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Monday 08 November 2010

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25th February 2009

Testing Time

Posted by: Kitten Power

This week I did something I have wanted to for a while and took an HIV test.  I know the risk for lesbians is considered pretty low and even when I was with men I was generally pretty safe . . . but there were a few mistakes and the odd condom breakage.

Since I’ve come out I’ve been increasingly aware of the prevalence of HIV.  Every year one or two people from my wider social circle have contracted the virus and even more have had scares.  I’ve even made appointments at Auckland’s Burnett Centre for friends and ensured that they were supported and went along.  Was this not hypocritical if I didn’t get tested myself - how could I tell them what to expect?

Truth be told, when I strolled up the stairs and into the clinic I was feeling pretty blasé - but as soon as I my pen hit the first form it became real.  I was immediately fearful - what if despite all my precautions and confidence, I was positive?

In the consultation room I nervously made it through all the kinky questions about my past sexual experiences, about what my partner and I get up to between the sheets and about drug use, when suddenly one question left entirely stumped:

“How would your sexual behaviour change if you were positive?”

I can quite honestly say I had never thought about it, and I was ashamed.  The staff member who did my test sat patiently as I stammered and inhaled a little too deeply, trying to come up with something coherent.  My mind ran with “How would my behaviour change?  Would I still have sex?  Would my girlfriend stay with me?  Would anyone want to sleep with me?  Or would life remain mostly the same?”

I think I came up with something like “um, maybe a little, I don’t know, drastically”.  I was assured that I was low risk and even though my heart told me it was going to be ok, my mind was far from calm.  I thought of a friend whose partner left him upon hearing they were HIV positive . . . another whose world crumbled for months as he fought to come to terms with the result of a one-night mistake.

Then my finger was pricked and within 10 minutes I was told I was clear.

I know there are many of you out there living positive - and living positively.  I’ll of course never understand what it means for your life . . . but in that one fleeting moment I think I got a half ounce of an idea of what it might, maybe, possibly be like for me.

Anyone thinking about getting tested, you have nothing to fear from the staff at the Burnett Centre . . .  they are respectful, wise, kind, entirely honest and incredibly calm.

That night I told my girlfriend about my experience and as I was in her arms I asked her “baby, if I had been positive would you still be with me?”  “Of course baby!” she replied, “Were you really worried about that?  Gosh, we’d just be a bit more careful, that’s all - we could buy some dental dams.”

You got to love her, I sure do.

Want to know where to get tested? Click here

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13th February 2009

Summer reads

Posted by: Kitten Power


With the small number of quality movies tracking the “homosexual experience”, it is in books that I have so far found the best depictions of gay and lesbian life. This summer I have been eating books, and as I’m on a severe savings drive, the Auckland Public Library has become one of my favourite hangouts.

The range is stunning and easily accessible - I hope it’s the same for other libraries around the country?

Here are my three favourite reads of summer 08/09:

1 Tales of The City - Armistead Maupin
An absolute classic. I rented the TV series on DVD a while back and just had to read it for myself. Set in San Francisco in the mid-70s it tells the stories of a diverse bunch who live in a rambling house on Barbary Lane, run by eccentric and secretive pot-growing landlady Anna Madrigal. Character Mary-Anne Singleton moves in and we explore the delights and wickedness of San Francisco through her sweet naivety. Maupin is a great writer and his characters feel so alive on the page, with gay Southerner Michael “Mouse” Tolliver easily providing a perfect balance of laughs and “awww” moments in his search for love, to make him easily my favourite character of the summer.

2 Kiss The Girls and Make Them Spy: An Original Jane Bond Parody - Mabel Maney
My most frivolous read of the summer. This book tracks Jane Bond, (007’s sister) who is bribed to dress in drag and pretend to be her brother (who has been locked up in a Swiss sanitarium), in order to save the Queen. While a bit slow in some places, this book is a good light laugh -it’s camp, it’s cheesy . . . and Jane Bond is HOT.

3 With Billie - Julia Blackburn
With the biography Billie Holiday co-wrote regarded by many to be based much more on fiction than fact, this biography seems to create the fullest picture possible of the much-loved songbird. It’s based on interviews conducted in the 1970s with more than 150 people who knew her from all levels of her life, whether childhood friends, fellow musicians or lovers. The book’s strength is that it does not try to answer too many questions for you, giving the reader a chance to make up their own mind on what really led to her tragic downfall and death.

What are you reading?  What are your favourite gay and lesbian books?

→ 3 CommentsTags: General

15th January 2009

Burglars. They’re just not sexy.

Posted by: Kitten Power


Burglars are not sexy. Breaking into someone else’s place and rifling through their stuff is just not hot. Going through someone’s underwear drawers and throwing knickers and bras across their room, before tipping their bed sideways, just doesn’t do it for me. That’s why I’m thinking about starting International Castrate a Burglar Day.

Certainly, if I find the stupid straight man who broke into my apartment, let’s call him “The It”, I will castrate him.

I know what you’re thinking, another lesbian wanting to give a straight man the chop, nothing new there - well there is for me. I like women, but have never been a man-hater. Except now, except this one man, except “The It”.

Now that’s settled, you’re probably wondering how do I know it was a straight man? Easy:

1- The toilet seat was left up.

2- A kit containing thousands of dollars worth of professional make-up was opened, then discarded.

3- Being a burglar isn’t sexy, ruling out all women and most gay men.

After we cleaned up, put our underwear back in our drawers and had a good look around, my girlfriend and I were relieved to realise all we lost was a couple of cameras, an old laptop, about $15 and a tired backpack. We started listing all the things ”The It” did not steal - CDs, the stereo, the computer, passports, my girlfriend’s irreplaceable art. That quickly led to an easy coping mechanism of making jokes about other things he left behind, like “oh yay he didn’t take the toothbrushes” . . . “oh great, my favourite sock are still there” . . . “wow lucky he didn’t take the library books, that saves us some fines.”

What can you do but laugh right? Yet I really feel for people who come home to find their house emptied of all their valuable and loved possessions. We got off pretty lightly really.

And yet, if I find “The It” I will still castrate him. Slowly. But not in a man-hating way.

→ 13 CommentsTags: General

9th January 2009

Seasonal Sounds

Posted by: Kitten Power

Have you ever noticed that your music taste is slightly altered by seasons?

I watched an amazing show from Seattle band Fleet Foxes at Auckland’s Bruce Mason Centre last night - and it struck me that their music was the soundtrack to my winter. Their songs, with their warm four-part harmonies, evoke a feeling of respite from the cold. It’s a sound that is exactly perfect for curling up with a nip of scotch in front of an open fire, hiding from the rain and reality outside.

To be fair, it probably helps that the first song I heard from the band is called White Winter Hymnal.

But my new love of folk, of alt-country, of music from America’s northwest emerged this past winter. Strangely, I also found myself drawn to a litany of bands with animal names in the title - tracks from Band of Horses, Caribou, Deerhoof, Grizzly Bear, The Mountain Goats were among those loaded into my music library in the middle of 2008.

Yet now as the nation is sweating through a heatwave that has many of us scrambling into our air conditioned cars and cruising to the beach, it has left me with a new summer romance - a pop flirtation.

Songs I kinda liked, but did not love, in winter, are becoming favoured parts of my summer playlist, as I seek lighter more chilled-out tunes.

So I just went through my mp3 player and deleted winter warmers like Sigur Ros and Radiohead and added the soul and pop vibes which are easing me through summer.

Here’s a mini sampler:

Ladyhawke - Back of the Van

Gnarls Barkley - Who’s Gonna Save My Soul

Sia - Academia

→ No CommentsTags: General · Music

16th December 2008

My favourite things from 2008

Posted by: Kitten Power

A fabulous number of entries are already pouring in from gaynz readers for their favourite things from 2008, keep them coming! 

