Living and loving in diversity edited by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli
Wakefield Press, 2018. ISBN 9781743055953
(Age: 16+) Recommended. Non-fiction. Subtitled An anthology of Australian multicultural queer adventures, this book brings together the memories and personal stories of many LGBTIQ people, some of whom are well-known names many Australians will recognise, others perhaps not previously encountered. My first impression on perusing the contents was that there were so many stories, perhaps too many. But it is a good thing really because the collection provides such a wide array of voices and experiences, that the reader soon discovers there is no one typical story, no stereotype they may have imagined; the stories are as diverse as any random group in the community. People come from different backgrounds, different cultures, they have had different childhood experiences - some positive and affirming, others sadly too often have experienced bullying and fear. For many there was confusion and anxiety as they gradually explored their sexual identity. Hopefully this book will go a long way to help generate better understanding and acceptance.
Each reader will find stories that are of particular interest or that resonate more strongly for them. For me, I liked the new insight gained from reading 'A QPoC Manifesto: Fighting for invisibility in a world that loves to talk' by Nonno and Aroosa. The writers confront the Western notion of 'coming out' as the best way to live, almost a rite of passage that all LGBTIQ people are supposed to achieve. They argue that sometimes it is better not to come 'out of the closet' but to invite people into a trusted space when they are ready to be a part of it. For many whose cultural upbringing places such a high value on family and family expectations, it is not the best thing to confront and challenge. Some may choose to maintain a balancing act between privacy and 'outness'. Their suggestions for how to become an awesome friend is to respect that privacy including in social media - particularly don't post photos of people without their permission.
For others social media has been the means of overcoming social isolation, discovering new friends, support groups and a community of acceptance. Another poignant story questions the ethics of the Western insistence on performing surgery on 'Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome' or intersex children before they are able to consent, insisting that they must be brought up as one or other gender, whereas other cultures may be more accepting of their 'special person of both sexes for whom the gods had a special place'.
There are many more themes explored in these stories: the experiences of people with a disability, the impact of AIDS, and experience of racism in the LGBTIQ community. However what comes through most strongly is that despite the difficulties they may have gone through, these are people who have found who they are, they have confidence and self-acceptance, and they have found love and acceptance from others.
It is a positive and affirming book that may be helpful to anyone struggling with their sexual identity, and also for others to gain better understanding.