Gareth Watkins has been writing a monthly LGBTI rainbow history page for Express magazine since July 2018. The column features both large and small moments in New Zealand's LGBTI rainbow history. The stories are reproduced here with Gareth's permission:
Feminist and businesswoman Mary Taylor was born in Yorkshire, England. In her twenties she emigrated to New Zealand. Her life-long friend and possibly lover, Charlotte Bronte, wrote of Taylor's departure "To me it is something as if a great planet fell out of the sky." According to author Beryl Hughes, Taylor was more uncompromising than most feminists of her time with an "emphasis on the value of work for women and on the right of women to lead their own lives." Taylor spent most of her 14 years in New Zealand living and conducting business in Wellington. Remarkably during her time here, Taylor experienced three major earthquakes: the magnitude 6 Wellington earthquake in 1846, the Marlborough 7.4 earthquake in 1848 and the Wairarapa 8.2 earthquake in 1855.
Mary Taylor arrived in New Zealand from England. Taylor was a life-long friend and some say lover of famous English writer Charlotte Bronte. Taylor and Bronte met at school. Bronte later wrote that Taylor had "more energy and power in her nature than any ten men." Taylor was a staunch believer that women should be allowed to work for money in order to guarantee their independence.
Photographer Robert Gant was born in the United Kingdom. At the age of 21 he immigrated to New Zealand. Gant had a notable career as a female impersonator, taking the stage name Cecil Riverton. In 1881 the Evening Post declared Cecil as achieving "a pronounced success in the part of Little Buttercup" in a production of HMS Pinafore. Nowadays Gant is probably more known for his homoerotic photography, produced in Wairarapa and Wellington from the late eighteen hundreds. His visual interests included young men, sailors, shoes, theatrical scenes and execution scenarios (beheadings) - which were popular at the time.
Photographer Henry Winkelmann was born in the United Kingdom, and at the age of eighteen immigrated to New Zealand. He began his photographic career in 1892, focussing on maritime scenes. In 1997 Auckland Museum controversially refused to give permission for one of his images to be on the cover of Best Mates, an anthology of gay writing edited by Peter Wells and Rex Pilgrim. The image depicted Winkelmann in what was described as "a full passionate lingering kiss" with Charles Horton. Wells called it an act censorship and the cover image was published regardless.
Artist and teacher Dorothy Richmond was born in Auckland. During her career, Richmond focused on botanical studies, still life and landscapes. Art historian Janet Paul described her work as having a "unique poetic quality" Richmond never married but had close relationships with several women, including fellow painter Frances Hodgkins. The pair met while in Europe in 1901. They travelled, worked, and at various times, lived together. Hodgkins wrote to a friend that Richmond was "the dearest woman, with the most beautiful face and expression I think I have ever seen." In 1903 the couple returned to New Zealand and for a time they ran a studio together in a building owned by Alexander Turnbull.
Reverend Henry Turton of Nelson stood trial at the Supreme Court on a charge of sodomy. One of Turton's servants, Isaac Nash, told the court how he had been summoned to Turton's bedroom to bring alcohol. According to Nash, Turton asked him to get into bed and then raped him. Nash told the court that he had later been intimidated by Turton, "[he] told me he had lots of money, and would see it out." Turton had been arrested earlier in May trying to flee to Australia. The judge's summing up was reported by the Wellington Independent newspaper "If the jury believed any tittle of the evidence they would, in all probability, regard [Nash] as an accomplice... It was always unsafe to place confidence in the unsubstantiated evidence of an accomplice." The jury, without even retiring, returned a not guilty verdict.
Explorer and writer Samuel Butler wrote of his blossoming relationship with Charles Paine Pauli whom he met in Christchurch. Butler recounted that a barman in California had labelled Pauli as "the handsomest man God ever sent into San Francisco." After an encounter at the Carlton Hotel, Butler wrote that he "was suddenly aware that I had become intimate with a personality quite different to that of anyone whom I had ever known." Butler would go on to financially support Pauli for the next three decades. Author Roger Robinson described Pauli as a "parasitic lawyer" while writer Hugh Young was more charitable. He noted that the relationship seemed to have been like that of Oscar Wilde and Bosie, a "handsome younger man with an older devotee: minimum sex and maximum support."
Poet Ursula Bethell was born in England. Her parents had earlier lived in New Zealand and within a few years the family returned and eventually settled in Rangiora, Canterbury. From her teenage years, Bethell regularly travelled and lived in Europe and the United Kingdom. It was in London that Bethell met her long-time companion Effie Pollen. The pair would later move back to New Zealand and live together in Canterbury where Bethell would write much of her poetry. In 2016, a newspaper article described their relationship as "deeply loving but platonic." In contrast, academic and poet Janet Charman wrote almost twenty years earlier "It was because of the misogyny and homophobia of her era that Bethell had reason to fear invasion of her privacy. It would have been catastrophic to have a lesbian attachment anywhere publicly admitted."
Australian-born Amy Bock received her first of many convictions in New Zealand. An early newspaper report described Bock as having a "perfect mania for what she called 'shopping' which consisted of ordering goods she did not require and could not pay for." Bock's crimes and personality have long held a fascination for many. Academic Jenny Coleman wrote in 2010 "Amy herself pleaded an inherited mental instability; the authorities at the time agreed she was a habitual criminal. Mad, bad, or lesbian? Or was she simply unconventional in her gender and sexuality?" Writer Johanna Mary noted Bock "played with people's expectations and then confounded them... Although most reports of Amy Bock are written by men, we can guess that for many women of the era, the power and freedom Bock had gained by male disguise had great appeal."
The Electoral Act 1893 was passed giving all women in New Zealand the right to vote. The world-leading legislation came after years of suffrage campaigning from activists such as Kate Sheppard who had led multiple petitions calling for change. The important date is often marked with celebrations, commemorations and protests. In 1971 activist Ngahuia Te Awekotuku and others from the women’s liberation movement staged a mock funeral procession in Albert Park, Auckland. The Suffrage Day of Mourning event highlighted the lack of progress for women since the 1893 Act. The now defunct Auckland Star newspaper trivialised the protest, labelling participants as "attractive young things from women’s lib."
Hon. John Richardson introduced the Offences Against the Person Bill in Parliament. Under the heading of Unnatural Offences, a person convicted of the "abominable crime of buggery" (e.g. sodomy) could be imprisoned for life. This related to the act being committed with a person or an animal. Attempted buggery, or any "indecent assault" on a male could see a person imprisoned with hard labour.
"Harry" Holland was born in Australia. A printer by trade, Holland went on to lead the New Zealand Labour Party from 1919-1933. After his death, artist Richard Gross was commissioned to sculpt a public monument that would commemorate Holland's work for humanity. Gross created a striking nude male figure, which has been described in a variety of ways - from representing "emancipated youth looking upwards to higher things" to "an extremely buff, naked dude gazing out over his beloved Wellington." A local rainbow walking tour in the 1990s described the work as the capital's most homoerotic piece of outdoor art.
Alexander Turnbull was born in Wellington. Turnbull was an avid collector - amassing over 55,000 books, manuscripts, photographs, paintings and sketches during his life. In 1915 Turnbull House (just opposite the Beehive) was built as his residence and as a place to store his impressive collection. In 1918 Turnbull died following complications from sinus surgery. He never married and bequeathed his collection to the nation, cared for now by the Alexander Turnbull Library.
Writer Katherine Mansfield was born in Wellington. Mansfield had well documented relationships with both men and women - one being Edith Kathleen Bendall. For a time, Mansfield wrote letters nightly in violet ink to Bendall inviting her to stay alone with her at the family bach in Days Bay. She wrote in her personal journal "Last night I spent in her arms - and tonight I hate her - which being interpreted, means that I adore her; that I cannot lie in my bed and not feel the magic of her body." On Mansfield's birthday in 1922, and only a few months before her death from tuberculosis, she famously wrote "Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth."
The laws around homosexual activity became more explicit with the Crimes Against Morality provisions in the newly enacted Criminal Code Act. Any sexual activity between males was outlawed. Even if the act was consensual, it was still classified as indecent assault. Penalties included life imprisonment, flogging, whipping and hard labour. Flogging involved getting struck with a cat o' nine tails which was made up of multiple pieces of chord. It was designed to lacerate the skin and cause intense pain.
Poet Walter D'Arcy Cresswell was born in Christchurch. After serving in WW1 he returned to New Zealand, turning to poetry as a vocation. Nowadays he is probably better known for his entrapment of the Mayor of Whanganui Charles Mackay. On 10 May 1920 Cresswell was introduced to the mayor. Five days later Mackay shot him in the chest. It would later be revealed that Cresswell (who had homosexual relationships himself) had plotted to lead the mayor on "to make sure of his dirty intentions." He then threatened to expose the mayor's homosexuality if he didn't resign. The incident resulted in Mackay being sentenced to fifteen years hard labour for attempted murder. He was released after six years on the condition that he immediately leave the country.
Social reformer and activist Rewi Alley was born in Canterbury. Much of his life was spent in China, living there from 1927 until his death in December 1987. Academic Roderic Alley believes Alley's most significant legacy to China was "his faith in the co-operative capacities of the ordinary Chinese." Rewi Alley's views weren't always appreciated back in this country, with Alley saying "successive New Zealand governments have tried hard to discredit me as if I was some sort of communist threat to them or a traitor. Well I am a communist, but I am not a traitor." In 1985 Alley received a much warmer reception from Prime Minister David Lange, who during a ceremony honouring him said, "New Zealand has had many great sons, but you, Sir, are our greatest son."
Painter Frances Hodgkins left New Zealand for Europe. There she met another New Zealand expatriate - artist Dorothy Richmond. Hodgkins described her as "the dearest woman with the most beautiful face and expression. [Her] letters are poems. She is the dearest piece of perfection I have ever met, and unlike most perfection, not in the least tiring to live up to." The pair returned to New Zealand in 1903 and established a studio on Lambton Quay.
Writer Norris Frank Davey was born in Hamilton. He later changed his name to Frank Sargeson - in part to conceal a 1929 indecent assault conviction. Although he was able to conceal the conviction from many, biographer Michael King thought the event scarred Sargeson for life. Reflecting on the writer's legacy, King said his major achievement as an author was to "introduce the rhythms and idiom of everyday New Zealand speech to literature." Sargeson died on 1 March 1982.
Senior public servant and diplomat Alister McIntosh was born in Picton. In 1925 McIntosh entered the public service and went on to serve New Zealand in various roles for the next five decades. He founded this country's diplomatic service and headed the Prime Minister's Department for more than twenty-years. According to author Ian McGibbon "McIntosh never sought a high public profile... His sensitivity to others' problems and needs, his lack of bigotry and self-righteousness and his non-judgemental approach were endearing qualities." McIntosh lived in an era when careers (and lives) could be destroyed by an accusation of homosexuality. In 2003, historian Michael King suggested that McIntosh may have missed out on becoming Commonwealth Secretary-General because of his sexuality (British security officials warned that his homosexuality made him susceptible to blackmail and therefore a security risk).
Anges Ottaway applied to get her marriage to Percival Redwood annulled. Redwood, a.k.a Amy Bock, had moved to New Zealand from Australia in the mid-1880s. Described by author Fiona Farrell as "New Zealand's most celebrated and energetic confidence trickster", Bock amassed a string of convictions over the next four decades. The most prominent was a "heartless trick" which took place in 1909. While holidaying in South Otago, Bock posing as wealthy farmer Percival Redwood, met Agnes Ottaway. Within a few weeks the couple were engaged and an elaborate wedding followed. However four days later Bock was arrested and charged with forgery and two counts of false pretences. The widely reported scandal saw Bock jailed and inspired the production of commercial postcards featuring Bock and the wedding cake.
Artist and drama producer Rodney Kennedy was born in Dunedin. In 1926 he enrolled as a student at the Dunedin School of Art, and in 1932 he met artist Toss Woollaston. They became "lovers" or "lifelong friend[s]" or "close friend[s]" depending on the information source. After Woollaston moved to Nelson, Kennedy visited and spent his summers picking fruit and painting. Woollaston painted both his soon-to-be wife and Kennedy together in a 1936 portrait entitled Figures from Life. During World War II Kennedy refused military service and was imprisoned.
Dancer Freda Stark was born in Kaeo, Northland. From an early age she learnt dance - beginning with high kicks, tumbles and the hula. By the time of WW2 she was performing exotic dance for the US troops based in Auckland. She earned the title "Fever of the Fleet" and was famed for dancing at the Civic Theatre in just a G-string and feather headdress - her body glistening under a coating of gold paint. In the early 1930s she began a relationship with fellow dancer Thelma Trott. This was cut short in 1935 when Trott was murdered by her husband Eric Mareo. 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of Stark's death on 19 March 1999. She's buried at the foot of Trott's grave with the loving words "Waiting till we meet again - Freda."
Artist Toss Woollaston was born in Stratford. He would become one of New Zealand's most widely known contemporary painters. In 1980 Woollaston published Sage Tea, a lyrical account of his early life. Writer Hugh Young says that he was notably honest about his sexuality "He saw himself as 'a sexually fluid being' who had been more homosexual than heterosexual in his youth." In the book, Woollaston described in vivid detail an anal sex "daisy chain" involving six youths. But he was also cautious. Reflecting on a friend's relationship he wrote "In those days homosexuality wasn't mentioned, and I am sure there was none in a physical sense between these two men. Brought up as we were on the story of David and Jonathan, whose love 'exceeded the love of women', the relationship between them was perfectly natural and even admirable."
Mountaineer Freda Du Faur became the first woman to ascended Aoraki Mt Cook. Born in Sydney, Du Faur taught herself rock-climbing and spent her summer holidays in New Zealand. In December 1910 she reached Cook's summit "feeling very little, very lonely, and much inclined to cry." Du Faur's partner was Muriel Cadogan who taught at the Institute of Physical Education. Du Faur named peaks in the Southern Alps for both Cadogan and herself. Writer Julie McCrossin suggests that this was perhaps a way of "declaring their bond when more conventional options were unavailable."
