Joe Osmundson

Writer Joe Osmundson Food 4 Thot

JOE OSMUNDSON

Scientist, Non Fiction Writer and self proclaimed Dildo-Sexual, Joe Osmundson shares Michael Foucalt brilliance, the importance of embracing vulnerability and why the Food 4 Thot co-host believes in the role of writers in the Trumpocalyptic era. 

“Breakup a gay marriage (that isn’t my own). Spend a day on an island that isn’t Manhattan. Kiss someone like I mean it. Be as good and honest as I can. End the racist, white supremacist, late-capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy once and for mother fucking all.”

YOUTH and ROLEMODELS

How was your youth, did you have a role model growing up?

I had a ton, starting with my family, my older sister and my parents especially.  I had nerdy, smart teachers at school who saw – and cultivated – my nerdiness and my smarts.  But I have to say that growing up in a small town, the possibilities I imagined for myself were pretty narrow.  They didn’t include being a scientist (I didn’t know that was a thing, really) or a writer (that’s not something people do, really), or a man (am I a man lolz?) who sucks dick (real and plastic alike).  A queer role model?  In a small town in the early 1990s?  Lol no.  

Thank goddess for the internet, y’all.  

Do you remember your first kiss, how was it?

You aren’t going to believe this: It was with a girl, at 15 (I had just gotten braces put on and she said she wanted to ‘make out’ with someone who had braces ‘to see if it felt any different’).  She was the uniform manager for our high school band, and I stayed after a rehearsal and helped her put away the uniforms.  We made out for like fifteen minutes in that stank ass marching band uniform room and IT.  WAS.  AWESOME.  

What advice would you give your adolescent self?

Even at 35 you won’t be qualified to give advice.  Your life is going to be somewhat different than you expect.  Being an adult is trash, so don’t rush.  

 

 

You’ve talked about having a ‘queer space’ to be able to explore queer culture and identify with other LGBTQ people. What was your ‘queer space’ and what literature first impacted you growing up?

It’s funny you mention literature, because books and pop culture were my first queer spaces.  I didn’t read or have access to queer books (or out queer people!) growing up, but you’re a damn lie if you think Wuthering Heights isn’t gay af. I don’t mean this in a sort of deconstructionist ‘queering the text’ sense, but just that the over-the-top borderline campy sentimentality, the desire for a love that’s consuming to the point of death or ruin, is a gay-ass love I still sort-of long for.  

Stumbling on Rocky Horror and The Thong Song on Comedy Central and MTV respectively, and listening to R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” were among my come to dick-and-ass-and-Jesus-abs moments.  

A quote that describes your outlook on life?

Michel Foucault: “We saw that this art of oneself required a relationship to the other.  In other words: one cannot attend to oneself, take care of oneself, without a relationship to another person.  And the role of this other is precisely to tell the truth, to tell the whole truth, or at any rate to tell all the truth that is necessary.”

My father: “You can only be young once, but you can be immature forever.”

“We are truly living through a golden age of the written word, and most of the best work is being done by women writers, queer writers, writers of color, writers of all sorts of difference.”

ARTISTRY

What was the catalyst for pursing a career as a writer?

You know, this is going to sound corny and like a sponsored post for my undergrad college (Carleton College, which has its own issues), but I am forever a student of the liberal arts.

When I was young, I found the sublime in a few places. A tight mathematical proof. A beautifully constructed, emotionally resonant sentence. A well-hit two handed backhand up the line. Now: Being working class and pre-queer, I didn’t imagine I could spend my life doing any of these things. When I got to college, I did them anyway. I did science and math. I did French and English Lit. I even kept playing tennis.  

I chose to continue academically in science because it became the first thing that I imagined I could do professionally. There was a career path there. I always kept reading and writing. I simply wouldn’t be my whole self without those parts of my life. Then, through my 20s, I was sparked by conversations with friends to share my writing publicly. Then, the process of editing, sharing work, and hearing echoes in response became a part of my life, myself.  

Writing isn’t really a career for me. It’s a compulsion. The process of editing for a reader and hearing from that reader in turn has become part of it. I never imagine I’ll make much money doing this, but it provides for some moments of intense pleasure or joy.  Writing – and science, truth be told – still allows me to access, if briefly, the sublime.  

Embracing vulnerability seems to be fundamental in being able to create meaningful work that an audience connects to. Where you always comfortable sharing such intimate details of your life, is there a formative moment in your life when you embraced vulnerability?

