Thursday, March 08, 2007

Not Gay, But Queer

Ann Coulter’s grade-school intelligence and vocabulary has suddenly taken second-stage to another queer event at the CPAC. Who knew that this relatively unknown extremist right-wing convention would result in so much queer fodder?

During the CPAC conference, for those who aren’t plugged in, the far right fell over themselves to honor a Marine, Matt Sánchez, who cried foul at Columbia University. Well, if there is one thing that we gay boys like to do, it’s to play Angela Lansbury. After some digging, gay sleuths deduced that Sánchez had starred in some well-known gay porn. When that didn’t pay his bills, he also worked as a prostitute (As an aside, why does the media always refer to male prostitutes as “escorts” but women prostitutes as “prostitutes?”) The exact history of how these revelations came to light are a bit murky to me, but Joe.My.God put a spotlight on it. He also caught an interview with Sánchez.

This news certainly has me upset. Next time I hire a male prostitute, I am going to ask to see his voter registration card. Porn? Prostitution? Why are these conservatives infiltrating our most basic cultural institutions? Won’t somebody think of the non-children? Do Republicans hold nothing sacred?

When the hypocrisy of any queer is exposed, it always brings up some unsettled issues about outing, politics, and individual desire. As Atari points out, though, this isn’t about a former lover selling his tell-all story about the Marine. Sánchez produced images where he had sex with other men. He knew that they would circulate as a matter of public record. That’s not really an “outing” as much as it is a video rental.

One interesting element about the whole debate is the way that Sánchez’s racial identity has been subsumed or now lacks comment in relation to the porn issue. Yet, in the initial confrontation at Columbia, race played a critical factor in Sánchez’s rise to [minor] fame.

Sánchez, who identifies as Puerto Rican, stated that his racial identity became a salient issue in his conflict with other students at Columbia. According to Sánchez, an Anglo student at Columbia accused the military of using “minorities as cannon fodder” and told Sánchez, “You're too stupid to know that you're being used.” Sánchez and another Marine officer candidate, Marx Xue, stated explicitly that they believed racism to be an instrumental factor and felt harassed. "They were telling him that he was stupid and ignorant, that he was being brainwashed and used for being a minority in the military," Xue said, "Regardless of what you think about military recruiters, those comments were racially motivated."

It’s a forgone conclusion that I would probably not agree with Sánchez on any major political issue; however, I think his circumstances did suggest certain racist presumptions that exist among some people on the left (and right). I have little doubt that the lefty Anglo student in question probably did not have a sophisticated or complicated way of imagining race in the United States. To presume that any minority who serves in the military is simply “stupid” shows a serious lack of understanding about the motivations that individual people of color have for joining the armed forces.

One can argue that complicated economic and institutional structures exist in the U.S. that leave few other options for minorities (and many poor whites). That should not, however, discount that individuals are making conscious and clear choices. Some see it as their only means to improve their economic standing. Others see it as a genuine sense of patriotic duty (or a combination of the two). Only white middle-class privilege would presume to know better than the actual people in that situation.

In this way, Sánchez had an opportunity to create a real dialogue about race, nation and military service. Goddess knows that the nation is starved for such a discussion. Unfortunately, Sánchez decided not to pursue that route. Rather than calling for a deeper discourse, Sánchez called for an end to discussion. He wanted those who held a contrary view to him to be silenced, even punished. A position that ironically won him a “Free Speech” award from the right-wing CPAC.

Certainly there is not the same discussion about people on the left being harassed on conservative college campuses. At my former institution in Texas, for example, faculty (including myself) received many jeers and condemnation for opposing the poorly planned and executed military action in Iraq. Guess what, kiddies, that’s life in an open society. Rather than seeking some sort of retribution from those who disagree, our job is to refocus the discussion and debate. We can point out the foibles in their thinking, but telling them to simply shut-up is a mistake.

