Who Killed the Unicorn?

February 13, 2012 in General

Ah, the Big Gay Out has been and gone once more…

It’s the last gay remnant of HERO in our lives, and a it was a lot of fun as usual, even if the weather wasn’t that kind to us. The BGO is supposed to be the day for the whole Queer community, trans, dykes, gays, drag, bi – the whole kit and caboodle.

And it’s a symbol of how the gay world has changed – our biggest event is a picnic now, not a dance-party. It’s full of queer couples with their kids, men and women who have no interest in the scene but enjoy a day where they can hang out with thousands of queers and feel good. People bring their straight mates and family along, but it’s first and foremost our day, so they have to behave. And it’s so great to have a day when we are the ones in the majority.

Symbols matter, and the BGO symbolises us as a community, as Gay Auckland.

So for the official opening, listening to NZAF Executive Director Robinson open the event and blather on about diversity I and quite a few others had to wonder just why a straight Christian man is getting up there to welcome us to our event? What does this symbolise? Nothing personal mate, but no, this is not your moment in the sun. The last time we had a straight Christian man blather on about diversity at the BGO it was the execrable  John Banks in his desperate attempt to be mayor again. Again, symbolically, a shame Robinson chose the same buzzwords as Banks. No matter how nice and supportive (and I believe Robinson is both) he was the wrong symbol to front the day.

This is the Big GAY Out – sure, NZAF have funded it since HERO went bust, but in the past the Chair of the NZAF has been the one to open it, and that’s how it should be. Choose someone from our community if the Chair can’t be bothered, although public appearances have always been part of the role.

Of course we had politicians galore descend on us. Labour with Leader and deputy-Leader, the Greens, and the PM and Auckland Central National MP Nikki Kaye. Last year Key thought we should be happy the Nats hadn’t taken anything away from us. This year he’s promising us a new gay parade. Really? He said that last year too.

And there were crowds of people fawning over Key.

Just a reminder – the National Party has never once stood up for our interests as queers. They opposed Homosexual Law Reform in ’86, they opposed giving us equal rights un the Bill of Rights in ’93, they opposed us having our relatoinships legally recognised in the Civil Unions Act in 2005. They really don’t like us – except at election time. If the closeted National MPs had the guts to come out I’d have a bit of respect for them, but it speaks volumes about the party that they don’t.

And what has happened to Gay Pride anyway? The pic above is from the incredibly talented and out-there SF artist, Kenji de Sade.

Gay Pride used to be a political movement, but now it seems more an exercise in branding and product-placement. And if it gets in the way of product-placement, even that disappears.

Just look at Sydney - their party and parade began as a political protest for gay rights in 1978 and then went on to become  the fun of the “Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras”, but now they’ve taken out the words ”Gay and Lesbian” – what does that symbolise? A wider market? More money from advertisers? It is certainly a much safer brand – why you wouldn’t know there were any queers involved in it anywhere with a name like that…

At times various people go on about how shallow and sterile our community has become. Well no wonder, as our institutions are gradually being de-gayed. Visibility matters. We need to be seen, we need to have a presence, and we need to have some sense of our own history, of our whakapapa.

Without that, without knowing where we came from, without knowing what our symbols mean and why they’re important, we’ll fade away into inconsequentiality. And I’m not happy with that.