GABBLER RECOMMENDS: ”How Twitter can ruin a life” by Emily VanDerWerff

She had at least some reason to expect that the complete vacuum of personal information about her — the short author bio attached to the story said only that she was born in 1988 — wouldn’t be questioned. Trans spaces, both online and in real life, have a long history of allowing an anonymity that paradoxically hides within one’s true identity.

If you want to attend a support group meeting and say your name is Isabel and you use she/her pronouns, you will be treated as such, no matter how you look or what name is on your driver’s license. Gatekeeping in a trans space usually involves loosely enforced rules that focus on giving those who exist within them a safe place to explore their identity. Those rules almost never attempt to determine that someone is “trans enough.”

But anonymity isn’t always welcome on the internet, where an anonymous identity can be weaponized for the worst. That gap — between the good-faith anonymity assumed in trans spaces and the bad-faith anonymity increasingly assumed online — was the one Fall wandered into.

At its core, “Attack Helicopter” is about the intersection of gender and American hegemony. On that level, it has plenty to say even to cisgender people. After all, if all gender is on some level a performance (and it is), then it can be co-opted and perverted by the state. But if it’s also innate on some level (and it is), then we are powerless against whatever it is that enough people decide gender performance should look like. We are constantly trapped by gender, even when we know we are trapped by it. You can’t truly escape something so all-pervasive; you can only negotiate your own terms with it, and everybody’s terms are different.

The conversation around gender “is dominated by those who can tolerate and thrive in it. It is conducted by the voices of those who are able to survive speech and its consequences,” Fall says. “But it is a conversation that is, by necessity, reductive. We need teams and groups and identities, not just to belong to, but as mental objects to manipulate and wield. If we tried to hold 10 million unique experiences of gender in our mind they would sift through our fingers and roll away.”

Such a conversation around gender is not particularly conducive to those who are figuring out their gender in public, as all trans people must do eventually. It’s especially not conducive to artists who are exploring their gender in their art, under even greater degrees of public scrutiny. Which is to say: That conversation is not conducive to people like Fall.

The delineation between paranoid and reparative readings originated in 1995, with influential critic Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. A paranoid reading focuses on what’s wrong or problematic about a work of art. A reparative reading seeks out what might be nourishing or healing in a work of art, even if the work is flawed. Importantly, a reparative reading also tends to consider what might be nourishing or healing in a work of art for someone who isn’t the reader.


When readers aren’t in on the joke/art:

‘Literature is full of impostors and noms de plume, from George Eliot to “Robert Galbraith” (aka JK Rowling), but JT LeRoy is something else. George Eliot never did high-end fashion shoots, or received backstage passes to U2 gigs, or was sent Kabbalah books by Madonna. Some see Albert/LeRoy as a fraud on the make, a player exploiting the kindness and credulity of celebrities, care workers and fans; others regard her as a complex, postmodern artist, whose literary talent justified the masquerade. Was this one of the greatest literary hoaxes of the modern age? Or a strategic confidence trick?

“It was a fiction that went way off the page,” says Jeff Feuerzeig, director of new documentary Author: The JT LeRoy Story. “It raises the question of where does fiction come from? What is fiction? I found that to be interesting.” Having turned down previous approaches, Albert agreed to tell her story to Feuerzeig, partly on the strength of his 2005 music documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, but also, she told him, “Because you’re a Jew and you came out of punk rock.”

On being told by JT that he’d never had a birthday present, one of them sent her a present for every year of his life, another bought her a new computer, another cancelled his own Christmas on hearing that JT was going out turning tricks. “This person made me feel like if I didn’t talk to them, they were going to kill themselves,” one of them says. The Cult Of JT LeRoy also goes deeper into Albert’s 2007 trial and conviction for fraud, having signed a contract in JT LeRoy’s name rather than her own, then set up a company in the name of her alias

Laura Albert does not see what she did as a lie or a hoax or a masquerade. She refers to her unmasking as “the reveal”. She has made various justifications for her actions in interviews over the years. One is that JT LeRoy was a valid artistic device – “art should confuse”. Another, which she explains to me via email, is that the LeRoy persona was her own, unique form of therapy.

“JT was asbestos gloves to handle material I otherwise could not have touched,” she writes…

That’s Albert’s ultimate defence: the work itself. “I was writing Jeremy’s [JT’s] story and publishing it as fiction, and everyone who was interested got a real live book in their hands,” she writes. “Since the reveal, I’ve heard from more people who understand the need to hide that I had then, how it freed my voice to have someone who wasn’t me. They recognise the felt authenticity of my fiction, the emotional truths.”

The question is whether or not those books have changed now that their author’s own convoluted story has all but eclipsed them. Is there a difference between “honest” fiction and “dishonest” fiction? LeRoy’s books are being reissued to coincide with the release of Feuerzeig’s documentary, so perhaps we’ll see. In the mean time, Laura Albert is currently writing her memoirs. As herself.’


[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.