David is the author (with Heather Leo) of
Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony (June 2004, Random House). So if any of you readers are offended by the idea of marriage, we suggest you go no further. For the record, Mr. Toussaint agreed to do this eMail interview only if he could be naked.
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HN: According to our sources, you "made history when Bride's magazine published [your] article about same-sex weddings." Is it fun making history?
DT: That was according to a review of my book. I'm far too humble to claim that I made history. However, I'm not too humble to place that quote on my self-titled web site. (By the way, if anyone is unclear on how to spell my last name, it's www.DavidToussaint.com.) I think that's a really good picture of me on the site, with my agent and editor. Like I always say, it's important to have good (and shorter) people around you.
HN: The New York Times and The Washington Post wrote about your article. How did you manage that PR coup?
DT: Bigger question: how did they manage to get me? I'm not really sure how it happened. Maybe they saw me undressing at the gym, and needed an excuse to talk to me.
HN: Why was the Bride's article such a big deal?
DT: It was the first time a major bridal publication had run a story about same-sex weddings. Since bridal magazines are notoriously conservative, everyone was up in arms, one way or another. I think the magazine's editors spent a week figuring out how to deal with the publicity. The funny thing is, the article was only about 800 words; but that's epic length in the bridal world.
HN: What made you decide to work with another writer on the book?
DT: Random House made that decision. They wanted the book to have a male and female point of view. Even after I told them I could do that myself, they still didn't budge. But it was great. I loved working with Heather. We had a blast coming up with ideas together.
HN: Why is gay marriage such a political flashpoint?
DT: Because when you mention homosexuality and religion, you've hit two of the most hot-button political issues in the world. And the very phrase "gay marriage" slams them both together.
HN: With recent events in San Francisco and Boston, are you now riding the crest of this culture's zeitgeist?
DT: I'm not sure. What does zeitgeist mean? I'm riding the crest of great book sales!
HN: Well well, aren't we King of the World?
DT: The only problem is that after awhile everyone forgets who you are and you turn into the Titanic.
HN: Will you ever marry?
DT: Is that a proposal?
HN: Depends on your answer, sweetcakes.
DT: Depends on your money, hot pants. Actually this subject is raised quite a bit and I've yet to find a ring on my finger. I think men are afraid of men who write gay wedding books. Which is similar to saying that men are afraid of strong women, or that gay men are afraid to commit. In other words, it's a hell of a lot easier to say than, "No one's ever expressed an interest in marrying me." But yes, I'd get married. I'd want it to be legal, though.
HN: Would you get down on one knee to propose?
DT: No, but he will. And on BOTH knees. That's the easiest way for me to say, "Yes... yes... yes!"
HN: My-oh-my. At what age did you decide to come out?
DT: I was out before I came out. I've never understood that. My earliest childhood memories involve being incredibly attracted to men. We used to belong to a pool and I'd just stare at those divers in their swimsuits. It was torture. I was in love with all my older brother's friends. And then Mark Spitz happened, and there was that Burt Reynolds semi-naked football poster. Damn, I think I have to take a break now.
[Interviewer's note: at this point, there was an unexplained delay in our eMail interchange.]
HN: MTV Networks is launching Logo, a gay channel. Will you watch?
DT: If the shows are good. Which is why I watch any channel. If those shows suck, no, I won't watch them. Sadly, there aren't very many good gay-themed movies. And I don't feel compelled to watch just because I'm a "member." I still think Will & Grace is the smartest TV show on the air. But then again, maybe it's because everyone says I'm just like Karen.
HN: Do you write fiction with gay themes?
DT: I hope I write fiction with universal themes. I don't sit down and think, "I need to write something `gay.´" I just write about whatever is on my mind. When you label someone's work, it becomes less than everything else, a sub-category of the "important" stuff.
HN: But a lot of your material involves gay characters, no?
DT: You're right. And since I am gay, that subject is frequently on my mind. If I were a professor at Harvard, I'd probably write a lot about Ivy League schools. But I've lived in New York for a long time and I've pretty much discovered my sexual appetite here, as well as all the heartache and sadness that comes with along with it. I've dated here; I've loved and lost here. So I often write about gay men. Simple as that.
