Yesterday I sat down at my computer with my cornflakes as I usually do at breakfast time and read a news (I use the term loosely) Website from New Zealand. This little ritual has been going on for years and helps me feel connected to those two long islands down in the South Pacific.
One headline caught my eye (Young Nelson doctor pays tribute to late partner through exhibition) and I clicked. As the accompanying photo is of a man, I assumed his deceased partner was a woman. But as is revealed in the first paragraph, his partner was male. Nothing too shocking there. This is, after all, the country that was fifteenth in the world to allow same-sex marriage (and incidentally was the first country in the world to allow women to vote). But what I read next surprised me. The ‘young doctor’ is 24 while his partner was, oh, a bit older – 85. I nearly choked on my cornflakes – that’s almost a sixty year age gap. While I try not to be too judgy in matters of the heart, I did look twice.
The article goes on to show a photo of the couple (who had been together for six years) and talk about their shared love of landscape photography, which took them on international adventures (Wong’s partner, Barry Woods, was a professional photographer). It also mentioned that the hospice in which Wong’s exhibition is a fundraiser for gave the couple of a lot of support during Woods’ battle with lung cancer.
Reading this from my little perch in Seoul, in what has to be one of the most conservative, sexist, racist, classist, conformist, ageist, patriarchal, closed-minded and homophobic countries in the developed world, I felt a surge of pride for my homeland. While New Zealand has its fair share of social problems (child abuse and poverty, rising inequality, erosion of indigenous rights, covert racism, an embarrassing prime minster etc.) it is awesome that such an article can be graciously published on one of the country’s most popular and mainstream news Websites.
While I don’t have the mobility of someone with say, an EU passport, I’m so happy that I was born in New Zealand and have grown up in a progressive, accepting and free-thinking society. I’m grateful for the world-class education I received which fostered the growth of a social conscience and open mind which underpins the person I am today. I heart you NZ!