WRITER: Australian journalist and author Benjamin law.
WRITER: Australian journalist and author Benjamin law. Helen Melville

Popular journalist is coming to talk about 'the Q word'

'QUEER' used to be a derogative word meaning strange and peculiar, but a new book by journalist Benjamin Law offers short stories by notable Australians called Growing Up Queer in Australia.

Law is coming to the Byron Writers Festival to present his book.

The journalist said the word 'queer' has been taken as an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or cisgender.

Readers can take the always confusing LGBTIAQ+ acronym and twist it into one term: queer.

But more than a pedagogic text on what, who, when and how, the text aims to explain the term using real life experiences, feelings and short memoirs of people that today have accepted the term as theirs.

"Queer can mean so many things, but I think in this care queer is all encompassing," he said.

"It's used as a shorthand to include LGBTIAQ+ but also it exists within across the boundaries as well.

"Queer by definition is nonconformity, it welcomes ambiguity but at the same time, queer, for some generations of people, is a word that was used to harm, and it was important to include those generational voices"

Cover artwork for Growing Up Queer in Australia, a book of short memoirs edited by journalist Benjamin Law.
Cover artwork for Growing Up Queer in Australia, a book of short memoirs edited by journalist Benjamin Law.

The writer said editing the book was an exercise on inclusion while ensuring the stories were as diverse as possible.

"The queer community, like any community, but specially in the LGBTIQA+ community, we are so diverse by virtue of queer-meaning so many different things, we also wanted to make sure that we had intersex stories, stories from trans men and trans women, gay, lesbian, bisexual and across generations.

"We wanted to get a broader snapshot about what growing up queer in Australia is, which is why some of the stories are funny, some are sad, some are really strange, some are sexy and some are the opposite of sexy," he said.

Law said the project sparkled as a derivative from a series of similar texts by the publisher, Black inc.

"Years ago, there was an anthology, the first one of this series, called Growing Up Asian in Australia, edited by Alice Pung (2008), and I submitted stuff for that anthology," he said.

"That was the start of my publishing career.

"Since then they've had volumes about Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia (2018), Growing Up African in Australia (2019) and for a long time we were thinking on an anthology of queer stories."

  • The Byron Writers Festival 2019 will be held at at Elements of Byron Resort, 144 Bayshore Dr, Byron Bay, August 2 - 4. For details visit byronwritersfestival.com