Exuberant and inspired visionary, journalist and author Nathan James is celebrated at NBC News/NBC OUT, DBQ Magazine, Buzzfeed, and GBM News, all of which are media resources pertaining to the LBGT community. He has also appeared in Hip Hop Weekly, NY Daily News, Examiner, and The Advocate. His writings are brimming with compassion and conviction, as are his concerns and advocacy for the community.
Aside from written media correspondence he is also an accomplished author, having published three books, and a radio personality, where he co-hosted at WWRL-AM’s Out and About. He has also co-produced a concert in the world-renowned Carnegie Hall for 2014 Pride week, and is also a playwright. He is currently a supporter of “My Brothers House”, a non-profit group providing safe housing for veterans and their families as the VP of LGBTQ Veterans Affairs.
I was inspired to turn the tables on Nathan and interview him for those not yet familiar with his presence, and I was completely honored that he agreed.
Let’s start by relating all of the many media sources that you’re involved in.
My work has appeared in a whole bunch of main-stream media outlets and publications including: NBC OUT, GBM News, where I am the executive editor, and have been for the past 8 years. Also I’m the political editor at a magazine called DBQ, which is another publication like GBM News, about the LGBT community. I also contribute to Buzzfeed community, and FITFL Magazine (Fashion in the Fast Lane Magazine), which is a journal about fashion, style and beauty, and things of that nature.
That’s a lot of stuff. Do prefer interviewing people directly or writing a straight up article?
One of the things that I’ve always felt important for me to do is to tell the stories about the people that are doing positive things and making contributions to the LGBT community. That’s been my main portfolio for the past 15 years, telling our stories. I have always felt that if we don’t tell our own stories, there aren’t too many people that will do it for us.
Speaking about stories, tell me about ‘Stories’.
“Stories”, the play is an ensemble production, and it’s based on the actual experiences of the cast, the people who are actually performing in the play. It deals with the struggles that the various cast members have gone through, whether it might be alcoholism, or drug addiction, or addiction to sex. It encompasses the various things that people have found themselves tangled in, and how they overcame it, to re-orient their lives in a more positive direction. It’s definitely a very New York kind of play, because all the characters in the play are New Yorkers. It’s very down to earth. I’ve had a wonderful time working on this particular play, and there are even LGBT cast members in it who describe how being in the closet caused them to end up becoming alcoholics as a dysfunctional way of dealing with society and the disapproval of their sexual orientation. It’s just a wonderful collection of tales that will captivate and hold the audience spellbound. This is scheduled for production sometime next year.
That sounds like a very different and interesting concept.
Yes it is. People can go to storiestheplay.com to see more about the play, the cast and everyone involved in it.
You also have another project, “My Brothers House”?
“My Brothers House” is a nonprofit organization which I helped organize with its founder and CEO, Remolia Simpson, and it provides safe, supportive housing for veterans and their families. The core philosophy of the organization is that all veterans matter, so it also includes LGBT veterans homes. For the past few years LGBT veterans have been allowed to wear their country’s uniform openly and proudly, and because they face the issue of homelessness that all veterans face, to an even greater degree I think than ordinary veterans, we felt that it would be right and proper to have a residence just for LGBT veterans, where they could be in their own comfortable space. We can thank them for their service by providing them a place to live.
Also sounds like a great concept.
A lot of LGBT soldiers, sailors, and aviators join the military because they have no other place to go. They have been put out by their families for being gay or lesbian, so they end up going into the military. When their service has ended, they can’t very well go back to the homes they were put out of in the first place. So this just highlights the kind of issues that LGBT veterans face. Then you have the additional complication that a lot of times in traditional veterans residences, straight veterans do not necessarily want to live in a household with gay or lesbian veterans. Therefore we recognize the need to have the first, ever, LGBT veterans house in the country. It will be in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, right in the Gayborhood .
Have you had to face any challenges while growing up?
