Beyond Priscilla, by Daniel Witthaus
“One gay man, one gay truck, one big idea…”
That’s the line from the cover, describing what this book is about. In 2010, Daniel drove around the Australia in his big gay truck called Bruce to find out what life was like for LGBT people in the country and to see what he could do to help. Instead of holding workshops or seminars he decided to challenge homophobia “one cuppa at a time”, as he puts it, by sitting and having conversations with people over a cup of tea or coffee. He spent time with LGBT people in towns and small communities all across the country as well as with teachers, social workers and community leaders.
It was the title that first got my attention. It suggests, right from the start, that it’s an Australian book and that it’s about time we moved past stereotypes of gay people as well as stereotypes of people in the bush and country towns. Many of the people Daniel spoke with before starting his tour said he shouldn’t go to places like Kalgoorlie or Mt Isa because as a gay man he’d be a target and be abused or bashed. When I started reading the book that is also what I expected him to find. Fortunately his experience was a lot more positive than that, although at the same time it shows that there is still a long way to go before LGBT people are fully accepted in some of these communities. He visited LGBT people living in all parts of the country and talked to them about why they are living where they do, what makes them stay as well as the pressures that make them leave and head for the big cities. He found teachers and social workers in even the remotest communities that want to help kids in their area but face a lack of resources and training in how to best offer support.
This book is his journal, recording where he went and who he spoke to. There’s one entry for every day he was on the road (267 in total). Each entry is fairly short but he captures his experiences very nicely. There’s no dialog as such, although he does include comments and quotes from the people he’s talking to every day which gives it a chatty, engaging feel . He doesn’t record the conversations in depth since he’s having roughly the same conversation each time and this book is not supposed to be a how-to manual for combating homophobia. This is about his trip and recording his impressions of life in different parts of the country, a job I think he’s done pretty well in this book.
Daniel is also the author of “Beyond ‘That’s So Gay’ – Challenging homophobia in Australian schools”, which is the how-to manual containing the techniques and strategies he was talking about on his trip.