Artist Leo Bensemann was born in Takaka, Golden Bay. At the age of nineteen he moved to Christchurch with his schoolfriend and lover Lawrence Baigent. Bensemann became a member of The Group - a collection of influential artists including Colin McCahon, Rita Angus and Toss Woollaston. Bensemann married in 1943 and had four children. It was only in the early 2000s, after both Baigent and Bensemman had died, that their homosexual relationship became widely known when Baigent's partner outed them on National Radio. Writer Peter Simpson recalls "it caused a great kerfuffle among [Bensemann's] family because the notion that their father or husband was gay had never occurred to them, ever." The fallout from the broadcast saw Baigent's dairies, which are rumoured to be "full and frank", embargoed for thirty years.
English poet Rupert Brooke departed by boat from Wellington on his way to Tahiti. Fellow poet W. B. Yeats once described him as "the handsomest young man in England." Brooke would die just a year later during WW1. The shipping route from New Zealand to Tahiti also brought the famous writer Somerset Maugham and his secretary and companion Gerald Haxton briefly to New Zealand in January 1917. At the time Maugham was also in a relationship with Syrie Wellcome whom he later married. Years later he told his nephew "I tried to persuade myself that I was three-quarters normal and that only a quarter of me was queer - whereas really it was the other way around."
Artist Theo Schoon was born in Java, Indonesia, and moved to New Zealand in 1939. Schoon was a notable figure in New Zealand art in the mid 20th century. He refused to separate art and craft and created in a range of media. He was interested in the integration of Maori and European art to produce a local modernism.
Composer Douglas Lilburn was born in Whanganui. Described as "the elder statesman of New Zealand music", Lilburn championed the composition and performance of New Zealand music. In 1966 he founded the Electronic Music Studio at Victoria University of Wellington, and in the 1980s helped establish the Archive of New Zealand Music at the Alexander Turnbull Library. Today, the Lilburn Trust continues to support a wide range of projects related to New Zealand music.
Bea Arthur, founder of the Armstrong and Arthur Charitable Trust for Lesbians, was born. The Trust was named to recognise and remember Arthur and Bette Armstrong's 57-year relationship. In an interview with Alison Laurie, Arthur said that right from when the pair met in 1943 they slept in the same bed - but at that time, they didn't label their relationship as lesbian "It didn't have a name [...] we didn't seem to feel the need to be called anything, we just were."
Dr Hjelmar von Dannevill was imprisoned for suspicious activity on Matiu Somes Island in Wellington habour. Dannevill had arrived in New Zealand in 1911 with little documentation. With the onset of World War I, Dannevill came to the attention of the authorities. The Solicitor-General of New Zealand reported that "there is grave ground for suspicion that this person is a mischievous and dangerous imposter... There is much reason to suspect that she may be a man masquerading as a woman." Dannevill was subjected to a physical examination that revealed that this was not the case. However she was kept on the island for over seven weeks before suffering a severe nervous breakdown.
One of New Zealand's most famous writers, Katherine Mansfield, died in France from tuberculosis. After her death, husband John Middleton Murry edited and published a journal of her writings - intentionally omitting material dealing with Mansfield's sexuality. This included information relating to Edith Kathleen Bendall and Maata Mahupuku - both of whom had relationships with Mansfield while she was in New Zealand. At the time Mansfield wrote in her journal "I want Maata - I want her as I have had her." Later she would begin work on Maata, a semi-autobiographical novel. She wrote "There was not very much light in the room and Maata's skin flamed like yellow roses. The scent of her, like musk and spice, was on the air."
Poet Ursula Bethell set up home with Effie Pollen in Christchurch. Much of Bethell's poetry described their home, garden and life together. Bethell called Pollen her "little raven" and mourned deeply when Effie died suddenly in 1934. Pollen was memorialised in a set of six poems, written each year by Bethell on the anniversary of her death.
New Zealand Truth reported on "The Dazzling Dandies" - a prisoners' extravaganza at New Plymouth Prison. Since 1917, the prison had been used for the segregation of sexual offenders - including what was termed homosexualists. At the time, men could be imprisoned for up to ten-years for consensual "indecent assault on a male", and life imprisonment for sodomy. In a report from that same year, Mr Hawkins, Inspector of Prisons said "The worst pervert of all is the one who flagrantly offers himself for the purposes of sodomy. Strange as it may seem, there are quite a number of such degenerates in our prisons today; middle-aged and elderly men being the chief offenders of this class. In my opinion segregation for life is the only course [as] no cure is possible in such cases."
The New Zealand Truth newspaper reported that nearly 20 per cent of New Zealand's prison population consisted of sexual offenders. The paper said that the convictions probably only represented a small proportion of the offences that were actually taking place. It singled out "homosexualists" in high society and in the ranks of Bohemia "where it is claimed a great deal of deliberate perversion is practiced under the cloak of art." The report said "lengthy terms of hard labour and even severe floggings have failed to curb the sexual license of the unfortunate pervert." It went on to talk about eugenics and suggested various remedies - from segregation for life to surgical operation.
A report titled Mental Defectives and Sexual Offenders was tabled in Parliament. According to Mr Hawkins, Inspector of Prisons, the "worst pervert of all", ahead of those who abuse women or children, "is the one who flagrantly offers himself for the purposes of sodomy." The committee considered castration, segregation and indefinite prison terms. They concluded, "New Zealand is a young country already exhibiting some of the weaknesses of much older nations...We ought to make every effort to keep the stock sturdy and strong, as well as racially pure... Surely our aim should be to prevent, as far as possible, the multiplication of [weaklings]."
New Zealander Peter Stratford married Elizabeth Rowland in Missouri, USA. In 1929 the couple would make international news headlines when Stratford's death bed confession to a doctor was reported as "I am not a man. I am a woman." Stratford emigrated from Oamaru to the United States in 1905 and worked as a journalist and literary agent. It was only a few months before Stratford's death that he confided to his wife. Rowland would later tell media "I left her when I learned the truth." The news coverage was ruthless and cruel towards Stratford, while Rowland was portrayed as a victim (but not always). Newspapers reported Stratford’s life as a "nonentity", highlighting his burial in a pauper's grave with no mourners in attendance at the funeral.
The Evening Post newspaper printed a number of stories about "masqueraders." One article reported that an unnamed person had been “going about as a girl” with the voice and appearance "typical of a Maori female." A second article reported that 18-year-old George Grace was charged in Napier with "being disguised." Grace had attended a local girl's college. At the sentencing, the Magistrate said "I will teach you to leave girls' clothing and girls' colleges alone in the future." Grace was sentenced to 3-months imprisonment. Newspapers from the early part of last century are peppered with reports of masquerading. It wasn't until 1966 when Carmen Rupe successfully challenged a similar charge and Justice McCarthy found that he was "quite unable to find anything in our law which says that it is unlawful for a male to attire himself in female clothing."
Morals campaigner Patricia Bartlett was born in Napier. In 1950 she entered the convent of the Sisters of Mercy in Wellington. She left in 1969, with author Barbara Brookes noting that other Sisters "were shocked at her interest in pornography and disapproved of her passion to stem the moral decline of society." Bartlett's campaigning was not limited to pornography. She fought against abortion, sex education in schools and homosexual law reform. In 1970 she founded the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards. At its peak, it had over 22,000 members. In 1993 the Evening Post photographed Bartlett and Internal Affairs Minister Graeme Lee uncomfortably surveying banned pornographic videos. The image shows Lee looking at a video case for Every Inch a Lady while Bartlett inspects All Anal Cumshot Revue.
Charles Mackay was shot dead by police in Berlin, Germany. It ended a remarkable decade in the life of Mackay. In May 1920, while still Mayor of Whanganui, Mackay was arrested for attempting to kill poet Walter D'Arcy Cresswell. Cresswell had tried to use Mackay's homosexuality to blackmail him out of public office. Mackay pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was imprisoned for fifteen years with hard labour. Mackay was reportedly released in 1926 on the condition that he would leave New Zealand immediately. He went to England and then to Berlin where he worked as a journalist. In May 1929, while covering a riot between communists and police, Mackay was shot and killed by the authorities.
The Evening Post reported on a talk given by Dr Jessie Scott entitled The Adolescent Girl. Presenting to the Christchurch branch of the Parents' National Education Union, Dr Scott talked about how girls between the ages of 11 and 16 could experience a "homosexual stage" where they showed great affection for members of their own sex - often for women much older than themselves. This developmental stage was then closely followed by the heterosexual stage. Dr Scott warned that if these developmental stages were delayed it could cause abnormality, ill-health, weakness or instability of character in adult life.
Artist Leonard Hollobon was arrested in Wellington and charged with indecently assaulting a male - Norris Davey (later to take the name Frank Sargeson). Davey applied for name suppression but this was refused. He then testified against Hollobon who received 5 years imprisonment. Davey received a suspended sentence, with the judge noting his offending was an isolated incident. In April 2018 Parliament unanimously passed a law that would allow this type of historic homosexual conviction to be expunged.
Members of the nationalist German Student Union ransacked the library of Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin. The library contained thousands of books, documents and images on sexuality and gender. The contents were publicly burnt a few days later during nationwide Nazi book burning events. Exactly 52 years later, on 6 May 1985, members of New Zealand's rainbow communities gathered together on the steps of the National War Memorial Carillon to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust. They stood under a large cloth pink triangle - a symbol that homosexuals had to wear in the concentration camps. During the Nazi era, hundreds-of-thousands of rainbow community members (not just homosexuals) were persecuted, imprisoned and murdered.
Photographer Robert Gant died. Born in England Gant moved to New Zealand at the age of 21, living in Wairarapa and Wellington. Gant's visual interests include young men, sailors, shoes, theatrical scenes and execution scenarios (beheadings) – which were popular at the time. He had a long-term relationship with Charlie Haigh and lived with him for over 20-years in Seatoun, Wellington. Gant's photographs and life have been documented in Chris Brickell's 2012 book Manly Affections.
Author and activist Pat Rosier was born in Wairarapa. In the mid-1980s Rosier discovered Simone de Beauvoir and the new wave of the feminist movement. She co-founded the journal of the Women's Studies Association, and became the editor of Broadsheet, a nationally distributed feminist magazine. Broadsheet was published by a collective from 1972 to 1997 and played a significant part in documenting and contributing to women’s activism in New Zealand. Rosier also wrote ten books. After her death in 2014, her partner Prue Hyman wrote "Her becoming a novelist after many years writing non-fiction and poetry was essentially a 'show, not tell' way of describing the complexity and yet simplicity of living life as a lesbian as just one facet of one’s total life."
Timaru businessman William Preen pleaded guilty after being arrested while wearing women's clothing. The court heard that Preen had been thinking about it for some time and had recently purchased clothing in Christchurch. Preen's lawyer told the court "his act was foolish in the extreme, and, while it is difficult to understand, it was probably the result of a craving to see what it was like to go about like a female." Newspapers from the early part of last century are sprinkled with stories of similar prosecutions, often using words like "masquerade". Things changed for the better in January 1966, when Carmen Rupe bravely stood up to this type of persecution. Through her court case, it was established that there was nothing in New Zealand law that prevented anyone from dressing in male or female clothing.
US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited New Zealand with her aide Norah Walton during World War II to inspect US troops and study the contribution New Zealand women were making to the war effort. Roosevelt had well documented relationships with both men and women - particularly with journalist Lorena Hickok. Starting in the early 1930s and continuing for over three decades, the pair would write to each other - sometimes twice daily. At least 3,000 letters survive which document their relationship. In one, Hickok tells Roosevelt, "I want to put my arms around you and kiss you at the corner of your mouth." In another, "I can't kiss you, so I kiss your 'picture' good night and good morning!" One of Roosevelt's most famous public statements was "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Human rights campaigner Sister Paula Brettkelly was born in the United Kingdom. As a child she emigrated with her family to New Zealand, entering the Sisters of St Joseph in 1961. In the mid-1980s Brettkelly read about the emergence of HIV/AIDS and began volunteering with the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. The Sisters of St Joseph website highlighted that this, along with other human rights advocacy, became her love and passion for the next twenty years "fighting discrimination and stigma faced by those with HIV and AIDS, standing alongside them as they lived - and as they died." On becoming a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2007 she told a group of young people "respect yourselves and look after your mates. Insist on fair play for everyone."
Writer Witi Ihimaera was born in Waituhi, near Gisborne. In 1972 his first short-story collection was published, followed a year later by Tangi - the first novel in English by a Maori author. A number of Ihimaera's best-known novels have been adapted for film including The Whale Rider and Nights in the Gardens of Spain. He's also received numerous literary awards including the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement. In 2009, when receiving the Te Tohu Tiketike a Te Waka Toi arts award, Ihimaera said "this award is for all those ancestors who have made us all the people we are. It is also for the generations to come, to show them that even when you aren’t looking, destiny has a job for you to do."
Author and media personality David Hartnell was born in Auckland. In the 1960s he moved to Sydney, becoming Australia's first male in-store makeup artist. He then moved to the United States where he interviewed the celebrities he met. Hartnell began writing a weekly Hollywood gossip column, using the now famous catchphrases "I'm not one to gossip but..." and "...my lips are sealed." He also presented television and radio shows in New Zealand. In a 2011 interview with the Sunday Star Times he remarked "I've always thought, when the red [broadcast] light is on, you perform. When it's off, why waste your time?" Reflecting on his career Hartnell said "When I started gossip 40-odd years ago, they said, 'Oh, you'll never last.' And here I am. I don't know where the people are who rubbished me."
Cafe owner Chrissy Witoko was born in Hastings. In 1984 she opened the Evergreen Coffee Lounge in central Wellington. Witoko's priority was to ensure a friendly social environment in a time when there was a still open discrimination towards rainbow communities. The coffee lounge quickly became a home-away-from-home for many, and from 1988 was the location of the Gay and Lesbian Community Centre. Lining the interior walls of the establishment were large photographic collages of community members from the 1960s to the early 2000s. They can now be seen online in high-resolution courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Composer Jack Body was born in Te Aroha, Waikato. His love of music was evident from an early age, developing into a life-long career in composition, teaching and music promotion. He was heavily influenced by non-Western cultures as well as by individuals who challenged societal norms - particularly political activist and teacher Rewi Alley who lived and taught in China from the late 1920s, and entrepreneur and activist Carmen Rupe. In 2013 Songs and Dances of Desire, which celebrated Carmen's life, premiered at the Auckland Festival. Interviewed at the time, Body reflected on how fearless and inspirational Carmen was "The lesson we learn from her, [is] that we have one life, and the worst thing we can do is to have fears and anxieties. We have to embrace life and be who we are."
