Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT Leroy – Review

Ahhhhh….. where to start, where to start. It is the sad story of two women so in hate with themselves they choose to be someone else… a drug-addicted, HIV positive, sexually abused, ex-prostitute transsexual. I mean sure, it looks glamorous when you write it out like that, but two women pretending to be the same young gay guy? You have to know it will end badly.

Photo of Savannah Knoop as JT
Photo of Savannah Knoop as JT, courtesy of Sundance

The author of this book, Savannah Knoop, is one of the “girls” in the title. The other “girl” is Laura Albert. And the boy is JT Leroy (that’s Leh–roy, not Lee-roy).

Laura creates JT as a form of writer’s therapy, a persona for her fictional work. The persona becomes a hit, and now she needs a figure to go with the words. Enter Savannah. Savannah acts as JT during book signings, when meeting movie stars, when getting freebies from people, sleeping with actresses… you know, all that glamorous stuff that drug-addicted, HIV positive, sexually abused, ex-prostitute transsexual authors get to do. Ahhh, the 80s.

I fell asleep a few times while reading. And while it could just be that I am old and tired, you’d think that a book about a lesbian pretending to be a gay guy who is transitioning into a girl would be interesting enough to keep an old gal like me awake.


cover of Girl Boy Girl
cover of Girl Boy Girl

Savannah’s story will be more interesting if she tells it again in 20 years. By then she might have some cultural and socio-political understanding of her actions and others’ reactions, and incorporate that into the story, and into lesbian herstory. Right now, it’s just a story. Give it some maturity, depth and feminist insight, and it might be brilliant.

The other half of JT, Laura Albert, is the subject of a film by Jeff Feuerzeig,has shown at Sundance. This review by Justin Lowe at the Hollywood Reporter and this review by Roison Agnew at Vice, covers the film which covers Laura’s side of the story, her compulsion to be other people, and the eventual downfall of JT/Laura.

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