Sánchez, however, used convoluted arguments about “diversity” in an effort to make his own voice dominant. Sánchez never really engaged with Columbia’s institutional notions of diversity (which are probably not serving the interests of minority students, but not in the ways that Sánchez imagines). Instead, Sánchez mocked viewpoints different from his own. In an op-ed piece for the New York Post, Sánchez wrote, “ The university has chalked it up to free speech. All points of view are welcome at Columbia, from Venezuelan presidents to voices from vaginas. Unless you're in the military.” Yet, Sánchez has given little or no evidence that the administration has refused his right to voice his opinion. I have not seen or read anything where Sánchez’s right to free speech has been impugned. Instead, the subtext of his argument is that he has deemed viewpoints other than his own as less valuable and worthy of scorn. His argument seems to be that he expects the university to silence people who disagree with him.

Now Sánchez is feeling harassed again. Or he is building buzz for his book deal. I can’t really tell.

To his credit, he has not shied away from the discussion or entered re-hab to avoid the press. Still, he has allowed his own political ideology and individual ambition to short-cut another real potential for discussion about sex-workers in the United States. There is probably a great deal that we can learn from Sánchez’s experiences in the porn world. Sánchez makes a gesture to the bad circumstances that porn workers face. In the end, though, he made the issue more about justifying his own political ideology and decisions than critically examining the exploitation of sex workers.

In a clumsy political gesture, Sánchez made the bizarre claim that he didn’t like porn because of its “liberalism.” Both Republicans and Democrats purchase porn, as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force pointed out in response to Sánchez. In the United States, it is estimated that porn is a $10 billion per year business. That’s a lot of porn and I don’t think it’s just us lefties who are buying it up. The right, however, undercuts sexual freedom and keeps sex-workers unprotected and at the lowest rungs of society.

Sánchez’s efforts to explain his involvement in porn felt disingenuous. He frames those past activities as part of an alleged “progressive” growth in his personal character. Moreover, he disassociates himself from other queer people. Joe.My.God. asked Sánchez if he considered himself gay. “Boyfriends: 0 Fiancé: 2 Wife: 1,” Sánchez responded, “I'd say I'm pretty bad at being gay.” Pretty bad? I would say he was down-right lousy at being gay. Clearly he just isn’t trying hard enough.

Whatever the case, doing gay porn doesn’t necessarily make Sánchez “gay.” However, it sure as hell means that he can’t claim to be straight either. Face it, buddy, you are firmly in the queer camp even if you never touch another man’s penis until the day you die. Neo-cons might be nice to you as an individual, but they are kicking the shit out of us as a group.

Sánchez faces scrutiny because his political choices betray people like himself. He used an accusation of racist harassment at Columbia as means to promote his individual ambition. Yet, he supports a racist political system that keeps Puerto Ricans from attaining full equality (It’s probably not necessary to point out, but Puerto Ricans on the island are still administered as basically a U.S. colony (with the sanitized title of “commonwealth”). Puerto Ricans, though U.S. citizens, are unable to vote in national elections unless they move to the mainland).

Likewise, the Marine made a living off of gay men’s lust, but now aligns himself with a party that wants to deprive those same men of their rights. While I respect his right to hold whatever political view he desires, he should not be surprised that such views will be seen as self-serving and hypocritical.


Anonymous said...

This was an excellent summation of this entire Sanchez carnival (but what's with the Sánchez?).

I especially liked: "you are firmly in the queer camp even if you never touch another man’s penis until the day you die." Amen to that.

Anonymous said...

One part of your post that stood out to me was his claim that while conservatives may respect him as as individual, they are kicking the shit out of us as a group. One of Sanchez's rhetorical themes in his response today on Salon was his enthusiasm for the conservative focus on the individual, as opposed to the supposed groupthink of the Left. In my experience, most libertarian-identified conservatives come from a place of being disenchanted with the Left because the group-based narratives we supposedly use to frame oppression leaves them feeling alienated.

In Sanchez's case, I'm guessing there's dissatisfaction with both his Puerto Rican and gay identities at work. Too bad he lacks the imagination to see how one's individual experience varies while the larger narrative holds, and that he's shilling for a group that wants to make vital aspects of who he really is vanish like they never existed.

tornwordo said...

This is the first I've heard of these people, lol. It's too cold to pay attention. (Very well written!)

Anonymous said...

