Out writer Liz Spikol is certainly no stranger to opening up her life to readers.
A current program manager for a mental-health advocacy group, Spikol started writing about her experiences with mental illness in 1999, when she was a writer and editor at Philadelphia Weekly, and continues to blog about the subject semi-regularly.
But she’ll be sharing a different kind of personal experience May 11 at the Arts Bank’s First Person Arts: writing about her sexuality.
“I plan to talk about the problem of losing your voice and how you try and get it back,” Spikol said. “I’m also going to read an excerpt from the book, that is not a book yet, about bisexuality. It is a memoir, but it’s not a memoir of mental illness, which everybody is expecting from me. It’s what I wrote about for 10 years and I don’t want to be that person anymore. I’m writing about a different aspect of my experience.”
Spikol will speak at a writers’ salong that also will include blogger Emily Gould and graphic artist Emily Steinberg.
Get a taste of Spikol’s new book while you can, because she doesn’t know when it will be finished.
“It really hasn’t [been easy] at all,” she said. “I guess writing is hard and writing about yourself is harder. I never really wrote about this before. I always kind of kept my sexuality hidden, which is pretty much the only thing I kept hidden. I’ve been writing about myself for 10 years. I’ve spilled everything else. But I wasn’t comfortable for some reason with this aspect.”
Spikol made it clear that she was comfortable being out; it was writing about her bisexuality that gave her pause.
“I’ve been out since college,” she said. “I had a really terrible radio show about bisexuality. I worked really hard to get the ‘B’ in our LGBU at my college. I guess I was always out, but there was something about it. I felt like it was my own thing. It was my own concern. I had cultivated that other voice and now I don’t know what this voice should be. The strange thing is if I had just been gay, I could have written about that. In my workplace, which was an alternative newsweekly, you could be straight: Most people were straight. You could be gay: That was cool. But somehow, being in the middle there just confused people and made them uncomfortable. They just didn’t know how to connect with you.”
Spikol added that discomfort with bisexuality wasn’t just in the workplace: Some readers would bristle when she mentioned her sexuality in her column.
“I think it has to do with the fact that culturally we’re so puritanical,” she said. “I did my out-there sexual columns and the response was never good. It was like, ‘Oh, that’s too much information. You can tell us all about hearing voices and being psychotic but if you mention that you have a crush on Jennifer Lopez ... ’ This is, by the way, before she was horrible. I just want to clarify that. I had a crush on her when she was in the biopic about Selena. I wrote about that in passing. In this video, she showed her stomach and she had this cute little muffin top. So I wrote a little thing about that and you would have though I had thrown my clothing off and ran down the street naked screaming.”
Liz Spikol takes part in “Spilling Your Guts,” 7:30 p.m. May 11 at Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad St. For more information or tickets, visit www.firstpersonarts.org or www.blogs.philadelphiaweekly.com/trouble.