Difference Is Born on the Lips: Reflections on sexuality, stigma and society
In this shockingly raw but beautifully written book, Michael Handrick unpicks the toxic narratives and myths built up by society of what it means to be a man, gay and working class. Moving through time and memory, from a rural council estate surrounded by snowdrop-filled forests, to searching for his sense of self across London, Italy, America and beyond, he explores how his struggles with mental health and abuse were compounded by stigmas around class, masculinity and sexuality. At this point in history, despite having more equal rights and media representation than ever before, the gay community is suffering a mental health epidemic. In a 2018 survey, Stonewall found that half of respondents had experienced depression, while other research shows 49 per cent of gay men have suffered from domestic abuse and 26 per cent have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. As he embarks on a journey to understand the root causes of the toxicity in our society, Handrick finds that the beginnings of the abuse, trauma and mental health crises faced by gay men, and the silence that surrounds them, remain unresolved. Difference is born on the lips, but it is society that shapes those words and actions. The mental health issues gay men live with, the abuse they go through, the stigma, prejudice and discrimination they face do not exist in a vacuum. They are created and catalysed in our societies. Difference is Born on the Lips is a call to come together and create a new conversation, and confront the systemic inequalities that the queer community should never have had to live with.