If you had told me two months ago that I would be working on arguably the gayest block in New Zealand or participating in a powerful powhiri or attending an Auckland Council meeting on urgent issues before our community I would have whipped out a thermometer and gotten you a cool compress.
“Here, lie down. You’ve got the fevers, my friend!”
However the fact is that I’m here, pinching myself each day and waiting for the surrealism to wear off. Don’t worry, it’s coming.
As you know, each issue of express focuses on a different facet of our community and I have the pleasure of kicking off my role with the fluffiest of topics. Yeah, right! My inaugural editorial is about the mental health of our community and the individuals of which it’s comprised.
You may already know some of my story. I became gay-aware at 13 in Washington, DC. A gay youth with no role models, sex quickly became the only validation I could understand. There was a small social group on Saturdays I had to sneak away to where over a year half a dozen members took their lives, unable to come to terms with their identities or, more importantly, how their families would receive them.
When I came out to my mother I was whisked into therapy. Through an intricate fabric of lies I pried my way out of being officially deprogrammed, but it forever stunted my family bond (except for brothers I adore).
From the age of 20 I flourished across the country in San Francisco, and for a short time in Chicago ten years later. Through it all countless faces have vanished from my extended family drama by their own hand, either though direct action or indirect abuse. Countless. I can no longer smell their musk when I squeeze them, share meaningless banter and fun photos on Facebook or miss them knowing they miss me back.
I believe I understand mental health issues pretty well.
In my first two weeks on the job I’ve witnessed amazing unity. Surely we’ve been bolstered by positive legal motions in Wellington, but right here in the big smoke of Auckland I see brave work being done in the trenches by so many people, only a few of which we had the space to talk about in this issue. Here and now I honour all those we haven’t mentioned. Please rest assured your work is noted and that I’ll do all I can to someday shine a light on you too.
My biggest joy is having my friends and long-time community advocates Barry Taylor and Michael Steven lending me a hand with this important issue of express. Actions speak volumes and these guys are legendary orators in the GLBTI community. It’s an honour to share their voices and work with you.
I’ve survived one hell of a roller coaster life and am blessed to have stopped here at this point in time with you. I hope these pages will bless you too.
| Leif Wauters