John Whittier Treat was born on August 10, 1953 in New Haven, Connecticut, and was raised Catholic in a close-knit family. At age twelve, John entered medical care for depression, and in his adolescence, he developed a stutter and struggled with low self-esteem. Around the same time, he also realized his attraction to the male body.
After graduating from high school a year early, John took a gap year and became interested in Quakerism. Despite lacking medical training, he also began a nine-month stint as a hospital orderly in Vietnam, serving in a hospital that provided prosthetic devices for civilian amputees. This exposed John to a different culture and ignited his commitment to peace activism.
He then enrolled in Amherst College in Massachusetts, which at the time was all men, so he had a “wonderful time.” He spent his junior year abroad in Kyoto, Japan, where he was amazed to see people smiling and living peaceful lives after his experience in Vietnam. It was a “revelation” to him, and deepened his love for travel.
After graduating with a BA in Asian Studies, John received financial aid to return to his hometown and attend Yale University for graduate school. He achieved an MA and PhD in East Asian Languages and Literatures, a time he remembers fondly.
After moving to Seattle for a teaching role, John then embarked on a six-year period he details as the best years of his life; between the Vietnam War ending in 1975 and the HIV/AIDS pandemic beginning in 1981. Despite struggling with his stutter during his teaching years, John credits the importance of kindness and empathy as formative lessons learned from his students.
In his late twenties, John met his husband Doug at a party. However, around this period, John also began a long struggle with alcohol addiction, eventually seeking help in his forties and finding support in recovery programs such as AA. After teaching for eighteen years at the University of Washington, Berkeley, Stanford and Texas, John was appointed as a Professor at Yale University in 1999.
Following his later retirement from Yale, John returned to Seattle and pursued his passion for writing. His first novel, The Rise and Fall of the Yellow House, explored the early years of the AIDS pandemic and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Prize for Gay Fiction. He is the recipient of the 2018 Christopher Hewitt Prize and his work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
In 2022, John published the novel First Consonants, which features a redemption-seeking lead character with a stutter. The novel draws from John’s experience of living with a speech disorder for most of his life.
Currently residing in Seattle, Washington, John and Doug enjoy their retired lives as academics, with John continuing his scholarly projects alongside his writing career. He cherishes his time with Doug and finds contentment in simple moments, like washing the dishes after a meal prepared by his husband.