I was always a very timid boy. This was after I was bullied at Mt Albert Grammar. But I have to thank the bullies because I became a writer, which enabled me to say on paper what I couldn’t say out loud. But when I’m at festivals and faced with an audience, I always have an involuntary reaction. For one moment the audience turns into the boys at MAGS and I close down. I learnt to get past this moment of primal fear and in fact I began to feel the enormous freedom of being able to say exactly what I wanted. I developed what is called ‘a sharp tongue’. Written and spoken language became my weapon.
This small journey is the experience of many LGBTQI people. Language is our first line of defence. We changed the hurtful words so often used to describe us and claimed the upbeat ‘gay’ in the 1970s. From there we went on to use many other terms that we ourselves chose. Language is what defines us as humans. Choice is what makes us who we are.
One of the pleasures of putting this festival together has been celebrating the strong voices of the present with writers as distinguished as Witi Ihimaera, Victor Rodger and Joanne Drayton. But a surprise has been the discovery of new voices. These fresh new voices redefine the experience of what it is to be human and to see the world from a new LGBTQI perspective. My hope is that same same but different will introduce a heightened awareness of the timbre and reach of our voice but also celebrate the richness inherent in difference.
All writers and readers festivals are a version of talking up a storm. Let me now step aside with a bow and the talking begin.