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Wednesday 14 April 2010

What's our community coming to?

Posted in: Community
By Peter Taylor - 8th March 2010

Below, Dot's bar owner Peter Taylor delivers a scathing yet optimistic 'State of the Union' address as New Zealand's LGBT citizens begin a decade of uncertainty.

Congratulations to the OurFest and Bears Week teams for their excellent events in Auckland recently.

Peter Taylor
How refreshing it is to know the reins of control are now in the hands of the young people. They are more tolerant and integrated, among themselves. Hence the prejudices of the older community will eventually die out. About time, I say.

It is the older members of our community, our tribe, who have broken into splinters over the past few years and instead of supporting each other, a preference to tear each other apart is a common sport. Hero finally was put to rest because we, the elders, couldn't get our shit together. It was decided, with great wisdom to hand our tribal festival over to the young people.

With intelligence, a wider acceptance of each other, regardless of sexuality, gender or nationality, the young generation, the 20-somethings get on with each other as mates. Young lesbians and gay boys have friends of either gender, both straight and gay and those identified along the spectrum.

Meanwhile the older, apparently more wise, are fighting among themselves, practising separatism, double standards and intolerance of our diversity, within our collective tribe.

Why did our generation get it so wrong? We allowed bigotry and bitterness against each other to become a family game.

When we were fighting for our freedom to be, to seek equality and recognition from the wider community and fighting prejudice with passion, we played happy community. Com. Now we have all we wanted, our community began criticising and tearing each other apart and split into groups. We accepted double standards and our community began to implode.

Vera & Doreen
One autumn evening last year, Doreen delivered flowers to Family & Naval pub for their first birthday. Standing on the corner of Pitt Street and K' Road, waiting at the lights, a late teenager, standing at least 20 metres away, yelled, 'Faggot'. One can expect this from a white trash kid whose father stinks of Elderberry and his mother is a Hamster. However, later as Doreen returned to her car parked near Urge, she stopped to wish our favourite doorman, Mike Binis, a cheery evening. Mike was having a conversation with a patron of our favourite bar. As Doreen said good night she kissed the doorman and put our hand to shake that of the leather man.

The leather man recoils in disgust and refuses to shake the hand of the drag queen. At another time, in a different circumstance, the queen is really an affectionardo of leather and the other person would probably throw him in a sling. It's all drag.

One can expect to be yelled at by trash, but it hurts to be disgusting to one of your own community. The double standard is, if the leather man was discriminated due to his garb, he would be highly offended.

A week later, we were talking to the organiser of the Lesbian Ball. She was looking for a performer and we, Doreen and Vera, offered to fill the slot if it would help. The organiser apologised as she knew some of the women would still see the Drag Queens as men and it would not be tolerated.

So twice in a week the drag performer experienced bigotry from within our community. Is it a wonder that we can't get along and accept each other or support our own? Should we be subject to discrimination from the wider public, a law is in place to protect us. Baloney. We don't accept each other. However, what is worse, we continue to allow such absurdity to continue.

At present, three bitter old twisted queens are spreading rumours and malicious gossip about our new leaders and some of the venues. They can stew in their bile and drink from their Dalton Tea cups, while wondering why they have few friends. We will no longer accept such tripe. I wish they had the gall to drop in last Thursday when Dot's was full of Bears playing Bingo. They would have been massacred by laughter, as $500 was raised for Body Positive. They will not steal our joy.

The fight is over. So what if the younger ones don't know about Stonewall? They weren't even thought about let alone born. Last year was the 40th anniversary of the beginning of our fight for equality and recognition. It is done. Does it matter that the younger ones may not know the struggles we went through so they can hold hands in the street? They will find out that only two suburbs away they may be yelled at from a car window. Homophobia still exists, and homosexuals will continue to gather in groups. Did our generation hear the 2nd world war stories? Did it change our perception of who we are? We were born after the event.

Change in the last two decades was enormous. A woman can be Prime Minister. We take it for granted now. Anti-discrimination, Civil Union, Prostitution reform and Homosexual law reform. I wonder what this decade will bring.

By the end of this decade, I expect the 'Gay Community' will disintegrate. No one will care in ten years. Fortunately the old splinter groups will have disbanded and only small groups will gather, with a gin and tonic, in the safety of their memories and own homes, will old queens reminisce about the Mardi Gras in the 80s and the fabulosity we shared at places like Staircase, Surrender Dorothy, Legends and the recovery parties in the early days of SPQR.

Sucking their dentures, they will remember the many friends, lost to HIV/AIDS, and I expect the 20-somethings who will be 30-something at the end of this decade will not be exempt from their loss of friends to P and the HIV bug.

This struggle will go on until we educate the wider community and take responsibility for ourselves. The younger generation were taught about safe sex at school. Let's hope they learnt well and continue to protect themselves.

We are in a new decade, dark with recession. No gay business is doing fabulously well, despite popular misconceptions. We all struggle to accommodate the various preferences and wants, while protecting ourselves against prejudice of our diverse community. During hardship, the Co-op model rises to support each other and so we saw for the first time at this year's Big Gay Out, the fusion of drag and bears, when Urge Bar and Caluzzi Cabaret, joined ranks, the oddest bed fellows, and ran a most successful bar tent.

Alan & Matt at Urge bar
However, there is more. Although this was an excellent example of good business acumen, Urge hosted overseas guest from Australia and America to join with the New Zealand Bears for an inaugural week of celebration. Again we saw sensibility for the first time. Bear Drag was a raging success at Caluzzi Cabaret, as the Urge Bears formed teams to dress up and perform a show. Campbell, the owner operator of the cabaret, had to where chaps.

Urge Bar won Business of the Year at the OurFest Awards and went on to share their week with many venues so we could all entertain the tourists and give them the impression that this community is typical of the NZ ingenuity, the #8 wire mentality and put on many events. An amalgam of celebration was spread with Bear Bingo at Dot's, Wet Fur at the Centurion Sauna, a BBQ evening at Kamo and a kick arse Tri Nations party at 420 K' Road (the former Sinners Bar). Not only did Urge Bar bring the venues together for the first time, but have spearheaded a new way of thinking in time for this decade. Their innovation is a fine example of a community actively supporting each other. Bring it on.

I am impressed by the young people and now we will trust them to try and pull our community back together. It can only get better as they are not embittered by struggle and laugh with their opportunities. I take my hat off to offer our support for their talent and freshness.

With the amazing example of Urge pulling our venues together, there is hope that this community, our tribe, may survive this decade and not let past selfishness, intolerance and bitterness, rob our joy. May the entire tribe play together again and not reserve our celebration, our diversity, for the one summer outing a year at The Big Gay Out. The day when we greet and meet our many friends who we only see once a year. The day that our community plays 'Happy'

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Peter Taylor - 8th March 2010