LGBT Theatre

A guide to LGBT shows and theatre making in the UK (world domination 2015) We look forward to providing listings to the gay Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013 – check back in June for full listings, or follow @TheatreLGBT to hear the latest.

Month: May, 2013

Our Top 5 Coolest Protests

by stephaniegunner

Executed for Sodomy, we see a woman with a transgender identity face an onslaught of prejudice from not just society, but state-sanctioned law as well. In the case of unjust laws, or unfair decisions, many of us feel protest is our only option. But sometimes we can become so familiar with the sights of placards we cease to really see what’s written on them. Here’s a look at the ways individuals and groups have responded when the law fails to represent them, or the voice of hatred and shame threatens to overshadow what’s important.

The John Snow Kiss-In

Same Sexy

Same Sexy

In April 2011, James Bull and Jonathan Williams were ejected from the John Snow pub on Broadwick Street, Soho, for kissing each other while out on a date. The following Friday, hundreds of same-sex couples gathered outside the pub and held a mass “kiss-in” in support of the couple, drawing lots of attention and forcing the pub to close early. Reports confirmed that the spectacle drew cheers of approval from passers-by, and that the atmosphere was cheerful despite the seriousness of the couple’s complaint. Embodying the mantra “Make love, not war”, these activists certainly knew how to make the most of non-violent protest.

Boston Teamsters Block Westboro Baptist Church

My most recent example of a mass answering-back, this occurred in April this year at the funeral of Boston Marathon bomb victim Krystle Campbell. In the days leading up to the ceremony, Westboro Baptist Church (everyone’s least favourite gatecrashers and logic-defying mentalists) threatened to picket the service. When Boston’s chapter of Local 25 (a US labour union) got wind of this, they made their feelings very public by broadcasting over the internet that if WBC were to attend, it should expect the union also be out in force. On the day of the funeral, Teamsters Local 25  gathered outside Medford St Joseph Church, and formed a human shield to protect Krystle’s friends and family from any distressing behaviour that WBC might display. The hate-mongers never turned up, but the photos of teamsters calmly standing together showing compassion and resilience against hate, became a comforting image for those affected by the bombings, and anyone else capable of basic human compassion.

The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

Heading up silent protest against the governemnt

Heading up silent protest against the governemnt

During Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ (1976-1983), the military government kidnapped, tortured and murdered left-wing militants and anyone else deemed “subversive”, mainly young people and students who criticised authority. Those abducted became known as “The Disappeared”, as the government destroyed any documents and records that would enable their relatives to locate their bodies, or reclaim any grandchildren. On April 30th 1977, a small group of 14 mothers seeking the truth of their children’s whereabouts, held their first protest against the government’s silence in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. As even discussing the location of those missing was a violation of strict censorship laws; the mothers remained silent, walking slowly in a counter clockwise circle in the centre of the public square. By walking they avoided being arrested, as standing still together would be deemed an illegal public meeting. As protest signs would also have been forbidden, the mothers wore white headscarves embroidered with the names of those missing, spreading their message of resistance quietly. An identical march was held every Thursday in front of the Casa Rosada, the seat of the Argentine regime based in Plaza de Mayo, and the movement grew until hundreds of people were participating in the weekly demonstration. It’s a brilliant reminder that no matter how brutal a regime is in its censorship, those in the right can still make their voices heard.

Indonesia’s New Men’s Alliance Skirt Up

The Slut Walk?

The Slut Walk?

Earlier this year, five men pitched up at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in Jakarta, wearing mini-skirts and holding placards. The signs read slogans like “Real Men Don’t Rape” and “Let’s unite to fight against rape”. The men were members of Indonesia’s New Men’s Alliance (ALLB) which was created to campaign against violence towards women, but also to promote equality between the sexes. Many supporters of the alliance, male and female, have stories of violence and rape visited upon themselves or women they know, but also speak up to the damaging effect patriarchy has on male identity too. The group promotes communication, as many men in Indonesian feel they cannot discuss how they feel openly because society expects them to be tough and independent. The same reluctance to share also helps keep violence against women a secret, as patriarchal society normalises violence against women to the point that good men don’t question their peers’ behaviour. One male supporter of ALLB says he quit the band he was playing in because he discovered another member beat his wife. So the group sees gender and society holistically, working to be inclusive in its campaign for a fairer world for everyone. It’s great to see an organisation uniting the sexes in the fight for equality, and looking gosh darn fabulous while they do it too.

