Well, this has been a learning experience, perhaps an overdue one: people are dicks. It’s actually not a new lesson, but one I keep having to re-learn, because I tend to be pollyana-ish about these things.

My piece in the Blade was far from the best thing I’ve written. It had flaws. If people want to criticize the piece, go for it. Criticize the reasoning I use, criticize the metaphors, criticize the tone, criticize the word choice. A couple of people have done that and I fully embrace it.

But don’t fucking attack me personally. Don’t lay me out on a couch and try to analyze me, someone you don’t even know. Because, trust me – you don’t know me at all. What a pompous thing to do. It also exhibits a total lack of respect for my personhood and for personal boundaries.

Because I want everyone to like me, I tend to dwell unnecessarily on those who don’t. But there’s a saying: “What you think of me is none of my business.” I need to remember that more often.

I also need to develop a thicker skin.

8 thoughts on “Personhood

  1. i think you should take down your blog if you’re really going to become a writer. its one thing to get emails (that nobody else sees), but this whole discussion on all the blogs and in comments is pretty childish. its not worth it


  2. I agree–take down your comments section, at least. And only respond to threads about your writing on other blogs if they’re respectful. Doing otherwise is asking for trouble.

    I don’t follow this advice myself, but I’m not trying to earn a living with my writing, and I like getting into fights sometimes. :-)

  3. Yes, people can be dicks, can’t they. And sometimes dickish behavior comes from the most surprising places.

    Take comfort in the fact that you wrote something that people care enough to be riled up about. Whether or not you were misunderstood, misread, misinterpreted, or even got some facts wrong, you got people talking. And thinking.

  4. This is one of the reasons I’ve never succeeded blogging. One if laziness and lack of discipline, which is the reason all my private journals never lasted more than a week.

    The other is the insecurity of having people criticize and attack me. I feel for you, Jeff, and I sympathize completely.

    I think your article was actually very good, and articulates some points that I’ve been arguing over myself for a while. I don’t want to join in the psychoanalysis game, but I really think that everyone who responded negatively to your piece was not really responding negatively to YOU but rather the feelings that your piece stirred up within them.

    Keep up the good work

  5. Part of being a public figure (whether that’s a writer or an actor or a politician) is taking criticism. Some of it will be reasonable, and some of it is ad hominem junk. But you have to just suck it up and deal with it.

    That said, I don’t think your letter was incendiary. I do know that there are lots and lots of 40+ year-old gay men who work themselves up into a tizzy when they think someone isn’t being “sex positive.” And you had to have known that they’d come swinging after you. But so what? Much of their attitude comes from cognitive dissonance: “I bareback/pnp/was or am a slut, but I’m not a bad person, therefore those activities must be good things.” When really, they’re not good or bad, they’re neutral things, and being “sex positive” or “sex negative” isn’t the point at all.

    That movie is disturbing precisely because its first half is marked by the unseen shadow of AIDS. Even the filmmakers say as much. If we now look back on anonymous sex on the piers and in the trucks in the 1970’s and find the idea scary, that makes perfect sense, considering that we now know the consequences. It’s monumentally idiotic to think that using a term like “scary” betrays the joy and freedom of that time; it doesn’t. It just comes from a different perspective, a 2006 perspective, one that might be a useful thing for Farmboyz and Joe.My.God to test-drive.

  6. That’s a good point. None of the negative posters really seemed to take the fact of hindsight and history into account.

    No one knew in the 70s what would happen in the 80s and why. We know now, so we can look back at that time with a nostalgia, but also a sadness at what was lost and wasted and might have been prevented. And they ignore the fact that the problem hasn’t been fixed, but that people still engage in the same behaviors despite the lesson from history.

    At first I didn’t like Jeff’s comparison of gay men fucking in freight trucks to Jews in box cars in the Shoah, but gay life in the 70’s always has felt to me the same as the carefree hedonism of Weimar Germany. Looking back, we can see how these people were dancing at the edge of a cliff, completely unware of what was coming to swallow them up. Maybe it could have been prevented, but still people haven’t learned from history and the same shit keeps happening. There are more parallels than I thought at first.

  7. I disagree that you need to take the blog down, or even the comments. Certainly you’ve the right to moderate comments, and certainly you should only respond to respectful critiques. I’d like to think that blogging can be a great tool for a writer, and that comments can be very useful indeed. After all, writers all need feedback.

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