By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
A Private Life: Fragments, Memories, Friends
By Michael Kirby (Allen & Unwin, $35.00, softcover, 200 pages)
The public life of Australia’s longest serving judge has been well documented; now his own recollections reveal the private Michael Kirby.
At the outset he says that it was his publisher who was “convinced that an untapped well of interest existed of readers keen to hear my own voice”.
These simply written, sensitive essays offer “fragments of memory about vivid times in my life”.
Michael Kirby lays bare many parts of his personal life that belong only to him. He recalls his tough teenage years as a homosexual male and his fascination with film star, James Dean.
He found a life-long companion in Johan van Vloten, but this was a love that was “hidden away for a quarter of a century”. Since this was long before gay liberation struck Australia, it was a “lifetime’s instruction in shame” that resulted in a phase of silence and denial.
The thinking behind the disclosure of his relationship is captivating and exposes far more about the man than you may imagine.
“One can intellectually embrace an idea of celibacy as the path that society seemed irrationally to enforce on people like me. But in the midst of the loneliness, the nagging demands of the body and mind, the heart would urge the spirit to look for what the law, religion and society forbade.”
A Private Life is a memoir of somewhat romanticised tales, intertwined with portions of the horror of discrimination and lack of knowledge.
However, some factions are willing to confront the problems of ignorance, denial and discrimination. There is grave insight on quelling the spread of HIV and AIDS in Zambia where the mere mention of homosexuality is alarming.
Then there’s the courage of Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, the first prince of India to ‘come out as gay’.
The former High Court judge champions the need formoral obligation. One’s magnificent destiny comes with speaking the truth, finding love and knowing humility.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.