Holding Out for a Hero

Born under the stars of Libra, Daniel Gada is imbued with the superpowers of balance, perfect judgement, and supernaturally flawless hair. He is a fierce advocate for equality and expresses his voice with the superhuman ability to inspire others through the written word. He loves pop culture, 90s movie stars and believes the pen is mightier than the sword.

Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the gods?

Where’s the streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds?

Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?

Late at night I toss and I turn, and I dream of what I need.

I need a hero. Superheroes are an element of fantasy most gay people can relate to. If you’re anything like me, you grew up with Saturday morning cartoons, and after-school shows that transported you to a place you’d rather be. Colourful, caped crusaders wearing every colour of the rainbow. Rippling, muscled men of steel or fierce amazon women with hair like a Victoria’s Secret Angel – and a costume not much different.

There aren’t many people in the LGBT community I look up to. When I was about 12 years old, the first time I heard the word hero in terms of my community was at a dinner for my sister’s 30th birthday. We were dining at the then, very posh, Orbit restaurant in Auckland City.

High above the streets with its glass windows and sweeping views we could see a roaring show taking place down below. The year was 2001 and my mother exclaimed – “The Hero Parade!” The wave of intrigue that swept over me and my young niece at the time was followed by what can only be explained as the excited questions of a young, nearly teenaged, boy who had no idea what this really meant or how it and its history would shape his future and indeed his present.

The only logical explanation for something called The Hero Parade in my mind of course pertained to the various superheroes of the day, naturally. My mind was a flurry of possibilities. Would I be about to meet my childhood idols? X-Men, Superman, Batman, or more importantly, XENA?! My 7-year-old niece decided Sailor Moon would definitely be there and I excitedly agreed. Suppressing a laugh my mother and sister tried to explain what this really was, being conservative people their answer was predictably vague… (bless their loving protection).

That night is remembered fondly in my family, not so much for my naivety but for the hilarious hi-jinks that only an Auckland pride parade could really ensue. We were stuck in traffic for what my mum recalls was “at least 2 hours” in which her and my sister were subject to many a wonderful gay and glittering thing. I don’t know what they loved more – being essentially mistaken for lesbians by the wildly handsome daddies in the Range Rover the next lane over from us (and subsequently invited to what could only be assumed to be a scandalous party) or being mesmerised by the array of men, women and queens dressed in elaborate costume and regalia – I know my mum fondly recalls the two men who stopped our car (which was moving at a snails pace) wearing only golden fig leaves (Garden of Eden style).

I still wanted to know was Xena there? Feigning sleep in the darkness of the back seat of the car, listening to the crowds outside, I sneaked a peek out the windows for that glimpse of crimson cape, or fiery steed with Warrior Princess adorned atop. These people looked like heroes to me – but of a whole other kind. In hindsight, knowing what I know now, about both Xena and Hero Parade – she probably was there, although I can’t confirm via Lucy Lawless herself.

The Hero Parade ceased to exist after its 2001 exhibition, it struggled to gain organised financial support and after 9 years, collapsed.

There’s a hero in all of us. While the Hero Parade may speak to a generation before me, its impact is not lost on me. The Parade was an event attended by more than a hundred thousand people annually, (and at its height, by as many as two hundred thousand), in the years that it ran.

It is believed LGBT rights in New Zealand were significantly improved because of the Hero Parade and, in 1999, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Rt Hon Jenny Shipley, of the National Party, announced that she would attend the Parade. The Leader of the Opposition, Rt Hon Helen Clark had attended the Parade several times before and she criticised the then National Government for not attending earlier. In the end, the Hero Parade was the beneficiary of the publicity created and the Parades, in it’s last 2 years, were bigger than ever before.

Known today as the Auckland Pride Parade – it was welcomed back in 2013, and since its return has gone from strength to strength. This year, Prime Minister, Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern was cited as the first NZ PM to ever walk in the parade. J.A is somewhat of a hero herself as her political campaign has proved. I know I was there waiting to see her, but it never crossed my mind that I should participate. In its current form, the Auckland Pride Parade has an opportunity to completely reimagine what it means to walk in the parade; and what it looks like to be an LGBT-QIA ally.

What would it have meant to me as a 12 year old boy to know what the true significance of this show was, and would it have changed the way I saw myself if I had seen someone like me – a Fijian born Indian, raised Kiwi, who identifies as an androgynous gay man – dressed as superhero of choice walking in that parade?

Did I know I was a young gay man at that time? And if I had seen my community celebrated like this would it have changed how I felt about that?

We have witnessed the change and the acceptance that this kind of representation has had for our brothers and sisters whose sexual orientations and gender identities are more typical than that of others on the LGBT-QIA spectrum. But we are only now understanding and normalising the very multifaceted spectrum of identity that is the rainbow community.

We have a responsibility today to represent every letter of the gay alphabet onstage and show other Kiwis who don’t see themselves in comic books, tv shows, or the latest Marvel movie that we can be heroes – just for one day.


One thought on “Holding Out for a Hero

  1. Daniel is my darling son who I am so very proud of ,i remember this Hero Parade so well ,but never imagined my son would reveal to me when he was eighteen years old he was gay.After he told me ,he asked ,do you feel any different about me now.Of course I didnt ,he will always have my unconditional love and i am so proud that he is a confident, intelligent gay man,As his Mum i have not always got it right ,i have had to learn a lot over the years ,after all i was brought up in the 60s and 70s by christian parents who had a very strict moral code to live by.I was a product of their upbringing so it hasnt always been easy to accept my beautiful son is gay.

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