The Queer Case of Sanjaya Malakar

Sanjaya Malakar may be one of the most puzzling cultural icons in recent memory. Why did so many people vote for someone everyone agreed blew? Where does a 17-year old kid get the gumption to sport a pony-hawk? What does his contradictory success mean for the “merit” of American Idol? (And, yes, the show does have merit, evidenced most readily by Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson.) In Gayville, our terrain, many have speculated about whether the young “singer” qualifies as queer. Such Idol speculation’s nothing new – just look at Clay Aiken and lawsuit plagued Mario Vazquez.

While we certainly know where we stand on Mr. Malakar, we’ve resisted making a judgment call. In fact, just a few weeks ago an artist blogger sent us an illustrated send-up of the contentious Idol contestant. We wrote back that we couldn’t bring ourselves to make fun of the kid. He may have become a national joke, but it didn’t seem like Malakar got the punchline. And, more than that, he’s earned so much ridicule that we just didn’t seem right tossing on more – an unfamiliar yet not entirely unpleasant feeling.

As a suspected sissie, we suspected Malakar’s earned his fair share of anti-gay jeering. And we were right. Malakar tells People:

I got teased in school because people figured I must be gay because I understand women. I think that’s why guys didn’t like me – because I got along with girls so well. When I went up to girls they would give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek like I was their gay friend. But I was the straight guy that understood them.

Ah, yes, that old “understanding” line. We know it well. And so do others, for the internet’s aflame with assertions that Malakar’s a flamer. Malakar, of course, denies such allegations:

I had a girlfriend but she became clingy, and I didn’t want to get into a really serious relationship because I was 16. I just wanted to date and have fun.

Now, we really can’t say anything about this. First of all, Malakar says it himself with the canned response. And – as we said before – it doesn’t seem right to poke fun at such a young, obviously oblivious kid. Yes, we can cheer for magazine’s with the balls to shed light on – or, through – The Glass Closet, but Malakar’s just a boy.

Some of us may have known a thing or two about our sexualities when we were 17-years old, but for some reason we don’t Malakar’s ready to decide whether he’s gay or straight. Or, possibly, neither. Of course, saying that raises the question of what age’s appropriate for “outing”. Thousands of men don’t come out until they’re in their forties. Some never come out at all. Do we allow ourselves to fall for the “minor until 18” sexual morality laws or do we throw them out for the sake of a giggle? Honestly, we’re not sure. But, in this case, we’re holding off on a one-liner. You’ve read what Malakar has to say – we’ll let you decide whether or not it’s bullshit.

Don’t worry, though, we’re not done making fun of folks we find a bit light in the loafers. Take, for example, that other Idol laugh-fest: Clay Aiken. We received an email from a reader wondering about Aiken’s conspicuous absence from the Idol Gives Back benefit. The reader writes:

..Former idol Clay Aiken was not part of the “Idol Gives Back” extravaganza.

Instead the notoriously heterosexual Aiken stars in a very special PSA for UNICEF recorded for and now appearing on gay activist Ben Patrick Johnson’s blog. The PSA is insightful in that it reveals that famously gay Ben and famously “not gay” Clay are quite chummy. We find out that the PSA was recorded in Ben’s home studio, and that Clay brought Ben a special gift back from Afghanistan.

All of which has led Aiken’s fans to a curious conundrum of reconciling and confronting how and why their ongoing fantasy world of Clay as an innocent clean-cut heterosexual is intersecting with that of a very out gay activist.

We can definitely see some of those cultish Claymates getting bent out of shape about their god’s relationship with a bent boy. We can also totally see Aiken going for Johnson. Or, rather, Johnson going in Aiken.

Here’s the video: