Gaysia is a diverse place; imagine Tokyo’s drag queens, HIV-positive Burmese sex workers, ex-gay Malaysian Christians, and even Chinese gay men who marry lesbians in fake ceremonies to please traditionally minded parents.

And those are just some of the characters encountered by writer Benjamin Law in his latest book, in which he sets out to explore what life is really like among the Asian continent’s queer communities.

“I’ve been called a Gaysian for a really long time as a joke between friends and I think a lot of other gay Asian people would get the same thing, like, ‘wow, your like several minorities in one, lets condense you into a more efficient minority with that word,’” Law told the Star Observer.

“I always thought there might be something to it and then I started reading a lot of news stories about gay issues everyday and I started noticing that a lot of the stories I was interested in were all set in Asia.

“Of course, when you talk about Asia there’s so many different countries and socio-economic situations.”

Looking for a new project after publishing his wry and touchingly funny memoir The Family Law in 2010, Law started immersing himself in this new world of gay beauty pageants and emerging rights movements in countries like India – where homosexuality was only decriminalised in 2009.

“You think ‘oh my god, this is really interesting’ and, of course, my instincts as a journalist kicked in,” he said.

“I’m not a hard news journalist, but I’m a sort of a long-form feature or narrative journalist.

“[The Family Law] was a really introverted process sitting in front of a computer, not talking to anyone just going by my own memories and conjuring up stories, and they are such different books because one is all about myself and this book, even though it’s first person, it’s so much about other people.”

Law’s style of literary journalism, which is in the same vein as new journalism practitioners like Anna Funder or Hunter S. Thompson, allowed him to probe issues with sensitivity and something most news journalists never get: time.

“I like looking at human stories, so whenever I read things I’m always curious about, well, what are those people lives like?” he said.

“What is that transsexual beauty pageant winner’s life like? What about that person who is in Myanmar who can’t get access to HIV medication and anti-retrovirals. What is that situation like on a really human level?”

Law said Gaysia is not intended to be a definitive guide to being gay in Asia, rather it’s intended to offer a collection of glimpses into the lives of individual LGBTI people.

“What I realised was that I really wanted that personal side, some of the funny stories and the sad stories and I wanted to focus on one specific issue country by country,” he said.

“I guess the personal instinct is because I am Asian myself – I am ethnically Chinese – and when you’re the kid of a migrant you often wonder what your life would have been like, especially if your someone who is gay, if you had grown up in the country of your parents.”

Law said it was the issue of HIV in Burma that really affected him during his travels.

“I knew I wanted to look at HIV/AIDS because I don’t think you can talk about queer issues without talking about that,” he said.

“All of these countries have their own HIV problems but I settled on Myanmar (Burma) because I thought it was the most hidden story.

“I think we all hold preconceived ideas of people or stereotypes and rather than rejecting them or furthering them I really wanted to go head on and have a look at them.”

Law’s next project is a TV adaptation of The Family Law after the creators of The Slap television adaptation, Matchbook Pictures, bought the production rights to his memoir.

Given the riotously funny characters within Law’s own family, it’s hard not to imagine there being a few arguments over who would play the respective family members.

“Well, there’s so few Asian Australian actors on TV. We’re just thinking we can get [comedian] Chris Lilley to play all of us,” he said.

INFO: Gaysia is available in book stores and e-book format now.

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