It’s all about fitting in, isn’t it? Rejection is a painful thing, and it’s hard not to want to be accepted. I see this in the Black Community too. Rich or middle black folks who avoid anything that they consider too much a part of the Black culture. There are just certain things that is considered embarrassing. Storefront churches, fish fries and the like. And from what I see in your book, in the Gay community, certain things are somewhat frowned on: anonymous sex and the sex business for instance. And certain things are honored…as part of the new gay trend toward assimilation: notions of masculinity for instance? I mean.. that was one of the impressions I got.
So Many Ways to Sleep Badly is definitely portraying a queer world that doesn't fit into the smiling gay “we’re just like you” mentality — things like anonymous sex and sex work and gender transgression and political instigation are just givens to the narrator and the other characters, and I wanted to portray this world on its own terms, without explication or justification or some kind of simplified reversal where bad is good and good is bad — instead everything gets a bit messed up, including language and narrative and plot and voice and structure.
It’s understandable that people would want to fit in, but you’re right. Should they fit in at the cost of their own culture, at the cost of their own soul? As I said, I felt you were one who walks the borderlands. In many ways you are part of the larger culture: male, white, secular in your spirituality, not particularly rich. But you are also a survivor of incest, a bit of an eccentric in a world that says it likes eccentrics but really doesn’t, and a gay man who challenges other gay men. As for me, I’m a Black Christian woman. I’ve had my wars with blacks and with Christians and with both. So I understand where you’re coming from. There is a community of borderland walkers who rankle at the idea of exclusion because, to tell you the truth, something happened in our lives that make it hard to fit neatly in categories.
Yes, the borderlands, indeed — and, as someone who has grown up with certain expectations of what it means to be male and white and class-privileged, I think it's important to challenge the violence of those expectations, which includes the violence of sexual abuse at the hands of the people who are supposed to keep us safe. I like when you say "a bit of an eccentric in a world that says it likes eccentrics for really doesn't”-- that's so so true, and I knew that early on, and I think it has helped to shape me in embracing an outsider status to challenge the hypocrisy of those on the inside. Although, speaking of insides, I identify as a genderqueer faggot and a queen, so there's certainly overlap with a gay male identity (like many of the things I do sexually), but to me “gay” has become a dead end, a commodified, consumerist identity and I'm more interested in flamboyance and resistance and celebration of difference.