What was happening in March? Here’s our Poutūterangi update – all items collected in one handy page!
Veiqia returns to Fiji
Docudrama of US LGBT movement
National / multiple centres
Rights for non-biological mothers
New Equal Pay video and campaign
New takatāpui Green candidate
Lesbians, immigration and humour
Topp Twins tour
Stella Duffy to visit Auckland
Charlotte Museum collections to go online
Auckland Pride highlights
Waikato Rainbow solo parents dinner
Big year for Wellington Pride
Wellington International Women’s Day events
More than 30 events in Christchurch Pride
A new Veiqia Project exhibition inspired by historic Fijian female tattooing will open on International Women’s Day at the Fjii Museum in Suva.
The project includes five contemporary Fijian women artists – lesbian Luisa Tora and Joana Monolagi, both based in Auckland; Waikato-based Margaret Aull, Donita Hulme of Sydney and Dulcie Stewart of Brisbane – with curators Tarisi Sorovi-Vunidilo and Ema Tavola. Luisa, below right, is pictured with Dulcie; photo by Molly Rangiwai-McHale.
Together, the artists studied museum and historic records of the practice of tattooing all young women, which was discontinued during colonisation, and developed artwork in response to what they found. Their first exhibition was held in the 2016 Auckland Arts Festival and this tour is funded by Creative New Zealand.
Luisa says the team will first formally present the project and the work at Viseisei Village, a chiefly centre in the west of Fiji. Then in Suva the five artists will spend a week collaborating with one local Fijian artist each to create new work which will become part of the show.
The artists will also discuss the history and the exhibition at two girls’ secondary school, Adi Cakobau School and St Josephs’ Secondary School, where Luisa went.
The Fiji Museum will hold an open day at the exhibition on Saturday 11. “We did this when we were researching in 2015,” says Luisa. “We spoke as a panel and individually, and art school volunteers stencilled historic tattoo markings onto visitors. We had a wall of photos and findings from the projects, and a colouring corner where kids could draw tattoos on pictures of women. The museum also exhibited tattooing tools and the traditional liku, the small skirts women were given after they received the tattoo.”
“A lot of people when we originally went for the research said ‘You’ve gotta bring it back’. This was always the reason we were doing it and I can’t wait.”
The eight-hour mini-series When We Rise, about the US lesbian and gay rights movement can be streamed on TVNZ OnDemand from Saturday March 4 to 18.
The series, which finished screening in the USA on March 3, starts just after the 1969 Stonewall riots and traces the paths of LGBT activists during four decades of the movement, fighting anti-gay initiatives, the devastation of the AIDS epidemic, and for marriage equality in 2015.
Partly inspired by gay activist Cleve Jones’s memoir When we rise: My life in the movement, the mini-series was written by Dustin Lance Black, who was involved in the drama Milk about murdered activist and San Francisco city councillor Harvey Milk. One of the directors is Dee Rees, pictured above right, with Whoopi Goldberg.
It stars Mary-Louise Parker, Rachel Griffiths, Guy Pearce and Michael K. Williams with a raft of cameos, including Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O’Donell as Del Martin, left. The Hollywood Reporter says it is “muted” for mainstream audiences but a lesbian review on Autostraddle described it as “damn good”, although trying to do too much.
See a trailer for the first episode and stream the series on TVNZ On Demand, which has local interviews with the writer and two female and male actors; you can save to your Favourites before it screens and be notified when it is available. JR
National / multiple centres
Lesbians who are the non-biological mothers of a child can now be included retrospectively on their child’s birth certificate. Louisa Wall, MP (and sponsor of the marriage equality law), tells us that a recent case sets a precedent. Although the Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua had said it was impossible, a lesbian now separated from her former partner, who was the child’s biological mother, was named as a legal parent.
The change would not have been possible without the other parent’s agreement. The case paves the way for non-biological mothers who are currently not named as parents on their children’s’ birth certificates. They may have had their children before it was possible, as it is now, for non-biological mothers to be named as a parent when the births of babies conceived with a sperm or egg donor are registered.
Photo: Myra Hauschild from Get used to it! Children of gay and lesbian parents, by Pat Rosier, 1999.
The Council of Trade Union’s Treat Her Right campaign and petition is led by a new Equal Pay campaign video, She works hard for the money by Donna Summer. It points to changes since the Equal Pay Act in 1972 and the fact that women are still fighting to be recognised as worth 100%. See the campaign website and sign the petition.
Takatāpui wāhine Elizabeth Kerekere, who affiliates to Ngāti Oneone, Te Aitanga a Mahaki and Te Whānau a Kai on the east coast, has been selected as the Green Party candidate for Ikaroa-Rawhiti. This large Māori electorate runs up the east coast of the North Island from Wellington to the East Cape.
Elizabeth is a founder and co-chair of Wellington takatāpui group Tiwhanawhana and currently consulting Rainbow groups around the country for a national Rainbow strategy. She has just been awarded a PhD for a thesis about takatāpui histories and identities, which she wrote in Gisborne. Her research formed the basis of a 2015 booklet and resource about wellbeing and suicide prevention for indigenous LGBTI people.
Elizabeth says she will be campaigning “from now until the election, unlike a lot of MPs who just turn up just before the election.” She says that “most of our land is sea-level flood plains, so climate change has massive impacts on all the iwi I whakapapa to and I see the Greens as the party that takes those issues seriously. We could be a world leader on climate change, if we focused our innovation on those issues.”
Ikaroa-Rawhiti was held by Parekura Horomia from 1999 until 2013 and the sitting MP is Labour’s Meka Whaitiri. JR
The Auckland Arts Festival has just one obviously lesbian show in 2017: How To Keep An Alien premieres in Aotearoa NZ with six shows in five days from 22 to 26 March. April performances follow in Wanaka’s Festival of colour (Wednesday & Thursday, 5 & 6) and in Kerikeri’s Upsurge Festival (Sunday 9) .
Irish writer and performer Sonya Kelly has crafted a performance around circumstances that will be well-known to many lesbian readers – what are partners who come from different countries and who are travelling on different passports to do, to stay together? Read a background story/interview on the Stuff website.
Aotearoa’s most well-known yodelling lesbian twins will bring their comedy and music to smaller centres around the country in their Heading for the Hills tour over April and May.
The tour starts in Ashburton on April 1 and ends in Dannevirke on May 21, also playing at Hanmer Springs, Hokitika, Westport, Marlborough, Matakana, Dargaville, Whangarei, Kerikeri, Kaitaia, Paraparaumu and Fielding.
Between these centres the twins will tow their new ‘Stinky’, which they describe as “a wee shed on wheels complete with a potbelly stove”. Expect the unexpected, they say. See Dyke Diary or their website.
Readers and Fun Palaces (“Everyone an Artist, Everyone a Scientist”) enthusiasts have a chance to see and hear Stella Duffy (website link and Twitter link) when she is in Auckland for the Writers Festival in May.
A prolific author of a variety of novels, short stories and plays, Duffy published historical novel London Lies Beneath last year, and has a new crime novel forthcoming – The Hidden Room, described by the publisher, Virago, as “a gripping psychological suspense novel” – hopefully in time for the festival.
The Charlotte Museum trust, which runs the Auckland-based lesbian museum, discussed a raft of actions for 2017 at a February consultation, including systematically uploading images of artefacts and publications online, and recruiting two Māori board members as a step towards making the organisation more Treaty based.
The consultation also discussed the museum’s roles as a lesbian community centre and a public museum. Board members will decide on the details at its meeting on March 14 and begin implementing changes from May.
Among the proposed actions were to –
- Begin a systematic collection of current lesbian artefacts
- Organise one community event a month
- Pursue subsidised Auckland Council premises, among other options for permanent and more central accommodation
- Ensure that Māori artefacts are curated according to Māori tikanga (protocols)
- Change the title to include Lesbian Museum of Aotearoa.
Linda Gifford will also run an event planning session for the trust meeting and Siren Deluxe, Collection Manager of Preventive Conservation at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, will host a visit to the museum for trust members. See Siren’s perspective on sexuality in museums on the Opinion page.
Museum founder Miriam Saphira is organising an Activism Exhibition on Sunday 5, opening at 2pm. It features Viv Jones’ cartoons and Activism with Tee Shirts, displaying some of the collection.
To wear a t-shirt with lesbian or gay references took courage before 1993 legislation outlawed discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. T-shirts in the display also include abortion rights, women’s and lesbian rights as well as sports teams, lesbian conferences and humour. Check them out for banner and placard ideas for future marches. This is Miriam’s last event for the museum.