ReBellyOn

Many of you may know and love the awesomeness that is Amanda Palmer. The former Dresden Doll has made a name for herself as a marvellously alternative lyricist, composer and singer, weaving punk, cabaret and circus elements into her live shows and generally not giving a fuck what the mainstream thinks of her. It seems her (now ex) record label hadn’t paid attention to the artist she’d become, because in 2008 Roadrunner records wanted to remove shots from her video “Leeds United” because they claimed her tummy looked fat. As if anyone gave a shit. Palmer herself put it plainly on her blog “who didn’t send you the memo that I’m not Britney Spears? I’m not TRYING to look hungry. I’m trying to look HOT. There’s a difference.” Fans took to the internets, and created a blog called ReBELLYon, posting photos of their gloriously un-airbrushed tummies daubed with slogans of support. My personal favourite message was “The sandwiches are wicked”. After a long legal battle, Roadrunner finally released Palmer from her contract and she now releases through her own label 8ft Records. Presumably jiggling her “fat” belly as much as she likes, along with the rest of us.

 

So hopefully I’ve illustrated that protesting doesn’t always mean rioting, and that non-violent gestures can be strong enough to topple regimes, challenge the status quo or simply get a shallow record company see sense. In all things however, the coolest thing you can express is compassion.

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Why Steph Loves Cunt: An Adventure in Etymology

by stephaniegunner

Executed For Sodomy, a play about a woman living (and loving) as a man, devotes a large part of its prose to describing the false phallus she uses to penetrate her wife. As a counterpoint to the description of male genitalia (albeit of the ersatz variety) I wanted to look at words used to describe female sex organs, and argue the case for my favourite misunderstood noun…

I love the word ‘Cunt’. It’s a word that still retains its shock-value long after the fucks got forgettable, the sluts ceased to surprise and the cocks cornered the market in ‘inoffensively risqué’ dramatic sensibilities. It may be the implicit bluntness of the monosyllable or the apparent masculinity in the sound it makes when shouted, but Cunt is still considered the most offensive curse in the English language and the only term that instantly catapults a ‘15’ certificate to a dead cert ‘X’. That’s not why I love it, though. I love it because it speaks to my sexuality in a way that feels more accurate than other, more flowery terminology. Sexually, I don’t feel like an incomplete spectre hovering around waiting for the next penis to sustain my identity. My desire is independent. Sometimes it likes to be explored with another person; other times on its own. It’s always best expressed however honestly, directly and without apology, and here’s why Cunt is the best word to complement that.

Cunt is often considered at its most offensive when used to describe a woman as a whole. I would have to agree that any use of a word that also refers to genitals to summarise an entire human being is pretty bad form. Even when used to refer to the very thing it was developed to describe though, Cunt is generally thought of as a vulgar way to refer to a lady’s parts. I even had a boyfriend once who asked me not to use it to describe my own genitalia as he felt it was almost self-violent to do so.

If we dig a little deeper into the history of the term though, it becomes more apparent how wonderfully feminist and appropriate it is. Certainly less violent and reductive than Vagina, in any case.

Vagina comes from the Latin for “sword-sheath” or “scabbard”, and refers only to the internal canal. It’s considered less offensive in polite society, but the word Vagina not only reduces a woman’s sex to simply an orifice; ignoring labia, vulva and clitoris, but automatically defines female sexual experience as something that only happens when a man has the good grace to be present. By likening the female sex to an item developed for a single purpose, Vagina describes an object with no sexual autonomy of its own. A “sword-sheath” has only one purpose: to wait around looking pretty until someone decides to shove a sword in it. It’s passive, inert and functional. A pretty hollow term for a hollow view of the female body.

Cunt however, takes in all the bits and pieces, folds and textures of the vulva, acknowledging a woman’s sexual expression doesn’t begin and end as a sperm receptacle. It’s expressive, inclusive and a thoroughly feminine term. Though the exact etymology is still hotly debated, many agree that the prefix “cu” is synonymous with the female, and Matthew Hunt describes how “coo” and “cu” “were ancient monosyllabic sounds implying femininity” on his website ‘Cunt: The History of the C Word’.The Online Etymology Dictionary also reveals the potency of the single syllable, as it tells us some 18th century writers only referred to the term as “the monosyllable”, further highlighting the staying power of the word by listing other less successful terminology. Just think of a world where we still called our nether parts “nature’s tufted treasure” or “Fumbler’s Hall”…So not only does Cunt carry the meaning of the whole female sex, it does it with just four-letters, packing a direct and attention-grabbing punch. It’s certainly preferable and more stylish than the infantilising “pussy” or nauseatingly coy “frou frou”.

