Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Michael Kirby: A Private Life $39.99

Michael Kirby: A Private Life $39.99

Michael Kirby is a well known public figure in Australia.  He has served in the High Court and on many other public bodies.   Like me you may have heard his name when he publicly came out several years ago.

After a long and successful career on the bench this is Michael’s opportunity to share his private self.  It is a book that talks of the challenges growing up in overtly homophobic 1950s Australia.  This was a country with similar attitudes to New Zealand.  In New South Wales the prevailing attitude of the police and other authorities was that homosexuality was a perversion to be deplored and stopped.  Michael tells us of meeting his life partner of 30 plus years when they were both in their late 20s.  That was a long time to wait to be brave enough to actually seek out a partner for love and companionship.

The warmth in his stories and essays bring this little book alive.  The care he took to keep his private life from being public is something many of us can relate to.  Michael Kirby’s family and close friends knew Johan was his partner, but Johan was completely invisible in the public and work life of Michael for many years.  I was moved by the telling of their first public outing in the latter part of Michael’s career.

He also tells of visits to schools, Africa and many human rights conferences where he shared his personal tales and also the experiences of Australia as a nation finding ways to cope with AIDS in the 1980s.

Michael Kirby nicely captures the feelings of coming out in a repressive society.  He also sets an example of how to make a positive impact on the lives of others by getting involved and sharing his story.

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