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GayNZ.com's 2014 New Year's Honours

Posted in: Hall of Fame
By GayNZ.com staff - 31st December 2014

Each year GayNZ.com acknowledges a handful of individuals or organisations who have done more than most to improve the lives of glbti people throughout the country.

This years honourees are, in alphabetical order...


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Amy Brosnahan – for class

When Amy Brosnahan was told she could no longer compete in a modelling competition because she was transgender, she didn’t take it lying down.

“Just because I am transgender, it doesn’t mean I am not female,” she told the event’s organisers.

The organisers revealed they actually hadn’t really known how to handle the situation and were open to a little education, and Brosnahan got to strut her stuff on the catwalk.

Good on you Amy, for standing up to discrimination. You’re pretty damn fierce.




Police Commissioner Mike Bush – for true leadership

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This year members of the New Zealand police force marched in the Auckland Pride Parade, but they couldn’t do so in uniform. The year before they hadn’t even been allowed to march at all. We received a bunch of odd and weak reasons and couldn’t help but wonder whether some good old school entrenched homophobia was the problem.

Arise new Police Commissioner Mike Bush. He’d barely got his feet under the desk when he made it very clear that under his watch, embracing and celebrating diversity wasn’t just a collection of politically correct buzz words.

He wrote an entire blog to say the police should encourage officers to show pride in who they are and the communities they represent – and ‘walk the talk’.

As such, the police will march in uniform at next year’s Auckland Pride Parade - as they should have from the start.

Good on you Commissioner Mike Bush, for showing true leadership.


The New Zealand Falcons - for heart and grit

For a team full of many guys who were new to rugby, flying across the ditch and grabbing the Bingham Bowl was a mighty achievement.

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The Falcons didn’t let injury, weather, age or inexperience stop them from winning a titanic and slippery final against the Emerald Valkyries in Sydney in August.

While the on-field achievements at the Bingham Cup were remarkable, we also loved the inclusive nature of the Falcons, creating a team where straight and gay, old and young, hardened rugby battler and newbie were all welcomed.

Bring on Purchas Cup 2015 and Nashville 2016!


Bruce Kilmister – for decades of commitment

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Newly-retired from active service to the glbti and HIV communities spanning thirty and more years, Bruce Kilmister was part of the engine room of the successful campaign for homosexual law reform in the 1980s. He has contributed to nearly every aspect of the gay community's responses HIV epidemic and was instrumental in driving the mammoth Hero Project of the 1990s during their years of greatest success.

Kilmister entered local body politics and served several terms as a community board member in Auckland City, using his political smarts to advocate for acknowledgement of and respect for the city's glbti citizens.

His lengthy term as general manager of Body Positive, the country's largest HIV-positive people's peer support organisation - which has a particular focus on gay and bi men who make up the bulk of New Zealand's at risk and infected population - drew heavily on his determination, skill, diplomacy, his encyclopedic knowledge of treatments, medical and social social support bureaucracies and caring and humane support for troubled and desperate HIV-positive people. He fearlessly became one of the few openly and publicly HIV-positive people in the country.

His commitment, involvement and influence in so many spheres of glbti life in New Zealand mark Bruce Kilmister as one of the most significant figures in the thirty years of HIV and legal freedom for gay and bi men in New Zealand.


Robbie Manson and Rowing NZ- for breaking down another barrier

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Sport holds a special place in the psyche of New Zealanders. Our widely-adored and emulated national Heroes are in the main sports stars and their image is almost exclusively male and straight. From Adam Parore to Sonny Bill Williams their macho athletic pursuits, glossy girlfriends and womens' mag-friendly nuptials define the New Zealand sports star. Although not the mainstream sport it briefly became in the 1980s rowing's male stars fitted the mold, its tall, broad-shouldered, testosterone-heavy male stars all naturally assumed to be good, straight kiwi blokes. But not any more. Now it is possible to be an Olympic level New Zealand rowing champion and be gay.

The kudos for this breakthrough belongs to Robbie Manson who decided not to live the greatest years of his professional life in the closet. He came out with dignity, a minimum of razzle-dazzle and, like speed skater Blake Skjellerup before him, got on with pushing onwards towards the pinnacle of his sport.

Kudos also to Rowing New Zealand. Unlike at least one other major sports code which acknowledges the possibility its having gay players or fans by issuing anodyne, bland committee-processed pr response statements designed to elbow the issue into invisibility, Rowing New Zealand fully and publicly supported Manson. To them he was a rowing star first and a gay man second and they saw no conflict at all. Life should always be like this.


Jim Marjoram – for exposing the ugliness of homophobia

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When Jim Marjoram washed his hands of the awful ex-gay movement and embraced his sexuality, he started a group to help others deal with those often-conflicting issues of sexuality and spirituality. He also wrote a book about his life to hopefully help fund the group.

