Sunday, November 25, 2007


Dating is complicated. I don’t mean “complicated” in the same sense that figuring out how to keep a skyscraper from falling over is complicated. I mean "complicated" in a way that doesn’t involve long equations or the potential for mass carnage. It’s complicated in a way that’s confusing. Every single person I know seems like they are in a constant state of uncertainty.

In the gay world, there seems to be three dominant modes of “dating/hooking up.” The first are those who are in a search/quest/life-mission for a long term relationship (LTR). They look at every date/encounter as the potential start of a thirty-year partnership. As a subcategory, there are those who want that LTR to be entirely exclusive. They won’t shy away from bringing up the question of monogamy on the first date – sometimes before the soup even arrives at the table.

The next group are those who seek the entirely opposite. Only random encounters inform their desires. He might spend the evening at your place reenacting that special scene from his favorite Falcon video (the one that involves a serious investment in lube and (hopefully) yoga stretches before hand). Yet, he considers shaking hands the next morning “just too much pressure for a relationship.”

The last group is the ever-favorite fuck-buddy (FB) relationship. Who doesn’t like a friend who is willing to lend a helping hand? As a Boston friend of mine points out, the winters are mighty long in the north. The cold nights pass much more comfortable with a friend providing warmth.

Still, the FB doesn’t appear as easy to pull off (no pun intended) as it seems. It has generally turned out, in my limited experience, that somebody ultimately thought of the sex as more than just a way to pass the time despite their claims otherwise. It’s all fun and games until you discover your FB rummaging through your garbage in the middle of the night with a flashlight and an auger. I am sure that many, many other people master the FB relationship without such trauma. I am quite jealous of them.

This is not to say that I think any of these three (or more) models for dating is better than the others. I really think that people want different things from sex/love/ companionship. Some imagine that every stranger is a potential partner for a ready-made relationship . Others want to make out with strangers in a pool of Redi-Whip. It’s all about choices and knowing what you really want. Then you have to find the person(s) who share that same outlook and be honest with them.

My problem, though, is two-fold. First, I am not entirely certain what I want at this particular moment. This, by itself, should be an immediate red-flag to anybody who wants more than to be my FB. While I generally think I want another LTR at some point in my life, I have noticed that when a viable option for one appears (like recently), I retreat. Sure, there have been occasional exceptions – Usually those have involved remarkably poor decision making on my part. Overall, though, I have become down-right queasy when somebody I am seeing starts pushing for a LTR (and they often start pushing right away).

This brings me to the second problem, which is my concern for those who pursue a LTR without much introspection. I understand fully those who pursue the casual encounter. Indeed, some of my most enjoyable memories of a “romantic” bent over the past couple of years have been short-term. I also understand (at least in theory) those who want to be a FB. Those who push for a LTR, however, often make me leery. This is not because I think LTR’s are bad or doomed to failure per se (although. . .). I do think, however, that the desire for a LTR often appears as a default without much consideration about why the person is pursuing it.

In many ways, our society puts tremendous pressure on everybody to be in a LTR. To be sure, it’s even worse for heteros whose entire worth is currently linked to their LTR status and desire/ability to have children (but that is another entry entirely). Gays at least know that other options are out there beyond the LTR. Despite that knowledge, the overall pressure for a LTR often permeates everything. This results, I think, in many people seeking a LTR without really considering if a) that is actually the mode of relationship that works best for them or b) that a person who is willing to get naked with them is not really signaling that they are on the same-page romantically.

Many men that I encounter see the world only as a dichotomy. Like Heidi Klum, they say that you either "in [a relationship] or you are out." They want to instantly jump to “boyfriends” with the understanding that we would be working on becoming a “Mr. & Mr.” (Or, in my case, “Mr. and Dr.”, thank you very much)). Why, I wonder, can’t there just be simple dating? Sort of a grey area between the FB and the LTR?

For right now, I want a relationship that has affection, but is not crushingly serious. Something that involves plenty of naked time, but doesn’t require that we spend every waking moment together. I want to date without the topic of a LTR even being on the table. You know, something where we have fun together, but that doesn’t involve a lot of heavy questions about “the future.”

You know, nothing turns me off more than a guy who asks too many of those “relationship” questions. Things like, “Where is this heading?” Or, “What’s your name?”

Probably my personal hesitancy about a LTR involves both my past and future. In the first year after the end of my eight-year relationship, I really wasn’t into the notion of another LTR. Indeed, I think it would have been a remarkably dumb individual who would jump instantly into another LTR after all of that time with one person. Now that more time has passed (almost two years!), that seems less immediate. Still, I am quite leery about making the same mistakes (and concerned that I have already repeated them, though on a smaller scale, with some people).

More important than my past, however, is that I am not imagining any element of my future. Right now, I have only a single goal: to finish the never ending research project of doom. Will I still have this job? Will I move? Will I find true love? Will I die my hair? Will I buy milk tomorrow? None of these questions matter to me. All that concerns me is finishing that research project. What happens after that point, I can’t (and won’t) think about right now. Romantic relationships certainly involve too much effort of projecting myself into the future.

When I have explained this (as I have always been committed to honesty), it has often been received as a challenge to convince me of the need for a LTR. This, by the way, is always a bad strategy. Never presume to know better than the person you are dating, especially if that person is GayProf. When this occurs, I suddenly become the reincarnation of Greta Garbo and "want to be alone."

The other problem with those who push instantly for a LTR is that I most often think that we don't really know each other. There is a big danger that they learn just enough about me that they think I am great for them. While I generally agree that I am the cutest thing in shoe leather, I am concerned that they fill in all the gaps in their knowledge with what they want to be true. It's easier than the months of work to actually figure somebody out.

Of course, there are more than just these three crude outlines of what gay men are looking to find in “dating.” There are thousands and thousands of other ways that people organize their personal lives. These include, but are not limited to, triads, open LTR’s, serial monogamy, etc., etc. By far, though, the majority of single gay men out in the dating world probably identify their interests with one of those first three. Of those three, Midwestern Funky Town is dominated by those seeking a LTR (preferably with an individual who enjoys camping).

What does that mean for me? I am not sure. As I said, dating is complicated.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

No Thanks

Today, the U.S. celebrates “Thanksgiving Day.” Much about this holiday always left me feeling ambivalent, even as a child. On the one hand, I obviously loved the food. Who couldn’t like a holiday where gluttony is celebrated?

Moreover, Thanksgiving was one of two times per year that we got to see my mother’s family during my childhood. My extended family on my father’s side was a constant fixture in our lives since they also lived in New Mexico. The other side of the family, however, lived a thousand miles away and we usually only saw them on Thanksgiving and during the summer.

Still, I also remember being in grade school and not particularly feeling an attraction to the mythology that surrounded this holiday. It was always presented (ahistorically) as the first vignette in a teleological narrative than ended triumphantly with the foundation of the U.S. The national “we” presented in this narrative didn’t feel like it encompassed me at all. This is not to say, of course, that I had a precocious suspicion of the U.S. as a child. On the contrary, I adopted and accepted the propaganda about the U.S.’s uniqueness eagerly as a child. All the same, something about Thanksgiving Day never really sat well with me.

In retrospect, it’s easy to consider the reasons for my apprehension which I would not have been able to articulate at age nine. My father’s family was of Mexican descent, which meant that their stories were never reflected in any of the reading that we did for U.S. history – ever (despite the fact that my elementary school was named OƱate and we resided in, you know, New Mexico).

My mother’s side, which was Irish-American, received a bit more coverage in our Social Studies textbooks. Yet, their nineteenth-century arrival hardly seemed connected to an obscure (and not all that successful) colony two centuries earlier. Moreover, given that both sides of my family were deeply Catholic (and, in all truth, fairly suspicious of Protestants), the Pilgrims’ link to “religious freedom” seemed kinda dubious.

Despite the inclusive national language that surrounded the holiday, I always felt like that stories of happy white Pilgrims and generous (but nameless) Indians was not really about me. Looking back as an adult, I also had the shock of realization that I was always assigned the role of “Indian” in the ritual classroom reenactments of the event by my Euro-American teachers. Seemingly, they didn’t see me as part of the Pilgrim story either.

