APRIL 17: the KG Club in New Zealand


On April 17, 2013, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage was
passed by the New Zealand House of Representatives; it received royal assent
two days later, and went into full effect on August 19, 2013. To celebrate
this, we’d like to tell you about the
KG Club
, a legendary lesbian social club in Auckland that was the focal
point of the lesbian scene in the 70s.

KG Club stands for either “Karangahape Road Girl’s Club” or “Kamp
Girls Club.” It was founded by Raukura Te Aroha  Hetet (nicknamed “Bubs”), in 1971. At first
the club would meet in various private homes, and then it finally moved to the
corner of Hereford
Street and Karangahape Road
(hence the name). There, it quickly acquired a
reputation for hosting loud, wild parties. The other name, “Kamp Girls Club”
comes from the word “kamp,” which was derived from an acronym (“Known As Male
Prostitute”) apparently used by Australian police to designate gay men. A bit
like the word “queer,” “kamp” was reclaimed by gay men, as well as by lesbians
in Australia and then New Zealand.

at the KG Club, by Fiona Clark

The KG Club emerged at a time when lesbian social culture
was starting to thrive in urban spaces. Since gay liberation movements were
happening worldwide, local queer communities started organizing as well,
notably through sports (like hockey or softball) – sports culture being a
perfect space where people could socialize. 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. The memory
of the club still survives, notably through the research of Alison J. Laurie,
who devoted her doctoral thesis on the subject, and in the works of
photographer Fiona Clark, who documented queer life and who notably took a few
photos of life at the KG Club.

at the KG Club, by Fiona Clark

If you’re interested in lesbian culture and history in New
Zealand, there’s plenty of sources and resources online, though they may not be
as visible as ones in the US or the UK. To start, give Women
(1993) a read, which’ll give you a historical perspective;
look up entries for New Zealand and Māori cultures in lesbian culture
encyclopedias; and check out these
as well as this
overview of the history of Pride
in the country. Also, lesbians actually
have their own museum too.
Scroll through the lesbian
site for wlw NZ
, which has got a complete list of everything
lesbian happening in NZ. And finally, read this testimony
written by Jenny Rankine
, a sixty-four-year old lesbian white New Zealander
who lived through all the changes in the LGBT community over the last decades. She
describes what lesbians specifically endured in terms of discrimination. The whole’s
pretty sobering, but it’s also a good reminder of why we continue to unearth
our history and demand visibility and justice.