Q&A Quickie: Justin Hernandez, from Gay Stripper to Naked Author
After years of baring his body, Justin Hernandez now prefers to bare his soul. The gay Bronx native wrote the memoir In the Vortex, now available digitally and in paperback, after loyal readers of his popular sex and dating blog, Naked in New York City, encouraged him to explore his troubled past — a history of abuse that led to addiction, stripping, escorting, and one helluva book. Hernandez shares his naked truth with Gay.net.
Gay.net: It must be such a catharsis to share your story in a memoir, but has there been any downside to putting the details of your life out there on display?
Justin Hernandez: You would think that there would be, but actually it’s quite the opposite. I kept secrets for too many years and it took a toll on me. I went through so many emotions while I was writing Inside the Vortex, and even though I felt a great sense of liberation, I was slightly fearful about the responses I might get with regards to some of the more intimate details I had shared. However, the feedback from the readers has put those fears to rest. It does catch me a little off guard when people start talking about how worked up they got over some of the men I wrote about. Their anger or frustration really comes across and I have to chuckle because they're acting as if these situations happened to them.
What's the most memorable feedback you’ve gotten from someone who was touched by reading about your experiences.
I received a message on Facebook recently from a woman who read Inside the Vortex. She told me how much she enjoyed the book, told me I was a beautiful person, and also shared some of her own story with me. This woman is heterosexual and resides in Alabama with her husband — not exactly my core demographic. It was amazing that she read a book written by a gay man intended for a gay audience, and she loved it. It showed me that personal stories are universal and can transcend sexual orientation.
As someone who worked as a stripper and escort, what are your thoughts on the recent rash of suicides within the gay porn industry?
I think it puts a spotlight on the possibility that loneliness and depression can affect sex industry workers and performers. Sometimes people looking in from the outside only see the money and adulation, and don’t think that there is a downside. I can’t speak for all the guys in the business because everyone’s experience is different, but I know that I felt incredibly isolated and lost, and it got worse as time went on. I also know that I saw the same feelings in a handful of the guys I worked with — it was almost like we had that common denominator and that’s how we related to each other. That kind of darkness can consume you if you don’t find a way out.
You discuss your dating life on your blog, Naked in New York City — sort of like the Taylor Swift of gay bloggers. Are guys ever hesitant to date you out of fear they might wind up the subject of your next post?
I subscribe to the belief that guilty parties not only object first, they object the loudest. Experience has taught me that the guys who were most apprehensive of being written about were the ones who were bringing the drama to the party. A man who is confident and secure and isn’t driven by sheer lunacy doesn’t worry. So if anything, the reaction that guys have about my blog has sometimes helped me gauge what type of man I’m dealing with. Although I have slowed down with sharing my dating stories. I had a friend tell me not too long ago that I am going through more men than Kelly Ripa did when she searched for her new co-host. I think that was his polite way of saying I was jumping the shark. So now I’m starting to focus on other things when I blog — like pop culture or my sobriety.
You've advertised your book in a Grindr profile. That takes a lot of balls, eh? Have you ticked off any horny guys just looking to screw, not read?
I’ve only had one guy who got testy with me about it, but everyone else has been really cool. I’m honest and let guys know that the only thing I’m interested in pimping on Grindr is Inside the Vortex. I think the reason that I’ve had nice exchanges — and book sales — is because I engage and chat with everyone. I only block guys who get extremely lewd and crude. At this point the only people who might be ticked off with me are the good administrators over at Grindr. I am using the app to sell my book, but thanks to a carefully worded profile that doesn’t violate their TOS, there's really nothing they can do about it.