When he emailed churches far and wide seeking support he received a response from one leader saying he’d pray for him to go kill himself.

Marjoram posted it on Facebook, simply to laugh to his friends ‘look, my first hate mail’, and boom, it was shared everywhere, we picked it up, the national and international media followed, sparking wide disgust, even conservative Christians to shout “hey, we’re not all like that” (and also some rather odd claims it was all some kind of publicity stunt).

Yes, it was just one possibly off-kilter self-appointed ‘pastor’ running a church from his home.

And yes, it gave Marjoram a platform to attempt to reach out to some of the ‘silent gays’ stuck in church closets in states of guilt, shame and fear.

But Marjoram used the resultant publicity to renounce 'reparative' therapy, and for someone once so heavily caught up in the life and soul-destroying 'ex-gay' movement shows firmly, once again, becoming ‘ex-gay’ is as realistic as suddenly turning into a magical flying unicorn.


Plunket – for inclusiveness

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In some ways it was such a simple thing... Plunket was asked to run a playdate with Prince George at Government House, and invited several parents and their toddlers, including a pair of gay dads and their daughter, to take part.

No big deal right? Exactly. It wasn’t. But... it also was a big deal. For us. In fact it was magic, and was somehow enhanced by the parents being two fathers and not two mothers.

Plunket gently supporting diversity in this extremely visible way means a lot to many rainbow families who are just getting on with raising their kids, despite being subject to endless slurs and innuendo from fact-challenged conservative windbags and their self-serving ‘what about the children’ drumbeat. What about th children? Well, the children of same-sex parents are doing just fine.


The Rainbow Tick team – for guiding corporate employers

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What a year it’s been for the Rainbow Tick! Westpac? Tick. SkyCity? Tick. ASB, Simpson Grierson and Coca-Cola? Tick, tick, tick.

Having such major New Zealand businesses stand up and say ‘we value our lgbti staff and customers and we are willing to show it’ has been powerful and shows real leadership.

The Rainbow Tick is a well thought out initiative which can only have wide-ranging positive spin-offs.

We congratulate Michael Stevens and the Rainbow Tick team for all their hard work, as well as all those who have taken on the challenge to gain one.


Silver Rainbow creators – for humanity

How awful it must be to feel like you have to go back into the closet because you are going into a rest home.

We applaud the School of Nursing at The University of Auckland for the creation of the Silver Rainbow kit, which has clear, helpful and practical resources for aged-care staff, with videos showing just how awful things can be without understanding and compassion. The idea of some people’s longtime partners being denied visiting access or being treated poorly when they do is simply heartbreaking.

The initiative was based on research which identified that while aged care workers themselves were generally accepting of older lesbian, gay, and bisexual residents, it was dealing with the attitudes of other residents that primarily needed to be addressed.

The feedback has been great from within the care sector and there has been strong uptake… our older glbti people should be able to live out their twilight years without discrimination.


Sally and Mandy Whitewoods – for heart-warming community commitment

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It nearly broke our hearts when we thought Gay Ski Week was over and done with. Thank goodness Queenstown couple Sally and Mandy Whitewoods were able to come to the rescue. Since they took the event over it has steadily regrown into one of the very best on our national calendar.

Gay Ski Week is well-run, community-hearted and a hell of a lot of fun largely due to the uber-friendly 'energiser bunny' women who run it, but one of the most striking aspects is that there is no bitchiness, no drama, and everyone is lovely!

Throw in the fact that it’s also held in one of the most beautiful places in the whole world, and it’s a week no less than heavenly.


Urge’s owners – for community spirit

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Early next year New Zealand’s longest-running gay bar will close its doors. While it’s happening for a range of reasons, one thing widely agreed upon is that Urge will be missed. It’s created a space like no other for bears (and their friends!) with a spirit of mateship, and of giving back to the community.

Thanks to all those who have hand in running the little bar at the western end of K’ Rd for so many years, most recently headed by Alan Granville and Paul Heard, who are understandably devastated to be closing its doors.

However, while the doors may close, the Urge community will live on.


Honourable mentions:

Global music sensation Lorde, for using her superstardom to call out haters and homophobes.

Event manager per excellence Julian Cook, for two (and a half) brilliant Auckland Pride Festivals.

Psychologist and TV presenter Nigel Latta, for his common sense observations and advice on the issue of gay parenting!

Cyclist Linda Villumsen and her partner Emma Trott, for being open and proud and adorable on national TV after Villumsen’s Commonwealth Games gold.

Aucklander Gabriel Clifton, for outing himself to expose hate within our very own communities.

Maryan Street who has sadly bowed out after a political career where she represented us wonderfully.

And Grant Robertson, who rose above the 'gay' tag to fight a campaign that was about politics, not sexuality.



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GayNZ.com staff - 31st December 2014