"One thing I have learned over the course of 24 years of behaving and dressing androgynously is that people hate to be confronted with indeterminacy,' writes Jon-Jon Goulian in the introduction to his memoir, The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt (Random House), a powerful coming-of-age memoir that starts with an undescended testicle and moves apace from there. Goulian, who owns at least 10 pairs of Steve Madden 5" wedges, a Tommy Girl tank top, and three guns, is a witty writer, and a brave one, and was voted 'Most Likely to be Remembered' at high school for good reason.
Digest your book in 25 words:
A 16-year-old boy suddenly quits soccer and impulsively starts wearing makeup and women's clothing. This book is an attempt to figure out why.
You call yourself a 'sexually neutered androgyne.' Explain.
It's complicated. I don't actually call myself a 'sexually neutered androgyne.' In fact, no one does. This is the impression, rather, that I was hoping to convey. My book, in some sense, is a self-analytic case study -- why, at the age of 16, did I suddenly stop behaving like a normal boy? What I conclude is that wearing women's clothing was an attempt to relieve myself, in various ways, of the burden of conventional expectations (namely, that I should be as athletically and academically competitive as possible, and that, like all the other boys, I should be as sexually active as possible), expectations that, for my fragile and phobic and vulnerable adolescent self, were impossible to cope with. Sex was horrifically fraught for me. As I put it in my book, it was 'equal parts stress and mess,' the stress referring both to my fear of contracting any one of a seemingly innumerable number of STDs, and to my self-consciousness about my body, which, during adolescence, had changed in various ways that embarrassed me. By piercing my ears and wearing makeup and women's clothing, perhaps I was hoping to convey the impression that I was a 'sexually neutered androgyne,' so that my peers would be less likely to judge me harshly for my obvious sexual inactivity. In fact, however, I had a strong libido. I fantasized about sex all the time. I just satisfied my urges, for the most part, myself.
First time you wore a skirt, and where?
The first time I wore a skirt was to my high school prom. My classmates, entirely used to my androgyny by now -- they had seen me in makeup, leggings, halter tops, earrings, necklaces, Ugg boots, and sarongs (which aren't all that different from skirts) -- were entirely unfazed.
Jon-Jon's Hot List
1. 'A peaceful solution -- two states, three states, 10 states, one state, whatever it takes -- to the Israeli/Palestinian crisis.'
2. 'The discovery of a DEET-free mosquito repellant that actually works.'
3. 'Justin Timberlake's next album.'
4. 'A cure for baldness. With hair, back in my early 20s, on a really good day, I could sometimes pass for James Dean's little brother. Now I look like Nosferatu.'
5. 'The day I meet, and maybe cuddle with, Tilda Swinton, on whom I have a burning crush. '
To see the full 2011 Hot List, click here.