Australia: Book review: on life as a young, gay Australian

Compiled by celebrated author and journalist Benjamin Law, Growing Up Queer in Australia assembles voices from across the spectrum of LGBTIQA+ identity. Spanning diverse places, eras, ethnicities and experiences, these are the stories of growing up queer in Australia.

‘For better or worse, sooner or later, life conspires to reveal you to yourself, and this is growing up.’

With contributions from David Marr, Fiona Wright, Nayuka Gorrie, Steve Dow, Holly Throsby, Sally Rugg, Tony Ayres, Nic Holas, Rebecca Shaw and many more.

When Benjamin Law wrote his Quarterly Essay about the Safe Schools debate, he found that none of the extensive coverage News Limited journalists devoted to it actually asked queer teenagers what they thought or what they had experienced. He tried to make up for this in the later parts of the essay, and although the contributors to Growing Up Queer in Australia are adults looking back at their youth, it can be seen as a variation on the same project.

There is a large number of pieces and a wide range of experiences: male and female and genderqueer, Anglo and Asian and Greek, city and country, working-class and private school. All these bring their inflexions, despite the commonalities. Well-known contributors include David Marr, Holly Throsby, Christos Tsiolkas, and Nayuka Gorrie.

Trying to pass, the first crush, being bullied, coming out, the journey into the subculture, parental disapproval: these tend to be part of the standard gay life-story repertoire, though like the classics from the old songbook they can always be given a new spin, and in any case change over time.

Homophobia can range from the vicious — Cindy Zhou's parents making her write a letter to her girlfriend saying she hated her — to the offhand, such as Henry von Doussa's father saying about Dr Duncan, the law professor drowned in the Torrens by poofter-bashing cops: "He had it coming. Those men, what a life"; and this from someone who was otherwise trying to be liberated, in a seventies kind of way. Read more via Sydney Morning Herald