A planned terrorist attack on a Detroit auto show, a murky Alabama missing-person case that quickly turns to murder, the dreams of two young people during WWII, LGBT people sharing their memories of the queer bar scene — these are just a few of the themes in the books of local author Cheryl Head.
Head, a Detroit native, will be at OutWrite, D.C.’s LGBT literary festival, next weekend (Aug. 3-5) on a Saturday panel called “The Road Before Us: Black Queer Lit in the Post-Obama Age,” dedicated to a discussion of “how our writing is impacted by the current political and social climate.” It’s at the Reeves Center (2000 14th St., N.W.).
OutWrite kicks off Friday, Aug. 3 with “Laughing Out Loud” at Ten Tigers Parlour (3813 Georgia Ave., N.W.) with an evening of literary comedy with Michelle Tea. Tickets are $15.
She’s also slated to be a guest on the next “Ask Rayceen Show” on Wednesday, Aug. 1 at the HRC Center (1640 Rhode Island Ave., N.W.) at 6 p.m. to promote OutWrite. Both are free to attend. Rayceen details at askrayceen.com and OutWrite info at thedccenter.org/outwrite.
Head writes full time and has been writing fiction for 10 years. Her titles include “Our Happy Hours: LGBT Voices from the Gay Bars,” “Long Way Home: a World War II Novel,” “Bury Me When I’m Dead” (a Lambda Literary Awards finalist) and “Wake Me When It’s Over.”
“Story is the core of all media, of all creative endeavors,” Head says. “Whether you’re a sculptor, filmmaker, singer or architect, there’s an idea you want to convey — one that is written in your head, heart or on paper.”
She came to Washington 25 years ago to work in public broadcasting and is mom to AJ Head, a local singer/songwriter and event manager.
Head is single and lives on Capitol Hill. She enjoys golf, travel, old movies, cooking, yoga and the beach in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I came out after moving to D.C. I came out under stress (the breakup of my relationship) so it was all hard, but I had to tell my mother and sisters in order to save my life. I needed their support. I got varying reactions, mostly supportive. I think many of us are on a journey of self love and being willing (and able) to be your true self is the first step of the journey.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
I have many, however, I usually point to heroines who are most like me — a black woman who writes. So there is Octavia Butler and Audre Lorde. I also greatly admired Texas Congresswoman, Barbara Jordan. A current LGBTQ hero is Emma Gonzalez.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Tracks was a huge space, but compartmentalized enough that you could have a variety of experiences. On women’s night, I would relish in the energy of literally thousands of women. It was a mind-boggling experience.
Describe your dream wedding.
Me in off-white; her in off-white. Small, dignified ceremony followed by a raucous, booty-shaking dance party. I’ve been married before. The hard work comes later in acting on the words and the vows. But the day should be remembered for the fun, laughter and celebration.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
I’m angry about the indiscriminate shooting of unarmed black people by police officers. I grew up in an era where the police were part of our community. We were taught in school to respect the men and women who “protect and serve.” Now I think too many members of police forces around the U.S. fear the people they’re supposed to serve. You can’t protect people if you fear them.
What historical outcome would you change?
The 2016 presidential election.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
It hasn’t happened yet. It would be a conversation with Oprah about my books.
On what do you insist?
Logic, empathy and humor.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
A couple of photos of friends and me at a play in New York City on my birthday.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“It Was a Long Time Coming”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would advocate for policies that would make the change process affordable, private and de-stigmatized for those who would wished to take advantage of it.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in a spiritual stream in the universe where we all swim. A higher power that connects us all and is impacted by our thoughts, words and deeds.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Continue to build strong relationships with allies. Make your organizations, including the leadership, as diverse as possible. Pay attention to the cycles that are inherent to change movements. Sometimes it is as important to plan and wait as it is to act.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
A woman who adores me. Or chocolate in the absence of my first choice.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That we are always over-the-top flamboyant.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Desert Hearts” and “Boys in the Band.” I think it’s because I saw both films in my formative years of coming out and trying to understand what being gay meant. I also find the documentary “Paris is Burning” very poignant.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Shaking hands. It used to be a covenant. Now I believe there is so much greed and self-interest in the world that the symbolism of the handshake means nothing.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
The MacArthur Genius Grant.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That my voice was already important. I knew I was good at storytelling and I was presented with many opportunities to tell my stories. But at 18, I didn’t have enough confidence to shine.
I came here to work. I appreciated this city a lot more before I lived here. I know it’s one of the most important cities in the world, but like America, it has not lived up to its promise.