Christchurch pride alive despite gay exodus

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 10/11/2012

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Members of Christchurch's gay and lesbian community are vowing a gay exodus from the city will not dampen their spirits as they rev up for the local Pride festival.

After an 18-month absence because of the quakes, gay festival Christchurch Pride is expected to paint the earthquake-hit town in rainbows during the coming three weeks, starting today.

Organiser Anne Nicholson said it was well known the rainbow communities had shrunk since the quakes - but the loss in numbers would have no impact on the festival's energy, she said.

They believe the exodus was clearly linked to a loss of nightlife and gay-friendly venues - but some said the city's "conservative" reputation was also blamed.

Drag queen Greg Freeman has farewelled almost 60 of his "queer" friends since the quakes because, he believed, they wanted to "chase the party".

Freeman, who is also involved in organising the festival, said there were few spots in pre-quake Christchurch that "we could feel comfortable with who we are".

Akira Le Fevre, 31, said other cities in New Zealand were "a lot more diverse" and gay-friendly than Christchurch.

When the quakes hit and the gay venues were closed down, many people easily made the decision to "pack up and go".

The city's sole gay nightclub had reopened in significantly smaller premises and the gay, lesbian and bisexual scene had become a lot more diluted, he said.

Gay university student Reuben McPeak transferred to Auckland late last year because of Christchurch's "lack of nightlife".

He said the city was "so conservative" it made gay people feel "paranoid about what you can and can't do in public".

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