Media: Multicultural LGBTIQ Book Launch and Panel Q+A, Perth 6 Sept 2019

In May this year I was asked to cooordinate the Western Australian launch of a book in which I have a chapter written. The anthology called Living and Loving in Diversity was produced by the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council (AGMC) and edited by Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli.

I was very fortunate through my consultations with West Australian communities to bring together Multicultural, LGBTIQ and Faith leaders to our book launch to discuss how to bring greater understanding to the lives of multicultural LGBTIQ people in WA and Australia-wide. It was an incredible night, and I thank everyone who contributed to the success of the evening. 

I spoke in the writers section at the start of the event, and instead of just reading from my chapter Mixing It Up Through Art, I decided to talk very informally about my life, why my art matters to me and why creativity is a power for bringing people together. People asked me about it so I'm posting it here.  It was significant for me as I did the event in a voluntary capacity having changed paths in my day job after many years as a policy adviser and community advocate. It was an unexpected but gratifying experience, and I realised that there is so much youthful passion and talent in the world that stepping down from advocacy feels natural. I will watch and enjoy seeing all the new stories be written as I return to a quieter life and my art, which is as someone once said, my longest lasting relationship. That made me laugh as it is so true.

Both the event and my speech were symbolic for me, cathartic as I still grieve my father, and I'm growing excited for this new phase of my life. Thanks to everyone who helped to create an emotional night of warmth, love and truth telling. 

RTRFM Radio Interview Living and Loving in Diversity WA  I also did an interview for RTRFM Radio's show All Things Queer to promote the event:  https://rtrfm.com.au/story/living-loving-in-diversity/# 

Carl speaking at the Living+Loving in Diversity in WA book launch Sept 2019 

Carl Gopalkrishnan, Book Readings/Speech 

Living+Loving in Diversity in WA Book Launch/Panel Discussion, 6 September 2019, North Perth Town Hall

Hi everyone, My name is Carl Gopalkrishnan and I want to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, their elders past, present and emerging. Thanks Shaun for your wonderful Welcome to Country.  It does make me feel welcome.

It was such a relief for me to write this chapter.  I’m from WA, I grew up here, but I also worked for years for Victoria’s peak multicultural and also Muslim organisations doing policy and community engagement work in social cohesion and CVE – lots of stuff. It was a really intense jump as a writer because every word could be pounced on - and was.  So when Maria asked me I said of course. Can I please write it as an artist, because I rarely get to use that voice.  

I have so many identities. So I decided I’d write about being multicultural and queer with my artistic voice, not my policy voice.  I’ve work as a multicultural policy adviser for years, but for over 30 years I’ve also been a visual artist.  Painting is a language for me. 

My Mum is Chinese, my Dad was Indian. He died last year, and they’ve given me so much from their culture.  I was born in the South of England and grew up reading the novels of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh.  So even though I’ve lived in Australia for 44 years, in multicultural policy circles they still call me a coconut (white on the inside), and you know, whatever. That’s a whole other chapter.

Am I religious? Well, I’m a lapsed Catholic. I still have a faith, but I’ve reshaped it using my father’s Hindu tradition into the best that I can imagine us to be, rather than anything called religion. But it’s important to me.  I’m also a gay man and an Australian. That's also important to me

I grew up here, and under WA law I was illegal until I was 23.  When I came out at 15 it wasn’t safe, and sadly, for many of us it remains unsafe for cultural and religious reasons on the one side, and from exclusion in the LGBTIQ community on the other.  It wasn’t always like this – and it doesn’t have to be.

As we get older too, we experience a birds-eye view on history. The ravages of HIV AIDS in the early 80s somehow made the LGBT community more welcoming to multicultural people compared to today. I know because I was there. 

I was mentored by these elders back then, and stories like Maria’s book do the same job today. It keeps our values alive  I know that our Stonewall Elders would never have accepted a legacy of racism, exclusion or a move to the Right. That’s hard to swallow for many, but there it is.

Many multicultural LGBTIQ people seem like "quiet Australians" - to pen a phrase – because we don’t display the accepted narrative of coming out in the ‘proper way’. But there is a huge difference between being quiet – and being silenced or ignored.  Having experienced both, my art really saved me from losing hope. My art, like my book chapter, helped me to reflect on the mythology in our culture, art and public performances like politics and policy. I call this my queer lens and I take it everywhere.

When I hear people say that all Indians, Muslims and Africans (yeah like we’re all the same?) are all homophobic terrorists, my queer lens hears and sees that loud and clear and I act on it in the world. 

When Asian men think they must change their bodies into a hyper-masculinised toxic masculinity because our media define it as desirably normal, I don’t really swallow that either. 

When my paintings react to global conflict, I don’t deny the value of entire cultures, their art, film, literature or science of countries I vehemently disagree with.

Multicultural LGBTIQ people are often asked to give up the art, culture and faith from our community heritage if we want to be genuinely LGBTIQ. That’s not only unfair, it polarises people to choose one or the other.  That’s why I use “diverse sexualities and gender" with ethnic communities, instead of LGBTIQ+ because often those acronyms can feel like a test score. Again, that’s why the language of art has been good to me when I speak across cultures.

Writing in my Artist’s voice helps me bring all that together.  I think every multicultural LGBTIQ person has this potential to translate across cultures, and are the last people we should exclude because - we’re just simply brilliant at surviving everyone else’s bullshit.  But we still have a way to go, or you wouldn’t be sitting here listening to me now.

Since 9/11 I’ve seen the LGBTIQ community move away from a movement that publicly supports other vulnerable communities like we used to. Why? Because they don’t fit the Post-Stonewall legend?  Because we don’t want to shag them?  Really?  Can we do better? I think so. 

We’re so good now at packing on muscle, getting on boards, winning corporate sponsorships, even being patriotic warriors on the “War-on-Terror”. We’re fitting in.  But we’re losing our talent for making diverse stories and the art of persuasion.

We used to be masters of emotional literacy, of appreciating the cultural, the feminine, the quiet, the pure glamour of soft power. Recognising that we’re all really mixed up doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I believe it’s a way back to those values that all communities still want to live out. Even if it seems an impossible dream.

But as an Artist I can dream. Too often, policy can’t do what dreaming and imagination can do. I've always felt that Aboriginal culture held all our truths in its culture of dreaming. Really, we need them to help us write the policies to make our dreams possible.

During the break please look through the book over there. Maybe, I hope, you’ll feel the same way about being all mixed up as I do.  Now, I can't wait to hear your stories in the Q&A.  Please don’t be quiet Australians tonight.

Thanks everyone

 

 

 


 
Post New Comment

All text and images on this website are Copyright © to Carl Gopalkrishnan 2019