I much prefer a word that encompasses my whole genitalia as the seat of my sexual pleasure. And if I find myself on an erotic adventure in which only my vagina is getting attention, you can be damn sure it isn’t my sexuality that’s being expressed. For that I need the Cunt, the whole Cunt and nothing but the Cunt. Well, occasionally a penis too.

How do you feel about the word Cunt? Do you use it, and under what circumstances? Are there any words you prefer? Let us know by leaving a comment or tweeting us: @TheatreLGBT

Feminism in Art: Steph’s Top Five

by stephaniegunner

Recently a group of radical feminists disrupted a meeting of a men’s issues group at Toronto University. The activists from Canadian Alliance For Equality (CAFÉ) picketed, hurled abuse at attendees and eventually pulled the fire alarm, forcing an end to the event. The situation at the university is very tense, with both sides feeling intimidated and victimised. It’s complex, and I’m not saying CAFÉ don’t necessarily have a point, but it was the way the group went about protesting that unsettled me. It was troubling to see self-proclaimed feminists resorting to bullying tactics out of fear. The way the CAFÉ members behaved is not representative of the majority of feminists, but unfortunately it’s often the loudest and most difficult child that gets the attention. When I talk about feminism; and that is an almost daily occurrence, it’s usually from a positive perspective. Equality is a brilliant idea for both men and women, promoting understanding between the sexes and even helping to boost our economy (see organisations such as 30 Percent Club to find out how). So I often talk about feminism using artworks

heartmouth

as illustration; because it’s often more relatable than the rantings of the radicals. Here are some pieces I’ve found inspiring, and which I think are good examples of a calmer line of enquiry into gender, relationships and feminism.

Isley Lynn – True Love: The Truth

When I first saw this performance piece by playwright and poet Isley Lynn, I’ll admit I was a little sceptical about the premise. A collection of her poems on the theme of love and relationships, linked together by the story of her romantic life to date, there’s huge potential for the screaming pain and anger diatribe that many may expect. The tone of the show is actually the exact opposite. Emphasising what has been learned; not lost, Lynn’s disarming honesty and openness allows us to see parts of our own experiences in her story. It would be giving far too much away to reveal the content of her final poem, but suffice it to say it reveals something deeply personal, which makes this much more than a whiny rant about boyfriends. It reminds us that the most important relationship in life is with ourselves, and that love is complicated for both sexes. We are all equal in love, and at times all of us are equally lost.

Helen Chadwick – Piss Flowers

piss_flowerOne of Chadwick’s most famous works, Piss Flowers is a series of casts made from the cavities created when she and her boyfriend urinated in the snow. As well as exploring how transgressive behaviour can be elegant and beautiful, the piece also has some interesting perspectives on physicality and gender. It is Chadwick’s urine that creates the central stamen of the flower, the penis if you like, and we imaginatively associate her body with power and forthright action. The labial petals are cast from her partner’s stream, connecting his male body with light touches and decoration, usually considered feminine traits. The way this artwork plays with ideas of what male and female bodies naturally do, as opposed to what we prescribe them to do, is what draws me to it. That, and the fact it has piss in the title.

At The Drive In – Invalid Litter Dept.

Invalid Litter Dept. is a song by Texan post-hardcore band At The Drive In, dealing with some issues pretty close to home. The band members hail from El Paso on the border with Mexico, and the town of Ciudad Juarez is a mere 11 minutes away by car. Since 1993, over 400 women have been murdered in Juarez, their bodies discovered raped, charred and mutilated in the desert outside the town. Many have attributed the term ‘Femicide’ to the series of killings, citing Mexico’s corrupted justice system as a major reason there have been no convictions to date. Invalid Litter Dept. contains lyrics referring to the murders, particularly criticising the indifferent attitude of the federales, or Mexican police. It doesn’t strictly fit my brief of a calmer voice of equality, but the fact this song has been written by an all-male band making music for a male-dominated medium and a core market of young men is particularly heartening for me. It’s angry, but it’s a male voice, so it’s more readily listened to by the general populace. I’m not saying that’s right, but it’s how things function for now, and the more men we have echoing feminist lines of enquiry the further along the road we can get. It’s a great example of how taking a stand against violence towards women is something good men do too.

