India: The openly gay head of the English department in a premier university in India has lambasted the Chinese-Australian author of “Gaysia” as taking a “neo-orientalist” view and indulging in class and generational prejudice.
“A twenty-something gay nonfiction writer who lives in Australia but calls himself “ethnically Asian” voyeuristically ventures out to seven Asian countries to explore the queer scene there. The result? A sleazy, smutty account of third world homosexual life that,” writes R Raj Rao recently in indianexpress.com.
“Despite its serious intent, (it) serves as little more than a Gay Men’s Lonely Planet targeted at Western readers scouring the brown continent for sex tourism,” says Rao of Benjamin Law’s “Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East.”
Rao is himself a writer and teacher of literature and one of India’s leading gay-rights activists. His 2003 novel “The Boyfriend” is one of the first gay novels to come from India. He has also written poems, plays and nonfiction.
He works as a professor and heads the English Department at the University of Pune, is openly gay, founded the Queer Studies Circle at that university and after a long struggle was the first to offer a course on LGBT literature at the university level in India.
Law’s book begins in Bali, Indonesia, and travels to Thailand, China, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar and India, to speak to gay rights activists, male sex workers, closeted gay men and men of religion.
“Law’s point of view is determinedly neo-orientalist. Even as he describes the gay subculture of the countries he visits, he is thinking, in no uncertain terms, how lucky he is, as an out gay man, to be living in a civilized first world country where his gayness does not heap indignities on him,” says Rao.
”Some of Law’s findings betray class and generational prejudice,” adds Rao making a point that in the book’s chapter on China, Law suggests that gay men did not know how or where to find each other before the internet came to the country.
“This is hard to imagine, considering that, from early on, parks and washrooms, in spite of their sordidness or perhaps because of it, have always been hot cruising and networking sites for homosexual men all over the world,” says Rao.
Sydney-based Law is the author of two books—“The Family Law” and “Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East.”
You can watch an interview with Benjamin Law about what it is to be gay here: