Trying to Focus on the Positive…

June 20, 2012 in General

So GABA have got their wish and the Auckland Council is going to help fund a new Gay Pride parade!

I guess I should be really excited, but…

I can remember all the shit that went down with Hero too well, the incompetence, the embezzlement of funds that had been donated, the lies, the promises broken, the way HIV+ people were pushed to the side, and the way the last few parades turned into a succession of advertising floats that had nothing to do with Gay Pride – sigh.

And people keep talking about Hero as though it was just a parade – it wasn’t. The parade was the last major component. Hero started as a dance party that had a “stealth” public health role as a reaction to how HIV was hitting us in those days – the idea was that if you help build a strong, bonded community they will look after each other and themselves much better. A strong, happy, connected community is a healthy community.

Then Hero grew into a festival with plays, concerts, films, debates and a dedicated magazine – it became an entire festival. There were events catering for all sorts of the community – when it worked it was great. If you were there in Aotea Square that day when Helen Clark declared the Hero Festival open you’d remember the thrill of it.

But then it all turned to shit.

But I’m trying to be positive, honestly.

The plan seems to be to use it to signal the end of a two week Gay Pride festival, with the Big Gay Out being the opening event. Of course the BGO is really our day – it’s not for straights – whereas the parade will be for everyone – 90% of those watching it will be straight. Will there be a party? Can we ever have one as good as that night in the Town Hall, with Georgina Beyer rising up through the floor to sing “Somewhere” (If my memory is right, things get hazy). The accepted wisdom seems to be that we can’t get three or four thousand people to show up for a party anymore.

And is it about Gay Pride? Or are we going to call it “Queer” ? Or GLBTTIF?

I know older men who completely recoil from the term “queer” to describe them, for them it was a weapon used to humiliate and attack them. They hate it. Young hip queer activists usually show blank incomprehension when you bring this up. But older gay men and dykes are used to being ignored by the young.

I do have a fear the parade itself will be blandly vanilla, they’ll aim for something “nice” that won’t offend the straights. I hope I’m wrong on that, but I do wonder. Will they kick it off with Dykes on Bikes? Or will they go for “Monogamous Married Gay Couples Who Go To Bed at 9:30 and Raise Fox Terriers” so as not to frighten the straights.

Because don’t forget – this whole thing is being funded, at least to start with, with money from the wider straight world – and they just might have an opinion on how it should or shouldn’t be spent. Topless dykes holding hands with love may be seen as just too much !

And I think the real weakness that could show up here is that this has not come from the grassroots of the Auckland gay community. It is being imposed from the top down, partly to tick a box for the Council, saying “Look, we’re just as much fun and grown-up as other cities! Give us your Pink Dollars!”

Of course the myth of the Pink Dollar has been pretty well exploded, but I doubt that anyone in Auckland Council knows that. We’re just as rich, poor or in the middle as the rest of the population. And the work of Richard Florida saying a strong gay community helps build an strong attractive international city, part of the argument in Council for funding,  has also been shown to be wishful thinking. So the Council is hoping for some sort of major tourism return on their $100,000 investment. It might work – or not.

Why can’t we as a community raise the funds to do this ourselves? I guess because the Auckland gay community, such as it is, is a pretty fragmented beast – there is not much that unites us. I think the parade runs the risk of becoming an inauthentic piece of window-dressing instead of a real celebration of just who and what we are. But I am hoping I am wrong.

Don’t get me wrong – it is great to have some sort of public celebration of just who we are. A festival with a parade, if it’s done well, could be fantastic. Here’s hoping they can pull it off.


Trying to Focus on the Positive…


    1. Craig says:

      Oi. I belong to the two married gay men and a small animal category! Seriously, though, I think the LGBT community has become less marginalised, which means that we’re losing some of the edginess that we used to have. In some ways, that’s sad. I’d like to see leatherfolk in any parade, but we’re not all sex radicals (although I do support the right of consenting adults to do whatever they want with one another, or more than one). Added to which, transgressiveness changes over the years. Or is it that polyamory is a different sort of transgressive to leathersex?

    2. Dambo says:

      Michael, I once again find myself agreeing with you.
      I cannot shift the feeling of unease I have with this whole parade nonsense and I think it’s because of the ‘top-down’ council/MP drive… It’s not what the ‘community’ is wanting or it would have happened. The community has been able to fragment and homogenize with the straights because of the work and effort put in in years past – we’re relatively comfortable.
      On the other hand, (and without sounding unhinged and paranoid) I feel the back-swing of the pendulum,.. that there is a ground-swell of religious and otherwise bigoted intolerance building up strength and resistance – it’s becoming better informed in the ways of social manipulation and influence – this worries me greatly – and by being invisible, we’re letting it happen.
      Still not convinced a parade is the way to go though…

    3. Hamo says:

      It’s tricky. just the name ‘pride’ immediately brings to mind a bunch of preloved and preloaded ideas: parades, drag queens, dykes on bikes etc. Then the whole ‘WHO’s pride?’ debate: queer vs gay etc.

      And those debates are maybe at odds with the commercial/tourism drive behind the 2013 event.amd that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I thing it’s important that we keep talking about grassroots vs top down thing. I don’t think it’s entirely top down, there are community groups involved.

    4. reece says:

      you’re blogs are always so negative! You Seem to have a real chip and resent young people.. lighten up!

    5. phaag says:

      are they really pushing for a 2013 event?
      I don’t think it is possible to create a 2013 event in 6 months. Just applying for other funding and looking for sponsorship is going to take a while. Most organisations will have allocated their sponsor budgets already. Arts funding organisations application cut off dates (for next years funding) are fast approaching, and there is yet to be any firm announcement of anything. Shouldn’t they really be aiming at a 2014 event?

    6. djak says:

      Why think of it as Gay Xmas time. Focus on the young kids coming out. Support and celebrate with them. Focus on the oldies who have worked so hard for the community. Make it about connection and catch ups.
      Show & Shine! Happy Pride Auckland.

    7. tony says:

      I’ve been to the Sydney Mardi Gras a number of times, most recently this year, and I’ve seen it turn progressively into a shabby and predictable tired old event with each passing year. This year it resembled a corpse in too much make up. It keeps on in Sydney because it’s a big tourist draw card for straights and the tourism industry makes heaps out of it (try booking a hotel on the parade route and see how much they sting you). This is no longer the eighties. If we’re worried about a right wing political backlash then we have to get the issues out there and try and build coalitions which contront them, not hide behind a ‘naise’ event like a parade

    8. Leif says:

      Thank you for your eloquent honestly, Michael. I get what you’re saying and your perspective as a veteran of HERO. I’m praying alongside you that the right lessons will be learned and that greater New Zealand will help this to happen by giving the new Pride the support it needs.

    9. Dr George says:

      It’s interesting how as part of gay and lesbian people seeking identity and acceptance it’s almost like we’ve had to “suck up” to a variety of groups who have shown us kindness. It’s that feeling of a weird “sponsorship” arrangement that makes me think that the acronyms are just getting fucking crazy. Hasn’t the latest version got people who have a gay friend who “accidently” let them suck them off when drunk? ;)
      I jest but really what’s the point. I’m gay, and to be honest I can’t give two fucking tosses if somebody doesn’t like it.
      Licking thier ass isn’t going to make them love me more.

      Dr G

    10. Raz says:

      Shit article

Trying to Focus on the Positive…

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