lesbian, seems more queer positive than anything he has released lately.

Scissor Sisters speaks to all of our desires to try on different personas and rebel. The satin cocktail dresses and half-naked Shears just make such rebellion look fun and even sexy. Who doesn’t want to toss on the platform boots and sparkly jacket to break out of our humdrum lives? Heck, if we can also make such dressing up about fighting sexual repression, all the better.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Out, Out Damn Spot

Within the past day or so the ubiquitous Joe. My. God. posed a series of scenarios to his readers. Each involved a male political figure who sought same-sex sex, but with differing levels of public hostility to the queer community. Joe asked if any or all of these different public figures should be “outed.” The wide range of responses and their levels of emotional intensity suggests that, as a group, we queer folk hardly have consensus. We saw suggestions ranging from “nothing about one’s personal life should be revealed without consent” on one side to “outing them is the only way to combat their hypocrisy" on the other side. Each camp felt certain in their position and some became a bit snippy. I am a tad concerned about how quickly we queers turn on each other when there we disagree.

That aside, what struck me is that this discussion brought to the forefront two fundamental issues that never actually found articulation. At the center of this debate is 1) the value of “outness” or how “outness” came about as a historical strategy for queers in the United States; and 2) the obligations or rights of an individual queer verses the larger community of queers. As Mr. Spock might ask, "Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one?"

Notions of “outness” as a political strategy are relatively new to the U.S. Only for the last thirty years or so have such ideas been circulating. Being out, early queer activists argued, took away the potential of being blackmailed for one’s sexuality. Moreover, if all queer folk came out, the sheer numbers and visibility would make it impossible for queers to lose their jobs over their sexuality.

Being out was not just about acknowledging to yourself an interest in same-sex sex. After all, men and women had been doing that for a long, long, long time. Rather, being out meant acknowledging your sexual interests and taking a firm political position for sexual freedom within our social context. One had to claim a public sexual identity.

Ironically (and it is technically ironic – not a fake Alanis Morissette irony), the strategy for being “out” developed as a means to combat the problems now faced by Congress men being threatened with exposure by queer activists. If one was up-front with their lives and interests, after all, then there would be no fear of losing your job or being booted out of office because you lied about it.

We don’t have to turn the clock back far to find instances when queer men and women’s exposure meant an end to their careers. Let’s take a look at 1964. In October 1964, a scandal erupted around the White House just a few weeks before the presidential election that pitted Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater. Police arrested Johnson’s top aide, Walter Jenkins, for having sex in a YMCA men’s room. The press seized on the story and Jenkins became a household name for “homosexual,” at least for a few weeks (Out magazine, incidentally, ran a story on Jenkins in 1999).

As soon as the story broke, Jenkins checked himself into a psychiatric hospital, claiming exhaustion, and could not be reached for comment. He would later explain that he never had sex with men except on those “extremely rare occasions he must have been under the influence of alcohol.” We’ve come a short way, baby!

I decided to take a look at some of the news coverage that surrounded Jenkins in 1964. Originally I even intended to compare news coverage of Jenkins verses coverage of Foley, but that became too much work. What? I have a job other than blogging – allegedly.

In 1964, having been found in the middle of a sex act with another man ended Jenkins’ political career (Jenkins is on the right in the picture). At no point did anybody with real power suggest that Jenkins could continue in his job. Instead, they used Jenkins' case as evidence that gay men and women (who were suspect anyway because of their gender) should never work in the government because they lie. Even the most sympathetic coverage, including a statement from LadyBird, called for charity based on Jenkins’ “illness.” The most severe called it a "Communist Plot."

To be honest, Jenkins certainly would not win any queer-heart awards. A week before his arrest, The Federal Aviation Agency gave a 32-year-old man his job back. He had been dismissed after he admitted to having sex with other men at the age of 18. The FAA only reinstated the employee after he “proved” that he had a “normal sex life and that the homosexual incidents had been youthful indiscretions.”

Just days before his own arrest, Jenkins issued a memorandum directing Federal departments to tighten their screening policies to avoid hiring, horrors!, another man with such a shaky sexual history as the FAA agent. Jenkins had a lot of chutzpah to so hypocritically issue such a memo when he found his good times at the local YMCA glory hole.

As soon as the Jenkins arrest became public, LBJ quickly and publicly washed his hands of Jenkins, despite their 25-year personal friendship. Without any sense of disconnect, Johnson prefaced a speech on social justice with a brief comment on Jenkins. Though his actual speech called for “a utopian society in which poverty and prejudice would be abolished,” his opening remarks made it clear that queers would never make it to this promised land. “In a government of three million men,” he stated, “some of them make mistakes.” Working for the government and having same-sex sex was illegal in 1964, by the way. “The only thing to do,” the newspaper paraphrased Johnson, “was to take their jobs away from them and ‘ask for their resignation’ and order impartial investigations.”

