Supporting inclusivity through writing

Wandana Heights author John Terry Moore, right, with husband Russell. (Louisa Jones) 410883_01

John Terry Moore is a retired celebrant and author of four novels, who lives in Wandana Heights with his husband Russell. He speaks with the Independent’s Jena Carr about what he loves most about writing and supporting the LGBTIQA+ community through his books.

John Terry Moore, 81, was a civil celebrant of weddings and funerals for more than 18 years before realising he wanted to support LGBTIQA+ kids navigate their way through life.

The Wandana Heights man became the “go-to celebrant for suicides” during his career, with most being young men under 30 years old.

“The coroner made the remark that it was related to sexual adjustment and the same thing was happening here in Geelong except no one knew,” he said.

“I have buried a lot of young people whose parents had no idea (about their child’s sexuality), but I knew. That’s what turned me around, and I looked to do something before they think of suicide.

“I resigned as a celebrant 10 years ago when I turned 70, and I’m now 81. I’ve written four books in that time and each one of those has a message of some sort behind it.

“Mostly the message is that there are kids out there still suffering from homophobic attitudes and…we tackle things like attempted suicide and all the human emotions you can think about.”

John’s passion for helping young people accept their sexuality is inspired by his own experience struggling with identity while growing up in Tasmania, where “no one knew what gay meant”.

“I was very fortunate, I suppose it’s just genetics, where I refused to give in and I knew there was nothing wrong with me. I was just another human being,” he said.

“I was engaged to be married because I could see it was the only way I was going to be able to stay on the farm as I loved farming, but dad and I used to clash all the time.

“She knew before we got engaged all about it (John’s sexuality). I said I might have to slip away every now and then, and in the end, my conscience got the better of me, and I called it off.

“She stood in front of mum and dad and said, ‘well, this is the problem’. Of course, the whole world crashed down for mum and dad.

“I escaped to Melbourne, and we resumed family contact about a year or so later; we’ve been in and out of contact but resumed some family relationship.

“That was particularly difficult, and I see other kids these days struggling the same way. We’re just human beings and young people have got to be particularly strong to ride through that.”

‘A Gentle Man’ is John’s fourth book, launched in Geelong on June 14 during The Equality Project’s Better Together 2024 national LGBTIQA+ conference events from June 14 to 15.

The novel focuses on two friends, the “love affair with the most surprising person”, and John’s Anglo-Indian connection through his mother’s side of the family.

“One of the duties of a writer is certainly to entertain and you’ve got to be able to hold an audience in order to get the message through,” he said.

“It’s like holding a mirror up to a very ordinary family who lost a key family member, and the book talks a lot about and spends a particular amount of time in India.

“These stories are part of the healing process of younger generations, helping the way kids feel about themselves and their families.

“Hopefully, my storytelling, along with that of many other people in the world, makes kids feel a little bit better about themselves. That’s what it’s about.

“It gives me a chance to reach out to young people around the globe who are unsure of many aspects of their lives and who can access my gay romance stories with successful and positive outcomes.”

John said he would continue to address issues facing young LGBTIQA+ people and encourage everyone to be themselves through his writing.

“Love is grand, as Russell and I have been partners in all things for nearly 41 years. We were married in Geelong on February 21, 2018,” he said.

“I’ve also got by sheer coincidence a gay brother who’s also a writer and lives in Adelaide, and we’ve got my lovely sister Fran from Hobart, who is highly supportive of both of us.

“Things have changed and it’s remarkable. Everyone criticises mobile phones, but it has changed and saved lives. Young people now can go on the internet and get one of these books.”

Rainbow Door is a free helpline for LGBTIQA+ people available on 1800 729 367 every day from 10am to 5pm. Lifeline also offers 24/7 support on 13 11 14.