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Wednesday 14 April 2010's New Year's Honours list

Posted in: Community
By - 31st December 2009

Every year many people make life better for glbt New Zealanders. In ways obvious or subtle they impact on our lives, or some of our lives, and our communities and NZ as a whole are better for it.

But a few seem to stand out from the rest and it is those few that acknowledges every year in our New Year's Honours list.

For 2009 the Honours go to...

Aaron & Andy - for livening up Wellington

Aaron & Andy
Love 'em (many do) or hate 'em (many - maybe more - do), we gotta say Wellington would be a much duller place without these two capital dynamos. Yes, their blog can be very silly and lacking in actual facts but it's been a one of 2009's must-reads. Their radio show is a guilty pleasure.

A&A are also very active in organising Wellington's LGBT Proud Festival, including the popular Out in the Square day... we know that takes a lot of hard work and effort, but they make it look easy while successive Auckland teams stumble and stagger to pull of something, anything, each February. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with them, their determination to add value to their glbt community and the fight against HIV cannot be disputed.

Ricky Beirao - for lifting the bar for drag performance
Just when everyone was moaning about the paucity of depth and talent in the Wellington drag performance scene along came Rhubarb Rouge, aka Ricky Beirao. Because of his age (early 20s) and inexperience, there was the odour of doubt in the air as Beirao prepared his alter ego to take the stage at BATS for a performance of autobiographical exposition.

Ricky and Rhubarb proved the doubters sooo wrong, fronting up with a beguiling mix of authority, naivety, hutzpah, humanity and passion. The shame of it was that Confessions of a Drag Queen had a too-short run and only in Wellington. Hey Miss Rouge, how about dragging your act to a few other centres!

Fourteen unidentified heroes - for courage
A man you liked, or lusted for, or loved, or all three, is revealed to be at the epicentre of shocking allegations that he knowingly exposed a heap of young guys like you, and some young women as well, to HIV. In order to stop more victims from falling prey to him the police need formal complaints.

You have probably just had a life-shattering HIV diagnosis. You face criticism from friends and the community of the simplistic and ignorant 'why didn't you use a condom!' variety. You face having to stand up in court at a future date and being cross-examined by high-powered defence lawyers about your most physically and emotionally intimate moments. You face excruciating self-examination of your relationship, your vulnerability, your sense of self-worth. You even risk public exposure.

And yet you, and thirteen others like you, bite the bullet and give the police your story so they can get Glenn Mills off the street and prepared to face justice. You know who you are and you are amongst the bravest guys in our glbt community. Ever.

Craig Hoyle - for leading so that others might follow
For most of us, coming to terms with our homosexuality and subsequently coming out to friends and family can be a tricky process, with a few stumbles along the way. However, the chances are good that we'll get through it ok. But for Hoyle, and others who like him were born into a secretive isolationist fag-hating religious sect, the dice are loaded from day one. Yet somehow he emerged, his own man and on his own terms, having made more difficult decisions than most of us will ever encounter.

Hoyle went public, firstly on and then on TV, to explain what it was like to be forced to say goodbye forever to everything and everyone you have ever known, including parents and siblings, and step out into the realm of Satan according to Exclusive Brethren beliefs, to stay true to himself and his sexuality. He is not the first to take this step and he won't be the last, but Craig Hoyle's now publicly documented story is an extreme example of what many glbt -people must face; and its a beacon of hope to those whose journey out of the closet is more tortuous than most.

John Key - for going where no PM has gone before
It's too early to make any sort of summation of Prime Minister John's Key's leadership of the country or his effect on social issues but we decided to give him a gong for sheer guts. Name one senior NZ politician in, say, the last 2 million years, who would have danced on stage with a couple of unpredictable and mouthy drag queens while the nation's news cameras were capturing every self-conscious twitch and jiggle.

Better yet, name one senior politician who could have carried it off! Key's boogying with Buffy & Bimbo on stage at the Big Gay Out was one out of the bag and showed that, whatever the views of those politically close to him, Key himself is relaxed around gays... even the scene-stealing, in your face, bewigged and bedazzling ones.

Andy King and his team - for sensitivity
At first glance Detective Sergeant Andy King seems like a career copper with an earnest disposition and a slightly creepy job. But as the founding head of the Auckland Adult Sexual Assault Team, King's humanity, determination and refusal to judge victims of sexual assault, no matter their sexuality or circumstances, became abundantly clear. If there ever was the right person in the right job at the right time, King was that person.

Dozens of traumatised young people, mostly gay, shared their stories with King and his remarkable team as they investigated the emotional and sexual predation of rogue HIV positive man Glenn Mills. Amazingly, fourteen became confident enough to lodge formal, detailed complaints. From start to finish, as King and his fellow officers investigated the horrible allegations, there was nothing but praise for their sensitivity and professionalism.

