Radicalism Begins in the Body


Junot Diaz and Samuel Delany in Boston Review:

JD: People have called you a sex radical. What do you suppose they mean? What does it mean to you? Does it come with any political commitments?

SD: Intellectual radicals, rather than actual radicals, are people who say things where they are not usually said. And, yes, all true radicalism has to begin in the body—so being a sex radical means you have to be ready to act radically and be willing to speak about it in places you ordinarily wouldn’t—such as an interview about an activity you might otherwise confine to a journal. That’s how I started—and the world got started around me, as it were, when my mother found my secret writings, took them to my therapist, and they ended up in an article: Kenneth Clarke, who was the head of the Northside Center where I was going for child therapy, quoted them in an article in Harper's and again in his book, Prejudice and Your Child (1955), and I found myself published because of it. My first professional sale, as it were. I got a lot of attention for it, too. It is the source of most of my “radicalism.”

JD: You once said that “there were far more opportunities for sex among men before Stonewall than since.” Let’s expand that a little to the larger question of what generational differences among gay men strike you as most significant?

SD: You have to remember there’s always what’s said and then there’s what happens. And there’s always a discrepancy between them. Human beings are definitely tribal, as much as wolves and apes are. And the fact that only one sex carries the young to term immediately starts the separation into cultures. Do you want it in public, in private, or in a special space that’s socially marked out? Do you want pictures or reproductions (and if so, what sort) of those public or private or socially marked out space? That’s finally what my book Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (1999) was about.

More here.