Making history in South Africa
There have been some monumental LGBTQI+ leaders and events in history that have paved a way for not just gay rights but human rights too.
We must consider that LGBTQI+ rights are not just rights for the gay community but are, in simple fact, human rights. After all, we are the same people.
I have always been an advocate for honouring the past in order to celebrate the future, just as we have days to remember wars or battles and public holidays.
It is a good day to acknowledge some of those events/people who participated and continue to do so for the equal rights of everyone.
First and foremost, the Stonewall riots. On June 28, 1969, the New York City Police raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn located in Greenwich Village, New York City.
The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighbouring residences as the police hauled employees and patrons out of the bar.
The riot lasted six days, it involved protests and violent clashes with the police outside the bar on Christopher St and the surrounding neighbourhoods. The Stonewall riot was not just the catalyst for gay rights movements in the US but also around the world.
Harvey Milk was one of the leading political activists of the 1970s for the gay community. He won a seat on the New York City Board of Supervisors in 1977 and was elected as the first openly gay official.
Milk spearheaded one the strongest anti-discrimination measures that was to ban discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation.
He is well known for his ‘Hope’ speech in which he spoke about equal rights, not just for LGBTQI+ but for all other minorities including race, age and disability.
In 1986, Dame Fran Wilde, a Cabinet Minister in the Labour government, stood in front of Parliament and delivered her private members bill for the homosexual law reform. I have listened to the full proceedings of that presentation and was not surprised, based on those times, that the bill was met with fierce opposition.
We have to remember that prior to 1986 it was illegal for a man and another man to have sexual relations. People were beaten, abused, and made to feel ashamed and alone because of their sexual orientation.
Many were given criminal convictions purely based on being gay. This law change inspired a forward-thinking New Zealand that would begin to lead the world on many LGBTQI+ issues.
Lastly, of important note (because there are too many to list them all), are the efforts of Louisa Hall.
In May 2013, Hall placed her Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill in to the ballot. And on May 19 it became official that same-sex couples could legally marry in New Zealand.
New Zealand was the first country in Oceania and the 13th nation overall to legalise samesex marriage behind eight other western European nations, Canada, parts of the United States and Mexico, Argentina (south) and also in South Africa. The Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in December 2000.
With all of that in mind, I prepare for the Mr Gay World competition where I too get to make a stamp on the history books and compete as a delegate on behalf of New Zealand. Every event throughout my personal life has led to this event.
I carry not just the efforts of those that have stood up before me but also hope to create an easier road for those after me.
This week has been focused on creating a ‘national costume’ that represents some tradition, emotion, and embodies the spirit I want to carry onto the world stage.
I have suddenly become a master at sewing, hot glue guns and feathers, perhaps this is also a rite of passage. With seven days to leaving day, it is still a work in progress but we are almost finished.
Mr Gay NZ Ricky Devine White prepares his national costume as he gets ready for Mr Gay World in South Africa.