Jeffrey Self Is Creating the Gay Characters He Wished He Had Growing Up
"Being gay is a gift" — it's a mantra actor and writer Jeffery Self lives by. Such a bold statement is in direct opposition to many. From the president making jokes that his vice president wants to hang all gays to actor Kevin Spacey coming out in a misguided attempt to deflect from his alleged sexual assault of a minor, there's never been more important time to showcase that being queer is something to be championed and celebrated.
Self has long embraced his identity with pride. Throughout his career in and around Hollywood — whether as a television host (MTV's Scream After Dark), actor (Search Party, 30 Rock, Desperate Housewives, Funny or Die's Gay of Thrones), or as a celebrity-obsessed YouTuber (Jeffery Live), Self has always exuded a strong sense of, well, self.
Hollywood has never been an industry that pushes gay people forward, even though it's an industry quite often run by LGBT people. Gay executives, casting directors, and producers are often the most critical of out artists, while gay fans are often the first to complain about characters being too femme, Self says.
"I get why someone like Kevin Spacey has remained in the closet for so long, but that doesn't make it any less irresponsible," Self says. "Because the good he could have done has passed him by. We need as many out and proud celebrities as possible right now. We need more movies like Moonlight, more actors like Sarah Paulson or Billy Eichner, more musicians like Perfume Genius or Frank Ocean to remind the world that this is our community. Not predators like Spacey."
Self is also quick to add that "the Kevin Spacey story isn't about being gay. It's about being a sexual predator, which as we all know has zero to do with sexuality. Predatory behavior from powerful people is a major issue in Hollywood and hopefully the one good thing to come out of these horrific acts will be an acknowledgement that we can't let them happen in the future."Representation in media is what will help chip away at this lingering gay-as-predator myth that quietly permeates society, Self believes. "It's important to keep essentially beating your head against the wall to tell queer stories until someone's like, 'Okay fine, just let him in," he says.It's this confidence that has helped launch his career as an author, which began with his first book, the 2013 comedic send-up Fifty Shades of Gay. Self's next book, Drag Teen, released earlier this year, took a slightly more serious approach. Centered on a gay teen funding an escape from his hum-drum Florida existence through a drag competition, the book is filled with clever one-liners and life-affirming hopefulness.His recently-released novel, A Very, Very Bad Thing, takes a decidedly darker tone. While Drag Teen was light and comedic, A Very, Very Bad Thing takes on the politics of religion and the controversy of so-called gay conversion therapy. The story centers on young queer protagonist named Marley, knows as the "The Gay Kid" at his school, who finds himself dealing with the repercussions of a very big lie after his boyfriend is forced to go to a pray-away-the-gay program by his bigoted evangelical parents.Self's intention with his new novel's darker subject matter is to highlight the humor in the heartbreak, adding that his primary goal with each novel is always to write a flawed queer teenage lead that, "I could have benefited from reading about at that age.""We' re all terrible messes," he says. "I hope that my book shows healthy, but flawed, gay characters at a young age when they have none of the answers and all of the questions because that's where a lot of gay youth is at right now. Queer stories are what reflect our community back to both ourselves and everyone else."A Very, Very Bad Thing is out now. Self appears in season two of TBS’s Search Party, which premieres November 19.