A Queer Existence: New book reveals twenty first century struggles of the gay community

Author Mark Beehre has recently released A Queer Existence, the Lives of Young Gay Men in Aotearoa. The book is a first-hand insight into the struggles and strength of New Zealand’s Gay Community.

The book plays an important role in telling the stories of Queer men in New Zealand. The tales within the book show the sometimes shocking reality of our ‘progressive’ country. Written by Wellington photographer and oral historian Mark Beehre (who also worked for many years as a specialist physician), A Queer Existence is a major documentary project that uses photographic portraiture and oral history to record the life experiences of a group of 27 gay men born since the passing of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986.

In New Zealand, discrimination in work was outlawed in 1983, same-sex relationships were granted legal recognition in 2005, and marriage equality followed in 2013. As a result, these men have life experiences very different to earlier generations of gay men. Even so, many of the men who spoke to Mark Beehre felt stigmatised, and for many, coming out was a major hurdle.

In his powerful introduction, which tracks the histories of gay men in New Zealand, Mark Beehre says: “The generation born in the years since Law Reform grew up in a very different world. Their experiences have not previously been recorded in print. Being gay is no longer remarkable, and when something has become a part of everyday life it is all too easy to regard it as unworthy of documentation.

“We must, however, remember that the legal and social recognition given today to same-sex desires and relationships is unique in the history of the anglophone Western European cultural tradition that shaped so much of the history of this country.”

The book itself is arguably the best way for Kiwis to self educate themselves on the stigma that still faces our gay community even today in 2021. Stories of love and loss, success and death with a humours undertone that keeps you reading cover to cover. A Queer Existence delivers true emotion in the package of education - Reading this will help clue those not in the queer community about the realities they face, and the support that is still needed.

The stories within this book are beautifully told where inspiring men share some of the hardest times in their lives: parents behaving badly, broken relationships, loneliness and social dislocation.

For those looking to understand the queer community at a new level. A Queer Existence is the perfect place to start.