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Saturday 08 April 2017

The Big Gay Out: Oh what a day! (Pt1)

Posted in: Events
By Cody Ward and Jay Bennie - 12th February 2017

On a partly overcast and very, soooo very, humid Auckland Sunday thousands of glbti people and our friends and supporters converged in Coyle Park for the annual Big Gay Out.

There's a lot goes on over seven hours of music, dancing, eating, drinking, hugging, parading and lusting. Here's part one of our impressions, in somewhat random order, of the day.

As usual the rowdy main stage, actually the only stage and officially styled the Durex Main Stage, is to the west, lazing and picnicking space in the centre, community and commercial stands to the east and food and drink stalls to the extreme east. Official start time is midday but by then there are already thousands strolling, chatting and setting up groundsheets, hampers, bubbly, pooches and sunshade devices in the most-coveted locations.

The official welcome and blessing are over quite quickly and the Ahakoa Te Aha cultural group send their powerful voices out over the park. Then the L&P Project. Followed by the very in your face Diamond Divas take to the stage. For all their brass and dazzle they are really, ahem, down to earth girls who are later found sheltering from one of the short drizzle patches repairing their cosmetic enhancements. Apparently going down a little too aggressively on a lunch-time bratwurst plays havoc with the lippy.

By contrast Chloe and the team from the Auckland Libraries' Book Bus at the far eastern, and therefore much quieter, end of the park are a picture of gentility and erudition. They're giving away some decommissioned glbti-themed books and there are more to take out inside.

They have a shady pergola and at 2pm they're going to do book readings for the kids, of whom there are heaps with their (two) mums and (two) dads all over the park. Chloe lets slip that she's not actually lesbian but she's doing her bit because most of her glbti colleagues wanted to spend most of the day socialising with their glbti friends. What a trooper.

In the middle of the park David Reeves of the Rule Foundation, named after its first benefactor, is patiently explaining to people that many glbti projects and organisations rely on the financial kindness of strangers. Sadly that's 100% true. The Rule people tactfully solicit donations and bequests, consolidate them and oversee their appropriate channeling to a broad range of glbti community projects.

This is Mia-Mae Taitimu-Stevens' first time at the Big Gay Out. She's from “up north” and came with her grandmother Kathleen, her gay neighbour Kevin and a few l&g friends. Best part of the BGO for Mia-Mae so far was “doing the condom race with my grandma.” For her the BGO means being “really excited to see an aspect of the community that I'm not part of, but that so many people I care about are, so I feel like its important for me to stand with them.”

In big no-expense spared tents and marquees, in contrast to glbti community groups' more modest affairs, the big corporates like ANZ, New World, Southern Cross Health and AUT offer vital services such as free glamour make-overs, glitter hands and other colourful must-haves. All of course with built-in photo booths and photo mirrors, as if there aren't already thousands of selfie cams, selfie sticks and selfie pouts all over the park.

Somewhere in the background Buckwheat is on the stage, her amplified voice demanding of the audience that any Big Gay Out virgins identify themselves. God knows what she's going to do to, or with, them, poor souls.

Brent, Trevor and the OUTline team are making sure folk know that in times of stress and confusion help is just a telephone call away and that face to face counseling is available too.


The Mr Gay New Zealand contestants take the stage, ten of them including a trans man. The judges are, for some reason, all Members of Parliament: Richard Hills (gay), Paula Bennett (not) and Jacinda Adern (also not). They will eventually choose NZAF staffer Charlie Tredway who, thrilled to bits, channels Miss America in his victory speech drawing attention to the need to combat stigma in all its forms. He's good-looking, rather gushy in a nice way, genuinely sincere and a very popular winner. And he's HIV-positive.

Smell of BBQ smoke and meaty treats wafts over the park, small posses of drag queens in particularly gaudy day wear promenade, some fighting a losing battle with the uncooperative weather... alternating bright sun, industrial-grade humidity and warm drizzle play merry hell with wigs and Mac Cosmetics fine products.

Rod and Jason are circulating around. Rod's partner is working on the OutLINE stand and it's his first BGO. He asked Jason, who has taken a two-year break from the event after several years of being a regular, to show him around. He's loving “the diversity, so many people from overseas, seeing how much glbti people can support each other.”

PM Bill English arrives and walks his walkabout, surrounded by an inner ring of beefy diplomatic squadders and media minders and an outer orbit including Paula Bennett, Maggie Barry, Amy Adams, Nicki Kaye, Paul Foster-Bell. It appears all straight male government MPs had prior commitments today. Mind you, Labour leader Andrew Little is a tad lonely in that respect too.

Telitira Mayall-Nahi is here to “just hang out, chill, party up... The acts have been real fun, a great pull of people.” To him the BGO means “celebrating diversity, all of us coming together.”

We'll be back tomorrow for Part two of our impressions of New Zealand's biggest annual glbti event.


Cody Ward and Jay Bennie - 12th February 2017

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