June is observed as ‘Pride Month’ in America, but that has never stopped the rest of the world from bringing out the rainbow flags and celebrating the spirit of the LGBTQ community; a community that continues to be marginalized and denied basic rights in several countries.
At ‘Abstract AF’ we will be doing a lot of LGBTQ+ themed write-ups, largely book and movie reviews (yes, the usual) throughout the month of June. I couldn’t have picked up a better book to review and recommend – ‘Gaysia’ a non-fiction novel by Benjamin Law. Non-fiction books are often deemed boring, dry, scholastic, but ‘Gaysia’ is wildly entertaining, informative, funny and witty.
Sample the first paragraph from the introduction –
Of all the continents, Asia is the gayest. Deep down, you’ve probably had your suspicions all along, and I’m here to tell you those suspicions are correctGaysia by Benjamin Law
It immediately put a smile on my face, and the simplistic explanation that follows it up was even more hilarious. Simple truths are funny after all. In the book, Benjamin Law gives us a glimpse to the LGBTQ community in seven countries – Indonesia, Thailand, China, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar and India. In each nation, Law meets icons and trailblazers of the community and explores different facets of gay life.
The novel starts off in a nudist ‘men-only’ hotel in Indonesia and ends with a colourful pride parade in the streets of India. While the Indonesian chapter lulls the reader into believing the book is all about sex and dicks, the tone keeps changing quite drastically with each country. The Thailand section is all about the famed ‘lady-boys’ and the author tracks a high-profile beauty pageant meant for Transgenders, meeting some very interesting people, whose glamorous exteriors betray the difficulties they face in their private lives.
Benjamin Law’s China visit was the bleakest of them all, where most people do not even acknowledge the existence of those who do not conform to hetero-normative relationships. We get an interesting inside view to how welfare groups and online communities skirt the draconian government and reach out to queer individuals in need of help and counselling. To those living in privilege first-world countries, some of the accounts narrated in ‘Gaysia’ can be a big eye-opener. Law tells all these stories with a lot of love and empathy and his patience as a gay writer shines through the most when he is dealing with those who are hostile to non-heterosexuals.
From fabulous drag queens to old men who can ‘cure’ homosexuality, this bright book is filled with interesting individuals, with a breezy paragraphs explaining various aspects of Asian culture, community and attitude towards those who are not ‘straight’. It’s a 4/5 from me.
Please check out our podcast on YouTube by the same name – Abstract AF
Listen to episode 29 for some fun movie recommendations.