A decade of change
A look back at the events of the decade for GLBT New Zealand – the law changes that enhanced our lives, the events we’ll never forget, and the ways we told our stories over the course of the “noughties”
A wise lady once told express – “Our community should be down on its knees thanking the people of the last Labour government,” and whether you agree with their policies or not, it can’t be denied that the 1999-2008 Labour Government advanced the rights of our community in myriad ways.
2001 | The Human Rights Amendment Act
The Government’s exemption from full compliance with the Human Rights Act 1993 expired on 31 December 2001. The new Part IA made Government, government agencies, and anyone who performs a public function, accountable for unlawful discrimination by way of sex, marital status, sexual identity, race and many other grounds, as set out in the Human Rights Act.
2004 | The Civil Union Act
Before the Civil Unions Bill even made it to Parliament, few can forget the most vivid memory of the anti-civil unions campaign, the Enough is Enough march on Parliament. Spearheaded by the Destiny Church and (now bishop, then pastor) Brian Tamaki, thousands of church members and supporters, as well as members of the Christian Heritage Party and white supremacist group National Front descended on Wellington’s Lambton Quay in black shirts. The world’s first openly transsexual MP Georgina Beyer met the crowd on the steps of Parliament, and shouted, “Your hatred is totally intolerable,” while the black-shirted crowd Chanted, “enough is enough”. Brian and friends attempted to change their image for the Auckland march by wearing white t-shirts, but their sentiments were ignored by 65 MPs. After much public debate, large protest marches and fierce in-house arguing in Parliament, The Civil Union Act was passed into law on 9 December 2004 by a conscience vote of 65/55. The Act established the institution of civil union for same-sex and heterosexual couples.
2005 | The Relationships (Statutory References) Act
The Relationships (Statutory References) Act was passed shortly after the Civil Unions Act on 15 March 2005. The Act, which is seen by many as more groundbreaking than civil unions, removed discriminatory provisions on the basis of relationship status from a range of statutes and regulations. What this meant was that all couples, regardless of whether they were married, in a civil union, or in a de facto partnership, can enjoy the same rights and undertake the same obligations. GLBT couples had previously faced a number of difficulties in not having their relationships legally recognised – especially on the grounds of immigration, next-of-kin status, social welfare, matrimonial property and other areas.
2008 | The Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Amendment Act
After the passing of this amendment act in 2008, the Department of Internal Affairs stated the intent of the act – to improve the ability of the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages to collect, verify and manage life-event information; change the way that people can get information held on the registers to help protect the information from abuse; and modernise the Act to take account of technological and social developments. This brought into line something very close to the hearts of same-sex parents – they could now have both parents reflected on their children’s birth certificates.
2009 | The Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Act
After the National Government came to power in 2008, many people conceded that little could be done to advance equal rights for GLBT New Zealanders. This was proven wrong after justice minister Simon Power introduced the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill in August; Labour’s justice spokespersons Lianne Dalziel and Charles Chauvel had previously submitted a private member’s bill on the matter but it was not drawn from the ballot. Power’s bill passed by 116 votes to five. “It effectively provides a defence for lashing out in anger, not just any anger but violent, homicidal rage,” said Power. “It rewards lack of self-control by enabling an intentional killing to be categorised as something other than murder.” Charles Chauvel said, “That defence was used far too often to sanction the murder of gay men, and of women in difficult relationships.”
The 2000s were flanked by two very important events in iconic pride organisation Hero’s history. In 2000, the iconic Big Gay Out picnic day began, and continues today. Unfortunately for Hero, most of the decade was plagued with issues, especially in 2001, when substantial debts came to light and the Hero Parade – which cost tens of thousands just in operating costs a year – ended. After this scandal, the Hero Brand Management Group formed, and festivals were run with more transparency, but as some put it, with waning enthusiasm from the community. express’ letters and opinion columns were often critical of the festival, and numbers at Hero parties declined by the year. A number of long-time Hero volunteers pulled out in 2008 due to travel and other commitments, leaving just two Hero Trust members to organise a festival; the stop-gap Pride ’09 ran it its place. In March 2009, at a public meeting attended by just 35 people, it was agreed that the Hero Trust be respectfully laid to rest, and the almost $10,000 remaining in the trust’s account was given over to the New Zealand’s AIDS Quilt Trust.