Lora Hristova – Tales of Hubris

wallpoemArt and pornography are generally thought of as visual mediums, and for the most part that’s true, but this series of works by Lora Hristova shows how words can have just as much impact, if not more. Taking extracts from porn magazine writer Jeff Hubris’ articles and cutting them up, rearranging and censoring them, Hristova presents these texts on large Perspex wall hangings, giving the words ultimate visibility. Re-contextualising the texts muddies the waters of the porn industry even more, and the motivations and experiences of the people involved become even more ambiguous. By not telling us what to think, but questioning how we think about porn, Hristova gives men and women a chance to reconsider what we’re seeing, and how we connect or disconnect during the sex act.

Sonnet 130 – William Shakespeare

Regardless of anything else we may know or debate about Shakespeare; his sexuality, his attitude towards women, etc. this sonnet is the single most romantic thing I have ever read. It seems that even in Elizabethan times, women were put under pressure to be beautiful in a way that society dictated, and that their lovability and worth as a person was directly linked to achieving this state. Sonnet 130 pulls down the idealised bullshit of commonplace expressions of love, and replaces it with a much more believable and recognisable experience of a relationship. By being shoulder-shruggingly honest and pointing out the beloved female’s “faults” before declaring a sincere love for all her earthly wonder and human beauty, the speaker is looking at a woman and saying ‘I see you as you are, and I love you’. What could be a more beautiful statement of love and recognition of someone’s worth beyond their physicality, than that?

So the rhetoric of feminism need not be one of rage and anger, but of calm enquiry, explanation and curiosity. Whether it’s the playfulness of Piss Flowers, the plain injustice of the Juarez murders, or the elegance of words and stories that peak your interest in broader affairs, I encourage you to explore this artistic terrain. There are many more voices in feminism and art than just the yell of protest, and I promise you won’t always get shouted at if you come along to an exhibition or event.  Well, not unless you sit at the front, of course.

Tell us about some of the people or artworks that have inspired you, comment below or tweet us @TheatreLGBT

By Stephanie Gunner

False promises = Negated consent. Why do some people have a problem with this?

by stephaniegunner

ImageWith the issue of consent still fresh in my mind after watching Executed For Sodomy, I’m particularly aware of how agreements shape our sex lives. What we agree to, and what might have been kept from us when we do, can change the context of an encounter from joyous expression to painful humiliation. In the play, when Cathy Muhlhahn marries and sleeps with Catharina, she has consented to sex with a man that she loves, but unbeknownst to her that man is really a wife in disguise. In these circumstances could it be said that Catharina has raped Cathy? In my opinion: yes, and here’s my take on a recent news story to illuminate why.

Many of you will probably have seen the Metro headline a couple of weeks ago: “Sex with consent ‘can still be rape”, referring to a judge’s ruling on an encounter between a husband and wife.  It was decreed that the husband, who failed to withdraw before ejaculating despite his wife’s request that he do so, had committed an offence by negating her consent. Because her willingness to have sex was based upon this agreement, his abuse of it was seen by the judge as falling within the legal definition of rape.

Now sex in its purest form is an organic; fluctuating expression between communicative humans that cannot be prescribed or predetermined completely.  There will always be something of a leap of faith about it, and the best way to avoid inadvertently hurting someone is to keep bloody communicating beyond the initial kiss. Sometimes things can change a lot between saying yes, and the actual splitting of the atom, as it were. I think it’s best seen as a continuing negotiation and exploration between adults; consent falls within that bracket too. It’s an ongoing aspect of sleeping with someone, and “Aw, but you said I could” is not an acceptable counterpoint to a change in circumstances. In this case, it’s a brazen “You said I couldn’t and I lied to manipulate you before going ahead and doing whatever the hell I wanted to do anyway” type of rapist reasoning, and to me quite clearly shows an intentional lack of respect for her choices.

 Image

Now in many situations in life we’re called upon to give consent to others using our stuff. But it’s an accepted part of social decorum that we, as owners, set the boundaries. Let’s say you invite a friend over for dinner. During the course of the evening they ask if they can use your bathroom. You agree, and continue to spoon out risotto, ready for when they return. After 10 minutes you’re concerned they’ve been a long time, after 20 you decide to investigate. You go upstairs and find your friend settled into a hot bubble bath, using your razor and brushing their teeth with your toothbrush. “But you said I could use your bathroom….”

It’s a crude example, granted, but what I mean to illustrate is this. In life, none of us can assume our actions will be acceptable if we do not get consent from the person they affect first, and it’s our responsibility to deal with the consequences if we don’t. In the case described in Metro it seems palpably obvious to me that the woman’s consent was abused, to the point that she ended up carrying a child she never wanted because of someone else’s decision. That’s not just an assault on someone’s body and trust; it’s a manipulation of their future. Of course I see that withdrawal is not a reliable method of contraception, which many people have pointed out, but that is not really the issue here. The issue is that withdrawal was her chosen method of contraception, and the term upon which she agreed to intercourse; neither of those choices was respected.

What the judge is acknowledging here is what should be apparent to everyone: we will all be held accountable for going back on our promises, especially when it affects the body and mind of another person. It shouldn’t be so controversial to expect a husband to care what his wife wants. It shouldn’t be shrugged off and accepted that some women lie about being on the pill to seduce a man. If you lie to a person to get them to have sex with you; you’re raping them, as a manipulated choice is not a valid one. Whatever gender you are, it is your responsibility to get consent via the truth.

 By Stephanie Gunner

In The Flesh: How sexuality in Sci-Fi has moved with the times

by stephaniegunner

Art has always been used to define humanity, especially by determining what humanity is not. Murderers, rapists, incestuous siblings; our visual culture is littered with examples of people we don’t want to acknowledge are born to our species. Homosexuality was often depicted in a similar way, until changes in attitudes began to be reflected in the scribblings of our writers, playwrights and directors. The science fiction genre is a particularly noisy forum for these kinds of debates, and by looking at a recent televisual offering, I hope to illuminate the journey homosexuality has made from human corruption to natural human expression.

In-the-FleshUsing Sci-Fi as a symposium for social phobias is not necessarily new. Filmmakers have long since reflected whatever current fear is stalking the minds of the populace, from radiation poisoning to the communist threat, stopping alongside sexual deviancy and racial tensions along the way. The supernatural is effectively a distorted mirror for our collective attitudes towards difference, and the goblins and monsters easily take the form of the dominant social prejudice du jour.

Racial intolerance, AIDS, and the complexities of male/female relationships have all been explored through alien invasions and the like, but the spectres of sexual difference have also been present as an undercurrent to the drama. In his book ‘Science Fiction Cinema: from outerspace to cyberspace’, Geoff King describes how 1950s science fiction movies can be read in terms of homosexual “threat”, and borrows Harry Benshoff’s example to elaborate on the point. He says that the fear of a perceived homosexual agenda can be seen in movies like I Married A Monster From Outer Space, as the “alien/husband prefers to meet strange men in a public park than stay at home with his wife.”

them_poster_02-300x204Recently however, we’ve seen a shift in the portrayal of homosexuality in Sci-Fi. It’s no longer used as metaphorical shorthand for a dangerous threat to traditional ideals, but part of the fabric of morality that needs to be protected too. It’s also no longer a hinted-at taboo confined to subtext, but a narrative theme in its own right. Gay relationships are treated as natural; not a force intent on undermining humanity, but a valuable part of it. Artifice is an android romance graphic novel which features gay protagonists. In reviewing it for ‘The Atlantic’ earlier this week, Noah Berlatsky notes that the work is not arresting because of its telling of a gay love story, but because reading it makes you “realise the extent to which gay protagonists are normal”. In the last 15 years we’ve also seen bisexual heroes fighting for humanity in Torchwood and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and now BBC3’s In The Flesh has become the latest TV supernatural drama to feature alternative sexuality as a main dramatic theme.

Featuring a gay protagonist called Kieren, who also suffers from PDS (Partially Dead Syndrome), In The Flesh imagines a semi-post-apocalyptic Britain, in which zombies have risen, been thwarted and subsequently quarantined and medicated until deemed safe to return to society. The 3-part drama follows Kieren as he rejoins his family in Roarton, a small town in the North of England where the locals are still fairly militantly anti-zombie after forming their own vigilante group during ‘The Rising’.

The prejudice Kieren faces as a PDS sufferer and the institutionalised bullying tactics of the vigilantes certainly mirrors anti-gay reactions throughout history, but it is the way the writers have treated the character’s actual status as gay that is refreshing. Throughout there is a strong suggestion that Kieren’s relationship with Rick, another Roarton resident killed in Afghanistan before being reanimated during The Rising, is more complex that simply teenage best mates. It isn’t until the final episode that the love between the two is confirmed however, and the real reasons behind their original deaths are revealed. The relationship is not framed as a revelation; rather a confirmation of what the audience had naturally assumed. It is neither hidden nor revelled in that Kieren is gay; it is simply another aspect of his character that he didn’t choose for himself, just as his PDS is. The attitudes of the community around him makes those states of being difficult, not the states themselves, and subscribing to the dominant fear that one is just as frightening as the other is made to look ridiculous. We’re now at a place where Sci-Fi can look at sexuality with a neutral gaze, and use it to detonate subtexts and exorcise social fears of the past.

