Bill English's faces unfamiliar territory with his first Big Gay Out

Chris Skelton/FAIRFAX NZ

Prime Minister Bill English at the Big Gay Out held at Coyle Park, Point Chevalier, Auckland.

He's the new Prime Minister and things are going to be different now. Prime Minister Bill English faced unfamiliar territory today - his first Big Gay Out.

Unlike his predecessor John Key, the new premier did not get up on stage to talk to the public, neither did he have a picture taken with a flamboyant drag queen.

For Key, the shot with drag queen was an annual tradition. 

Prime Minister Bill English walked around at the Big Gay Out but did not get up on stage.
Chris Skelton

Prime Minister Bill English walked around at the Big Gay Out but did not get up on stage.

And they did not seem too keen either.

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John Key cheered and booed at Big Gay Out 

"Oh, I preferred John," said one attendee as the Prime Minister walked past.

However, English did walk around Coyle Park and visited the stalls.

Former PM John Key meets the crowds at Big Gay Out in 2016.
JASON DORDAY/FAIRFAX NZ

Former PM John Key meets the crowds at Big Gay Out in 2016.

He managed to get a few selfies with the crowd too. 

It was quite a change of pace for English, who on Saturday was in Invercargill shearing sheep alongside shearing great Sir David Fagan to promote the world shearing championships.

The Big Gay Out crowd might not be as sympathetic as the Southland sheep farmers: last year then-prime minister John Key was spat at and booed off stage by anti-TPP protesters, who also glitter bombed him.

The annual event held in Auckland draws thousands of people to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender communities around the city and the country.

This year the event is as colourful as it gets, with gay pride flags fluttering and flamboyantly dressed drag queens floating about the grounds in Coyle Park in Point Chevalier.

"It's all about us today darling," said Vanessa, a member of the LGBT community.

Kiwi comedian Mike King said it was a sign of changing times for English to attended the event.
Mahvash Ali/FAIRFAX NZ

Kiwi comedian Mike King said it was a sign of changing times for English to attended the event.

Kiwi comedian Mike King was at the event and said English's attendance was a sign of changing times.

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"It's brave of him to come considering he could be glitter bombed or cream-pied and it goes against his religion. I think it shows we live in a changing time and views can change," King said.

Trevor Hynes, 63, said he was aware it was election year.

Trevor Hynes, 63, said it was a good move for English to attended the event with the election coming up.
Mahvash Ali/FAIRFAX NZ

Trevor Hynes, 63, said it was a good move for English to attended the event with the election coming up.

"I know it's election year, at least he is turning up and seeing the diversity amongst everyone, after all we are the voters," Hynes said.

"We are no different to the ones staying at home today."

Daphne Bush, 47, said English "would make a good drag queen."

"I am glad he is coming," Bush said.

Bush said the word was there could be some pushback from other event goers but "it doesn't matter."

Daphne Bush, 47, welcomed English to the event and said the Prime Minister would make a great drag queen.
Mahvash Ali/FAIRFAX NZ

Daphne Bush, 47, welcomed English to the event and said the Prime Minister would make a great drag queen.

Zan Charlaf, 61, said English was stepping out of his space to embrace others.

Another woman, named Laura, said "If he is here on political business then it is good he is trying to reach out to the LGBT community.

"If he is here out of his personal accord then I don't know why he's here." 

Zan Charlaf, 61, said the Prime Minster was embracing others by attending the event.
Mahvash Ali/FAIRFAX NZ

Zan Charlaf, 61, said the Prime Minster was embracing others by attending the event.

However, others pointed to what they called English's lack of support for gay rights in the past.

"If he supports us and has changed his mind then he is welcome but if he is still in the same mindset as he was then he can f... off," Josh Laine said.

Politicians have for years been making an appearance at the Big Gay Out to show their support for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, but remarkably it will be a first for English, who has never made it before.

Laura said English's visit to the event on "political business" was a step in the right direction for the LGBT community
Mahvash Ali/FAIRFAX NZ

Laura said English's visit to the event on "political business" was a step in the right direction for the LGBT community

A staunch Catholic and MP at the conservative end of National's caucus, English said this had nothing to do with his absence in past years and the flamboyant event held no fears for him.

"This is just another part of our community; it's got its own particular concerns, in that sense it is like a lot of groups we meet," English said.

"I'm sure they'll have some challenge but I'm used to that in public life. I was probably a bit more worried about shearing in front of a large crowd than going to Big Gay Out."

English will be taking a back seat to deputy prime minister Paula Bennett on the day, however; he said he would be arriving late after attending another event so Bennett would deliver the official speech.

 - Stuff

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