All of this makes me feel a bit contrarian about such a holiday (Not that I won’t use the opportunity to gorge myself). Because of my ambivalence, it seems only appropriate to make it into an anti-holiday. Here is a list of things for which I am not at all thankful:

    * U.S. Imperialism

    * The Ugg Boot craze

    * The dusting of snow that greeted me this morning when I woke up.

    * Scooping out Cat’s litter-box

    * Gas-guzzling SUV’s

    * Unquestioned patriotism

    * Men-Who-Lack-Balls (I am sure that Women-Who-Lack-Ovaries suck, too. They have just had a less immediate impact on my personal life).

    * My seeming attraction to Men-Who-Lack-Balls

    * The Catholic Church

    * Puritanism

    * The ways that a racial “Indian” identity obscured tribal affiliations and unique histories of diverse groups.

    * Black hats with buckles

    * The collapse of the U.S. dollar in the world market

    * The way that I almost always over think sex, regardless of locale.

    * The fact that I spent two full work days in the library reading nineteenth-century microfilm; spent thirty dollars on copies; and used another workday tabulating information from those copies. All of that work resulted in only two sentences of text and one footnote in the Never Ending Research Project of Doom

    * The total lack of quasi-passable Mexican food in Midwestern Funky Town

    * The way that Mexican food is denigrated as not “serious cuisine”

    * Sports of any type

    * Sexism

    * Homophobia

    * Transphobia

    * Racism

    * Simplistic Histories

    * Media coverage of Brittany Spears and/or any ancillary figure in her life

    * Poorly Mixed Cocktails and/or cheap liquor

    * The “Milkshake” Song

    * Blog Trolls

    * Not having a gas range

    * Holiday themed blog posts

Monday, November 19, 2007


Let me emphasize again how disappointed I was in the recent ENDA debacle. Think I am beating a dead horse here? Oh, please. By the time I am finished, I will have made glue, strung a violin, and hung one of its shoes above my door.

Maybe my disappointment emerges because, despite my gravitas, I still cling to the hope that the oppressed across the nation will recognize that they share common goals in overturning retrograde social and political institutions. It turns out, the oppressed think "not so much."

The recent mess got me to thinking about other things that really irritate about the current political discourse in this nation. More than anything, the way that apathy has become a viable political stance is enough to make my blood boil almost as much as outright hatred.

The apathetic (and those who are intellectually lazy) constantly trash people who put forward critiques and suggestions from a leftist perspective. After all, it’s better for them to discredit/denounce/lynch those who are actually engaged and thinking than to have to take stock in their own life and political position. At times, they even derail us or leave us feeling uncertain.

Here are seven arguments that the left doesn’t need to bother with any longer:

1. Gottcha! Politics

Nobody likes to hear bad news. We really, really don’t like to hear that the our way of life is creating massive pollution and depleting the nation/continent/earth’s natural resources. Likewise, who wants to know that their favorite product (be it diamonds, chocolate, or wine) comes to us at the expense of real human suffering?

Therefore, it is not surprising that when people on the left put forward suggestions for change (more public transport, ending the production of luxury SUV’s, boycotting companies/products that result in inhumane working conditions, suggesting that diamonds are really just rocks, etc.), people immediately search for some sort of flaw in the messenger’s own relationship to the environment or means of production.

“Yeah,” they say, “I might drive a Cadillac Escalade that uses more fuel to go to the postoffice than the entire Mexican state of Sonora uses in a year, but I bet that you get plastic bags when at the supermarket! Gottcha! You’re as guilty as I am.”

Nobody is perfect when it comes to left issues like the environment or economic injustice. Goddess knows that I can be lazy about some things. I use my car way more than I should (though I also often use public transport to go to work as well). I try my best to be an informed consumer. I often think I am the last person in the nation who still honors the UFW boycotts. In the end, though, nobody can do everything right 100 percent of the time. I eat chocolate. Sometimes I buy the cheapest item on the shelf without thinking about the chemicals that were required in its production. There are days when I sing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” (though I have no reason to buy them nor do I actually want any).

