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  • Writer's picture Nicholas May

QUEER BOOK REVIEW 4

Colouring The Rainbow - Essays compiled and edited by Dino Hodge and reviewed by MJ



Content warning: This book contains graphic and potentially triggering themes for both First Nations folks & Queer folks, such as – deaths of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, violence, mental illness, physical and emotional abuse, homophobia, transphobia, racism and other related themes. 


I didn’t know exactly what to expect when beginning to read this book, I just knew I wanted to hear about the lives of LGBTQIA+ mob and I had rarely seen any written text on this. So, I was excited to read these stories, especially seeing that it involved such iconic and staunch people in the LGBTQIA+, First Nations community such as Sistagirl Crystal Johnson.  


Although this piece of work is, indeed, challenging and confronting, it is also incredibly important to bare witness to these stories and educate ourselves on these experiences. So much of Indigenous history, culture and life stories have been eradicated by colonialism, so it is invaluable to have these LGBTQIA+ stories of lived experience from mob who are willing to share their realities with us. Story telling has always been and always will be a huge part of First Nations culture and it is our job to uplift and protect these voices, in the modern-colonialist society we all live in.   


What I enjoyed most about this work, is that each account was so unique and brought something different to the discussion surrounding LGBTQIA+ First Nations lives. Some of the essays spoke about the writer’s personal experience, sharing their life story with us and describing the challenges and triumphs faced when growing up Queer & Trans in their communities. Some of the essays were more educational, they explained some of the aspects of culture, language and life for Queer mob, which is not covered in mainstream writing and media. Some of the essays spoke about their personal achievements in making change for these communities, on local and national levels, in all kinds of areas such as policy, art, social spaces and education systems.  

 

I had a few chapters that i enjoyed most, but my personal favourite was Napanangka: The True Power of Being Proud by Crystal Johnson. Crystal Johnson is a deadly Elder living in Tiwi Islands and is a long-standing advocate and changemaker for Sistagirls and Queer mob. Her story, as described in this chapter, is truly inspiring and outstanding. She has achieved so much and created so many opportunities for these communities, many being the first of their kind. She did all of it while going through and processing incredibly difficult and painful challenges, that she faced from community, systems and even family. Crystal is certainly a LGBTQIA+ First Nations icon, that will stand as an unforgettable part of this community’s history for all time. 

 

I learned so much from reading all the different perspectives and insights from these writers. But, most of all, it made me feel so much prouder than I already was to be a part of this community. As a proudly Queer, Trans/Non-Binary and Aboriginal person, it really made me understand the battles faced and the work done for me to be able to be here today and be proud in my identity. It really shows you how strong, resilient and powerful we all are as mob, whilst giving a deeper understanding of the hardships that were faced for people of these even further marginalized communities.  


I highly recommend this text for both First Nations, LGBTQIA+ peoples, but especially for allies who wish to further educate themselves and understand our history, as well as learn how to better support these communities. 

 

Glossary (as written in ‘Colouring The Rainbow’):  

Sistagirl: First Nations terms for a Trans woman. 

Mob: Family, tribe, social group, community or network of affiliated people in First Nations language. 

Deadly: Aboriginal slang word meaning “very good” or “cool”, the same as English speakers would use “wicked” or “awesome”.  

Staunch: Descriptive word meaning firm, dependable, loyal and proud. 

Elder: A respect title, used to describe an older relative, now often used for any older or respected person in First Nations language. 

Napanangka: The Walpiri skin name for a woman in the kinship system of Aboriginal Groups in Central Australia. 

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