Actor and writer Harry Cook has opened up about addiction, marriage, and fighting for equality in his new memoir Pink Ink. Matthew Wade caught up with him to find out what it was like to revisit some of the harder times in his life.
* * *
What was your coming out experience like?
I had a pretty difficult coming out experience when I was younger. I came out to a not-so-welcome reaction and went back into the closet, then came out again a year or so later when I was around 15. My dad really struggled with it for a while but he chose to learn over time.
You grappled with addiction as well, which would have made it harder.
It was pretty rough. To a degree, I think it was a side effect of shame. I couldn’t process my internalised shame and turned to drugs and booze to blot it all out. It was only when I got clean and sober that I could start unburdening myself of it all. It is something I’ll probably be working on for the rest of my life, just like my recovery from addiction.
Why do you think LGBTI people are at greater risk of mental health issues and addiction?
I think shame plays a huge part in it. From the moment queer people are born, before we even realise who we are, we are taught that we are different. I don’t think we understand how deep the effects of shame are on LGBTI people, but I truly think it plays a huge part in addiction and mental health issues in the community. I grew up hating myself before I even knew myself. It’s really traumatic for young queer people and results in higher suicide rates.
When did life start to get better?
When I met my husband Liam I noticed that life became so much less complicated. He keeps me going when I’m feeling awful. I think also when I got out of rehab and could start learning to actually like myself without the veil of drugs and booze, I noticed a shift. Up until that point every day was a struggle.
What was it like to champion marriage equality last year?
It meant the world to lend my voice to it. I’m so proud to finally see marriage equality here in Australia. I still think we have such a lot of work to do though. We’re far from finished but I have faith that we can get through anything after the clusterfuck that was 2017. What an absolute mess that postal survey was. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.
You revisit a lot of these periods in your new book, Pink Ink.
It was tough but somewhat therapeutic. Life was really shitty for a while but it got better. I hope people know that it does get better if you hang on long enough. Growing up, I remember not seeing any queer stories that ended with a happy ever after so I hope my book is a look at how we can all get through tough times and come out the other end smiling.
What are you hoping your readers will get out of the book?
More than anything I hope people relate. I’ve put some of my most painful and joyous experiences in the book and haven’t sugar coated any of it. I really just hope it resonates.
Do you have a message for our younger readers?
You’re fucking wonderful exactly as you are and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Also, learn your history. Know how hard older LGBTI people fought for the rights we have today. We didn’t get to where we are today by being quiet. Fight hard against inequality. It’s the only way forward.