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Ten of the Best - 2007 edition

Tue 1 Jan 2008 In: Community View at NDHA

Having already listed the Top Ten of GayNZ.com's 'dishonours list' for 2007, it's a relief to look on the positive side and acknowledge those people we believe made an extra special contribution to the lives of glbt New Zealanders during the past year. HOANI JEREMY LAMBERT Awarded for restoring the image of the NZAF Chair As the Board of Trustees of the NZAF self-destructed under the chairmanship of Clive Aspin and Simon Robb and a few fellow trustees who just didn't seem to understand what it took to guide such a vital and sensitive organisation, Lambert slipped into the Chair, determined to make a difference. He did. Around him coalesced a group of committed, capable and talented trustees who slowly and surely stabilised an organisation battered by unsettling boardroom agendas and emotions. Lambert was not the only trustee to front up, put in long hours and bring his professional and life skills to bear, but somehow his personal charisma and pragmatic, committed approach came to personify the vision and progress of the board as a whole. Lambert's early retirement as Chair, a symptom of the personal stress the revival job has placed on him and his partner, leaves seriously big leadership shoes to be filled. PETER TAYLOR Awarded for a soaring spirit (and great legs) It has been no secret that for the past decade or more Peter Taylor, of equestrian, Urge, Surrender Dorothy, Dorothy's Sister and some literary fame, has been a seriously sick man. Frankly (and he won't thank us for saying this) he still is. Years of fighting HIV, the toxic side-effects of HIV drug cocktails, and a fiendish infection called Visceral Leishmaniasis Donnovanni that has corrupted his internal organs, have left him tired, severely deaf and almost blind. And yet the man keeps on keeping on, the Energiser bunny of the NZ glbt community. As well as getting back into the bar/cafe business again, this year Taylor triumphed by taking out the country's ultimate drag title of Queen of the Whole Universe against stiff opposition. How he heard his music, and how he could navigate his way around the huge Aotea Centre stage let alone smile, lipsync, dance and pour out a dazzling display of vitality and glamour no one but he will know. Taylor's ability to triumph over adversity is an inspiration to us all. LISA PRAGER Awarded for putting up and not shutting up. A real battler, a pain in the arse, a loudmouth, a committed political campaigner, whatever your view of Prager, the lesbian Cowgirl from hell makes no bones about her sexuality, her passion and her belief that local bodies (particularly the Auckland City Council) must be scrutinised and held to account, and that councils must reflect the diversity of their ratepayers. Personifying the 'get in there and make a difference' spirit that seems to have ebbed away from the glbt community in recent years, Prager strutted into the Auckland mayoralty campaign, taking on the benign Dick Hubbard and the acidly anti-gay John Banks. Banks won but word has it that already he may be taking note of the anti-corruption, anti-waste pronouncements Prager has banged about for years. There might be despair that Banks is back in Auckland's highest office but the spirited and unashamedly lesbian cowgirl did battle week after week and did us all proud. And she taught us all to get involved and get vocal when it really matters. MISS MOLE Awarded for 25 years of garden city glamour While other events around the country have come and gone, Miss Mole's Oscars remain a glittering fixture at the centre of Christchurch's glbt social calendar year after year. Providing a good reason to get dressed up and acknowledge those people who help the sometimes fractious Christchurch glbt community rise above itself, the Oscars are an object lesson in the power of one person to make a difference through talent, vision, hours of organisation work, a certain amount of heavy duty makeup and a whole heap of cajoling. There's no business like show business and there's no match for Miss Mole and her Oscars. ANIKA MOA Awarded for coming out into the public spotlight, with grace and dignity What was an open secret in the glbt communities and a solid rumour in entertainment industry was confirmed in October when singer/songwriter Anika Moa came out, stating categorically that she prefers women. Gently, honestly, Moa recounted the little charades she had employed to disguise her sexuality for years, her fears and confusions. Even in these supposedly enlightened times it's a brave 'celebrity' who, having achieved great public acclaim and profile, puts it all on the line to be honest about themselves. Moa herself admits the jury is till out on whether her career will survive public knowledge of her sexuality. But we're picking that it will make bugger all difference, and that her songs, always from the heart, will still appeal to the general population. And surely every lesbian in the country will be listening to her lyrics just a little more intently than before. QUEEN OF THE WHOLE UNIVERSE CAST AND CREW Awarded for five fabulous pageants For five years a rag tag collection of