Justin Hernandez is the gay stripper we dreamed about

Posted on 12 Apr 2013 at 9:45am

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Inside the Vortex by Justin Hernandez (2013, CreateSpace), $14.95; 158 pp.

Just last week, we wrote here about a book written by two straight men who strip for women. But that’s not all the guys who drop trou for some bucks — not by a longshot.

Justin Hernandez should have been a tough, masculine kid: He grew up in the Bronx during the heyday of hip-hop in a Puerto Rican family. But raised by women, the machismo wasn’t foisted on him, and he very early on identified with his feminine side.

Surviving sexual abuse by a vicious stepfather, Hernandez struck out on his own early. He eventually moved to Miami (then back to New York), started dancing (and sleeping around) before becoming a successful stripper, escort … and, now, memoirist.

Hernandez has already established himself as a popular chronicler of his escapades with his blog Naked in New York, which started just over two years ago. His book, Inside the Vortex, is a continuation of the blog, with Hernandez starting from Square 1 and working his way up, fairly linearly, to the present. (The current edition, released last month, is a revision of an earlier one that had fewer details of his personal life; he says in a preface that this is the complete story.)

Hernandez is no Samuel Pepys — or even Anne Frank — but he writes (not using a ghost writer it appears) with a clean, declarative style. It’s conversational and casual without being indulgent or rambling. And because he’s not afraid to paint a warts-and-all picture of himself — not that the sexy Latino former rentboy has any warts — Inside the Vortex packs an immediacy. He speaks frankly of his addictions (pills, risky sex) his bad encounters and his (mostly failed) relationships without seeming dishy.

Which is not to say the book doesn’t have some racy bits. Hernandez doesn’t go for titillation, but it’s difficult to read his accounts of encounters and not imagine the buff dancer (and self-described formerly chubby teenager) in a passionate embrace. What Hernandez doesn’t do is romanticize his adventures. There are HIV scares, bad behavior and worse decisions. I imagine Inside the Vortex speaks to a lot of experiences and feelings gay men have had for a long time — maybe not all became strippers, but many did struggle in ways similar to Hernandez. It’s enlightening to see someone come out on the right side of that.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 12, 2013.

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