Pride Festival 'about the whole community'

BUZZING: Musician Charlotte Yates is looking forward to playing at Pride Festival.
BUZZING: Musician Charlotte Yates is looking forward to playing at Pride Festival.

Acclaimed lesbian musician Charlotte Yates is looking forward to celebrating the diversity of the gay community at Auckland Pride Festival, and is "buzzing" to play at three different events over the course of the festival.

Playing for the first time at Pride, Yates will perform at a black-tie event, at an acoustic venue, and at an outdoor party.

"It's always a little bit buzzy at the beginning of a festival wondering how it's going to go," Yates said.

"This is the first time I've played for Pride but over the years I've done lots of gay festivals - it used to be Hero in Auckland.

"I'm very much looking forward to the gala which is on at Q Theatre, then we've got our own little show at Tabac which is a cool, quite intimate acoustic venue ... Then there's Big Gay Out. Hopefully the weather will be great."

Pride was about more than music and dance, it was about involving the whole community, Yates said.

"It's full of drag fabulousness really which is great, it's really high energy, never aggro - it's always party central and always really good fun with a good vibe."

Political reform in New Zealand had helped both change and reflect attitudes in society - but that hadn't always been the case, she said.

When Yates was young, homosexuality was still regarded as a psychiatric illness.

"In my lifetime it's gone from illegality - when I was really little homosexuality was still a psychiatric illness and just taken off by the AMA [American Medical Association] in 1972, so it went from a psychiatric illness to being legal to equal rights in the '90s to being able to have a civil union, now to gay marriage - totally within my lifetime.

"It's great to have some legislation behind it, because that gives it the muscle and even if it drags everyone along with it."

A major shift occurred about once every decade, particularly in New Zealand, she said.

"I think it goes hand in hand with the more equality and the more awareness - it's very political, so when you've got a comfortable economy and people are feeling prosperous and good then they look at, I guess, a broader social agenda.

"It's different from a decade ago, that's for sure - to see MPs rocking up, that's different again.

"You know, to see John Key be kissing cousins with a drag queen is always amusing but you know that's political cache.

"He wasn't anywhere around when the Homosexual Law Reform Bill was happening, when it was ugly and very uncomfortable."

Marriage equality and changing attitudes in New Zealand were fantastic, but it was unfortunate they weren't internationally, she said.

"You scratch the surface and you go to Russia, or even dear old Australia where you can't have a civil union even though they have the most massive festival there at Mardi Gras - you take a step outside your comfort zone and you interact with homophobia or just plain old ignorance.

"The sky isn't going to fall in. There isn't going to be a mass takeover of a kindergarten and I think Maurice Williamson's big gay rainbow speech had it right - what's going to happen? What's the worst that can happen?

"Ignorance is rife, and there's been years and years and years - thousands of years, hundreds of years of misinformation and fear, I think."

Yates referred to the offensive use of the term "gay" to describe something that was stupid as showing how far we had to go.

"If I'm around young folk I say I'm sure you can think of another word, because it's offensive - and that's hugely prevalent.

"I spoke to my daughter's teacher about it and said if someone was saying, 'Oh, that's so black', you guys would be having a fit, and they took it on board and dealt with it really well, I thought.

"That's a little individual case, and it's tiresome to have to do it, it's really tedious ... but the more that it happens, and is recognised, the better."

Yates tells her stepdaughters she looks forward to the day they come out as heterosexuals.

"You know, why do you have to do that [if you're gay]?

"You shouldn't have to, it certainly doesn't happen the other way, it just evolves.

"It's just part of growing up, it's just normal, it's just part of the spectrum of sexuality."

Young people had enough drama getting through adolescence without adding an extra layer of pressure, she said.

The reawakened Pride concept and festival was hugely important for the gay community as a whole, Yates said.

"I think it's pretty critical to be honest.

"And that whole presentation of diversity - so you're not the token character on Shortland St, or you get one movie every now and then, so that there's a festival like this shows the diversity of what's out there, and it's much the same as the heterosexual community."

- Charlotte Yates will perform at the Auckland Pride Gala tomorrow, at a show with co-producer Gil Eva Craig at Tabac on Saturday, and at the Big Gay Out on Sunday. 

Fairfax Media