Two women appeared in court charged with offences under the Marriage Act. The two had lived together as husband and wife for over a decade. The magistrate ordered that they submit to psychiatric treatment, saying "you will need it." He also ordered that they should remain apart to give them every chance to return to "normality". The couple's relationship is explored in Julie Glamuzina's book Perfectly Natural: The audacious story of Iris Florence Peter Williams. Almost seventy years later, in November 2013, New Zealand's first ever gay wedding expo took place in Auckland.
Miles Radcliffe's body was found in a chocolate/ice cream factory in central Wellington. Radcliffe was the factory's manager and a "known homosexual." He had a reputation for hosting parties for very appreciative service-people during the Second World War. Radcliffe's body was found in a doorway in the factory. He had been strangled and beaten to death the night before. Staff told police that he was a homosexual and would, according to the caretaker, take men back to his office in the evenings where he had a couch. Radcliffe had not been robbed but a pathologist determined that he was sexually aroused at the time of his death. No one was ever charged with his death but evidence pointed to the killer(s) possibly being crew on a ship which was in port at the time.
Trail-blazer Dana de Milo was born in Auckland. Soon after running away from home at the age of thirteen, de Milo had a chance meeting with Carmen Rupe in a local coffee lounge. She recalled in a 2016 interview that "[Carmen] was the person I wanted to be." De Milo went on to describe how transgender people in the 1960s and 1970s were "the face of gayness - because gay men could run and hide... behind their male clothes. We were the ones who got picked on." Shortly after de Milo's death in 2018, MP Jan Logie paid tribute to her in Parliament: "She was one of our torch holders who created space for so many of us to walk into... My ability to stand here open and proud of my lesbian identity comes from the bravery and political advocacy of my elders, like Dana."
Maata Mahupuku died. As a teenager Mahupuku had a relationship with writer Katherine Mansfield. They both attended Miss Swainson's Fitzherbert Terrace School in Wellington. After which, Mahupuku left for Paris where she learnt to speak fluent French and developed her talent for singing. Mansfield's friend Ida Baker described Mahupuku as "petite, with a pale touch of gold in her skin and sparks flashing from her eyes." Later Mansfield wrote in her journal "I want Maata - I want her as I have had her - terribly. This is unclean I know but true." After Mansfield’s death in 1923 it emerged that she had begun a novel entitled Maata. Mahupuku went on to marry several times and have a number of children.
Academic, feminist, activist and politician Marilyn Waring was born. Waring made headlines in August 1976 when, as a current Member of Parliament, she was outed by the tabloid New Zealand Truth newspaper. In 1984 Waring threatened to vote for the opposition-sponsored nuclear-free New Zealand legislation, leading Prime Minister Robert Muldoon to call a snap election (which the National Party lost). After leaving parliament, Waring went on to a distinguished academic career and in 2012 was included on the Wired Magazine Smart List of "50 people who will change the world."
Activist and counsellor Mani Bruce Mitchell was born in Mount Eden, Auckland. Identified (inaccurately) as hermaphrodite at birth, Mitchell was subjected to non-consensual normalizing genital surgeries as a child, and sexual abuse - which carried through into adulthood. Mitchell has spent the last three decades transforming this narrative of trauma into their activism and work in the mental health field. In 1996 Mitchell became the first person in New Zealand to come-out publicly as Intersex, and in 1997 founded the Intersex Society of New Zealand. In 2016 they were a finalist in the New Zealander of the Year awards and were integral in bringing the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association world conference to New Zealand in 2019.
Dr Charles Farthing was born in Christchurch. He studied medicine at the University of Otago before moving overseas. Farthing was at the forefront of care for people with HIV/AIDS - helping establish one of the United Kingdom's first AIDS wards in the mid 1980s, before becoming the Director of the AIDS treatment programme at Bellevue Hospital in New York. In 1997, frustrated at the slow progress of developing a vaccine, he volunteered to become a human guinea pig. On the news of his death in April 2014, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein, told media "the fact that he was willing to take a chance with his own life - when we were still in the era of certain death - showed his commitment, his courage, his willingness to do anything for a breakthrough."
Teenagers Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme were found guilty of murdering Parker's mother with a brick in Victoria Park, Christchurch. The trial highlighted the girls' fantasies and absorption with each other. Defence lawyers contended that the pair had a shared psychotic disorder (folie a deux), with one of the symptoms being homosexuality. However psychiatrist Kenneth Stallworthy told the court that even though they had "engaged in some form of physical homosexuality... homosexuality [was not] any indication of insanity." The pair were too young to be sentenced to death and so were jailed. After 5 years they were released and both relocated separately to the United Kingdom. Reflecting on the case, academic Alison Laurie noted that the attention given to lesbian relationships in the "very negative context of murder and of young girls out of control, [had] a big impact on how that generation of lesbians and their parents began to think about relationships between girls and women."
In the United Kingdom, a committee chaired by Lord Wolfenden began to consider homosexual offences and prostitution. At the time there were over 1,000 men in prison in England and Wales for homosexual activity. In September 1957 the committee’s report was published with a recommendation that "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence." However, it took another decade before homosexual acts were decriminalised - and then only in England and Wales with an age of consent of 21. New Zealand’s path to homosexual law reform was closely influenced by what had happened in the UK. In 1963 the Dorian Society established a legal subcommittee to provide advice and investigate reform, and in April 1967 around 150 people met to discuss the issue. This in-turn led to the establishment of the Wolfenden Association, later to be renamed the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society.
Activist and politician Georgina Beyer was born in Wellington. Beyer's rich life has been the subject of books and films documenting her journey from, as she puts it, "cracking it as a prostitute" to becoming the world's first openly transgender Mayor and Member of Parliament. While in Parliament, Beyer fought for, among other things, prostitution law reform, civil unions and gender identity legislation. Author Andrew Reynolds recently described her as the "iconic Ghandi of the movement ... Being the first in the world is a remarkable achievement. Her courage, her tenacity, her authenticity, transforms hearts and minds."
Former Labour politician Tim Barnett was born. Originally from the United Kingdom, Barnett moved to New Zealand in 1991. While in government, Barnett introduced the Prostitution Reform Bill, which became law in 2003 - making New Zealand the first country in the world to decriminalise sex work. He was also a champion for the Civil Union Bill, which became law in 2004.
Activist Neil Costelloe was born on the West Coast. In the 1980s Costelloe fearlessly campaigned for homosexual law reform - taking part in many protests and rallies. He used his graphic design skills to create protest posters and appeared on television talking about homophobic bashings which were on the increase. Costelloe also planned and took part in smaller (but still powerful) actions prior to homosexual activity becoming legal. Costelloe's sister, Jayne, recalls how she saw him standing on a main street in Wellington openly kissing his boyfriend, "They were very out and very proud." After law reform passed in 1986, Costelloe moved to the United Kingdom where he lived until his death in 1990 from AIDS-related complications.
Pioneering surgeon Harold Gillies died. Gillies is widely considered the father of modern plastic surgery. Born in Dunedin in 1882 Gillies left New Zealand to study medicine in England. During WW1 he developed techniques that used grafted flaps of skin and transplanted rib bones. After the war he focussed his attention on gender affirming surgery. In 1946, he carried out one of the world’s first gender reassignment surgeries. The procedures he developed became the standard for the next 40 years.
Darren Horn was born. Horn was one of the early organisers of the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt. In 1992 he wrote "All the quilts speak of love, compassion and memories. Each is composed of recollection, sadness, acceptance and letting go. The quilts help us to learn and accept." In the early days of the global epidemic, Horn along with Peggy Dawson, provided light touch massage for people living with HIV and AIDS in Auckland. They created a quilt panel featuring large daisies, with each petal containing the name of someone they had worked with who had subsequently died. Poignantly, the last two petals were left blank and only completed after Horn's death in 1993. They commemorate his partner Stephen Maxted who died in May 1993, and Horn himself who died four months later.
The newly amended Crimes Act 1961 came into force, replacing the Crimes Act 1908. Penalties for male homosexual acts were reduced from whipping, flogging and life imprisonment with hard labour to prison terms of up to 7 years. Attorney-General Rex Mason had earlier proposed that homosexual acts be dealt with as indecent assaults (which would attract lesser penalties), but this was not adopted. Debate around homosexual law reform had been growing since the Wolfenden Report had been published in the United Kingdom five years earlier. In 1959, the Upper Hutt Leader newspaper ran a story saying "It would appear that New Zealand law is moving in the direction of the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee." Readers were invited to attend an upcoming public debate with the topic "That homosexuality between consenting males should remain a crime."
Writer James Courage died in England. Born in Canterbury, New Zealand, he only made one trip back here in the mid 1930s. According to his niece Virginia Clegg, he came out to his mother and father during that visit, at which point "all hell broke loose and he never set foot in this country again." Author Christopher Burke credits Courage with writing New Zealand's first gay short story (Guest at the Wedding), and this country’s first gay novel (A Way of Love). The novel tells the story of a young man's relationship with an older man. It was banned in New Zealand in the early 1960s on the "grounds of indecency and because it lacked redeeming literary merit."
Charles Aberhart was killed in Hagley Park. A group of six teenage boys had gone to the park that night "to belt up a queer." Using the youngest as bait they targeted a number of men before they approached Aberhart. He was found dead later that night by a passer-by. The following day the group were all charged with his manslaughter. They claimed that Aberhart had propositioned them. The jury subsequently acquitted all six teenagers. At the time there wasn't a lot of media coverage of the case or people standing up in defence of homosexuals. However some saw the judicial outcome as a gross injustice. It became one of the motivations for the establishment of the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society in 1967.
Prolific Ngati Porou songwriter, composer and teacher Tuini Ngawai died. Ngawai wrote over 200 waiata. One of her most famous, Arohaina mai, became the unofficial hymn of the 28th Maori Battalion.
Carmen Rupe was arrested in Auckland for behaving in an offensive manner in a public place. The "offensive manner" was Rupe wearing female clothing in public. On the 24 January she appeared in court to challenge the charge. Justice McCarthy dismissed the case saying that he was "quite unable to find anything in our law which says that it is unlawful for a male to attire himself in female clothing." This was a watershed moment, as for many years people had been prosecuted for just that: back in 1925, Kenneth Dell faced a week of imprisonment for "behaving in a disorderly manner" in Queen Street. Dell, was hospitalised on the morning of his court appearance and was fined instead. And in 1929 George Grace, aged 18, was convicted and sentenced to 3-months imprisonment for "being disguised."
Doreen Davis was standing trial accused of murdering Raewyn Petley. Both had been serving with the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps, when Petley was found dead in her bed with a deep wound to her neck. Davis was in turn taken to Auckland Hospital after a drug overdose. Davis' defence lawyer argued that she had been "befriended by a woman outwardly kind and sympathetic but inwardly a hunting lesbian." Davis testified that Petley "...wanted me. She tried to kiss me and did. She... looked like a man, not a woman... I finally gave in." The defence contended Petley had cut her own throat. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.
Around 150 people met in Wellington to endorse the formation of the Wolfenden Association and campaign for homosexual law reform. The group's name referenced Lord Wolfenden who, a decade earlier, had chaired a committee in the United Kingdom that recommended "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence." The Association soon changed its name to the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society. They published a pamphlet that claimed there were at least 40,000 homosexual men in New Zealand who need "understanding rather than persecution."
Rev. Godfrey Wilson delivered a sermon at St Peter's Anglican church highlighting the negative treatment of homosexuals in our society. It was, at that time, a radical call for acceptance and inclusion. The groundbreaking sermon was broadcast live on National Radio and is probably the first of its kind to be heard in New Zealand. In 2017, the service was repeated to mark the 50th anniversary. This time it was led by Rev. Annette Cater, who at the end, blessed the rainbow banners in the church - which included the one she made from materials used for creating clergy vestments.
Composer Gareth Farr was born in Wellington. While studying music in New York in the mid-1990s, Farr developed the drag persona Lilith LaCroix and the percussion extravaganza Drumdrag, which toured New Zealand extensively and had performances in Australia and Canada. In 1997 Lilith performed a drumming midnight mass at the Devotion dance party that was labelled stupendous. But according to Farr, his first "politically gay" composition was During These Days - a choral piece commissioned to mark the 30th anniversary of homosexual law reform in 2016. Farr told media at the time "I know how lucky I am that I have had this law all my adult life." In 2019 Farr wrote an orchestral fanfare that launched the Wellington International Pride Parade.
Possibly the first ever New Zealand television programme to examine homosexuality was broadcast as part of the Compass series. Television was still in its infancy in this country, having only begun in 1960, with Compass being the first locally produced current affairs show. In a recent interview, programme producer Ian Johnstone recalled the secrecy the crew had to adopt while filming the episode (as homosexual activity was still illegal until 1986). The production crew travelled in unmarked vehicles and only filmed at night. But Johnstone came away from the experience pleasantly surprised. Rather than participants who were "shamed" or seeking ways out, Johnstone found that the men had a "self-confidence within them... that strength came through and it was wonderful."
The Parliamentary Petitions Committee blocked a petition seeking the removal of criminal penalties for homosexual acts between consenting male adults. Prof J.H. Robb, President of the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society, told the committee that if Members of Parliament were a statistical representation of the community as a whole, it would be reasonable to assume that at least four members would be homosexual. This was reported in the Evening Post and drew a swift response from the Leader of the Opposition, Norman Kirk who described the headline as "despicable, objectionable, sensational and quite misleading". In November 1975, Robin Duff stood in the General Election as New Zealand's first openly gay candidate.
The Stonewall Riots began in New York City. Although the push for homosexual law reform had already begun years earlier in New Zealand, the Stonewall uprising still resonated here strongly. By the early 1970s numerous Gay Liberation groups had formed and Gay Pride weeks were being held here around Stonewall's anniversary. Pride activities weren't confined to large centres. On 24 June 1974 a television programme featured a gay man and his father in Coromandel preparing to bravely march solo in solidarity with other pride marches. By June 1981, Pride posters promoted a simple but powerful message: "After thousands of years in hiding, we are moving into the light. Our right to live, our right to love."