Funding for part-time paid workers runs out at the end of this month and the next round begins in May, so the museum depends on donations to make up the two-month shortfall. See the Charlotte Muse Facebook page; the museum welcomes volunteers; email email@example.com JR
Overall impression? – lots of fun, lots on, but not nearly as much just for lesbians and queer women as was initially discussed. Some events took place outside the central city, but not enough. We’d like to see more free events, too.
Biggest disappointment? – definitely Heroic Gardens, which appears now to have no connection with the LGBTTQI community other than the historic name.
Visit our Photos page for more detail.
I was once told by an event-organising friend that the MC overshadowing the show is one of the worst things that can happen to a performance. If this were true, the 2017 Pride Gala would have to be pronounced an utter failure – which it very much wasn’t.
The evening supplied in abundance all the ingredients of a good, gay night out. The comedians made us laugh (of particular note, Eli Matthewson’s hilarious riff on lesbian Disney princesses has forever changed the meaning of the Frozen song Never Let Go). The poets and dramatists evoked the pathos and fire of struggle (Cole Meyer’s standout prose piece was a very moving audience favourite). The dancers, singers and musicians were by turns sexy, fun, defiant, and gloriously celebratory (shout out to Impostar’s Janis Joplin).
However there is no denying that MC Georgina Beyer, above, was unequivocally the Queen of this night. Far from ruining the show with her witty, wise preeminence she ultimately managed to overcome the Gala’s greatest weakness – an audience whose energy and enthusiasm struggled to match that of the performers.
Part of the blame for the chronic audience mood swings surely lay in structural problems, with performers struggling against performance space restrictions. Ahakoa Te Aha’s rousing powhiri created a doorway clump that meant most couldn’t see and could only partially hear them, and people ended up reaching their seats with the air of Titanic passengers scrabbling into life boats. As the evening progressed, some of the quieter acts were swallowed by the stage, and even the gloriously full-voiced GALS were, for half of the audience, drowned out by their musical accompaniment.
While most of the acts were able to overcome these and other technical hitches, the attendees were less successful in the rising above department. Hot Brown Honey’s subtly political and overtly fantastic, high energy anthem Don’t Touch My Hair had people buzzing at the interval break, as did Honey member Mataharere Haami’s virtuoso beatbox solo at the beginning of the second half. But though there was much whooping for the politicised exhortation to “stand the fuck up”, few if any bums actually left their seats.
This sense of audience disengagement was, I suspect, as much about politics than practicalities or performance. The beginning of the night saw Mika, Pride Co-chair Kirsten Sibbett, left, and Georgina Beyer all evoking an ongoing need for community and unity amongst our diverse LGBTQ selves. Implicit to these calls was an underlying awareness of a paradoxical truth, that the gaining of rights and increasing mainstream acceptance has to an extent weakened the community, and sometimes our diversity transmutes into divisiveness.
More, Mika’s reminder that rights gained are not assured was the first but by no means only evocation of the dark clouds of bigotry beginning to blanket the Western world. It felt as if complexity and a whole lot of this cloud had followed the audience into the theatre, creating a wariness and uncertainty it couldn’t quite shake.
Happily, and in keeping with the festival theme of progress and movement, Georgina Beyer managed to shift everyone into a crystalline moment of audience unity and enthusiasm. Just as Impostar and GALS were about to launch into the grand finale, Georgina made a call back to a time when it was “considered undignified” to perform with ones own voice. Speaking movingly of her desire to protectively cloak LGBTQ youth even while cheering them into the future, she unplugged her mic and mightily lip-synced Whitney Houston’s anthem The greatest love of all.
It brought the audience to its feet, cellphone torches waving in the air. I’ve always had a certain ambivalence towards drag, but there was so much pure joy and pride in this performance it had me simultaneously crying and laughing by the time I joined the long, loving standing ovation.
Turns out sometimes the MC overshadowing the show is the very best thing that can happen. Barbara Bennett
SameSame But Different
A second year with a day-and-a-bit of writers, this year with the addition of Australian guest Benjamin Law, who was clever and funny.
The opening event had a good diverse panel, speaking – very generally (writers will just talk and write about what they want, never mind what you tell them to do) – about parents and grandparents. There were photos; there were funny, warm, heartening and heartbreaking stories. And a lovely (re)introduction to Paula Boock, Gina Cole (listen to her on RadioNZ last year), Courtney Sina Meredith and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku.
The Skype session with Val McDermid didn’t work nearly as well as planned, as the connection was poor: a problem at the London end, but terribly frustrating. The interview was more focused on McDermid’s writing than on ‘Why lesbians make great crime writers’ (a topic for future discussions, maybe?). And good news advised: she will be in Aotearoa NZ in 2018. In the meantime, listen to her talking on National Radio – “A life of crime” – in February. Alison
Big Gay Out
Community planning and activism resulted in a donation from the ANZ bank’s Rainbow staff network that paid for two sites at the Big Gay Out for lesbians. Shared by Lesbian News Aotearoa, the Auckland Women’s Centre, and others, having an obvious lesbian presence was clearly positive: those not interested could walk by, and those who were (“Ooh, lesbian nation!” was heard frequently) knew they would be warmly welcomed. Hopefully this can be repeated in 2018. Pictured are visitors’ ideas for lesbian community events with dots indicating agreement. Alison
Dykes on Mics
Now an occasional event, Dykes on Mics was a west Auckland feature at Falls Park. Splendid weather and the open space meant comfortable participation for the audience, considerably larger than could fit into an inside performance venue. Cissy Rock did great things for lesbians and for west Auckland.
Labrys softball tournament
Twelve teams competed in a day-long tournament at the end of Pride. They ranged from all straight (including the winners, Eden Roskill) to all lesbian (Waikato Rainbow Warriors, who sadly did not make it to the semis), with others fielding mixed teams.
The predominantly lesbian Metro team organised the event, with, as in previous years, good participation from the whole club, including the men who umpired games. If you are tempted by a fun, strategic and co-operative game, the next season starts around September. Alison
Plenty of women, though clearly not a majority, were evident in the parade. Many of the ideas for women’s groups and floats did not crystallise as hoped. The Women’s Bookshop had 25 women (almost all lesbians) reading their way down Ponsonby Road, including several local authors: Gina Cole, Julie Helean, Aorewa McLeod and Charmaine Poutney. Alison
Lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex and queer people parenting alone in the Hamilton region are invited to a shared meal and discussion on Thursday 2 about how to create support for Rainbow solo parents and families in the Hamilton region.
The gathering is organised by Single Parent Services at Link House, 2 Dawson St, Hamilton East at 6pm. Koha is welcome but not essential. Phone SPS on (07) 839 1051, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see the Facebook event page.
Wellington Pride/ Tū whakahīhī e Te Whanganui-ā-Tara, from March 3 to 19, offers a mix of new and regular events this month. Some groups with regular activities are planning something special or extra and iconic events like Out In The Park are returning.
Lesbian Radio will broadcast three extra early-evening slots focusing on Pride events, especially those of interest to lesbians. Listen in on 783 AM on Wednesday 8, 6-7pm, and Fridays 10 and 17, 5-6pm; broadcasts can be heard outside the Wellington region.
LILAC has an open day and a book celebration (both Saturday 11); the Lesbian Overlanders plan a special walk (Sunday 12), and Stitch and Butch will have an open night.
Other events of interest to lesbians include the Queer Feminist reading group (Sunday 19), the Drag King night and Naked Girls Reading – Pride Edition (both Friday 17) and the Pride Quiz (Tuesday 13) with questions read by Green lesbian MP Jan Logie, left.
The majority of events are free, and there are a several youth events including the Rainbow Tea Party (hosted by LGBTTQI MPs) on Wednesday 8, a boardgame evening, and the Youth Ball on Saturday 18. Takatāpui group Tiwhanawhana will have 2 open nights, including 1 for rangatahi (Monday 13).
Other events are designed to be widely inclusive. Te Papa, for example, has a series of free LGBTI collections tours planned. While most events are in central Wellington, there are also activities in Paekakariki, Petone and Newtown.
The Wellington Pride organising team are all volunteers. Sponsorship has come from ANZ, Wellington City Council and Rainbow Pages. Not all events were finalised at time of publication; visit the Facebook events page, Wellington Pride website, and Dyke Diary for updates. Alison
International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8 will be marked in Wellington by a breakfast on Friday 3 and a peace walk and election meeting on the day.
The breakfast focuses on ending violence against women and girls in the Pacific with speaker Tauveve O’love Jacobsen, left, Niue High Commissioner. It is organised by UNWomen Aotearoa and will be held from 7.30 to 8.45am in the TEU Meeting Room, Level 8, Education House, 178 Willis St, city. Places are limited so please RSVP to email@example.com Suggested koha is $10/$20+, fundraising for the UN Pacific Ending Violence Against Women Fund.