That doesn’t mean, however, that we therefore should stop trying for social, environmental, or economic justice. The Gottcha! People try to convince us that everybody is at fault, so nobody needs to take personal responsibility.

Taking a left position and putting forward the need for change means that we are (or should be) open to challenges about the way we (as individuals) live our lives and the choices we make (the personal is political). Are we going to make mistakes? Yep. Are we going to have to compromise sometimes? Yep. We should take criticism, however, as well as we dish it out.

Just because none of us on the left are perfect, however, doesn’t mean that what we are saying suddenly lacks merit.

2. “If the left isn’t united, then we will always lose.”

I admit in the aftermath of the 2000 election, I had some animosity towards the people who voted Green. When I really spent some time thinking about it, I realized my anger was misplaced. After all, Al Gore won the popular vote and he won the vote in Florida (the latter has been well-documented, but poorly publicized (what a surprise!)). Getting angry at the Greens was not the right response. Granted, I still don’t agree with the Green platform because it never addressed race (or racism) with any complexity, considered gays and lesbians an afterthought, and somehow imagined that the urban was not also part of the “environment.”

Turning anger towards others on the left, however, only misdirected attention away from the people who staged an actual coup. It also let the lazy, apathetic people who didn’t bother to vote off the hook entirely.

What the left should have done was committed to whatever was necessary to prevent Bush from ever setting foot in the White House. Bushie and crew subverted the will of the people and the Constitution of the U.S. That, however, is another issue entirely.

The left’s greatest asset is its commitment to maintaining diverse perspectives. Enforcing conformity won’t make us winners. It will make us Republicans.

3. “That’s just your opinion.”

Being on the left requires critical engagement and an openness to people with different perspectives. It does not mean, however, that everybody’s half-baked theory or “common-sense” approach is equally valuable. One of the most insidious things to transpire in this nation is the notion that one’s individual “gut” reaction to something must be equally valid to the individual who has extensively studied the issue(s).

If one sees a doctor and she diagnosis you with lung cancer, do you retort, “That’s just your opinion! My opinion is that the blotch on my x-ray shows that I am growing a fragrant field of lavender in my left lung.” I grant that you have right to that opinion. Don’t expect me to visit your grave, though, without muttering “dumbass.”

There are many instances when we need to be critical of “experts.” Sometimes, though, we need to also acknowledge that there are people who really do know more than us. In those instances, we need to be open to changing our own opinions.

4. “Well, you are clearly middle class.”

Often when somebody on the left makes an argument about poverty or economic injustice, their own class status is drawn into question. I have never really understood these types of accusations. So, are we all supposed to live with dirt floors until nobody has dirt floors? Fuck that shit.

Fighting for economic justice means that you believe that everybody should have access to the same (or better) standard of living that you enjoy. It does not mean that you need to “suffer with the people” in some misguided sense of solidarity.

5. “You’re a Stupid Poopie Head and I Hate You.”

The funny thing about political positions is that everybody is damn certain they are right. Some people deal very badly when faced with the realization that they are holding an untenable position or when the are asked to care about a group people radically different from themselves. Much like a five-year-old, they turn to name calling and being mean spirited. If they can make the person on the left feel like shit, they reason, they are really correct after all.

It’s a hard thing to get over being accosted by people who consider themselves “lefty,” but trash you as an individual. The thing to remember is that such attacks actually suggest that we really are correct in our assessment. It might be cliched, but I think it is true. If the name-callers are too intellectually lazy or simply unable to come up with a real reason why they hold their beliefs, then the left has probably touched a nerve.

6. “It’s hopeless – Utterly, utterly hopeless. So, why bother?”

This is another criticism of the left that I have never full understood. No victory for social justice has ever come about because of apathy. The U.S. has changed significantly over the past century in terms of perceptions about race, gender, and sexuality. While I would hardly argue that things are great now (racism, sexism, and homophobia are still major problems (don’t kid yourself)), we can agree that there have been some improvements thanks to those who kept up the dialog on all of these fronts.

