Have you always wanted to write?
I wrote stories as a child, mostly about little boys who were whisked away from their home by magical creatures living in far off galaxies. My first addiction was to the movie The Wizard of Oz, I was actually a member of “The International Wizard of Oz Club” for years, so I suppose I wanted to be like Dorothy. For a time I was determined to write a book about the making of the film. I was really disappointed when I discovered that someone had thought of that before me. Eventually, I went to school for acting, which seemed like a logical career for me, considering I’d been acting like a heterosexual since birth. I made some commercials, appeared in a few TV shows, some films. But acting, like heterosexuality, definitely wasn’t for me. Meanwhile, I wrote plays and even had a few produced. When I was 24 I came out to my family, which went over like a house on fire. Soon afterward I started this therapy that I’ve written about in CROSSING STYX, which took me to a whole other level of writing: writing to survive. Survive the therapy, survive the medication, survive my breakdown in 1992. Books have always been my soul’s medicine: Rilke, Hesse, Kafka; Alice Walker, Anne Sexton, Larry Kramer. After the therapy, as I’ve written, I sued my former psychiatrist, which was a process that stretched on for years. But all the while I was thinking, split off from the part of me that was going through it, “This would make a fascinating book.” More than anything, I wanted to write about what I’d been through because I knew that others were going through it, too. If there’s one thing that I’m certain, it’s that no matter what we experience in life, someone else is experiencing the exact same thing. We all need a voice, and the entire topic is not something that’s commonly discussed in the media. Certainly they don’t make movies about it.
When you say the idea is not something that’s discussed in the media, what exactly are you referring to?
I’m referring to this notion that we can “change” our sexuality from gay to straight. Even the idea that we are these socially definable, demarcated beings, called “homosexual” and “heterosexual.” It’s a lie, a mass delusion, and it engenders considerable confusion, and harm. Even for those who are relatively content enacting the roles of “gay” or “straight”: by identifying with the labels, by believing that we “are” gay, that we “are” straight, we end up running after the idea of who we think we are. A person can get really tired, spending their whole life running. I won’t repeat what I’ve written elsewhere, but suffice to say this is what I wanted to put into the book, to flesh it out through my story because I lived it. I lived this sense of running, and it caused me a lot of pain. Not to mention exhaustion from all that running.
Is your family supportive of your writing?
That’s a “hot topic” for me; unfortunately, one with no easy answer. Does my family enjoy the idea that I’m creative, that I “write”? Probably. Are they necessarily supportive of what I write? Not really. There’s a dissonance here that’s similar to the old adage, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” I write what frightens me, or at least what’s frightened me, and so it usually ends up threatening others, like my family. The whistleblower is seldom welcomed. There’s a reason no one talks about the White Elephant. A couple of years ago they actually threatened to sue me if I proceeded with my memoir.
Why would they do that? Had you written something harmful to them?
They hadn’t even read my book, so it had little to do with what was actually in it. Besides, I’ve never been interested in revenge. That’s not why I write, and it’s never been my intention. Before I started writing my memoir, I pasted a quote above my laptop that read: “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” I need to write the truth of my life, otherwise I just don’t see the point. But the fact remains that when we write the truth of our lives, we often end up writing about other people’s lives, too. It’s unavoidable.
So maybe the truth of your life is not the truth of their life.
I suppose we could always start splitting hairs, couldn’t we. But at the end of the day I know what I’ve lived, and how I’ve been impacted by others. Each one of us knows what we’ve lived, and we can either admit to it, face it, or keep running. I wanted to stop running. I wanted to say what I’ve lived, maybe, hopefully, learn from it, but more than anything, face it.
Change of topic. How do you pronounce your last name?
Ah, the proverbial question. My surname, Gajdics, is pronounced, “guy-ditch.” Sometimes, to help people remember the pronunciation, I tell them to think of a “guy in a ditch,” although the imagery can be somewhat self-limiting. There’s actually a bit of a story around my name. When my father emigrated from Hungary in the 1950’s, he anglicized the pronunciation of his name, I suppose to try and make it easier on North Americans, from “guy-ditch” to “gay-dicks.”
Didn’t he realize what he was doing?
He could barely speak English at the time; I’m sure he had no idea what “gay-dicks” meant. So anyway, when I was a child my family actually pronounced our name “gay-dicks,” which of course only added to my misery when I discovered, at around the age of nine, that I seemed to be becoming my very name. I remember lying in bed at thirteen and wondering how it was possible that my brothers had escaped becoming our name, that they weren’t “gay-dicks,” and I was. We had the same name—how was this possible? To say that I was confused or felt trapped inside myself is an understatement. Eventually, after I came out in my early 20’s, I started pronouncing my name the Hungarian way again: “guy-ditch.” But I guess the point, at least for me, is that the truth of my life will never be found in my name. No matter what I’m called, or name myself, I’m still me. I can either accept that, or keep running.
I’ve never heard anything quite like that before.
I had a colorful childhood—a Technicolorful childhood, to be exact.
One final question.
Only one? I was just starting to enjoy this.
Were you serious when you said you belonged to “The International Wizard of Oz Club”?
Well, yes. I was. But don’t ask me how old I was when I gave up my membership; that might be too embarrassing to write.