Allison Moon on being a “Bad Dyke”


Allison Moon wants to lead by example. “Part of my mission in life is to help people combat sexual shame and claim their stories and voices,” she says. It’s fitting then that her essay collection, Bad Dyke takes the reader on a revelatory journey of Moon’s sexual and personal evolution. At times funny, at others poignant, the collection offers readers insight into both Moon and themselves.

AfterEllen spoke with Moon about the responsibilities of a memoirist, the meaning of sex, and why she feels safest revealing her most vulnerable self. 


AfterEllen: What led you to create this collection?

Allison Moon: My mission with all my books is to combat sexual shame and give people permission to access their own voices through sexuality. Even if some of the stories in Bad Dyke feel like trifles compared to meaty, agonizing memoirs, I think they can help people claim their own stories.


AE: Take us through the process of creating the collection.

AM: Well first I had a lot of sex! As for the writing, many of the stories in Bad Dyke were first performed on stage for a show called Bawdy Storytelling. Bawdy is a San Francisco-based show that presents true stories about sex, gender, and kink. I’ve told on that stage so many times that in many cases all I had to do was transcribe the stories and edit them for publication. For the original stories, I mined my past for particularly juicy or meaningful moments related to my sexual identity. I read through an old diary, pulling moments that I had forgotten about. It was an incredibly fun process to generate a narrative of my sexuality with a thread of meaningful anecdotes. I would highly recommend this for many folks, even if they never want to publish. It was almost a form of therapy and an exercise in affectionate retrospection. 


AE: What’s your writing process like?

AM: Compulsive. It took me years to give myself permission to declare myself a writer and to just write.  Once I claimed that identity, it was like opening a floodgate. Now I write daily, sometimes a few sentences, sometimes a whole chapter or section. I’m terrible at physical exercise, but writing to me feels like what I imagine athletes feel when they train. I feel myself get stronger with each sentence, and I have my eyes on the prize of writing as a career and life path. 

moonphooto by Isabel Dresler via FB

AE: What writers have influenced you?

AM: With Bad Dyke, I read a lot of David Sedaris. That guy is the master of the fun, poignant memoir. I also revisited Chelsea Handler‘s own sex memoir to remind myself how to be fearless in sharing all the details, whether personally flattering or not. With my other stuff, I’m pretty much a sponge. I’ve been recently most influenced by Julia Serano, bell hooks, Michael Cunningham, Aldous Huxley, and Jeanette Winterson, to name a few.


AE: When writing memoir, what responsibilities do you have to the real people in your life?

AM: Emotional truth. I don’t ever want to exaggerate for effect at the expense of the emotional reality of the moment or the relationship. Luckily so many of the stories in Bad Dyke are beautiful moments of connection with wonderful people. That definitely allows more freedom in sharing details. I often use pseudonyms to keep things easier, but otherwise the events and details are unchanged. But then again, the nature of memoir is memory, and we all know how fallible memory is. So my responsibility is to emotional truth, if not journalistic truth. 


AE: Memoir and essay writers Lena Dunham and Cheryl Strayed have each spoken about keeping large parts of their lives private. What are your thoughts on deciding what to share and what to hold back?

AM: I wanted to show how fun, illuminating, and foundational sharing sex stories can be. So, while I respect people’s prerogatives to determine and defend their own boundaries around transparency, I don’t feel the need to hold back anything. Honestly, I feel safer having my stories live in the world than kept under lock and key. 


AE: When do you feel sex is appropriate fodder for writing?

AM: Oscar Wilde famously said, “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” I think it’s the reverse. Sex can be about anything and everything in the world. Sex is an amazing source for stories about adventure, illumination, love, heartbreak, community, transition, identity, family, struggle, sovereignty,  and more. If you mine stories about sex for more than just eroticism, often you can find a lot of juicy themes lurking there. 


AE: Is there any disconnect for you between the writing and then knowing your work will be out in the world? 

AM: It’s a bit scary to know that people all over the world are going to read my true stories and judge my choices or character. But as opposed to my novels or sex-ed books, I feel far more solid in my personal stories. There’s an “un-fuck-with-able” nature to these stories, where I truly don’t fear judgement because I don’t care if other people want to slut-shame me or say I can’t claim a certain identity. These are my stories, beautiful and complicated as they are, and no one can fuck with that. No one can make me feel wrong for them. They are sacred to me. 


AE: What do you feel unifies the collection (aside from the obvious: sexual awakening)? 

AM: I think my attitude has been fairly consistent throughout my sexual life. Reading through the collection I see a young woman who is game for pretty much anything even while being confused as hell. I have a sense of humor and a patience with myself so that even a regrettable sexual encounter can feel like a learning moment. An overarching theme of the book is that sex is more complicated than the standard coming-of-age or coming-out narratives. 


AE: In the end, how helpful/necessary is it for us to define our sexuality?

AM: I think labels are a process, not a destination. The labels we have for sexuality are woefully weak and limited. There is no one word that contains the multiplicity of the human sexual experience. I think this is what we’re seeing now with the endless fragmentation of sexual terminology. There’s no longer just LGBT, now we have queer, asexual, demi-sexual, grey-a, metrosexual, heteroflexible, bisensual, pan, omni, genderqueer, genderfuck, byke, and on and on and on. Definitions are helpful when it comes to understanding ourselves, finding community and communicating desires. But these definitions are the beginning of the conversation, not the end. Ultimately, we still have to be able to talk in specifics about what we like, how often we like it, and who we are, with compassion and nuance, because no one word (or six-word hyphenate) is going to cut it.


AE: What are you working on next? 

AM: My illustrated sex-ed book, Girl Sex 101, releases in March. Then I have two screenplays I’d like to finish, and then another novel. I’ve got myself pretty well booked through the end of the decade!

Bad Dyke is available now.