Photography by Sophy Holland.
When told repeatedly, by multiple publishers, that his manuscript was too far removed from acceptable portrayals of gay life, a lesser person might have bitten the bullet, surrendering to revisions or simply giving up. Christopher Stoddard, however, has always been resilient. Amid the frequent rejection of his novel White, Christian — a bleak and raw account of a young gay man damaged by loss, then driven by drugs and sex — Stoddard realized that it wasn’t him, but the industry, that required change. “Several companies told me they really liked the book but that they didn’t want to represent gay people in that way — that they were trying to move forward,” he recalls. “I found that disappointing, because these things still happen.”
Those early setbacks were eventually eclipsed by a book deal, but in the process, Stoddard, a Brooklyn-based advertising producer, saw that a platform was needed for alternative narratives. Life was improving for huge numbers of LGBT people, but it came at the price of conformity, with the experiences and lives of many swept out of sight. In 2013, he founded ITNA Press (“anti” spelled backward). The company focuses on publishing literature deemed too risqué for mainstream readers, but even though its five authors are gay, ITNA is not exclusively LGBT.
“It just so happens,” Stoddard says, “that a lot of gay people who find themselves outside of what is currently ‘correct’ in terms of being gay need this. Ultimately, I just want to find good, gritty books I’d want to read. It doesn’t matter who’s written them.”