Few things can be more overwhelming than Dr Dino Hodge’s CV, summing up a trajectory that includes a professional career in audiology, a PhD in Historical and Philosophical Studies, a series of awards, a lengthy list of community roles, government jobs and books, most notably Colouring the Rainbow: Blak Queer and Trans Perspectives, and Don Dunstan, Intimacy and Liberty: A political biography.

Currently a Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Indigenous Studies, Dr Hodge is a contributor to yet another publication, Living and Loving in Diversity, An anthology of Australian Multicultural queer adventures, published by the Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council (AGCM) and edited by Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli Senior Lecturer in Social Diversity in Health and Education at Deakin University’s School of Health and Social Development.

“Both Maria Pallotta and I come from Adelaide, we grew up in the Don Dunston era”, says Dino Hodge (Konstantinos Hadjikakou), making a reference to the politician who inspired him.

“It is tragic that we don’t give that man more respect, and one of the reasons is because of his sexuality,” he says.

“Looking back, I think it is extraordinary that he was so open and he achieved so much.”

Dr Hodge has also achieved a lot. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that he’s one of the country’s leading experts when it comes to studying sexuality, racism and social justice in Australia and particularly when it comes to the indigenous populations, having worked for many years in the Northern Territory – and continuing to do so on a fly-in, fly-out basis.

“It has been such a privilege for me to work with Aboriginal people, they have a much greater respect for all of their people,” he says.

“Ethnicity and sexuality and gender are all experiences that we each have,” he explains, offering an introduction to his field of expertise.

“You can’t think or be in the world without both experiences affecting you. If you are going to talk about yourself, or about other people, you have to talk about ethnicity, sexuality and gender. And if you are going to talk about social policy or government programs or history, you have to talk about these things.”

As one would expect, his own experience has a lot to do with his Greek background.

“What I love about my Greek heritage is that there is this wealth of tradition in terms of gender and sexuality; I think of Zeus and Ganymedes, I think of Ηermaphroditus, I think of the poet Sappho, I think of Sparta’s warriors, I think of Plato’s Symposium, I think of Alexander the Great,” he says.

“These were all role models and I always knew that outside this western model, there were other ways of being and that gave me a lot of strength,” he says.

Dr Hodge holding his book on Don Dunston.

As one would also expect from a Greek gay activist, Dr Hodge believes that this tradition was tarnished by the prevalence of the Christian Orthodox religion in Greece.

“All religions have their flaws and shortcomings,” he says. “I think people should bear in mind that Greek culture is far more than Christianity; it existed before and it sits outside of it. I think it is tragic that there are young people from Greek families who commit suicide because of the teachings of the Greek Orthodox church. There are many people who do not always follow the teachings of the church for good reasons. The church does not speak for the lived experience of the majority of the people. That is the reality of the world.”

If this sounds like a harsh, yet expected critique against religion, it is nothing compared to the real – and unexpected – target of Dr Hodge’s criticism: the Gay liberation movement.

“Gay liberation is an Anglo construct, he says. “It is an Anglo approach to defining sexuality, their definition of gay sexuality was that you were either in the closet and a frustrated gay, or out of the closet and you’re living openly gay. There are more ways to live than picking one identity and hanging your hat on that identity, and that is why intersectionality is so important, because when it comes down to it, we’re not just talking about being one particular identity, that’s not what life is about.”

This all comes from personal experience, of course.

“For me, growing up as a young man in Adelaide in 1970, I was told that I couldn’t be gay and Greek. Greek people were looked down upon by the dominant culture and the gay liberation people that I knew at that time were racist, there is no other polite way to put it.”

Surprisingly, for all its cultural and religious hang-ups, Greece has proven to be more open-minded than even some progressive parts of Australia.

“I know many young people in Australia who have left their families because they have rejected them and gone to live in Greece, because there is a much greater freedom in terms of sexuality and a lot of same-sex attracted people experience sexuality outside of gay liberation. There are many ways to express sexuality and Greek people across the ages have done that.”

Dr Hodge does not hide that he was shocked, when he first made that discovery, while travelling in Greece.

“I was shocked when my family told me about ‘Love Hotels’, where you rent the room by the hour,” he says.

“Clearly they are not practising the Orthodox tradition of marriage,” he laughs.

“Whether it is between a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, the definition of sexuality and the definition of marriage, as practised by Greek people, has always allowed flexibility and it’s the same with sexuality. People in Greece both before Christian times and in contemporary times, have found ways to give expression to a range of sexuality and a range of desires.
“Today increasing numbers of people are less willing to accept being harassed or persecuted because of the way they choose to express love.
“We see it not only with same sex attracted people, but also with heterosexual people, who not only have relationships now outside of their marriages, but they have polyamorous relationships and are proudly polyamorous.
“So when we talk about sexuality, it’s not about gay liberation; it is about the lived experience of humanity.”

This is the essence of Living and Loving in Diversity, he says – respectful engagement, acknowledgement and mutual respect. This is important for both the intersecting multicultural and LGBTIQ communities, but more important for the Australian community as a whole.

“All humanity experiences diversity in sexuality and in gender,” says Dr Hodge, pointing to examples in India and other Asian countries, as well as indigenous people in Australia and North America. “This multiplicity of traditions is a very healthy role model and that is why it is important for mainstream Australia today. Mainstream Australia has struggled with the binary concept that we have inherited, the male or female, the straight or gay, the married or single.

“Now mainstream Australia is rejecting that, in favour of ‘gender fluid’ or ‘pansexual’ or ‘polyamorous’.
“What we are seeing is that mainstream Australia has actually got a hunger to learn about the traditions of other cultures, how other cultures are dealing with these themes of human identity and human desire and intimacy – and that’s why books like this are so important. Not only they acknowledge the vast traditions of many ethnic groups that have come to live in Australia, but they also demonstrate that there are other ways of thinking and expressing intimacy and gender in our lives.”

For him, this is also a very ‘Australian’ concept.

“One of the things I love about Australia is the notion of a ‘fair go for everyone’ – that everybody deserves respect and an opportunity and none of us should be allowed to go too far ahead from anyone else. This does not mean working for sameness, but working for togetherness, it means celebrating diversity; that’s what I think social justice means.”

‘Living and Loving in Diversity, An anthology of Australian Multicultural queer adventures’ will be launched on Friday 21 September 21 at St Kilda Town Hall (99a Carlisle St, St Kilda, VIC) at 6.00 pm as part of the 2018 AGMC National Conference. For more information, go to https://conference.agmc.org.au