While people on the left are often accused of being either “too angry” or “too naive,” I actually think the opposite is the case. Those people who opened themselves up to imagining a social revolution and really believed in the possibility of a profoundly better future brought about the changes that we all enjoy today. The political right, in contrast, thrives on a sense of pessimism and an expectation that social and political change is impossible.

7. “Wonder Woman Doesn’t Have All the Answers”

Slander! That is a dirty lie! You’re a stupid poopie head and I hate you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Not Impressed

Sometimes imagining oneself on the political left can be a drag in this nation. When one looks around at (what remains) of the United States, it’s downright depressing. Six and half years of mismanagement, war, corruption, and greed has left the nation in economic ruin. The U.S. dollar is becoming as valuable as used toilet paper in Europe (and even Canada!). Most people in the U.S. seemingly feel no sense of responsibility for their fellow citizens (much less a commitment to global human rights). The earth is leaking ozone. News media channels won’t stop talking about Brittany Spears or the gay men who obsess about her. Taken collectively, all of that can drive GayProf a little nuts.

What can be even more grim to me is the way that the left eats its own in this nation. The mess around the recent passage of the Employment NonDiscrimination Act (ENDA) has left me remarkably depressed. If signed into law (which is unlikely), the meek measure would provide (very limited) protection of gay, lesbian and bisexual employees. To get it passed, however, required the intentional exclusion of the transgender community (or others who don’t conform to gender expectations (which, to my mind, is really the entire queer community (but that is another issue (I wonder if I use too many parenthetical asides)))).

While I disagree strongly with those gay men and lesbians who supported the revised ENDA that excluded transgender protections, I understand the reasoning that “some protected is better than none.” Two things about this debate, however, left a chill in my heart (as Annie Lennox might say).

The second most chilling thing to come out of the ENDA debacle was the number of prominent members of the (white) male gay elite who delivered a message that members of the left should just “shut up” about transgender rights. Instead, they argued, we should be grateful for this allegedly historic moment (which is arriving decades later than other nations and has been promised to be vetoed anyway). Fuck off. Measures like ENDA are about protecting our rights, not granting us rights. We needn’t grovel or idolize members of Congress for doing their job. I will also never celebrate a measure that protects my rights at the explicit cost of another’s rights.

By far, though, the most chilling element about the recent ENDA debacle was how quickly and easily so many members of the queer community dehumanized and denigrated transgendered individuals. One needs to only poke around the comment sections of various gay blogs (including this one) to discover unashamed declarations of hatred, stereotypes, and fear that gay men use to justify the exclusion of transgender people. At the heart of almost all of their arguments was a notion “they aren’t like me, so therefore they don’t deserve equal treatment (or, in many cases, to even be considered fully human)”. Shockingly, many of the accusations coming from gay men about the transgender community are almost identical to the argument that the right uses to justify denying gay men of their rights (an alleged propensity for drugs, “not normal,” menace to society, etc. etc.).

Twenty years ago, the African-American and openly gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin declared, “The barometer of where one is on human rights questions is no longer the black community, it's the gay community. Because it is the community which is most easily mistreated.” To be honest, I always felt like this quote from Rustin wrongly presumed the battle to end racism was over (which it still isn’t). If we use his logic, however, I think that we can now say that barometer is no longer the gay community, but is now one’s perception and commitment to the transgender community.

Let's not even talk about employment. Right now, the murder rate of the transgender community is 17 times higher than the national average. The rate of physical assualt on the transgender community is the highest of any minority group (either by race or sexuality). The rate of violence committed against transgendered people of color grew the fastest over the past few years. All transgendered individuals in the U.S. have a 1 in 10 chance of being murdered in their lifetime. In comparison, other citizens in the U.S. have a 1 in 18,000 chance of being murdered.