After reading about Sanchez all day on the blogsphere I wish I just had of waited until you posted about it and saved myself the time.

Bravo gay prof for another great post. Your like a Microsoft Word Autosummarize feature that actually works.

ChristopherM said...

Didn't George H.W. refer to Jeb's kids as "the little brown ones"? It is a good thing all this came out, otherwise Sanchez would be loved and embraced by the right wing for selling out his racial identity. Now he gets to be that porn convert. What progress!

By the way, Gayprof, I'm obsessed with Mika to an extreme degree. Good choice.

Doug said...

Perhaps I misunderstood, but it sounds like you're suprised and disappointed that he put his own personal aspirations above those of the greater community (be it gay, Puerto Rican, or military).

Hmmm...upcoming book, needs publicity, did porn and prostitution but isn't "really gay," attends right-wing nutjob convention....not sensing a whole lot of ethics here.

(No offense intended to any current or former porn stars or prostitutes.)

Steve said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Jebus says it's not whoring, or gay, if you're a Republican.

Roger Owen Green said...

I'm curious if you've ever done a pieceon white Anglo skin privilege - you alluded to it in your piece.

Thanks for the news. I'd never heard this story at all, either.

TED said...

I read Sanchez' piece in the New York Post, and basically, his complaints about Columbia boil down to them not having prosecuted someone who protested at various military-related events and not having a post dedicated to helping military students cut through red tape. It's a lot of whining about nothing: he wants his free speech to be more protected than someone else's.

I do think this whole brouhaha is silly. He was a tiny footnote before his gay porn past was reported, and now he's a slightly larger footnote. The bottom line is probably that his agent is a lot happier now. He'll no longer be welcome addressing churches in the Bible belt, but his book sales should go up a lot, for no very good reason. He compares himself to Rich Merritt, who is a liberal former marine and porn star. I've read Merritt's book, and it's very tedious. He has no great insight into anything, and the salacious bits weren't even all that juicy.

Sanchez' porno past really is irrelevant to his current positions on pretty much everything. If he were out trying to get porn banned or trying to pass amendments to ban gay marriage, that would be something else. He's just another conservative blowhard (read his site sometime) and trying to make him into anything more or less is pointless. Though the whole incident does make me sad that we live in a world where a guy with an eleven-inch cock thinks that addressing CPAC is a big step up from starring in porn.

Antonio said...

Great post. Your examination of the situation brings to light all the silliness of the whole ordeal.

vuboq said...

Thanks for explaining all of this. I'd read about it briefly somewhere, and wondered what all the fuss was about (a lot of sites that talked about it, i.e. are blocked by the Evil Firewall of Doom).

I'd be interested in reading how you define "queer."

Anonymous said...

Really great summary!

Of course, I knew very little of the ethnic issues that overlapped his initial protest, nor it's significance.

Also, in the aftermath, it's incredibly encouraging to see how the National Gay/Lesbian Taskforce is approaching this: not with what MS expected (slings and arrows) but with actual support of his right to his own views and as a ringing condemnation of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

I would hope that now that he's essentially "out" (or something) he would join them in this common cause: dump DADT. 75% of active troops in the mideast agree. It would be great if he would go with his American ideals and be part of a very historic attitude shift in America, advancing equality for all.

Or he could just go on attacking gays and liberals.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, he doesn't consider himself gay, yet has starred in numerous hardcore gay films. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't being able to perform sexually one of the markers of gender identity? Another gay sleuth (perhaps Nancy Drew?) recently uncovered his Manhunt profile, (also published in JMG) which was apparently active until at least 12 days ago.

The old adage, if it walks like a duck...

I guess we should expect nothing more from a guy who can't even figure out his own sexuality.

GayProf said...

Kusala: Given my very poor spelling skills, I often over-compensate. Grammatically, Sánchez is correct, Sanchez is not. It's just a quirk of mine...

Huntington: Hmm -- I hadn't thought about things in this way. It is naïve of Sánchez if he thinks that group identities don't matter in this society. Moreover, he made an explicit argument that his racial identity was important at Columbia.

Torn: I am not sure that you are missing much by not paying attention to this.