However, many of my characters are straight. As much as I understand why bookstores have those Lesbian and Gay sections, I'd like to walk into a bookstore one day and be able to say, "I want to see the shelf with the really good fiction." Some of it will be predominantly gay, some of it won't.
The thing that upsets me most about this business is that people don't really know what to do with you unless they can stick you in a box. I've been writing professionally since the age of 15, starting out as a newspaper reporter. But after writing a play, I was called a playwright. When I first wrote a short story about gay men in Chelsea, I was a gay writer. Then I wrote a horror screenplay and became a horror-movie writer. Now that I've written a gay wedding book, I'm suddenly a gay-wedding-book writer.
HN: In the words of Kingsley Amis: "Any proper writer ought to be able to write anything from an Easter Day sermon to a sheep-dip handout." Is that what you're getting at?
DT: Or better yet, in the lyrics of Madonna: "Dance and sing, get up and do your thing."
HN: Um, meaning?
DT: Do whatever you want. Ambiguous, fluffy pop tunes really turn me on.
HN: You've said that you get lots of nasty comments and eMails about your stories. Why are people offended by your work?
DT: Because I have no interest in safe literature. Plus, I'm not afraid to write about sex. It's a huge part of who we are, and we all struggle with sexuality, gay or straight. But if you write about gay men having sex, it's perceived as porn. And the most difficult thing to write about IS sex, because you must make sure you don't have an ulterior motive. It's a very fine line, and it pisses me off when people say that my sexual stuff is a cop-out.
HN: Your play, Backstage Bitches, attracted that kind of criticism, right?
DT: Yep. The gay community was up in arms because one of the gay characters was a homophobic prostitute, and they didn't think I was helping The Cause. But I feel that when you treat every person as an individual, not just as a political statement, then you're advancing civil rights. THAT'S equality: the freedom to be just as weird and insecure as everyone else. The play's straight characters were neurotic, but none of the critics complained. That didn't bother them at all.
HN: What about rough language?
DT: Swearing in literature is just like sex: when you do it, you have to find the rhythm. It's not acceptable to use expletives as placeholders, just because you're suffering from some sort of creative block. The worst offenders are film and TV writers. Many HBO and Showtime characters turn me off because they can't come up with a single thing to say except "fuck." It's exactly the same as having a character naked because you can't think of anything else to do.
HN: Some researchers believe that we all fall somewhere along a sliding scale of homosexual and heterosexual proclivities. Have you ever found yourself attracted to a woman?
DT: I like you, don't I?
HN: Later, studmuffin. Answer the question.
DT: People often tell me that I'm obsessed with Madonna. And I used to stare at her and think she was the most beautiful woman in the world. But I've never wanted to have sex with her. So I guess the answer is no.
But I love writing about neurotic women. Maybe it's a Tennessee Williams thing; I relate to them. I almost always write about characters who long to be loved, because I'm a hopeless, helpless, terminal romantic. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
HN: What are some of your favorite Saturday night activities?
DT: I'm boring. I like to go to movies with my friends. I love just walking around New York City on a gorgeous night, running into people I know. I love to have dinner at outdoor cafes in the summer. I'm not a club person, I don't drink, and I'm usually home by midnight, with a pint of frozen yogurt and TV Land.
You don't mean dates, do you? Cause that's a whole different story. And probably one you couldn't print.
HN: Maybe you'll show me personally sometime. What's your ideal Sunday morning?
DT: Reading the paper, reading a novel, listening to music, and drinking a lot of coffee. Preferably alone. People tell me I'm not a morning person, but that's not true. I am a morning person. I just don't like to share it.
HN: Even with a nice boy like me?
DT: Only if you served me in bed.
HN: Coffee, right?
DT: We can go with that.
HN: You sound like all those macho hetero dudes that women complain about.
DT: That's because I'm not really a gay guy. I just play one in real life.
HN: Okay, one final question: why are you such a gym rat?
DT: Because I like to look in my own mirror and get a hard-on. Sometimes you gotta work with what you have.
David Toussaint is a freelance writer, actor, director, and producer living in New York City. His short stories have appeared in numerous literary publications, including the premiere issue of Outsider Ink. Toussaint wrote and directed Backstage Bitches, which ran for two summers in Manhattan. And yes, he's a hunk.