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Being Queer is Everything!
(That you “just happen to be” Gay is a Lie.)
Author asks, what stories do we tell ourselves to survive our queerness?
“One of our finest essayists.” – Tom Lutz, founding editor, Los Angeles Review of Books
For author Jonathan Alexander, the claim that one “just happens to be” lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is a lie, a dismissive denial of the core queerness which is as much a part of who we are as our gender or skin color. Being queer is everything. It is the prism through which we perceive, imagine, and at times obfuscate our experienced reality.
On November 4, Alexander published his seventeenth book “Bullied: The Story of an Abuse,” the second in a series of creative nonfiction memoirs, in which he probes the legacies of homophobic violence he experienced growing up in the Deep South of the 1980s and looks at how the pressure of being queer inescapably and fundamentally shapes every day of our lives and the stories we tell ourselves to make our queerness bearable.
Alexander reflects on a host of other oddly but intimately related topics, from drug abuse, sadomasochism, Catholic priests, and cruising to MAGA-capped boys and why Jussie Smollett may have staged his own homophobic attack:
” … what’s not even recognized because it’s just too perverse to be seen, much less acknowledged, is that someone like Jussie might grow up, so Black, so gay, so damaged by racism and homophobia that staging such a scene is not inconceivable. That it might be the way to cultivate some attention for all the slights, harms, and violations, great and small, that constitute the life of another in this culture, abusive and violent. I have to admit that that makes sense to me. I get that. Not everyone will. But I get it, even though I don’t know Jussie, and I’m not saying that that’s what happened. I have no idea why Jussie Smollett, in this particular time and place, may have fabricated a racist and homophobic assault against his person. Perhaps one day we will know about his particular time and place. But, in the meantime, I can imagine why someone might do such a thing. … I don’t condone it. But I get it.”
We are our experiences, even those we imagined. But what happens when what you thought was the defining moment of your life–in Alexander’s case, sexual abuse by an uncle, which he blamed for his queerness–might be a figment of your imagination? How does one deal with the evaporation of a lie of one’s own making?
“Bullied” is the second in Alexander’s Creep Trilogy, which consists of “Creep: A Life, a Theory, an Apology” (2017, Punctum Books), “Bullied,” and “Dear Queer Self” (Spring 2021, Acre Books). In October he published “Stroke Book: A Diary of a Blindspot” (Fordham University Press), which he considers how a lifetime in a society still toxic to queer people (recounted in “Bullied”) has impacted his health as well as his perception of queer time. Untethered to the markers of heteronormative life (marriage, birth of a child, raising kids, grandchildren), how do we queers experience time? Our aging bodies?
Jonathan Alexander is a writer living in Southern California where he is Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author, co-author, or editor of twenty-one books. His cultural journalism has been widely published, especially in the Los Angeles Review of Books for which he is the Young Adult editor, where founding editor Tom Lutz called him one of “our finest essayists.” He lives with his husband and cat, and when not writing, dabbles in watercolors and plays piano in a music ensemble with friends. For more about Jonathan Alexander and his books please visit www.thecreeptrilogy.com and www.the-blank-page.com.
While Jonathan Alexander’s books are available at the major online retailers, we strongly urge readers to support their favorite queer and independent bookstores, such as the Bureau of General Serviced–Queer Division in New York and Skylight Books in Los Angeles, both of which are supporting Jonathan with online events. Check “56 LGBTQ-Owned Bookstores You Can Be Proud to Support” (organized by state) from Oprah Daily to find a queer book shop near you.