- Why “Geeky Justin”?
- What else are you a geek about?
- Is it true you have a collection of Clue games?
- You talk a lot about nuance. What exactly is nuance?
- Do you think nuance is being lost in our modern world?
- What sorts of solutions might there be?
- Do you have alopecia?
- Why did you stop making GeekyJustin Live?
- What happened to the organization you talk about at the end of Torn?
- Why don’t I see Unconditional listed on your website as one of your books? I’ve seen pictures of it online.
- Why did they change the title of Torn in the UK?
- Most importantly: Do you like pineapple on pizza?
Q: Why “Geeky Justin”?
For years, my online identity revolved around my nonprofit work. When I built this site while writing my second book, I wanted to inject more of my personality and not limit myself to only one topic. We are all multifaceted people, after all!
To me, a “geek” is someone who gets really, deeply interested in a topic. You can be a technology geek, a language geek, a pop culture geek, a science geek—the possibilities are endless. I’m a geek about all of those things, and several more as well. So the name seemed appropriate.
Q: What else are you a geek about?
In addition to technology, language, pop culture, and science, I’m a total geek about board games, Agatha Christie mysteries, Disney parks, Hitchcock films, old-school video games, math, psychology, theology, among other things.
Q: Is it true you have a collection of Clue games?
I sure do! I’ve loved both mysteries and board games since I was a kid, so it was only natural that I’d take a liking to Clue.
I’m no longer adding to the collection unless I happen to stumble upon a particularly old, rare, or unique edition, but if you know of something special or just want to talk to a fellow Clue fan, hit me up.
Q: You talk a lot about nuance. What, exactly, is “nuance”?
It’s true; “nuance” is one of my favorite words, and I’ve discovered that not everyone knows what it means!
“Nuance” refers to the subtle, tiny details that can sometimes make all the difference. For example, I could try to copy the Mona Lisa, but even if I were a great painter, I could never capture all the nuances of the original.
When it comes to disagreements, I believe we must become more nuanced thinkers. Instead of just saying, “Here’s my position on this issue,” we need to learn how to think through the complexities: “Here’s my position…but there are a few exceptions…and I also recognize that my opponent has a valid point about something my side hasn’t done enough to address…” and so on. It’s not just about getting the right answer; it’s about getting the nuances—the shades of gray—right as well.
Q: Do you think nuance is being lost in our modern world?
Yes, but not always. It’s nuanced.
On one hand, the internet makes it easier than ever to learn about other people’s perspectives and do lots of research on a topic you care about. That ability to access so many different sources of information with different points of view can actually lead to much greater nuance—but only if we take the time to do it.
On the other hand, most of us don’t take the time. And social media encourages people to post simplistic, unnuanced takes on things so that people will click “like” or “share” as they scroll past. That’s a big thing feeding the political and social polarization we see today.
There’s hope, and there are solutions. But we have to recognize the extent of the problem and be willing to invest the time and energy to fix it.
Q: What sorts of solutions?
For example, we need to invest more in deep, offline friendships with people who don’t always agree with us. And we need to reprogram our brains to value the insight that comes from challenging ourselves to understand opposing perspectives rather than just getting high off of accumulating likes, clicks, views, comments, or shares.
Q: I noticed you don’t have eyebrows. Do you by chance have alopecia?
Good eye! I do have alopecia. I first lost my hair when I was 4, it came and went throughout my childhood, and today I just keep my head shaved.
Q: Why did you stop making GeekyJustin Live? There haven’t been any new episodes for a while.
Short answer: The pandemic happened.
For those who don’t know, GeekyJustin Live was a video interview series I started in 2019. Each episode streamed live on Facebook, allowing audience members to submit questions and comments, and the final product was then posted to YouTube and a podcast feed.
The first season was 24 episodes, interviewing various guests on topics pertaining to LGBTQ issues and Christian faith, the topic of my first book, Torn.
For the second season, I’d planned to do the same thing with the topic of my second book, Talking Across the Divide, addressing political and cultural polarization. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, I decided to postpone the start of a new season, thinking the pandemic would be a much shorter event than it turned out to be.
Eventually, it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t going to be a short-lived thing after all, so I decided to start the second season up that fall. We got some great episodes in, but it turned out a lot of people just weren’t in the mood for heavy conversations on top of everything else going on.
Meanwhile, my speaking income had also been greatly affected by the pandemic, making it hard to justify spending so much time and energy on something that wasn’t connecting with an audience and couldn’t help pay the rent. So the show went on an unplanned hiatus while I focused on some other important projects. I fully intended to bring it back as soon as the pandemic was over, which I never imagined would be so far away.
I still believe in the show and have a list of guests for future interviews, so my hope is to bring it back as soon as I’m able.