Trans Community Rights
New Zealand does not have anti-discrimination laws that specifically focus on the rights of the trans community. Back in 2004, this caused then-MP Georgina Beyer to prepare the Human Rights (Gender Identity) Amendment Bill ready for debate in Parliament as a member’s bill. In 2006 however, New Zealand’s Solicitor-General stated that trans New Zealanders were covered under the ‘sex discrimination’ provision of the Human Rights Act 1993. Beyer withdrew her bill, stating “that’s good enough for me”.
Later in 2007, the Human Rights Commission published To Be Who I Am, a world-first inquiry into discrimination experienced by the trans community. The report found that trans New Zealanders face discrimination when finding accommodation, at work and in the community; that significant gaps and inconsistencies exist in healthcare for trans people; and that current laws and policies prevent trans people from obtaining official documentation that reflect their gender identity. From this, the report made a number of recommendations; recommendations that project manager Jack Bryne says are currently progressing “slowly but steadily”.
Remembering our loved ones
The community lost some important people in the 2000s. Here we remember their commitment to their community, their love and compassion.
Matthew Blair Whyte (1967 – 2004)
Matt was a man of great dedication. After learning that he was HIV positive, Matt took on the role of becoming a public face of people living with the virus. Moving from his role as general manager of Auckland nightclub Staircase to the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, he worked as an education worker and then centre manager of the Awhina Centre in Wellington. Returning to Auckland in 2001, Matt became the NZAF’s first positive men’s project worker, where he remained until failing health forced him to resign not long before his passing.
Daniel Fielding (1956 – 2005)
Wellingtonian Daniel Fielding was active in the capital’s burgeoning gay scene and gay rights movements of the 1980s, and was diagnosed as HIV positive just before Homosexual Law Reform went through in 1985. He and his partner, Peter, were among the first to be diagnosed with the virus that left many gay men stigmatized and without proper care. Daniel saw to this by collecting all and any information he could gather on the virus, and his Karori home with Peter served as an information HQ on HIV/AIDS. Daniel continued to work as a fierce HIV/AIDS activist, even after Peter’s passing, and was a well-recognised figure in the community in Wellington. In the end it was a stroke – not HIV – that took Daniel from us. His passionate life was remembered at an equally passionate service, and today his life and work live on in the hearts of the community he cared so much about.
Ronald Brown (1938 – 2007)
Ronald Brown was a quiet, gentle and well-spoken sales representative from Onehunga, Auckland. But the life of a man who was known by friends and family as polite and well-humoured was violently cut short when Ronald was killed by 32-year-old Hungarian tourist Ferdinand Ambach, whom he met at his local bar on 7 December, 2007. Ambach was tried for the murder of Ronald in 2009, but managed to successfully argue provocation (otherwise known as the “gay panic defence”); his sentence was reduced to manslaughter. Outrage over the partial defence of provocation led to the law’s repeal in late 2009.
Mahinarangi Tocker (1956 – 2008)
One of New Zealand’s most talented and prolific singer/songwriters passed away in North Shore Hospital after complications from a massive asthma attack. Tocker was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Years Honours 2008 – an award she was scheduled to receive in a special ceremony on the day she passed. Along her musical journey, she made many friends and fans, wrote almost 600 songs, and earned the respect of her peers. “There are few people I’ve known who could outdo me in the minority stakes,” Philip Patston wrote at the time. “She trumped me well and truly – my gay, disabled, vegetarian comedian status could never beat her place as a Maori, lesbian, crazy (her words) musician. And she was a comedian as well, really – her humour knew no bounds.” Tocker passed away at the age of 52, surrounded by family and friends.
Darren Taylor, aka Bambi Slut (1975-2008)
Darren Taylor, also known as drag diva Bambi Slut, died of HIV-related complications on 29 May 2008. Named Bambi Slut by her drag mother Bertha, Bambi was known for her show-stopping numbers and beauty-focussed ‘pretty drag’ act that she performed in collaboration with designer and DJ James Leuii. Bambi will be remembered as a lively spirit, a good friend and a talented, charismatic performer.
Dr Matt Wildbore (1963-2008)
Gay GP Dr Matt Wildbore was known for his compassion for the community he loved so much, especially in the face of the HIV epidemic. Not one to shy away from the people often shunned by the medical profession, Matt looked after the biggest caseload of positive patients in the country, and worked on K’Road at the City Medical and Wellness Centre. A well-published doctor who endured long hours with compassion and empathy, Matt resigned from his position in 2008 and passed away two weeks later.
