by John W. Gettys
(Permission to publish or quote from hereby granted, free of charge.)
Q: It is the thirty-sixth anniversary of the publication of the first angry, gay protest novel,
which you wrote, Something You Do in the Dark? (G.P. Putnam, 1971)? And why the
A: Because nobody paid any attention to the thirty-fifth anniversary!
Q: Is that because your novel is no longer relevant?
A: It's because Americans have no long-term memory. Baseball announcers recall old
baseball players. Muslim fundamentalists remember slights from 897 and 1267. But
American writers . . . who? What's a writer? Recently a student in a class of mine
asked me to spell a name I had mentioned in passing. The name was John Steinbeck.
And as for gay writers – forget it.
Q: Are you getting bitter in your old age?
A: I was bitter in my young age. But I'm funnier about it now. Apparently you can't
make people praise you if they don't want to. But the larger issue is that the pioneers
do the hard labor and are often forgotten, while the celebrities who come out when it’s
safe get the praise and any prizes to be had. This is common in social movements.
Q: What would you say is the lasting significance of your early gay protest novel?
A: Many men over the years have told me they read it and it helped radicalize their
thinking – from victimization to rage. Of course being gay now is hunky dory and we
are living happily ever after. We have no problems whatsoever, so who needs a gay
protest novel?! And once we can get married legally, wow, will we be HAPPY.
Q: Yes, I see your point. But hasn't a lot has changed for the better?
A: I haven’t noticed many gay pride parades in Riyadh. Not too many in Russia or
Mississippi either. Huckabilly is talking about an Amendment to ban same-sex marriage
and he's a national candidate!
Q: What has changed, if anything? For those who weren’t born when your “dark” book came out?
A: Gays are mentioned constantly, in almost anything you care to mention, usually as
something the person talking about is NOT. We are the ubiquitous I Am Not That. It's
amazing how much the straight world is obsessed with us. It's in Tiger Woods over-
reacting to Roger Federer touching his shaved face in an ad, to the Young Things on
The Real World feeling the need to approve or disapprove so passionately. Who asked
them to judge us so much?
Q: Did the Stonewall Rebellion inspire your first book?
A: When I wrote Something You Do in the Dark I had never heard of the Stonewall
Rebellion or gay liberation. People wrongly believe that one event caused all the
subsequent events. I just knew that I was a good person, but the world was saying I
was so despicable that we couldn't even discuss what “you people” do sexually. It
took me until the age of twenty-six to overcome this social disapproval and become a
sexual human being. Thanks to His Holiness and other morons.
Q: And you’re still bitter about that?
A: Let’s just say that I’ve made up for past sins of omission, even now at the grand old
age of seventy. Actually, I'm not that “bitter.” It's just that our culture does so little
honoring of its pioneers. It should be all literary prizes and blow jobs as I ride off into
the sunset. Alas, many of my first readers are now dead of AIDS, and nostalgia for
thirty-six years ago is very limited.
Q: Was there a cause-and-effect relation between AIDS and your book?
A: It’s the dilemma of most social movements. When gay men at last became sexually
liberated and got it on often, not always wisely, the consequence was the spread of a
communicable disease that we haven’t seen the end of yet. By the way, crime is much
higher in South Africa today since apartheid ended. Does that mean apartheid should
return? American black civil rights won their day – only to wind up with endless race
card playing now— to say nothing of the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton in your
face all the time.
Q: So there is bad along with the good?
A: Yes, but I wouldn’t go back to the old closeted days for anything. Now I can teach a
gay book, and a book with some sex in it too, in a college classroom, and the burden
is on the other side not to seem bigoted and narrow-minded rather than what it used to
be: “How dare you promote this perverted stuff!!!!” (Oh, I forgot -- I'm in San
Francisco! People elsewhere are running to the polls to stop “them homos” from
getting married. We all know what a DISASTER for the world that would be. (The
divorce courts would be swamped!) Has that much changed, if you look at it
closely?) Don't forget -- if gays get to marry, Muslim men will want up to four wives!
Q: Besides your angry books, you also have written your fair share of comedy.
A: Thank you for noticing.
Q: Is it true you are bringing your satirical Gay Etiquette Book back into print?
A: I first did it in 1982, when gay anything was hardly “fashionable.” I thought I would
update and expand it as The Big Book of In-Your-Face Gay Etiquette. I have an agent
in London who thinks it might find a “niche” publisher. I did the BookSurge version,
but PODs sell few copies.
Q: Can you give an example of your etiquette rules?
A: They're not meant to be serious – except underneath perhaps. Here's one: “Girlie man
though he may be, in your heart of hearts you know that you don't want to get into a
fistfight with a drag queen.” Here's another: “A lady's name appears in the newspapers
only three times in her lifetime – when she is born, when she gets married, and . . .
when she turns lesbian.”
Q: You have written a non-fiction narrative called What a Tangled Web
(BookSurge.com) about your experiences with college students and the low level of
student competence you have experienced as a college teacher of forty-plus years. But
haven’t teachers always complained about their students, even when you were a
A: No doubt they have. The difference is – and I don’t want to be an Old Fart about this –
in the Good Old Days (which never really existed) the complains were about such
things as misusing “like” for “as.” Now it’s about incredible illiteracy in college
students, who write things like this when trying to identify some lines from a
Shakespearean sonnet on a test: “These lines was written by Robert Frost in the
1600s.” “These other lines was written by Edgar Allen Pope.” And I am not making
Q: What a Tangled Web, your non-fiction narrative, likewise deals with a review website
that carried negative reviews of you and other teachers, some of them possibly
libelous. What happened with that website?
A: I lost the legal battle, but I won the moral war. The cruel, filthy, homophobic, and
lying reviews of people who did not have to identify themselves — and didn’t even
have to be real students, and often weren’t, just cyber criminals, have dried up and all
but blown away. Still, such websites should not be allowed to exist, because as they
are set up they are capable of total fraud. Nothing is done to protect teachers from
blackmail or bribery. Anyone can write “reviews” -- disgruntled failed students or
ex-boyfriends or anybody at all.
Q: But wasn’t free speech involved here?
A: Hey, believe me, as a gay writer, I value free speech, and I clearly know how hard it
has been to get, but it is not free speech to say that a female math teacher “likes it
doggy style” and that potential students should take a class from a black male teacher
because “dudes, he gave me a blowjob.” These are just two of the reviews you can
actually print in a “family” newspaper – if there. And, hey, I was hardly the only one
targeted. I just made the most noise about it — on The Today Show, on the BBC, on
Fox News, you name. I found most of my colleagues cowardly to the max . They
stuck their heads in and/or up their butts, and hoped it would all go away. The
maniacally “progressive” ACLU defended the other side in the lawsuit, the
web master. To this day I encourage gays, et al to stop contributing money to the
ACLU since it championed anonymous hate speech and fake reviews.. It was not
pretty, but I get my say, and my revenge,(he, he!) in What a Tangled Web — because,
once again, as with Something You Do in the Dark thirty-six years ago, art is the
ultimate satisfier. Especially when it’s funny and nasty!
Q: When are you going to retire from teaching? From writing?
A: I have retired from teaching, as of May, 2007. I keep my hand in with one creative
writing class one night a week. Less is more. As for writing, I don’t write as much as
I used to. Maybe it’s because books don’t seem to be part of my culture’s intellectual life
anymore. Maybe it’s because I have said what I have to say. Although –I am bringing
out Volume VIII, no less, of my Collected Plays.
— END —
— John W. Gettys has been the partner of Daniel Curzon for the past twenty-seven years.
Causes daniel curzon Supports
gay literature and non-gay literature too