Auckland University student Ngahuia Te Awekotuku was refused entry into the United States because she was a known lesbian. Te Awekotuku had been awarded a student scholarship to study in the US but came up against the State's policy of actively prohibiting "sexual deviants" from entering the country. In a recent media interview Te Awekotuku recalled: "It was open-mic day in the university quad and I grabbed the microphone and yelled out what had happened. I said, 'Let's start a revolution!'" This call to action became one of the catalysts for Gay Liberation in New Zealand.
New Zealand's first National Gay Liberation conference was held in Auckland. Activist anger had been growing over the previous decade: in 1967 there had been public meetings followed by a petition calling for homosexual law reform, in 1969 the Stonewall riots in New York City had resonated with many, and in March 1972, after being refused entry into the United States for "sexual deviance", activist Ngahuia Te Awekotuku passionately called for gay liberation. Groups quickly sprang up around the country. The Auckland Gay Liberation Front wrote in the student newspaper Craccum, "Liberation for gay people is defining for ourselves how and with whom we live, instead of measuring our relationships against heterosexual 'norms.' We must be free to live our own lives in our own way."
Editor and poet Charles Brasch died in Dunedin. In 1947 he founded and became editor of New Zealand's foremost literary journal Landfall. During his life he kept detailed personal diaries. In 2009 writer Margaret Scott was interviewed about transcribing the diaries, and her relationship with Brasch: "I was 19 when I met Charles... He hadn't a hope of being a happy man. He was just too sensitive... He turned out to be homosexual and he couldn't face that." She recounted in her 2001 memoir, "Charles and I slept together off and on for some years. He thought if he found the right woman then he could settle down and have a family." Seemingly conflicted for a lot of his life, he wrote just four years before his death, "Only men so draw me that I want to be part of them, to lose myself in them, to become them."
Media reported that Labour Prime Minister Norman Kirk would oppose any legislation that treated homosexuality as a normal behaviour. His comments preceded the introduction, by National MP Venn Young, of legislation to decriminalise homosexual activity. This was the first major parliamentary attempt at homosexual law reform in New Zealand. Although it was voted down the next year (34 - 29 with 23 abstentions), the issues and activists weren't going away. Writing in Salient magazine in September 1976, activist Alan Seymour stated, "We will not just go away, back into our closets to lead an oppressed existence. We refuse to put up with the humiliation of the pallid tokens of liberal tolerance any longer. We demand acceptance, to be allowed to live our lives the way we choose, to be allowed to fulfil ourselves as human beings."
Soon-to-be politician Marilyn Waring signed up as a member of the Young Nationals. The action was in response to reading the front page of that morning's newspaper which reported Labour Prime Minister Norman Kirk as saying that he would oppose any legislation that treated homosexuality as a "normal behaviour." Kirk's comment followed the news that National Party MP Venn Young was planning to introduce a bill to decriminalise homosexuality activity. Young's bill was the first political attempt at homosexual law reform in New Zealand. However it wouldn't be until 9 July 1986 that law reform would be achieved - this time championed by Labour MP Fran Wilde.
Parliament voted to have the Privileges Committee investigate Carmen Rupe's claim in a television interview that she knew of Members of Parliament who were bisexual and at least one who was gay (homosexual activity was still illegal at the time). After the interview was broadcast, the Leader of the Opposition Robert Muldoon called for the matter to be referred to the powerful Privileges Committee. Carmen remembers: "At 9.30am sharp I had a black, chauffeur-driven limousine pick me up from Carmen's International Coffee lounge and convey me to Parliament... I've always thought that black made a woman of my complexion and stature look so dignified. If I say it myself, my overall appearance that day was stunning." The Committee found that, "this baseless and unsavoury incident... tended to lessen the esteem in which Parliament is held." Carmen unreservedly apologised for the statements and told the Committee that she regretted making them.
Activist and educator Robin Duff stood in the General Election as New Zealand's first openly gay parliamentary candidate. It was a courageous move because at the time homosexual activity was still illegal. But Duff was no stranger to leading from the front. He helped establish the University of Canterbury Gay Activists Society and Gay Liberation Christchurch in 1972 and, according to fellow teacher Jude Rankin, was the first openly gay secondary school teacher in New Zealand, "he was quite out and proud and basically unstoppable really." Duff didn't get elected but continued to advocate for rainbow teachers and students through his work with the Post Primary Teachers' Association up until his death in 2015.
The fifth National Gay Liberation Conference was held in Wellington. The first conference occurred in 1972 following the formation of Gay Liberation Front groups in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. The 1976 conference was promoted with the message: repeal all anti-homosexual laws, ban discrimination against gays! Writer Tim Birks commented at the time "the political climate has never been better for a strong gay movement in New Zealand." One of the most significant aspects of the conference was that it set the scene for the formation of the National Gay Rights Coalition the following year. By 1979 the coalition had 32 member groups and over 70,000 affiliated members.
After being baited in parliament by Labour MP Colin Moyle, Prime Minister Robert Muldoon retaliated by accusing Moyle of being picked up by the police for homosexual activity (which was still illegal at the time). Members on both sides of the House were shocked and Moyle later resigned over the incident. But Muldoon was a complex character. While he viciously used homosexuality as a political weapon against Moyle, he had also spoken two years earlier in support of homosexual law reform, saying that even though he felt it was "abnormal" it should not be treated as a criminal offence. He would later vote against law reform in the mid-1980s. Muldoon died in 1992, and at least one rainbow community member has admitted to dancing on his grave.
The first Vinegar Hill camp took place over the New Year period in Manawatu. Beginning with only six campers the event has grown into an annual rainbow camping experience open to all. The first Queen of Vinegar Hill - Wellamiena (Bill) Armstrong - was crowned in 1985. Initially drag names were used and the contest was comedic. But the honour soon expanded into acknowledging people who had provided service to the camp. By the late 2000s, Fashion in the Field, Pick a Purse and other competitions were run leading up to the main festivities on New Year’s Eve when drag shows were held and awards presented to recognise the most camp campsites. Awards included best lighting, best decorations and best use of technology.
The Manawatu Gay Rights Association (MaGRA) was formed in Palmerston North. The Association was later renamed the Manawatu Lesbian and Gay Rights Association (MaLGRA) and is New Zealand's longest running LGBTI rainbow rights and social organisation.
Media reported that a newly enacted Defence Council regulation simply formalised a long held policy in the New Zealand Defence Force to discharge practising homosexuals. The Secretary of Defence, Mr D.B. McLean said that homosexuality was something that "the services considered detrimental to good order and discipline." The persecution of individuals was highlighted in a case from 1985 where a serviceman was outed to his parents by the Defence Force sending them a letter saying that their son had been discharged because he was "a practising homosexual." It wasn't until after the passing of the Human Rights Act 1993 that the NZDF allowed openly homosexual people to join and serve.
Police raided the Westside sauna in Auckland. They questioned the men at the sex-on-site venue and arrested some. The raid prompted large protest marches. One demonstrator outside the High Court in Auckland carried a sign that read "A cop in a gay sauna is a screw!" In 2017 the NZ Police Association's magazine Police News carried a letter from [name withheld] which talked about historic actions by the police that harmed the gay community, and that were "not purely in the spirit of enforcing the law [...] These are the types of things I would like to see the [Police] Commissioner make a comment or apology for."
MP Warren Freer told Parliament that he would no longer proceed with a private member's Bill that would have decriminalised homosexual activity between consenting adults. This was the second time Freer had suggested homosexual law reform. While both attempts drew support from some groups, there was also opposition. The Gay Rights Coalition felt strongly that the age of consent should be set at 16 (the same age of consent for heterosexual acts) rather than the proposed 18 or 20. Activist Judith Emms told media "Any bill which is not an equality bill simply reaffirms the idea that homosexuals are unequal." It would be another six years before homosexual law reform occurred - this time with an age of consent set at 16.
2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the inaugural broadcast from New Zealand's first permanent community radio station - Wellington Access Radio. Communities now had the ability to create radio by themselves, for themselves and about themselves without the interference of an external editor. The first broadcast featured the feminist programme Leave Your Dishes In The Sink which was insightful, provocative and comedic: "Mommy what's an orgasm? I don't know dear, ask your father." It was followed in June with audio from the local Pride Week. An unidentified man told listeners "A lot of straight people, particularly men, have this paranoia that they think it’s actually possible to be converted [to being homosexual] ... There's no way a person's sexuality can be changed."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report highlighting five young, previously healthy gay men in the United States who had developed pneumocystis pneumonia - later linked to what we now know as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). James Curran, formerly of the CDC, recalls "patients were having severe shortness of breath and pneumonia, weight loss, diarrheal disease [and] Kaposi's sarcoma." Even though the report came out in 1981, AIDS and the HIV virus had been quietly active in communities - not just gay communities - for decades earlier. In New Zealand, the first death from AIDS-related complications was in 1984. The next year blood testing for HIV was introduced. Nowadays, with significant advances in medical care, HIV is no longer a death sentence and now people who are diagnosed and tested early can have a normal life expectancy.
Possibly the first community-initiated gay radio broadcast occurred in New Zealand. The show was produced as part of Gay Pride Week and aired on the newly established Wellington Access Radio. There are earlier examples of rainbow voices on mainstream radio, for example "Gary" talked to host Ian Fraser on the National Programme in 1970 about having to leave his teaching job because he was gay. And in June 1979, Radio New Zealand's 2ZN station interviewed members of the Nelson Gay Welfare Group.
Wellington Mayor Michael Fowler was picketed by members of the Solidarity group during a visit to San Francisco. The picketers chanted "Fowler go home" and held signs saying "No sister city, no deals with homophobes." At the time, Fowler was trying to establish a sister-city relationship with San Francisco that would have increased trade and business opportunities. However word had come from New Zealand that the Mayor had earlier backed a Wellington City Council ban on the Lesbian Centre advertising on local buses. When asked why the council's transport committee had banned the adverts, Fowler said that it was "to not encourage deviations from the norm."
The first AIDS Candlelight Memorials took place in San Francisco and New York. Within a few years the annual observances were taking place around the world. In 1987 Dr. Bill Paul told memorial-goers in San Francisco that events were happening "in four cities in New Zealand and in major cities all over the world." In Wellington the memorial grew in scale, peaking in May 1993 with the Beacons of Hope commemoration. The night-time memorial at Frank Kitts Park, featured the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and members of the New Zealand Youth Choir. It began with people carrying flaming torches representing those that had passed away.
A conference in Dunedin of Australasian physicians was told that AIDS was coming to the Pacific. In May the media had reported the first cases in Australia, but no cases had yet been reported in New Zealand. A couple of years later in 1986, three-year-old Eve van Grafhorst moved with her family to Hastings from Australia due to ongoing discrimination around HIV/AIDS. Van Grafhorst had been born prematurely and had required eleven blood transfusions – one of which had contained HIV. Her story was widely reported throughout the world and on her 10th birthday she received a letter from Diana, Princess of Wales. Van Grafhorst died from AIDS-related complications on 20 November 1993.
TV One screened an interview with Denny, a 29-year-old who would shortly become the first person in New Zealand to die from AIDS-related complications. He had been brought home from a hospital in Sydney to New Plymouth to be cared for by his sister Pat. She was interviewed after his death and talked about the stigma surrounding AIDS: "We had him buried before the papers were told about it [...] His full name wasn't even put in the paper." In contrast to the small number of deaths in New Zealand by the end of 1984, the United States had already experienced over five thousand deaths from AIDS-related complications.
Labour MP Fran Wilde introduced the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in Parliament. The private members' bill set out to decriminalise consensual sexual activity between males over the age of 16 and make it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation. Within a week, a group of MPs including Graeme Lee, Norman Jones, and Geoff Braybrooke promoted an anti-reform petition. Braybrooke said that this would be the "thin edge of the wedge... It could well lead to gay bars, gay massage parlours, gay churches, gay marriages... and gay people adopting children." Norman Jones was more rabid. Speaking at a public meeting he told both anti-reformers and a smaller group of pro-reformers "We do not want homosexuality legalised. We do not want our children to be contaminated by this. Turn around and look at them... gaze upon them, you're looking into hades. Don't look too long or you might catch AIDS."
AIDS activist and educator Bruce Burnett died aged 30. Originally from Auckland, Burnett had been living in Europe before moving to California in 1982 (just a year after AIDS was first identified). He became a volunteer for the Shanti Project, a community based organisation that provided emotional and practical support to people living with life-threatening illnesses. Feeling unwell himself, he returned to New Zealand in late 1983 where he launched himself into AIDS prevention and support work. Burnett undertook a one-man tour of the country, a "road show" attempting to educate at-risk communities about AIDS. He was also instrumental in establishing the national AIDS Support Network - a community led initiative that would later become the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. In memory of Burnett's tireless work, the first HIV/AIDS clinic in New Zealand was named after him, opening in Auckland in July 1986.
Television news reported that for the first time, blood test kits were available in New Zealand to test for HIV. A $500,000 government funded AIDS awareness campaign was also launched in the same week. The announcements came during the heated debate over homosexual law reform, with both pro and anti-reformers using AIDS as a key argument. Pro-reformers maintained that decriminalisation of homosexual activity would allow for better health care and education, while anti-reformers claimed that it would simply legalise the spread of AIDS. According to anti-reformer MP Norman Jones, it would be better for people with AIDS to die "sooner rather than later" to help prevent law reform.
A large anti-homosexual law reform petition was presented to politicians on the steps of Parliament. The Salvation Army had agreed to co-ordinate the petition, with Colonel Campbell telling Salvationists that the moral decay of civilisation was proceeding unchecked and that it was in many ways a greater threat than that of nuclear destruction. The petitioners claimed that there were over 800,000 signatures (almost 1 in 4 New Zealanders). However it was later found that the petition contained multiple signatures in the same hand and other forgeries. Critics of the petition likened the presentation to a Nazi Nuremberg Rally, with a platoon of young uniformed people carrying flags and wearing sashes that read "For God, For Country, For Family."
Parliament continued to debate whether the age of consent for male homosexual acts should be set at sixteen - the same age as for heterosexual activity. MP John Banks asserted passionately in Parliament that "legalising sodomy is the thin edge of the wedge and it's going to destabilise the family unit, destroy this nation and democracy... This Bill is evil and while Rome burns we are back here in the House tonight trying to decide whether boys should be able to sodomise each other." Equality was a primary argument put forward by pro law reformers. Earlier in March 1986, members of Wellington's Gay Task Force organised an event under the banner "A fair for a fair law." The fair, which still occurs annually (but under a different name), has become one of New Zealand's longest running rainbow events.
