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LI author talks about his memoir 'Genderqueer'

Allan Hunter, author of "GenderQueer," on the street

Allan Hunter, author of "GenderQueer," on the street in New Hyde Park near his home. Credit: Jeff Bachner

New Hyde Park resident Allan D. Hunter’s new memoir “Genderqueer: A Story From a Different Closet” (Sunstone Press, 218 pages, $19.95) tells a tale both relatable and also completely uncommon — one of a heterosexual male who happens to be effeminate and fluid in gender identity.

Hunter said he wrote his book to bring attention to the plight of the “sissy” or “femme heterosexual,” the type of person who is often the “object of derision.” He adds that it's the sort of book he needed to read when he was young. This coming-of-age saga, he asserts, is an effort to “understand why things were so difficult," and is in keeping with that promise he had made to himself as a young man.

Hunter spoke to Newsday about his book and shared his personal story,

When I taught the psychology of gender and human sexuality at Pima Community College in Tucson, my students and I spent a good deal of time reviewing research that suggested genderqueer individuals were among the most misunderstood, mischaracterized and marginalized, even by people within the LGBTQ community. Has this been your experience?
If gay people are the exception to the rule, and transgender people who transition are the exception to whatever modified rule you'd come up with, genderqueer folk are the exception to the exception to the exception to the rule. I think it's easier to understand us after understanding them.

 

What do you want people to know about genderqueer identity? What is the greatest misconception?
Lots of people view "genderqueer" as a trendy bandwagon phenomenon; they don't think it's real in the way that being gay or being transgender is real. I hope my tale corrects that impression.


Why is there so much controversy over pronouns?

They're symbolic. Do people address you as "she" or "he?" They don't, you get called "you." They're third-person pronouns, not a form of direct address. Gender-variant people chose pronouns to raise awareness. It's working.

Please explain the importance of the pronoun "they."
Disclaimer: I myself don't have preferred pronouns. But "they" creates a space outside the narrow mental boxes of "he" and "she." Many genderqueer people embrace it for that reason. 

Your book chronicles your "coming-of-age" and "coming out" in the late 1970s when you were a teenager. What has changed in the culture since then?
First, what hasn't: there was more awareness and acceptance of gay and lesbian people than folks may think, although not as much as today; and at least *some* awareness of transsexual people [the term used back then]. So a person like me could discover and consider those identities, even if your mom or your co-worker were oblivious to such things. What *has* changed is that now your mom and neighbor and babysitter have heard about gay and transgender people and can have discussions. 

 

How does this new book relate to your academic article on feminism, "Same Door, Different Closet: A Heterosexual Sissy's Coming-Out Party?"
Book editors often advise authors "show, don't tell. My article … was all "tell" — feminist theory written in the terminologies that theorists use. “GenderQueer” is a deliberate attempt to *show* … to make those concepts accessible to people who aren't fans of abstract theory.

 

Has the writing of this book been at all cathartic?

Oh my, yes. I needed to take stock of whether or not the things I'd set out to do were meaningful or worthwhile. Writing down how I'd gotten to the present moment vindicated the younger me to the current-era me and convinced me that they were, and that the story itself was a tool for attaining those goals.

When writing the book were you ever worried about sharing such revealing, intimate details and relationships?
Not really. That may seem odd, but what you may think of as privacy is experienced as erasure — being kept silent — by people who have a reason to make their case to the world, to demand an ear and to seek understanding of others.

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