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Homosexual Law Reform Retrospective: Personal Points of View:

It Was No Rose Garden, But It Wasn't a Mistake

By Bill Logan.

It was sixteen months of hard, intensely stimulating work, physical and nervous exhaustion, and a certain amount of pure terror. The vote in Parliament at the end was finely balanced, but it was a victory, and as happy an ending as you get in real life.

But there were casualties along the way. Homosexuality was the subject of intense debate and social polarisation, and bigotry got more violent than usual. Two people I knew had their lives destroyed by severe head injuries. Sometimes you wondered if it was worth it.

Every teenager in New Zealand who was worried about his or her own sexuality, particularly every teenage gay male, knew that this was a debate about whether he had any worth as a human being. There were more gay-related suicides than usual. And we went on, presenting our side, pretending to be calm and rational.

The debate brought about a change in the law, and a change in perceptions, and itís now easier to be gay or lesbian than it was. Much easier. So it wasnít a mistake.

But in most ordinary, nice families in New Zealand there is still an undercurrent of homophobia, and the high schools remain poisonous places for young people with uncertainties about their sexual orientation, or with certainties which donít conform. New Zealand still has perhaps the highest youth suicide rate in the world, and sexual orientation contributes hugely to that figure.

Itís easier than it was, but itís no rose garden.

Of course there is a certain social layer which really has made it as a result of the changes - a newly self-confident stratum of professionals and semi-professionals. Theyíre mostly white, mostly male, mostly with a veneer of education - people like me. By-and-large this upwardly-mobile gay professional stratum is not only self-confident, but self-satisfied and self-indulgent - into respectability, "networking", and making and spending money.

The issue of gay and lesbian marriage expresses neatly the spirit of our times. Of course we should be allowed to marry, and itís an outrage if they continue to deny us a right that other people have. There are even some material benefits in marriage for some people. But there is a nasty smell around the whole issue, the smell of striving for respectability.

Of course we should have the right to be the same as everyone else -- but what we really need is the right to be different.

Bill Logan

Bill Logan, who describes himself as an old-fashioned Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist, was one of the co-ordinators of the Gay Task Force in Wellington during the campaign for the Homosexual Law Reform Bill. He also had to do with starting up the AIDS Foundation.

[Reproduced from Issue No. 10 (June 1996) Friends of LAGANZ.]




Last updated: 02/11/02

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