The Shorty Q & A with T Cooper
T Cooper is has been labeled a transgender writer, but to boil it down to a phrase so simple and limiting is an insult.
After two critically acclaimed novels, Some of the Parts and Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes, non-fiction that’s graced the pages of everything from The New York Times to The Believer, and a story that was featured in The New Yorker, Cooper has transcended being simply a “queer writer” and should be respected beyond categories and constraints. The Rumpus caught up with T to ask a few burning questions.
The Rumpus: You live in the East Village, New York. Manhattan is known as being the epicenter of all things cultural and literary. Does it ever feel claustrophobic being a writer in New York?
T Cooper: Not so much. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Rumpus: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Cooper: A dolphin- and sea lion-trainer.
Rumpus: Let’s say you’re meeting someone in a fancy hotel. You get lost and find yourself wandering through a Young Republicans meet-and-greet. What would you do?
Cooper: I don’t think I could “pass” in any way, shape, or form at a meeting such as this. But if I were just some potentially “normal” looking chameleon who could pull off Young Republican realness, then it’d be totally excellent to grab a cocktail and have a seat with a few of them. I’d probably try to put “the” in front of various types of people, and then make sweeping generalizations about them. Like, THE GAYS sure are getting demanding these days, aren’t they? And so on with THE JEWS, THE BLACKS, THE TRANSGENDERS, etc.
Rumpus: How would you explain the nature of what transgender means to senior citizens?
Cooper: I would probably say something like, “You know how as you get older and older you start to realize how much you really don’t know everything about the world, and how the absolutes you clung to so tightly when you were younger started to dissipate?” Then I’d say that’s the deal with the concept of
“male” and “female”–that instead of two opposite genders, two presumed absolutes, there are actually endless genders, and that these nuances have always existed, it’s just that these days it’s a little easier to make changes (if desired) to one’s body to have it mirror one’s unique gender.
Rumpus: Who was your first crush?
Cooper: Alan Alda.
Rumpus: There’s such an emphasis on celebrities in our culture, and they’re looked at like deities, so I’ve gotta ask, these days do you have a celebrity crush?
Cooper: Alan Alda.
Rumpus: What, thus far, has been the best moment of your career?
Cooper: I’d say having a piece of my fiction published in The New Yorker (“Swimming,” August 20, 2007). When I was starting out as a writer and then in grad school, that publication was always like the gold ring, so when it happened it was pretty damn cool and fulfilling.
Rumpus: What is your next project? Is there anything you’re doing or working on currently that you can talk about?
Cooper: I’m working on both a graphic novel and my third novel. The graphic novel has an “environmental” slant, and the novel? I can’t talk about it. But the reason I can’t talk about it is not because it’s secret, but because it’s not finished, and I’m sick of spending significantly more time talking about NOT writing it than I spend time actually writing it.