The only support for Jenkins that didn’t call him a traitor or a nut job came from the American Mental Health Foundation. In a letter to the New York Times, the director of that foundation stated, “The private life and inclinations of a citizen, Government employee or not, does not necessarily have any bearing on his capacities, usefulness and sense of responsibility in his occupation. . . The fact that an individual is homosexual, as has been strongly implied in the case of Mr. Jenkins, does not per se make him more unstable and more a security risk than any heterosexual person.” Jenkins probably appreciated the sentiment. Well, he might have appreciated it if he wasn't strapped to a bed being pumped full of sedatives at George Washington University Hospital at the time.

The notion of being “out” as a political strategy existed only at the fringe of society in 1964. Yet, many had started to push back against the oppressive and unfair apparatuses that regulated sexual behavior. On May 29, 1965, nine men and three women picketed in front of the White House to protest “Government discrimination against homosexuals.” Unlike Jenkins, these queer folk wanted to fight and did so openly.

After these many decades, being out is still the best and easiest strategy that we can take as individuals to fight for sexual freedom. In the U.S., people are no longer imprisoned for their sexuality. There are many places in the world where one faces state-sponsored execution for same-sex sex. I have little sympathy, therefore, for Americans who refuse to come out of the closet in their daily lives. Is it scary? Yes. Is it often hard? Yes. Does it mean risking your employment? Sometimes, yes.

If we accept that being out is a necessary political strategy, the question then becomes does the community have the right to decide to out an individual? To me, saying “no” implies that the individual has no responsibility or obligation to the larger population of queers. It ignores the real ways that the individual benefits from the committed struggles of all the queer folk who came before him or her.

I would suggest, though, that outing can only be done uniformly for it to be effective. Outing should not be reserved just for punitive actions or for revenge against individuals who have opposed or oppressed us. Doing so only reenforces the notion that being out is dangerous and costly. It puts new braces on the structures of the closet by making being “out” the same as being “harassed.” We lose that battle by making those same enemies appear like victims and our sexualities seem like curses.

Outing, if it is to be effective, must be done for all. I expect the same level of outness from evil Republican Senators as I do from dreamy news anchors. No distinction should be made between the Republican staffer or the Democratic Congressman. To suggest that it is okay for one person to hide, but not another, is to validate the notion that our sexualities are something to be kept out of view unless useful politically. It endorses the ideas that hiding and lying are natural and necessary parts of being queer. Staying in the closet only serves the needs of the individual, but being out and visible will serve all who want the freedom to express their erotic side.

This need not devolve into a “witch-hunt.” I am not suggesting that we go on a campaign to dig up evidence on every closeted queer person out there. Frankly, there are more important fights than outing campaigns.

We should not, however, be expected to endorse or support their silence or their lies. Our sexualities are never merely private matters. They have important implications and consequences for how we are able to navigate our lives, earn a living, and find security. Until we demand total honesty from within the community, we will constantly be threatened with exposure.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Holy Crap!

This past weekend, I enjoyed meeting (or re-meeting some of) the Queer Boston Blogger group. They all seemed like nifty gents – and I particularly appreciate Chris and Steve for the ride.

For whatever reason, the news media opted not to cover this momentous event. Instead, they talked, talked, talked about earthquakes in Hawai’i or the unending bad news from Iraq. Clearly their priorities remain skewed.

One item that caught my attention in the news feed, though, was Emperor Palpatine’s Pope Benedict XVI’s naming of new saints. His list included some folk gaining media attention, including a Mexican Bishop who defended a greedy and corrupt Church during the Mexican Revolution -- now being remade as a Bishop who “tended to the wounded” during the conflict.

Being raised Catholic, I learned to call upon the saints. Indeed, I am still asking Guadalupe to assist me (and, boy, do I need the help!). Yet, I also came about as a child of Vatican II. You remember Vatican II – When the Church briefly tried to curb some of its excesses. Yeah, that didn’t last long.

In 1969 the Catholic Church actually announced a decision to reduce the number of saints by hundreds because they could not be “historically verified.” Among this list of de-canonized included the quite popular Saint Christopher and Saint Jude (Of course, the truly faithful might see the fact that the patron saint of lost causes losing his status as apropos). In my childhood, therefore, becoming a saint seemed near impossible (though I still had aspirations) and no new saints seemed on the horizon.

The Catholic Church sort of forgot about all of that, though. Since Pope John Paul II, the Church just can’t canonize people fast enough. Benedict XVI continues this trend, but just makes it feel even more evil somehow (being a pope who also happens to have been a member of the Hitler Youth and all). Being a saint these days seems as easy as getting supersized at McDonald’s. Shoot –- I volunteered once at a youth counseling office – Be sure to put me up for canonization after I am dead.

It does make me wonder, though, why should the pope be the one to make these decisions? Who died and elected him pope? Oh – Right – John Paul II and the evil-ass College of Cardinals. Well, fuck the Cardinals – There’s only 190 of them anyway.

I think it’s time that we queer folk start canonizing our own saints. Don’t we deserve figures who we can call on for supernatural intercession during moments of crisis? I think so.

