No amount of YouTube videos and queer think pieces prepared me for this moment. The mantle of “queer migrant” compelled me to keep going – to go further. I never “came out” to my parents. I felt I owed them no explanation. All I heard from the pulpit were grim hints. I became acutely aware of the parts of myself that were unpalatable to queers who grew up in the city. My queerness was born in a hot dry land that was never ceded. Even now, I sometimes think that I don’t know my own desire. 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.
Benjamin Law is a Brisbane-based freelance writer. He is a senior contributor to frankie magazine and has also written for The Monthly, The Courier Mail, Qweekend, Sunday Life, Cleo, Crikey, The Big Issue, New Matilda, Kill Your Darlings, ABC Unleashed and the Australian Associated Press.
His essays have been anthologised in Growing Up Asian in Australia, The Best Australian Essays 2008, The Best Australian Essays 2009 and the forthcoming Voracious: New Australian Food Writing.
The Family Law (2010) is his debut book, and is published by Black Inc. Books. A French edition will be published by Belfond in 2012. The TV rights have been sold to Matchbox Pictures.
He’s currently working on his second book, a collection of non-fiction looking at queer people and communities throughout Asia. It has the working title of Gaysia.
An insightful collection of essays. I dipped in and out of the stories and was struck by how intricately complicated life is for Queer people. Benjamin Law’s foreword is so funny and touching, it’s almost worth reading the book for this alone.
I didn't grow up in Australia, nor did I grow up queer, but the essays resonated with me. Especially this quote:
"I want to tell people all the time: there is no deadline for growing up, no submission date for your life’s narrative. You can work it out now or later. You can reveal yourself in parts, or as a whole, and make revisions. For better or worse, sooner or later, life conspires to reveal you to yourself, and this is growing up."
Other choice quotes:
"I resented the idea of coming out. It wasn’t that I was introverted, or that i felt like my romances were shameful, but that I loathed the idea of being pigeonholed. The social narratives around homosexuality had always left me with the impression that coming out was more than a courtesy. It was an expectation: like taking a ticket to join a queue or picking up litter; it was the responsibility of every good citizen to keep things neat and tidy."
"To some gay people, being bi seems easy. We have the supposed luxury of being chameleons, the privilege of choosing from the entire buffet rather than being confined to a corner table, as if sex were simply a smorgasbord and falling in love a matter of calculated odds. "The truth is, being bisexual means being invisible, especially if you are in a monogamous relationship, whether you paint yourself like a rainbow or a white picket fence."
My first Queer read of 2022. 20% of the books I read this year are going to be about Queer stories or be by Queer authors; this, hopefully, will diversify my reading habits and introduce me to some new perspectives.
This is a fantastic read. I was gearing myself up to be emotionally drained, reading and re-reading the personal accounts of Queer people in Australia (a very telling sign that Australia is generally shitty to people considered to be ‘different’), however, I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the discursive pieces are so strong, I’m considering introducing them in the classroom.
As there isn’t a set tone for the book, everybody’s stories were authentic and diverse; that meant people’s experiences weren’t all about rejection or heart break (although, this is a common theme). There were amazing stories about acceptance, exploration and love. Something that I didn’t really expect to be so prevalent (again, my own biases).
Intersectionality is a strong point in this anthology, with everything from disability to class to race covered. This ensured that my own experiences were reflected in some of the stories, as well as being introduced to a wide variety of perspectives and experiences that I might not have considered.
This book has really made me reconsider how I present myself in the world, and has given me more confidence to live authentically.
Some personal favourites: - Rob and Queer Family by Nayuka Gorrie - How to be Both by Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen - Faggot by Beau Kondos - Kissing Brad Davis by Scott McKinnon
This is the second 'Growing Up ... in Australia' anthology I've read.
Similar to Growing Up Disabled in Australia (and all anthologies really) I loved some of these stories, cried in others and didn't connect with others.
As a collection of stories, some of them felt very similar (small country towns, catholic schools) which did become repetitive. There's a Q&A portion of this anthology placed right in the middle of it which felt a little awkward - I would have preferred it at the end.
Highlights for me included Boobs, Rags and Judy Blume, Radelaide/Sadelaid and Vivian Quynh Pham's Why I've Stopped Coming Out to My Mum.
One common thread throughout Growing Up Queer in Australia was the lack of representation in books/movies the authors had growing up and the call for more representation, highlighting just how important these collections are (as well as rep in fictional books and films).
3.5 stars. There's no trigger warnings in this book which I found odd, and the content very much warranted many of them. Also was shocked/disappointed by the lack of asexual and genderfluid rep. Some of these entries were lovely, original and uplifting and others felt like the repeats of others. I'd recommend reading the contributions you're most intrigued by and skip others that you feel just aren't your thing (as with many anthologies).
I've been looking forward to this since Benjamin Law posted on instagram looking for submissions and the Black Inc "Growing up in Australia" series is always quality and this edition didn't fail to deliver. I blubbered my way through half of the submissions, laughed in others, learned that somehow female teachers were not allowed to be married until the sixties (I mean, I shouldn't be surprised but like... wow) and was pleased with the diversity of this collection.
Some stories were heart warming, with happy endings, others seemed to be in the process of still evolving and some were not, almost all laced with sadness and isolation at the panic of being "other". Some were relatable, others weren't but every single one was one worth reading and knowing.
Really. Truly. A great read.
However. Caveat. If you've sensitive to animal cruelty maybe skip "To my Man of Seventeen Years" by Henry von Doussa. I'm no stranger to the realities of growing up on a farm but there was parts to this that made me feel very uncomfortable. The dogs, the pony and the bull in particular. I'm also a little icked out that it's played as a ~boys will be boys~ thing when really it's not BUT again, this was written by a real person so I guess... who am I to tell them what they can and cannot share about their life?
while some of the stories were like scratching at old scars, overall it’s just so nice to be seen. to feel like you belong. essentially that’s what every single one of these stories is about. it’s heartening to know we all go through the same rites of passage in our own ways.
It's always hard to rate a compilation of stories and essays. There was some great variety in this book (though perhaps not as much rep for asexual or non-binary/ genderfluid people as there could've been). It was also lovely that they all felt so distinctly Australian and familiar. I don't think there are any bad stories in here but there were definitely some standouts so I might just share my thoughts on those. - Rob and Queer family by Nayuka Gorrie had me crying at the end. It's about family and the first gay person, a man named Rob, our author encounters when young and the impact he has on their life. - Boobs, Rags & Judy Bloom by Phoebe Hart discusses the beginning of puberty for an intersex teen. There's some hints of jealousy when falling behind the crowd and the story of finding about about being intersex and learning what it meant from their parents. Just great. - Training to be Me by Cindy Zhou is about her parents having a negative reaction to her coming out and putting restrictions in place. It goes into the impact this had on her, including delaying her coming out to people outside the family. The intersection of race and queerness was dealt with in this, particularly in regards to the postal vote. One of the best. - Reunion by Kelly Parry is a reflection on high school, coming out and family at a 40 year high school reunion. It was contemplative and well-written, I really enjoyed it. - Radelaide/ Sadelaide by Gemma Killen is about lesbianism as a teen in Adelaide. I didn't write down much about this one. Just "it was sad, but I liked it." - Q&A Georgie Stone. Trans activist and actor realised they were a girl very young (around 2 if I remember correctly). There was a lot of detail given in their answers which wasn't the case in all of the other Q&As so I loved that. Quite sad as they discussed experiencing suicidal thoughts at age 8 when school forced 'maleness'. - Coming Out, Coming Home by Adolfo Aranjuez was about moving to Australia as an international student from the Philippines. It looks at the chasm between family and the impact on life as a whole as well as the path of a migrant to citizenship. These were just some that I really enjoyed. This review is also based of notes I scrawled a month ago when I finished this book so I hope I have remembered things correctly. I listened to the audiobook which was great and I'd highly recommend.
8/10 This really hit home for me, and made quite a problem as i usually read on the train, i would find myself more often than not, tearing up due to the stories. Some mirrored my experiences too closely, others provided insight on the queer aussie scene that i don't think i would've otherwise. I took time off reading recently to focus on school activities and homework, but these stories provided a breather in the moments i had alone to spare. I read an earlier release copy that my school luckily got, so i'm sure the finalised version is even better and would surely reccomend it to others.
Such a slow read for me 🤪 but understandably so, as queer experiences are often hard, heavy and hurtful. At the same time, there were still some joyous moments to offset it all and restore hope for a world filled with authentic, proud queers and their allies.
I loved how diverse this collection is (and should be) and the Australian-ness of them all. A quintessential read — looking forward to reading the other ‘Growing Up *insert identity marker here* in Australia’ anthologies.
I rarely read books twice and I can’t remember ever starting again straight away - that’s what I’m doing with this one. First time round I read it Audible/kindle. While listening, I really wanted to highlight key lines but that’s hard to do when you’re driving so this time will be a kindle and highlighting read.
Contains all the good stuff like shame, guilt, isolation, family disownment, guilt, sex, toxic masculinity, repression, internalised homophobia, judgement and need for validation. A wide-ranging spectrum of the human experience.
A fantastic anthology celebrating and lamenting the lives of queer people in Aus. Like all the books I’ve read from this series, these stories were beautiful, diverse, and touching, with a great array of young and old talent.
This was, I think, the most nuanced collection of queer writing I have read. As well as presenting a variety of coming out stories it contains a lot of reflection on the way discourses around sexuality and gender identity operate on a person during the coming out process and importantly, it acknowledges the destructive power of homonormative expectations as well as heteronormative ones. Refreshing, validating and inclusive.
I really enjoyed and appreciated this book, and powered through it at a fair clip. There's a lot in here that's affirming (although personally, I would have appreciated a little more substantial engagement with non-monogamy alongside the predictable-given-the-context stress on marriage equality, impact of), and a lot that's warm, and humourous and very human. Ben Law describes this as the book he wished he had had available to read as a teen, a book for the in-community. I kind of wonder about its impact as an out-group text: I know I tend, when faced with complex stuff that's Out of My Lane, to go looking for anthologies, and that's helped me process big debates and put my foot in things less often. But then, I would have voraciously read this book as a teenager *who considered themselves straight* and had Weirdly Strong Feelings about the tough lives of queer people, so. In this case (unlike, say, race), out-group is always potentially in-group.
Content-wise, as you'd expect with Ben Law at the helm there's a decent ethnic/racial/cultural mix of contributions. Law obviously also went to considerable effort to catch a maximum range of ages: in addition to narrative contributions there are a handful of interviews between Law and key queer community figures, including both William Yang and Georgie Stone. There was also one essay directly addressing queer experience of a physically disabled person, as well as many touching on mental health.
One thing that did strike me as odd is that none of the contributors had been in the care system, nor was homelessness addressed. Given that queer youth have the highest rates of homelessness of any youth demographic, and that experience of kids in care is really distinct from the experience of kids with their birth families or in organically-arisen kinship care, that seemed... a bit of an oversight.