Benjamin Law embarks on a wild ride through Asia to investigate queer culture in Gaysia. In Indonesia he meets the moneyboys who prostitute themselves to Western men, usually preferring the rich older men. In Thailand he visits the world’s biggest beauty pageant for transsexual women. In China he learns about the gay men who marry lesbians in sham-weddings to please overbearing parents and the unhappy straight women who unwittingly marry gay men. He encounters the comedic-feminine stereotypes of gay men presented on television in Japan. He attends sessions aimed at curing homosexuality, run by religious groups in Malaysia. And among the devastating poverty of Myanmar, he meets the men who are 42 times more likely to contract HIV than anywhere else. Law also attends a queer pride march in India where colonial anti-homosexuality laws were recently overturned. Gaysia is like a Louis Theroux documentary in book form, achieving a similar style of gonzo journalism to Theroux, with the hilarious Law becoming part of the story and experiencing the culture firsthand. Of course, this book will challenge those who find homosexuality confronting, but an unrestrained Law flushes out fragile readers early on with imagery from the poolside of a clothing-optional gay resort in Bali.
Andrew Wrathall is the publishing assistant for Bookseller+Publisher. This review first appeared in the June/July issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.