Oof. It’s funny because even now I wouldn’t say that I’m entirely comfortable with being as emotionally open as I am. It was never a choice to me. I’m an incredibly emotionally transparent man; my feelings come out on my skin (I sweat, I turn red) in my voice (which cracks and pops when I’m upset), in my body (I fold into myself) and in my tears.

I always had a compulsion to share the worst of what I was going through. It seemed to me then, as it seems to me now, that having a witness to whatever pain I was going through both made the pain more real but also, and importantly, it made the pain transient, something I knew would pass.

I used to hate how easily I cry. Now I try to remember that it’s a strength. I used to hate how sad and angry I get at the world. Now, I try to remember that it’s justifiable to be angry at a world so intent on deaths, large and small alike. Remaining emotionally vulnerable in the face of the abject pain of living is a feat, and one that I’m working like hell not to lose.  

 

 

What role do you think writers play in the current political climate?

Writing, and indeed all art, is always a political act. In the Obama era, the world was overheating, late capitalism was deadly, and identity and the intersections thereof held meaningful power over our ability to live well.  

Well, the stakes were high, and now they’re higher. I’m not convinced that art can necessarily change anything (it certainly doesn’t change everything), but it can change us. I look at the art and poetry that came out of the HIV/AIDS crisis, a pandemic that also happened at the tail end of Reagan-ism. Work from those years means so so much to me not because it changed the course of history (which it might have helped to do), but because it became history.  

Everyone quotes Audre Lorde’s notion that “your silence won’t protect you.” It won’t, but everyone who uses that quote should read her Cancer Journals for context. She was maybe and maybe not dying of breast cancer, and she turned her private journals dictating her most intimate – and also political – fears into work for public consumption. She wrote her (maybe) dying down, even though that was the most frightening thing she could do.  

In the HIV plague years (which, of course, aren’t really over), people wrote their dying down, their bodies down, their loves and their sex down, as the world and their bodies and their love and sex were all ending. People threw their bodies into protest, were beaten and arrested, to fight for their lives and the lives of their beloveds.  

What necessary courage! What a model for us moving forward in our art and activism, both!

Let’s aspire to their strength and determination, let’s use our bodies and pens with that much vigor and strength and tenacity.  

What’s one of the most rewarding things about doing Food 4 Thot?

It’s a widely held secret, but I actually love those heartless assholes. My favorite thing about making the show is making the show. We challenge one another, but love each other deeply. We care for one another off mic. When I had surgery, who showed up to take care of me? The thots. We live our politics, we don’t just talk about queer family, we are one.

You’re Go-To track for exercising?

For weight lifting it’s recently been the Metalica + San Fran symphony live concert. For long runs and sobbing, it is now and always has been (possible homersexual) Sufjan Stevens. My forever gym bae will always be Kendrick Lamar.

Michel Foucault: “We saw that this art of oneself required a relationship to the other. In other words: one cannot attend to oneself, take care of oneself, without a relationship to another person.  And the role of this other is precisely to tell the truth, to tell the whole truth, or at any rate to tell all the truth that is necessary.”

FUTURE

What have you learnt about yourself this year?

2017 has been a year-long unresolved augmented fourth. It’s been terrible interpersonally, with more loss than I can really admit to here. It’s been amazing professionally. As someone who thrives on routine, on the in-between, on the regular, it’s been deeply destabilizing. I’ve learned that I’ll survive it, and more. But I’m also getting tired of seeing my own survival as a metric of success. I want so much more than mere survival.

Are there any young writers or artists that excite you for the future?

We are truly living through a golden age of the written word, and most of the best work is being done by women writers, queer writers, writers of color, writers of all sorts of difference. The best MF-ing part is that I get to call some of these people my friends. Tommy Pico. Danez Smith. Kaveh Akbar. Garth Greenwell. Tanwi Islam. Morgan Parker. Jayson Smith. Nick White.

Goals for 2018?

Breakup a gay marriage (that isn’t my own). Spend a day on an island that isn’t Manhattan. Kiss someone like I mean it. Be as good and honest as I can. End the racist, white supremacist, late-capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy once and for mother fucking all.

 

 

Do you have any future projects that you can tell us about?

I have a gd book that is weird and sexy and scary and hard and sad and – in the end – maybe almost kind of happy, too? There’s even a mf tour. Check it out, sluts.

What would you graffiti on the back of a toilet door?

I believe in classics. My phone number and special sex skillz, duh.

“Writing, and indeed all art, is always a political act. In the Obama era, the world was overheating, late capitalism was deadly, and identity and the intersections thereof held meaningful power over our ability to live well.”

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