Here are my suggestions for getting us started. Just like the Catholic Church, we need evidence of at least two miracles or martyrdom to qualify for queer sainthood. I am not, however, digging up their corpses to check for decay. That’s just nasty.

    Saint Paul of Lynde, Patron Saint of Queenie Bitchdom

    Miracles Performed or Martyrdom: Have you seen Bewitched? He could fly, disappear, and make things out of thin air!

    He also made Hollywood Squares watchable, a miracle if ever there was one. I mean, it was tic-tac-toe, people.

    Veneration: To call for Paul Lynde’s intercession, the faithful must make five bitchy, but insightful, comments to their guests within a one hour period.

    For serious assistance, some of the truly devout have used their face as an ashtray – much as Lynde did with annoying fan-boys who bugged him on the dance floor.


    Saint Judith Butler, Patron Saint of Gender

    Miracles Performed or Martyrdom: Destabilized biological concepts of gender; defended queer studies to the point of martyrdom; many suggest that her dense theoretical writings are similar to speaking in tongues.

    Veneration: Renounce biological determinism, but recognize that you are a product of cultural power and discourses beyond your control. Dress in drag in order to call attention to how gender is all a culturally-defined performance. Or just wear sensible shoes.


    Saint Andy Warhol, Patron Saint of the Avant-Garde

    Miracles Performed or Martyrdom: Prompted Americans to reconsider their cultural values -- for two seconds (MIRACLE!); Survived gun-shot wound to the chest inflicted by S.C.U.M. leader; managed to get laid looking like Andy Warhol.

    Veneration: Fill your cabinets with Campbell’s Tomato Soup, but do so with irony. Paint all of your rooms in primary colors. Hang four photos of yourself in sequence.


    Saint Liberace, Patron Saint of Closet Cases

    Miracles Performed or Martyrdom: Miraculously, Judy Garland’s purse fell out of his mouth every time he spoke, but nobody seemed to know that he was gay. In a wind storm, his hair would never move an inch.

    Veneration: Attach glitter and rhinestones to every item that you own – Seriously, devotees own a Bedazzler ©. Wear many pastels. Buy a candelabra.

    Saint Kelly of Charlie’s Angels, Patron Saint of Clothes and Hair

    Miracles Performed or Martyrdom: She single handedly could flip full grown men over her head without ever having a hair out of place or makeup smudged; she could run at a full sprint in six-inch heels; and she survived two separate gun-shot wounds – to her head!

    Martyred by staying on Charlie’s Angels longer than Farah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack, or Tayna Roberts

    Veneration: Learn judo; drive a Mustang; shop consistently; wear very tight shoes.


    Saint Tennessee of Williams, Patron Saint of Mixology

    Miracles Performed or Martyrdom: Wrote award-winning plays about men tortured by their queer sexuality, yet he seemed to enjoy his own queer life and sexuality with abandon. Indeed, proper iconography of Saint Tennessee should always include a martini glass and cigarette – Optional iconography can show him attached ass-to-penis to Frank Merlo.

    Martyrdom: Victim of gay-bashing in 1979.

    Veneration: Wear lots of tweed and herringbone sport jackets. Grow a moustache. Drink to excess.

    Prepare a small altar and provide a well mixed cocktail for the saint. Be aware, though, that Saint Tennessee will only respond to prayers if his cocktail has top-shelf liquor. This queer saint don’t drink no turpitine.


    Saint Montgomery, Patron Saint of Male Beauty

    Miracles Performed or Martyrdom: His stunning male beauty could stop traffic (literally!). He was physically perfect and exuded beauty. Made being an army guy, priest, and southerner sexy!

    Oh, and I guess he could act or something. Whatever.

    Martyred by driving his car off a cliff while venerating Saint Tennessee. Losing his astounding beauty, he somehow kept on living – I was never really sure what the point of that was.

    Veneration: Post pictures of him everywhere; Contemplate if the left side of his face or the right side of his face is more perfect; ignore rumors of his unfortunate moniker.


    Saint GayProf, Queen of Heaven and Earth

    Miracles Performed or Martyrdom: Could deflect bullets with his bracelets; force a liar to tell the truth, make a hawk a dove. Oh, wait, that’s Wonder Woman. Damn! Let me try again.

    Miracles Performed or Martyrdom: Can suck the joy out of any situation with his astounding gravitas; GayProf is the last person left on earth who still honors UFW boycotts.

    Martyred by being banished to Texas, the land of the accursed.

    Veneration: Just send cash, checks, or money orders. Make checks payable to GayProf’s Bahama Fund.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ask Me

Free movie tickets came to a friend of mine the other day. Given my current financial situation (only Guadalupe can help me now), I am not inclined to pass up a night’s worth of free entertainment. It turned out that the studio gave out the tickets as part of a beta test screening for a new film.

Filling out the little cards after the screening, I came to accept something about myself: I love to give my opinion on things. Seriously, I have a rather high opinion of my opinion.

