My Avatar and Me - Laura Albert

“I keep writing, but never as myself.”

Photo by Denise Ofelia Mangen

My Avatar and Me

by Laura Albert

Laura Albert, better known as J.T. LeRoy, details her side of what became a major literary scandal.

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Writer Laura Albert shared her reflections on telling her story at The Moth:

“The entire Moth experience was very powerful to me. So much of JT was moving into the culture’s language — how JT looked, whom he knew, all the crap that had nothing to do with the work. But it had to been gaged, just to get a chance to get through the door, so the work could reach its audience.

I am sorry when I spoke at The Moth I left out the line — which comes after describing the NY Times attack — BUT THE WORK ENDURED. The Moth really is a deconstruction of the layers that have, perhaps unconsciously, become the lingua franca of shorthand communication. But I often think that such an effort to unpack is actually a lack offaith — the need to explain, defend, justify. So at first, when speaking to Moth folks over the phone, I didn’t trust that you could contain the truth of my story, let alone help me explore it further. It was an act of faith for me to show up anyway and give myself over to it. I have turned away talk shows, quickie book deals, hack filmmakers — all kinds of bottom-feeders. But I had hope, due to all I’d heard about The Moth, that this opportunity could be of service. Still, I did not expect the process to be transformative. So now I go back to my life, and I am hit with all kinds of crises – and all thewhile I want to hold to what I feel moving within me from this experience. And I am so scared that it didn’t really change anything, that it won’t articulate in me because I won’t allow it to. I am crying now. I feel so often what Ed [Ed Gavagan, regular Moth storyteller] spoke of, about being given a blueprint for a boat when you’re drowning.

It was an incredible opening, that night of my birthday — I have not processed it yet. Having all those folks from various parts of my life there at The Moth that night … Storytelling is how we find out who we are; it is how we heal. But it is the community-making that I crave, the knowledge that I am not alone with my secrets. After the show so many strangers came up tome and hugged me, telling me how moved they were. And you were right, they were folks who did NOT know from JT or myself, other than what they had just experienced. And now they wanted to read it.

As the Oscar Wilde quote said, “Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth.” The mask that The Moth allows is craft. It’s funny that, right off the bat, I told you that I was NOT telling the JT story. I did not trust that this was not one more attempt to trot me out as the Elephant Man and recount the sideshow story of a HOAX to astonish and amuse the public. It is because all of you at The Moth hold the soul of a story — and of its owner — with such passion and compassion that the deeper truth can flourish. I see now that The Moth is larger than all of us, that we are instruments of its purpose. Ultimately TheMoth is really about love — as corny as that sounds — which is why it feels so good. You are the fierce guardians of that flame. The Moth serves love — which is the breaking down through craft of the illusion of our separateness.”