So, here’s the thing. Writer/scholar Andrea Lawlor was kind enough to interview me about my “process,” which I think this provides is a good opportunity to exeunt this project before it dies a slow, painful, irrelevant death. I mean, in many ways, this post is like the last episode of Seinfeld or whatever.
AL: How do you think your work differs from others in its genre?
The Hussy is a persona piece: I, the author, am not the Hussy, but the Hussy is an extension of me. It is a larger-than-life-sized version of myself. And yet, the line is very thin; the membrane is permeable.
In what has been loosely termed “queer community,” there are a number of writers, poets and artists who make “femme work” of some kind. I had noticed a trend over the last ten years or so, that these works seem to all have some kind of Oprah-esque neoliberal creation-of-the-self-through-personal-empowerment bent. They are about healing from trauma or self-affirmation or fighting “femmephobia” or what have you. Some of these works are better than others. Some of them are very unfortunate.
I wanted to take a different tack. I wanted to deploy “femme” as it has historically been used — as an outlaw sexual identity — and investigate it with a contemporary lens.
I do not want “femme empowerment.” I want femmes at our worst. At our ugliest, most selfish, most narcissistic, most histrionic, most competitive, most needy. I want to explore the “negative” affective realm of whatever the hell it is we’re calling “femme” these days. To me, this is work about the grittiness of a feminine emotional and intimate life.
Also, the thought occurred to me, Why do boys get to have all the fun? People rarely complain about the endless misogyny from authors like T Cooper (who is very talented) and Sinclaire Sexsmith (in my opinion, much less so.) I set out to even the score. If men (boizzz) (masculine-of-center-theys) (whatever) can be “bad,” why can’t women?
Oh, and by the by, the pseudonymity of the blog gave me the freedom to explore these feelings without being shunned by, like, everyone. When Tom proposed I start this project, I came to him with my first couple of pieces, and a tremendous amount of ambivalence about whether or not to publish them. “Seriously though. We can’t ever let anyone know my true identity, or I will never get laid again.”
In fact, quite the opposite happened. When you really write with unflinching honesty, especially about your personal life, it’s like sending a flare up into the sky — someone out there is going to see it, and want to check it out and know more. My current boyfriend was probably The Hussy’s biggest fan, and had to pull some pretty intrepid maneuvers to track me down. We’ve been together for over a year now. (Again, bizarrely, something not at all unlike this happened to T Cooper, too.)
Point of the story is, if you want something, write about it. Get on a stage and sing about it. Write a play and force other people to act it out. Don’t hold back. Just put it out there. Desire responds to desire.
AL: Why do you write what you do?
My work is meant to be read by a microcommunity within a microcommunity. An editor I had for a story in proper *actual art journal* gave me some feedback recently, “You do a good job of capturing, like, what we understand to be THE TRANS MAN NOW.” Which is hilarious, because the character I was writing was in no way any kind of Chaz Bono. I am speaking to a few select readers, mostly in North American cosmopolitan areas who have assembled enough of a critical mass of queers around them to get the jokes.
And here’s the thing about those jokes: when I wrote for Pretty Queer, many people speculated as to what I was trying to “do” with the Hussy: they said, oh, it’s irony, it’s satire, it’s hyperbole.
Some commenters thought it was transphobic garbage. One unforgettable comment I got was, “I need to go scrub my eyeballs with Comet after reading this article.” THESE COMMENTERS WERE RIGHT ON THE MONEY.
Because the joke of the Hussy is, it’s not a joke. Everything I wrote/write was/is 100% serious, even if it was insulting or vicious or took cheap shots or exposed an emotional situation with all its terrible ugly warts and seeping oozing abscesses.
When Tom proposed I do this column, his only instructions were, “tell the truth.” So that’s what I sought out to do, as best as I could. And any close reader of the work has to admit, the biggest monster in any work by The Hussy is The Hussy herself.
AL: What are you working on right now?
Actually, quite a lot. My writing education has been mostly in drama, and I am returning to my roots in theater, by starting a company to produce under-produced works that are actually, like, relevant, though it has been slow going, as theater is always a slog. I always have a million side writing projects going on at any given time — submit to THIS anthology, read a story at THIS reading, etc — and I’m also an artist in other media, as well as running another small business in fashion. So, contrary to the stoned lazy layabout pillow queen I play on this blog, I’m actually quite industrious.
I’m glad that boring question is out of the way.
AL: How does your writing process work?
It is mostly impulsive/compulsive.
The Hussy is series of works of creative non-fiction, observational quips, visual media, and, like I said before, a lot of intra-community jokes. It is highly intergenre work, which I think is most of what you will find on Tumblr, which I think makes it an exciting medium for young artists. (Both the Hussy, and the author, are not young artists. The puzzles intergenerationality are a big jumping-off point for the work.)
In the the documentary that accompanies Silas Howard’s music video, THE GOLDEN AGE OF HUSTLERS (starring Justin Vivian Bond), Silas asks legendary San Francisco chanteuse Bambi Lake why she started writing songs. (Bambi, coincidentally, started writing at about the same age that I am now.) She says, I read somewhere that Joni Mitchell pretty much only wrote songs about her ex boyfriends. So I thought, what the hell, if it worked for her, maybe I’ll give it a go.
In a clip that ended up on the cutting room floor, they ask her about her current husband. She said, Oh, I’m never without a husband. A woman with a man? That’s a narrative. A woman without a man? That’s a tragedy.
I mean, chew on that for a while.