Fan Girl meets royalty

Laura Albert aka JT Leroy

On Sunday, I got to meet two writers whose work I’ve been interested in for a long time: Laura Albert, who wrote the amazing J.T. LeRoy books, and Lucy Jane Bledsoe, an award-winning novelist as well as anthology editor and children’s book author. I met them at separate events and ended up having fascinating (private, sorry!) conversations with them, and by the end of the day I was glowing in that particular way that only talking with other writers gives me.

I was also thinking about fame, and how astonishing it is that suddenly I seem to be meeting kinda famous people on a regular basis.

I’m not normally a name-dropper and I’ve never really met celebrities, mainly because I’m sort of clueless. Plus I don’t watch much television (once, I was told after the fact that Roger Ebert was sitting behind me at a Sundance screening, but I’d had no idea because I didn’t know what he looked like).

Lucy Jane Bledsoe

I am also super-shy, especially around people I admire. I remember going to a reading of June Jordan‘s before she died and being literally too afraid to walk up to the signing table and ask her to sign my book.  Even just a few months ago, I sawDorothy Allison read at Writers With Drinks, an event at which I’ve also been on stage, yet the most I could manage was to thrust a Leaving India postcard into her hand and scurry away.

But lately, I’ve been a bit more courageous and have on occasion spoken to, photographed, or even posed with celebrities I admire. So I thought I’d start a series of posts about my recent encounters as a Fan Girl. I want to share these pictures not just to show off, but also because these folks are doing great work that I admire, and even though they’re well known in their own worlds, you might not know about them and you should.


With Prince Manvendra MUMBAI: I first heard about “the gay prince” of Gujarat several years ago, when a friend excitedly forwarded me an email that said something like, “Hey look, another gay Gujarati!” It was sometime before he appeared on Oprah and sometime after his family attempted to disinherit him. Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil could have stayed in the cocoon of privilege and wealth that enwraps many of India’s royal families, but instead he has become an amazing activist, spending much of his time traveling, organizing, and directly counseling gay men and people with HIV. I was thrilled when he stopped by my reading at Bombay Dost, India’s oldest LGBT organization. He was sweet, unassuming, kind, and clearly had a warm and familial relationship with other members of the community. (I blurred out the face of the person next to him because many of the folks who attended are not out.) Aside from just being publicly out as a gay person, his contributions include HIV direct services in Gujarat, regional HIV organizing in South Asia, and starting a home for gay elders who have no one to care for them as they age, all through his organization The Lakshya Trust. With the largest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the world, India faces a huge challenge and is lucky to have a few visible faces for a movement that consists of hundreds of dedicated activists working in obscurity and still plagued by the closet, stigma, and anti-gay as well as anti-HIV bigotry.

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