Surveys? I constantly take part when asked. Need to know what music I just downloaded from I-tunes? I’ll tell you. What brand of cleanser do I prefer? Just ask. In doing so, maybe I will get more of the stuff that I like out in the world. Every ten years, I also hope that my household will be selected for the U.S. census “long-form.”

What’s behind this desire to be polled? Nothing but ego, I am afraid. Being a historian, I know how valuable the census reports and forms have been to our knowledge of the past. Getting the long form means that future generations of historians will find out how you lived and how you identified yourself. You get to stand in for thousands of other people. So, just ask me – I will gladly tell you how many toilets are in my house.

Surveys and test audiences are something that I aspire to be a part of all the time. Clearly the people they usually ask don’t know what they are doing or how to answer those questions. How many movies have I sat through only to find the ending suddenly turned wonky? Some beta test audience got hold of the film and decided they didn’t like the original ending. You know, the one that the director, writer, and producer all thought should be there.

Just take as an example that masterpiece of cinema, the first Legally Blonde movie. The original version had Elle walk away with confidence and security in knowing that she survived law school with dignity. Test audiences whined, though, that there needed to be more about her relationship. So studios hastily put together a new scene where Elle tells off her loser ex-boyfriend. You can totally tell that her hair color does not at all match the previous scenes! My own ability to suspend disbelief went straight down the drain. It was a crime – a crime I tell you!

All through the 2004 election, I prayed that I would be called for a phone survey. After all, the Democrats didn’t bother to come up with an actual platform or message. Instead, they just ran everything based on pollster reports. Therefore, they should have asked me. My participation in that survey could have really turned things around for the Democrats. Why didn’t they call?

After September 11, Bushie had astounding popularity in the polls. Who the hell were they asking about this? Nobody I knew thought that he suddenly grew a brain in the face of tragedy. The wonderful Wizard of Oz didn’t appear on the White House lawn as far as I could tell. He was still the same ol’ scarecrow.

Yeah, yeah, we all rallied behind him– Whatever. He just kept making the tragedy worse. Well, when he bothered to show up at all after running away and hiding in his bunker on the actual day. Somebody should have asked me what I thought! Ninety percent approval? My ass.

Then again, the poll questions are often so badly done you don’t have much choice. Oddly enough, I participated in a Zogby poll over the whole Mark Foley mess. To be honest, I am not sure why this is such a big deal. I don’t mean on the personal level. Foley abused his power and probably trashed some young people’s ability to trust. He was nasty and should have lost his job long ago. I doubt IBM would have kept him around that long.

For the nation, though, is this really that big of news? A rich, white Republican got caught using a crowbar on some teenagers’ zipper. Are we surprised by that? Really? Because you know there is an entire army worth of women pages who likely had to hide out in the ladies room for sixty percent of their work day to avoid being pinched, poked, ogled, or generally propositioned – and that was probably just from Denis Hastert alone. We don’t hear about them.

Anyway, this particular poll asked if the scandal had lowered my estimation of the Republicans. See – That’s a catch-22 question. If I said “No,” then the pollsters would claim that the Republicans had the approval of the nation. If I said “Yes,” then I would have implied that I actually thought something positive about Republicans in Congress before the scandal.

In the end, the poll never asked the questions that I wanted to answer. For instance:

    Do you think Mark Foley is:

    A) A slight embarrassment to gay people everywhere, like Lance Bass
    B) A general embarrassment to gay people everywhere, like James McGreevy
    C) A major embarrassment to gay people everywhere, like Jeff Gannon
    C) A carnival freak show, like Mary Cheney

Or questions like:

    How would you rate the media coverage of this event?
    A) Slightly homophobic
    B) Seriously homophobic
    C) Profoundly homophobic
    D) They-are-coming-for-you-in-the-middle-of-the-night-wearing-sheets homophobic

Come on, pollsters, ask me what I really think.

I don’t seem to be alone in my poll quest. In many ways, it strikes me as a distinctly American quality of me.

Somebody must have taken a poll and determined that Americans love polls. Political parties now send out fake polls as a means to solicit donations. All the news shows have some poll question as part of their basic format now. These are the polls at their worst. They ask people to make snap decisions, usually without any knowledge of the question. “Hey [insert city],” some perky anchor says, “We just gave thirty seconds worth of information and almost no concrete evidence about a capital punishment case. Now we want to know what you think. Phone and press #1 if you think Joe Smith should fry in the electric chair or dial #2 if you think Joe Smith should get lethal injection. Results at 11."

It must give us a sense of democracy or something to be asked to be in a poll. Sure, most Americans don’t bother to vote in actual elections or protect the real republic. Put up a 1-976 number, though, and we can’t dial fast enough.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Free to Be You and Me

Over the weekend I attended a presentation about the status of Academic Freedom in United States universities. Loosely defined, Academic Freedom refers to the right of professors in academic institutions to research and teach their beliefs without their livelihood being placed in jeopardy by those who disagree. At my weekend event, the speaker and audience did a great deal of hand wringing about the rising, and increasingly hysterical, attacks on humanities in the university. Something feels amiss, though, about how the left has decided to grapple with the newest threats to Academic Freedom.

