For a lot of queer people, there’s a moment when they finally get the feeling that living in the big gay world isn’t going to be so bad, in fact, it’s going to be awesome. I got that feeling for the first time at Big Gay Out last year. I also got my first cheeky look of my (now) girlfriend of almost a year on that sunny day at Coyle Park.
I don’t know if those moments of realisation are life changing but I’d like to think that frolicking around a sunny park with thousands of fellow homos has got to be good for the soul.
We don’t really have Mardi Gras in New Zealand and apart from nights out along K’Road, there isn’t too many other times when so many people who all have that one thing in common – their sexuality veers away from the so called status quo – can get together in one place.
This year I went prepared with rainbow cake and cupcakes ready to be scoffed. It was great to feel like I was in the know, but it still didn’t beat my debut into the gay arena. When I arrived for the first time, wide eyed, Coyle Park was already alive and buzzing; it was pretty much radiating rainbows. Everywhere I looked there were people I could identify with. Looking back, I didn’t even know there was that many queer people in Auckland. Seriously. For somebody who had been living in a straight world (and don’t get me wrong, there was nothing bad about that), it was like a breath of fresh air.
From Rainbow Youth’s chill out section to the GABA tent and the party tents, the community really put its charm on, welcoming me into its bosom. It really was a feeling of connectedness that I had craved for so long. And then there was her.
So, I have this little secret about Big Gay Out last year. I kind of stalked this girl. I was wearing a pretty purple dress that I’d brought the day before from this incredibly cute girl at an op shop along K’Road. By chance, out of the corner of my eye, I saw that girl at Coyle Park. Butterflies tingled. I had done a fair bit of shopping at her store and had seen her enough times to have my suspicions that she was gay. Catching a glimpse of her at the festival meant putting a little tick in the queer box. Despite having had one previous relationship with a girl, I had been living in a straight world up until then. She represented some kind of internal confirmation that I was indeed attracted to both sexes, and it was really like a weight lifting off my shoulders.
While I didn’t have the courage to talk to her then and there, I quietly tucked the knowledge that she was in fact, a lady-loving lady, in my pocket. A few weeks later I went back to that op shop and instead of walking out with another dress, I walked out with a huge grin and the start of a relationship that has been nothing but amazing for the past year.
Oh, Big Gay Out. I’m not saying that everyone is going to go along and find the love of their lives at an event like this, but it’s just nice to feel included, like you belong to something – especially if you are questioning your sexuality. One of the hardest things for me was being on the outside of the gay community and not really knowing how to find my way in. I had to really force myself out of my comfort zone for a while in order to start making connections. This didn’t so much involve drunken nights by myself at a gay bar, talking to whoever was around, but was a gradual process that was kicked off by making an appearance at Big Gay Out.
Now that I’m on the other side of the fence and have skipped down that path and into the Auckland community, I had a slightly different outlook at the event this year. I think it really is important to celebrate who you are and nothing says this better than a big, bright, party in the park. As somebody once explained to me, people who are into music get their festivals, people who are into circuses get their carnivals and those who like cars get their rallies. It’s only fair that people who identify as being queer also get their chance to go out in the sun and enjoy a beer or a rainbow cupcake, and get some glitter too.
While many people in the GLBT community work hard to try and get a bigger street party happening in New Zealand, I’m always going to be happy that at least we’ve got this one day dedicated to us.
| Hannah Joll