Part 1 of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill was narrowly passed by Parliament, 49 votes to 44. Part 2 of the Bill dealing with anti-discrimination measures was lost in April 1986. It wasn't until 1993 that it became illegal to discriminate against homosexuals in the areas of accommodation, employment and services.
The Burnett Centre was opened by Health Minister Dr Michael Bassett in Auckland. The Centre was the first HIV/AIDS clinic in New Zealand and was named after Bruce Burnett, an early AIDS educator and activist who among other notable achievements co-founded the AIDS Support Network (later to become the New Zealand AIDS Foundation).
The LGBT Bay Area Reporter newspaper in San Francisco published a profile interview with Terry and Marge. Both were born in the 1920s and had immigrated to the US as war brides - Terry from Germany and Marge from Auckland, New Zealand. At the time of the interview, they had been living together for 3 years in a straight "sister-like relationship." Asked about her opinion of gay people in earlier times, Marge replied "I looked upon them as fairies. I thought they were crazy." But now both women happily volunteered together in local Freedom Day [Pride] Parades. Remembering her first parade, Marge recalled "When we turned the corner... I took my deep breath and was thrilled to death - and danced all the way up Market Street."
Just two months after the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Act, the community-run Lesbian and Gay Rights Resource Centre in Wellington was torched. The centre had been collecting archives of rainbow groups and providing resources since the late 1970s. On that night, a local resident had noticed two "very straight" looking young men inside the building. The intruders defecated in the resource centre, twinked "FAG" on the floorboards and set half-a-dozen fires. Trustees Chris Parkin and Phil Parkinson reflected "The [centre] provided a focus for and an expression of the identity of gay and lesbian communities, locally and nationally, and so the fire evidenced a destructive desire to violate that identity itself." The arsonists were never caught but the attack prompted a lasting partnership with the Alexander Turnbull Library who now securely house the archives while ownership is held by rainbow communities through the LAGANZ charitable trust.
Peter Wells' acclaimed film A Death in the Family screened for a week at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. It had earlier screened on primetime television in this country. The film depicted the last sixteen days of the lead character Andrew Boyd who had AIDS. Film reviewer Steve Warren noted in the Bay Area Reporter that although for many in San Francisco the "emphasis has shifted from preparing for death to prolonging and enhancing life" the film still "makes an impact you'll feel many hours later." The film carried the dedication "To all who stay and lend a hand in times of fear and panic." Wells himself died earlier this year. In an obituary, author David Herkt said that Wells "reshaped the way New Zealanders saw sexuality. From a country with an unconsidered heterosexuality as a social norm, Wells exposed the true variety of our desires."
New Zealand became the first country in the world to provide a national state-sponsored needle exchange programme. The programme gave people who injected drugs access to equipment and education that supported safe injecting practices. The initiative, much like the early safer sex programmes in rainbow communities, was a peer-led community response to HIV/AIDS. It was based on personal empowerment and harm reduction. Canterbury University Associate Professor Rosemary Du Plessis recalls "The AIDS Foundation was an incredibly good model for how community networks could work with government to achieve a goal, such as minimising the spread of HIV." Now, over thirty years later, the needle exchange programme consists of 20 outlets and 180 pharmacies and alternative outlets.
Photographer Brian Brake died. Brake is still one of New Zealand's most acclaimed photojournalists. He worked extensively in over forty countries for the international photographic cooperative Magnum Photos, and is probably best known for his Monsoon series and for his coverage of China in the 1950s. During his career he was careful to retain his film negatives and transparencies. The majority of his collection - around 118,000 images - is now cared for by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Singer and rugby administrator Lew Pryme and his long-time partner Jeff Fowler both died from AIDS-related complications. In 1964 Pryme gained national attention with his first single Pride and Joy. Writer Graham Reid described him as "every inch a teen heartthrob." But Pryme was also a semi-closeted "gay man in a ruthless heterosexual culture." Following his music career he led the powerful Auckland Rugby Union. In the late 1980s both he and his partner were diagnosed with AIDS. Fowler died on 16 April 1990, followed a week later by Pryme. Writing in the Sunday Star Times much later, broadcaster and friend Phil Gifford recalled "A sizeable section of the Auckland [rugby] team, all of whom had benefited from Lew's administrative innovations, made a conscious decision to stay away from his funeral. One player's wife was concerned the public would think the players were gay if they turned up."
Pink Triangle magazine ends publication after eleven years. It started out as the newspaper of the National Gay Rights Coalition and turned into a national magazine produced by the Pink Triangle Publishing Collective. In a time before smart phones and social media the publication was an important source of news, opinion and coverage of community events. It spanned the period of homosexual law reform and the emergence of AIDS in New Zealand.
The first unfolding ceremony of the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt took place at the Auckland City Art Gallery in the presence of the Governor General, Dame Catherine Tizard. The quilt was based on the international NAMES Project founded in San Francisco. The New Zealand quilt was established by the People With AIDS Collective. It began on 1 December 1988 with the presentation of a quilt panel for Peter Cuthbert who had died in October. The majority of the quilt is now cared for by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
The first issue of the underground newsletter Bog Spy was produced in Auckland. It rated and profiled public toilets and parodied police activities. According to academic Welby Ings the concept of reviewing bogs in New Zealand wasn't new but "traditionally messages naming 'active' bogs were written on toilet walls." The newsletter was left in public toilets and gay venues. However the publication only lasted a couple of months after it received negative media attention. In a 2010 PrideNZ.com interview, a community member highlighted how active the bogs were in the 1970s because "there weren't many other places to go." This in turn led to attention from the police. They made use of entrapment, usually sending in "hunky men" to obtain a prosecution. But often "they just didn't know how to behave ... you know, they'd play a little bit but they wouldn’t get a hard on."
The Human Rights Bill was passed. The Bill outlawed discrimination on the grounds of disability, sexual orientation, and having organisms in the body that might cause disease. In 2012 the champion of the legislation, former MP Katherine O'Regan, apologised for not including transgender people in the anti-discrimination measures.
Eve van Grafhorst died in Hastings from AIDS-related complications. Originally from Australia, van Grafhorst had been born prematurely and had needed numerous life-saving blood transfusions - one of which contained HIV. Her mother recalled how people in their hometown of Kincumber would cross the road to avoid Eve and how neighbours built high fences around their properties to protect themselves. In stark contrast, the family was received warmly when they moved to Hastings, New Zealand. Van Grafhorst's life journey was reported widely in the media and over 600 people attended her funeral. The Dominion newspaper reported "her small white casket lay covered in flowers, candles and one simple smiling photograph of the child whose short life became a symbol to New Zealanders of the fight against AIDS."
Chef and entertainer David Halls is found dead in his apartment. Halls along with life-partner Peter Hudson were the on-screen cooking duo Hudson and Halls. Their camp humour and same-sex couple partnership aired regularly on television during the decade prior to homosexual law reform. Not altogether openly gay, they told the New Zealand Listener magazine in 1977 "Are we gay? Well, we're certainly merry." After Hudson's death from cancer in 1992, Halls changed his name by deed poll to David Hudson-Halls. A year later he took his own life. In 2015 the couple were celebrated in the multi-award winning theatre production Hudson and Halls Live! starring Todd Emerson and Chris Parker.
Man to Man, the fore-runner to Express Magazine, published a profile piece on Chris Carter - New Zealand's first openly gay Member of Parliament who had just been elected. Carter would go on to serve five parliamentary terms. In 2007 Carter also became the first MP and Cabinet Minister to have a civil union. That same year he met a young Maori woman in Australia who told him that as a teenager she had contemplated suicide because of her sexuality. In his final speech in Parliament in 2011, Carter reflected on that meeting "I had come to her school prize-giving, and my presence, she said, convinced her that being gay was not a barrier to personal success. She told me tearfully that I had saved her life. That story alone made it all worthwhile."
The Human Rights Act came into force. The legislation outlawed discrimination on a variety of grounds including sexual orientation. It also included protections for people living with HIV/AIDS. Prior to the Act, people could lawfully refuse to employ someone, or refuse to offer services and accommodation simply because of a person's sexual orientation. Anti-discrimination measures were originally part of MP Fran Wilde's Homosexual Law Reform Bill almost 10 years earlier. However there was stiff opposition and that part of the Bill was voted down. At the time MP John Banks told Parliament that as an employer, a person should be able to say "you're a homosexual: it’s not good for my business I don’t want you in this business [...] They should be able to hire who they want when they want."
Jim Curtis was attacked by Tai Tahi Marsters after they met on a public gay beat in Napier. Marsters was charged with both attempted murder and assault. At his trial he successfully used the provocation/gay panic defence, claiming Curtis had made a homosexual advance. Curtis was left with brain damage and could not attend the trial. The jury acquitted Marsters on both charges. In 2006 law academic Elisabeth McDonald wrote in general about the gay panic defence "The operation of the defence reinforces the vulnerability of gay men as 'dangerous outlaws'. When men who kill in response to homosexual advances are not convicted of murder, 'courts and juries [further] reinforce the notion... that gay men do not deserve the respect and protection of the criminal justice system.'"
The internet newsgroup nz.soc.queer was established on Usenet. The newsgroup allowed for public posts, threaded conversations and the sharing of files. A few weeks earlier, Queer News Aotearoa, one of the earliest LGBTI rainbow websites originating in New Zealand was launched (the first website in the world launched in 1991). The QNA website, run by Mark Proffitt, provided an online resource focusing on national and international news of interest to rainbow communities.
The National Library of New Zealand hosted an event to celebrate National Coming Out Day. The day was initiated in the United States in 1988 as a way to support "coming out" and raise awareness of the rainbow community. However the Day has also been criticised. In 2013, writer Preston Mitchum wrote in The Atlantic, "It's vital to appreciate the ways in which race, class, gender, disability, age, and lack of support can complicate the popular narrative of what it means to come out... Focusing so intensely on coming out places the burden on the individual to brave society rather than on society to secure the safety of the individual. In the name of 'visibility', the victims of repeated discrimination are forced to ensure they are seen."
Same-sex couple Jools Joslin and Jenny Rowan held a wedding ceremony despite being earlier refused a marriage licence. The Acting Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages had told them "Although the Marriage Act 1955 does not state that a female may not marry another female, such a marriage is not permissible under Common Law." Later in 1996 the pair joined with two other lesbian couples to fight for marriage equality in the High Court and then in the Court of Appeal. Though their case was lost twice, one of the judges, Justice Thomas, noted "In a real sense, gays and lesbians are effectively excluded from full membership of society." It took another 17 years before same-sex marriage became legal in New Zealand.
Lorae Parry's play Eugenia premiered at Taki Rua theatre in Wellington. The work was inspired in part by the life of Eugene Falleni. The Falleni family immigrated to New Zealand in the 1870s. Falleni was the eldest of 22 children. While still in his teens he was charged with impersonating a man. A couple of years later he ran away to sea, was raped multiple times by the ship's captain and had a baby in Sydney in 1898. Staying in Australia he married twice. In 1920 Falleni was convicted of murdering one of his wives - Annie Birkett. At the time of writing the play, Lorae Parry noted that the work had been inspired by people who had "crossed the lines of gender and who have lived and loved as men [...] it was a way of entering, undercover, a world of privilege, and yet the price of discovery was extremely high."
Spectrum, one of New Zealand's earliest rainbow websites, was launched (the world's first internet site appeared in 1991). The Spectrum site was established by the social and support group of the same name in greater Nelson. It consisted of just 14 files and featured event notices, newsletters and support information. In its first year of operation, it was accessed from approximately 50 countries, and even Antarctica. Being out in Nelson in the mid-1990s was still a challenge for some. A report by the group noted that "despite every reassurance and encouragement, some still find the prospect of coming along [to our drop-in centre] far too daunting and regard this as a sort of coming out." The Spectrum website, and more broadly the Internet, offered people a new and powerful way of seeking support and community.
GAP, the Gay Association of Professionals was formed in Wellington. An early adopter of the internet, their website in 1996 stated "We want to create an environment where thinking, feeling, men and women can share their thoughts, energy and desire for professional companionship with like-minded individuals. GAP is not about promoting fashionable, radical, extremism. Nor do we encourage continued apathy of free thinkers. We are not dominated by a crippling sense of oppression, nor are we 'queer' - we are proud professional men and women." GAP became Rainbow Wellington in the late 2000s.
The first broadcast of the weekly Express Report occurred. The programme began as a broadcast segment on regional television hosted by Andrew Whiteside and Nettie Kinmont, with a weekly gossip segment by David Hartnell. It soon became a stand-alone half-hour show on TVNZ called Queer Nation. The show (the first of its kind in New Zealand) featured rainbow news, events and profiles from around the country. Writing for the NZ On Screen website, Annie Murray noted "In the years before the internet became widespread, Queer Nation was widely believed to provide a lifeline to LGBT viewers in smaller rural towns where they had little or no other support." Despite this, it was relegated by TVNZ - like other "special interest" programmes - to an off-peak viewing time (a weekday at 11pm). Queer Nation went on to become the world’s longest-running free-to-air factual television series for rainbow communities.
The national Census took place, and for the first time ever, the number of adult same-sex couples living together could be determined. Instead of a specific question, a person's individual information was cross-referenced with who they were living with. The Census showed that 6,500 adults were recorded as living with a partner of the same-sex. This equated to 0.4 per cent of all adult couples. However it is likely that the actual number was higher as people may have been reluctant to self-identify their same-sex relationship (it was only 10-years since the heated homosexual law reform debate, and just 2-years since anti-discrimination legislation had come into force). By 2006, just over 12,300 adults said they lived with a partner of the same-sex, 0.7 per cent of all adults living as a couple.
Minister of Health Hon. Annette King launched the Intersex Society of New Zealand. Soon after its launch it changed its structure and became a charitable trust. The trust was founded by Mani Bruce Mitchell. In 1996 they became the first person in New Zealand to come out publicly as intersex. Mitchell travelled to the USA in August that year to participate in the world's first international intersex retreat. During the gathering, the documentary Hermaphrodites Speak was filmed which documented the experiences of seven people - including Mitchell’s.
