Benjamin Law is a Brisbane-based freelance writer for various magazines, including frankie, The Monthly, Qweekend and Good Weekend. In 2009, he released his black comedy memoir The Family Law, which was about growing up in Australia as gay and Asian—or, for brevity’s sake, gaysian. His new book is Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East.
Nambour, Queensland. Apart from being the same place where Kevin Rudd was born, it’s probably the most unremarkable place on earth. However, you should visit the Chinese restaurant there, which is remarkable for being the worst dining establishment I’ve ever visited. Do try it!
Nothing special. For a while, I worked as a checkout guy at my local Big W, before becoming a waiter at my Dad’s restaurant. I was also a checkout guy at my dad’s Asian grocery store, where I accidentally smashed a bottle of soy sauce on a customer’s face. I wish I could say I’d been something interesting like a male prostitute, but I work mainly as a journalistic prostitute nowadays.
People know me as “that gay Asian guy” who writes about being gay and Asian a lot, and I can’t fault them on that. (Admittedly, it’s a pretty accurate description.) But I also write a lot about growing up and unconventional families, and that pops up in my journalism too, like my stories examining transgender teenagers, parents with physical disabilities, sex education in high schools and coming-of-age rituals in rural Australia.
Shortly after my book was released, I found myself at a dinner party with Waleed Aly, Jenny Kee, Ross Wilson, Libbi Gorr and Kamahl. Normally, I would assume this was a drug-induced hallucination, but this was actually something to which SBS invited me. It’s quite lovely having dinner and getting slowly drunk with Jenny Kee, let me just say.
My debut book The Family Law came out in 2010, and was a collection of black comedy stories about my Asian-Australian family, growing up in coastal Queensland and coming out as gay. We’re working on making it into a TV show now. You might’ve also read my stuff in frankie magazine, where I’ve done everything from review toilet paper to interview Bob Brown, but I write for other publications too. I’ve gone into schools with abstinence teachers for Qweekend, attended a B&S ball in rural Queensland for The Monthly, and written about a personal encounter with Margaret Andrews—wife of conservative Federal MP Kevin Andrews—for Crikey, a piece that proved so popular that it temporarily disabled their website.
I’m passionate about pretty basic stuff: that everyone has proper access to education, health services, housing, food, clean water, sanitation and the right to love who they choose. For some reason, we still haven’t achieved that as a global community, and that includes some parts of Australia.
No, you’re thinking of Lawrence Leung. He has a beard. Unless you’re thinking of Poh from Masterchef. We do look alike in some lights, I guess.
I’m currently working on my second book, a collection of non-fiction looking at queer people and communities throughout Asia. It has the working title of Gaysia.