For those who don’t know, the more recent salvos against Academic Freedom started in the early nineties with a former-liberal-turned-neoconservative named David Horowitz. In essence, Horowitz claimed that university-level humanities departments had become secret havens for Democrats. He further put forward (without any real evidence) the outlandish claim that these same faculty keep conservatives out, deprive them of funding, and openly indoctrinate their students to blindly vote Democrat. In an unexpected twist, Horowitz and crew claim their own Academic Freedom is being impinged.

I grow tired of those on the political right whining about their imaginary persecution. If we lefty faculty have the power to convert students’ political ideologies, we are doing a terrible job of it. Just look at the state of the nation – Do you really think that we would allow that to occur if we ruled the current generation of university students? Instead, university campuses are hot-beds of political indifference.

A faithful reader recently sent me a link to an editorial featured in the Chronicle of Education. A pale-knock-off of Horowitz, this author uses a dancing metaphor to discuss teaching. Dripping with condescension, he claims that academics on the left dance “an abomination: mimes pretending to defy gravity, tearing holes through figurative walls without even breaking a sweat, or collapsing in the middle of a performance into ironic 'metagiggles.'"

Meanwhile, he claimed that neoconservatives, like himself, “were enchanted by the unapologetically proud and earnest grands battements (big kicks) of old-school ballet. Here, indeed, was a physical form of expression that could do justice to the ideological elegance of the Ol' Gipper and 'trickle down' economics.”

Yet,he claimed that he had to “hide” this political/jiggy inclination as a junior professor. “What cruel institution,” you ask, “kept this man so terrified? Where did he suffer the yoke of liberalism? Where does this academic reside?” The answer: Brigham Young University.

Yes, that bastian of liberal thinking, BYU, allegedly kept this poor helpless neo-con in the political closet. I am sorry, but where could he have possibly been more comfortable? Bob Jones University? This silly editorial just suggests how conservatives have come to believe in their own imaginary persecution no matter their actual reality. They have mistaken being challenged in their beliefs with being silenced.

Don’t get me wrong. Many people of the left have a hard time letting the right speak. There have been some (though few) incidents in which the left has taken a low road and wrongly tried to silence the right on university campuses. These are not frequent, but do undermine the goals of universities as places of intellectual exchange.

In truth, however, I don’t think that neo-cons really care about the mission of universities. They use a thin veneer of academic lingo to mask their actual intent: to control knowledge. Neo-conservative academics are not interested in “leveling the academic playing field.” Rather, they want to bulldoze that field and build a gas station.

The left has not come up with good responses to these attacks. Either the left tries to “prove” their lack of bias (an always losing strategy) or they cave into the neo-conservative demands (usually as a way to prove their lack of bias).

In many ways, my history classes probably would be the right-wing’s worst nightmares. I eschew standard text books. Instead, I ask students to read histories about groups of Americans often omitted or given cursory attention in traditional U.S. histories. We read texts on Latinos, African Americans, gays and lesbians, Asians, and so forth. Contrary to neoconservatives’ fantasies, race, gender, and sexuality all influenced the way historical individuals came to understand the meaning of their life in the United States.

On more than one occasion, I have had complaints filed against me in the dean’s office accusing me of “indoctrinating.” The right’s vision of “not indoctrinating” seems to really mean that we should never hear or learn from people different from themselves. To my university’s credit, they have always supported me.

I think that we need to move discussions about Academic Freedom away from the defensive posture given to us by the right. Every new class has me start by explicitly outlining my background, sexuality, and historical perspective. I am as candid as possible with the students because, after all, my goal is to get them to engage and think about the materials in the class themselves. All of my cards are on the table. They can make their own decisions about my perspective. Contrary to popular belief, I am not looking to brainwash them into being mini-GayProfs (they usually become mini-GayProfs of their own accord).

Reading different historians' perspectives on race, gender, and sexuality offers students a particular set of tools. I don't claim that this tool box is an absolute guide to TRUTH. Our current methodologies will become outdated one day. Still, that tool box allows students to question social relations of power, government authority, imperialism, and resistance. Students have a chance to find out what that vision of the past looks like and for us to talk about it as a group. If it ultimately doesn’t appeal to some of them, that’s cool.

Our dancing editorialist, however, reveals something about his own teaching strategy as well. From his own words, it seems quite clear that he envisions the classroom as a place where he gets to indoctrinate students to his right-wing beliefs. He masks his intent with flowery language, but his mission is clear. With the freedom of tenure (“barely” earned, according to the author himself, suggesting a shaky research agenda (but that’s another issue), he felt at liberty to perform “an athletic, 15-minute-long, tightly choreographed celebration of the war on terrorism.” If we wash away the fanciful imagery, what he is really saying is that he used his classroom as a pulpit to announce his support of the current administration’s policies. Would Horowitz cry foul? Probably not.

You know what? I am okay with that, but not because I agree with him (obviously I think the man is delusional and probably belongs at BYU). Unlike those on the right, however, my own political ideology is not threatened knowing that he is expressing his viewpoint in the classroom.