Paula Boock's book Dare, Truth or Promise won the New Zealand Post Children's Book Award. The book followed the lives of two schoolgirls - Willa and Louie - who fell in love. It had a mixed reception, with some school libraries refusing to hold it. In the United States it was short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award for LGBT-themed fiction. Reflecting on the book's impact 20 years later, reader (and now author) Gem Wilder said "reading Dare, Truth or Promise as a queer-teen-in-denial felt like the universe holding my hand for a little minute [...] Paula Boock, and Willa and Louie, showed me who I was, and also who I wanted to be, who I could be."
After deliberating for nine hours, a High Court jury found Jason Meads and Stephen Smith guilty of murdering teenager Jeff Whittington. Media reported it as a gay hate-crime. The pair had picked him up in central Wellington in the early hours of 8 May. They drove a short distance before severely beating him in Aro Valley. He sustained severe head injuries and a perforated bowel. Later, Meads allegedly told an acquaintance "the faggot was bleeding out of places I have never seen before." A passer-by found Whittington alone, lying in a puddle at 4.40am - he later died in hospital. Both Meads and Smith were sentenced to life imprisonment. Meads was released in 2013 and Smith was released in 2017.
The final HERO parade was held along Ponsonby Road. The parade had run into financial difficulties, with the Hero Charitable Trust owing creditors more than $140,000 dollars. The following year a smaller "march" was organised with around 10,000 spectators (at its peak, HERO attracted around 100,000). A pride parade was re-established in 2013 and on 17 February 2018, in front of a crowd of around 30,000 people, Jacinda Ardern became the first Prime Minister to walk in the Auckland event. The organisers called it the "largest and loudest carnival of equality and diversity in Aotearoa New Zealand" and Ardern said the government "walks beside" the rainbow community.
The New Zealand AIDS Foundation launched its safe sex campaign Toolbox on National Penis Day. The toolbox was distributed to people on the street and contained condoms, lubricants and application hints. NZAF executive director Kevin Hague told media that demand was so high people were chasing distributors down the street to ensure that they received one. Earlier the NZAF had unsuccessfully tried to erect public billboards featuring large penises. Hague said "Despite practically everyone either having a penis or being pretty familiar with the sight of someone else's, men's penises are considered to be so obscene and offensive that they cannot be shown on a billboard in New Zealand."
Fashion designer Michael Pattison gained national media attention by competing as an openly gay man in the Cleo Bachelor of the Year. The popularity competition had been run by the women's magazine Cleo since 1985. Pattison had previously won Mr Gay Wellington and Mr Drag Wellington. He would go on to establish his own internationally successful fashion label that was initially kick-started through a WINZ grant. A few years ago Pattison moved to Berlin and founded the Fusion Factory - a dynamic concept space for fashion design, gastronomy, photography and events.
Fiona Clark's Go Girl exhibition opened at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plymouth. The exhibition explored gender and identity over a 30-year period. It included contemporary images plus two captioned photographs from the mid-1970s that caused moral outrage at the time. The images depicted transgender partygoers and contained captions that were described as "objectionable and indecent" by the then Mayor of New Plymouth Denny Sutherland. The public outcry was so strong that various galleries (including the Govett-Brewster) removed the images from the touring exhibition. The two photographs subsequently disappeared on route between galleries.
Over $110,000 dollars was raised to support HIV and AIDS work in New Zealand. The money was raised through the sale of MAC Cosmetics Viva Glam products and the M.A.C Art for AIDS auction - with 34 New Zealand artists donating works. New Zealand AIDS Foundation spokesperson Jonathan Smith told media that he was over the moon with the money raised and the response from artists. M.A.C AIDS Fund is an international charity established to support people living with HIV and AIDS and is funded entirely by the sale of M.A.C products.
The Prostitution Reform Bill narrowly passed its third and final reading in Parliament, with voting 60/59. In doing so, New Zealand became the first country in the world to decriminalise sex work. The New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective had been advocating for reform since its inception in 1987. That call was taken up by Labour MP Tim Barnett who introduced a bill that would enable sex workers to have access to the same protections afforded to workers in other industries. Speaking during the final debate, MP Georgina Beyer said that she was voting for the Bill "for all the prostitutes I have ever known who have died before the age of 20 because of the inhumanity and hypocrisy of a society that would not ever give them the chance to redeem whatever circumstances made them arrive in that industry."
A TVNZ broadcast at 9.30pm of Reel Life: The Truth about Lesbian Sex generated both large audience numbers and complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. An estimated 382,000 viewers watched the documentary which explored lesbian relationships and provided "graphic instruction on how to achieve sexual gratification with and without the use of various sexual aids." Media reported that talk radio was bombarded with irate callers, while the BSA received formal complaints - both about the programme and its promotion. One person complained about an advert which featured the comment "The truth about lesbian sex for me is that I am having the best sex that I have ever had in my entire life." Another person complained that the programme inappropriately encouraged lesbian sex as an exciting and viable alternative to heterosexual sex. Both complaints were not upheld by the BSA.
Television personality David McNee was killed by Phillip Edwards in Auckland. McNee had paid Edwards $120 for a sexual encounter. However Edwards' lawyers would later tell the court that he was only there to masturbate in front of McNee on a "no-touch basis." Edwards told police that he was provoked into killing McNee because "he thought I was gay." He admitted to bashing him 30 to 40 times around the head. Edwards was charged with murder but was ultimately convicted of the lesser crime of manslaughter. Commenting on the case, and more generally on the defence of provocation (gay panic), author Peter Wells wrote, "It is impossible in New Zealand - and many other countries - to murder a homosexual. It is possible to be found guilty of manslaughter. The underlying message is that any homosexual’s life is of little value... It seems unjust that the person charged with the killing is the one who gets to tell the story."
Media reported that a stunning 3-metre-high nude photograph of performance artist Mika was causing controversy at the Christchurch Art Gallery. The work, Mika: Kai Tahu by Christine Webster showed Mika in a full-frontal nude pose. A number of locals complained saying that it was disgusting and pornographic. One woman told media that she couldn't get the image out of her mind "I walked around the corner, and I felt like there was a nude man standing there exposing himself to me... you just couldn't get away from it." Hubert Klaassens from the gallery responded by saying that the male nude was a well explored subject in international art and artist Christine Webster welcomed the comments saying that it was "very affirming" to get strong feedback.
The Broadcasting Standards Authority decided not to uphold a complaint against TVNZ for censoring music videos involving same-sex affection. The public broadcaster justified the removal of same-sex kisses because the videos were being shown in the daytime to a younger audience and, in the case of Christina Aguilera's Beautiful, the decision was due to "the intensity of the kissing in which it was clear that there was an intertwining of tongues between the two men involved." One of the complainants, New Zealand Young Labour, labelled the censorship as "active discrimination." Another complainant, Tony Milne, stated "Your station is contributing [to] the marginalisation of same-sex people and displays of affection. Your station, by omitting same-sex displays of affection, is contributing to making young gay people invisible yet again."
Media reported that Waikato policeman Bruce Lyon had been appointed as the first rainbow diversity liaison officer within the police. The announcement was met with criticism by some - including Radio Pacific talkback host Mark Bennett. Bennett questioned why there shouldn't also be a liaison officer appointed for necrophiliacs, sado-masochists and homophobes. The broadcast would later become the subject of a complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. While the complaint was not upheld, the BSA said Bennett's comments were "close to the border of what amounts to 'hate' speech."
Media reported that some traditional signs used in New Zealand Sign Language were being replaced ahead of NZSL becoming New Zealand's third official language. At the time, Gays were depicted with a "limp wrist", Jews were represented with a "hook nosed" gesture and Chinese were depicted with a pulling motion to the eye. Brent Macpherson from the Deaf Association told media "It's not really political correctness gone mad. It's more to do with respecting each other." Although new signs were developed the old variants are still shown in the online NZSL Dictionary. After complaints from the public in 2019, Rachel McKee, one of the editors of the dictionary, told media "The job of a dictionary is to record, document and describe the language as people use it, not to prescribe it."
Phillip Edwards was found not guilty of murdering TV celebrity David McNee. Instead the jury found Edwards guilty of manslaughter, after he successfully used the partial defence of provocation, commonly known as gay panic defence. In general terms, a person is so offended and frightened by a same-sex sexual advance that they lose self-control - often characterised by unusual violence. Five years later on 18 August 2009, Parliament began voting on an amendment that would ultimately remove the partial defence of provocation from New Zealand law.
MP Georgina Beyer, along with pro-civil union campaigners, confronted thousands of Destiny Church supporters on the steps of Parliament. Destiny Church had marched through the streets of Wellington dressed in black, fists in the air chanting "enough is enough." A couple of days later The Dominion Post published a Tom Scott cartoon mocking the church's rally. The text on the cartoon read "I know this is not the right place or time, Kev, but you're really hot in those tight black pants."
The Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., flew to New Zealand to speak out against civil unions at a Destiny New Zealand rally in Auckland. The Civil Union Bill was still being debated in Parliament when King visited. She said that her father "did not take a bullet for same-sex unions". She recounted her father's words "injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere" and "immorality anywhere is a threat to morality everywhere". At the time, some in the media pointed out that her mother, Coretta Scott King, and sister, Yolanda King, had both spoken out in support of gay rights and that Bayard Rustin - one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s closest advisors - was gay.
Parliament passed the Civil Union Act allowing both same-sex and heterosexual couples to be legally recognised in an arrangement similar to marriage. Most parties treated the legislation as a conscience issue, with MPs being allowed to vote according to their own personal conscience. Leader of United Future, MP Peter Dunne, railed against civil unions saying "this misguided piece of legislation is pure social engineering and the ultimate in political correctness. [It is] an out and out attack on the values of mainstream New Zealand." Dunne, along with National MP Maurice Williamson (another opponent of the legislation) would later vote in favour of marriage equality in 2013.
The NZ Herald reported that Frank Geddes, a marriage celebrant in Northland, had quit the role because he didn't want to civilly unite same-sex couples. Geddes found the idea of homosexuality "abhorrent [...] I find women very attractive. I don't find men attractive at all." At the same time, after a week-long advertising campaign, the Department of Internal Affairs received almost forty applications from people wanting to become celebrants. Four years later, in January 2009, MP Grant Robertson and long-time partner Alf Kaiwai exchanged vows in a civil union ceremony at Old St Paul's in Wellington. Robertson told media "we met playing rugby. I was the number eight and he was the halfback - a great combination."
Debate was heating up over MP Georgina Beyer's Human Rights (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill. The legislation, which was introduced at the same time as the Civil Union Bill was being debated, offered protection from discrimination on the grounds of gender identity. Organisations like the NZ AIDS Foundation and the Green Party backed the measure, while the Maxim Institute asked if this would be "the latest victory of political correctness over biology?" The Bill was ultimately shelved until after the general election in 2005, and then withdrawn by Beyer in 2006 following an opinion from Crown Law saying that transgender people were already protected under the existing human rights legislation of New Zealand.
After celebrating its 20th anniversary on-air, Gay BC (Gay Broadcasting Collective) ended it's weekly radio programme on Wellington's Access Radio. Long-time presenter Hugh Young told media "With gay programmes on mainstream TV, gay love on Coro St and openly gay MPs, GLBT culture and awareness is much more mainstream than it was when we started out [in 1985]." Starting around the same time – but still continuing to broadcast weekly on Access Radio - is the Wellington Lesbian Community Radio programme. It is one of, if not the longest running community radio show in New Zealand.
In the wake of the Civil Union Act 2004, United Future MP Larry Baldock's Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill was introduced into Parliament. The Bill set out to explicitly define who could marry: "For the avoidance of doubt, marriage may only occur between one man and one woman", that "a person may not marry another person of the same gender" and same-gender marriages solemnised overseas would not be recognised as marriage in New Zealand. The Bill was championed by United Future MP Gordon Copeland who said "…marriage is a solid rock [...] It is in the interests of creating stable, beautiful, adult relationships between a man and a woman. It safeguards the interests of children, particularly the right of the child - the right of every child - to have both a mum and a dad." However the Bill didn’t get past its first reading, with Parliament voting in December 2005 against it continuing by 73/47.
Labour MP Maryan Street made her inaugural speech in Parliament. Street was New Zealand's first openly out lesbian elected to Parliament (MP Marilyn Waring was publicly outed by the New Zealand Truth newspaper in August 1976 - a couple of months before the Colin Moyle incident). Street's speech reflected on her journey: "As a lesbian, I have often been the subject of other people's efforts to push me to the margins, to erode my legitimacy as a citizen, and to belittle my efforts and achievements. I have never accepted marginalisation; it is a construct of others who wish me to be marginalised. It is not where I see myself or the many others like me. But it has always required courage, and I have not come into this House to be less than brave about the human rights of those whom some would seek to marginalise."
The first ILGA Pacific Conference was held in Auckland. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association was formed in the United Kingdom by a group of international activists in 1978 with the intention of creating a network and platform to campaign against discrimination and persecution faced by LGBTI people around the world. In March 2019 the ILGA World Conference was held in Wellington - the first time the global conference had been held in this part of the world.
Security guards at an international cricket game in Napier made newspaper headlines when they stopped two women from kissing. The kiss had been shown to a cheering crowd on McLean Park's big-screen monitor. A guard allegedly then told the women that they were distracting the crowd, and would be thrown out if they did it again. A spokesman for Redback Security later told media that the kiss was inflammatory and had "upset two of my more sensitive staff. It got the boys riled up, to be honest."
After a nearly five-month delay, the Charlotte Museum Trust was finally registered as a charitable trust. The enthusiasm for a museum of lesbian culture in Auckland had been growing for some time, and in January 2007 a Trust deed had been signed. And then the waiting began. Founding trustee, Miriam Saphira, recalls phoning the Charities Commission in May 2007: "I do not know what the problem is as our trust deed has been rigorously checked by a lawyer. We are lesbians so we are used to discrimination and some people would have a personal or religious difficulty with the idea." Within hours they were told that their application had been approved. The museum now holds a diverse and significant collection of lesbian-related taonga, books and early publications.
