T Cooper, the highly acclaimed novelist, has abandoned writing to MC Eminem-themed Bar Mitzvahs. Touting himself as Slim Lindy, Cooper dreams of being a serious hip-hop performer and he bristles when labeled an Eminem âimpersonator.â
Like J T Leroyâthe transgender author who supposedly survived an abusive childhoodâT Cooper is a figment of the imagination, a created character, a fiction. Leroy, was recently exposed as a the made-up persona of a straight couple who exploited the trans community, numerous celebrities and the literary worldâall of whom fell for Leroyâs compelling hard luck story.
Unlike Leroy, Cooper is both a fictional creation and also a real author, as well as a real gender ambivalent person who prefers to avoid pronoun-identification. Cooper is the author of Some of the Parts and Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes, the new novel in which that other T Cooperâthe Slim Lindy T Cooperâis a character. Confused yet?
âThereâs a real T Cooper to the extent that thereâs a real anybody,â Cooper reflects. âThe idea that our entire identities could be performances is intriguing, and I could see making an argument that itâs the case. Like even the real T Cooper is still carefully constructedâbecause the idea of realness, once you start dissecting it, is a perception, something separate from just what is. I like sort of towing the line between fact and fiction, calling attention to our own individual pre-occupations with what is real, what is fakeâŠ Thatâs what I feel the character T Cooperâin the bookâdoesâŠ. And since the character shares the authorâs name, I can see how it might extend to me also.â
And yet, the debacle around the Leroy fraud is the kind of thing that upsets Cooper: that truth is so consistently manipulated in the realm of popular culture.
âWhat about the recent upheaval about James Freyâs memoir A Million Little Pieces?â Cooper muses. âThe whole upshot being: âWhatâs the difference between novel and memoir? The same book couldâve been marketed as either.â Thatâs a ridiculous notion that it doesnât matter either way. Of course it matters.â
Cooper is also known as the founding member of the drag king performance troupe the Backdoor Boys, which gained a huge following of young (mostly male) fans before it broke up in 2001.
âWe were sort of hyper-performing and mimicking the dominant pop cultural iconography inherent in boy bands,â Cooper says of the Backdoor Boys. âAnd we were putting our own performative twist on things, bringing out how much supposedly heterosexual culture borrowsâoften without openly acknowledging it, from queer culture.â
Now focused on writing, Cooper says s/he hasnât performed since the Backdoor Boys broke up, but s/he admits to missing the immediacy of performance.
âWith writing, often itâs years before the work reaches an audience,â Cooper explains. But the novelist insists that s/heâs too old for performing these days. âI could barely stay up for our late-night shows at clubs when I was 28!â Cooper jokes. âIâm a crotchety old man now.â
Cooper says the reluctance to identify with a gender stems from a desire to âmove past the whole naval-gazing stage I went through while I was figuring myself out in my 20âs.â
âI donât like âsheâ,â Cooper explains. âSo I try to avoid it as much as possible. But I do suck it up in most situationsâespecially when talking about the book for most press or radio or whateverâbecause Iâm not really going by âheâ either.â
Cooper, currently touring to promote Lipshitz Six, is also co-editing the anthology A Fictional History of the United States With Huge Chunks Missing. Cooper describes the project as a political endeavor and plans to do fundraising and activism around A Fictional Historyâs release later this year.
Several queer characters populate Lipshitz Six, a book that Cooper describes as the âJewish immigrant-Charles Lindbergh-Eminem novel.â Cooper will be reading from Lipshitz Six in San Francisco Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 7 pm A Clean Well-Lighted Place For Books, 601 Van Ness Avenue.
Trans FTM writer Jacob Anderson-Minshall can be reached at email@example.com.