The best Australian books about conquering homophobia

Who am I?

A century of prejudice is laid bare in these books, but within their pages are countless subtle and overt ways that gay Australian men have given homophobes the big middle finger. We may not always have thrived, but through resistance, migration, verbal agility, notoriety, and sheer resilience, collectively we have conquered. I stand on enormous shoulders at a time when queer writing is proliferating on an inevitable tide of equality that has risen across my lifetime in this country. My selections encompass first nations and migrant stories, some of the pioneers of our gay literature, and ‘outside’ voices bravely looking in to discern us with dignity.

I wrote...

Tank Water

By Michael Burge,

Book cover of Tank Water

What is my book about?

James Brandt didn’t look back when he got away from his rural hometown as a teenager. Now, he’s returned to Kippen because his cousin Tony has been found dead under the local bridge. The event triggers James’s journalistic curiosity—and his anxiety—both of which cropped up during his turbulent journey to adulthood. 

But it is the unexpected homophobic attack he survives that draws James into a hunt for the reasons one lonely Kippen farm boy in every generation kills himself. Standing in the way is James’s father, the town’s recently retired top cop, who is not prepared to investigate crimes no one reckons have taken place. James must use every newshound’s trick he ever learned in order to uncover the brutal truth.

The books I picked & why

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By Sumner Locke Elliott,

Book cover of Fairyland

Why this book?

Elliott came out to his fans with this beautiful novel charting the life and times of Seaton Ross, a protagonist in the author’s image. Despite the terrible series of obstacles placed in Seaton’s way, from overbearing or absent family, deeply closeted and self-centred lovers to furious fag hags, he manages to escape Australia—just as Elliott didwithout developing a lasting hatred in his exile. Rendered with the author’s signature wit (he took a leaf from E. M. Forster), the homophobia of Australia’s working classes becomes a source of this novel’s pathos, so that when Seaton encounters the most shocking consequences a gay man can face, we are ill-prepared. A wry, sexy, heartfelt swan song from the Australian who made it big in the American broadcasting industry.

The Devil's Grip: A true story of shame, sheep and shotguns

By Neal Drinnan,

Book cover of The Devil's Grip: A true story of shame, sheep and shotguns

Why this book?

A page-turning journey through the motivations, passions, and secrets that led to a shocking crime; but also a long-overdue look at the elements of Brokeback Mountain that have always existed in Australia's rural heartlands. Assisted by a key survivor of the Wettenhall family drama—Bob Perry—Drinnan takes a very personalised look back at a rural dynasty’s fortunes, but also the social, legal, and cultural restrictions for same-sex-attracted men in Australia from the 1970s to the present day. Australia is a nation said to have been built on the sheep's back, yet the truth about gays in this nation's bush culture is only just emerging. Drinnan's book sharply spearheaded the discussion into the mainstream while documenting Perry’s journey from the closet to liberation.  

Red Herrings for Breakfast

By Annabet Ousback,

Book cover of Red Herrings for Breakfast

Why this book?

This is a searing memoir about siblingsAnnabet and Anderswho grew up in an abusive household in a privileged Sydney suburb; but it is also the author’s search for the reasons behind her gay brother’s suicide. Anders Ousback became an accomplished restaurateur and potter, yet Annabet explores how despite this success, he never really outran his demons. She courageously searches for their source, using his surviving journal as clues, and what she finds throws up an incomplete and terrifying picture of a young gay Australian boy faced with the ‘rules’ of gender and sexual politics in postwar Sydney, where gay men were expected to pretend to survive. The real red herring in this story is unforgettable.


By Christos Tsiolkas,

Book cover of Barracuda

Why this book?

Danny Kelly is a living, breathing gay Greek protagonist, and the choices this driven young competitive swimmer faces about loving relationshipswhile he’s in the pursuit of athletic prowessare written with a resounding ring of truth. Tsiolkas’ visceral sex scenes, underpinned by gripping descriptions of the desires behind the mechanics, speak to much more than the act itself. They go to the heart of identity in a novel with so many layers of self-definition: the migrant, the working class hero, the quintessential male, the stereotypical gay, the success story, and the abject failure. That Danny escapes his ambition alive is a miracle, and it has everything to do with digging deep and staring down expectations.

Jack Charles: Born-Again Blakfella

By Jack Charles,

Book cover of Jack Charles: Born-Again Blakfella

Why this book?

Homophobia appears to have been the least of Jack Charles’ worries. If it ever bothered him, he barely lets it register in this memoir of a creative life lived both on the fringes and in the spotlight. Perhaps that’s the point, that his eloquent, good-humoured approach always seemed to scotch the haters right from the get-go. In an unbendingly honest self-reflection, Charles also pulls off describing himself as a “poof”, a very Australian term of derision that has been reclaimed by many. His ‘born again’ tale similarly relates how he survived in the face of terrible prejudices endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islandersthe First Nations people of Australiaand their vibrant, resilient spirit. An uplifting gem.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in homophobia, Australia, and Sydney Australia?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about homophobia, Australia, and Sydney Australia.

Homophobia Explore 19 books about homophobia
Australia Explore 178 books about Australia
Sydney Australia Explore 31 books about Sydney Australia

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Beartown, The Power of One, and Gold if you like this list.