April 11 is the anniversary of an event called ‘Gay Day’, the first public action of the Auckland branch of the Gay Liberation Front, which took place on Tuesday 11 April 1972. In March 1972, Māori and Lesbian rights activist Ngahuia te Awekotuku was denied a visa to visit the USA because of her sexuality. After this, branches of the Gay Liberation Front formed in cities across Aotearoa to advance gay rights in this country.
As Brent Coutts wrote in his book 1972: A year in focus, “It was decided to hold a ‘happening’ called a ‘Gay Day’ to promote the goal of visibility and further the liberationists’ political goals. The ‘Gay Day’ was held in Albert Park on 11 April 1972, using the landmark of the statue of Queen Victoria as the symbolic focal point for activities.”
Albert Park continues to be used as a location for queer protests and celebrations – it was the meeting point for the first Auckland Pride OurMarches, and was the site of the recent rally against anti-trans speaker Posie Parker.
Today, we’re celebrating with two poems by Geena Slow and Dan Goodwin.
Geena Slow’s poem ‘Queenies of 1972’ focusses on Aotearoa’s queer history: Gay Day as a pivotal event, and Albert Park as a pivotal location. Slow reminds us of our right to love right under the statue of old Vicky. We can replace her as the queenly ones.
Dan Goodwin’s poem ‘Harvey Milk Finishes his Term of Office’ rewrites three significant tragedies from worldwide queer history: the 1978 assassination of American politician Harvey Milk, the 1998 death of student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming, and the 2016 nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. In Goodwin’s poem, Harvey Milk is allowed to retire from his life as a politician and grow old. The people in Pulse nightclub live out their night and go home with strangers. Matthew Shepard meets the man of his dreams. Goodwin allows us to reimagine a teaching of queer history not focussed on tragedy, but focussed on love.
Queenies of 1972
Who out there is crazy
enough to join me reverberate?
Flash out your teeth, let those passing by see us Queenly,
bright bold and bare like royals coming to life.
‘I am your worst fear’ /
‘I am your best fantasy.’
We hold victoria hostage & in return she holds us
holding each other.
Her bronze mouth almost smiles down as if
we are her little darlings as if she knows
that we are dissembling &
fragmenting but coming together nonetheless.
Will her victorian morality ever just get it over with
Truthfulness, i’ve been told
is a moral taken seriously so make it provocative / be real
truthful about it /
hold me with your voice out loud /
catalyse the air / wave that sign real high / love me /
love me right / right here / right under ol’ vicky /
right in the open / no more fear / love right here
with the city birds / the grass / the streetlights / in this park /
no more hiding / this is our right / in every way possible / right
here / let those who pass by see us
Harvey Milk Finishes his Term of Office
After various Gay poets and people. Inc. but not limited to Harvey Milk, Moisés Kaufman, Bill Hayes, Andrea Gibson, your dad.
Harvey Milk, first homosexual in California’s public office, walks
into San Francisco city hall and cleans his desk.
Finishing his second term of office early, he leaves, looking at the office door next to his own. Dan White.
A perfectly kind hearted colleague.
He has spent six years now as city supervisor, choosing halfway through to ‘Depart gracefully’. As he puts it, staying longer than the average would be gauche. After all he’s got “things to do and men to sleep with” A closing statement in his farewell speech to thousands. The Castro a sea of rainbow and glitter on skin. He finishes by saying, “you know we’ll have to clean this all up later?”
They do. At the same time
A boy in an Orlando gay bar has the night of his life. The beats of a song on Latin Night only the beats of a song. His chest warms to the feeling of bass that is too loud, heart rends in this amazon of sweat and shirtless men. Multicolour carnivore eyes glow towards him in the dark corners between beams of green and blue disco howling for the raving animals calling out each other's names in the distance. Ancient names like ‘nice eyes,’ ‘cute jeans,’ and ‘Hey… wanna get out of here?’
This boy goes home with a stranger called ‘can’t remember’. Rests his cheek against the drenched bark of a tree stump chest, felled and thick bodied with black hair. 4am so he decides might as well stay up until work. Watches this sleeping giant next to him
“Isn’t it a wonder how ‘hosting’ is just a sexy name for home?”
He stares out a window that does not belong to him
And a boy in Wyoming meets his dream man at a bar, tentatively asks if maybe he is gay and the man smiles. Buys him a drink. And when they lean against the fence of the prairie at midnight, the only thing they think of is stars and shortgrass. How Laramie has a way of making everything feel small and yet in their eyes they see a lifetime unfolding.
The man goes in for a kiss and the boy grips the fence. Some lost instinct from another time. He catches himself. Says it must just be nerves. The man asks if he would like him to stop. That the most important thing is that this boy feels safe. The boy says I do. Leans in. Lets go.
Harvey Milk retires. And nobody notices.
His friends are all dying of natural causes, but not him. Not yet.
Owns a camera shop in The Castro with nudes on the wall. Erotic shots of men in 60s swimwear and Tom of Finland bursting out their jeans. The shop is old.
Polaroids give it away. Local homos confess he is becoming a problematic hippie as politics leaves him behind, but “at least he knows it.” Careful not to outstay his welcome, he says
“I’m aging, but not old! A fruit wine! If you will.”
He hits on us and we turn him down. He flirts and says, ‘Hey, gotta have hope.”
We laugh alongside him but he ends each flirtation with the same reminder
“I still think you are beautiful, kid.”
We all understand he is a gay man growing old. Another old gay man, not relevant anymore, but still. We walk away and look back. We leave and say to each other;
“He changed the world once.”
“Remember? He changed the world once.”
Geena Slow is a fourth year student about to finish her undergrad in English and History. In the colder months she mostly writes when she is supposed to be sleeping but apparently this is normal? You can find her work in Starling. @geebaslow
Dan Goodwin (they/them) is a Scottish-Pākeha performance poet, actor and writer. In 2016, they completed their Masters of Text and Performance at RADA and Birkbeck. A proud JAFA slam poet, they are the 2021 Auckland and National Slam champion, and have performed internationally and across Aotearoa including the Auckland Pride Gala, London’s Bloomsbury Festival, the International Comedy Festival, The World Slam Championship, Verb Festival, and the arts festival ‘Welcome to Nowhere’. @dan.goodwin93