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Progress Pillar, 2024. Wood, Steel & Moulded Plastic Sculpture. 450 x 2700 x 450 mm
Part of the Boon Sculpture Trail, Hamilton, NZ. Feb 3 – March 31, 2024

This sculpture celebrates LGBTQI+ history from Aotearoa and beyond, inspired by the theme "This Place" from the Boon Sculpture Walk in Kirikiriroa, Hamilton. Moving to Hamilton for studies in 2000, I grappled with my identity in a city (at that time) that lacked positive LGBTQI representation. Transferring to Wellington the next year provided a more accepting environment. My journey continued to Melbourne and New York City, where I embraced the significance of the gay liberation movement such as The Stonewall Inn, finding my own queer community and attending the cities giant pride march. It was also while living in New York, I vividly remember watching with pride the footage from NZ Parliament following the 2013 marriage reform and the following rendition of Pokarekare ana. It also made me think of how unique and lucky we were to have the world’s first openly transgender Mayor and then member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer (and that was in the 90s!).  


So in the context of presenting a public sculpture in Kirikiriroa, I thought it would be great to reclaim those anxious former years and create a positive and joyous beacon of LGBTQI+ pride. The sculpture is tall and totemic with a spherical top, intending to represent a proud human figure. On each of the 12 sides of the body are colourful abstractions representing moments in queer history from Aotearoa and abroad. It’s titled Progress Pillar to represent how far myself along with society at large has come with acceptance and visibility towards the LGBTQI+ community. Its intention is one of joy, pride & hope. 

Below is the companion guide to the Progress Pillar sculpture. Each face of the sculpture represents a person or event
from LBGTQI Herstory from Aotearoa and beyond.



CIRCA 1980's

The 1980s AIDS crisis was a devastating global health emergency. Identified in 1981, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) spread rapidly, primarily affecting the LGBTQ+ community. Initial stigma and misinformation hindered responses. By the end of the decade, AIDS had claimed countless lives, prompting increased awareness, research, and advocacy. The crisis spurred efforts for medical advancements, public education, and a reassessment of societal attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community, leaving a lasting impact on healthcare, social policies, and public perception.



CIRCA 1971

The KG Club emerged at a time when lesbian social culture was starting to thrive in urban spaces. Late in 1971, the KG Club was thus founded to create a kind of structure to accommodate this growing scene. At the club, lesbians would congregate to sing, play music, dance, eat, drink in a women-only space. It’s also worth pointing out that this club, and many along with it, was very much steeped in native Māori and working-class cultures.



JUNE 28 1969

The Stonewall Riots erupted in June 1969 when patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, resisted a police raid. Spontaneous and fierce demonstrations ensued, lasting several days and marking a turning point for LGBTQ+ rights. Led by transgender activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the riots catalyzed the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. Stonewall symbolizes the fight against oppression, sparking increased visibility, activism, and the annual Pride celebrations globally.




Carmen Rupe was a trailblazing transgender woman and entertainer, a larger-than-life personality, sex worker, and celebrated LGBTIQ+ icon. Proprietor of several notorious Wellington nightspots and one-time mayoral candidate, she pushed the boundaries of Wellington nightlife and both entertained and outraged New Zealanders during the 1960s and 1970s. The most visible transgender New Zealander of her time, she used her celebrity to advocate for LGBTIQ+ rights. She was well-known for helping homeless people and others in need.



1930 - 1978

Harvey Milk was a pioneering American politician and the first openly gay elected official in California. A charismatic leader, he advocated for LGBTQ+ rights and social justice. Elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, Milk worked to empower marginalized communities. Tragically, he was assassinated a year into his term. Milk's legacy endures as a symbol of LGBTQ+ activism, inspiring movements for equality and inclusivity worldwide.



1957 - 2023


Georgina Beyer, born in 1957, is a New Zealand politician and transgender trailblazer. Elected as Mayor of Carterton in 1995, she later became the world's first openly transgender Member of Parliament in 1999. Beyer advocated for social justice and minority rights during her political career. Her achievements broke barriers and contributed to LGBTQ+ visibility in politics. After leaving politics in 2007, Beyer continued to inspire as a speaker and writer, leaving an enduring impact on transgender representation and acceptance.



CIRCA 1980's - Present Day

Vogue balls are vibrant events originating from the LGBTQ+ ballroom culture, gaining prominence in the late 20th century in Harlem, New York City. Participants, often from the queer and transgender communities, showcase dance, fashion, and self-expression. Inspired by the "vogueing" dance style, popularized by the documentary "Paris Is Burning," these events celebrate creativity and individuality. Participants compete in various categories, displaying skill, fashion, and personality. Vogue balls provide a supportive space for diverse communities to express themselves.



CIRCA 1950's

Founded in 1950, the Mattachine Society was an early LGBTQ+ rights organization in the United States. Named after medieval French secret societies, it aimed to promote understanding and acceptance of homosexuality. Led by activists like Harry Hay, the society initially operated covertly due to societal hostility. It played a pivotal role in advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, fostering a sense of community, and challenging discriminatory laws. The Mattachine Society laid the groundwork for subsequent movements fighting for equality and the decriminalization of homosexuality in the U.S.




Same-sex marriage has been legal in New Zealand since 19 August 2013. Legislation to allow it, the Marriage Amendment Act 2013 was passed by the House of Representatives on 17 April 2013 by 77 votes to 44 and received royal assent on 19 April. 
It entered into force on 19 August, to allow time for the Department of Internal Affairs to make the necessary changes for marriage licensing and related documentation. New Zealand became the first country in Oceania, the fourth in the Southern Hemisphere, and the fifteenth overall to allow same-sex couples to marry.




The Homosexual Law Reform Act, which was signed by the governor-general on 11 July 1986 and came into effect on 8 August, decriminalised sexual relations between men aged 16 and over. No longer would men having consensual sex with each other be liable to prosecution and a term of imprisonment. Sex between women was not illegal, but many lesbians suffered the same social discrimination as gay men and so were staunch supporters of reform.



1988 –

Eliana Rubashkyn is a New Zealand pharmacist and chemist, known for being the first intersex person assigned male at birth legally recognised as a woman with a UN mechanism under the international refugee statute. Born in Colombia, Rubashkyn was formerly stateless. She currently works as a programme officer at ILGA world, and as a harm reduction scientist developing human right campaigns of support addressed to LGBTQI asylum seekers, refugees and intersex persons around the world.



1960 – 

RuPaul Charles is an influential American drag queen, singer, and television personality. Rising to fame in the 1990s, RuPaul is a drag icon and creator/host of the reality TV show "RuPaul's Drag Race," which has garnered global acclaim for promoting LGBTQ+ visibility and talent. A trailblazer in the drag community, RuPaul's charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent have made a lasting impact, earning him numerous awards and establishing him as a prominent figure in pop culture.

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