It’s easy for safely employed (white) gay men who have cushy jobs in political organizations or the queer media to tell the transgender community that they have to “wait” for their rights until the general society learns to tolerate them. That, however, is entirely unacceptable. The measure of our success is not how well we succeed in protecting the rights of people like ourselves. Instead, the measure of our commitment to real sexual liberation and social justice is how well we defend people who are the least like us. Forgive me if I don’t open a bottle of champagne.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Checking Out

I have momentarily returned from my absence. Rest assured that I have not reappeared with my right hand mysteriously shriveled and blackened.

In the midst of an unusually busy time for me, I noted to myself again that students are funny. I don’t mean “funny” in the sense that they show up to class in a Groucho Marx mustache and entertain me with jokes (Though I certainly wouldn't be opposed to that). I mean “funny” in the sense that they sometimes misconstrue our relationship as professor and student.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean students any disrespect. Lord knows that I had similar misunderstandings when I was an undergraduate. Indeed, I would not like to have the freshman/sophomore version of me as student (though I would be delighted to be my professor as a junior or senior (Mmmmm – Me)).

Students frequently overestimate our level of familiarity. Some students imagine that their profs are out to harass them and make their lives a living hell. Others imagine that we wait moonfully over their every word. Neither of these things are true.

I respect my students and want to provide them opportunities to build new skills. In particular, I have classes where students can experiment with thinking about race, gender, and sexuality in the past. To that end, I give them some readings and background information to enter into an informed conversation. I also provide them feedback on their writing to help them better communicate their own ideas about race, gender, and sexuality in the past. We aren't friends. We aren't adversaries. We are in a professional relationship.

If all of my students put the effort into the class and earn “A’s,” I think that is great. If, on the other hand, they all blow it off and earn only “F’s,” I think that is a darn shame. I don’t really lose sleep either way, though. My paycheck will be the same.

Because I tend to teach classes on the holy triad, I think that students sometimes imagine my knowledge of them is much greater because the subject matter seems much more personal. After all, we all have racial, gender, and sexual identities that we have struggled (and continue to struggle) to understand. Often times, my classes are the first time in their entire education where they get to learn about these things (This was more true in Texas, but still fairly true here). This, it seems to me, makes my classes feel more personal than (I'm guessing) Chem 203.

Whatever the case, a student's pursuit of an education is always more of a personal experience than educating them is. After all, when they are in class there is only one of me. From my perspective, though, there are hundreds of them.

This comes up because the past week was the last opportunity for students to drop classes (with their professor’s approval). Coincidentally, it was also the week that I returned many of their midterms. As you might imagine, several students have come to seek release upon realizing their score in the class. Several showed up and apologized profusely about dropping. It was a sweet sentiment which is why my next statement will sound harsh. I don’t really care.

That is not to say that I don’t care about them as individuals. Nor am I saying that I don’t care about their education or the classes I teach (which I care about a great deal, actually). Indeed, I actually really enjoy being around young people and talking with them about the past. I simply don’t care, though, if an individual student decides that my particular class doesn’t work for him or her. It will affect their lives much more than mine. Unless students have been rude or disruptive, they have no reason to apologize for leaving.

Beyond the apologetic students, a couple others showed up to my office clearly expecting a fight. I was baffled that they imagined that I would be so invested in their presence or absence from my class that I would challenge their departure. Did they think I would greet their request for a signature with pistols and a duel? Why the defensive edge? I also wondered why (or if) other professors really do deny students the option of dropping a class.

It could be a form of “tough love,” I suppose, to make a student get the “F” on his or her transcript. To my mind, though, I actually respect a student more who has the good sense to get out of a class that he or she is failing. It at least shows enough self-insight that they are in a bad spot and are looking to fix it. Besides, if they stayed enrolled in the class, it would just mean that I would have to read more poorly written papers by students who didn’t have time or interest. To be honest, I would rather focus my energy on the students who are able to commit to the work.

In the end, I think its an individual student’s education and it should be more important to them than it is to us. I am around to help them and offer my own insight. If some decide to leave at half-time, that’s cool.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Place Holder

I’ve been tied up with other things the past week or so. Let’s just say that GayProf is detained helping humanity or fighting crime or polishing his tiara or something equally mysterious.

In the meantime, here are two things that I can watch over and over: