Hi, {name}:

Like you, maybe, I'm worried about Monkeypox. My concern is less over contracting it personally—though that fear exists—than watching what it might do to our community.

Monkeypox is not an STI. It spreads through contact with a person's body or bed linens or used towel or previously worn sweater, say. You could give it to your mom. But it also spreads through what the CDC calls 'respiratory secretions' while kissing, and it spreads through the kinds of sex where your naked body is in contact with another naked body. The latest numbers I could find show that 98 percent of cases, as you've likely heard, involve men who have sex with men.

Our community.

It's been said that MSM are promiscuous. This isn't itself a problem (nothing wrong with sluts), but I prefer to think we're just better than most at having sex with others. More curious and generous. I believe this because I agree with the CDC that one of the ways to reduce stigma is to use positive language and inclusive we/us pronouns. 

Would that everyone in our community felt the same. Already I've seen online gays righteously shaming, with you/they pronouns, the people brave enough to post pics of their infections and tell their story. You knew the risks and now you want sympathy? is the refrain, and it breaks my heart to see such intra-queer hate, especially when M.T. Greene's handlers are already using this crisis to repeat the lie that homosexuals are pedophiles.

Sex shames so many of us, even the shameless. It won't be the last time you hear it from me. Whether or not you're a fellow MSM, this global health emergency affects us all. If you, like me, are worried about Monkeypox, ask your local officials to secure more vaccines.



Endorsements: Writing Tools Edition

1. Roget's International Thesaurus
Someone I knew in grad school liked to claim that using a thesaurus was cheating, because writers should only use words they're familiar with. Which like: good luck growing as an artist, but back then I heeded all kinds of silly Thou Shalt Nots. Then I went to a residency which provided on my enormous dinner table of a desk a copy of Roget's International Thesaurus. It baffled me; you had to look up a word twice: first in the index in the back, and then under the heading number it gave, because this Roget's, the original Roget's, groups words according to ideas. So 343 COMMUNICATION is followed by 344 UNCOMMUNICATIVENESS, then 345 SECRECY, then 346 CONCEALMENT. Each of those concepts has dozens of words in subheadings like veil, ambush, secret passage. Why I love the Intl. Roget's is that I'm never confident that the word I'm looking up is even the right one, and in its ingenious semantic organization I can look around the page and watch shades of meaning shift like in a color picker. The paperback is 1200 pages and weighs 3 pounds, and you better believe I packed it for Santa Monica last month.

2. The Uni-Ball 207 Signo Ultra-Micro Retractable Pen w/ Blue Ink
Upfront warning: I think these pens are being discontinued, which makes this endorsement all the more urgent. If your handwriting, like mine, looks like a squashed bug on the page, one thing that can help is to crispen up your line, and the Uni-Ball 207 Signo Ultra-Micro Retractable is the thinnest (.38mm) line I've seen on a gel pen. Behold:

In the last two months, a colleague and then an aunt-in-law asked to borrow a pen from me and then both asked to keep it. It converts people is what I mean. Two caveats: if you keep the pen at all times in a pants pocket, the retractable feature will sometimes activate the tip when you sit and stain your pants; the point is so ultramicro that it can tear through thinner sheets of paper if you, like me, grip your pen in a fist clenched as though for a fight. So go easy, and act now before they're gone. (They also make it in black ink, but I'd sooner wear a MAGA hat than write in black ink.)


Who Wants To Read A Book on Sex & Shame?

Some days my answer for this is, 'Nobody, dummy. Quit writing about your boring problems.' (This is part of my process.) Other days, I'm like, 'Everyone's got hangups, right?' Lately, I've been thinking about this demographically. That is: who will be my audience, if this book ever gets published?

Before the book reaches (let's hope) a wide audience, it has to reach, or at least engage, a very narrow audience of (1) my agent, and (2) any editor she tries to sell it to. Who are those people? Here are some recent (2019) findings, compiled by Lee & Low, the largest multicultural children's book publisher in the U.S.:

The lack of diversity in publishing is an old problem that I hope—thanks in part to the good work of Lee & Low—is getting better. Another old problem is sophistic* white men (and their supporters) lamenting the lack of interest in their books amid the imperative to diversify the field. What I'm writing about today is the image we often keep in front of us as we write: the inevitable gate and its keepers.

I wrote the taxidermy book this way: What do editors need me to do to see that my book has a throughline? I wrote two proposals for a book on standup this way: What do I need to include for editors to see this book can reach a broad audience? I don't know that I gendered or raced those editors at the gate (and for the record, the taxidermy book's editor was another gay man), but then again neither of those books were especially queer.

When writing, as I have been these past few years, about gay sex, and childhood gay sex, and public gay sex, and perverted gay fantasies, I've imagined the faces of those at the gate. Sometimes they look disgusted. Sometimes their eyes are rolled, bored as hell. Often, these images make me pause and rethink my wording, or the images I'm using. I change 'dick' to 'penis' and then to 'genitals' and then I cut it out of the sentence entirely.

Some years ago, in Finland, I felt sick and stuck and unable to recall why I wanted to write this book. I'd brought on my sabbatical travels the school photos of myself from the years I was writing about, had them lined up on my writing desk, to keep me in the right headspace:

I looked in the eyes of each of those boys, and I felt all the old sadnesses return. The regret of being closet. The fear of being truly seen. I wanted to go back in time and tell those boys they weren't alone, and they weren't disgusting, no matter what bullshit messages they'd picked up about themselves.

That's when I saw my true audience: the boys I used to be. I couldn't travel back in time, but I could send a book out into the future, where I knew it would find other people ashamed and confused about who they are—whether that was queer kids in terrorist states that deny them education, or adults stuck in compulsive sex habits they hate themselves for.

Our community.

I think of them when those gatekeepers' faces pop up. The gatekeepers can wait. I've got more interesteding people to write for.


* I found this word using Roget's, from the feeling that my original choice, 'disingenuous', wasn't right. (Also, my apologies for so much linking in this newsletter to garbage tweets.)

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Recent Blog Posts:

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