Before Queer as Folk, The L Word, and Will & Grace introduced queer culture to the masses, I would spend hours rewriting songs, movies, and shows; tweaking lyrics from popular titles became a hobby — soon “American Woman” became “American Bottom Boy.” The gender bending eventually lead to a series of short stories about a gay college called Unique University where Lil’ Kim ruled as president, Mario Lopez instructed weight training, and buildings were named after fragrances like Emporio Armani Hall and The Chanel Nº 5 Center. Friends and family loved the vignettes that chronicled the lives of Nina and Nick – a set of queer twins. Compliments were plentiful, yet I was never encouraged to publish my stories. Marcos, a gray haired gay man I often chatted with via Instant Message from Boston suggested I should give up on writing gay fiction because no one would buy it. At seventeen, his comment seemed like the truth. One frosty and quiet evening, a meteor hit and destroyed Unique U.
I abandoned fiction, but was unable to break up with writing. Blogging about current events allowed me to disguise my words for journalism which I noticed everyone in my circle urged me to consider. I majored in Communication and enjoyed the writing process for the media curriculum, yet I still yearned for a creative outlet.
I was finally able to feed my craving in my graduate program. Workshopping felt familiar and I was inspired by all my classmates and teachers. However, the safety umbrella that served as a catalyst for my memoir was no longer there after I completed my masters. Unsure if there was a second book in me, I sought writing conferences and residencies. When I learned I was awarded the Lambda Literary Fellowship for emerging GLBT voices, a tiny heart beat began to ring in my ear. Ellery Washington who will be instructing the non-fiction cohort at the Lambda retreat asked the eight fellows to do some writing before arriving at the UCLA campus. Within a week of his email, I had started the skeleton for my second book
Madge and I will be heading out to the Oakland Airport to meet up with July Westhale, a Lambda Fellow in poetry. I have never been in the presence of so many talented GLBT writers before and for once, I will be a student at Unique U.
***Belo Cipriani is a freelance writer, speaker, and the author of Blind: A Memoir. Learn more at belocipriani.com.
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