Review: Loaded, Malthouse Theatre

For The Saturday Paper, I reviewed the long-awaited stage adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ Loaded which is playing at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne.

Danny Ball plays Ari in Malthouse Theatre’s 2023 production of Loaded. Photo: TS Pubicity / Tamarah Scott.

Ari’s casual assertion that he’s a wog, not white, scorns millennia of Western empires claiming Greek epistemology as an intellectual forebear while systemically deorientalising it. This feels particularly salient for how homoeroticism in Greek antiquity is absorbed into the lineage of anglophone gay culture today. That troubled relationship to history and lineage is also a recurring trope in migrant narratives, as the point of origin recedes into a romantic homeland fading into the horizon, or becomes a risk and a burden, a chorus of voices clamouring for tribute. Or a third thing: a ship with new parts but the same name.

It’s really interesting to see all the different iterations of this story (I also reviewed the audio play in 2020) and be pushed to tease apart my responses and figure out what’s in the work vs what’s changed in the world or the presentation context or my point of view. A good exercise as a critic!

Beijing LGBT Center closes down; reporting on LGBTIQ+ issues

Disheartening news this week on the eve of IDAHOBIT that Beijing LGBT Center has been forced to shut. Beitong, as it was known in the community, was the leading NGO for queer advocacy and research in China, as well as providing important welfare and peer support services. Our paths crossed frequently over the years that I was reporting on LGBTIQ+ issues in China, so this loss feels quite devastating both personally and politically – the China I knew and loved is being eroded piece by piece.

A bright pink sanlunche draped with Pride flags in a Beijing hutong, 2016.
Beijing’s NGO community made such a big impression on me but a lot of what I remember is already gone. Q-Space, where this was taken, closed their physical space in 2020.

Foreign Policy has a good analysis of Beitong’s closure in the context of a natalist push for gender normativity, heterosexual marriage, and more babymaking to rebalance the country’s demographic woes. I’m quoted there, as well as in articles by the AFP and Bloomberg wires that have been syndicated pretty widely. I also gave NBC an interview for their story that should be out soon – I’ll add it to my press page when it’s published.

A few articles misgendered me, which I managed to get corrected, but it’s been interesting to see: I was rendered male in French and female in English, while a queer Italian media outlet not only got it right but taught me something new: the gender-inclusive suffix ə, which linguists and writers in Italy have popularised against strident opposition from many, including the national language watchdog.

Anyway, it’s pretty cool to go on a late-night tweet spree and then see it translated into half a dozen different languages, but disappointing that so many media outlets remain inattentive to gendered language, even when reporting an LGBTIQ+ story. My pronouns have been in my Twitter bio since I started the account, and in my website bio and email signature (ey/eir/em, they/their/them, 伊 or TA).

It’s ironic too, because what I’m most proud of from my time in China journalism was building up LGBTIQ+ and gender reporting into beats that were taken seriously and resourced appropriately, and integrating that area expertise into editorial processes, ethics and house style. Using the correct pronouns for someone is just one very small part of that but often revealing of broader priorities. It’s something that Beitong and their peers like Tongyu and BGHEI invested in, too, with media guidelines, training, analysis and awards. So I hope media outlets take stock and use events like IDAHOBIT and Pride as an opportunity to consider how they could improve their LGBTIQ+ reporting.

Articles mentioned:

LGBTQ spaces are shrinking in China, James Palmer, Foreign Policy, 16 May 2023.

Chinese LGBTQ Center Closes Down Abruptly Amid Xi Clampdown, Bloomberg, 16 May 2023.

Leading Chinese advocacy group Beijing LGBT Center closes down, citing ‘unpreventable circumstances’, AFP (syndicated in Hong Kong Free Press), 16 May 2023.

* IDAHOBIT is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersex discrimination and Transphobia.

Review: She and Her Pretty Friend by Danielle Scrimshaw

For The Saturday Paper, I reviewed She and Her Pretty Friend, an appealing and accessible history of queer women’s lives in Australia from roughly 1830 to 1980. There’s a lot I liked about it and a few things that bugged me too. As always, I can send a read link if you can’t access it through the paywall, just leave a comment.

Scrimshaw code-switches easily between the cautious register of the historian and the more colourful lexicon of chronically online queers, reading real events in relation to memes and fandom tropes such as “oh my god, they were roommates” and “be gay, do crime”. The effect is chatty and conspiratorial, like catching up with a friend who can’t wait to tell you about what she just read, and it’s endearing to witness her transparent disappointment when women treat each other badly or don’t get the life we feel they deserve.

Interview #198: Lian Low | Liminal

I don’t see a divide between literary and genre. Writing spec fic and horror connects me to a sense of who I am, my roots and psyche where the world of the real and the world of the unreal isn’t so binary.

Lian Low

Lian Low is a writer and a former editor-in-chief of Peril. I interviewed her for Liminal, mining her insights on the queer, the monstrous, and the last thirty years of Asian Australian arts and culture.

Illustration by Viet-My Bui.

Recent interviews

Since I started teaching, I’ve said yes to every student journalist who’s wanted to interview me in the hopes that it earns karma for my students.

Not sure if that’s an effective strategy, but here are a couple of the stories: I spoke to Swinburne’s The Wind Down podcast about the Chinese video games industry clamping down on queer narratives, and Robbie Mason from USyd’s Pulp mag about freelancing in this economy.

The Wind Down Ep 23 (Spotify/Apple Podcasts/other platforms)

Underpaid, exploited, revolutionary: how freelance writers in Australia battled the pandemic | 11 October 2021, Robbie Mason, Pulp

China Tonight Season 2 | ABC TV

We’re back!

Episode 1 aired last night with Annie Louey’s story on 躺平 and mine on queer activists, Angharad Yeo on gaming restrictions, and of course Stan Grant and Yvonne Yong with all the news. Catch up on iview and set your alarms for 9:30pm, Monday nights on ABC TV.

Image shows LGBTIQ activists on a boat waving rainbow flags and a cat lying down on the water.
Promo image for China Tonight S02E01.