Gs, Ls, Bs, Ts and Straights, many donning their first ever pair of glamour heels, have given their all night after night to rehearse and then perform, to packed houses, the biggest drag extravaganzas ever. Annually since 2002, forty or so drag performers, plus cutie boys, singers and dancers, technicians, scenery movers, front of house, designers... all have come together with but one thought: to present a superlative show, raise some serious bucks for the NZ AIDS Foundation, and ensure everyone including themselves has a damn good time. Year after year every box is ticked and them some. RONALD NELSON Awarded for articulating the horror of gaybashing - and worse One gay man is brutally slaughtered in New Zealand each year. Countless more glbt folk are attacked, abused and demeaned. It's a disgrace and in 2007 one man more than most seemed galvanised in to action, determined to raise the profile of this shocking state of affairs, and the legal provision which allows 'gay panic defence.' Theatre director Nelson began by overseeing the creation of a play, Corner of 4am and Cuba, about the killing of a 14 year old Wellington kid thought by his attackers to be gay. A boast by the attackers gave the project its working title:  The Faggot was Bleeding out of Places I have Never Seen Before. It was performed over two weeks at BATS Theatre. Nelson then went on to organise the Safe on our Streets rally in the Capital to draw attention to a call for 'gay panic defence' to be struck off the law books. Many have died horribly, or live in fear. Ronald Nelson is at the forefront of trying to change that, to create a safer and more just future for all of us. RAMON TE WAKE Awarded for small screen excellence If anyone epitomises the heart and soul of Takataapui, the Maori TV programme by, for and about Maori glbt people, Te Wake is the one. Caring, inquisitive, sensitive and with a slightly wicked sense of humour that is occasionally revealed in a little half smile, Te Wake rises just slightly above her talented costars and the behind the camera team. Maybe its the muso in her. Maybe its star quality. Maybe its her genuineness that never turns into ego. Whatever it is, Ramon Te Wake has it in no small measure and sets the tone for some of the best local glbt TV for several years. BRENT MITCHELL Awarded for a job well done As a fairly adequately funded organisation with a mandate to be connected with its community of people at risk of spreading or contracting HIV, it shouldn't be surprising that the NZ AIDS Foundation and its staff are at the core of many community initiatives. One staffer who has made more of an impact than most was Brent Mitchell. Through his nurturing of the annual Pride events in Christchurch, his personal rapport with the city's glbt movers and shakers and his professional demeanour, Mitchell has hopefully reminded any laggards at the Foundation what it means to truly embrace the organisation's mission. It's a shame he needed to leave Christchurch and follow his partner to Wellington, but hopefully the glbt community hasn't heard the last of Brent Mitchell. BISHOP GEORGE CONNOR Awarded for principled action All manner of religious denominations, the thinking ones anyway, are sloooowly finding their own ways to interpret and deal with thorny issues around homosexuality. But in 2007 one man in particular stood out as being firmly connected to his Christian principles in the face of serious opposition. Faced with the almost inevitable progression of openly gay Juan Kinnear from deacon to priest, Bishop George Connor of the Anglican Diocese of Dunedin didn't flinch. Only a year before, when Connor ordained Kinnear as a deacon, there were howls of outrage from church conservatives who protested loudly at the St Paul's Cathedral ceremony. A lesser man might have found a way to delay the promotion to the priesthood, or to finesse it in some way that would appease the discontented but probably disadvantage Kinnear. But Connor, and his diocesan council, quietly and with dignity, did the right, decent and appropriate thing. The world hasn't ended in a blast of divine retribution, the Anglican church shows no signs of being more split that it was before the ordination, and Connor has quietly set a fine example for others, Anglican or otherwise, to follow. This year there were a number of people who we believe deserve honourable mentions... Jenny Rowan, who is now Mayor of Kapiti Coast after refusing to let her sexuality be an issue in the election; Lindsay Rea, who took a grand leap from the safety of an Auckland Community Board and just narrowly missed landing on the Council; Rainbow Wellington, who continued to find their voice as advocates for the Wellington and national glbt communities; The NZ Herald's Canvas magazine, for fair and enlightening coverage of glbt issues and people; Miriam Saphira, for her advocacy for the establishment of the Charlotte Museum of lesbian artifacts and documents; The guys behind Sohomo club nights, for bringing a new dimension to Auckland's glbt nightlife. We salute you all!     GayNZ.com staff - 1st January 2008

Credit: GayNZ.com staff

First published: Tuesday, 1st January 2008 - 3:47pm

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