The new memoir that you won’t want to put down.
I remember walking into Lynn Mall and seeing One of Them at Whitcoulls—and thought, because I have been following Shaneel’s Instagram for quite a long time now, why not get the book, right? But should I really spend $36.99 on a book?. I’ve been in the position before where I’ll buy a book and then instantly come to regret that I bought it, so I was hoping that this would not be the case with One of Them.
Well, I then ended up buying it, and once I had read the first few pages of Lal’s book I knew I was not going to regret the purchase one bit. This book is so powerful yet vulnerable. When you see Lal’s media presence and what they do for the Rainbow community—especially for the Pacific Rainbow community—you see them as very strong, aggressive or passionate (depending on who you ask) in their activism, and being unapologetically authentic. But when you read their book, it truly humanises them in a way where their true essence and being comes out.
You see the gentler side of Lal, in such a way that they don’t feel as intimidating due to their accolades and intellect. You see the personal memories that have been etched in their bones, forming their why—why they are so strong and why they have this responsibility to not be complacent, to fight to ban conversion therapy practices, and fight for queer rights in Aotearoa.
This book delves into their trauma, their queer identity, their ethnic identity, their journey into politics, their love life, their vulnerabilities, their triumphs and most importantly their truth.
I remember as I was reading I was crying, taking deep breaths and pausing, sympathising, giggling and getting giddy, feeling empowered and liberated— because their book truly takes you on a journey. It was especially a journey for myself who has been through (self-afflicted) conversion therapy, understanding that toxic masculinity that is attached to a compulsive heterosexual order which makes anyone and everyone that sits out of that heteronormative paradigm into a subspecies of human.
It is such an exhausting feeling when you are dealing with people who are ignorant and androcentrically White that sometimes the intersection of being queer and Pacific is nuanced and hard. Hard to the point where you are not dealing with just homophobia (or in Lal’s case, transphobia) but racism too. This book is so raw that once I read it, I needed time to put the book away and think about something else, as it is such an intense but truthful read. It is a book that is so important for people to read in order to understand why Lal is the way they are… it humanises their public persona. And when you read the book in its entirety, you will look at Lal and have immense respect for them, for what they’ve achieved so far, and what they’ve done to make queer people safe and represented.