Here is a quick rundown of few of my favourite things from this year:

Best LGBT Event: The Big Gay Out is always a highlight of my year and this year’s event was no different.  There are two things I most love about it: the diversity and the sense of being somewhere on that great big mysterious spectrum people call the “gay community”.

Best movie: Two New Zealand movies were by far the best I saw this year.  Vincent Ward’s haunting Rain of the Children and Florian Habicht’sRubbings From a Live Man, a look into the wonderfully odd world of Warwick Broadhead:


Best theatre show: Sadly, I didn’t get to see as much theatre as I had hoped this year . . . however, Priscilla and The Reindeer Monologues were definitely the most fun, from what I did catch.

Best TV programme: I may have had to watch it on YouTube, but The L Word season five definitely had me hooked.  I loved the surprise appearance of New Zealander Melanie Lynskey near the end of the season . . . Meanwhile Rick and Steve is fast emerging as a new favourite in our house.

valenciasmall.jpgBest book:

Her books didn’t come out this year, but the writing of lesbian author Michelle Tea was the best written discovery of 2008 for me.  Her heady memoir Valencia looks at her life as a queercore punk in San Francisco, and it is as graphic as it is hilariously honest.  It now sits among the classics on my bookshelf.  Also check out Chelsea Whistle and The Passionate Mistakes and Intimate Corruption of One Girl in America.  Tea is also a spoken word artist and is the co-founder of Sister Spit.

Best concert: It’s a dead heat between PJ Harvey at The Civic and The Breeders at The Bruce Mason Centre.

Best album: There are two albums I have gone back to for repeat listening time and time again this year:

Santogold - Santogold 


The Breeders - Mountain Battles


Best Song: M.I.A. - Paper Planes.  This song sends a shiver down my spine every time I hear it.  I know the album technically came out last year, but this was released as a single this year . . . and once I hear it I can’t get it out of my head!

Best Kiwi LGBT pride moment: The Topp Twins being inducted to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at the Silver Scrolls, an awards ceremony which opened with a beautiful tribute to the late Mahinarangi Tocker.


→ 3 CommentsTags: General

27th November 2008

A cycle of persecution

Posted by: Kitten Power


A sick feeling rose up within me when I first heard that the Mormon church actively encouraged its members to battle against gay marriage in California.  You see, I grew up Mormon.  And to have something which formed such a large part of my early life now fighting against my rights makes me nauseous.

Proposition 8 narrowly passed in California at the election three weeks ago, banning same sex marriage in the state and leaving thousands of gay couples in limbo.

According to gay rights groups, Mormons gave more than US$20 million to support the anti-gay marriage cause and travelled from Utah to California to lobby for Proposition 8.

And it’s just emerged that California state officials are investigating whether the church failed to report its own contributions - and, with members contributing 10 percent of everything they earn to the church’s coffers, the religion is relatively wealthy.

One of the chief reasons I left the church was because as soon as I was about 17, the clear message being repeated to me was that I now needed to find some boring Mormon guy, get married and pop out babies.  I was not at all interested in marriage.  I wanted more from life than being a barefoot pregnant teenager in the kitchen, as many of my schoolmates were becoming. 

And now, the church that once shoved marriage down my throat is fighting to take the only form of marriage I would ever consider away.

My girlfriend is American and it is bizarre to think that we could have a civil union in New Zealand . . . which would be a meaningless piece of paper if we ever wanted to live in the US.  The way I figure it, the more states which recognise gay unions in the US, the more likely it is there will be change on a federal level.  So these battles are all crucial.

I have made my peace with my largely Mormon family since I came out a few years ago . . . they don’t think me being in a lesbian relationship is “right” - but they still love me and want me to be happy.

They have even kindly informed me that the church doctrine is this (in case I want to return to the fold): I can BE gay, but I can’t ACT on it.  They might as well cut my hands off right now.

But I am finding it hard to find any peace with the religion that formed such a huge part of my early life.

You see, the Mormon church was built on persecution.  Its founding prophet Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered, jailed, then murdered, which is no less than homosexuals have faced across the globe.  The church even grabbed its handcarts and moved its population to Utah in 1846 to get away from the hate that was thrown at its members.

And now all I feel coming back at me is hate and persecution.

So to the group of old white Mormon men who tell their members what to think: stay out of our lives.  Spend your money on shiny new bicycles for missionaries and popcorn for making the ridiculous arts and crafts you love so much.

→ 6 CommentsTags: General

19th November 2008

CD Review: Lucinda Williams - Little Honey

Posted by: Kitten Power


I’m a late convert to country music, a genre which was prematurely destroyed for me when I was forced to line dance to “Achy Breaky Heart” in front of a hall full of people as a school kid.

But in my early adulthood, the discoveries of country-folk-rock crossover artists like Martha Wainwright, Ryan Adams and Wilco have made me realise that country music is so much more than cliché whining pro-American stupidity ballads.

I have taken a new country journey with Lucinda Williams, a woman whose break out self-titled album was released in 1988, which is just a few years before I was line-dancing to Billy Ray Cyrus.

The Louisiana-born musician was named America’s best songwriter by TIME Magazine in 2002, but critics say her acclaim has never been matched by with as much commercial success.

Her new album Little Honey is my first real taste of the now 55-year-old, but surprisingly its tracks sound instantly familiar - but not in that irritatingly catchy pop way - it’s a warm recognition.

Rolling Stone best describes the opening track Real Love: “amid boogie-rock riffing, she alternately pledges her heart to a guy, a girl and an electric guitar”.

Williams’ voice has a sweet-raspy depth that sounds refined by age, which croons over raucous guitars and heady drums.

She brings the pace down for beautiful mellow tracks like Little Rock Star, where she questions flailing young music celebrities in the press, seemingly inspired by the likes of Amy Winehouse.

“Will you ever know happiness little rock star?  Is you death wish stronger than you are?”

The pace of Little Honey varies, from gentle ballads to suddenly roaring out of the stereo with tracks such as Honey Bee like a rock and roll tigress.

Listening to Lucinda Williams makes me want to gallop into summer wearing an attitude and a cowboy hat . . . but I think there’s only room for one lesbian cowgirl in Auckland, a role council activist Lisa Prager beat me to a long time ago (and I sure wouldn’t want to take her on in a duel).

Williams in an artist whose back catalogue I look forward to exploring further.

Lucinda Williams, Little Honey- out now, also on vinyl.

→ No CommentsTags: Music

13th November 2008

Book Review: Femmes of Power

Posted by: Kitten Power

If you sat down every queer woman in New Zealand and asked them what it means to be femme, the answers would likely be as diverse as the women being questioned.

femmes-smaller.jpgSo it is from the assorted femmes who feature in the stunning book Femmes of Power (Exploding Queer Femininities), a stunning collaboration from gender variant photographer Del LaGrace Volcano and Swedish writer Ulrika Dahl.

Featuring more than 60 intriguing characters from North America and Europe through interviews, letters, essays and photo shoots, the book asks whether femininity can be a radical expression of queerness, rather than something that can provoke exclusion.

The book features French novelist and filmmaker Virginie Despentes, writer and maker of the controversial film Baise-moi.  It pays tribute to riot grrls Michelle Tea, Bitch and Leslie Mah.  It also takes a look at Atlanta’s Femme Mafia.

But the most powerful stories in Femmes of Power come from femmes you’ve probably never heard of.  Take San Francisco performer Krista, a self described “fierce fat femme” who goes by the stage name “Kentucky Fried Woman”.  She questions the media portrayal of what a femme is supposed to be, asking:

“Where are the representations of the queers I desire?  Where are the representations of queers of colour, working-class queers, gender-queers, fat queers, queers with disabilities, older queers?”

Then there’s London’s “Dyke Marilyn” (who claims to be the love child of Marilyn Monroe and Jimi Hendrix), who points out that the LGBT community is still prejudiced by the equation of femininity with weakness.

“People who are feminine shouldn’t feel excluded due to stereotypical attributes considered to be unfeminine.”

It details femmes who are constantly asked whether they are actually straight, femmes who are told to stop being so femme in order to stop getting male attention.  Then there are femmes who like to sport facial hair - while wearing lipstick, and femmes who like to work on cars - also while wearing lipstick. 

Most touching are those who share the strength they found through simply realising they could be both femme - and queer.

For art lovers, even if it were a standalone portrait book, it would be an evocative coffee table conversation piece.

But there is so much more to be found in the stories, which are best read slowly, even one at a time, so you can savour and digest each one.

Femmes of Power would make an empowering and riotous Christmas gift for that femme in your life - however she chooses to identify with the word!

Femmes of Power - Exploding Queer Femininities RRP $59.99.  Out now.

→ 2 CommentsTags: General

24th October 2008

That Moment

Posted by: Kitten Power

I can remember the exact moment I truly realised I was gay. 

I was 22-years-old, in a booth in a dimly-lit Auckland bar, airborne on e and getting a head massage from a girl. 

In one great gulp of a moment I realised I wanted to turn around and plant a kiss right on her lips.

There had always been inklings; high school English teachers who made me want to stay behind after every class, sweaty dreams about getting muddy with my all-girl hockey team.

But it was in that one terrifying exhilarating moment, with my mind loosened by drugs and massaging hands, that I was for the first time able to accept within the core of myself that I liked women that I loved women.

Nothing ever happened with that fleeting masseuse, but her hands helped me come alive.

The series of failed relationships with every kind of man . . . the tall, the short, the hot, the balding, the sweeties, the roguish assholes . . . each attempt at a relationship became as empty as every one night stand I had ever had. There was suddenly a gulf of nothing there.

I don’t even remember having an e come down because the relief of knowing made me high.

I was a lesbian. And I was starving.

Do you remember the moment you truly realised you were gay?

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20th October 2008

The Phantom of the Hypera

Posted by: Kitten Power

The global hype that is The Phantom of the Opera is well and truly alive in Auckland. The nation’s b-listers were out in force for the opening night on Friday, as were non-lister I and my delicious girlfriend, both clad in cleavage-exposing cocktail attire (heels and all!) and feeling very femme.

It was a grand Auckland occasion. The front row was packed full of dull celebrities like Shane Cortese and Neil Waka, while Anika Moa was spotted looking as delicious as always in the foyer.

The feature that first grabs you as you enter The Civic Theatre for The Phantom is the merchandise. There is more merchandise than a Spice Girls concert. I can imagine devotees sitting at home wearing a Phantom t-shirt, blasting a Phantom CD while sipping tea from a Phantom mug and highlighting their favourite parts in the programme.

Ah but to the show . . . The Phantom began with the lovely touch of a voice over dedicating the performance to the late Rob Guest, who for many will forever be remembered for his defining performances in the role.

Taking centre stage as The Phantom this time around is Australian performer Anthony Warlow, who is reprising the character he first played in 1990. He has a stunningly dark voice and embodies the twisted opera haunter with ease, while New Zealander Ana Marina is sweet in the role of Christine. (Oh and boys - keep an eye out for the gorgeous blonde ballet dancer. You won’t be disappointed!)

But it’s the decadent props which steal the show, from the precariously swinging chandelier, the intricate candelabra of the Phantom’s dungeon, the bursts of flame and the mist-shrouded rowboat which moves just as if upon a dark lake.

However the props can only do so much and the story really just plods along, with the two most loved pieces of music, The Phantom of the Opera and Music of The Night, over and sung very early on. The story seems to lack intensity until the final heartrending scene, when Christine’s heart is tested and the poor shattered Phantom’s mask is finally lost for good.

If you love the music, go and see it. The deep, dark organ bursts will bang right into that shivery place in your stomach. But The Phantom of the Opera will be exactly what you expect, and no more.

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