Canadian born Theodore (Ted) Kerr is a white, HIV negative, non-trans, gay man who lives in Brooklyn and works as writer, organizer, and educator, focusing primarily on HIV/AIDS and community. He finished his BA at The New School where he was a Riggio Scholar, and he achieved his MA at Union Theological Seminary. Kerr has worked for the artist AA Bronson, at Visual AIDS, West Edmonton Mall, and The Highline. In 2017/18 he was an interviewer for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project. His writing has appeared in The Village Voice, Hyperallergic, IndieWire, Women's Studies Quarterly, 18 Bridges Magazine and elsewhere. In 2016 he won Poz Magazine's Best Journalism award for his reporting on race, HIV, and art. He currently teaches at The New School and is working with The Griot Museum of Black History in St. Louis on an exhibition exploring 50 years of HIV in the city. Website: www.tedkerr.club
1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?
I don't believe in villains. But, I do think a lot about problematic faves such as: Azealia Banks; Estraven from Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness; Amy Jellicoe, Laura Dern's character in Enlightened; Villanelle from Killing Eve, played by Jodie Comer; John D'Agata; Kanye and everyone in Valley of the Dolls.
2. When did you know you were a writer?
It is a knowing I need renewed and when it comes, it is often the result of outside validation. When I was in my early 20s I lived in Spain for a few months and would send a friend regular postcards. In one return letter, she wrote: when will your book be out. 15 years later I'm finally able to wonder the same thing.
3. What are you currently working on?
A few things. I'm editing a journal on AIDS and curation; and I'm working on a book with Alexandra Juhasz about AIDS, history, and media. I also teach at The New School, and am a founding member of the What Would an HIV Doula Do? collective. Plus I am trying to hustle up more writing and teaching work. I feel like my failure at mastering Twitter is keeping me back.
4. How has your writing process changed over the years?
I think U.S. Representative Maxine Waters is a national treasure, and I think when her, "reclaiming my time" went viral, a lot of people—namely Black women, Black femmes of all genders, Black queers, and all other people who often have their labor disrespected—heard a useful mantra. I think by asserting her value she invited us all to think about how we spend our own time, and other people's time. For me, this relates mostly to writing. I waste so much of my time not writing. Instead, I am thinking, dreaming, planning, stressing and plotting ABOUT writing. I am kicking dirt in the unfreedom of the attempt. Some of this is a gentle, mild form of trauma; some of this is fear of failure and success, and some of this is just plain old human nature. To help combat this ABOUT-ness of my writing process, inspired by Rep. Waters, I am working to reclaim my writing. I tell myself that my writing is worthy of my time, I accept compliments when shared, and -I think most importantly- I have once again engaged in the daily practice of putting literal pen to literal paper. (note: my first draft to these questions was in my journal!)
5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.
"I'd be lying if I said I was completely unscathed, I might be proving you right with my silence or my retaliation." - Alanis Morissette
Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.