A peace walk on Wednesday 8, with the theme ‘Be bold for change’, will start at the Beehive at 11.45am and end at Civic Square with speeches and performances from 12.30pm. Women’s organisations will have stalls in the square. It is organised by Women Walk and Work for Peace, the Multicultural Council of Wellington and Voice Arts. A free Voice Arts performance will be held at Te Papa from 5-6pm. Email Laura Muir or see the Facebook page
Representatives from four political parties will answer questions about women’s housing, support for women leaving violent relationships, and women’s general economic wellbeing at a lunchtime meeting at Victoria University, titled An election as if women counted.
The meeting is chaired by TVNZ journalist Andrea Vance, and features Sarah Dowie (National), Tracey Martin (New Zealand First), Carmel Sepuloni (Labour) and Metiria Turei (Greens). The meeting runs from 12.30-1.30pm; see the Facebook event page for details. JR
More than 30 events, all open to everyone, are planned for Christchurch Pride from March 9 to 19.
The Pride group are organising key events (including, alphabetically, an art show, boat party, closing party, dog walks (Who let the dogs out?), FriGay drinks and Pingo (Gay Bingo Pink Health fundraiser). Other events, such as yoga and a Vege Puffs dinner, are being organised by community groups.
Separate women’s events have been run in previous years, but not in 2017: the difficulty and unpleasantness of labels and policing attendance (“no-one wants guests to be asked ‘are you a woman’”, says chair Jill Stevens) and the intent to be inclusive and supportive of all in the Rainbow community has driven the change. Toilet facilities at all events will be non-gendered.
Many events are free and there are youth-focused events. Many are also family-friendly, welcoming children.
Christchurch Pride has support from the NZAF, ENDING HIV campaign and other sponsorship and through corporate sources. If you have any suggestions or offer to make for support (financial or in kind), or of an event to add to the programme, get in touch asap through the website or Facebook Messenger. See Christchurch Pride’s Facebook events page and on their website.
May 28 1942 – January 10 2017
Following Heather’s funeral in Hamilton in January, two further tributes are planned in Auckland and one in Christchurch. A memorial for Heather will be held from 2-4.30pm on Sunday February 19 at Earthsong Eco-neighbourhood. Please BYO drinks and finger food, as well as poems and memories for a sharing circle.
Earthsong, 457 Swanson Rd, Ranui, is next to the Fresh Choice Supermarket on the right going towards Swanson, 10 minutes’ walk from the Ranui railway station. Visitors are asked to park on the road if arriving by car; only disability parking is available inside. Phone Chris on 09 832 0630 or Rosemary on 09 833 6444.
And at the aLBa meeting on Wednesday February 8, Fran Marno and Aorewa McLeod will say a few words and read a poem of Heather’s in tribute to her, before Carole Beu’s interview with Alison Mau. See Dyke Diary.
HEATHER grew up in Tauranga and studied teaching at Ardmore Teachers College in Auckland. She always loved words, winning the senior prose prize at her secondary school, and becoming a poet and supporting herself with editing and proofreading.
She raised her son Carrick in Christchurch as a single mother and later as an out lesbian. In the 1960s, she had a few poems published in literary journals, where she noted that women made up one out of five published writers. In 1973 when Carrick was two, the experience of listening to 20 “indistinguishable” men in a Young Poets session led her to found the Christchurch Women Artists Group (WAG). As well as supporting each other, Heather aimed for a women’s art centre and a women’s literary magazine.
WAG members produced the ground-breaking 1977 United Women’s Convention Art exhibition, meeting and performance space at the Canterbury Society of Arts, probably inspired by Judy Chicago’s 1972 Womanhouse. WAG member Joanna Paul organised the 1977 exhibition A Season’s Diaries, which included Heather and other WAG members and toured to Wellington and Hamilton.
In 1976 Heather edited the first edition of Spiral, a women’s arts magazine, “partly because I didn’t know how to work with a collective; later we managed more job and responsibility sharing”. Heather was involved in issues 2, 3, 4 and 7; printing for early issues was funded by women’s dances. As part of the women’s art movement aim of democratising creativity, after four issues Spiral became a floating publishing imprint, with issues and other publications produced by collectives of women in different locations. In 1982, another Spiral collective published Heather’s first book of poetry, A figurehead, a face, the first by an out lesbian in New Zealand.
Heather was also a founding member of the Christchurch Incest Survivor’s Group in 1979, which was an early contributor to the movement acting on violence against women. The group presented a statement about the impacts, healing and prevention of sexual abuse at a 1983 National Symposium on the prevention of Child Abuse.
As well, Heather was a member of the group which founded the Women’s Gallery, which ran from 1980-84 in Wellington. Heather had earlier written that art “has to arise from a specific focus, and the unmentionables, whether child-care or menstruation, being part of our lives should be part of our art”.
In 1980 Heather left Spiral to move closer to her North Island family and write more, but “reluctantly” co-ordinated the gallery’s pioneering Women & Violence exhibition “as nobody else volunteered”.
Spiral also represented New Zealand women writers at three international feminist book fairs. In 1986, Heather travelled to the second International Feminist Book Fair in Oslo with Arapera Blank, Irihapeti Ramsden, Jacquie Sturm, Patricia Grace, Stephanie Baxter and Marian Evans.
“How did we do it,” Heather wrote about the women’s arts movement; “enthusiastically, messily, eagerly. We were changing our worlds.” Heather later lived in Auckland and Hamilton.
As well as publishing poetry in many journals and magazines, Heather produced three further books of poetry – The third myth in 1986, Other world relations in 1991 and Travel and other compulsions in 2004. Some of her books are pictured left in a memorial display at the Grey Lynn Library. She also reviewed art and literature, including for the Tāmaki Makaurau Lesbian Newsletter, the print ancestor of LNA, and wrote prose essays on women’s art, rape, smoking and lesbian history.
She remained an activist, devoted mother and grandmother, and beloved friend of many, writing hundreds of unpublished poems for lovers, friends and family. A collection of her garden poems, tentatively titled This joyous, chaotic place will be published posthumously. Editor Janet Charman says the poems itemise “nature’s sensational pleasures and the generosity of human interactions”.
Heather’s health deteriorated with cancer in her last months, but Janet says “whenever I visited, her sharp intelligence and her political astuteness were undiminished. These attributes were tempered in these late poems, to reveal the woman deeply loving of her family; secure in her lesbian identity; unbowed by fortune; and keyed towards fearless engagement with whatever life and the world, might show her.”
Compiled by Jenny Rankine from writing by Marian Evans, Janet Charman and Heather.
LNA was keen to hear more about Sonya Apa Temata after brief contact over her candidacy for the Auckland District Health Board in the 2016 local body elections. She shared the story of her life with Jenny Rankine, starting with the origins of her name and her whakapapa.
“The name I was given is Sonya Christine Temata, but my friends and family all call me Apa. I kept my first and last name out of respect for my mother; she named me after her best friend and Sonya means ‘wise old woman’. I did consider changing my surname because it was my father’s, but I realised that Temata holds its own mana and connections to my Tahitian fanau. The name Apa was given to me by Papa Kata, one of our metua (elders) and rangatira of our ui ariki (nobles) of Akapuao in Titikaveka, a village in Rarotonga. He named me after my grandfather Tapeka Apa who was a renowned boxer and a respected metua in the Cook Islands and Aotearoa.”
“On my mother’s side we have three island groups – the three islands of Ngaputoru as well as Mangaia and Rarotonga. My father’s side is from Rarotonga and my grandfather is from Rūrutu Island in the north of Tahiti.” Her Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Kahungungu links are “from my great-grandfather Paora Parau, on my father’s side. He was an ariki on Rurutu who was brought over by Governor Grey during the Māori land wars, to be a negotiator between Te Kooti and the British. Grey took a lot of our iti tangata (people) particularly our tāne (men) from Hawai’i, Tahiti and the Cook Islands because their language and culture was very similar. He married a high-born Ngāti Kahungungu woman from Wairoa and is buried in Lower Hutt.”
Sonya’s mother and her parents migrated from the Cook Islands in the 1950s, and she was born and raised in Auckland. “We lived in Grey Lynn, where the Polynesian Panthers started. It was the kind of environment where you could walk next door and have rellies; it didn’t matter if you were PI, Māori or Pākehā, we were just one big family.”
“When I was growing up, I didn’t know my family connections; we knew we were from the Cook Islands, and had rellies in different parts of Auckland and across Aotearoa, but I felt there was a huge gap with our connections to our motherland. I grew up knowing and learning te reo Māori, tikanga and kapa haka as a child but didn’t know any of my own Cook Islands te reo, language and culture.”
“Mum said that when she came here, she was told not to speak our language but to learn the pa’paa (European) way. So we weren’t taught at home; she spoke our language to our elders but never to us kids. It took me years to understand our language and culture and by then I realised that our language is dying.”
“So many of my generation and the next had no idea of our own te reo, tikanga and customs. In our ipukarea (homeland) we have many dialects from the 15 islands and learning them can be very challenging.”
“I come from a line of vaine/wāhine toa. My great-grandmother was seen as a taonga; she was a midwife, a medicine woman and healer in her village in Mangaia and Rarotonga, and she also sewed many of our family’s traditional tivaevae (quilted blankets). My mum’s mum was the eldest of nine kids – she was the family head and matriarch, a hard worker known for her traditional sewing and crochet. My mother also is the matriarch of our wider family, respected for her volunteer work with women’s refuges. She was a mum to many young kids.”
“We often had cousins and friends stay with us because they were in trouble with the law, running away from home, or their parents could not deal with them; mum would intervene and support them. I have five brothers, I am second to youngest and the only girl, but I’m the head, I made the calls. My mother passed that to me years ago when she was diagnosed with cancer and after our brother committed suicide”.
Sonya was born into a violent environment. “When I was born I was covered from neck to legs in bruises from the beating my mum received prior to giving birth to me. My mum wanted to get her tubes tied then but couldn’t because her husband had to give consent. My mum and great-grandmother massaged me with special oil and over the years the bruises disappeared, but every now and then those scars are visible”.
[Sonya with her mum in 2011.] “When our last brother was born, mum finally had the courage and strength to fight back. She disclosed all the violence, rapes and abuse through every pregnancy to the same doctor who delivered me, and said she couldn’t bear to go through another pregnancy like that. So the doctor tied her tubes.”
“It was very difficult for women living with violent partners in the 70s and early 80s. Mum didn’t receive any official help, she had some support from family and friends. To us kids, seeing some of our male relatives beat their partners was normal and very frightening, especially the fights. I used to hide under the bed or in the wardrobe.”
“I hated my mum when I was growing up because of the violence and drinking. There were parties most weekends. I was always wary and on edge, wondering who was going to walk through the door, going to different relatives’ places, waiting in the car for them to come out of a party.”
Sonya and her brothers experienced violence and sexual abuse. “I found out years later that many of my girl cousins and aunties had similar stories. One of my cousins who lived with us for many years, much older than me – she was suicidal, self-harming and cutting herself from the sexual abuse and rape. So many sad stories; speaking about it brings up my rage and so much pain.” Despite this, Sonya believes it is important not to keep silent about family abuse and violence.
Sonya left school at 15 and studied plumbing and gas-fitting at Unitec: “I was the first girl. I worked in that area for a year, but didn’t get an apprenticeship. No one would hire a girl, especially a Māori/Pacific 16-year-old. Then I got into a sheet metal engineering company, rigging and welding; I worked in that area for six years. I was the first woman there too; I loved working with my hands, on construction sites – I was determined to develop those skills.”
“It was an all-male environment, I was the youngest and the only woman. Derogatory pictures of women, naked and in explicit poses, were plastered all over the walls and ceilings. I often got sexually harassed, as well as discriminated against as female, Pacific and Māori. Some of the men were okay about me being a lesbian, but most got off on it; they’d ask if they could watch me and my girlfriend having sex, and make other sexual digs.”
“Some of the younger boys had a problem working with me, especially when I had to tell them what to do.” Sonya often had to co-ordinate small groups for urgent jobs, interpreting plans to fabricate ventilation ducts and frameworks from flat sheets of metal. “One day one guy decided he wouldn’t work with me, even though the supervisor has asked us for all hands on deck. He told me to ‘fuck off bitch, I don’t listen to any woman’. He repeated it, almost spitting in my face: ‘you heard me, bitch’.”
“I punched him in the face and we rolled around on the concrete amongst bits of metal and pink batts with me throwing punch after punch at him. I tackled him into the metal ducting and caught my eye on a corner. It took two other men to separate us and calm me down. The receptionist, the only other female, tidied me up and said: ‘You go back down there and show those guys you’re not going home to cry’.”
“The boss said: ‘Bloody good on you, but you should have let him touch you first because then I could have fired his sorry ass.’ He gave me big hug and said, ‘Don’t ever stop being you’.
“We grew up around transsexuals and transvestites; my mum’s generation called them trannies and tomboys. When some of our transsexual aunties came home, we just naturally gravitated towards them. It was confusing for us kids, we didn’t know what to call them. Our Uncle Ben was dressed as a woman, so I remember asking, ‘Mum, what do we call Uncle Ben?’ She replied, ‘Aunty Uncle Ben’. Aunty Ben shook her head in disbelief, said something to mum in te reo and both of them laughed. These days we use traditional terms like aka’vaine and takatāpui.”
[Sonya’s older, openly gay brother and her mum, with Sonya on the right, in 1998.] “My family also had many lesbian and gay aunties and uncles. They weren’t openly gay, but some of my aunties used to have short hair and wear men’s clothes. Some uncles behaved very femininely, and often would dress as women at family functions and it was accepted. However, any sexual behavior was tapu or hidden and not discussed.”
“I have two aunts who were openly gay for many years, in relationships; they were aka tutu tāne, a Māori term for a butch woman. They’re called tomboys back home; they don’t use the term lesbian – it often comes across too harsh.”
“I knew I was different from a very young age; I kissed girls in primary school and never had boyfriends.” Sonya found a community of women amongst the sports scene; “touch, rugby union and softball had lots of gay and butch women – that was my first exposure to the lesbian scene. I was 15 when I first started league, and still at school. I didn’t feel like a student – I felt much older than my school friends. They said, ‘Wow, you’ve changed, you look different’. I left school between 15 and 16.”
“Our league team used to be called the lesbian team and accused of converting new women into lesbians; almost half the players were butch. You could see the distaste and hear the comments from some opposition teams, especially after the game.” Sonya formed lasting relationships in rugby league, playing for many years. “They were my aunties, my whaea, sisters-in-arms. But it was also a heavy drinking environment; often there’d be fights on and off the field and at the after-parties. But the atmosphere was also aroha, support and whānau. I loved it; it what I had been missing for many years, a sense of belonging.”
Sonya’s 16th year was tumultuous, including meeting the woman with whom she would have her first relationship. “We instantly clicked. I told her about my life and the violence I experienced and she disclosed her own trauma and violence. From there, we became best friends, and then it became much more. I was fascinated with her, she was this masculine, androgynous, older Pākehā and Māori wāhine from Tuwharetoa.”
“I came out that year. I didn’t tell my mum – she just knew. When she asked that question, and I said, ‘Yes, she is and I love her’, mum got so angry and wept. I don’t think coming out to your mum drunk is a good idea, but she calmed down and we talked.”
“As a mother, she wanted the best for her children, but her only daughter was expected to get married and have kids, which was a lot of bullshit to me. Two of my other brothers came out afterwards and my youngest brother much later. Mum has always been our biggest support; she says, ‘I will always love you all, no matter what you are’.”
“If she heard one of our very strict, traditional and Christian relatives talking about her gay kids, she’d say, ‘If you have something to say about my children, you say it to my face’. And she would go off her nut – she didn’t hold back telling anyone off, even her elders.”
“It was a slow coming out; I didn’t hold my girlfriend’s hand or show any affection in public, certainly not in front of my family. Our family knew we were gay, but never talked about it. Our cousins of the same generation saw us as the tuākana (senior) gay cousins. Lots of other cousins came out after us.” Sonya is pictured with her gay akavaine brother at Auckland City Mission.
Sonya’s girlfriend introduced her to a lesbian scene outside of sport. “She exposed me to things that I don’t think many 16-year-olds get to see, especially getting into gay clubs at that age. I started going to the Rising Sun, the Staircase, where Buckwheat and Bertha were glamorous legends, and the lesbian clubs on Karangahape Rd. There were butch women DJs like DJ Dino at the Bass Bar, which attracted a mixed gay and straight scene. There was also the lipstick lesbian scene where I often went as a young butch dyke. I was fascinated by the whole scene, this is where my fascination with being a butch lesbian started.”
Sonya is pictured with others from Hui Takatāpui, 2016. “I formed many close friendships with older woman; most of the woman I socialised with were over twenty, thirties and above. I never hung out with people my own age. I was one of those lesbians who sat in the corner observing the crowd, only sometimes socialising.”
“I was always acted masculine in most ways, but I had crushes on butch women and tom boys over the years, so never thought I would be attracted to feminine woman later on. I describe myself as tomboi or wahine mo nga wāhine (woman-loving woman).”
Sonya was raped when she was 16. “I got back to a friend’s place and scrubbed myself, the smell lingered on me for a long time; even now I remember it. I was quite sick but I didn’t tell anyone, just my girlfriend – she was the only one I trusted. I left it alone and buried it for a long time.”
Sonya’s girlfriend went through cycles of being sober and relapsing into drug and alcohol use during their relationship. “I guess with her stuff coming up, I never really actually got to understand my own trauma until much later.” During that relationship, Sonya “dressed feminine, I had long hair. After six years, when that relationship broke up, I started slowly changing towards butch. I wasn’t comfortable with long hair, getting hit on by men – I didn’t want that attention. After all the sexual harassment and abuse, dressing butch and portraying a more masculine look was more comfortable. But I was in between for years”.
After that break-up in her early 20s, Sonya became deeply depressed and suicidal and tried to commit suicide numerous times, “I was in a very deep dark place at the time.”
Moving into nursing
Sonya started working in rest homes part-time while she was still in engineering, first as a tea girl, then cleaner, then caregiver. When she left engineering, she worked “two to three jobs” in a private hospice. In 2001 she worked at Auckland Hospital as a healthcare assistant with the district nursing service, as well as caregiving, when she met an inspiring woman who was a major influence in her life. Gwyneth Trigg and her partner Lily Rose were both “influential lesbians, senior nurse leaders, staunch feminists and animal rights activists. They inspired me to become a nurse and supported me through my early days as a student nurse.”
[Sonya, back right, her cousin Mary, centre, and other members of the NZ Nurses Association Pacific Nurses section.] “They lived on Waiheke Island where I immersed myself into a new, very empowering group of older wāhine toa. These activists, poets, writers, feminists, separatists, vegans, vegetarians and hippies opened up my world view to new ways of being. We had many intelligent and stimulating conversations around the fire, playing music and singing, sharing kai and knowledge. The stories were rich, full of life, and also sad; I disclosed my own story to many of them who had also shed the same trauma and pain in their lives, finding solace with each other. These ‘wild women’ of Waiheke fuelled a fire in me.”
“Communal living, women’s space, the sacredness of the connections with each other – it made sense with our whenua and moana, nurturing not just ourselves but our mother earth. They taught me how to love myself, heal and survive, as well as how to grow and make things, and to cook with love. The mana and wairua made Waiheke such a special place for me. I have met and loved many wāhine toa from different backgrounds and professions who have been influential and inspiring; I feel privileged to have crossed paths with such strong mana wāhine”.
In 2004 Sonya started studying for a nursing degree, while working as a nurse aid and part-time at the Auckland City Mission, from 2006 till 2011. She helped staff the drop-in centre for homeless people and supported people with alcohol and other drug problems. “The City Mission opened my eyes to poverty, homelessness, and poor services across different sectors. Streeties are such a diverse mix of people from all different backgrounds and journeys in life. When I’ve been away, I always come back to the City Mission, so now they keep me on as casual drop-in crisis worker, every Christmas and other times.”
Sonya gained her nursing registration in 2007 and graduated in 2008, the first in her family to get a degree. “I love nursing, working with people and hearing their stories; it instills hope, strength and courage,” she says. Sonya worked in Auckland Hospital’s cardio-thoracic surgical unit on open heart/lung surgeries and, nursing people living with chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney and heart failure.
[Sonya with a colleague in the cardiothoracic unit, 2014.] The next few years were another rollercoaster. “In 2008 my grandfather passed away and my mum was diagnosed with cervical cancer.” Sonya took time off while her mother received treatment. She started going to a trauma counsellor about her childhood sexual abuse. “I was doing well with the sessions until my brother committed suicide in 2010. I felt my own trauma from sexual violence, rape and attempted suicide well up in one hit, and felt exposed and vulnerable.”
“I remember being at home waiting for a response from the police, with my mother was wailing in the kitchen. I was still numb and in shock, and she shouted ‘Why, why my son?’ again and again. I yelled back; ‘Why do you think mum, don’t you think I and my brothers haven’t tried as well?’ This was the first time I’d spoken to her about my attempted suicide and those of my brothers. She sat stunned with her head down, crying.”
“My relationships with my then girlfriend, my mum and brothers suffered. I found myself back in that dark place again, not suicidal but drinking myself to forgetfulness. I was violent when I was drunk, going to clubs to pick fights. I was dysfunctional, volatile and uncontrollable and I had to give up my postgraduate study.
“I cried myself to sleep and most days went to work numb or just not all mentally at all. A few months after my brother’s death, I went back to the Cook Islands to heal and to recover. The grieving never ends and I returned the following year. I was trying to connect with our whenua back home, our whakapapa and history. I didn’t want my nieces and nephews not knowing who we are and where we’ve come from”.
In 2011, Sonya went to live in Sydney and moved to Alice Springs for contract work in 2012. “A lot of my dreams are premonitions; some random dreams are about where I might be. In one of my dreams I was walking the red earth, but at the time I didn’t know where that was. Three years later I found myself doing it.”
Her contract was in the Emergency Department and paediatrics at Alice Springs hospital, but she also worked part-time with Aboriginal women and children escaping violence and abuse at the Alice Springs Women’s Shelter. “My calling was always to work with indigenous Australians, and I found that through working in the shelter. I saw so much pain and suffering, the oppression, the trauma and violence, the scars and impacts of colonization on our indigenous brothers and sisters. And I experienced fun, laughter and great friends from different cultures and backgrounds. They encouraged me to go back to my own heritage and advocate more for Māori and Pacific communities.”
After working a couple years in Australia, Sonya returned to the cardio-thoracic surgical unit, where she saw an increase in Māori and Pacific admissions for heart surgery and chronic heart conditions, and a widening gap in services for Māori and Pacific people.
She also went through restructuring, cuts in services, worsening working conditions get worse, “a lot of pressure to meet the demand for services with fewer staff. I was working the floor, and I was also on the Pacific Clinical Nursing Advisory Leadership group.” She became more active in the Cook Island Health Network Association and in 2015 the secretary for the Cook Islands Nurses Association Aotearoa (CINAA).
From 2013 to 2015 she also worked as a general district nurse, visiting people at home. From 2014 she also worked in the regional sexual health service, providing sexual health screening and testing, contraception, services for takatāpui, LGBTI+ and Rainbow Pasifika, immunisation and vaccination.
“I’ve always been passionate about services for Rainbow, Māori and Pacific communities and learning about different areas of health.” She’s pictured at a Body Positive HIV seminar in 2016. “There were no Māori nurses and only one other Pacific nurse in sexual health – I’ve always been a minority in all the services I’ve worked in. But Pacific use of some services is high, with lots of barriers. A lot of Māori and Pacific people have had really negative experiences with health services.”
“So I’m very passionate about developing our health workforce. The current Pacific workforce is about two percent, compared to ADHB’s Pacific population of over 11 percent. It helps for Pacific and Māori patients and clients to identify one of their own in services. Sometimes it takes the right person to say the right thing at the right time. I have presented cultural safety and competency within ADHB and in the community – it’s about treating others with respect, empathy and compassion.”
“I want to bridge the gap between Westernised, Pacific and Māori perspectives. Positive change usually starts with oneself and empowering others to also do the same, often with the most marginalised populations, not just homeless people, those experiencing institutional racism, oppression and discrimination. My vision has always been to turn that around, to educate and empower service users and health professionals.”
Nursing and Pacific peoples
“My cousin Mary Kata and I (left) re-established CINAA (Cook Islands Nurses Association Aotearoa), working with our own nurses, our communities and other Pacific and Māori nursing associations to establish and strengthen connections. We see our Cook Islands community affected by increasing health inequities; we identify young leaders, help our workforce grow sustainably, maintain relationships with community groups and government officials.”
Sonya and other nurses from the Cook Islands Health Network Association and CINAA (below) attended the 18th Cook Islands Health Conference in Rarotonga in July, where she talked about a Pacific perspective on sexual health and sexuality, as well as attending the South Pacific Nurses Forum in the Solomon Islands.
Sonya has just finished a contract under Auckland DHB as a Pacific Health Resource Nurse in for people with chronic health conditions, which includes a project to make diabetes services more welcoming for Pacific peoples. As usual, she is juggling jobs, with a new position with the Centre for Youth Health in Counties Manukau DHB and after-hours work for the adult sexual assault service.
Her mum’s cancer has returned: “Mum is the strongest woman I’ve ever known. She’s still living independently and we’ve built lots of support around us.”
Sonya has been a member of Pasefika Pride, above, co-ordinating the Pasifika Pride float for the last three years with other takatāpui leaders, and been on the committee of the NZ AIDS Foundation’s Pasifika Love Life Fono.
She says it has only been in the last five years “that I’ve been comfortable presenting as butch”, but she also describes herself as having both masculine and feminine characteristics. “My masculine is the right side, it’s my stronger side, it keeps me alert and centred. My left side is my feminine side, I embrace it – I wouldn’t change it. It’s important to identify both sides.”
“My tatau reflect that; it honours where I’ve worked and what I’ve done. I hold my mana and wear it on the outside. My left arm is whakapapa, and my right side is some of the work I’ve done, and places I’m connected with, especially to many of our indigenous communities”.
We welcome your suggestions of websites, books, films and any other media of interest to lesbians and queer women.
Queer visual artist Rebecca Swan’s exhibition from March 10 at Silo Park in downtown Auckland combines science and art, including photography, video, smoke and bubbles and an original soundtrack. In The Exquisite Wound Rebecca uses dead animals to explore how we relate to our wounded physical bodies, and to ask what we are without them. Rebecca’s image is a detail of All Hearts are Sacred. JR
Rebecca worked with engineer Peter Swan, light artist Peter Stoneham, scientist David Shillington and composer Charlie Ha, who designed the sound for the reverberating qualities of the Silo gallery. The exhibition won the S+ART 2016 award for an art and science collaboration.
Rebecca will talk about the artworks on Sunday 26 at 2pm, and the group will discuss the collaboration on Sunday March 12 at 2pm. The exhibition is open from 6pm to midnight on White Night, Saturday 18. Opening 5-9pm, Friday 10 March. The gallery is open in the afternoons and the exhibition runs to March 26.
The London Klezmer Quartet made their first – they have promised not last – visit to Aotearoa NZ in January and February. LKQ founding couple Susi Evans, clarinetist (left) and violinist Ilana Cravitz, are pictured bracketed by Alison and Ruth after the Auckland concert.
Klezmer music has eastern European Jewish origins. It is both soulful and celebratory, and they demonstrated a powerfully engaging and moving mix of both. Listen to them talking with Kim Hill (RadioNZ, Saturday 28 January – 35 minutes).
‘Reasons to read …’ is an occasional series focused on a lesbian writer (generally) born in the month of publication.
Desert was Jane’s first published novel, and while there may be mixed views about how well or easily it can be read 50+ years later, it’s definitely worth a go. It doesn’t matter whether you read it years ago, read it again.
My second favourite of her fiction is Memory Board (1987): a powerfully imagined and told story of an older couple, where one is losing her memory, and her present-day, to dementia. It’s a relatively easy read, engaging but not particularly challenging, I think, until you think about the story carefully, and re-read it. It’s a sad story in many ways, of course, but there is also humour. And hope.
And if you want short stories, or non-fiction (about lesbian writers), or are interested in autobiographical writing, Jane offers you all this.
Talk to a bookshop about what is still in print, or visit your library (links for LILAC below) and get her books circulating!
Kia kaha Jane Rule, 28 March 1931 – 27 November 2007
Hear Jane speak: NPR radio interview from 1988, 7½ minutes
LILAC search results
LILAC, Wellington’s lesbian library (and you don’t have to live in Wellington to support or use the library)
Review of Taking my life (published posthumously), by Katherine V Forest*
*Katherine V Forest will feature in a ‘Reasons to read …’ once we work out what month she was born in
Jane Rule quotes from Brainy Quote and Quotir
Historica Canada entry
Encyclopædia Britannica entry
Daily Xtra obituary
“Jane Rule wins Order Of Canada Great lesbian novelist gets recognition”, Daily Xtra
Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian’s reviews, of Memory Board, Desert of the Heart, Taking my life
Sexuality and museums
Siren Deluxe has worked as an artist, picture framer, technician and collection manager. As a student she briefly worked on the Carmen Rupe acquisition at Te Papa Tongarewa and catalogued at the Lesbian and Gay Archives New Zealand (LAGANZ) in Wellington. She is currently Collection Manager, Preventive Conservation at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. She stresses that she is not a curator – she looks after objects in the museum collections rather than choosing them.
Siren has studied the way in which museums display sexuality and sex, and agrees with Jennifer Tyburczy that “all museums are sex museums” but that most represent dominant norms, and implicitly or overtly police sexuality and taboo topics. Tyburczy argues in her book Sex museums that most museum displays assume that the sexual life of their visitors is represented by White patriarchal heterosexuality. This is supported by the tiny number of digitised items in the Auckland Museum’s collections identified by a website search for the word ‘lesbian’. Siren spoke with Jenny Rankine.
Siren’s interest in sexuality and museums led her to a placement at the Museum of Sex (MoSEX) in New York in 2009. “They cover everything, with a focus on sex in films and media, and sex and technology. They have a theory that as soon as a technology is invented it’s turned to sexual gratification.”
“They’ve got vibrators and real dolls – incredibly lifelike, like mannequins made of latex. They cover the evolution of sex in films, from black and white movies with the metaphor of trains roaring through tunnels; the genre of nudist films as a semi-legitimate way of looking at boobs; and the first televised inter-racial kiss in the USA on Star Trek.”
“They screen the first gay kisses, the first gay sex scenes, lesbian porn, gay porn, celebrity porn, and a fascinating film of women’s faces as they orgasmed. You can’t help but wonder how much the women are performing so they have a pretty orgasm,” she comments.
“Sex museums raise some very interesting questions. MoSEX has quite a high entrance fee, so people expect entertainment. It was titillating, not purely academic; one gallery might have sex education material, while another might feature high fetish gear, such as gimp masks” (full-face sensory deprivation masks, with a zip over the mouth). Pictured is the bouncy castle of breasts in MoSEX’s Funland exhibition.
Siren returned from Mosex hoping to run a sex museum in New Zealand, but realised how difficult it would be and how much it would take to run.
Unearthing sexuality in museum collections
“In a traditional museum structure sexuality comes under social or human history. I am very interested in how museums and their social history collections are preserving stories and choosing objects relating to sex, sexuality and gender identity. I see this area as a necessary area of growth in museums if they are to be relevant and connected. Contemporary museums are not sedentary and they can’t afford to be complacent. They must be agile, progressive and dynamic to remain relevant.”
Objects relating to sexuality are often buried and waiting for someone to uncover and tell their stories, she says. She gives some examples from the Auckland Museum’s collection.
“We have a beautiful ivory naked lady, who fits in two hands – she’s languidly lying on her side, wearing shoes and a necklace, and sits on a little wooden table. From a Western perspective she looks like a reclining Venus who is displaying her body for someone to look at.”
“But the statue is called pointer or a doctor’s lady; she would have been on the table of a Chinese medicine practitioner. Extremely modest female patients would indicate where on her body they were feeling discomfort, because it was taboo for them to indicate their own body. So Western people might think this object is about sexuality, but within its own culture it’s not. It tells lots of stories.”
Auckland Museum “also has a belt from my grandmother’s era that women used to attach menstrual pads, so a story about sexuality can be told there. And the applied arts collection has a dress specifically made for a fa’afafine”.
“I often think of Ettie Rout; her story has never been properly told in a museum context. I think she deserves a whole cabinet in a war memorial museum as she has an amazing war story. I suspect she was a lesbian – she was an amazingly creative woman.” Siren also sees Freda Stark’s life, which featured briefly at the Auckland Museum some time ago, as “another great story”.
She also gives examples from Te Papa, which has “a photographic montage from the Evergreen Café that used to be on Vivian St, Wellington, which was a safe place for gay men, run by a transgender woman who was Carmen Rupe’s contemporary. They’re trying to furnish it with lots of stories and personalities. They also have the Margaret Sparrow collection, which tells the history of birth control in New Zealand. So there’s lots of examples of sex in museums, but not enough.”
Representing lesbian history
Siren likes to ponder how museums can represent the heritage of lesbian communities with three-dimensional objects. “It’s really easy to lapse into collecting spectacular things like Pride Parade costumes, although I think we should, but ‘collecting the ordinary’ is a phrase we use a lot.”
“We have lots of white wedding dresses through the ages, which is an iconic heterosexual thing. We should have something representing the first lesbian and gay couples who had a civil union in New Zealand, and the same-sex weddings. I don’t know what they wore, and I doubt whether they would want to donate it to a museum, but what about the cake and the figures? That would be something that isn’t financially valuable or spectacular, but is imbued with meaning.”
She discusses the purple and pink painted stones I have, offered to all the people who came to my friends’ civil union years ago; “if that and the rings and the photo and an invitation was in the collection, that set of objects could tell a story. We’ve got to think about how in 200 years no one would know the significance of the colour purple on a stone.”
Sexuality in community museums
She would like to see sexuality represented in small community organisations like the Charlotte Museum, as well as collected and displayed by big museums. “There’s potentially a lot of freedom and agility in independent museums,” she says, giving the example of Mona in Tasmania, which was set up by eccentric millionaire David Walsh and focuses on issues of sex and death.