Sci-fi is not just a forum for summoning our collective demons and cathartically eviscerating them through fictitious events, but a document of how ideas have changed. It celebrates not only humanity’s resilience to external attack, but also its ability to examine dangers from within its own ranks. Since the advent of nuclear weapons we’ve known we have the ability to destroy ourselves literally; it’s now that we’re starting to see how an inability to accept developments in our own humanity could be just as disastrous.

By Stephanie Gunner

“Big Gay Rainbow Across My Electorate”

by stephaniegunner

Executed for Sodomy is a play about two woman put on trial over 300 years ago for getting married (and other things!) Gay marriage is having something of a heyday at the moment. France and New Zealand have both passed legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry over the last few weeks, and the general mood is pretty positive. It might be wise while we’re feeling optimistic to look at how a Kiwi politician, MP Maurice Williamson, used his platform to answer gay rights critics, and think about how we can use a similar rhetoric to promote tolerance in our own lives.

Whenever a country puts gay marriage in the spotlight of the political theatre, it’s usually cause for kerfuffle. What tone the kerfuffling takes depends a lot on the dominant discourse of that country, and as New Zealand was the first nation to give women the vote, one of the first to decriminalise homosexuality and the first to elect a transsexual mayor to Parliament, it’s no surprise to find the Kiwis at the forefront of human rights again.

By passing a bill allowing equal marriage rights for the gay community last week, New Zealand has shown again that it thinks big for a small population. But it’s Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson who’s really captured attention, as his 4 minute speech to the House of Representatives sweeps its way through Youtube and social media in earnest. His charmingly disarming oration came as a burst of fresh music to politically fatigued ears, and served as a humour-filled counterpoint to the US Bible belt bleatings so commonly associated with gay rights debates. Williamson didn’t fall prey to the pitfall of many a frustrated gay rights advocate either, classily avoiding a self-righteous call to arms. In fact Mr Maurice achieved something we see all too rarely in political discourse these days; a calm and compassionate yet robust voice.

His speech shows us it’s possible to speak out in favour of gay marriage without alienating traditionalists. For many of us, same-sex marriage is a natural progression; an obvious rebalancing of rights and statuses to reflect changing ideas and values over the last century. But for many people, not necessarily anti-gay in principle but raised under circumstances where marriage meant only heterosexual union, it may seem a frightening restructuring of the world as they recognise it. Williamson acknowledges this, and instead of mocking their fears, he draws them in, making it clear he has listened to their concerns before reassuring them with positive associations and a rational perspective. His tone comes across as good humoured Sherpa, coaxing you along an unfamiliar mountain path and telling you how beautiful it will be when you get to the top. Emphasising gay marriage as a loving and positive addition to family life, rather than an invalidation of it, is a good way forward for equality, and demonstrating compassion to those unsure can tip the scales in favour of gay rights when it comes to convincing moderates.

Of course not everyone is on the fence. Williamson admits he was also beset by messages ranging from prophecies of a “gay onslaught” to his own inevitable fiery damnation, before using science to dispel the eternity of flames by predicting he’d last exactly 2.1 seconds in hell before his fleshly fuel ran out. By acknowledging but good-naturedly lampooning the obligatory ramblings from the radical right, Williamson defuses the rhetoric of fear, and once again reminds us that the best way to deal with a monster is to laugh at it.

We can learn a lot about how to deal with fear of change in politics from New Zealand. It’s true that the state has a duty to supply audience to all its citizens, whatever they have to say. And that means listening to everyone, however ill-informed or ignorant they may be. We as a society need not to dismiss them, but educate, and lead by example. People are far more likely to support social change if they feel listened to, valued and reassured; hence the advances made through legislation can stick.

We must remember the movement for equality is about love, compassion, listening and understanding, and the more we show those qualities to the sceptical, the more likely it is we will receive it in return. The public response to the passing of the bill is a heartening example of this, as citizens in the public gallery raised a chorus of “Pokarekare ana”, a Maori love song detailing the pain of a couple separated and the beauty of the love they could have if they were together. That, at its core, is what this movement wants; nothing more, nothing less.

By Stephanie Gunner