The New York Times reports today that JT Leroy, the novelist whose identity has been the subject of much debate, is indeed a woman named Laura Albert, and that the odd creature who made public appearances as JT Leroy is the younger sister of Geoffrey Knoop, who is the father of Laura Albert's son. Apparently Albert and Knoop cooked up the JT Leroy scheme together, corresponding with famous rock stars and writers to gain support for the work of an imaginary transgendered, HIV positive, abused boy...who never existed. Earlier this year, the Times gave the non-existant writer a travel assignment: Disneyland in Paris. An odd assignment for a young damaged boy who frequently claimed he couldn't be seen in public. In reviewing the expenses for the trip, the Times found that only three people were traveling: Albert, Knoop and their son. Asked about all of this, "JT Leroy" said, ""As a transgendered human, subject to attacks I use stand-ins to protect my identity."
A few years ago, I reviewed one of Leroy/Albert's books: "The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things." I liked it, although the stories seemed to follow a predictable path, using violence as a way of bringing a sense of closure. After the review appeared, I got an email from JT, who wanted to send me a signed racoon penis bone. I accepted and sent my address, and along with the bone I began to receive really uncomfortable emails from him asking for me to help by attending various events in support of his book. They were needy and selfish--kind of like the emails one might receive from an aspiring rock star. They were all about appearances--how important it was for there to be a crowd at an even, etc.
Eventually, at a party in New York, I met JT. And I thought it was odd that he would be there, since for years he made no appearances. But there was JT, in his weird sunglasses and hat, refusing to speak to people, but cutting a mean rug on the dance floor and squealing like a girl. Turns out he was a girl. Savannah Knoop. Even then, years before all of this came out, there was something about the spectacle of the "reclusive" JT that didn't make sense to me. Psychologically, it didn't add up.
But perhaps even more disappointing are the number of people--including journalists-- who completely bought into it, and who were so convinced of the existance of their "friend" that they refused to entertain any questions about his true identity.