Australian young adult author Will Kostakis has shared his response to a Sydney Catholic school that asked him to “skip” the queer stuff during a Book Week talk to students.
The author (above), who is gay, recounted the experience – sadly, not a new one for him – on social media and shared his response.
“A Sydney Catholic school interested in a 2024 Book Week visit asked ‘if it’s possible [I] skip over the same sex components when discussing [my] story and books,'” Will wrote.
“This was the politest response I could manage.”
Part of that response (below) he posted reads, “Being gay, much like being Greek, is a vital piece of who I am and it informs what I write. I find it deeply disrespectful, fifteen years into my career, to be asked that I ‘skip over’ it (I think ‘hide’ is a more honest word).”
Will Kostakis published his latest novel We Could Be Something in May. The book is “part coming-out story, part falling-in-love story, part relationship breakdown story, part extended Greek family story” about two young Sydney men.
The author pointed out that to follow the school’s instruction he would have to leave out “most of” the new book.
‘Oh, by the way, you can’t be gay’
Will Kostakis published his first young adult novel, Loathing Lola, in 2008.
The author came out as gay in a personal blog post in 2016, the same year he published his third novel The Sidekicks. At the time, a Catholic school cancelled his speaking visit, telling him it was suddenly “not appropriate”.
“In the time since [then], my stories, and the queer stories of my peers, have been embraced across the country,” he said.
“This year has been one of the most challenging and dispiriting. After being asked to repeat an assembly address on writing and identity, I cut out 90% of the queer references to be *safe*, and still had my author visit temporarily paused.
“I was exiled to the staff common room. A teacher explained to her students that I wasn’t taking their class as planned, explaining the importance of separating the art from the artist and likening my work to Chris Brown’s music.
“Numerous times, schools have actively sought me out, confirmed dates, only to then spring some variation of ‘Oh by the way, you can’t be gay’ on me. So why email? Why have me set aside dates? Cruelty?
“Some schools are actively resisting depictions of certain kinds of identity, and refusing to let students see the world as it is, impeding the honest teaching of English.
“And when so much of the local [young adult] market relies on schools, what does this mean for LGBTQIA+ writers?
“Even authors who simply incorporate queer characters are being told not to mention them or their books in presentations. What does this mean for LGBTQIA+ representation?”
Will Kostakis said he worries for the students
Speaking to news.com.au, Will Kostakis said the students were ultimately the worst impacted.
“I can handle the hurt, but it’s the kids I worry about… With this sort of stuff, what message are we sending to our young people?” he said.
“Even though their queer experience is different to mine, I remember what it was like. I don’t want them to even feel a fraction of that.
“If I had even so much as seen someone like me, or read a book like mine, I would have hated myself just that little bit less.”
It’s okay, they opted not to go ahead with the visit after my reply. 😂
— ✨ Will Kostakis ✨ (@willkostakis) November 17, 2023
For the latest LGBTIQA+ Sister Girl and Brother Boy news, entertainment, community stories in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagra