It’s been a while since a Five Questions With… Interview, but I can’t imagine a better re-entry interview than one with Max Wolf Valerio, the author of The Testosterone Files. Max and I “met” as a result of us both being published by Seal Press, and because we were both friends with the late, great Gianna Israel. His Testosterone Files are a fascinating account of his move from his life as a radical dyke and poet to being a ‘straight guy.’
1) I often joke that I only ever “passed” as a straight woman, and there were parts of The Testosterone Files that made me feel like you “passed” as as lesbian. Is that even close to right? How do you feel about your former identity now?
Yes, I definitely did â€œpassâ€ for a lesbian, a dyke, whatever you wish to call it. I was dyke-identified for at 14 years, and more, if you count my adolescence. Early on, I realized I was attracted to women, and so, a lesbian identity made the most sense to me. It was all I knew to name myself. The idea of transitioning in 1975 and before, when I was a teen, was completely off the map.
I am proud of the person I was as a dyke, and I learned a lot in my years as a lesbian. I understand many of the finer points of feminism, in all its permutations. Through lesbian feminism, I also came to an understanding and empathy for other types of radical politics. It was quite an education, and an amazing immersion in female life. Ultimately, dyke life is about immersion in female life I think, and it provided an axis for me as well as a point of departure.
However, as I show dramatically in The Testosterone Files, I was much more than simply a lesbian feminist or dyke. I was, actually, just as involved in the punk rock scene, as well as in being a poet who crossed all lines of identity and just â€œwroteâ€ and read for an audience that appreciated poetry as an art form period. So, this involvement gave me an â€œoutâ€ from dyke life and provided a portal to the fact that there is so much more out there in the world than simply lesbians or feminism. This portal would prove to be invaluable as I came into male life.
On the other hand, I think my perspective was a bit constrained anyway from being a lesbian all those years. I have had to re-examine many of my feminist beliefs and attitudes anyway, even if I was not entirely cloistered within the dyke perspective. Some of these attitudes no longer fit my male life, and I find them to be restricting. More importantly, I also have come to see that certain of these ideas were just wrong-headed, even if they served a purpose for me then. I mean, some of the anti-male attitudes, and anti-het attitudes that I absorbed. These attitudes and ideas not only do not serve my present life, they are not rooted in truth. I think I was often coming from a place of defensiveness, and I have learned, and am learning, to drop that.
Even so, I have many fond feelings about my past dyke life, and about lesbians in general, and will always feel related.