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Caren Wilton

Caren talks about growing up in Masterton in the 1960s, moving to Wellington, feminism, lesbianism and bisexuality. Caren then goes on to talk about establishing the Wellington Bisexual Women's Group (established on the 6 July 1988) and the first national bisexual conference in 1990.

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This abstract summarizes an interview with Caren Wilton, recorded in Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Wilton discusses formative experiences growing up in the conservative town of Masterton in the 1960s and the impact of their father's sudden death. The environment fostered in them a sense of feminism and bisexuality, leading to a departure from Masterton at the age of 16 to pursue university education in Wellington. The interview delves into the vibrant political and social scene of 1980s Wellington, marked by student activism, anti-apartheid movements, and burgeoning gay and lesbian rights initiatives, which Wilton found invigorating and joined.

The conversation reflects on the societal attitudes toward bisexuality during those times. Wilton recalls that, as a teenager, bisexuality was not widely acknowledged and coming out as bisexual had not been an option within the feminist and lesbian communities. It was only after moving to Wellington that Wilton openly identified as a lesbian, influenced by feminist ideology that equated feminism with a rejection of men and an embrace of women-centered society, often leading to a culture of lesbian separatism.

Wilton describes the experience of coming out and the initial excitement of aligning with the lesbian feminist community. However, this identification was challenged by their continued attraction to men, which clashed with the prevailing view in the lesbian community that deemed bisexuals as untrustworthy or not fully committed to the cause. It was a period of personal struggle for Wilton, who found themselves without a community as friendships suffered due to their bisexuality.

To address this personal and communal void, Wilton established the Wellington Bisexual Women's Group in 1988, which aimed to provide support and a sense of belonging for those with similar experiences. The group became a source of community, activism, and visibility, launching a newsletter called "Bylines" and organizing the first national bisexual conference. Wilton reflects on the biphobia encountered, including exclusion from lesbian spaces, highlighting the challenges of being bisexual within a society that did not readily accept this identity.

Wilton advocates for the importance of specific groups for various identities within the broader queer community, recognizing the unique experiences and challenges each faces. They attest to the progress made in normalizing the "B" in LGBT, though bisexual invisibility remains an issue.

Leveraging experiences as a bisexual activist, Wilton turned to oral history projects, recording the diverse narratives of sex workers, trans individuals, and other marginalized voices within the queer community. The dedication to these projects stems from a desire to preserve stories from diverse backgrounds and increase understanding and acceptance across societies.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

Record date:9th April 2023
Interviewer:Gareth Watkins
Location:Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004712).