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Thursday 10 November 2016

My Life Before HLR: Craig Young

Posted in: People
By Craig Young - 24th June 2016

Michael Stevens and I are almost the same age, but living in different cities seems to have had profoundly different effects on our experience of homosexual law reform.

I had my first gay sex in 1978, courtesy of an obliging friendly but closeted gay rugby player at a Christchurch cruising ground. I knew I was gay beforehand, but didn't associate myself with the activists I saw on television. Given that I went to Middleton Grange School, the same one as disgraced former Christian Heritage Party leader Graham Capill, that didn't help my self-image significantly. For the last two years of my schooling there, until my seventh form year ended, I oscillated between stuffed shirt existence at that fundamentalist private school and sowing my wild oats.

Unlike Michael's experience, making actual contact with gay community outposts was no actual help. I reached the University of Canterbury in 1981 and finally read about lesbian feminism and gay liberation (in the United Kingdom- it had subsided in Christchurch). Then I discovered the Columbo Sauna and my life was compartmentalised for the next decade or so. I was out to my student radical associates at university, getting involved with the anti-Tour and anti-racism movements and also discovering that my grandmother's sister had died from a backstreet abortion in the thirties in 1983, upon which discovery I promptly joined the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand. I didn't frequent the commercial scene all that much- they seemed to be a bunch of misogynist uptight 'scene queens' and I couldn't be bothered with their company. It was a bizarre existence- defending the rights of women and Maori on campus during the day, then rutting at night in warmth and comfort. This continued even through homosexual law reform, and the advent of HIV/AIDS.

While it was great to see gay men finally getting out onto the streets and establishing common cause with lesbians over homosexual law reform, all of that was foreshadowed by Christian Right activism against abortion rights and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which was taken verbatim from the highly similar US anti-feminist crusade against the US Equal Rights Amendment. It was at that point I first made the connection between the role of the US Christian Right as a supplier of propaganda, tactics and strategy to its satellite movements. One of the other things that I noticed at the time was the ephemeral nature of New Zealand Christian Right antigay pressure groups- the Coalition of Concerned Citizens was one such organisation, established as a network gathering of New Zealand Christian Right pressure groups. However, after losing homosexual law reform, it rapidly fell under the influence of the neofascist New Zealand League of Rights. Some disgruntled antigay activists formed the Christian Heritage Party in 1990, but that lay in the future. In the immediate aftermath of homosexual law reform, the Christian Right in its term infiltrated 'rotten borough' weak National Party constituencies in Labour-dominated electorates, but the vehemence and tunnel vision of those militant fundamentalists led to a second term for the Lange Labour administration, and a quiet National Party main office decision to centralise candidate selection processes so as to avoid entryist tactics and the selection of unelectable candidates, which had lost them the 1987 New Zealand General Election.

I finally came completely out to my parents in 1993, shortly after the passage of the Human Rights Act, but that's a story for another day.

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Craig Young - 24th June 2016