Andrey: Aww, aren't you sweet.

Christopher: Yes, yes he did. It was a major issue in New Mexico during the 1992 campaign, fyi.

Doug: Yeah, I am probably not surprised, but I am disappointed. I would like to think that humanity, in general, is concerned about more than our own individual wants and needs. **Sigh**

Steve: Jesus did love a good whore, didn't he?

ROG: To my memory, I am not sure I have explicitly written about notions of white privliege. There is always the future, though...

Neighbors will Hear: Yeah, I read Rich Meritt's autobiography as well. Who knew that being a marine and a gay porn star could be so, well, boring? It was interesting to find out, though, that he knew Bob Jones (who GayProf might have gone to grad school with -- And I am not even Kevin Bacon).

Antonio: It is kinda silly, isn't it?

VUBOQ: Queer, for me, can be used as an umbrella term for all people whose desires and/or practices don't conform to the narrow definitions of "normal" sex and sexuality in our society.

Atari: It's amazing to me that DADT is still an issue for debate in this nation. With soldiers facing a lack of supplies and horrible medical treatment, they just don't seem all that concerned about a few homos fighting beside them.

Marlan: Well, I can't say what his sexuality is; however, I think we all could ask what happened to that first fiancé.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Thank you for bringing this to my attention and covering the aspects of it so well. I will just make three points:

1) The US military has not only had a tradition of using non-whites badly, the whole military tradition has had a history of using those of different class or societal backgrounds very badly (for example in WWI, officers were usually a foot taller than elisted men becuase they had eaten a balanced diet - middle upper and uppper classs).

2) Both left AND right, indeed the whole US make the sex trade simultanously one of the largest growing and one of the least protected - an interpol release recently found that 50% of all child porn sites worldwide are in the US - the problem is with some wierd historical values on sex passed down as law (like raping a 10 year old girl bad, having sex with your 10 year old sister....only a little bad).

3) Excuse me, Mr. Sanchez that in your attempt smear the "accepting" policy of the New York Post you slam 51% of the human population - hey, when a vagina starts talking, I WANT to listen.

TED said...

I'm not sure that the rules of grammar control in the case of proper names. Presumably, his name is spelled however he spells it.

Anonymous said...

Gay is as gay does? Perhaps he has chosen not to embrace the gay lifestyle.

Of course, saying that might be so (that a Marine choosing to do gay porn or choosing to have sex with a man for ca$h could be marginally more offensive than the implication behind saying "Jesus did love a good whore, didn't he?".

Of course He loved Mary Magdalene. Just as He loved all men and women, enough to die for them bearing God's just wrath for our sin.

Bruce said...

Great post and fine summation. but just three minor questions: 1) On the comments made by the Anglo student at Columbia, is it really accurate to term his comments racist? I agree fully with you that he was naive, mistaken, and unaware of the situation of people of color in the US, but is all error in conceptualizing a racial issue racist? Maybe so. But it seems that the intention of the Columbia student's comments were to protect, not to slander Sánchez's race. And 2) Sánchez is quite clearly a hypocrite, but most of us are guilty,to one extent or another, of hypocrisies, although not, hopefully, of the dimensions of Mr. Sánchez's. But the man is immensely stupid. Do you really think that he would be capable of carrying on the type of discussion that you propose, both on the race and on the sex issue? He obviously never even thought that his life as a gay porn star would even come out. Only someone of mind boggling arrogance and stuoidity could not be aware of this possibility. And 3) Shouldn't we, in the context of the Don't ask don't tell policy, be asking the military for a statement of position on using a gay porn star as a recruiter?

Anonymous said...

Sanchez's comments about how his right to free speech was challenged reminded me of other statements made by people who occupy the same spot on the ideological spectrum as him, particularly Orson Scott Card's insane argument that people writing that his articles are homophobic are equivalent to censorship, even when he's advocated imprisoning homosexuals.
I guess it just fits into the "persecution" cosmology ironically and happily used by the people who actually dominate the discourse.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad that we (as a society at large) have come to rely upon identity politics, race baiting and figuring out who's been sleeping with who ...

... instead of having discourse on the merits of the argument as well as the individual making his arguments.

Mike said...

A couple of points worth noting:

1. Sanchez' pose in the photo with him in his dark blues and blacks with arms folded is a rather fascist "look at me, I'm a marine, but, strong, tough, bigger than you" pose common in militarist societies. The same pose shirtless is on the cover of countless Falcon videos.

2. Glenn Greenwald posted a very interesting analysis of the right wing's "cult of the masculine." Much of the posture and posing is all illusion, the actual men (and women) behind the scorched earth rhetoric and ideology have a thin resume when it comes to actual military combat. The same could be said for the pen-pushing law school graduates who extol the "Free market" and children of neocons whose experience in actual labor and private enterprise is close to nil. Yes, hard work, manly muscles, and strong defense are great things for other people to do.

3. Puerto Rico, like Guam and the Philippines came to be possessions of the United States after the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War. (Cuba came with them, but they were granted independence...probably too much of a pain in the ass to hold onto.) The current plight of Puerto Ricans really ain't that bad, though. They repeated vote to retain the status quo. Independence is only demanded by about 10% of the population. Puerto Ricans get all the benefits of statehood except the taxes, which the people of the District of Columbia (myself included) have to pay.

4. Finally, most people get involved with identity politics for various reasons, but the main one is that the identity is itself placed upon them by a culture of preference for certain traits (skin color, sex, sexual orientation) and the marginalization that results from that. Christians, Muslims and Jews before them, all have practiced this for hundreds of years. Also, it is irritating that certain people think everyone else should espouse the "God as abusive and violent parent" religion that is modern Christianity. For Sanchez, if he decided he's not gay anymore, or never was, perhaps it is because he was raised in a religious tradition, either Catholic, Adventist, Pentacostal or Protestant, all which thrive on tiny Puerto Rico. Such conflicts put on a psyche at an early age set up a kid for conflict from the get-go.

CalGrad91 said...

Hot damn, I love my GayProf!!! Thinking about the size of your intellect makes me quite restless many a night (smile). I think your comments about Sanchez’s issues with identity are spot on. If one happens to be a connoisseur of nineties gay porn (okay, okay…but I was just coming out, so gimme a break, ok?) one would recognize Sanchez (aka “Rod Majors”) as a big name over at Falcon, a studio that was not then known for having a huge amount of racial diversity in their stable of actors. Sanchez clearly had no problem going along with the practice of marketing those people of color who don’t fit into an easily recognizable racial category as honorary whites suitable for placement on the box cover (darker skinned “ethnic” actors on the video cover decrease sales, I’m told) in order to make a few bucks. With that, it's no surprise really that now he seeks to capitalize on his identity in other ways.

This puts me in a quandary, o sage one. Granted, there is no shortage of porn actors, straight or gay, who leave the industry and find themselves through religion, and/or conservatism, etc. But there’s something especially icky to me about those guys who do gay porn and then actively align themselves with those who would deny us basic human rights. In my moments of more paranoid thinking, it rally creeps me out to think that I might one day recognize the jack-booted thug who comes to my door to put me on a truck for “relocation” as someone I saw in a video. For this reason, I have misgivings about the “live and let live” attitude some of us in the gay community have about the porn industry. What do you think?

Mike said...

There's plenty of people in our society willing to exploit others, and a greater number of people very willing to be exploited. In a celebrity culture, if you're good-looking, you're more likely to be vulnerable.

There's also a lot of narcissism in this story, and it's something that affects everyone in show business, porn business and the news media (and blogging.)

GayProf said...

Elizabeth: Have you heard about the idiot principle who suspended three women students from a New York school because they used the word "vagina?" You can read about it here.

Neighbors: Fair enough -- But we don't really know how Sánchez prefers to spell his name. Under those circumstances, I am going to go with what is actually correct.

Seeker: Mary Magdalen was not a prostitute. That was a mythology created by Christians.

Bruce: The student's comments imply a paternalism that suggests a certain racism. That student believed that he knew better than actual minorities how they should live their lives and also seemingly envisioned himself as their protectors.

Chad: It is interesting that people on the right really seem to enjoy being persecuted. So much so, they often invent it.