New Zealand's Chief Censor Bill Hastings sought input from the public about the effects of freely-available condomless gay pornography. He told media "Depictions of explicit sexual behaviour influence us to a greater or lesser extent, and in a variety of ways. The emergence of "bareback porn" is, therefore, particularly worrying." Hasting was concerned about the threat that the material posed to public health with the practices it depicted becoming “normalised through repeated viewing.”
Broadcaster and kaumatua of the NZ AIDS Foundation Henare te Ua died. Te Ua had a 40-year career in radio as well as being a champion for HIV education and prevention. Former NZAF Board Trustee and Chair Charles Chauvel, told media at the time that Te Ua played "an enormously significant role in helping frame our thinking about how the Foundation should work with Maori in a meaningful, not tokenistic, way." Te Ua was awarded the Queen's Commendation Medal in 1990, the Queen's Service Medal in 1992 for public services and in 2002, the Sir Kingi Ihaka lifetime contribution award.
The New Zealand AIDS Foundation announced an increase of over 200% in the number of people testing for HIV since the introduction of a new rapid HIV test. People were now able to receive results in 20 minutes. NZAF Positive Health Manager Eamonn Smythe said that many people using the tests had never been tested before, "Some of these people had been deterred from testing previously by the anxiety of having to wait up to a week for results from a blood test." Rapid testing began in Auckland in December 2006 and was then rolled out to Hamilton, Christchurch and Wellington. Nowadays, rapid tests can give results for both HIV and syphilis in a minute.
Jenny Rowan was elected Mayor of Kapiti Coast District. Rowan was only the second openly LGBTI person in New Zealand to be elected to the office of Mayor (the first being Georgina Beyer in the Carterton District). Back in 1995 Rowan and partner Jools Joslin along with two other lesbian couples challenged the country's marriage laws by applying for licences to marry. Their applications were declined and so began years of court action, culminating in the couple suing New Zealand before the United Nations Human Rights Committee. It wasn't until August 2013 - eighteen years later -that same-sex marriage would become legal in New Zealand.
The Human Rights Commission published To Be Who I Am/Kia noho au ki toku ano ao. The report was the result of its Transgender Inquiry, which had begun in 2006. The inquiry was a world first by a national human rights institution and focused on transgender people's personal experiences of discrimination, their difficulties accessing health services and the barriers that they faced when trying to have their gender identity legally recognised (e.g. on birth certificates and passports).
Singer-songwriter Mahinarangi Tocker died in Auckland following a severe asthma attack. A few months earlier Tocker had been appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to music. Reflecting on Tocker's career, Tama Waipara told media "she was fearless [...] a real advocate for mental health, feminism, gay rights, Maori rights: she was a super-hero." On the 10th anniversary of her death, in 2018, a special tribute concert was held in Auckland featuring fellow singer-songwriters including Shona Laing, Charlotte Yates and Anika Moa.
TVNZ broadcast an episode of Shortland Street that contained a gay sexual encounter. The Broadcasting Standards Authority later ruled that the episode breached broadcasting standards (children's interest, good taste and decency). This was the first time a BSA complaint had been upheld against the television soap. The scene involved two male characters laying in bed talking. Lindsay went under the blankets and Gerald nervously asked him "where are you going?" Lindsay popped his head back up and replied "it's a surprise" before descending back under.
Chris Brickell launched his groundbreaking book Mates and Lovers, A History of Gay New Zealand. Described as "a priceless treasure of who we are and how we arrived here", the 430-page book took over three years to research. In 2009 it won the Best First Book Award for Non-fiction at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Now over a decade later, a new generation of rainbow historians are paying tribute to Brickell's work. In 2020, historian Will Hansen told a queer history event at Te Papa "[This book] is incredibly special to me personally, as I'm sure I'm not the only queer history kid in Aotearoa who would tell you that stumbling across Mates and Lovers is what made me realise that doing queer history is possible in New Zealand."
Parliament’s Speaker at the time, Margaret Wilson, opened the Rainbow Room - a select committee meeting room dedicated to New Zealand’s rainbow communities. The room is one of several select committee spaces in Parliament dedicated to different communities, including the Women’s Suffrage Room. Wilson told attendees at the launch "This is where we, as members of Parliament, are at our most influential and intensive, and so it is appropriate that it is with our select committee rooms that we celebrate our diverse Parliament and the democratic system which has finally delivered representation." In 2019 the room, which can be visited by the public, was refurbished and now features photographs of former and current rainbow Members of Parliament, a variety of community flags, six significant pieces of legislation and Mana Takataapui - an artwork by Elizabeth Kerekere commissioned to celebrate marriage equality.
The Rule Foundation was established to "advance the health, wellbeing and visibility" of rainbow communities in New Zealand. The Foundation took its name from Peter Rule who had had a distinguished career within the Royal New Zealand Air Force in the 1950s and 60s. However in the mid-1970s he was told that officials had observed him socialising too closely with a man while on a United Nations posting overseas. The incident effectively ended his military career. From there, Rule moved into arts administration. Before his suicide in 1987 he wrote about his wish to financially help other members of the rainbow community after his death "This may be towards [assisting] those who have had difficulty in coming to terms with their lifestyle and the related feelings of isolation and loneliness, or may [be] in other ways disadvantaged." Since 2008 the Foundation has given out over $400,000 to a wide range of rainbow projects.
Tourist Ferdinand Ambach was found guilty of the manslaughter of Auckland pensioner Ronald Brown. Brown was found in his flat with part of a banjo forced down his throat. He had also been bashed and bludgeoned multiple times with a dumbbell. Originally charged with murder, Ambach successfully used the provocation (gay panic) defence, claiming Brown had made an unwanted homosexual advance. Ambach was one of the last people to successfully use this form of defence in New Zealand - with Parliament passing the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Act in November 2009. Ambach was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment. He was released in 2016, after serving eight years and immediately deported back to Hungary. He cannot re-enter New Zealand until after his parole period ends on 9 December 2019.
Broadcasting live from the offices of Rainbow Youth in Auckland, breakfast weather presenter Tamati Coffey announced a donation of over a quarter-of-a-million dollars to Rainbow Youth, his chosen charity for the television show Dancing with the Stars. Coffey and dancing partner Samantha Hitchcock won the competition back in April.
Untouchable Girls, the internationally acclaimed film about the Topp Twins, won the Best Feature Film (budget under $1 million) award at the Qantas Film and Television Awards. Also in September 2009, Niki Caro’s The Vintner's Luck had its world premiere. The film was based on Elizabeth Knox's acclaimed book. Knox lay in bed for days crying over the film's treatment of the gay romance between the angel and winemaker. She told media that the film reduced the gay relationship to little more than the angel giving advice about wine, "[Caro] took out what the book was actually about" Knox said.
Media reported on another homophobic advertising campaign from the Marlborough based Moa Brewing Company. The company ran billboards with the text "Fifty years ago before there were lesbians this is what beer tasted like." P. Armstrong complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that the advertisement was extremely offensive as it implied same-sex orientations and relationships were a recent phenomenon which were being "associated with a decline in standards, tastes, authenticity and in particular (by implication) with a decline in masculinity." A year earlier the company had made international headlines when it promoted its full strength beer with "light hearted" t-shirts that read: Low Carb B(Q)eers, Moa Beer - Full Strength. A pink 'Q' was super-imposed over the 'B' implying, as writer Max Simon noted "you're a sad little fag if you need fewer calories."
Carmen Rupe died in Sydney. Rupe was a trailblazing activist, entertainer and entrepreneur - both in Australia and New Zealand. Her businesses included a cabaret club, a coffee shop, an Egyptian tearoom, a curio shop, a massage parlour and a brothel. Anecdotally, Carmen had a great line for male patrons who might prove troublesome. She would apparently say "Do you want a fuck or a fight? I can give you both." During Pride 2018, Georgina Beyer publicly talked about the ongoing lack of care available for rainbow elders, emotionally revealing that St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney "didn't treat [Carmen] with the dignity she deserved."
New Zealand flags were officially flown at half-mast to honour Corporal Douglas Hughes. Hughes had committed suicide in Afghanistan on 3 April after being questioned by a sergeant about his feelings for a fellow male soldier. Coroner Gordon Matenga refused to hold an inquest and relied solely on the Army’s Court of Inquiry. This led to calls from the family and others for greater transparency. Matenga was also criticised by some after it was revealed that he had made submissions in opposition to marriage equality, though Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said coroners were entitled to their personal opinions.
A powhiri and gifting ceremony was held at Te Papa to mark the national museum becoming the guardian of the New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt. The New Zealand quilt is made up of sixteen blocks and a small number of individual panels. Each block contains up to eight separate panels, each measuring six feet by three feet (roughly the size of a grave). Attending the ceremony were Nicki Eddy and daughter Megan. They knelt next to the quilt they had made in 1991 for Nicki's brother Robin. Nicki reflected on how Robin's nieces and nephews left painted handprints underneath his birth and death dates: "Under the 2nd May is my daughter Megan's handprint because she was born on [Robin's] eighteenth birthday, and my son Bryce is under the 20th May because [Robin] passed away on the 20th May  which was Bryce's seventeenth birthday."
A large crowd gathered in Wellington's Civic Square to march in support of marriage equality. Joseph Habgood, co-founder of LegaliseLove told the crowd, "We can all march today in the warm glow of knowledge that New Zealand is with us. The vast majority agree that love is love." Another group that supported marriage equality was The Queer Avengers. However they also wanted to stress "that marriage equality is not the end of [the] line for LGBT rights and that struggles beyond marriage lie ahead." In a press release, Queer Avenger Sara Fraser pointed out that rainbow communities still faced many obstacles including queer youth bullying, suicide and homelessness, inadequate access to quality health care for trans people and common intimidation and violence in the streets. Fraser reiterated, "this is not the final struggle."
Former MP Katherine O'Regan publicly apologised for not including transgender people in the anti-discrimination measures of the Human Rights Act 1993. O'Regan had first been elected to Parliament in the 1984 general election as MP for Waipa, replacing the retiring Marilyn Waring. In the early 1990s, as Associate Minister of Health, she championed human rights legalisation that would outlaw discrimination on the grounds of, among other things, sexual orientation and having organisms in the body that might cause disease (e.g. HIV). During her presentation in 2012, O'Regan recounted a letter she had received at the time from a gay man: "I seek to be judged for who I am, for my work, and for my successes and my failures, not on the basis of prejudice."
Minister of Corrections Anne Tolley announced that transgender prisoners would now be housed according to the gender on their birth certificate. Transgender prisoners would also be able to apply to be moved if the gender they self-identified as was different from that on their birth certificate. At the time of the announcement, Corrections said there were nine transgender people in the prison system.
A tribute evening was held in Wellington to honour icon Georgina Beyer. Earlier in the year Beyer had been diagnosed with chronic end-stage renal failure and required dialysis four times a day. MP Louisa Wall told media that "we need to celebrate and we need to remember and we need to acknowledge and we need to support her for the work that she has done." Event organiser Jo Paku said "while we remember Georgina as the politician, as the mayor, as the performer, as the artiste, we also want to pay homage to her whakapapa as a Maori woman." The event was held at St James Cabaret, the same location where Beyer won “Miss Personality” in the Ms Wellington contest 34 years earlier. Beyer would eventually receive a kidney transplant in 2017 - a birthday gift from close friend Grant Pittams.
Entrepreneur Tony Katavich died. In the 1970s, well before homosexual law reform, Katavich along with his long-time partner John Kiddie and business partner Brett Sheppard established a variety of openly gay-focussed businesses. Saunas, bookshops, nightclubs, a magazine, travel agency and a mail order service all became part of the Out empire. In a time when people could lose their job, their accommodation or not receive service on the grounds of their sexual orientation, the Out empire was at the forefront of challenging the status quo. Remembering Katavich and co, publisher Jay Bennie said "Landmark morality cases were defended with tenacious vigour. Some cases hit the nation’s headlines, some were lost, but many were won and helped unpurse the nation’s lips regarding things erotic and gay."
The third and final reading of the Sullivan Birth Registration Bill took place in Parliament. The Bill had a specific purpose: to correct the post-adoptive birth certificate of Rowan Sullivan by including the names of both of her mothers Diane and Doreen. The family had moved to New Zealand in 1999. At that time, the couple could not marry or jointly adopt Sullivan and so only Diane could be listed on the birth certificate. However when Diane died in 2010, Doreen adopted Sullivan, resulting in Diane's name being removed. The bill’s sponsor Louisa Wall said that the legislation was by definition "very private, for Rowen, Doreen and their family ... To know that they have been empowered through the process of sharing their life story is something that this house should celebrate and be proud of." The bill passed unanimously.
Jonathan Smith was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to people with HIV/AIDS. Smith's citation applauded his involvement in raising awareness, compassion, quality of care for and the self-esteem of people living with HIV and AIDS. Smith was the first person living with HIV to be appointed Chair of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and was closely involved in setting up the annual Red Ribbon Day street appeal. For a decade he and husband Kevin Baker produced The Queen of the Whole Universe - A Very Queer Beauty Pageant. It became one of the largest drag shows in the world and raised over $200,000 for HIV/AIDS related charities. The last pageant was held in a sold-out Aotea Centre in 2012. It had a cast and crew of over 100 volunteers, with audience noise levels peaking over 120 decibels.
Arsonist Angelo Bitossi was jailed for eight-and-a-half years after being found guilty of starting a large fire at a self-storage depot in Kilbirnie. The fire affected over 200 storage units with an estimated combined loss of $9-10 million. One of the units contained former MP Fran Wilde's irreplaceable collection of material relating to homosexual law reform. She told media "many of the documents were unique - for example all the correspondence I received, both pro and anti." The unit also contained her dairies from the time. At a hearing in 2019, the Parole Board noted that Bitossi had been "motivated by revenge against a former friend. It was accepted that his immediate intent was to burn in only the storage locker of his former friend but it was foreseeable that the fire would spread." Bitossi was subsequently released on parole in November 2019.
Composer Jack Body received the New Zealand Arts Icon award - the highest honour given out by the New Zealand Arts Foundation. The honour is limited to a living circle of twenty recipients. The medallion is then returned to the Foundation at the end of an Icon's life to be presented to a future recipient. Body received the medallion of the late artist Ralph Hotere. "I could think of no greater honour than to accept Ralph’s medallion. He was a mysterious and deeply loved friend to me" said Body during the private ceremony at Mary Potter Hospice. Body died three days later.
