Title: Editorial: Shattered lives Credit: Jay Bennie Features Saturday 1st July 2006 - 12:00pm1151712000 Article: 1322 Rights
July 1,1976, your 30th birthday. Your partner, Matthew, has surprised you with a long weekend at a South Island ski resort and for the past two days you have both taken full advantage of the early snow by day and the comfort of your hotel by night. Checking into your twin room you both made sure the check-in staff got the message that you are ‘just friends.' No shared luggage. No signing in for each other. No little looks that might betray that you and Matthew are a homosexual couple. Like most people you come into contact with every day of your life, the hotel staff must not know. In the dining room you've been careful to betray no hint of intimacy. No standing unnaturally close together. No answering for each other. Even in the hotel room you keep up the pretense... napping before dinner in one bed to give it a rumpled slept-in all night look, later sleeping together in the other bed. Nervously checking the security lock again and again before retiring. But tonight is special, tonight is a night for romance and love and... The bottle of champagne Matthew purchased at a bottle store is half drunk (you'll take the empty away with you in the morning so as not to arouse suspicions amongst the staff) and one thing leads to another leads to passionate physical lovemaking. 11pm. Exhausted, you lie back, your head against Matthew's hot, still sweaty, chest. His arm around you. Outside the stars shine in a clear ink-black sky just for the two of you. Time to finish the champagne. Knock knock! “Police, open the door!” Shit! You both panic, leaping out of the bed, desperately looking for anything incriminating. “Open up, this is the police!” You dive for the other bed as Matthew grabs his underpants and, with heart pounding, unlocks the door. Two uniformed officers and a plain clothes detective thrust their way into the room, brandishing a search warrant. The following fifteen minutes pass in a blur. The two of you are separated and asked embarrassing personal questions by sneering cops. Matt, interrogated out in the hallway and still in his underpants, is gazed at by other guests returning to their rooms. To a querying look by one guest the cop dissuasively sneers: “Fags.” The guest glares at Matt and nods his head in approval to the cop. Your belongings are searched and your bed sheets gathered to be tested for semen stains. The cute little handmade birthday card in Matt's handwriting and other items are also bagged. As the champagne bottle is sealed away the plainclothes cop leers: “What've you girls been using this for huh?” and they all laugh. After a night in the cells and a brief court appearance next morning you are released on bail. You pack and head home, wondering which of the now frosty hotel staff reported you. Or was it a fellow guest? How soundproof were the walls? Desperately you hope that your ordeal will somehow happen secretly, but it's not to be. The local paper reports that two male visitors from Wellington were last night arrested and charged with “unnatural sexual connection”... and the reporter is only too happy to give each of your names and occupations. It's only a matter of days until word gets around your friends, family and work mates. You want to go to the old family home to explain to your parents, but your sister advises against it, fearing your presence will only make things worse... your mum has been crying and blaming herself, your father refuses to talk about it and looks thunderously at anyone who mentions your name. A few days' later your principal advises that your performance as a secondary school teacher has suddenly been judged to be below standard, you are being given two months' sick leave to assess your options. It is clear you are expected to fall on your sword and resign. After three months of organised waiting, and a flurry of letters between your lawyers and the police prosecutor, the case is dropped. Next morning page three headlines scream: ‘Teacher escapes indecency charges,' with an accompanying grainy picture of a 23-year old you grinning sheepishly, clipped from a graduation day group photo. Opposition MPs, eager to score points off the Government, demand in the House to know of the Education Minister how many other perverts like you are lurking in the education system. Most of your close friends desert you after a ‘compassionate' national church leader is interviewed on the network news, decrying the sins of sodom while the small screen in living rooms up and down the country shows file footage you leaving court alone and embarrassed. The parents of any kid you have ever given a ride home after footy practice are out to get you, discovering where you live and spray painting “kiddy fiddlers! and “perverts” on the front of your shared house. You resign from your job and try to get work somewhere less contentious. No one wants a known pervert on their staff, any staff, any workplace, anywhere. Broke, you approach your parents for help with the mortgage. Your father refuses. The house is sold. Six months later you and Matt step off a 747 at Sydney Airport. As you taxi to a cheap hotel near King's Cross - your pious Aunt in Cronulla refused to let you stay for even a few days - you take in your new home town. Goodbye New Zealand. Goodbye career. Goodbye family. Hello Bottoms Up bar. It will be ten years before a New Zealand government, in the face of stiff opposition, decriminalises consenting sex between adult men in New Zealand. You only once return to your own country, for your father's funeral. Jay Bennie - 1st July 2006    
This page displays a version of the article with all formatting and images removed. It was harvested automatically and some text content may not have been fully captured correctly. A copy of the full article is available (off-line) at the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand. This online version is provided for personal research and review and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of If you have queries or concerns about this article please email us