Tao Lin was featured on the cover of the September 23rd, 2010 issue of The Stranger.
  • Tao Lin was featured on the cover of the September 23rd, 2010 issue of The Stranger.
This morning, Jezebel writer Erin Gloria Ryan wrote about E.R. Kennedy, a transgender man who, when he was a 16-year-old by the name of Ellen Kennedy, was the girlfriend of novelist Tao Lin, who was 22 at the time. (Over the last seven years, Lin has contributed six pieces of writing to The Stranger.) On September 25, Kennedy posted a rant on Twitter that read, in part (all [sic]):

everyday i see you fucking monkeys support tao lin support the man who raped me and stole from me and feel alienated, excluded...what use to be my greatest escape, writing, instantly became my worst nightmare once tao broke up with me...and now seven years later i am still struggling to find a voice still struggling to see any point in returning...cos you all just think its totally cool that tao lin fucked n belittled me for a year straight when i was only 16 and wrote a book about it.

Kennedy tweeted a list of Lin’s alleged emotional abuses, including that he “threatened to break up with me if I weighed over 125 pounds,” and “accused me of binge eating after I ate 300 calories of plain soybean pasta in one sitting.” Kennedy also charged Lin with making “me write out how I failed as a lover every day” under the guise of “cognitive behavioral therapy” and demanded that Kennedy send a certain amount of writing and photographs to him on a regular basis. Kennedy says Lin lifted the text of Kennedy's e-mails and published them in his novel Richard Yates, claiming he "took credit for my words, for my painful memories, for my story," and that Lin "made me feel worthless and suicidal" but "continues to profit off of me." Richard Yates details the relationship between a twentysomething writer and a teenage girl.

The tweets circulated on Tumblr and eventually caught the attention of Ryan, who wrote about them on Jezebel. Kennedy says that, in response, Lin threatened to sue Kennedy "for character defamation" this morning and that Lin "wants me to make it clear that it was statutory rape so please address it as such if you feel the need to write." However, Lin told BuzzFeed that the age of consent in Pennsylvania, where Kennedy lived, is 16, and that it was therefore not statutory rape. Lin dismissed Kennedy's plagiarism charges, saying “I, and my publisher, had made sure she was okay with it, and that it was fictionalized sufficiently." BuzzFeed also republished a statement Lin made on his own Facebook page where he claims he "had consensual sex with Ellen in her parents’ house in Pennsylvania in her parents’ bed, as she tweeted, when I was 22 and she was 16. No, that is not statutory rape, let alone rape. So, no, I did not rape and steal from her." Later on in the Facebook post, Lin addresses the plagiarism charges directly:

Because Ellen (now, but not in the past) seems very affected by the fact that I wrote about our experience (and to be in need financially, and to suspect I am profiting off her, based on her tweets), I offered her (in an email today) all the royalties to [Richard Yates], or to never mention it and ask [its publisher] Melville House to stop printing/selling it if that's possible at all, saying I care more about her, a person, than a book.

In the time since the Jezebel article was published this morning, Kennedy appeared to regret the attention, tweeting that everyone should “leave the accusations to me” and that “this will be solved in my own time.” Kennedy later tweeted “DO NOT BLOG ABOUT MY TWEETS THIS IS MY PROBLEM,” and that his readers should not “accost” Lin.

The Stranger seriously weighed not writing about this at all in light of Kennedy's wishes as expressed in those particular tweets. But those tweets came after Kennedy made the story public in other tweets. We consulted a mental health professional who specializes in sexual abuse to discuss the ethics of running this post, and ultimately decided that, since the story is already out there, and since Lin is professionally associated with The Stranger, we can’t just look away and pretend it's not happening.

When Lin was asked for comment about all this from The Stranger, he replied: "There are factual inaccuracies in the Jezebel piece that I emailed them and the author doesn't seem receptive to me though. I recommend the buzzfeed article, and dont have more to add. [Kennedy] said I don't want to talk about it more than I have."

Ultimately, the matter "will be settled in court,” Kennedy concluded on Twitter.