The inaugural Same Same But Different LGBTQI+ literary festival was held in Auckland to celebrate New Zealand’s top writing talent and "the richness inherent in difference." Reflecting at the time on his own journey, founding Festival Director Peter Wells said "I have to thank the bullies [at Mt Albert Grammar School] because I became a writer, which enabled me to say on paper what I couldn't say out loud... I began to feel the enormous freedom of being able to say exactly what I wanted... Written and spoken language became my weapon." In 2021 the festival expanded to five days, made all of the events free to attend and welcomed Sam Orchard as Festival Director.
The first ever intersex workshop was held in New Zealand at an ILGA regional conference in Wellington. Co-facilitator Mani Bruce Mitchell described intersex as "the rainbow within the rainbow." In a recent interview with the Listener magazine, Mitchell recollected a story about how in some communities, elders would say that an intersex child was taonga (a treasure) and had been sent by the gods to teach us something. Mitchell reflected that if Europeans could learn from this, and hold this powerful concept, how transformative that would be.
Hui Takataapui celebrated its 30th anniversary. The first hui took place in 1986 and was in response to a homophobic backlash experienced by some within Maori communities during homosexual law reform and the early years of AIDS. Commenting before the 2016 hui, Jordon Harris from the New Zealand AIDS Foundation said "We have emerged from the darkness of oppression and from the efforts of the early brave survivors paving the way, to standing with hope and pride on the Marae."
The daily news and feature website GayNZ.com closed. For just over 16 years the website, led by publishers Jay Bennie and Neil Gibb, reported on local and international news and gave a platform for community members to express their opinions and creative talents. Signalling its impending closure, the editors reflected, "GayNZ.com grew out of a challenge in another time of great change. In 2001 the post-law reform age was combining with the start of the digital revolution and we rose up to tackle the challenge." During its time, the website published over 18,000 articles - many of which remain available via a number of online archives.
Athlete and change-maker Aaron Fleming was presented with a Blake Leader Award from the Sir Peter Blake Trust. As a teenager, Fleming's lung had collapsed four times. His surgeon told him that he would not be able to physically exert himself ever again. Using this as motivation, Fleming took on the sport of Ironman, completing his first event just five years later. Fleming came out in 2007, and along with athletes Louisa Wall, Blake Skjellerup and Robbie Manson, are Proud to Play NZ Ambassadors - promoting inclusive sports and recreations throughout the country.
Yachtsman Cory McLennan was profiled in the media advocating for more inclusivity in sport. McLennan had made history in 2014 when he became the youngest person to complete the Solo Trans-Tasman yacht race. However he kept his sexuality hidden, fearing that it would negatively affect sporting opportunities, "I was scared that someone would find out, scared of what would happen to me... It's not easy to come out - it means putting myself out there and conquering my own fear." McLennan is still sailing and inspiring people. His website opens with a quote from Alain Gerbault, "Adventure means risking something, and it is only when we are doing that, that we know what a splendid thing life is and how well it can be lived."
Parliament apologised for the hurt and stigma caused by the historic criminalisation of consensual homosexual activity. Justice Minister Amy Adams said "Today we are putting on the record that this house deeply regrets the hurt and stigma suffered by the many hundreds of New Zealand men who were turned into criminals by a law that was profoundly wrong, and for that, we are sorry."
During a sermon broadcast from the Westcity Bible Bapist Church in Auckland, Pastor Logan Robertson stated he wasn't against homosexuals getting married "as long as a bullet goes through their head the moment they kiss."
The 10th National Day of Silence is held throughout New Zealand. The day involved students undertaking a form of silence to draw attention to the silencing effect of homophobic, biphobic, transphobic harassment in schools. The first National Day of Silence was held at Nayland College, Nelson in 2007.
Police told media that Pastor Logan Robertson committed no criminal offence with his latest outpouring of hate speech. In a sermon distributed on the Internet in July, Robertson from the Westcity Bible Baptist Church in Avondale said "I'm not against [homosexuals] getting married as long as a bullet goes through their head the moment they kiss... that's what should happen." In 2014 Robertson made news headlines after telling a gay author "I pray that you will commit suicide." Robertson subsequently moved to Australia, but was deported in 2018 following alleged harassment of Muslims. He then moved to the Philippines and, as recently as March 2019, was preaching to high-school students.
The General Election saw the return to Parliament of at least five rainbow politicians: Louisa Wall, Grant Robertson, Meka Whaitiri, Jan Logie and Chris Finlayson. The election also saw two new rainbow Members of Parliament - broadcaster Tamati Coffee and Kiritapu Allan. Allan had studied law and politics, and had interned under then Prime Minister Helen Clark. Having openly out Members was in stark contrast to the mid-1970s when Carmen Rupe suggested controversially that there were some closeted gay and bisexual MPs. She later unreservedly apologised to Parliament's Privileges Committee for the statements that had, in their view, "lessen[ed] the esteem in which Parliament is held."
The outside of the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington was lit in the colours of the trans flag – light blue, pink and white - in memory of Zena Campbell who died a month earlier. The lighting up of the MFC followed a vigil for Campbell, organised by former classmate and transgender advocate Bella Simpson. Simpson spoke at the vigil about the average life expectancy of trans women - 41 years. Campbell's partner was subsequently accused of murder, but the judge dismissed the charge on the day the High Court trial was due to start. A pathologist said the death was "likely due to methadone and alcohol toxicity, or neck compression or some combination of the two."
The second reading of a bill that would allow for the wiping of historic homosexual convictions took place in Parliament. The legislation followed Wiremu Demchick's 2014 petition and a similar law in the United Kingdom - informally called the Alan Turing law. Prior to homosexual law reform in 1986, men could be imprisoned for up to 7 years for consensual homosexual activity. In 2017 Justice Minster Amy Adams introduced the legislation. At every stage of the Bill's journey, MPs voted unanimously in favour of it. In 2019, the family of the late Charles Aberhart used the new law to successfully have his 1963 conviction for "indecent assault" (i.e. consensual sex) wiped. Sadly, shortly after his release from prison, Aberhart was brutally killed by a group of teenage boys looking to “belt up a queer” in Christchurch in January 1964.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle told media that player Israel Folau, according to her, acknowledged he could have "put a positive spin" on his earlier statement that gay people would go to "HELL .. unless they repent of their sins and turn to God." Castle described Folau as a "strong role model" and suggested that he could have made his comment in a more respectful way. Folau later told media that he had "no phobia towards anyone" but refused to back down on his beliefs.
A world first: the transgender, bisexual, intersex and rainbow flags were flown together for the very first time on the forecourt of Parliament. The flags flew to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). They flew again at Parliament on 17 March 2019. Originally flown to mark the beginning of the ILGA World Conference in Wellington, the flags flew at half-mast to also mourn and pay respect to the victims of the Christchurch mosque massacres two days earlier.
The Human Rights Commission announced that it would facilitate ongoing 6-monthly hui between Rainbow communities and the Rainbow NZ Parliamentary Network. Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue said that the regular events would provide "a space for the community's voices to be heard by Rainbow leaders in Parliament." The Commission hadn't always been so progressive. In 1981, when discrimination based on sexuality was still legal and homosexual acts illegal, the Commission issued a report saying that homosexuals did not qualify for protection as an oppressed group: "Human rights are not simply whatever people might claim as rights for themselves or others." Chief Human Rights Commissioner Pat Downey was quoted in the media as saying, "I do not agree that all discrimination should be made unlawful." The Commission went on to suggest that the Crimes Act relating to homosexual activity could be reframed "so as to make no distinctions between males and females" - effectively criminalising lesbian activity too (this recommendation wasn’t taken up by the Government).
New Zealand's second rainbow pedestrian crossing was launched in Wellington (the first crossing being in Queenstown). The crossing's launch was timed to mark the birthday of the late Carmen Rupe. The Transport Authority had earlier opposed the rainbow crossing saying that there was "a high risk of confusion and a dazzling and distracting effect" and the police said that the crossing posed "risks of death and serious injury for road users." However the crossing went ahead, painted in part by Mayor Justin Lester, who told media that he was glad not to be arrested in the process. Wellington City Council was quick to point out that the rainbow crossing was not an official zebra crossing, saying it was simply an "art installation placed on the street."
Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin announced that the Government would defer the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill. Among other things, the legislation would have allowed for a person to self-declare their gender rather than having to go through the Family Court. However the self-identification clauses had been added by the Select Committee after public submissions had closed. Martin told media that deferring the bill would "allow for more comprehensive consideration of the legal implications of this issue and formal public consultation." Responding to the announcement, Ahi Wi-Hongi from Gender Minorities Aotearoa said "It is over 11 years since the Human Rights Commission's Transgender Inquiry called for a simpler process [...] All human beings deserve dignity and a fair chance at life. But at the moment, trans people can’t even get identification documents."
The Transgender, Intersex, Bisexual and Rainbow flags were flown at half-mast on the forecourt of Parliament. Originally the flags were to be flown to mark the opening of the ILGA World Conference. However they, along with the New Zealand flag, were lowered to half-mast in mourning for the victims of the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre terror attacks in Christchurch three days earlier. New Zealand hadn't experienced this scale of terror attack before, with 51 people killed and 49 injured. Subsequently a number of events throughout the country were either cancelled or postponed for fear of similar attacks - particularly against Muslim, Jewish and rainbow communities. In Wellington, the annual Out in the Park was cancelled and the pride parade was postponed until May.
Media reported the inspiring story of the Christchurch Boys' High School rowing team who rallied around their coxswain after he had been subjected to homophobic bullying earlier in the season. Before the final race at the Maadi Cup regatta on Lake Karapiro, the team contacted the other seven crews who all taped their oar handles with rainbow tape in support of the rower. Former New Zealand Olympic rower Robbie Manson, who came out publicly in 2014, posted on social media "I'm so proud of... the Chch Boys team for showing the kind of courage and leadership to create this change that is making everyone feel like they are welcome and they belong." The day was made more historic with Christchurch Boys' winning their first Maadi Cup national title.
Destiny Church leader Bishop Brian Tamaki apologised to the rainbow community during the Love is Greater Than Hate event. Media reported Tamaki as saying "It has never been my intent to cause hurt or harm." This may have been, in part, referencing his 2004 nationwide speaking tour which set out to expose "a government gone evil [and] a radical homosexual agenda", or possibly when he rallied against "gaypower" in 2015, or when he reflected on earthquakes and other natural disasters in 2016, telling followers that the earth "convulses under the weight of certain human sin." Referring to the early 2000s and the anti-civil union march Enough is Enough, Tamaki rather ambiguously said that if he had another chance "we'd do some things differently."
The Ministry for Culture and Heritage announced that oral historian Caren Wilton had been given an award to record interviews with people who were part of New Zealand's transgender community from the 1970s to today. Wilton recorded long-form interviews with people talking about how things had changed over the last five decades. One interviewee talked about the Wellington scene in the early 1980s and winning Miss Queen of Queens, another talked about being married and transitioning later in life, and members of a family with two transgender children talked about growing up in the 2000s. The interviews have subsequently been deposited with the Alexander Turnbull Library. Since 1990, the New Zealand Oral History Awards have given over $2 million to more than 400 community groups and individuals to record histories relating to New Zealand and the South Pacific.
A Year 9 student at Auckland Grammer School was stood down because their shoulder length hair breached school rules. Victoria Trow from RainbowYouth told stuff.co.nz that the hair rule could be particularly harmful for trans and gender-diverse students or those questioning their gender. Trow said it perpetuated a culture where boys and men were "punished and ridiculed for displaying any feminine traits." The student told media that they planned to take the school to court over the decision. A year earlier, Auckland Grammer had gained the Rainbow Tick – a certification mark that allowed an organisation to show the world that they were "progressive, inclusive and dynamic." As of January 2021, AGS rules still stated that a student’s hair should be "short enough to ensure it does not touch his shirt collar... and should not be long enough to be tied up in any form."
The project Trans Past, Trans Present was launched at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa to mark International Transgender Day of Remembrance (20 November). The collaboration between the museum and community groups encouraged trans people to submit objects of personal significance. The taonga were photographed and a digital record deposited into the national collection. "What emerged was a quirky collection that is a testament to the diversity of trans experiences, and which disrupts established (and cis-written) narratives about trans lives" wrote project co-ordinator Will Hansen. From a pounamu grounding stone, to an envelope addressed to "Mr", to a hand-poked tattoo on a participant's leg - "a symbol of me being openly trans, even when I could 'pass' and fly under the radar, for those who can’t be."
March saw a dramatic change in how people lived their lives, socialised and conducted business. The first case of the COVID-19 virus was confirmed in New Zealand in late February and by 11 March the World Health Organisation had declared a global pandemic. Remarkably just four days before that Wellington held its Pride parade. It was attended by tens-of-thousands of people who partied without social distancing or face masks. However the reality of the pandemic quickly set in, and within two weeks New Zealand’s borders were closed and the country was preparing to enter a nationwide lockdown. In Wellington the sex-on-site venue Checkmate closed indefinitely and the New Zealand AIDS Foundation began advocating consensual phone sex, webcam sex and masturbating as alternatives to casual sex.
Over five hundred Pride organisations from around the world came together to create a 24-hour Global Pride online event. The virtual Pride was born after COVID-19 pandemic restrictions forced the cancellation of many physical gatherings. Global Pride featured a livestream of music, performances and messages of support. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern represented New Zealand. Ardern told the international audience that Pride was about "recognizing and supporting inclusivity, unity and a sense of community. For me, Pride is recognition of all the work that has been achieved and all the work that is left to do. And Pride can also change people's lives. It's an opportunity for people to meet their role models and see people celebrating their pride."
The first ever National Schools' Pride Week took place throughout New Zealand. Over one hundred schools took part, including a number of primary and intermediate schools. The week-long celebrations were co-ordinated by the national youth charity InsideOut. They told schools "We hope that by celebrating and affirming rainbow identities through our pride campaign we can help reduce the experiences of bullying and distress for our rainbow rangatahi." Tabby Besley, managing director of InsideOUT, said "For many young people it could be the first time they've heard their identities talked about in a positive light... It sends a clear message to all students that diversity is normal, it's something to be proud of." Each day had a different theme: education, inclusion, accessibility, whakapapa and rainbow history and celebration/pride.