My politics inform my research and my research informs my politics. It would be impossible for me, as a Latino historian, to disentangle those two components. Unlike the BYU Baryshinkov, though, I am not trying to dazzle or trick students into my political ideas. Instead, I think all of us on the left need to own our political perspective and be open about how it influences our teaching. Students are smart enough to decide what to do with that information.

Finally, there are many reasons why conservatives might not be in the humanities in great numbers that are less conspiratorial than Horowitz’s notions. One of the primary reasons could be that those attracted to right-wing politics are also inclined to want to make lots of money. Trust me – a career as a historian is not the fast-track to owning your own island. If I am lucky, I might be able to make a down payment on a Vespa – in ten years.

Another reason that conservatives find themselves outnumbered could also be related to the transformative power of learning itself. More education in the humanities means learning more about different people’s experiences and perspectives. At a certain point, that knowledge makes holding onto narrow, xenophobic, triumphalistic visions of the U.S. untenable.

Perhaps, though, the right-wing knows this to be true. That is why they want to stop universities from offering such knowledge.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Prinze and the Pauper

We are in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. To fufill their PSA obligations, this usually sends networks scrambling to try and come up with Latino historical figures important to this nation. In reality, there are lots to choose from, of course. Given that most Americans never really learned about any Latinos in school, however, networks end up choosing some pretty dubious figures. Inevitably we are stuck being associated with Latinos whom we would rather not claim.

One of the perennial favorites tends to be Fray Junípero Serra. Popular culture often credits Serra with “founding” [Alta] California. Of course, such an interpretation presumes that Native Americans who already resided in Alta California were unfounded.

Without doubt, Serra had energy and did establish an astounding string of Indian Enslavement Camps Catholic Missions. The truth is, though, that even in the eighteenth century most people considered Serra kinda nuts.

Serra had an obsession for Franciscan friars who ventured into places like New Mexico in the previous century. Seventeenth-century missionaries who found themselves whacked martyred in pursuit of religious conversion really got Serra’s blood pumping.

Times had changed, though, by the time Serra came on the scene. The eighteenth-century had that pesky title of the “Age of Enlightenment.” Throughout Spain and its colonies (including New Mexico), people shunned the excesses of the previous century. Not good ol’ Junípero, though. One could imagine a typical conversation at the annual Missionary Convention, probably held in Las Vegas. “Oh, Junípero,” one of his colleagues would say, “You aren’t really wanting to get your body filled with arrows like Saint Sebastian, are you? That is so 1680. Oh.My.God. Is that a hair shirt? Where did you even get that? You crazy.”

What did the Catholic Church do with a clergy man known to be a bit out of his head? Of course, they kept transferring him. Eventually, he ended up in Alta California, much to the chagrin of the Pomo.

Yeah, that’s who we get for Hispanic Heritage Month: Looney, itchy, Indian-enslaving Junípero Serra. He did not even come from Latin America, by the way. He was born in Spain. Of course, American High Schoolers’ knowledge of geography leaves them unable to tell the difference between Spain and Mexico on a globe – so it really doesn't make a difference I suppose.

Don’t mistake my writing this with surprise that the mass media has yet to come to terms with Latinos in the U.S. Almost every night at the gym I am subjected to Lou Dobbs’ hysterical paranoia over Mexican immigration. I have had an ambivalent relationship with the media almost literally since I was born.

Just a few months after my glorious entrance into this world (the day the earth shook with goodness), NBC debuted the television program Chico and the Man. Not since Ricky Ricardo had a Latino had a major role on a televison show. This time, the network promised that the show would be “different.” Chico and the Man, network executives claimed, acknowledged the Chicano movement. NBC said they listened to demands of young Mexican Americans everywhere for more representation. It would offer a show that spoofed racist assumptions about Mexican Americans in the same spirit as All in the Family.

NBC might have listened to the angry voices in the Chicano movement, but clearly they were tone deaf. The resulting show really just gave us another “good minority” who happily enjoys his own oppression. Even the title character, “Chico,” was another way of naming all Latino men “Boy.”

By the time I had any memories of Chico and the Man, it had already gone to syndication. My parents, though, had this notion of “supporting” anything that had prominent Latino figures in it. Supporting, in this case, meant watching. Besides Chico and the Man was basically the only thing with a prominent Latino figure on television, at least until Lynda Carter appeared in Wonder Woman – Yep, she’s one of us. Surprised? We weren’t.

For those who never saw Chico and the Man, the premise went like this: Chico, played by the stand-up comic Freddie Prinze, doesn’t believe that “the man,” played by Jack Albertson, is really as miserable as the entire barrio claims. Sure, Ed (the man) constantly berates Mexicans/Mexican Americans, uses derogatory terms like “beaner,” and generally shows himself to be hateful to all Latinos. Ed says that back in his day, “Mexicans knew their place: Mexico.”

