9 Truthbombs Benjamin Law Dropped at Pride Week
WORDS BY JUSTINE LANDIS-HANDLEY
Benjamin Law, the journalist, newspaper columnist, and screenwriter of the his own SBS television show The Family Law, came by Pride Week to talk about growing up in a migrant household in Australia, dealing with h8ers, and what it feels like to be the ‘turduken’ of society.
Here are nine times he dropped a truthbomb during his talk at Manning Bar on Thursday:
1. When he called out the lack of racial diversity on Australian Television
“When I was growing up, I didn’t see faces like mine on screen, which was a really disorientating thing. In Australia, only 1/10 people on television are of Asian descent. But we made 90% of people in our television show, ‘The Family Law’, Asian-Australian as a corrective of this.”
2. And showed that we need to do more to challenge television’s ‘white Australia’
“When people freak out about having multiple shows with Asian protagonists at the same time, like ‘Fresh of the Boat’ and ‘The Family Law’, I say, why can’t there be both? This should just be the start of far more diverse representation on Australian Television screens.”
3. When he identified a commonality between migrant families
“When my parents moved to Australia, they did what all migrants are good at doing: breeding prolifically.”
Later, Ben explained his parents desire to procreate turned out to be a good thing for him when he ‘came out’ to them: “My parents had five children, and you cannot control five children. They can just be whatever they want to be”.
4. When he summed up what it was like growing up ‘Gaysian’ (Gay and Asian)
“I was like the ‘Tur-duck-en’ of minorities.”
5. And pointed out why people should stop asking how he manages to navigate both aspects of his identity.
“I never quite understand when people ask me: ‘How do you navigate being Asian and Queer?’ White and heterosexual is always seen as a mutually occurring phenomenon. We don’t see anyone asking how they navigate the two. When you flip the situation back, you really how silly it is. People have trouble balancing sexual, cultural, racial, identity. They see multiple combinations as ‘different’, but the truth is it’s not actually that way.”
6. When he provided yet another reason why Australia needs to hurry up with same-sex marriage
“Australia is currently at adolescence in terms of our advancement of queer rights. Once we join the rest of the world with same-sex marriage, so many other issues we should be looking at will be able to addressed. For example, looking towards supporting queer rights and same-sex marriages overseas.”
7. When he taught us to embrace the h8ers
“My book ‘Gaysia’ received this single 1-star review on Amazon, which said, ‘“I had to stop reading this book as I didn’t like it because I felt the content should have been reported to the police.’ I am still trying to get my publishers to print that quote on the next edition.”
8. When he explained why he writes…
“Why do I write? I write for those in the minority. It is frustrating when stories aren’t told. It’s the same feeling Mulan had in that scene when she is singing to the river, wondering ‘Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me?’.
“There is this brilliant quote by Junot Diaz that I love, where he talks about ‘this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. I’ve always thought that it isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.’
“When I write now, it is all for that weirdo 12 year-old me. It would have helped me to understand myself if I had had stories for that 12-year-old freak.”
9. And, importantly, why he writes about himself…
“I also write about myself because I am a huge narcissist and really interesting. Also, I’ve been told that my weekly opinion column for the Weekend is the perfect size for a morning bowel movement.”
*Turducken is a dish consisting of a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck, further stuffed into a deboned turkey.