Q: I just finished reading Torn and was interested in the organization you were running at the end of the book. What happened to it?
The organization was called The Gay Christian Network, or GCN. I founded it in 2001 and ran it for 16 years. I talk more about this in Torn, but that experience made a huge difference in my life and did, indeed, become the largest organization of its kind, helping not only to support LGBTQ Christians but to heal rifts within families and churches and to bridge divides between people who disagreed. We took a very different approach to these questions from most other organizations in the space, and I was incredibly proud of that.
It was also an exhausting endeavor. I started it right out of college with no business training, just intending to provide a safe space for folks online and never dreaming it would become a huge organization of people around the world.
Unfortunately, one of the side effects of our explosion in growth was that we began attracting a lot of people who didn’t all share the same views of what an organization like GCN should be or what values and principles it should be based on. Managing those differing perspectives, taking time to listen to people on all sides but still keep things running with integrity and consistency with our values was an often draining more-than-full-time job.
At the time of my departure in 2017, it was no secret that there were multiple factions within the organization that wanted to use its influence in very different ways. I was asked to sign an NDA and not discuss why I was leaving other than a joint statement indicating that there were “irreconcilable differences about the direction and future of the organization.” For someone who’s built his career on helping people reconcile the irreconcilable, that was a bitter pill to swallow, but also an important learning experience.
Shortly after my departure, the organization underwent a massive change—different name, different staff, different mission statement, different goals, etc. It became something I no longer recognized in any way. As far as I’m aware, none of the leaders or key decision makers from my day are still there, nor are the core values and principles the same. For all intents and purposes, an entirely different organization now exists in the space where the one I founded used to be.
GCN, with all it stood for, is sadly not around anymore.
But there’s still plenty of good news, if you liked the description of GCN in my book and are seeking something similar today.
First, there’s a very similar organization out there today called CenterPeace. I don’t have any formal connection to it, but it’s very much in the same spirit as GCN was, and the woman who runs it, Sally Gary, has become a dear friend of mine; she’s a gifted leader and a devout Christian with just the right sort of heart for this work. I regularly attend CenterPeace conferences and retreats myself, and I’m confident that the folks who miss GCN would find a great home at CenterPeace.
And second, the old web home of GCN at gaychristian.net is now being used by my nonprofit, Nuance, to create something new on the web to better address the issues of today. (It hasn’t yet launched, but you can sign up for details when it does.)
Q: Why don’t I see your book Unconditional listed on your website? I’ve seen its cover on Amazon but it’s hard to find.
Unconditional is the title my UK publisher gave to the UK edition of Torn.
I initially wrote Torn with an American audience in mind. When it was picked up overseas, the UK publisher asked me to make a few changes to translate it for their audience, including removing or explaining some American references and rewriting parts of the first chapter with a more global perspective. They also asked to change the title from Torn to Unconditional for the UK.
It’s not uncommon for books to have different titles in different markets, of course. Harry Potter fans know that he had a Philosopher’s Stone in the UK but a Sorcerer’s Stone in the US, and a lot of the Agatha Christie books I grew up reading had different titles. (Who would have guessed that What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! was the same book as 4.50 from Paddington?)
In theory, Torn and Unconditional aren’t being sold in the same market. But in the world of online booksellers, it doesn’t always work out that way. So I occasionally hear from readers who picked up a copy of Unconditional, thinking it was something they hadn’t read, not realizing it was a variant of Torn. If that happened to you, I’m so sorry! I promise, it wasn’t some evil plot to get you to buy an extra book. Feel free to return it, give (or sell) your extra copy to someone else, or just keep it as a rarity.
Q: So why did they change the title in the first place?
The publishing world is weird. Sometimes it’s easy to guess why a title changed: The Philosopher’s Stone became a Sorcerer’s Stone because of the worry that American children wouldn’t be familiar with the legend of a magical “philosopher’s stone” and would think the title sounded boring. Murder on the Orient Express was originally Murder in the Calais Coach in the US to avoid sounding too similar to another Orient Express–themed book at the time.
But as for why Torn became Unconditional in the UK, the truth is, I don’t know. The only explanation I was given was that they thought it would be a better title for their market.
Q: Most importantly, do you like pineapple on pizza? This is the one disagreement I can’t budge on!
A: I generally don’t like to mix sweet and savory, so I have great empathy for people who say “no” to this. At one time, I would have said “no” myself. But when I worked at a popular pizza restaurant after college, one of the managers convinced me to try the weird-sounding combination of pineapple and pepperoni, and it rocked my world.
These days, I try not to eat pizza too often, so any pizza is a treat, with or without pineapple.
Q: That was a weirdly nuanced answer to a silly question.
A: Thank you.