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Author Justin Luke Zirilli on Surviving Your Gay Twenties

Author Justin Luke Zirilli on Surviving Your Gay Twenties

Author: Michael Graves

December 28, 2014

Justin Luke Zirilli is an author, a club promoter, a social media consultant and a New York nightlife staple. He also just released his first fragrance, Pink Boi. While you and I sleep, Mr. Zirilli takes on the Big Apple and, apparently, the world. His newest literary offering, The Gay Gospel: A Survival Guide for Gay 20Somethings in America Today, is a self-help manual for twenty-something gays. Here is a glimpse into what a fella of the night—not to mention, one who perpetually dons pink glasses—can teach our burgeoning youth.

Congratulations on the publication of The Gay Gospel. What prompted you to write a self-help book?

I am the co-owner and president of a company called BoiParty. We throw the largest gay twenty-something dance parties in NYC, and we have for many years. Being thoroughly submerged in this world, I have often found myself on the “mentor” side of many conversations with our thousands of guests. I would also watch our customers night after night, discovering that they are going through the exact same trials and tribulations that I did back in my day. One day, it just hit me: instead of giving out advice one opportunity at a time, why not gather all of my knowledge and experience into a single place that could help anyone?

Is there any sole nugget of advice that you wish you had received in your twenties?

I wish someone had told me that none of it really mattered all that much. The twenties are an era of discovery and experimentation. Everything seems so serious and so important and so final. Having reached my thirties, though, I can happily report that this is not true whatsoever. Guys who broke my heart are now my closest friends. My failures have been forgotten by everyone. My twenties helped to lead me to where I am now, but nothing in them was so earth-shattering as to have long-lasting, regrettable effects on me to this day.

What, in your eyes, is the biggest hardship that twenty-somethings face?

The biggest hardship twenty-somethings face is judgment. Because they are taking everything so seriously, they are also taking each other very, very seriously. I can understand: you have no idea what you’re doing, so you cling to what you do know and judge everyone else based on those assumptions you have made. No one should do this. You need to take a deep breath and open your minds up a bit!

Justin Luke Zirilli

Justin Luke Zirilli

Was it difficult to discuss such kinds of sensitive matters as sexual health?

To be honest, it was not at all difficult to discuss sex. My previous works of fiction have plenty of sex in them. My industry and, specifically, our crowd are extremely sexual beings. Sex conversation to me is as natural and common as discussing the weather or what was on television the night before.

In your book, you declare, “We’re All Fucked Up.” Are we truly, and if so, how?

We are absolutely, truly all fucked up. What I mean by this is that no one is perfect. Everyone has baggage and sadness and inner conflicts and a loud self-judgmental voice inside of their head. So many twenty-somethings I know view themselves as broken or busted beyond repair. The truth is we all have something, or things, that are not quite right inside of us. That’s what makes us beautiful. It’s what makes life interesting. Perfection is as boring as you get.

Wonderfully put, Justin. With The Gay Gospel, you take on the role of a mentor. Who has helped to guide you? How important are mentors?

I am lucky enough to have a very loving and supportive family. My mother, brother, father, stepfather and grandfather and every other family member has always been there for me to help me deal with whatever came my way. I also want to give a shout out to my friend David, who would kill me if I revealed his age, and who was there through my twenties to tell me to calm down because nothing would end up mattering by the time I hit my thirties.

I love how you discuss money matters, including retirement. Do you see yourself eventually packing up your life and retiring to Florida?

I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to retire! I love creating things. I love going out. I love learning. And since I now work for myself via BoiParty and have the opportunity to write and create and produce in my free time, I truly feel that I might already be retired! But it will take a lot of paralyzing drugs and a crane to drag me out of this city.

Tell us about your novels Gulliver Takes Manhattan and Gulliver Takes Five.

The Gulliver novels are my babies. They were my first published books, and they will always have a place in my heart. They’re the story of a twenty-something named Gulliver who comes to NYC by way of Los Angeles and starts making every single mistake a guy could ever make. In a way, they were the precursor to this self-help book! Both are available and on sale in every format imaginable. You shouldn’t expect something literary, but you can certainly expect entertainment and titillation.

Are there any plans for additional sequels?

Yes, absolutely. I have a Word document on my desktop titled Gulliver Takes Manhattan 2 that’s sitting there open and waiting for me. I had two false starts over the past two years, one with Gulliver Takes Provincetown and another with Gulliver Takes Tinseltown. I met a fan a few months ago, and he asked me why I felt the need to move Gulliver out of New York; he wanted to see how he continues to grow and struggle beneath the skyscrapers. This was a breakthrough for me, and I promptly went home and scrapped the other two drafts. I will get this thing finished, I swear!

What’s next for you?

Tons of stuff! More parties. More books. A mobile app. A video game, maybe. The sky’s the limit, and I’m always down to get to work on something else.

Thanks, Justin. Do you have any final thoughts?

I hope this book ends up being as helpful and useful as my test readers have claimed it to be. I’d love for twenty-somethings to live happier and more open lives. The world is their oyster. Be less serious, and have more fun!


Michael Graves photo

About: Michael Graves

Michael Graves is the author of the novel, Parade. He also wrote Dirty One, a collection of short stories. This book was a Lambda Literary Award Finalist and an American Library Association Honoree. His fiction and poetry has been featured in numerous literary publications, including Post Road, Pank, Velvet Mafia and Chelsea Station Magazine. Michael’s short work has also been featured in several anthologies, such as Cool ThingThe Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered and Eclectica Magazine’s Best Fiction, Volume One. Visit him online @

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