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Queer Community? Or Just Urban Guerrilla Warfare?

Fri 9 Nov 2001 In: Community

For some reason, lately, we've been doing melt-down in Auckland's queer communities. And it has been very interesting for those of us who are ambulance-chasers and who like slowing down at the scene of car-smashes. But what does it really signify, apart from the drama? The lesbian community, for instance, went into overdrive about Hero. Rival meetings were held. Press-releases flew. Long-simmering feuds were surfacing in a personalised war of attrition, with no prisoners apparently being taken and combat fatigues being fashion choice of the moment. Even the New Zealand Herald, our journal of Auckland record, even included a quote about 'dirty lesbian politics' in the context of Hero. The rest of us are dealing with the fact that, as our flag-ship organisation, Hero is once-again in debt, after two failed events and alleged mismanagement. The future of New Zealand's largest queer event is, if not in doubt, then overdue for the re-structuring and re-examination that is taking place. Hero debates are occurring with some fervour in phone calls and gay bars and clubs as people take sides. Just how much fabulousity is there in debt? Who is to blame? Is my suggestion better than your suggestion? And the recent Hero public meeting showed some of the passion and the fervour of each of the possible point of views. Changes are also occurring in our media organisations. Express is onto its third editor in six months. Out! has gone glossy. Queer Nation is changing to include in-depth stories. And is the country's most far-reaching push into cyberspace yet. This jostling of the media-pack for placement and the pink advertising and consumer dollar hasn't been without its fall-out. The attentive reader just needs to check the three rival gossip-columns for evidence or the rounds of applause that have greeted any censuring of express' reporting-style at recent meetings. The rest of us note the changes in our sources of news, the appearance of soft-fluff gay-couple stories, and the advertorial promotion of gay businesses, because these changes affect us in numbers of ways. And like any situation, opinions are highly polarised amongst supporters and detractors of each of our media outlets. Along with these changes there are a number of long-standing debates that still flare up. Do we want marriage or civil union? Is the de facto property bill a good thing for us? Things can frequently turn nasty, especially after a few drinks. And so what does all of this say about our community? That gay men are just a bunch of irrational drama-queens seeking a good stoush before sinking into the vodka and tonic? That no one should stand in the way of a rolling lesbian feud? That the word 'community' is not applicable to a world that sometimes looks like the aftermath of a rocket attack on a gay bar in Kabul? First of all I'd venture to say that we do seem to care, otherwise the dramas wouldn't be taking place. But sometimes it seems the word 'community' does not seem to be at all relevant as individual self-interest replaces any sense of unified spirit. I'd venture to say that we as individuals, in 2001, are facing a situation where the gay and lesbian sense of community spirit that sustained us through all the years we fought for equal rights is now noticeably absent. And this lack of unified spirit is affecting the nature of these debates. United we once stood, divided we now bitch. Is there really a queer community or are we just people who must congregate together occasionally in order to find a compatible sexual partner? What does a 70 year old gay man from Auckland have in common with a teenage lesbian from Te Awamutu? Were we only ever unified by the fact we did not have equal social rights and now that we have got them are we just going to disintegrate into suburban coupledom with occasional visits to gay and lesbian bars to check out other possibilities? And what does the probable downgrading of Hero mean to us, with the fact that our premier gay and lesbian event is probably only going to be a dance-party next year? Will we miss it? Perhaps it is time that each of us searched within ourselves for the meaning of gay and lesbian life. It is a big ask. But we do have to figure what we ourselves want and how that factors in with others of us with the same sexual orientations and similar experience. If we don't want a community, lets just continue the way we are going. At this rate, there won't be much of one left by February next year. And if we do want a community, we are going to have to begin to work together again and put our money and our abilities where our mouths are. So if you want to save Hero, the major public display of our community, you can do it. But I figure that it somehow involves working for us all first and yourself second, not the other way round…     David Herkt - 9th November 2001

Credit: David Herkt

First published: Friday, 9th November 2001 - 12:00pm

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