Chico, though, is a Chicano with a heart of gold (and a Silver Star from his duty in Vietnam!). No matter how many times Ed (the man) tells Chico to shove off, he just keeps coming back for more. Ed could be spiteful and hideous, but Chico never got fed up or even annoyed. Chico just kept smiling and cracking jokes. He is glad, glad, GLAD to be helping Ed (the man).

Chico’s only ambition in life was to work in Ed’s garage. In fact, he liked it so much that he worked for free! Like all good Chicanos should, Chico makes it his life mission to help the man. He starts by breaking into Ed’s garage in the middle of the night so that he can clean it. He even put flowers out in honor of Ed’s deceased wife.

Not earning a direct paycheck from Ed makes it tough for Chico to, you know, eat and stuff. Not to be dissuaded by pesky poverty, though, the selfless Chico more than happily takes up residence in an abandoned van. He cheerfully takes baths with a hose in the men’s room sink. No, I am not making this up – That is literally the pilot episode.

Chico, of course, was the “exceptional” Mexican American figure in the show. All of the other Latinos who surrounded Chico lived up to the usual stereotypes. His father deserted Chico when he was a youngster (though he later shows up in the third season and turns out to be Cesar Romero and a wealthy business man (in that order)). Chico’s best friend, Mando, always has a scheme at play. None of the other Latinos who appear in the show ever seem to have jobs. Only Chico – and he, as we already established, works for free!

Even the theme song, belted out by none other than José Feliciano, calls for Chico to “not be discouraged because the man ain’t so hard to understand.” Yeah, you pesky Chicano radicals wanting equality and stuff. What’s your problem? The man has it tough too! It ain’t easy out here for the man. The song also explicitly tells Chico that “you can lend a helping hand” to the man.

Chico told young Latinos everywhere to not rock the boat. Keep quiet, be a doormat for the man, and, though deferred, gratification will come your way. And we thought Serra was a flagellant!

Because of Chico and the Man, and maybe Chico’s extremely tight jeans, I have always had a peculiar interest in Freddie Prinze. It became even greater when I found out that Prinze was of mixed ancestry (Just like me!). Prinze was half Euro-American and half Puerto Rican (Not like me -- Mexican/Irish Ameican). Contrary to popular belief, Prinze was not Chicano – He just played one on t.v. Apparently the producers of the show figured that all Latinos were interchangeable. Puerto Rican? Mexican American? Whatever.

Before Chico, Prinze had been an extremely popular comic. His routines focused on the foibles of racism and being of mixed ancestry. Imagine a 1970s Puerto-Rican version of Dave Chappell. Prinze gained tremendous fame and even landed stints guest-hosting the Tonight Show for Johnny Carson.

He also became embroiled in drugs sometime during the filiming of Chico and the Man. Many people suggest that the drugs led to his suicide. I, on the other hand, tend to point to playing Chico as the potential cause for the suicide. Interestingly, in the last episode that Prinze filmed the day he shot himself, Chico finally tells Ed (the Man) that he has had enough of being mistreated. Of course, later in the episode, Chico sort of forgot about it and throws Ed (the Man) a big party.

Perhaps as a good bookmark, Prinze’s son, Freddie Prinze, Jr. tried to launch his own sitcom this past year. After Prinze’s death, his ex-wife took their young son the only place in the U.S. that many Latinos considered a safe zone: New Mexico. Freddie Prinze, Jr. grew up in Albuquerque (Just Like Me!). He, though, went to the "rich" high school (La Cueva). I did not.

Prinze, Sr. built a career on playing with his Latino identity. Prinze, Jr, however, frequently shunned being identified as “Latino.” At least he avoided it until it seemingly became marketable. Then he was more than happy to try to cash in on his father’s name and heritage with his own television program. Mercifully this show only lasted one season.

I thought by 2006 that network television would give us a better and more diverse vision of Latinos. Instead, we are left with the same sparse and recycled images that I had when I was three years old.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bring it Back

Comments from the "Tapped" post got me to thinking about just what it would require to bring sexy back. Though Justin Timberlake's lyrics promise that he’s bringing sexy back, I am not sure the rest of the song really offers a concrete plan. There are some vague promises of VIP drinks, shackles, and a claim that he will “pick up the slack” to bring sexy back. Hey – Somebody found a rhyming dictionary.

If Justin Timberlake can’t do it, who can? Well, of course, we shouldn’t depend on an international singing star who also is frequently cited by the press and average people as a sex object. No, no. Instead, we should look for answers from an obscure queer professor with an obtuse blog. Clearly that’s where the sexy will come back.

Laura Elizabeth suggested that pictures of a tuxedo-clad GayProf would help on this front. Hmm – The last time I wore a tuxedo would have been for my High School Senior Prom.

I don’t think that this image would aid the effort of bringing sexy back – unless you happen to be Mark Foley. To answer your questions: Yes, I really went to my senior prom (and homecoming, and junior prom). Yes, I went with a girl (as just friends). No, I wasn’t “out” in high school. Yes, those really are heart-shaped balloons in the background. No, I don’t think that they still use pig bladders to make balloons anymore.