Sister Paula Brettkelly (1944-2008)
Sister Paula Brettkelly was one in a million – a Catholic nun who embraced a community discriminated against on the basis of sexual identity. Always putting the needs of others first, she said she enjoyed supporting gay community initiatives against discrimination and the spread of HIV, and hoped that gay people would continue to find the strength to carry on that work after her passing.
Building on the success of the likes of Queer Nation in the 1990s, New Zealand screens saw a lot more of us over the last ten years. Here is a selection of the hottest (and not-est) film and television.
Queer Nation (1996-2004)
The world’s longest running GLBT television show wrapped in 2004, marking the end of a significant era in GLBT New Zealand. The go-to show for the community nationwide, Queer Nation painted a positive portrait of GLBT life to New Zealanders who may not have experienced pride or acceptance in our country’s more isolated towns. A public meeting ultimately decided the fate of the TVNZ show – the state broadcaster proposed the need for a replacement to other programme makers. The shows that followed were The Outhouse, Kiwifruit and The Outlook.
The Outhouse (2005)
Hosted by Greg Mayor, Amanda Betts and Andy Curtis, The Outhouse was billed as “a funny and slightly hazardous show dealing with the issues facing gay New Zealanders today”. The show promised a Sportscafé-esque format that catered to the GLBT community. The show featured a number of interviews, guests and hot spots to eat, drink and shop, as well as a team of irreverent hosts that included ex-express editor Olly Hall.
Kiwifruit was a New Zealand magazine style talk show series that dealt with GLBT issues, produced by CreamTV and shown on TV2. Unfortunately for CreamTV, a survey of the community found that 70 per cent of GLBT kiwis who watched the show did not like it, calling it superficial and offensive. The show was not renewed for subsequent seasons.
The Outlook (2007)
The third post-Queer Nation show was The Outlook, a reality TV show that charted the work of the team at express magazine. From story generation to chasing up debts and office thefts, The Outlook followed express through a number of changes, including the departure of former editor Olly Hall. The Glenn Sims-produced series was not renewed after its initial 10-episode run.
While these three television shows were airing, a very different television show was being made and televised. Takataapui was the world’s first indigenous GLBT series. Produced by Front of the Box Productions for Maori Television, the show was magazine-styled with a Maori GLBT focus. It was light-entertainment but not afraid to delve into some hard-hitting issues affecting the takataapui communities all over New Zealand. Presented by transgender singer Ramon Te Wake, Taurewa Biddle and Tania Simon, the show enjoyed great success over many series.
Behind the Seams (2007)
Eileen-Rita Folwell, a straight woman whose mother helped produce Queen of the Whole Universe pageants of yore, created Behind the Seams, a heart-warming DVD documentary of the lead up to the pageant. From rehearsals to the stage, Folwell’s documentary portrayed the players in the pageant before the big night at Auckland’s Aotea Centre.
Through Rainbow Coloured Glasses (2008)
How did the GLBT community survive and thrive in the establishment of Christchurch city over the last five decades? Part documentary, part testimonial and part dramatisation, Through Rainbow Coloured Glasses is a warts-‘n’-all illumination of a crucial fight for human rights in the Western world. Hard-hitting, deeply honest, embracing and at times hysterical, we glimpse the scope of the human struggle and celebration that encapsulates how a community is defined and ultimately defines itself.
Untouchable Girls (2009)
The interminable Topp Twins have enjoyed decades of local notoriety, through their political activism and open sexuality in the 1980s, to their iconic television show in the 2000s. Untouchable Girls interweaves the history of the Topps with the history of New Zealand, with a beautiful, touching concert and testimonies dotted throughout. Balancing fanciful interviews with famous Topp Twin characters (Ken and Ken, Camp Mother and Camp Leader) with footage from Jools’ chemotherapy treatment in 2006, this heart-warming documentary is a must-see for all of us.
express would like to acknowledge the input of Alison Laurie, Lesbian and Gay Archives New Zealand (LAGANZ) curator Linda Evans and Charlotte Museum curator Dr Miriam Saphira for their help in putting together this thorough – but by no means definitive – tribute. If you have any points you’d like to ad or info to offer, please email Hannah JV at [email protected]