Sunday, January 9, 2011

The New Column, with Notes!

I wrote a new column last week, The Death of Death, after a long struggle to figure out the voice.

Since nothing's more boring about the technical aspect of writing, I won't dwell on that. Suffice it to say that writing is quite difficult.

I got the idea when I saw the performance artist Tom Judson awhile back.

As you can see, Judson's a hunk. Yeah, that's him on the left.
He used to be a porn star and a Broadway performer, which means he was hustling twice a day.

He talks about AIDS in his show, because his longtime lover died of the disease a long time ago in a city far far away. I noticed, as I looked around the room, that AIDS was, ironically, no longer onstage. It surrounded the room but it didn't take center stage. Judson's story did.

I also mentioned a guy named Jack Mackenroth, who I think is a wonderful role model for HIV-positive men. He's proud of his body and shows it off pretty much all the time. That's a great way to de-stygmatize the disease; to show we no longer need to hide our bodies or feel ashamed of ourselves. We've come a long way. It's a celebration of life, of conquering a disease we once thought would conquer us. He's been at the forefront of that movement, and I applaud him.

Mackenroth (below) wrote me to tell me it was a huge insult and that I was a horrible writer. To each his own. He was offended that I mentioned his constant state of undress in magazines and online. Then he instructed me to remove him from the column. Mackenroth is not my boss or my editor or my friend and I've never met him. Columnists are not paid to write puff pieces subject to the approval of celebrities' whims. There was no interview beforehand nor did there need to be.

I talked about it with friends of mine, even re-read the graph several times to decide if I'd made a mistake in how I approached the subject of his sex-appeal. In the end, I left the piece as is. In writing, as in life, always go with your instincts. Never second guess yourself or what others might say. I think he's an amazing role model, and admire his courage and honesty in his personal life. That was my intent in mentioning him.

When you are a columnist or journalist, or in the business of writing, you need to be thick-skinned in regards to your audience. I've written what I thought were Valentine's to people, who later told me they didn't approve. (I've also written articles that have received high praise from the subjects.) Point is, you can't live by what others say--that's not our job as writers. Our job is to tell our truths as best as we can, and let others judge. As someone once said, "Never criticize your own work; plenty of other people will be thrilled to do it for you."

My mom reads everything I write, and I often cringe at the thought that she might be going over a graph in which I discuss sex. But I can't censor myself for my mom, or for anyone else. I write from the heart, good or bad. I strongly encourage others to do the same.

All my best,

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