Mike: In the most recent vote on Puerto Rico, most voters chose the option "Something Else" over status quo, statehood, or independence. While vague, it does imply a certain unhappiness with the current situation. More over, the U.S. has often promised punitive economic actions should Puerto Rico seek idepenendence.

While it's true that Puerto Ricans don't pay federal income tax, this probably matters little to the poor on the island who receive significantly less services than actual states. The lack of tax benefits major corporations, especially drug companies, that have located on the island.

CalGrad: You are wise to seek the insights of GayProf. I am not sure, though, what the question is. We can't police the porn industry per se. I would suggest, though, that porn actors might be drawn into religion or ultra-conservative movements because of poor treatment in the industry. To avoid this problem, we probably need to learn more about their experiences. It requires more open discussion about porn's role in our society and the basic rights of all sex workers.

Mike2: I hate vain people. All of that attention seeking distracts people from providing enough attention to me.

Seeker Onos said...

Concerning M. Magdalene:

I'm neither say she was or was not guilty of adultery or prostitution.

I mentioned that because that seems to be a popular myth being propagated by some modern authors recently, that and the "M. Magdalene was Jesus' wife" bit.

She was especially devoted to Christ, and can/should be seen as a figure for how the true Bride of Christ should be devoted to Jesus (the "Bride of Christ" being an allegorical reference to the community of Christian believers).

However, there is nothing in Biblical canon to suggest that there was anything but a worshipful reverence on M. Magdalene's part toward Christ, and certainly no sinful attitudes of the flesh on Jesus's part (who was in all ways tempted, but did not sin -- Hebrews 4:15)

The Bible does mention that another woman (who by some traditions, is held to be M. Magdalene, although the Bible does not specifically name her) was about to be killed by stoning by a crowd of Pharisees who were trying to bait Jesus; His judgment of "let him who is without sin cast the first stone" effectively taught all people present that we are all sinners, and guilty before God:

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

That aside, how is it that there is so much contention over Sanchez's (sp. as is, I don't have a keyboard that can make the accent mark) ethnicity when in fact, pornography depicting people of colour or otherwise of a physical characteristic outside of the "White (sic) Abercrombie/Greek Youth" ideal remains a decidely fringe market?

That is, are we not all "disproportionately" white-Euro-American in our tastes, even in porn?

Does not our European heritage inform the greatest part of our American conscience, regardless if we are gay, straight, Christian, or whatever label we paste onto ourselves?

But Sanchez deosn't even get the benefit of being a minority to shield him from the vengeance of the Left "betrayed" by one of its (would-be) signal denizens.

Joshua said...

First of all, I want to thank you for writing such a well, thought-out piece. You did it in a manner without grandstanding attention to yourself (no mention of dating Sanchez back in the late 80's). But I am beginning to feel like the odd gayman out. Because Sanchez was not hating on us gays. If he were, I'd have to no problem handing him over to the republicans and DADT commission. But he wasn't. What he was doing is typical of so many. And I pity people in this predicament. I feel that the decent and human thing would've been to ignore his porn past. Hold onto it, and perhaps address it if he had started spewing hate towards our group. Because by trying to get back at the conservatives, the only one really hurt is this troubled man. And the only backlash I foresee is against the 'Progressive Gay Bloggers.' Like I said, I know no one, in my community, will agree with my stance. For if this information was that readily available (as the bloggers who broke this story claim); then why didn't they wait for a conservative to break the news? I dare to say that they didn't wait because they had an agenda. At any rate, thanks for this wonderful piece.

Joshua said...

Just a follow-up, or they could've confronted Sanchez privately. Obviously one of these bloggers had been corresponding by way of email. Instead these progressive gay bloggers made a big splash about it. Gloated about how it was #1 on MSNBC Countdown; and then pouted that they weren't credited for the story (on the telecast). Some even fought over who broke the story first!!!! Some talked about the advertising opportunities, etc. Another bragged that he got 10,000 hits that day. So, I guess I'm saying that it leaves me disappointed in those SCREAMING HYPOCRITE THE LOUDEST. Cheers