My college never bothered much about queer people, taking pride in its ‘Catholic’ antecedents. Little surprise then, that in my second year, I stumbled across a man, who simultaneously fell for me and didn’t. Over the course of the next two years, two incredibly confused people tried to repeatedly negotiate a minefield of identities, desires and emotions, and failed. Confused and defeated, we stopped eventually, and chose to go our separate ways of denial.
Jack Ellis, the protagonist in J James’ Denial, Deceit, Discovery starts in a similar setting. Born in a ‘normal’ neighbourhood, Jack struggles with his latent – and later open – sexual attraction for men, trying to reconcile his homosexual tendencies with his hetero-normative life. The efforts don’t bear much fruit and Jack is pushed into a double life of treachery and deceit, eventually leading to the happy outcome of reconciliation.
The book, written as an autobiography, speaks of the many insecurities of the gay man, not the least with his own self. Jack veers into the all-so-familiar route of online chatrooms, clandestine meets, cutting off any emotional attachment and soliciting bad advice – such as homosexuality can be managed.
The exploration of Jack’s homosexual tendencies rings authentic, the description of the seedy MSN conversations having acted as the seed of sexual exploration of a whole generation of queers. In several episodes, Jack displays disturbing transphobia, misogyny and narcissism but, impressively, the book doesn’t gloss over it. Jack isn’t made to be a gay role model, just a gay man struggling with his identity.
By the time we reach the discovery phase of Jack’s life, the reader might be a little jaded, since the denial and deceit do drag at times, but would feel triumphant for the protagonist. Therein lies the author’s triumph.
I’m not too big a fan of the coming-out stories, as most try to impose a template for queerness onto the global south, an irony if ever there was one. But Denial, Deceit, Discovery isn’t a motivation tale, it is a narrative of a man trying to come to terms with his own desires. My friend from college didn’t make it to the end. You can’t but feel happy that Jack doesn’t end bloodied in some parking lot, head bashed in by goons. Give the book a read.
You can order the book on Amazon.
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