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NZDF shows pride at Rainbow Parade

Taking part in Auckland’s Rainbow Pride Parade was a “surreal” moment for Corporal Lisa Kennedy, who said it was her first time being ‘out’ publicly.

21 February, 2024

She was among 25 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel, both uniformed and civilian, who took part in the colourful celebration on Ponsonby Road on 17 February to celebrate the diversity of New Zealand’s LGBTTQIA+ community.

“It’s hard for me to put into words how it felt,” she says. “I’ve only told a few family members and friends, and it was the first time for me to publicly be out.

“I had really good support from a friend who mentioned the parade to me and was there with me on the day.”

After being in the New Zealand Army for 17 years, Wellingtonian Corporal Kennedy said it was amazing to represent the Defence Force and be herself.

“While walking with the parade we saw so many supportive people watching, it was all quite overwhelming, but in a good way.

I almost cried because it was really emotional. I know people think it’s just a parade but it’s much more than that. It’s acceptance and love.

She said her sexual orientation was something she’d previously had to hide.

“I’m done hiding. I wanted to be myself. I was with my people, in my place and representing the New Zealand Defence Force as well.”

She also attended the Big Gay Out event the following day.

“That was really cool. It felt like Christmas, but better. It’s one of the best events.”

A woman in NZ Army uniform smiles at the camera. A man in Navy uniform smiles at the camera, small lights are blurred in the background. A man wearing NZ Army uniform smiles at the camera.

Corporal Lisa Kennedy (left), Midshipman Nick Georgiev (middle) and Lieutenant Troy Mclaren (right) take part in the Auckland Rainbow Parade.

It was also a new experience for the Chairperson of NZDF’s Overwatch committee, Adrian Charlesworth.

“This was my first parade of any kind and I really loved it,” he says.

“Everyone in the contingent was really excited and keen to represent, and have a good time. It was a bit quiet to start off with, but as we got further down the road we got a lot of cheers. It really helped us along.”

He said the NZDF group met up with NZ Police and Fire and Emergency New Zealand members afterwards.

It was a great networking opportunity to discuss how our organisations could work more closely together regarding our Rainbow community.

A soldier takes a selfie with an aviator and a sailor at the Auckland Rainbow Parade. In the background is a contingent of sailors followed by pride flags and a tree line to the vanishing point.
A soldier talks with a civilian member of the parade. The civilian is wearing athletic clothing and smiles brightly at the soldier.
Soldiers, aviators and soldiers wave to the crowd as they pass by. In the background the sun breaks through the clouds and reflects off the windows of a nearby building.
A sailor hi-fives the crowd, behind a metal barricade. They are holding pride flags with looks of joy on their faces.
A soldier proudly waves to the crowd as the parade turns at a crossroads in Auckland.

In 2019 the Auckland Pride Festival board banned police officers from wearing their uniforms, which prompted the Defence Force to march in the Wellington International Pride Festival instead.

That same year the NZDF celebrated Pride 25, marking 25 years since LGBTTQIA+ personnel were welcomed to serve openly in the NZDF. It was also the first time a Chief of Defence Force had marched in a Pride Parade.

Following the passing of the Human Rights Act in 1993, the NZDF moved swiftly to incorporate the Act into its policies, and in early 1994 openly homosexual men and women were able to join and serve.