Episode 58: A conversation with James Finn

Meet James Finn everybody! I really want to use this podcast to explore topics of all kinds that are important to talk about; those I know something about and those I know nothing about. This one definitely falls into the latter camp.

James is a novelist, columnist, blogger and LGBT activist, with a deep personal experience of the challenges of being different from conservative America’s conventional ‘norm’ in sexuality.

“When you grow up in a world where gay is a synonym for bad, and men who show a feminine attribute are mocked, it’s easy to unwittingly internalise these feelings.”

James grew up the son of a preacher in a conservative community. By the age of 10 or 11 he knew he was different. His local church had just embarked on an anti-gay campaign and one Sunday, as James was sitting listening to the sermon, he realised the minister was talking about people who felt like him, his particular form of difference. A terrifying and isolating experience that James sees now led to psychological damage.

James has collected some fascinating life experiences and stories. He worked as a machine gunner in the Marine Corps and for the intelligence division of the Air Force in Berlin during the Cold War. He also worked in the sex trade, selling himself in the bars of New York, and recently wrote about it publicly for the first time; about responsibility, accountability and the darker, exploitative edge of the trade he saw but was not subject to.

His years supporting those suffering with HIV and AIDS through the height of the epidemic shaped his life in a way that can’t be overstated. His activism started here; and now extends to many other issues and stigmas affecting LGBT communities around the world.

We talked about James’ youth, coming out, writing, activism, time in the military and perspectives on the sex trade, plus internalised homophobia and the shame this can spark internally. We also get into what is happening with LGBT rights in the US and around the world, which issues need more support and more political will.

Thanks so much to James for speaking openly about these subjects, which are too often classed as taboo. Check out the juicy show notes below and show James a big dose of love on social if you enjoy our conversation. Why not share an Instagram story or a quick tweet about it with those in your community?

Find the episode from Friday at 8am UK in the usual places:


Apple Podcasts



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Show notes

James Finn on Medium.com

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

James on Twitter

PrEP drug

Article by James on PS I Love You

Act Up NYC

James on Strange Fruit podcast

James’ essay on LGBT generations and mentoring

James’ essay on rural LGBT isolation

In the absence of Men by Philippe Besson

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