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Early lesbian and gay groups

In this podcast Alison talks about early lesbian and gay groups in New Zealand.

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This podcast was funded by a generous grant from the Gay Line Wellington Trust with the support of the Rule Foundation


This abstract summarizes a podcast presentation by Dr. Alison Laurie, recorded in Wellington, New Zealand, on January 11, 2011. The content explores the emergence of early lesbian and gay groups within New Zealand, crucially framed within the broader international context of the 1960s and earlier.

Dr. Laurie, a well-known activist and scholar in the field of Gender and Women's Studies from Victoria University of Wellington, discusses the early influences on New Zealand's lesbian and gay communities from European organizations. Notably, the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, founded by Magnus Hirschfeld in 1897 in Germany, and England's Order of Chaeronea, initiated by George Ives, were significant in shaping early discourse and activism around sexual orientation. The exchange of ideas was facilitated by global networks, with New Zealanders having access to various publications, demonstrating that geographic isolation did not prevent the inflow of progressive thoughts and knowledge on same-sex relationships.

The impact of the Nazi regime on these organizations is detailed, highlighting the devastation and loss of critical resources and safe spaces for the community as the Nazis dismantled these organizations and destroyed their materials. The narrative then progresses post-World War II, where a resurgence of organizations in Europe, such as The Circle in Switzerland and rebirths in Scandinavian countries, marks the return of activism. These precedents influenced the formation of significant groups in the United States like the Mattachine Society and The Daughters of Bilitis, founded by Harry Hay and established in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, respectively, both of which had an inclusive approach of establishing support networks for members of the lesbian and gay communities.

In New Zealand, the Dorian Society emerged as the first known formal group in 1961, predominantly established by men with overseas experience. The society quickly evolved to engage in legal advocacy through the formation of a legal subcommittee advocating for the decriminalization of same-sex activity. This initiative led to the Homosexual Law Reform Society, based on the British model, which sought not only legal change but also societal acceptance and human rights for the community, embracing membership from both homosexual and heterosexual supporters.

During this period, the community adopted the term "kamp," with the words "gay" and "lesbian" yet to gain widespread use in the country, indicating a vernacular shaped by the unique cultural context of New Zealand. The presentation concludes with a promise of further exploration into the recommended reforms and underlying strategies aimed at legislative change.

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

Record date:11th January 2011
Location:Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004057).