an author has been a long time coming for Michael
Arceneaux. In fact, despite a recurring column for the
digital magazine Into called "Dearly Beloved,"
his personal blog "The Cynical Ones" and
articles published everywhere from the New York Times to
the now-defunct XOJane, he "never wanted to be a
full-time writer," he said.
goal was to be a talk show host who happened to write
books; thatís why his friends called him Donahue and
with the release of "I Canít Date Jesus: Love,
Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons Iíve Put My Faith
in Beyonce," available Tuesday (Atria), part of
that dream is coming true.
took longer than I thought, kind of like waiting on a
Beyonce album," he said. "But this is a much
stronger book because of it."
Canít Date Jesus" is a collection of essays
written with Arceneauxís trademark humor and
unflinching frankness about his journey of
self-discovery and acceptance.Written in a style thatís
been compared to Samantha Irby and David Sedaris, the
memoir reveals how the Houston native came out to his
mother, laid down with a dog and got up with fleas and
how heís dealing with the current White House
administration ó the leader of which he calls
Tangerine Mussolini, Sweet Potato Saddam and Mandarin
Orange Mugabe, all in Chapter 15. And, of course, he
explains why Beyonce is his "Lord and
of the bookís release, The Times spoke with Arceneaux
about his debut.
How did you get to the title, "I Canít Date
Thatís a chapter related to my mother who understands
that one is born gay but as a devout Catholic follows
church doctrine in that, "I know you canít help
it, but maybe you should not act on it." So the
chapter refers to a conversation we had a few years ago
where she mentions me being intimate with another man
and that if something happened and I got hit by a bus,
she wouldnít know where I was going, (to heaven or
hell). And I told her, "Well, I canít date Jesus.
What do you want me to do?"
chose the title after I finished the book.
Have you given her an advance copy?
No. And itís not that Iím afraid. As I write in the
book, youíve got to meet people where they are and you
canít, sometimes, change peopleís opinions. Often
when you think about coming out to your parents, there
are two things that can happen: either they completely
ice you out or they welcome you with open arms, maybe
not immediately but eventually. With me, Iím in a gray
area Ö and sometimes that gray area is all youíll
get, so sometimes you have to create your own closure.
donít know if sheíll read it. I do know select
relatives will be reading it because they told me Ö .
If I thought her reading it might lead to a fruitful
conversation where we could have closure, I wouldíve
sent her an advance copy.
Unlike so many other forms of black art, the book
transcends pain and struggle and comes out on the other
side with humor. Was that intentional?
Thatís kind of just who I am. Iím always making some
kind of joke. If I wasnít able to laugh at things in
my life that have happened, I would probably be dead. I
was just being myself in the book and wrote the book I
wanted to write. And when you talk to black people and
black queer people, they love humor. Itís not always a
struggle. Thereís a lot of joy and light within our
In the book, you talk about self-acceptance and coming
to love your looks and your identity. What did that
process look like for you?
I just came to realize that if I can be critical of
other people and their work and projects and actions,
then I should be self-aware and self-critical. And not
in any detrimental way, but I should be able to analyze
why I act the way I do and why I do certain things. I
couldnít really afford therapy, so I had to be my own
Frasier. I found my inner Iyanla (Vanzant).
always wanted to make people laugh and think with my
work. But at the end of the day, I wanted to be happy. I
wanted to be more secure and not carry much baggage.
Thereís a Mary J. Blige song called
"Baggage" many people probably donít
remember, but I didnít want to be that song. Itís a
bop, but I donít want to be it, and that prompted me
to do the work.
When did you first confess Beyonce as your Lord and
Savior Beysus Christ?
Iíve been with Beyonce for over 20 years. It was
during Destinyís Child, and I would see her and be
like, "Oh, my God! Look at her." Iíve loved
her since "No No No." Thatís why I sit at
the higher echelon of the Beyhive.
What do you say to the few people out there who think
Youíre a liar, and God is not in you. I pray for your
She recently released "Everything is Love"
with Jay-Z. What are your thoughts?
I will acknowledge that I was a little doubtful about a
joint album because Iíve been struggling with
forgiveness of him because he cheated on Beyonce. But I
will say that itís a Beyonce album featuring her
husband and he manages to keep up with her. But she
out-raps him. I love the album. Itís perfect for
summer. Itís the soundtrack for the book release.
Is there something you want readers to take away from
I want people to leave with their own lessons, but I
hope it speaks to anyone who has struggled with coming
to terms with who you are meant to be versus who you
were taught to be. There are a lot of people who have
read it who arenít anything like me that can relate to
the part about religion or the part about issues with
their parents, and there are so many books Iíve read
from people who look nothing like me, but I was able to
pull something. But you donít often say that about a
black queer person, especially a southern black queer
person who doesnít come from money. Thereís very few
of us out here in these spaces. I just hope people laugh
and they think, and hopefully, Iím speaking to people
who donít usually feel heard.