So, clearly ancient tux pictures of GayProf aren’t going to work. Here, though, are my humble suggestions for actually bringing sexy back to the world:

    The following words will be banned from romantic encounters: stick, it, rump, milkshake, and monocle. I recognize that this rules out Mr. Peanut and Colonel Klink from being sexy. Tough choices had to be made.

    Anybody of mixed Latino and Euro-American ancestry automatically has the title “sexy.”

    Mandatory intelligence testing to qualify for the term “sexy.” Don’t get me wrong, dumb can still be hot under the right circumstances – just not sexy per se. Once you pass your i.q. test, I think you should get a little sticker for your driver’s license that says you are eligible for, but not guaranteed, the title “ sexy.”

    I will grant that smoking looks cool. In the end, though, it kills sexy. All us non-smokers have kissed smokers. It’s a lot like licking an ashtray. No amount of mint gum changes that either. It just becomes an ashtray with a gob of used gum.

    All men and women who come under the term “sexy” must have a working knowledge of proper grooming and know the value of conditioner for their hair.

    Using childhood terms and/or proper names to refer to your or your partner’s genitalia will not be allowed during naked playtime.

    Using the term “genitalia” will not be allowed during naked playtime.

    Nobody with the last name “Bush” will ever be allowed to have sex again – ever. Even knowing that the Bush clan had sex ruins it for the rest of us. Who can even think “sexy” with the knowledge that Barbara once had her knees on the tiles for George senior? **Shudder**

    Strippers will need to attend a special college to perfect their techniques. None of this, “Well, you have an okay body and a passable face – Now get up on the stage and see how many people shove dollar bills into your crotch.” Sexy doesn’t have a chance in an amateur’s hands. I want some professional training for those strippers. Hey, not all of them will have to go through the full four-year university program. There can be a two-year associate degree program. Let’s have a hierarchy like with nurses. You can opt to be a LPS (Licenced Practical Stripper) or a RS (Registered Stripper). If you need to know which one you are dealing with, look for the dark stripes as they swing around on the pole.

    If anybody on this planet can refer to you as their “liar ex,” you forfeit one testicle or one ovary. Oh, wait, that’s not about bringing sexy back. That’s about bringing revenge back. Sorry – I’ll stay focused.

    When it comes to appearance, I don’t think there is a magic formal to sexy. No, no. You just have to look like Del Marquis, Thomas Lloyd, or Anderson Cooper. That’s good enough for me.

    Coffee and tea will only be served in actual glass or ceramic cups, preferably with a saucer. No more paper for critical beverages. Oh, wait, that’s about restoring dignity to us, not sexy. Damn! I keep getting distracted.

    Diamond companies will be forbidden from implying that sexy can be purchased in their advertisements. Actually, they might just be flat-out saying that sex can be purchased. I say, go to a prostitute and cut out the jeweler-middle man.

    The ability to vacuum and load a dishwasher properly should never be underestimated as sexy.

    Free liquor for everybody. Consumed properly, liquor makes everything and everybody sexy. Or you just stop giving a fuck - whatever.

    The new sexiest thing? One word: Gravitas.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


We all face the same cycles when blogging. At times, the inspiration leaves us and we are left without anything pithy and provocative to say. “Not you, GayProf,” I hear you exclaiming, “You are not like the other bloggers. Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in the blogosphere.” Then I hear you saying, “GayProf we might be getting a bit tired of that joke. Maybe it was funny the first twenty times.”

To which I say, “What joke?” I first realized that I must be God when I was praying. Suddenly it became obvious that I was just talking to myself.

Still, even I get stuck from time to time. Here are some signs that my creative well might have run temporarily dry:

    I have contemplated an entry devoted entirely to my dishwasher.

    I am watching television shows that I would normally avoid out of hopes of finding something to critique.

    Reposting old posts no longer strikes me as lazy. Heck, nobody even read this blog for the first month anyway. It would be all new to you.

    Much of my time is spent blaming the previous administration for my own obvious shortcomings rather than posting new entries.

    I have run out of ways to try to convince people to refer to me as the most desirable man on the blogosphere.

    Searching the internet for what ever happened to Gil Gerard does not feel like a waste of time.

    People are making comparisons to Ernest Hemingway’s dry period. Well, okay, that’s only happening in my own mind. Those comparisons might also be based merely on the amount of liquor that I consume rather than anything else.

    I have thought about outsourcing this blog to India or South Korea.

    All of my e-mails have been answered in a timely manner.

    I contemplated an entry debating whether Justin Timberlake has the requisite skills to bring sexy back.

    Finding a way to be arrested seems like a good way to get a solid, yet humorous, entry.

    I am seeking out actual human contact.

    I am blogging about my inability to blog.

    I am actually doing work related to my job.

Not entertained? Eh – Like teaching, I have found it’s easier just to show videos when feeling tapped out.

Feel free to debate the fraught Nubia. Personally, I am disturbed that the children’s play time is defined by both race and gender: