Roxane Gay: How to Write About Love
Hey, I am super excited for delicious interview. But before we get to it for folks have been listening for awhile. I wanted to update you on a big change. That is coming to the podcast. We've officially partnered with luminary media, a brand new podcast company. You'll be able to listen to us how you normally do for the next month. But starting on may twenty first our show will only be available for premium subscribers on the luminary app to sign up or just to learn more good a luminary dot link slash LGBTQ. A and do that soon. So you could take advantage of their launch specials. So that's luminary dot link slash LGBTQ. A all right on the show. If you follow Roxane gay on Twitter, you know that she can be fearless. If people are trolling for her as her bio says she will clap right back. Now one time I love the story. One time. A man tweeted at hurt in Italian and called her man hating. Homosexual Brock San responded in Italian and said, I read Italian you fucking petty asshole, and that cemented my love for her from the now famous dot feminist recent memoir, hunger rocks, gay has become one of the most influential writers working today. And she's been my dream gust list since I started this podcast in two thousand sixteen. So that it's all say kind of nervous carry her. But as you look here, she was incredibly open and generous gentle and relief. Just funny. So we talk all about her writing about our place in the queer cannon. And we also. Talk about love and sex. And how when it comes to writing about her own personal relationships. She doesn't do it. She says she deliberately keeps the best parts of her life private from luminary media. I'm Jeffrey masters, and this is LGBT Q and A. A few years ago. You wrote that the older people get the more culturally invisible, they become as writers and as people. Yes. From the outside looking at you that seems to not be the case. Well, yes, I mean, the things that are oftentimes generally true. There are always exceptions to the rule, and I happen to be entering the middle of my career at the middle of my life instead of much earlier the way some people do, and so I I'm experiencing a level of visibility that is deeply uncomfortable. But that is also fairly abnormal for women my age. And so that's very interesting and weird. I also think it's abnormal for writers in general. It's very abnormal for writers, one of the reasons I'm writers because I don't like attention. And so imagine my surprise when that ended up being the very. Thing. My career has gotten me like one of the great things about being a writer is that you get to sit in your home or wherever you, right? And nobody really knows who you are what you look like. And I just really appreciate that from the outside again since bad feminist. It seems like your career has had this massive upward trajectory of essay, collections editing essay collections films, and I just wonder if you have experienced failures professionally in Albany seen really you never see the failures. I wrote an episode of a TV show that I thought was good that the studio hated and so they fired me which sucked and that was last year. So I experienced failures all the time, and I tried to talk about them. But people don't really seem to be interested in failure. And they don't wanna hear about how many failures it takes to get to the success. My first blog in fact, was called I have become accustomed to rejection. And I wanted to blog. And I needed a schedule. And I was getting rejected all the time because I was sending my work into the world. And so I thought well this will keep me on schedule. Because surely, I'll get a lot of rejections and I did. And so anytime, I got a rejection I blocked on all my feelings about it. And just talk through like do I need to edit this piece or do I just need to try again. Was it a great rejection that made me feel good about myself? Or was it an impersonal rejection so failures really important to a writer and also painful, but I guess in the example of the TV show that never aired. That is something that was not public. Yeah. Well, the TV show is going to air. It was a miniseries for net flicks. And so they actually ended up going with a different writer, and when you are writing on in that way. Oftentimes, it doesn't make the news because it wasn't my show someone else's show for which I was just writing an episode. And so it's not something that's really gonna make the news because most people don't know who's writing episodes of shows, and they don't care, and you don't know that they've written the episode until it airs. And now, they'll never know unless you're in the WGN, and you see the credit there. Yeah. Now that you are experiencing less rejection has that success had an impact on your mental health. No because I experienced a fair amount of rejection. I experience a healthy amount. I think I mean, of course, certainly there are things that I don't face rejection for anymore, and I have more opportunities than I can possibly accommodate with the rest of my life. But you know, the only thing is that even though I meet with a fair amount of success. I still doubt it and I don't trust it. And I always worry that this is going to be the last opportunity and that I'm going to fail on the next thing. And I'm gonna fail so spectacularly that. I'll never work again. And then I'll just also have a lot of imposter syndrome with people say isn't real. But it is in fact, very real. So there are those things that I that I deal with like I think every other writer because that's what we do. See I find the concept of imposter syndrome to be so comforting because I'm like, oh, everyone has a ceiling. Thank god. Okay. Yeah. Everyone does have this feeling and I honestly worry about people who don't doubt themselves. Now. I do think some of us take it to an extreme. And I'm one of those people like where sometimes I just have to sit back or my partner. We'll just say like what are we doing here? Why are you doubting yourself and it can be really debilitating? But I also find it very comforting. When people I admire or envy, professionally are like, oh, I just don't know. Why what I'm doing here if I should be here, and I'm just like tiny more. I guess I'm a little bit surprised to hear that. Because I would have thought that success at your level would have changed. How you move through the world. Oh god. Now, I wish now it's not it's not a magic pill. Unfortunately, and you know, the thing is once you achieve a certain level of success. I think most of us who are very ambitious move the bar. And so it's not enough. You don't even enjoy it. You just keep moving the bar higher and higher and higher and trying to achieve more and more and more like oftentimes, you'll even pause to take stock of what you've done you just think. Oh, okay. Onto the next thing. And oh, I need to try this bigger thing. Do you think that you've gotten the recognition that you deserve? Yes. And no, I have gotten the recognition I deserve from my communities. I don't feel like I've gotten the recognition I deserve from some of the gatekeepers in the community at large. When you say community. Do you think that you are considered a queer author? I fucking hope. So yes, I really hope so. I think I am especially because I am openly bisexual and a lot of people for whatever reason gravitate toward that. Because I think a lot of times bisexuality becomes invisible in the community. And I understand why. Because a lot of people think oh, pick aside, and we're like don't have to. So I do feel very seen by my community. I don't know that I'm talked about in queer discourse as much as other queer writers. But I do feel recognized by my community. That's great to hear it. Because I I don't always see you included in your canon and the way I want to and I thought fan, and I have to wonder if it's I mean, a lot of reasons, but also came up punching with this label, bad feminists. I wonder if that unmanned automatically makes you a woman writer for the rest of your life. I think in many ways it does. And you know publishing is a very weird environment because oftentimes they pigeon hole you as one thing or another as the queer writer or the black writer or. Or the trans writer or or the Asian writer, and it's really hard to break free from those categories. And that's why I've deliberately done something different for every project and oftentimes people are like wait what you're doing what? And that's on purpose. It's so that no matter what kind of container you try to keep me in. I've got range don't worry. And so with bad feminists because it ended up being so popular which was not expected people do definitely think of me as a woman writer, and as a feminist writer, and I think they think those are separate from being queer, which is very very odd. Because particularly when you think about intersection -ality, you cannot separate out these parts of your identity. I'm a woman, and I'm queer, and I'm black and I'm fat. And I try to 'em inhabit all of these identities in my writing as best I can. And so when the community doesn't seem to recognize this multiplicity, it can be very frustrating. But I just let them. Do what they're gonna do. And I just keep writing what I wanna right. With your bisexuality. You joked on Twitter that you're on a dick sabbatical. Oh, I'm very very much. I guess maybe that's not a joke. What's the truth? It's the truth. I'm forty four and you just get to a certain age where you're like, I can't work with men anymore. That's just too much. But I'm still attracted to them a from a distance. I mean, this is just the proof of bisexuality. Right. You still attracted them, even though. I mean, despite my best efforts, I'm you know, and, but I don't know that I would ever be in a relationship with a man again is that something that has come out of this political climate in the metoo movement or is a started or that? It's just men like they're just. Less that wasn't even a boyfriend the last man, I dated like six years ago was just such trash. I thought you know, what am I doing here like this? I'm not sixteen. Let's time to move on from this. And I allowed myself that just like, no more household Roxy. I'm let's try something different. And and so I've been doing something different. And also just women are great. I someone who predominantly dates men. I agree with everything you're saying. Yes. I mean, there are just so much work. People are always like oh women. That's a lot of work. And I'm like look women are extremely high maintenance. But they're high maintenance in a way that I find very attractive. I love me a high maintenance woman like higher the maintenance more. I'm like, let's date forever. Do you consider yourself high maintenance, I'm not high maintenance, okay? Ask my girlfriend will probably say something different. But no, actually, I'm not high maintenance. I'm actually too low maintenance, I'm working on increasing my maintenance level. Oh, I like that. Yeah. I've a simple question. But I'd like labels. And I just wondered you consider yourself a Butch. I do I go I consider myself a Qasaf Butch. Sure. I haven't heard you talk or write about that. I'm working on an essay about it. Actually, I wrote briefly about it in hunger. Because I was really hardcore Butch in my early twenties and stone Butch for that matter. And then I realized oh, this doesn't feel right? It's not I was doing it more for self protection than I was doing it for who. I really am. And in my forties. I found that. Oh, no. I definitely have which tendencies in the relationship. I'm definitely the Bush one and I do date fem. And it's just been more comfortable, but you know, like, I I'll get my nails done. I don't really wear makeup on us on TV. But I will I'm not opposed to it not opposed to feminine femininity, which I can never say. So, but so I go soft Butch I love that you know, rounded around the edges you used to write a lot of our oughta do you still do that? I don't I just put the sex right into my fiction as is I don't need to put it in a genre context anymore. Because when I started writing erotica, it was because that was the only place where I could find editors willing to take my stories and also they paid fifty dollars a story, which is still the going rate, and I just loved it. And I I realize now that I just wasn't mature enough as a writer, but once I started publishing in more mainstream publications, I just basically was putting the same stories in mainstream publications. While because I didn't know if Iraq writers are not considered respected writers, they're not in many ways, you know, a lot of people don't talk about erotica. And even though they read it. It's a very popular genre tons of writers. Do it. They do it under different names. But I'm not ashamed. I have no problem. I would do it again. I've edited an erotica anthology and sexist good and writing about sex. That is good is very good. So I enjoy it. And we are still in a place in society, where having a large person say that as radical very much so because people think that when you're fat, you are sexless and oftentimes genderless, and that you don't have a sex life of any kind that people. Don't see you as attractive. They really do think. Like all these men on Twitter who are insulting me all day. They genuinely seem to think that I'm just sitting in my house by myself. It's really adorable like, oh bless your heart. Bless your heart. And they also think that men are interested in. I'm just like look I could pull addict today. Let's just get it together. I choose not to you're welcome. Very frustrating. I mean, we talk about representation all the time and this podcast. And when it comes to fat representation, the media has taken away all sexual desire probably have people because so many people see fatness as unattractive as unhealthy as unhappy. And it's very hard for people to consider fatness in anything beyond what the diet industry and the fitness industry, tell us and also the medical industry to some extent, and that can be really frustrating and really painful because what do we do about our sexuality when the world does not wanna consider us sexual. I don't know if you've seen shrill yet. But it's a really good show problematic. But very good. And in it, we see fat women who are sexual and people are like oh surprised. And you know, she has the same trash boyfriend that any one else would have. It's not because she's fat that he's trash. He's just trashed because he's trash, and I think that's. Really groundbreaking that she gets to be sexual that. She gets to decide, you know, what this is not acceptable. You have to treat me better. I deserve better. And then she has sex with her roommate's, brother. Spoiler alert. And even there's fat is now not even part of the conversation. He's just really into her and it never comes up. And that's also great that she's just allowed to be a young woman in her sexual prime or nearing her sexual prime. When do you consider your sexual prime was oh, I'm living in right now overly I look forward to. Yes, I find forties work, really. Well, because by the time, you're forty forty one forty two you know, what you like. And you're more comfortable for most people. There are always exceptions. But you know, what you like and you're more comfortable asking for it. You're less self conscious. You're more willing to experiment and just try things that might not work out. But still, hey, why not let's give. This ago. It took you to breach your forty s to build a oh for sure for sure. Because during my twenties, I just had sex with whomever and had and it was never about. My pleasure. It didn't even cross my mind that by pleasure was something that mattered in my thirties. I did have actually I was in a good relationship in graduate school. But still I was just so full of self loathing that I just thought I should be grateful that I'm in a relationship. Let me not rock the boat by saying, oh, could you move to the left? But once I turned forty I just stopped caring. And you know, I just also was more comfortable with admitting. What my desires were. And Tra me once I've done that it has been very freeing, and it has made having a sexual life, much, more interesting and much more satisfying. You have a very public lust after Channing Tatum. I love him. And I bring him up because you're. Really working with him on a he comes over to my house. So that's a radical twists in your life, very radical. He's delicious. But did he know your public feelings about him before you met? I don't know. I think someone on his team must have told them like oh, actually. And it was if I I don't know if this is the first time you heard of me, but industrial Ian, journalists was like, hey, do you know that this black feminist writers really until and so then he started like looking into my work and then accompany approached him about this project. And he was like, oh, yes, I would love to do this. And I want to do it with Roxane gay. He named you for shoot. He said my name. It's really great. So what was that? Like the first day he came over to your house. Well, the first time I met him. I went to his house. And I thought it was a joke because when this all began my agent called me, and she was like or no she emailed me. And was like sit down before you read the rest of this Email in five years. She had never said anything like that to me. So I was like oh my God. She's leaving the business. I'm losing agent. And she said Channing Tatum wants to work on a project with you. And I was like, okay. And I thought my friends were playing a joke on me, and so things proceeded, and then she gave me an address and said go here at such and such time. And I said, okay. And I just thought it was around my birthday. So I just thought my friends are whole various they're putting together the surprise party. Even though I hate surprise parties, and they're using this ruse of Channing Tatum. And so I went up into the hills and he was standing on his front balcony. And I was just like oh. I'm pregnant it was really good. Are you able to say what you're working on not yet? But it's really really good. Is it a movie or TV show? It's neither. Oh, okay. I'm St Louis. Yeah. It's really good. I mean, it might eventually be. But for now, it's not an it's really good and. When the oh, yeah. The first time it came to my house. He wrote his little might dirt bike motorcycle. And I was standing in front of my apartment building to let him up and he just dismounted his bike. And he looked so great. And we walked in my building and the women working in the downstairs office where like now's like, that's right bitches. This is happening. And then we went upstairs. With great. I love that. It's absurd. How much of a crush on him him in the rock? So you'll make an exception for those two men. Absolutely absolutely that up because they're I first of all I enjoy just a beefy, man. Like, a very beefy, man. I wanna feel smaller. I wanna feel like he could break me into multiple pieces. But that's different from the fem rate. Usually. Yes, yes. It's a different dynamic. Oh, wake with men. I want them to be like the hulk and throw me against the wall. So I feel like the rock could really do that. I watch this little workout videos on Instagram. And I just think yes, he could bench press me easy. I can hear every gay man cheering. Yes. You while. We're talking about Saxon. Love one of my favorite things you've written is about love, which the New York Times Peter near times. Yes. It was called where the hell is a love of my life. And how did you know? It's an ask that. I just guessed. Okay. Well, you wrote in that as for soulmates, I do not believe such a thing existed until I. Did that's a big change yesterday? First of all, how do you define a soulmate? You know, I think a soulmate is just that person with whom you feel entirely complete like when your wisdom the world falls away your problems. They don't disappear, but you feel like you can handle them. They're just that person the one person in the world that you feel this incredibly intense connection with and that connection can never be broken. Whether you're together or not do you find it difficult to write about love? I do find it difficult to write about love because you know, love is so complicated. And it's also just incredibly simple, and it's also very private. And so it's challenging to write about love and maintain some semblance of privacy. Which is why I actually don't write about my relationships. It's just too much like to put stuff out in the world. I make deliberate choices, but I don't want to expose the best parts of my life in the most private parts of my life too. People who are really insensitive and not at all quipped to respect boundaries and things like that. And also you just want to save something back for yourself. And so I struggle for that reason. But also because like, how do you name this unnamed mobile thing this overwhelming, and all encompassing thing. And how do you do it without sounding? Like, a romance novel. And that's why I think Sony people repeat the same cliche phrases because. And so we just right go with the cliches because that's the best available tool that we have. For articulating this experience of being so overwhelmed by your feelings for someone else when you say that it is one of the best parts of your life. And you don't want to write about that. I think that makes you pretty unique as a writer. Yeah. I think so I mean, I think a lot of times a women, especially an queer writers were expected to cannibalize ourselves and give everything of our existence to the reader, and when I decided that I was going to write about sexual violence sex politics, the body and things like that. I knew I was going to have to have very firm boundaries. Or I was going to end up cannibalizing myself in ways that would ultimately end up being really uncomfortable and untenable, and so I just made that decision, and I've stuck to it. And it's served me. Really? Well, and I highly recommend it to everyone who asks me. For advice of you know, how do I do this? It's just yeah. It's a lot because I tend to hear people nowadays say if your dating me your content. Yeah. And I think that's insane. And why would you do that? That means you don't like, I guess that's a judgment, but how much do you value your relationship? If you look at it as content. My relationship is not content. My relationship is like the safe harbor from content. And I know that when I'm with her. I don't have to think about. My audience and my following and my work. I can just be myself like the most genuine version of myself. And I know that that most genuine version of myself will be accepted, and that's really freeing. And so I I don't ever think about making it into content with your current partner. You have a ring on your finger currently oh. Oh, are you engaged? Not yet. No, not yet. Why someday? Yeah. Definitely when you wrote that you did not know that soulmates existed until you did were you referring to your cart relationship. Now. I wasn't different relationship. So when a relationship ends does your love for that person continue forever. Oh, yes. It does absolute well, not not every axed her plenty of X's for whom I have no feeling or really hard feelings. But I think for some people especially someone who is a soulmate those feelings never go away. Which is why it's such a powerful relationship. So we can have multiple soulmates. I don't know. That's a good question. I don't know if we can have multiple soulmates. I know some people believe that I can see how for sure how many times have you been properly in love three. Definitely three which is better than none. And then I've just had a lot of mediocre relationships where I thought I was in love, and I was really actually just in love with the idea of being in love bull. Any wrote that in that piece, which I liked. Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of us fall fall prey to at lake life is lonely. And so when someone demonstrates a modicum of interest in you, it's also kind of. Freeing to just be like, yeah, I feel the same way. And you just sort of say it instinctively the idea of love versa. Reality of love. I think the majority of people would agree on that. But that's not simple. No. It's not simple. And it's taken me a long time. And actually quite a fair amount of therapy to be able to understand the difference. And to recognize the difference in my own feelings towards others with the sexual abuse. You mentioned earlier correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe in bad feminist, you said that it happened in broad strokes. But it wasn't 'til hunger. Were you shared the details of your rape for everyone? Here has a no your twelve. Yes. And I want to know a how did you decide how? And when to disclose those details. You know, I think that you tell the audience what they need to know to contextual is what it is. You're trying to say. And so when I wrote what we hunger for the essay and bad feminist. I knew that the broad strokes. We're going to get the point across because I was really writing about why literature and this idea that young people can't handle, darkness and literature. When in reality we deal with darkness in life. All the time is young people. And so it's totally fine to put it into books. And so I don't think the details were needed there, but with hunger, which was a memoir about my body to understand where my body was when I wrote that book you have to understand what my body went through when I was a child and so it became necessary. And that's why I included it you've had to talk about this so much has that desensitized you to away in some ways, definitely. Like when I'm going to go do an interview. I just prepare myself. Like, okay, you're going to have to just suck it up and talk about this for X number of hours like just and then afterwards, you can feel what you need to feel about it. So it's gotten much easier, especially because I had to go on tour with it. And the press was such a shit show for that book, especially international press that I got really used to separating myself from the work and being able to talk about it without feeling like I was being traumatized, but I saw the press tour for hunger unfolding. Oh, yeah. And I was following all the different conversations you having and. The lack of sensitivity that people had regarding your your sexual assault as well as your body. And it felt like everybody was learning in a real time. Yes, they were. I hope that the next writer the next writers who write about fatness will hopefully have a better experience. And I'm not the first writer to write about fatness in any way, shape or form. I think that with each of us who does it the media gets lightly better. But the increments are so miniscule that it's appalling, I think what surprised me the most is that everybody knows fat people in our for Emily, everyone does I mean the world especially in the United States. I noticed how fat Americans are when I travel abroad. Yes. It's an actual issue. Like when I went to Sweden. I was like oh shit. Like how this is a real thing. I also notice that I'm from the midwest. And so when I go back to the midwest, I notice it too because in L A, New York. People are much thinner on the whole fat. People are everywhere, of course. But you see it more when you like either leave the country or you go to the midwest. And so when people act like this is this rare thing that's happening instead of no the human body, especially in the developed world is changing. And there are lots of reasons for that, including processed foods more sedentary lifestyles so on and so forth. So let's stop treating this like a a mystery and an anomaly and just get on board. And I think what I found people's lack of sensitivity understanding so concerning because I think a part of me assumed without you. We're getting shit about your body from strangers. But then I realized that if everyone has he's biases than you're getting it probably from people you've no as well all the time not anymore not as much anymore. But like, you know, my family everyone in my family is very thin. And so my body has and I write about this hunger has long been a source of familial, fascination and discussion. And when I turned forty I just told my parents, if you talk about my weight, I'm going to hang up on you. And so it took two weeks. And then they learned were you surprised that your weight loss surgery made headlines. No, I wasn't because I had written a book about fatness. So it was going to happen. Which is why I tried to do it as discreetly as possible because I wanted to at least have the time to paired you the surgery recover before the public found out about it. And so I went to a surgeon who does a lot of actors and other visible people, and it was really really good to have that level of discretion. People did see me at the doctor's office a couple of times before the surgery, but they didn't know doesn't say like bariatric center or anything like that. And so that was really great, and then the nurses in the recovery room when I woke up. She was like, oh, I know who you are. And I was like oh my God. Don't tell the internet. And she's like, oh, no, I won't. I mean, there are laws against that. But it was be sharing. And so I just was glad to have a few months to myself before I had the talk about it. But I knew I was going to have to talk about it because I was losing weight so quickly that sooner or later people were going to start saying something have you seen a change held people relate to your body for sure I mean, I still have a long way to go. But it's amazing what like losing one hundred sixty pounds. We'll do people start treating you like your human. It's it's appalling. I'm just it's been the most frustrating and repulsive part of the whole process is how much better people treat me. And I'm like man, I'm only like halfway there. And this is how good your treaty me. You really suck. And so that part is frustrating. You've had to relearn your entire relationship to food. What has been the challenge beyond that, though, just relearning my entire relationship to everything to other people? To how I see myself to how I fit into spaces. I have a lot of the hangups that I always had like thinking, oh, I can't go do that. I can't I don't have the stamina for that. I'm not gonna fit in that seat. And then I go I do it. It's fine. I go sit in the seat, and it's fine. Like my mind is not catching up to where my body is at and that's really challenging. And that's a common thing. The thirty three is brutal. I don't I mean, I recommend it. If you really want it, but I don't recommend it. And it's challenging enough that they have the they call it bariatric, alcoholism and bariatric divorce a lot of people get divorced after the surgery and a lot of people become alcoholics because they can't self medicate with food anymore. So they turned to drugs or alcohol. I have many obese people my family in many people have had gastric bypasses they've been three or four lot bounds. And the first year after surgery supposed to be the most difficult. Yes. It is. You're over that hump. Yes. How are you doing? Now. It's good. Good. You know, I must say my first year wasn't so hard. I don't know why. But I think it's because I had considered doing the surgery for many years. So when I finally did it it was just I was ready. I really what I had really hit the wall. And so I knew it was the right time, and it was very difficult to be clear, but it was not an insurmountable year. And I also started going to therapy at the same time. And so that really helped this year like January eighth was the anniversary. And in the two months since three months since it's also been just, you know, still adjust adjusting because every week my body is slightly different. And that's frustrating. But also good. And so I'm just going with the changes, and I just know more what to expect at this point. And and know that it's only about another year and a half of radical change. And then things are going to settle and that's good. And so I just know, oh, you just have to hang in there for another year. A half. Wow. You once said that Haitian culture really is obsessed with fatness is that in a way that is different from American culture for sure a Obama's Americans are actually very rude about fatness, but they're brewed in a sort of side of the mouth way in Haitians are just like your fat what's up like directly to your face, and that can be really exhausting, and they also have no problem like discussing it publicly in front of you. They just don't care, and they think that they're doing it. Out of love and concern. But this idea that fat people are. In need of concern. That were a problem waiting to happen is is really false and really problematic. And so, you know, that an entire culture views fat bodies this way because it's so different in general. You're not gonna see a lot of fat people in Haiti it can be really challenging to to navigate like how do I respect my family while dealing with their bullshit? And it seems like you have trained them how to talk to you. I have and my parents are here right now. And there be my dad is really good. He's really quiet. He's really friendly. But like my mom was like yesterday, they arrived. And she was like, oh, good work. You're doing very well. And I had already told her don't like point things out just like go with it. And keep these thoughts to yourself, and like she just kept making little comments. And I was just like. Little she's five two. And I was just like I'm going to put you in time out, and like a trash can you're quite a bit taller than her. I'm very much taller than her my dad's six four. Wow, it's hilarious to watch them walking down the street is just like what's going on here? But my if you're under six foot tall, my mom has nothing to say to you as a man. She's like, oh, no, she doesn't. She doesn't deal with short, man. And she doesn't deal with Fatman. Okay. Your parents grew up in Haiti they moved here. How'd you guys where did you see representations of Haitian people in the media growing up? I didn't there they were not existent except when I went to Haiti, and we would go to Haiti in the summers. And so there I saw representation like on television shows and movies just walking down the street in books. It was great. Granted. I not seeking out Haitian presentation like queer visitation. But the only queer people can think of is actually an untamed state the book, you wrote was that part of your desire to write it. Yeah. Definitely I it was just a story. That was interesting to me. And I wanted to tell it, and there were very few American novels about Haitian people, and especially the Haitian diaspora. And so it was important to me to tell a story, and it is just a story. And there are plenty of other Haitian writers who are writing. But yeah, I just wanted to add to the conversation in some way, an untamed state like many of her writing deals with sex and sexual violence. Do you think that in order to get that right on the page writer has have some sort of experience with it? No. I don't I think it can help. But it's really important, and I see this more and more where people are acting like if you aren't from a certain culture, you can't write about it. And that's a really dangerous road to go down it because what it suggests is that you don't have the right to write. And think outside of your subject position. And if we can only write about what we know then it's not fiction anymore. And it's not even creative nonfiction. I do think the reason we're having this over correction right now is because the wrong people have written outside of their subject position. And they've done so so badly that people are like, you know, what you had a chance, and you blew it. So you don't get to play anymore. But I'm very resistant to this idea that you can't do it. I think you can do it. But you have to try you have to research you have to have an ethical code about it because there is a delicacy in a nuance to the act, but also the aftermath, and I don't see that being honored often. I think it was reading one of your books and reading about how someone at Saks, and then there was a soreness between the woman's legs. And I never read that before. And I realized oh my God. This is a woman writing this. You know, I do like to be graphic or not graphic explicit when writing about sex. In consensual sex at that because that's just my flow. And I think it's important because oftentimes when you read sex for men from a woman's perspective. It's clear that they're just having a fantasy on the page. And it's hilarious or they're just like really weird and growth, I read this book, and I can't remember the title. But it was by a young man named Gabriel talent. And it was about a girl who is living with her father. And we come to find out that he is raping her on the regular in the book. She like scoops his semen out with her fingers. And I was just like we don't really spend time doing that. And it was just so weird, and it just showed a complete lack of understanding of the human body and like how women interact with their bodies. And it was there were other problematic things with the book. But I could just tell like sure right outside of your subject position. But my God talk to a woman, and I cannot. Can't help at a tie line from everything you're saying to what you said earlier about how you didn't know you could ask for what you liked. Oh, sure for sure. And I think a lot of women are afraid to ask for what they like during sex, especially in heterosexual relationships because. Men have so much of their ego tied up and being good at sex. And I think a lot of women I blame women for this in some ways that we give them a pastime and again for bad lays and never give them any feedback or lie, and we fake are orgasms. So they just think that in and out is what is going to get the job done like they don't even know that most women can't have vaginal orgasms, the can't find a clip with a map. And so, you know, it's because we've given them the pass, but we've given them the pass because we're told that our desires don't matter. So it's really complicated. But I just resist, and I'm just I just whenever a woman is telling me about her unsatisfying sex life. I'm just like, let's take some responsibility. Here. Why haven't you said anything? How can I help you get to that promise land? And if he's just bad in bed and you love him. Anyway, that's finally grow work it out. But if he's bad in bed, and you're ambivalent about him find someone who's good in bed. It it's fine. I think we underestimate the importance of good sex. I think so like a lot of people are just like, oh, it's not everything. Well, no, it's not everything. But my God. Do you want to spend the rest of your life having bad sex once a week? I don't and I think that the public has had this massive hardware upgrade in terms of our understanding of consent and power dynamics that involved. Absolutely. And I really am one of my favorite things talk about now is consent education because I think we need it from preschool on in age appropriate ways. Like, no, you don't have to hug the weird on coal for a young child. And then the older they get the more sophisticated discussion of consent becomes also talking about enthusiastic consent since your writing deals with this topic. Do you have you seen a change than types of conversations around it? We're starting to have better conversations, especially since the rise of the metoo hashtag. And in the public consciousness people are at least acknowledging that enthusiastic consent is a thing and that sober. Sent is a thing at that. We should be thinking about and talking about an educating people about with consent and sexual harassment being in the news so much lately. The Brad Kavanagh hearing has come to mind is that hard to keep repeatedly hearing about. No, I mean, what's harder hearing about in having these difficult and sometimes awkward conversations or living in a world where we have really appalling statistics about the prevalence of sexual harassment and violence. I think we have to choose one discomfort over something. That's completely unacceptable. Since you are so open about. Everything we've been talking about. I imagine that fans feel very comfortable confiding in you. They do did anybody warn or prepare you for that. They did not. They did not if you had known that I was going to get so many emails with. And events people's like, deeply, personal and painful stories. I would not I would have just said really I get where it comes from. And I actually respect it. But I do always try to make clear when I respond to people that I'm not a therapist, and that I can't I can hear you. But I can't fix you. And Ann Patchett actually gave me some really great advice when I didn't event with her in Nashville. She told me that after she wrote her book about her friendship with Lucy Greeley a lot of times fans would come up and tell her they're very sad stories about losing their best friends. And so when she's not up to handling it at the end of an event before the signing. She tells the audience that she has her own sad story, and she can't carry this ad stories of anyone else. So please don't share them and to hear her articulate that boundary. So clearly, and so firmly and so on apologetically has given me a lot of strength to do the same. When I just can't handle. Another story about someone who's been sexually violated in some way. It's like I don't want to disrespect the story. But it's a lot to carry in addition to my own and people have dealt with truly horrific things. And that's what keeps me doing the work. I do it's really as bad as we say it is. And I wish that more people would acknowledged the extent of suffering that people across the gender spectrum dealing with when it comes to sexual violence the stories that I hear. They just you know, they keep me up at night. It's just not really. Yeah. They do because you just think oh my God. Like, how do you wake up every day? Like, how do you live with these kinds of horror stories like I edited this anthology called not that bad about how we minimize our own experiences. But a lot of the things that I hear I'm like, wow. What I went through. It was not that bad. And that's a hell of a thing to say because it really was that bad what I dealt with. But the stories that I hear are just so much worse. And it just makes me. Worry about how do we address this? How do we make sure that the next generation does not deal with this? And I don't know I worry about that. But then on a personal level for these people. I worry that they are not talking to anybody else about this. That's what I worry about to. You know, one of the key things. I recommend is therapy. But I always have to do. So with the caveat that I understand that very few people can actually afford mental health care in this country. I it's extraordinarily expensive. This is the first time in my life. I've had therapy before with insurance. And this is the first time in my life where I can truly afford it where I'm not sacrificing one thing to do this other thing, and my therapist, of course, is really expensive. Not of course, he just happens to be really expensive. And every time I get the Bill. I just look at it. And just think what would I do like five years ago five three years ago? I would just walk around a whole hot mess. Well. Hotter mess and currently am. And you know, it just highlights that oftentimes people can't go to their families because the predator is a family member or their family is hostile to reality and facing that this predation is happening to someone they love, and they have no access to mental health care because they don't have insurance or they're on their parents insurance or some other complication because the can't afford it or they live in a rural place where there's no access. I've talked to people who are like there's only one therapist in town, and my abuser goes to that therapist. And so how do we deal with this? How do we even give people a space? And so I recognize that my work oftentimes opens the door, and that's why I can't be so callous as to say, oh, no don't tell me anything. But I'm not a quipped like I don't have any sort of background. I don't know what the right thing to say is other than fuck him and cut his dick off. And apparently, that's not. Productive advice been done. Actually, I have it has. And with good reason. So yeah, it's it's a lot to think about an to try and negotiate as compassionately as I can you're able to articulate all these things very clearly. And specifically you wrote that in your twenties, they that was a difficult time for you. And that you said you were quote, completely insane was re able to talk about all the stuff then. No, I wasn't. I never discussed any of this back then. And that was why I was so insane for lack of a better word. It's not even in a casual way truly had a break from reality insanity. And it was because I had kept his trauma to myself for so long, and then, you know, once you've been traumatized oftentimes, it makes you to other kinds of trauma, and predators seem to know. Like she's been marked. She's an easy Mark. I'm going to get her. And so it just created a really complex level of issues where I was dealing with this primary. Trump. But all these other terrible things also happening because I had made my not, I guess I had not made myself. I'm still working on that. I was made more vulnerable, and it was challenging, and I didn't know what to do. And so I wrote thank God. So that's what you got you out of it, definitely definitely I've been writing since I was a kid, but in my twenties, even though most of that writing will never see the light of day that was just sort of where I was putting what was functioning of my sanity and that ability to articulate what I had been through was going on the page. Even if it wasn't specifically my story. I wrote literally hundreds of stories about girls being abused by men, and I could just tell that it was my way of getting it out of my system in some way, like bleeding it out. Do you worry that since you've tackled so many taboos writing that we're going to expect that as a public every time, you publish, of course, I do. And that's why I do something different with every. Project. And that's why I have some very fun projects coming up that have nothing to do with suffering or violence. And also I wanna prove that I can write women's stories that are not grounded in sexual violence because you don't want that to be a trick. You don't want that to be the only story that you can write and it isn't. I can write a happier story. And so I'm working on some happier stories I excited for the heavy stuff. Me metoo. I need it. Thanks for talking to us. Oh, you're more than welcome. It's been a pleasure. And that's our show. LGBT Cuna is brought to you by luminary media, advocate any unhugged media produced by Zach Stafford Gabriel Horton Johnson Hirsch is about Mendoza in myself with sound engineering by Tyler Barton. We'll see next week.