Australian author Will Kostakis has pulled out of two speaking engagements at a Sydney Catholic school after being asked to not talk about his new book The Sidekicks because it is “inappropriate”.
A staff member at De La Salle College in Revesby Heights told Kostakis she was concerned about promoting The Sidekicks after reading over his blog, where Kostakis had recently posted about coming out as gay.
“I think it might not be appropriate, and parents might not be happy,” the staff member said in the email, provided to BuzzFeed News.
“I have nothing personally against you and it sounds like a touching story that [I] would love to read, however I feel it isn’t appropriate.”
In a blog post, Kostakis published the email and his lengthy response, in which he spoke about his own experiences in high school as a gay person.
“I have to stick up for my 16 year old self, and say this is personal,” he wrote.
Kostakis spoke at De La Salle in June last year to promote an earlier novel, The First Third, which also included gay themes.
His speech was well-received, and in a follow up email, the staff member said they would be “honoured” to have him back in 2016 to launch The Sidekicks.
After getting back in touch with Kostakis in February this year, the school booked him to do a meet and greet about The Sidekicks on March 30, and then a longer talk in June.
However, about a week later, Kostakis received the email asking him to not speak about The Sidekicks.
“If you want to promote The First Third on March 30, you are more than welcome however I have been advised we can’t promote your new book,” the staff member wrote.
“We still absolutely want you in June, but if possible can you please do the same talk as last year with focus on becoming an author and The First Third?”
After receiving the emails, Kostakis asked his agent to cancel the engagements, saying he would happily forego the $460 speaking fee.
“That’s not how much it costs to sell myself out,” he told BuzzFeed News.
“The most anyone [in The Sidekicks] does is kiss,” Kostakis told BuzzFeed News. “It’s mostly a book about the fear of closets, and why teenagers in real life have to stay in the closet. And they just proved my thesis.”
“I understand that a lot of schools are Catholic, and I would like my books to be read by as many people as possible,” he said. “I’m always careful about the way I represent any kind of sexuality.”
In his email response to De La Salle, Kostakis said both The First Third and The Sidekicks deal with queerness in a careful and respectful manner.
“The First Third was acceptable, but now I have a blog post saying I like men, The Sidekicks is not.”
Kostakis said he had long feared coming out publicly because speaking at schools is such a big part of being an Australian young adult author.
“There was always this fear, because 80% of my income comes from speaking at schools,” he said. “That is how I meet my audience.”
It was in light of the recent debate over the Safe Schools Coalition, an anti-bullying program aimed at helping LGBTI kids, that Kostakis decided to come out.
“It was after that really rough first week of the debate,” he said. “I thought, this is harrowing, my whole book is about the danger of closets, but I’m still sort of leaving it.”
“I just need to stand up and go, look, actually, I am a positively contributing member of society. I like to inspire kids to creatively write. I am not a danger to anyone.”
Kostakis said the attitudes he experienced in dealing with De La Salle were something he has seen “throughout Catholic schools”.
“I’ve seen these sorts of attitudes around, and one school could have been another school.”
You can read the full email exchange on Kostakis’s blog.
De La Salle College has been contacted for comment.
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