Devika Mehra reflects on the conversations around queer identity and LGBT+ writing we've been having on The Parthian Podcast this year.
This June, celebrated as Pride Month worldwide, we take a moment to highlight the different voices reflecting on the struggles and aspirations of LGBTQ+ communities in Wales. The Parthian Podcast – Queer Welsh Writing so far celebrates queer writing in Wales, what it means to be queer, and the questions of identity and belonging which surface when creative expression is given real space.
The first series of The Parthian Podcast was produced by Kathryn Tann for Parthian Books, with the generous support of The Rhys Davies Trust. The series hosts well-known and emerging writers who discuss their experiences, grapple with how queer identity and writing intersect, and give insight into their creative work.. The series hopes to highlight the rich history – and future – of queer writing in Wales.
While discussing his autobiography, Between Worlds: A Queer Boy from the Valleys, Professor Jeffrey Weeks OBE talks about identities, communities, and relationships, as well as reconciling different parts of his life, with Welsh writer and historian Dr Daryl Leeworthy. He makes an essential comment concerning identification and belonging as a queer person: “We all live in many worlds…there can also be moments of reconciliation where we recognise our differences, respect our chosen pathways, and still like and love each other”. It is essential to come to terms with the idea of home, leaving and finding roots, and understanding what it is to reconcile different possibilities and different worlds in a single life.
These ideas resonate in the next episode featuring John Sam Jones. To celebrate the launch of John Sam Jones’ The Journey is Home: Notes from a Life on the Edge (or Y Daith Ydi Adra: Stori Gwr Ar Y Ffin), Kate Waldock sits down with him to get an insight into his thoughts upon LGBT+ education, his journey as a gay man and author, and ask for advice for young queer writers. As we celebrate Pride month, it is equally important to remember the negativity and homophobia that young gay people have faced and continue to encounter. Through his writing, John Sam Jones creates a space to shine a light on the Welsh queer viewpoint. He feels that, as an authorand as a role model for young queer people, it is integral to speak “truth quietly and clearly”. On the importance of queer voices in literature, he points out that “literature, when it has integrity, when it touches us, it can influence and can make us make changes; and so as a writer, I understand that my writing can profoundly touch people’s lives and change their lives”.
In another episode, dedicated to queer Welsh poetry, south Wales poet and writer Taylor Edmonds takes us on a whistle-stop tour of some of the fantastic LGBT+ poets working in Wales today. In conversation with Nia Morais, Rhian Elizabeth and Jeremy Dixon, Taylor covers topical concerns such as LGBTQ+ literary influences, opportunities, initiatives, questions of figuring out who you are, and how to identify in the creative sphere. It is vital to have a community when there are those who seek to other queer people. This episode gives a glimpse into the personal experiences – the every day and the mundane – that shape us as well as the act of reclaiming past experiences. They discuss how bullying and homophobia affect the lives of queer people and the importance of finding a space for self-expression.
On Pride Day, as June comes to an end, it is essential to remember that celebrating Pride and queer identities are not restricted to a day or a month. This is an ongoing celebration as more and more queer voices continue to emerge and constructively engage with what it means to be queer in Wales and the world, to celebrate differences, and to help each other find a place of belonging.
You can listen to the podcast series on all the usual listening platforms as well as on Spotify. Do watch out for our next episode tomorrow - which will change the focus again and take a considered look at the act of 'recovering' queer narratives through a new short story anthology...