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Ending HIV Big Gay Out: A First Time

As we get closer to celebrating this year’s Ending HIV Big Gay Out in Auckland, 21-year-old Danny remembers his first experience of the event three years ago as an enjoyable and entertaining way to really come out to New Zealand’s queer scene, as well as an opportunity to get involved in some of the more serious side of sexual health and the gay community.

170207-Danny-Lam-Big-Gay-Out.jpg#asset:1Danny (centre) at the EquAsian tent at the 2016 Big Gay Out.

In 2014 I was looking for a job so I signed up as survey recruiter for GAPSS – the Gay Auckland Periodic Sex Survey, which is held every three years. So basically we set up a tent and asked a lot of men who have sex with men about their sexual practices and health. It was pretty fun and we had uniforms like Superman, only with a G instead of S. I met a few friends and a lot of cool people there – as well as getting really sunburnt because it was so hot!

Most of the day was spent working and it was a little awkward asking people to take a 10-minute survey in a set up that made it look a bit like an exam room – but it went really well and people enjoyed taking the survey. They even got a sticker and a lollipop for taking part.

I guess because it was all about healthcare it was a pretty good thing to do and everyone who worked at the survey tent was really involved and very energetic, and I was only 18 and very little – everyone seemed much older than me!

When we had a break, we checked out the different stalls and organisations that were there. I thought they were great – it was the first time I got my blood tested too and that was really nice with everyone involved and they were really friendly.

The entertainment was really amazing. And I also enjoyed seeing some MPs there – it’s always interesting to see politicians coming along to events like the Big Gay Out because any LGBT event in New Zealand is always going to have a bit of a political feel about it.

But the coolest thing about that first year was seeing everyone having fun and because at that point I hadn’t really been involved in the queer community very much, and it was my first time going to something like the Big Gay Out and seeing all the colours and people. It’s quite funny because when you go to the Big Gay Out you see a lot of people that you know but you’ve never talked to – like people who’ve messaged you on Grindr - so that’s interesting!

By that time, I had been out to friends for five years and to my family only one year – I hadn’t really done anything in the queer community before that because I didn’t want my family to know but after that it was fine. My mum had been a bit worried about nightclubs because she thought I was too young to go to to them at 18, but she wasn’t worried about working at the Big Gay Out so it ended up all good.

The second and third years were really good because of the really great entertainment and last year was also the first time I had volunteered for EquAsian, which is an organisation for queer Asian people – and that meant sitting in a tent and telling people what we were about, then getting out to wander around and see what was going on.

It’s just nice to see all the people that come to an event like the Big Gay Out. New Zealand may not be perfect in terms of inclusiveness but the Big Gay Out is so family friendly, there’s so many kids there that it’s sort of like bringing queer culture and making it very Kiwi. It’s just like a summer day out – a fun day for literally anyone, any New Zealander because it’s so open.

Volunteering for one of the organisations that takes part in the Big Gay Out is a good way to experience the day – especially if you volunteer for an organisation like Ending HIV because they walk around interacting with more people, they all dress up and it seems very much like a social thing. This year I’m probably going to volunteer again for the EquAsian tent and make sure I get enough time to go and watch the entertainment – I definitely want to catch the acts (especially Parson James).

There’s a word my mum uses in Shanghainese – that’s a version of Chinese that is spoken in the city of Shanghai – that doesn’t really have a direct translation but it kind of means going out into the crowd and enjoying the crowds. One of the syllables literally means 'busy' and the other 'noisy' – but my mum uses it about the crowds at the Boxing Day sales, that sort of thing. And although I don’t really like crowds, that’s what the Big Gay Out is all about – it’s about going out and being among lots of people and liking the whole vibe of that and enjoying the whole nice view of Coyle Park, hanging out with lots of people and enjoying a nice summer’s day.

This year’s Ending HIV Big Gay Out takes place in Coyle Park, Point Chevalier, on Sunday the 12th of February with a party bus shuttling people back and forth from Family Bar and stopping at the corner of Richmond and Ponsonby Roads every 20 minutes from 11.30am to 8pm. The event is brought to you by Ending HIV and features the US headline artist, singer-songwriter Parson James on the Durex Main Stage. Sunscreen will be available if you forget to bring your own!

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