“He can do outrageous things that could never be done in a government-funded museum. Mona is award-winning, irreverent, and has a lot of people aghast. It has a famous artwork called Cloaca; they feed it twice a day, it digests in the gallery making terrible noises, and produces a poo.”
Siren describes the Charlotte Museum as having “a national treasure collection” (including the statue, left). “Often amazing collections come into big institutions from personal collectors who stuck to a vision to save heritage that was on the brink of being lost, and I see the Charlotte Museum as doing that. Every small community needs a champion to save it.”
Siren has visited other museums about aspects of sexuality, like the Musee de l’Erotisme (Museum of Erotica) is Paris, and a couple of sex museums in Amsterdam, which “were more like curiosity shops than museums”. There are many others, like the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago, a male-dominated collection that has a Women’s Leather History Program.
She sees the online museum as a possible “powerful path for the Charlotte Museum. It would involve digitising every object in the collection and being smart about key words and the design so it’s easy to search.”
Working for change
She’s very conscious that “museums were largely founded by academic white men who travelled the world collecting curiosities”, and that museums about technology are often male-oriented.
“But now the sector is dominated by women and I believe it’s progressive in its thinking,” she says. “It’s ripe with opportunities. The key is to have curators who are passionate about sexual history, or more lesbians in the GLAM sector.” GLAM stands for galleries, libraries, archives and museums; “it’s an acronym made for the queer community” Siren says.
Siren describes the museum sector as “a very satisfying industry to be part of”, and herself as “proud to be part of a place that is loved by Aucklanders, and is iconic to the city.” She also prefers to “effect change from the inside.”
Siren believes that she and others who have a similar vision have “a responsibility to petition for change within the industry and encourage a liberal and progressive approach to collecting.”
Siren hasn’t worked in small museums; her hopes for change lie with the big ones, “because they should be modelling” inclusive approaches to sexuality. “Inclusivity is a word discussed a lot in the museum sector at the moment,” she says, but usually to refer to different ethnicities; “there should be robust pressure on big museums to discuss sexual diversity.”
“It’s just a matter of keeping the pressure on, constantly bringing it into the discussion. Museums are full of diversity, so it will come.”
Northland/Te Tai Tokerau
Waikato/Central North Island
Otago/Southland/Te taurapa o te waka
Wednesday 8 International Women’s Day A global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Events around the country will be announced closer to the time. The 2017 United Nations theme is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50:50 by 2030”, and the Aotearoa NZ theme is “Violence against Women: An Equality and Human Rights Violation”. See the UN Women National Committee Aotearoa NZ website and UN Women ANZ Facebook page, and the International Women’s Day website and Facebook page.
Sunday 5 Gay in the Bay brunch hosted by the Neat Eats crew, Anita & Jan, Bay of Islands. See the website for details.
Saturday 4 EquAsian Coffee group 3pm. Coffee group for Asians within the rainbow community. Friends and family welcome. Socialise and meet like-minded people. For location, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday 5 Dyke Hike 11am. Mt Pirongia to Hihikiwi lookout. This track takes us to Hihikiwi lookout near the summit of Mt Pirongia with stunning views of the west coast harbours. The lookout is 800m from the Pahautea Hut, which could also be interesting to explore. The track will be steep in places and could be muddy; it starts from Pirongia West Rd. Approx 6 hours. Grade: Hard (boots required, tracks may be rough and difficult, steep hills possible. A reasonable level of fitness will help you to enjoy these hikes. If you are not an experienced hiker, we require you to complete two moderate hikes before you join us in a hike graded hard). Email email@example.com, visit www.lesbian.co.nz or the Facebook page.
Sunday 5 ‘All About Women’ Satellite Event 12.30-3pm, Auckland Museum. Programme: Women and Media, Geena Davis, Solo Talk; Why Are You Not A Feminist? Backstage Q&A with Jessa Crispin; Nasty Women Panel: Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Van Badham, Lindy West. Adults $10, students & institute members $7.50. Visit Facebook event page or Museum event page for details and to book.
Sunday 5 Launch of cartoons of the late Viv Jones (contributor to the early Circle magazine). 2pm, Charlotte museum, 8 Bentink St, New Lynn. In conjunction with Activist t-shirt display. Visit the museum’s Facebook page and website for details.
Wednesday 8 Courtney Sina Meredith at Auckland Lesbian Business Association (aLBa); poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician, author of the play Rushing Dolls, a book of poems Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick, and a short story collection Tail of the Taniwha. 6-9pm, Tiny Theatre, Garnet Station, 85 Garnet Rd, Westmere. $10, aLBa members free. Visit Facebook event page for details.
Saturday 11 Feminist Quiz Fundraiser for the Auckland Women’s Centre’s Women’s Support Service. 6-10pm, Grey Lynn Community Centre, 510 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn. $35 per ticket or $260 for tables of 8. Book through Eventbrite; for more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday 12 Mosaic workshop 10am-4pm, Charlotte Museum, 8 Bentink St, New Lynn. Visit Facebook event page for details.
Wednesday 15-Sunday 2 April Art + Feminism exhibition Mairangi Arts Centre, 20 Hastings Rd, Mairangi Bay. Monday-Friday, 9.30am-4pm; Saturday-Sunday, 10am-2pm.
Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 Wikipedia edit-a-thon: Art + Feminism 10am-2pm both days. Mairangi Arts Centre, 20 Hastings Rd, Mairangi Bay. Join a global global campaign to improve coverage of women in the arts and encourage female editorship on Wikipedia. No previous experience necessary. Visit Facebook event page for details.
Saturday 18 EquAsian Potluck Dinner Social group for Asians within the rainbow community. Meet new people and bring a plate of food to share! For location, please email us at email@example.com. Visit EquAsian’s Facebook page for details.
Sunday 19 Coffee & Stroll 10am, meet for coffee at Bread & Butter Bakery and Cafe, 34 Westmoreland St W, Grey Lynn; 10.30am, an easy 40-minute stroll to Cox’s Bay through Hukanui Reserve and Cox’s Bay Reserve, possibly returning to cafe for second coffee …
Sunday 19 TED talk: Art + Feminism 12.30pm, Mairangi Arts Centre, 20 Hastings Rd, Mairangi Bay. Local women in the arts discuss the types of gender bias they have observed, and/or experienced and the strategies they have to deal with.
Sunday 19 Women About Sound panel discussion 1.30-4.30pm, Audio Foundation, sub-basement of the Parisian Tie Factory, 4 Poynton Tce, central Auckland. The first in a series of workshops to encourage and empower female and LGBT musicians, a panel discussion to examine various issues that women and LGBT musicians face. The panel will feature: Caitlin Smith, Ladi6, Elizabeth Stokes (from the Beths, Sal Valentine and the Babyshakes). Visit Facebook event page for details.
Sunday 19 Fifth Season GLBT garden group visits flower beds, fruit trees, a herb and vegetable garden, exotic and native specimens, a butterfly house, aviary, bantam coop and dovecotes, all at Metlifecare’s Highland Park retirement village. Meet at 2pm outside Highlands, 49 Aberfeldy Ave, Highland Park. Followed by afternoon tea at a nearby member’s house and garden at 3pm. Contact Wendy Wilson, 027 548 3510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday 22-Sunday 26 ‘How To Keep An Alien’ – part of Auckland Arts Festival (times vary). Edinburgh Fringe winner Sonya Kelly (writer and performer) premieres a “tearfully funny, tender memoir about securing an Irish visa for her Australian partner, Kate”. $55/49 (concession). Details, times and links for tickets at AAF website.
Saturday 25 Silent Gays support group 10am-12noon, Mozaik Caffe, 61 Constellation Dr, Mairangi Bay. Time to chill, share, love and meet new friends; a safe space to be yourself, deconstruct your religion, share your deepest secrets and be loved unconditionally. Visit the Facebook event page for details.
Sunday 26 ‘Coming out of religion’ workshop 10am-4pm, Fernglen Gardens, 36 Kauri Rd (between house numbers 30 and 48), Birkenhead. A full day workshop covering a broad range of issues for LGBT people who have suffered under the burden of religion. $120 (Don’t let finances stop you from coming – we can help.) Visit Facebook event page for details.
Sunday 26 Song writing workshop 1.30-5pm, Audio Foundation, sub-basement of the Parisian Tie Factory, 4 Poynton Tce, central Auckland. Women about sound wants to provide a platform for women and trans-women musicians to gain knowledge, new skills and confidence in their song writing. The workshop will be facilitated by Caitlin Smith, Priya Sami (Trip Pony), Gemma Copas. Visit Facebook event page for details.