Oh yes I did. I’ve been hearing impaired all my life. That was one challenge. I had to go through a lot of speech therapy in order to be able to communicate more effectively with the rest of the world. Of course when I was growing up I was bullied relentlessly when the kids made fun of my hearing aids to no end. I had to overcome that and all of the traumatic challenges that that presented. To be honest I knew I was gay by the time I was 12 years old. Even back then in the 1970’s I was very aware that, that was something I needed to keep to myself. I struggle with that all through my teenage years. It wasn’t easy, but no matter what else happened, no matter what else I had to sacrifice, that’s the one thing I made sure that no one ever found out.
Were your parents aware?
I didn’t come out to my parents until much later. Whether they knew that as an established fact when I was growing up, they never revealed that to me. I get the impression that they did, but being a bit on the conservative side I don’t think they would have been as accepting or understanding of it then, the way they are now in their later years.
What inspired you to be as successful as you are?
I’ve been a writer all of my life. When I was in grade school I had a passion for writing. That has carried me through my entire life. I write every single day. It is my passion to communicate with the world and to express myself with my art, in hopes that it will uplift, lighten, and edify people. Also I’d like to think that particularly for the LGBT community that it has had a positive impact on both the community and the mainstream community at large. I think that the telling of our stories makes us more visible. What inspires me, I like to think also that I stand on the shoulders of giants. My literary influences include: James Baldwin, and Stanley Bennett Clay, who is one of my good friends. Also some of the great classicists like Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Dickens, who I thought was a great social commentator, and who I think wrote the best of any book I have ever read, “A Tale of Two Cities”. I also want to single out Ralph Briggs Emerson who is the Publisher of GBM news, who has been my biggest and most constant supporter all through the years that I’ve been associated with him and his publication.
Who is the most fun interview you have ever done?
Omg, I’ve done thousands. I want to say Laverne Cox. I’ve interviewed Laverne Cox several times and Laverne has always had something upbeat and positive and witty to say. She’s like a ray of sunshine. She’s never stopped being an advocate even through all of her success.
What words would you like to be remembered by?
Nathan wrote with passion from his heart with the ferment hope that his words made a difference and brought some good into the world.
It you were inside a time machine would you rather move forward into the future or back to the past?
I’d rather move into the future to see if we became a more enlightened and compassionate society than we are today.
If you could change anything about yourself, what would you want to change?
That’s a loaded question. I would still write professionally only I would’ve started earlier. I would have more of the confidence in myself to start writing earlier than I did. I was an EMT in New York City for 20 years. After I retired from that I begin writing professionally all the time. I should have done it sooner. I have never regretted my experiences as a writer.
What is your greatest achievement thus far?
My greatest achievement thus far, hands down is my concert at Carnegie Hall. Three years ago in Carnegie Hall it was the first time that an LGBT pride celebration was ever done. I put it together with two other people Tammy Peay and Tona Brown with the explicit purpose of bringing the LGBT community to such a historic institution. It is something that I think will stand out in my memory as long as I am alive. When I’m 90 years old I will remember it as if it were last week. When I stepped out on that stage to look at the theater from the viewpoint of the stage, I felt the presence of every great performer that had ever been on that stage before me. Carnegie Hall was just a magical unforgettable place.
If you could change any historical event, what would it be?
I would change the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The former head of the NAACP once said something remarkable, “The Martin Luther King of the LGBT rights movement is Martin Luther King”. Believe it or not he was a bit of an advocate for our community even in the 1960s. His mentor was a gay black man and it was from him he learned the principles of non-violence. So I think if I could change one thing, it would be that Martin Luther King was not assassinated. I think it would have a profound effect on the history from that point forward, not only the LGBT community but people of color all over the world as well.
Magnificent answer. Is there anything that you would like to promote for yourself?
I would also like to point out that I am an author. I have written several books in the LGBT genre. All of them are available at Amazon.com. Their titles are, “The Devils Details”, “Check Right” and “In His Court”. I also appear in several LGBT anthologies. The most notable is “Flesh to Flesh”, it was published by Simon and Schuster about 10 years ago. It was the first time that a major publisher took on an anthology about the LGBT community of color. I encourage everyone to follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook as I still have spaces open for people to be my Facebook friend, and follow me on Instagram.
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