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Left-wing blogs gleefully outed my gay porn past after I criticized antiwar zealots. But the truth has set me free.

By Matt Sanchez

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Matt Sanchez

March 8, 2007 | Was I totally clueless? When I stepped forward in late 2005 to talk about anti-military attitudes at New York's Columbia University, I knew my past might be put under the microscope. We hear it every day; in the age of Google, when any stray personal factoid may be lodged somewhere on the Internet, it's impossible to have privacy. We have all done things we don't want advertised, and many of us may have identities we've outgrown, but the truth is, most of us haven't strayed far enough from the run-of-the-mill to rate more than a bit of whispered gossip from a snubbed co-worker. There are others of us, however, like me, who have the kinds of résumés that can keep everybody around the office water cooler smirking for days.

Let me back up a second, because most of you don't have a clue what I'm talking about. In September 2005, I wrote a column for the campus newspaper that blasted the anti-military bias among my fellow students at Columbia University. In addition to being an American studies major at Columbia, I am a Marine Corps reservist, and my comrades in arms were proud of me once that column had turned into appearances on "The O'Reilly Factor" and "Hannity & Colmes" and an opinion piece for the New York Post. None of those media outlets knew who I had been before I was a Marine, an Ivy Leaguer and an outspoken defender of the military.

Up until last weekend, Salon and the rest of the left-wing media had largely ignored me. Given the left's constant talk about equality, discrimination, minority rights and systemic oppression, I thought the fact that I was a Hispanic, a Marine, a nontraditional, 36-year-old Ivy League student and a 100 percent flag-waving red-blooded Reagan Republican would make my point of view interesting, but so be it. Everything is political now, and even the double standards have talking points.

Then came last weekend. I was invited to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, an annual convention of the right attended by more than 5,000 people, to accept the Jeanne Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award. It was recognition for what I'd said in print and on-air about anti-military attitudes on campus. During CPAC, I had my picture taken with the controversial conservative pundit and author Ann Coulter.

Coulter's comments about John Edwards drew unprecedented attention to this year's CPAC. Then, after a while, some of that attention was turned on me.

It was cold on Tuesday morning in Manhattan, and I was late for classes. I was a bit groggy from studying for my midterms and working full time at a marketing firm where I'd just made partner. I don't drink coffee, and in my morning haze, I didn't notice the messages piling up on my BlackBerry. Once I looked, I realized there was a lot of hate mail mixed in with the spam.

Several bloggers were posting pictures of me and Coulter together and noting, gleefully, that the guy with his arm around the waist of the woman who called Edwards a faggot had, once upon a time, acted in adult films.

Some of the sites were comparing me to Rich Merritt, a Marine Corps captain who appeared in gay films. Others were comparing me to Jeff Gannon and claiming that I too had advertised my services as a male escort. I won't deny it, or that I acted in several adult movies 15 years ago under names like Pierre LaBranche and Rod Majors.

We all have a tendency to want to hate the enemy. I suppose that's why Coulter gets applause when she uses terms like "faggot" or "ragheads" (was that the last Coulter scandal, or was it her comments about 9/11 widows?). I also suppose that's why I got so much abuse in my in box when gay and liberal bloggers posted ancient pictures of me.

I never imagined that I could become a "public figure" without facing scrutiny. And I sought attention. I'm the first to admit that I want to be heard, read and taken seriously. But some issues are complex, and some really are simple. People complain of a lack of depth in public discourse and the way complicated debates get compressed into meaningless sound bites. Well, porn is just ... porn. Self-explanatory and without depth. The pictures do the talking, and however many pictures there may be in video stores or warehouses or online, they still don't have anything interesting to say. I am concerned, though, that they may make some people feel inadequate. As a conservative, I like to insist on equal opportunity, even if some do start off with more than others.

Next page: How does a conservative trace his roots to such distasteful beginnings?

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