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Homosexual Law Reform Retrospective: Personal Points of View:

Elusive Goal

By Tony Millett.

When the invitation to contribute this piece arrived I happened to be reading the latest issue of express. It reminded me how much has changed over the last few years.

Mainstream publishers are willing to publish gay fiction and non-fiction, for which there is a ready market. Gay films play in cinemas nationwide to diverse audiences. Exhibitions of gay art are shown in major art galleries. There are gay bookshops, and gay sections within bookshops. Gay newspapers and magazines are sold openly at news-stands. Gay businesses flourish, and there are successful organisations of gay business and professional people. All the main centres have gay venues, and there are support groups in many smaller centres. Gay celebrations, parades, and other events are held throughout the country. Gay groups successfully work with city councils and the police to break down stereotypes and improve the lifestyle of gay people. And so on.

All this, of course, did not happen just because of the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986. There were gay venues in at least Auckland and Wellington back in the 1970s, and even earlier. Gay Lib News, the forerunner of New Zealand Gay News and Out!, began publication in November 1972. And in the area of law reform, let us not forget all those, such as the members of the New Zealand Homosexual Law Reform Society, who fought so mightily back in the sixties.

What has, I think, changed in the last ten years is the general climate of opinion in society at large. There is a much greater level of tolerance, even acceptance, than there was even a few years ago. This is particularly marked among young people ["You’re gay? So what?"] which bodes extremely well for the future.

This is not, however, to imply that everything in the garden is rosy. We still do not have full equality in law. Same-sex marriage is likely to be a long way off yet. There are still plenty of places in this country where it is not possible to be openly gay without courting disapproval and even danger. The trauma of self-identification and self-disclosure still faces most young people.

No doubt society will continue to include, as it always has, those who feel threatened by or uncomfortable with those whom they perceive as different. And the bigots are always with us. Perhaps most threatening are the forces of reaction, and in particular the ultra-conservative christian political parties, many of whose members display attitudes which are anything but Christian. We must take more care than usual as to where we place our votes.

But this is a time of celebration, not of doom and gloom. We have much to be thankful for as we continue to move society, and ourselves, forward towards that elusive goal of equality and acceptance of everyone, whatever their differences may be.

Tony Millett

Tony Millett is Deputy Librarian at the University of Waikato Library in Hamilton. He has compiled a Bibliography on Homosexuality in New Zealand, which was published by the Library in 1995. [...]

Tony’s most recent bibliographical work had its earliest precursor in a bibliography he compiled in 1967, noting the dearth of material available at that time. A copy of that early work is preserved in the LAGANZ collections - among other bibliographical studies which form one small but important and growing strand in our resources - Ed.[Friends of LAGANZ.]

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




Last updated: 02/11/02

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