Historian Gareth Watkins examines October dates, significant for highlighting change and progression for our rainbow communities in Aotearoa.

11 October 1938

Prolific author William Taylor was born on this day in Lower Hutt. He left school at the age of sixteen, and after working in a bank for some time trained as a teacher. Taylor’s first novel for young adults was published in 1981. Five years later he retired from teaching and took up writing full time. One of Taylor’s most celebrated novels, The Blue Lawn, was written just after the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986 but wasn’t published for another eight years.  The book tells the story of David, a promising young rugby player who develops an attraction to Theo, a new student at school. Writing for, Chris Banks noted that the novel was originally rejected by Penguin Books as “it was ‘not a work of good taste’ and would harm his career.” It wasn’t until 1994 that the book was published by Harper Collins.  The next year it won the Senior Fiction Award at the AIM Children’s Book Awards.  Taylor subsequently wrote a number of other gay-themed books. In his autobiography, Taylor described his own sexual identity as “somewhere between heterosexual and homosexual.” 


14 October 2004

It was announced on this day that Natasha Lewis had won the Katherine Mansfield Young Writer’s Award for her lesbian-themed story The Unsaid Things. Lewis, a student at Epsom Girls’ Grammar School, told the media “I wanted to show the boundaries between friendship and another kind of relationship and how those get blurred.” Judge Barbara Else said Lewis’s entry was a “very impressive story. It has the sophistication, structure, and unsentimental use of language of an outstanding writer.”  The award announcement occurred on Katherine Mansfield’s birthday. In 1922, on the last birthday that Mansfield celebrated before her death, she famously wrote in her journal, “Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.” Her journal also contains beautiful descriptions of same-sex love and desire.  Writing of an experience with Edith Kathleen Bendall, Mansfield said “I feel that to lie with my head on her breast is to feel what life can hold […] She, every now and then pressing me to her, kissing me, my head on her breasts, her hands around my body stroking me lovingly.”

11-13 October 2013

The Beyond conference took place in Wellington.  Organised by the Queer Avengers activist group, the event set out to “look beyond marriage [equality] towards an inclusive movement for gender and sexual liberation.”  The Queer Avengers had earlier supported MP Louisa Wall’s marriage equality legislation in 2012, saying that it would “alter a statute that currently discriminates against queer communities.  Laws should be free of discrimination.” However, the group also pointed out that “the passing of this bill will not end the fight for equal rights and an end to forms of discrimination that still exist for Queer communities.” The weekend conference, spread over fourteen sessions, focused on the lived experiences of queer/trans people in relation to identity, race, disability, the media, healthcare, parenting, education and imprisonment.

2 October 2020

The first issue of the collaborative zine The Archive is Alive was launched at the National Library of New Zealand. The project was organised by Caitlin Lynch from Wellington Zinefest and Will Hansen, a Trustee of Te Puranga Takatapui o Aotearoa/Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand.  Hansen wrote “The two of us [were] frustrated with academic gatekeeping and eager to find ways to rebel, to give queer community members ongoing and meaningful opportunities to build relationships with the queer past.” Twelve participants delved into the collections to discover and respond to posters, leaflets, photographs and other ephemera.  When asked for their “emotional response,” one participant wrote “I feel honoured to be queer.” While another wrote that they felt “anger at the way Aotearoa’s queer history is largely absent from the dominant cultural narrative – that we need our archives to learn about ourselves, that queer people might look overseas before looking here.”