Wednesday 1 GLOW Singers open nights 7-8.30pm. Hamilton’s LGBTTIQ choir is looking for new members, and welcomes interested women to open nights on three consecutive Wednesdays. Email email@example.com for rehearsal location and directions, or if you’re interested in playing piano.
Thursday 2 Waikato Rainbow Solo Parents shared meal and discussion 6pm, Single Parent Services, Link House, 2 Dawson St, Hamilton East. Lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex and queer people parenting alone in the Hamilton region are invited to discuss how to create support for Rainbow solo parents and families. Phone SPS on (07) 839 1051, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see the Facebook event page.
Sunday 19 Sapphic Table 1pm lunch; visit meetup.com (search for Sapphic Table in Tauranga): an eating out group for lesbians in the Bay of Plenty. Based in Tauranga we usually hold an event monthly. (Usually going out to dinner but sometimes other things for a bit of variety.)
Anytime Self-guided LGBTTI walking tour of 24 historic rainbow locations around Wellington’s waterfront in one hour, free. Start at the former site of Carmen’s Balcony on the corner of Harris and Victoria Sts, now the City Library, walk through Civic Square, onto the waterfront, down to Bats Theatre and then back to the Michael Fowler Centre via Courtenay Place. Hear short eyewitness accounts at each location with your smart device using the interactive Google Map, or download the mp3 audio before you set off. See the website.
Wednesday 1 Rainbow Wellington dinner, Le Cordon Bleu chef’s training school restaurant, 6.30pm or 7pm (second sitting). Limited spaces; see a sample five-course meal. $50 RW members, $60 non-members, cash bar. Reserve by paying online to Rainbow Wellington account 03-0566-0164688-000 with your name and reference in payee info and Cordon 6.30 or Cordon 7 depending on your preferred time. See the website.
Friday 3-Sunday 19 Wellington Pride Festival Tū whakahīhī e Te Whanganui-ā-Tara. Major events include Opening ceremony, Friday 3, 7-9pm; Pride parade, Saturday 18, 11am; Out in the park, Saturday 18, 12noon-6pm; Youth ball, Saturday 18, 6-10pm; Out in the Park After Party, Saturday 18, 9pm-late.
Friday 3 Tū whakahīhī e Te Whanganui-ā-Tara opening celebration 6.30-8.30pm, Fusion Virtuoso, 2 Manners St. Visit Facebook event page for details.
Saturday 4, 11, 18 Rainbow Walk-Tour: waterfront and inner-city, 1-2.15pm each day, a free circular walk-tour of Wellington’s waterfront and inner city highlighting some of Wellington’s rich rainbow heritage. Most of the walk is on the flat using accessible public footpaths. Meet outside the main entrance to City Gallery in Civic Square. No bookings necessary. Visit Facebook event page for details.
Tuesday 7 ‘Thin Edge of the Wedge: NZ Homosexual Law Reform 1985-6’ Film screening of archival material from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision from the 1980s as Homosexual Law Reform legislation was being discussed. St Peters Hall, Paekakariki. Koha, donation appreciated. Tea and coffee and cupcakes served. Visit Facebook event page for details.
Saturday 11 Open Day at LILAC 11am-2pm, level 2, 187 Willis St. Women who are interested in joining LILAC – or just having a look around – are welcome to drop in. There is flat access from the street and a lift is available. Light refreshments will be served. Details on the LILAC website.
Saturday 11 New book celebration 2pm, celebrate the release of Tasting the Strange, a new e-book by Robin Fleming. LILAC, level 2, 187 Willis St. Light refreshments will be served; Robin will read extracts from her novel. Visit bookpublishing.co.nz for more information on the book, and the LILAC website for event details.
Sunday 12 Lesbian walk in the CBD with guide Alison Laurie. The Lesbian Overland and Cafe Club are visiting sites significant in local lesbian history. For lesbian and queer women. Meet 10am, outside the front of the Wellington Railway Station. See the Facebook event page.
Thursday 16 Launch of Hopes Dashed? The economics of gender inequality, by economist Prue Human. This short book ($15) charts women’s progress from Prue’s 1994 overview of the status of women in the New Zealand economy, Women and Economics. Prue and Erin Polaczuk, National Secretary of the Public Service Association will speak. 5.30pm at Vic Books Pipitea, ground floor, Rutherford House, 27 Lambton Quay, Wellington city. See bwb.co.nz/books/hopes-dashed.
Saturday 18 Out in the park 11am-6pm, Waitangi Park, corner Cable St & Oriental Pde. Wellington’s Queer Fair, an annual event for queer people, their whānau and friends – an all-day event featuring stalls, food, entertainment, and fun in the sun! Visit the Facebook event, the Facebook page and website for details.
Saturday 18 Pooches in the park 2.30-3.30pm, Waitangi Park, corner Cable St and Oriental Pde, central Wellington. “No dog is too big or small to win your heart”. Visit the Facebook event page for details.
Saturday 18 Fantasy Forest youth ball 6-10pm, 1 Herd St, Chaffers Dock, Oriental Bay. For LGBTI+ young people and allies aged 13 to 18. Drug/alcohol and smoke free. Tickets $14, including a light supper and soft drinks. Visit Facebook event page for details and contact information; Registration form to purchase tickets in Google docs.
Monday 27-Sunday 2 April Wellington Rape Crisis annual appeal week. Volunteer street collectors needed, and other fundraising activities available. WRC is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing services for survivors of sexual violence and working towards prevention. They provide free and confidential support, advocacy and counselling to survivors of rape and sexual abuse and their loved ones. Visit Facebook event page for details.
The Lesbian Connection (TLC) sends a monthly email of events in the area, Nelson and Motueka in particular. Contact email@example.com to go on the mailing list or for more details of any events.
There’s currently no-one co-ordinating activities for Nelson events, other than potluck dinners, last Friday of the month. Walking group is still happening now and then; keep an eye on Facebook for details. Do contact TLC if you can help with regular – or one-off – events.
Saturday 18-Sunday 19 Tasman camping, McKee Reserve, Ruby Bay from 2pm Saturday. $6 per person. Dogs not allowed, sorry. There is a liquor ban between 7pm and 7am; there are BBQ pits and fires are permitted in these areas. If the weather is wet or really cold there’ll be a pot luck dinner. Contact TLC for details.
Friday 31 Nelson Potluck dinner details to be confirmed; contact TLC for details.
The Lambda Trampers and Lambda Lattes are mixed social tramping and walking groups for lesbians and gays living in and around Christchurch, and their friends. The Lambda Trampers programme and contact details to August 2017 are available. Lambda Latte programme details are below.
Free MP3 by singer/Songwriter Lisa Tui, celebrating the launch of her website with digital copies of her song I Wonder On You. Listen to her new single Comin’ on Home, released to commemorate six years after the quakes. Hear her sing on her Facebook page.
Sunday 5 ‘All About Women’ Satellite Event 12-3.30pm, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Worcester Blvd. Programme: Women and Media, Geena Davis, Solo Talk; Why Are You Not A Feminist? Backstage Q&A with Jessa Crispin; Nasty Women Panel: Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Van Badham, Lindy West. Entry by koha on the day. Visit Facebook event page for details.
Thursday 9 – Sunday 19 Christchurch Pride See the website, Facebook or #CHCHPRIDE If you are part of a group who wants to run an event during Pride week, let them know ASAP to help get the word out and use their logistical support.
Sunday 12 Lambda Lattes Harry Ell Walk, meet 10am at the Sign of the Takahe, intersection of Dyers Pass and Hackthorne Rds, Phone Karin 0275 273 918 or see http://lambdatrampers.webs.com.
Saturday 18 Lambda Trampers walk to Avalanche Peak The three-hour climb past Arthurs Pass township is rated medium/hard. $20 charge for car shares. Meet by 8am a the corner of Peacock and Durham Sts. Phone John on 379 0585 or 021 232 2296.
Sunday 19 South/Mid Canterbury Lesbian Social Group meet over lunch at a cafe in Geraldine, 12noon. Please email Sarah for the venue and RSVP so she can book space at the cafe.
Sunday 26 Wild Women Walk to The Chasm & Lovers Leap on the peninsula, an easy 1-hr walk. Meet 9.30am to carshare at Otaki St, opposite the Bunnings main entrance. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or text: 022 133 9529.
Sunday 26 Lambda Lattes Godley Heads, meet 10am in the carpark, near the ablutions block, Taylors Mistake Beach. Phone Tim 021 1122 756 or See http://lambdatrampers.webs.com/.
Sunday 26 Wild Women Walk from Osborne Rd to Purakaunui, an easy walk 60-90m walk around the inlet to a rocky shoreline. Meet at 10am for coffee at Port Royale Cafe, 10 George St, Port Chalmers and car share to Osborne. Swim things optional. Email Ann or text 022 133 9529.