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Humor Makes the Man: Steven G. Fullwood's Take on Sex, Religion and Homophobia
by Sanford Gaylord
2004-12-01

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Believe it or not, Steven G. Fullwood is just getting started. In June, the 38-year-old writer published his first book, Funny, 31 humorous essays on being Black, male and, in his words, a 'manhandler.' This collection reveals the author's take on sex, religion and homophobia. Steven is also the co-editor of Think Again ( see Identity, April 2004 ) , a collection of narratives exploring HIV risk among Black men who experience same-sex desire. His writing has appeared in a number of publications including Africana.com, Blacklight, and Venus magazine.

Steven is a librarian at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York, and resides in Harlem where he is member of The Tribe, a group of artists that create publications, showcase art exhibitions, and fund social welfare projects.

Sanford Gaylord: Congratulations on the new book, man! I think it lives up to its title: Funny.

Steven G. Fullwood: Hey thanks!

SG: You've written for the Black LGBT press, and recently co-edited Think Again. Why did you decide to write Funny?

SGF: It was the right time. Humor is hard to write and very risky. Those two things alone inspired me to write Funny. I like to laugh and be silly.

SG: Where did you get the title? I love it—Funny: A Collection of Essays—On Being Black, Male and a Manhandler?

SGF: My best friend James and I were kicking around potential titles, and he said, 'Well, why don't you just call it 'Funny'?' Perfect. Funny like humor, like homo, like a little off. I chose the word 'manhandler' to clue in readers without using 'gay,' or 'homo,' or 'SGL,' or 'DSL.' It's not a book about labels.

SG: How long did you take to write Funny?

SGF: About a year or so.

SG: The book is divided into three parts, 'Us,' 'Them,' and 'Me.' Each section is filled with wit, humor, and fact. 'Conversation with God' is both hilarious and affirming. Why did you choose to write and then select that essay for Funny?

SGF: I think you can go to 'God' and get anything you want. So if you choose to be a homophobe, you can find a 'God' who will say 'yes.' 'Conversation with God' is a wink at those types of people. I put this essay in the 'Us' section because I am interested in folks like me ... man- and woman-handlers ... empowering ourselves with tools to navigate our spiritual lives. Shit, any time someone writes about their lives they are creating their own bible. Funny contains parts of my 'bible.'

SG: 'Dicktation,' what can I say, a conversation with one's own penis! Does the little head often try to control the big one?

SGF: Of course. We are always having conversations with our bodies, regardless of whether we acknowledge it or not. Subconsciously we may say things like 'I hate you,' or 'I am in pain, but I will not address it,' and these types of dialogues often manifest in illness. With 'Dicktation' one of the things I am attempting to do is illuminate the struggle I have had with learning to love and accept my body.

SG: Other notable essays that caught my attention and reverberated to my core as a SGL man include 'I Don't Care,' 'Eye for Eye,' and 'Homo Haters.' What did you want the reader to take away from these essays?

SGF: That's a big question; so let me divvy it up. With 'I Don't Care' I want the reader to luxuriate in his or her own essence. Whatever anyone writes about anyone is just a perspective. What you, the reader, infuse the text with is your experience. If it resonates with you, fine. But to seek validation in someone else's words can be dangerous. No one holds your truth—only you do. 'Eye For Eye' is my declaration of independence from a Christian God. Many homos seek the love of this 'God.' Fine. I don't. I don't read the bible, much less understand it. 'Homo Haters' is meant to be a quick dismissal of stereotypes. I am tired of reading about re-conditioned men, or smart gay men, dumb choices, or that homosexuality is a disability, so I penned this essay to blow off some steam.

SG: I believe that you even address sexual compulsivity and you're quite poignant in your writing, covering many topics. Do you feel that it's important for writers to be honest?

SGF: I think talking about sex makes it easier for me to be better to myself and to others because for such a long time it was taboo. I say that because I find that Black LGBT/SGL fiction allows fiction writers to hide a bit. As a reader, I want to attach words to bodies to experiences to faces to real people. My main love has always rested firmly with writers who put the shit down and confess—'yes, yes, baby it happened to ME.' Writers who have the wit and courage to share their experiences are always useful to readers.

SG: I can say that I haven't read such raw honesty since Essex Hemphill, yet you allow the reader to laugh and learn. Who inspired you as a writer?

SGF: I like comedians like Whoopi Goldberg and Steve Martin, and the creators of 'Strangers With Candy,' the Comedy Central sit-com. Cynthia Heimel and Anne Lamott, both of who are writers who manage to tell you something while they crack you up. My mom told jokes. She could always see the ridiculousness in something.

SG: In the chapter 'Me' you broach the subject of religion again with 'I Hate God.' I love the line, 'the thought that someone might discover that I was homosexual terrified me so, hence my trying to wash it away with a weekly trip to church.' A lot of people 'in the life' wrestle with God and organized religion. Have you reconciled yourself? How do you suggest others reconcile?

SGF: I suggest everyone listen to his or her heart. Spiritual matters are personal and private. I shared mine because that's what my heart wanted. My clarity isn't around reconciliation; it's about liberation from beliefs that aren't mine.

SG: Reading Funny is like having a conversation with an old friend. How is it being received?

SGF: Thanks for saying that. I wanted Funny to be conversational, so that's good to hear. Overall people have been supportive and get what I am trying to do: giggle and heal.

SG: Are you doing readings?

SGF: I am just finishing up the 'Your Mama Thought It Was FUNNY' tour. Readings in New York, Baltimore and I hope to be in Chicago in early 2005, so look for me. Ask for me by name ( laughs ) .

SG: How can one purchase a copy of Funny?

SGF: We are in the process of redoing the Web site stevengfullwood.org, which will enable folks to purchase Funny online. Until then, folks can send a check or money order for $13.95 payable to Steven G. Fullwood to: Vintage Entity Press, P.O. Box 211, New York, New York 10037-9998.

SG: What's next for you?

SGF: I am co-editing a book about Black LGBT/SGL organizations called Fierce, and there is follow-up to Funny due in 2006. Next year, the Black Gay and Lesbian Archive will open to the public in December at the Schomburg Center.

SG: Aché, brotha!


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