Dr Richard Meech - for commitment to HIV treatment
There was a time when HIV was the scariest thing on earth. When even ambulance officers would refuse to touch an injured car crash victim because his patterned undies signaled gay = HIV = instant death sentence in their minds (true story). A time when medications were limited to treating the opportunistic diseases which inevitably killed those whose HIV had progressed to AIDS in a matter of months.

Through all the media beat-ups, ignorance, fear, victimisation, disgust and loathing few voices were as respected as that of Dr Richard Meech. An Infectious Diseases expert based in Hawkes Bay, Meech's intellect and analysis led him to become, for a quarter of a century, one of New Zealand's most sought-after and respected HIV treatment specialists.

From the emergence of HIV until his retirement two months ago, when Meech spoke people listened. And gay men with HIV, or at risk of contracting it, have benefited more than most will ever realise.

'Our' MPs, straight and gay - for getting rid of an odious law
Charles Chauvel
Hard groundwork by opposition MPs Charles Chauvel and Lianne Dalziel set the scene for one of the most important legislative changes this year affecting glbt people. The Partial Defence of Provocation had to go and Chauvel and Dalziel were at the forefront of that imperative, taking their cue from the Law Commission's Sir Geoffrey Palmer.

As popular opinion, heated up more by the 'straight' Weatherston trial than the 'gay' Ambach trial we must admit, got behind the change Justice Minister Simon Power grabbed the ball and ran it to the try line, at the same time ensuring the public knew that gays were disproportionately disadvantaged by the law as it stood. And leading the support commentary was MP Kevin Hague, providing context and quotable statements of exocet-like precision and effect.

To you all, well done. Now please don't forget adoption, gender identity and, just maybe, marriage!

Outline October crew - for responding to community need
The recession has been hard on many of our LGBT organisations, but one of the true highlights of the year was seeing our community leap forward to support our much-needed national phone support service.  OUTLine October was a full-on month of money-seeking mayhem where new pledges daily and keen bucket-shaking volunteers let the OUTLine phone counseling and support crew know we wouldn't let them go down without a fight!

The target was $30k, but at last count the funds raised were edging up to almost $40k. Take a bow, OUTLine October crew Glenn Sims, Julian Cooke, Cherry Sonderer and the dozens of supporting volunteers, organisations and businesses for your frenzied fundraising efforts through October.

Leanne Pooley - for a stunning lesbo-doco-movie
The Topp Twins' by now well-documented lives were always going to make a nice little doco movie: lots of historical footage, lots of charm, lots of gingham, yodelling, heeps of sheeps, all the ingredients were there and waiting. But the Topp Twins' moviemaker Pooley took the elements we all know and love and somehow crafted a movie of rare insight and warmth.

Now the highest-grossing Kiwi doco movie ever, and a cult hit around the globe, Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls fuses the twins' story with a sense of what it is to be New Zealanders. In celebrating our most beloved lesbian sisters it also celebrates the four million Kiwis who have embraced them like family.

Cissy Rock - for  operating outside the ghettoes
Let's be honest, gay community for most folk conjures up visions of Karangahape road, Gay Lynn, some of the tonier inner-Wellington suburbs and Lichfield street on a good night. And if you're straight, the Hero Parade. And if you're a photo-journalist, drag queens.

But in the suburbs and hinterland there are of course folk living glbt lives and just a few whose mission is to enrich the lives of their brothers and sisters. Such a person is Cissy Rock, who has engineered a succession of successful and creative lesbian events in West Auckland.

Any of Cissy's events and happenings are a treat for those who live west of Waterview, and definitely worth the drive for those who don't.

Campbell Smith - for understanding how corrosive hatred is
When pointed out that Big Day Out-invited guest reggae singer Beenie Man was an anti-gay hatemonger of global proportions, music aficionados around us said: "Call Campbell - he'll sort it out".

Backgrounder: many of the Big Day Out acts are block-booked from Australia to appear in the Aussie main centres plus Auckland. Promoter Smith adds local content and promotes the Auckland event. Though a seasoned music promoter, his expertise is not reggae.

Smith's enquries of the Australian principals of the BDO generated a mealy-mouthed 'We are aware of his controversial past but what's past is past' kind of response from Ockerland. Smith probed deeper, listened to the gay community's point of view, possibly considered what having a "Come to Jamaica and kill the gays" singer on stage would mean to the Big Day Out, and in less than a week Beenie Man was no longer welcome in Auckland or any of Australia's Big Day Outs. Thanks for listening and for understanding, Campbell!

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