Story: Gay men’s lives

Page 3. Social and family life

All images & media in this story

Increasing visibility

In the early 21st century, gay male life was increasingly visible. On television the magazine-style programme Queer nation ran for 10 years. Māori Television’s Takatāpui was reportedly the world’s first gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender programme on an indigenous network. Takatāpui explored aspects of gay Māori history, as well as contemporary experience.

Social life

The annual Big Gay Out in Auckland’s Coyle Park, with performers, dancing, food stalls, and occasional handbag-throwing contest, is one of the most high-profile gay social events. The playful, carnival atmosphere echoes earlier events – the Hero and Devotion parties and festivals held in Auckland and Wellington from the 1990s onwards. Drag performances by gay men were often an important part of these events.

In the 21st century the larger cities had many organised leisure options for their gay and lesbian citizens, including film festivals, sports teams, gardening and tramping groups. Some cities offered professional networking organisations, and groups for the parents of gay offspring. For church-goers there were congregations that welcomed gay members. Networks of friends remained vitally important and gay men socialised together in a whole range of private and public spaces.

Bro Online

The social networking site Bro Online was set up in 2008 to provide a forum for takatāpui tāne (gay and bisexual Māori men) to interact with others around the country. It also offered free condoms, sexual health advice, interviews and lifestyle stories.

The internet

The internet became increasingly important for gay men. For young men questioning their sexuality, internet chat rooms were a safe space in which to explore the possibilities before meeting others in the ‘real’ world. The internet also transformed the ways gay men explored their identities, accessed information, met one another and kept in touch, in New Zealand and overseas.

Ethnic diversity

While gay men of European and Māori descent now find it easier to express their sexuality, those from some ethnic minorities are less able to do so.

Pacific communities

Fa’afafine (men who adopt some aspects of female gender identity) were widely accepted in traditional Samoan and other Pacific societies. In Tonga they are called fakaleiti. Some fa’afafine were also gay. However, the influence of conservative views against homosexuality in Pacific church communities can make it difficult for gay men to come out. Since 2005 the biennial Love Life Fono (conference) has provided support and explored issues of common concern to Pacific gay and transgender communities.

Asian communities

In many Asian cultures a person’s sense of identity is more linked to their family than their sexuality. There may be strong family expectations that a person will marry even if they are homosexual. Some Asians who migrate to New Zealand feel freer to express their sexuality. In 2010 Auckland’s Long Yang Club was a cross-cultural place for Asian gay and bisexual men to meet people.


Until the late 20th century the traditional nuclear family – mum, dad and children – was the dominant family type. Since then, a broader range of family types have become common and accepted, widening parenting choices for gay men.

Gay men are involved in a range of child-raising arrangements. Some are, or have been, married to women with whom they raise their children. Some gay men have been sperm donors to lesbian women, sharing the parenting to varying degrees. However, some people still hold traditional assumptions and prejudices about the types of family that are acceptable.

How to cite this page:

Chris Brickell, 'Gay men’s lives - Social and family life', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 24 June 2024)

Story by Chris Brickell, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 11 May 2018