It goes against the grain of our very DNA. We are hard-wired to survive. Our autonomic reflexes tell us, live, breathe, run, live. For Godâs sake, live.
Sometimes our brains rewire themselves. Sometimes pain outdistances DNA. Sometimes we want to die. Sometimes dying is not the threat, but the promise. (more…)
âThe Banal and the Profaneâ is a monthlyÂ Lambda LiteraryÂ column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life andÂ the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.
This monthâs âBanal and Profaneâ column comes to usÂ from writer Nik Nicholson
Do you have problems with your love life? Do you hate your job? Is your social life lacking a certain zing? All of these questions and more can be answered through literatureâor maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here atÂ theÂ Lambda Literary ReviewÂ have started our very own advice column called âReader, Meet Author.â Think of the column as a sort of a âDearÂ AbbyâÂ for the LGBTQ literary set.
This monthâs author is La JohnJoseph, a British-born, American-educated performance artist and writer living in Berlin. The original scriptwriter for radical Californian Dada drag revue BoyfriendRobotique, she is also a librettist and the author of the critically acclaimed solo memoir playÂ Boy in a Dress. Her performance work has taken her from the San Francisco MOMA to the Royal Opera House, and across Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, includingÂ The Gay Times Book of Short Stories,Â Bird Song,Â P.S. I Love You,Â Fat Zine, andÂ 21st Century Queer Artists Identify Themselves.Â Everything Must GoÂ , her first novel, debuted this spring.
Are all healthy relationships inherently boring? I should feel blessed. I have dated a succession of great guys who are perfectly nice and stable. But like clockwork, after about twelve months of dating these stable guys, I grow terribly bored and break up with them. It is the crazy guysâthe guys who scream and yell and donât know how to communicate, the guys that never call when they say they will–that inspire the most passion (and the better sex!). Is it just me, or do I have problem with stability? Or is it a universal law that passion/lust and stability do not mix? Must I choose one or the other?
Dear Crazy Passion (and Total Lack of Imagination),
You seem to be suffering from a delusion of reality, which is sadly a very common and unbearably dreary condition. If you’re telling yourself you can only experience fireworks with someone who treats you badly, may I first advise you to quit it with all of those J-Lo movies, or at least skip to the end where she realizes she loves herself for the person she really is? The person you really are is a very disturbed masochist, and I think that’s wonderful. It’s nice that you want someone to put their cigarettes out on your ass, you’re doing the world a favor in these days of eternal ashtray shortages. But did you ever think that maybe, just maybe, there is a pervert just as twisted as you out there, who will hold your hand and call you back, but is also unafraid to gag you with his piss-soaked jock strap after hours? Streamline yourself for a successful lover, and get a nice guy who can be both your life partner and your masterâperhaps a dude with multiple personality disorder, or a Gemini.
X La JJ
I have recently started dating a wonderful woman, who unfortunately has a twelve-year old daughter who is a real brat! The child is rude, does not respect her elders and runs roughshod all over the woman I am dating. I think the child need more discipline and a sterner hand. Itâs getting to the point where I only want to hang out with the woman when she finds a sitter and we can hang out alone. We have only being dating for a couple of weeksâdo you think it would be all right at this point for me to tell the woman that the child needs to be reprimanded for her awful behavior?
Like the Woman, Hate the Child
First of all, I love children. They’re literally the only cool people left on this planet. They have the best outfits and the best candy, they’re always screaming about everything, and they never make you listen to such tedious problems. Basically, I agree with the twelve-year-old. I’m glad she’s smashing everything up and driving you up the wall. You’re probably quite awful yourself. I mean, if you have only been dating her Mother for two weeks, maybe you should inquire what the child was like previously. Perhaps she’s just acting out because she detests you. It’s a possibility; I have that effect on a lot of peopleâwhy do you think the Reformation came about? Seriously. If it does transpire that Little Miss Sunshine is simply trying to get rid of you, then I say, stick aroundâeven move inâand see how out-of-hand things can really get.
It’ll all end in tears, so bulk-buy Kleenex,
X La JJ
Is it okay to date a former intern? I am a mid-level manager at a small nonprofit, and we have a new set of interns every season. Two seasons ago, we had a smart and attractive intern (he is six years younger than me) and we really clicked. We had a great working relationship, and while I was attracted to him when we worked together, I kept it professional. He emailed me recently about a new job that he recently acquired, and he also asked me if I would like to grab a drink to catch up. Â I would love to pursue a friendship and possible more with this former intern. Do you think it is appropriate to date former subordinates? Should I check in with my boss to make sure it is okay? I donât want to seem like the office leech who picks up all the younger (former) guys who have worked in the office. Â Â
Keeping It ProfessionalÂ
I say, date everyone; if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right? Test the waters and have your new boy toy come pick you up from work, preferably in a 1948 Bentley Coupe and a boiler suit unzipped to the navelâsee how your colleagues react. If they seem to be merely surprised, then bring him up to the office and reintroduce him to your work mates. Then fuck him on the receptionist’s desk. I promise you that you will see a twofold return on your investment if you follow my advice. For a start, your coworkers will certainly not think of you as âjustâ a leech; they’ll be bewitched by your brazen attitude, and furthermore, the number of applicants for next season’s internships will soar. Moreover, you may well get fired, which will conveniently free you up to fuck whoever you like whenever you like without worrying what Marge from finance might say about it.
Thank me later,
X La JJ
My interest in violence is organic and manufactured like the testosterone I inject, the metallic fact of the needle I push into my thigh every Thursday. Itâs socially enabled, like the startling effect my male body has on other men: the locker room size-ups, the threatened exes, the shoulder-swiped near-fights on the train. Itâs relational as my own brush with death at the hands of a man who later went on to shoot two other men and kill one, or the father who modeled the worst kind of masculinity: predatory, crushing, anxious. Whatever the tanglesâand maybe Iâll never fully understand, as much as I try to excavate and map, my own heartâwhat I do know is that my memoir, Man AliveÂ (City Lights Books), which explores the way violence can be gendered and also undone by queering gender, owes its lineage to Truman Capoteâs brilliant, chilling true crime classic, In Cold Blood.
For the uninitiated, Capoteâs 1966 work was originally serialized to wild acclaim in the New Yorker and is a beautiful, epic piece of literary nonfiction that details the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas. Legend has it that Capoteâfey, bowtied, tinyâread a 300-word New York Times story about the killings and traveled to Kansas accompanied, cinematically, by his good friend Harper Lee, to chronicle the search for the murderers and the effect the killings had on the town. Ultimately the two men responsible for the murders were captured and Capote spent six years on the book, forming a particularly close relationship with one of the accused, Perry Edward Smith, in the process. His portrayal of Smith is nuanced, almost affectionate, and, in many ways, deeply queerâa fact that caused rumors about the nature of their friendship even at the time.
I donât believe the two men had an affair, but the fact of Capoteâs identity, to this reader, is the lens that allows for a more complex, humane layer in a story that could easily have been reduced, normatively, into villains and heroes. Capote brings an ephemeral sympathy for the outsider, distinctive but not cloying, that asks us to see ourselves in Perryâs miserable life.
In one particularly poignant scene, Capote describe the recurrence of a lifelong dream Perry has while in prison: âThroughout his lifeâas a child, poor and meanly treated, as a foot-loose youth, as an imprisoned manâthe yellow bird, huge and parrot-faced, had soared across Perryâs dreams, an avenging angel who savaged his enemies or, as now, rescued him in moments of mortal danger: âShe lifted me, I could have been light as a mouse, we went up, up, could see the Square below, men running, yelling, the sheriff shooting at us, everybody sore as hell because I was free, I was flying, I was better than any of them.â”
Growing up, my biggest fear was that Iâd become my father. The reality that I was actually a transgender man forced me into a crucible Iâd never have chosen otherwise: at 30, as I grew ever hairier and muscular, as my voice dropped and I passed like a ghost through locker rooms and confused men in gay bars with my dissonant presence, I had to make peace with the shadows and ghosts that bruised every pronoun, every âsir,â every gesture of fraternity, every woman who crossed a lonely street to avoid crossing my path late at night.
The first year of my transition I monitored myself, alert to secret signs of impending evil, as if a blooming would accompany the testosterone shotsâa secret, psycho gene just waiting to turn me into a boogie man. It was in this edgy borderland that I re-read In Cold Blood and wrote most of Man Alive. I waited for my worst self, resigned like a guy with a rifle watching the door in a horror film, out-powered perhaps but not going down without a fight.
Thereâs no doubt that Capote and his wild, dark book changed literary history. Many critics believe it popularized, if not fully createdâthe nonfiction novel. Even the critiques of his work are familiar to anyone working in this genre todayâaccusations of fabricated scenes or dialogue, places where facts are sacrificed to the gods of larger narrative. But for this writer, Capoteâs effort hereâtight, dark, sharp, kindâis cause for celebration for another reason entirely: its bravery. In Cold Blood taught me that I could dive into my shadows, face my would-be killer, plumb my heart for the kind of compassion that the worst kind of men never gave me, and find myself there. Iâm not sure what Capote went looking for in Kansas exactly, but itâs impossible to not see his tenderness toward Perry, the kind of open heart that results from being vulnerable enough to identify with and integrate your most shadowy self, and to make room for the multitudes of others in that harrowing process.
I canât speak for Capote, but the tilt of my masculinity, the outsider nature of my view, gave me access to both a deeper empathy and a broader lens for the world around me. In one of his pretrial hearings, my mugger and I made eye contact and I believed, for just a moment, that he recognized me. I held his gaze, I tried to see the humanity there. Iâm not, as it turns out, my fatherâs son and hereâs why: I knew, in that moment, that it was the least I could do. Itâs just the kind of man I am. Iâd never have known if I hadnât been willing to look.
Encyclopedia Fuckme and The Case of the Vanishing EntreeÂ was one of the first Twine gamesÂ I ever played. It’s a relatively simple game: the player takes on the role of the titular character and, by making a series of choices throughout the narrative, attempts to avoid becoming her ravenous date’s dinner. It’s funny, smart, hot — everything you probably don’t think of when you think about about videogames. (more…)
American history was never my strong suit. From grade school through those pesky requisite undergrad courses, the subject bored me to tears. Not only were historical narratives presented to us in a predictable, memorization-friendly format (name of notable event, date(s) of notable event, key figures in notable event). In many instances, these narratives were spit-shined, polished so well that colonization, capitalism, and eurocentrismâs smudges went entirely unnoticed. The âfactsâ written on the page were often half-truths; stories of critical social upheavals and their leaders–often women, often people of color, often queers–glaringly omitted from textbooks and, thus, American consciousness. Because the history of my communities were absent from the textbooks placed in front of me, it was easy to zone out as my Peanuts caricature of a teacher continued emphasizing the importance of the Louisiana Purchase. (more…)
The Writing Trans Genres Conference was a four-day conference (May 22-24, 2014) held at the University of Winnipeg, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and co-hosted by the Universityâs Womenâs and Gender Studies Department and the Institute for Womenâs and Gender Studies. The conference brought together scholars, performers, writers and activists to explore, discuss and create new directions in transgender, transexual, two-spirit and genderqueer poetry, literature and performance.
In the following post, writer and Topside Press editor Riley MacLeodÂ provides a detailed snapshot of his time at the conference.
Do you have problems with your love life? Hate your job? Your social life lacking that certain zing? All questions can be answered through literatureâor maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here atÂ TheÂ Lambda Literary ReviewÂ have started our very own advice column called âReader Meet Author.â Think of the column as sort of a âDearÂ AbbyâÂ for the LGBTQ literary set. You can send âReader Meet Authorâ questions for publication toÂ ReaderMeetAuthor@lambdaliterary.org. (more…)
Assotto Saint and I were both finalists for aÂ Lambda Literary Award in 1997. He was up for Gay Biography, I was up for both Lesbian Studies and Fiction Anthologies. Neither of us would win that year, but I would have other chances. Assotto and I had both won before, but in those days, when everything seemed so temporal, the moment was everything. I wanted the win for my political offerings and I wanted it for him for history. I was very ill that year, bedridden and almost unable to move, and Assotto was on my mind a lot–all of them were, the gay men I had loved, who I had lost. (more…)