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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Our Conversation with Bestselling author Rodney Lofton

Conversations Book Club is pleased to introduce you to the living example of the saying "To Thine Own Self Be True": Rodney Lofton, Bestselling author of THE DAY I STOPPED BEING PRETTY. Another literary gem handpicked by the publishing phenom known as Zane, this man shares his life in a way that few would dare.

• Rodney Lofton
• Birthplace: Seaboard, North Carolina
Photos Courtesy of Anthony Cutajar

Rodney, thanks for taking out time to talk with Conversations. I recently finished your autobiography THE DAY I STOPPED BEING PRETTY and found it so raw. You talk alot about your truth and how important it is for you to follow it. What led you to the decision you made to tell your story in written form?
A: Well Cyrus, I wrote The Day I Stopped Being Pretty after a failed suicide attempt. After a lifetime of heartache and disappointments, I was at a very low point in my life. I was dealing with the loss of my father, a horrible breakup of a relationship that meant a lot to me and I felt totally lost. When I was unsuccessful in attempting to kill myself, I knew that I needed to grab hold of my sanity. So I decided to revisit the paths that lead me to wanting to kill myself. What started out as a snapshot of the last year leading up to that moment, became a journey of my life. I felt I needed to address those issues and find me.

How would you describe the person that is Rodney Lofton?
A. Well, that is a good question. I can tell you the person Rodney Lofton once was. He was this scared and scarred insecure little boy and that morphed into his adult life. He carried with him the scars of a distant relationship with his father, which led him to seek that love and validation from others. He allowed others to take advantage of his kind and caring heart for their own selfish wants and needs. He wanted to please everyone he met, and wanted to be liked by all he came in contact with. Now, the Rodney Lofton of 39 years of age, is someone I am truly discovering for the first time. He is discovering his "voice" and establishing his way in the world. He is still a caring and loving man, with a very giving spirit, but his insecurities have been addressed and he continues to learn more about himself with each passing day. To sum it up, he is a good guy.

Your book is a deeply personal account of the life you have lived. Was there a time when you were writing something and you wondered if it was too much information to share with readers?
A. Oh yes, several times. There are moments in the book that are so brutally honest and sometimes frightening when I revisit them. The rape scene was very difficult to relive. I literally stepped away from writing after pouring that out on page. Some of the moments that reveal my total vulnerability as it pertained to my heart; allowing my body to be used and discarded for the pleasure of others was somtimes very hard to reveal. Friends who have known me for years, called me the "Great Pretender," for they didn't know how much pain I was going through. So to open myself up for all whether to embrace or criticize was sometimes very scary, but very necessary to heal.

I have heard people talk about using their bodies to find love and acceptance. For you, what happened in your life that told you that was the way you would be wanted by others?
A. Growing up, I was always called pretty. When you are at an impressionable age, words like that stick. When my father informed me that men were not pretty, men were handsome, I figured I needed something to capture the attention of others, whether it was a smile, a hug or the offering of my body for their love and acceptance. It didn't work out the way I wanted it to. I was hoping that someone special would see that I wanted to be loved just like everyone else, but I felt if I offered my body they would love me more.

You have used the incidents in your life---both good and bad---to now educate others about the importance of loving yourself. Tell our readers when you first realized you didn't have that love for yourself and when you started working back towards that love.
A. I guess the feeling has always been there, but I just never saw it. I knew there was something lacking in my life, but each time I became involved in a failed relationship, I thought I was doing something right. Little did I know that lurking in the background were years and years of insecurities, years of self-loathing and a total lack of love for myself. I only felt love when I sought it in others, only to be left more damaged and empty when those relationships turned sour. It took one of the individual's in the book to show me that I didn't love me. He asked, "How could I love him, when I didn't love myself?" And he was right. Now, I am learning and connecting with the man before you.

Among the things you discuss in the book was the intimacy you enjoyed, not just sex. In the political season that we find ourselves in there is much discussion about same-sex relationships and their acceptance. Do you think it matters whether such relationships are legally recognized or not?
A. As a self-identified gay man, I can honestly say that I could never call another man my husband. I guess because of the way I was raised. My struggles as a black man are for more important to me than living as a gay man. However, I can understand why legalizing same-sex relationships is important. Not for the title of saying he is my husband, but knowing that because of the recognition of our union, he is able to make decisions for me in the event of an accident, that he is recognized as my partner and able to visit me in the hospital without any questions asked, to know that he will receive my social security/death benefits upon my passing. So, I think it really matters that LGBTQ persons have the same rights and responsibilities of heterosexuals.

Along the same vein as the last question, do you think that the world is becoming more accepting or tolerate towards someone who is openly same-gender-loving?
A. In some cases. But we still live in a society that ostracizes us because of who we love. It seems the thoughts of heterosexuals shift to the bedroom of those who are LGBTQ when they find out someone is gay or lesbian, versus getting to know the heart of that person. We don't want to be tolerated, we want to be embraced.

You've been doing a great deal of traveling promoting the causes you support. Why do you think it's importance to be so active?
A. For many reasons. As a first time writer, I have written a book that will make some folks very uncomfortable with its subject matter: growing up black, living as a gay man and loving as an HIV positive man. It is very difficult for some to embrace those subjects, although all of our lives have been impacted by homosexuality and HIV in some way. So, by hitting the road to promote the book, I want to show people the "real me." A nice guy, a good guy, who just happens to be black, who happens to be gay and just happens to live with HIV. I also believe it is important to take an active role in promoting my book. With this being my debut offering, I wanted to show my publishers that I care about the work just as much as they do.

For someone who is just finding out about you or your book through this interview what would you want them to know about your transformation in life?
A. I am happy for the very first time in my life. I take each moment of the last 39 years and embrace both the good and the bad. I can smile when I look in the mirror at the man that stares back at me. He is a little older, shows a few more strands of gray hair, but he is so happy. I am also open to the possibilities that life has to offer now. I am fortunate and blessed to be here and I am taking advantage of every day God grants me.

Thank you Rodney for you time. How can others keep track of you and find out about your book online?
A. Well, the book is available in all bookstores. It can also be ordered from amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com. If your readers are interested in learning more, they can also visit the websites at www.rodneylofton.com or www.myspace.com/rodlofton

And thank you so much for this opportunity to converse with you Cyrus. Peace and Blessings.

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