Historian Gareth Watkins looks back at July dates with notable connections to the progress of our rainbow communities.

9 July 1869

Emma Ada Scott was born in Tasmania, Australia. By 1914, she had moved to New Zealand and was living with her “dear friend” Alice Mills in Wellington. They moved to a house on the Terrace in 1928 where they lived for the rest of their lives. Scott and Mills are highlighted in Dr Alison Laurie’s thesis Lady-Husbands and Kamp Ladies: Pre-1970 Lesbian Life in Aotearoa/NZ. Apart from electoral rolls, a will, and a shared grave, not much publicly exists to document their relationship. But as Laurie notes, “Silences should not be mistaken for absences, or heterosexuality assumed for all pre-1970 NZ women.” Laurie talks more broadly about how the public record can give us glimpses into early lesbian couples and how, “many of these women led secretive, often double lives, and of necessity deceived others through silence and omission, actual denial, or sham heterosexual marriages and engagements.” Laurie continues, “The lies, secrecy and silence of self-censorship has often meant the deliberate destruction of written records such as letters or diaries, by women themselves, or later by family members and friends.” Scott died on the 2 July 1938 and Mills died in 1943. They’re interred together in Karori Cemetery.


8 July 1990

Radio Gala marked the fourth anniversary of homosexual law reform on Access Community Radio Auckland (now Planet FM) by broadcasting a rich audio retrospective. The recordings, made by community members at both pro and anti-reform events, captured the energy and vitriol of the heated 16-month nationwide debate. In one recording, MP Norman Jones urged a crowd of anti-reformers to, “Gaze upon [the homosexuals]. You’re looking into Hades!  Don’t look too long, you might catch AIDS!” At the same event, Sir Peter Tait, who championed the petition against homosexual law reform, told the crowd how he had recently been propositioned by a young man in Hawaii, “We walked around to the front of the hotel and he said to me – in the dark, at half past four in the morning – will you let me suck you?” In another recording, pro-reformers sang the “hymn” – Yes, Jesus was Gay. Unlike much of the mainstream reporting at the time, community radio focussed on capturing and reflecting the actual experiences of rainbow communities. Through the efforts of these pioneering queer community broadcasters, and subsequently community archives, future generations now have the opportunity to hear these important events from a truly rainbow perspective.

15 July 2021

Over 1,000 people gathered outside the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington to rally in support of trans rights. The event was in response to the group Speak Up for Women, who were lobbying against proposed sex self-identification legislation. Attending the rally, Wellington City Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons told media, “The mood is one of celebration, of inclusion, and I think you can see that from the signs: ‘Trans rights are human rights’, ‘Indigenous genders are real’, ‘Trans women are women.’ Personally, I was a bit disappointed that [Speak Up For Women] were able to use a public venue for their meeting. But what we’ve done is light up the Michael Fowler Centre in the colours of the transgender flag.” Elle Kingsbury, from Queer Endurance/Defiance said, “Twenty years ago we would not have seen anything like this in support for trans rights. That we see this now, a crowd of people gathering in support of our rights – this is the direct result of the work that trans people and activists have done over the last 20 years and I’m so grateful for that work, and proud to stand in their tradition.”

Please tag photo: Wellington’s trans rights rally shot by Weiyi Zhang.