Gay kiaps I have known
21 September 2015
IN that ultra-homophobic period between the end of World War II and Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975, the last place you would expect to find a gay man was among the hairy-chested kiap fraternity.
However, just like in any other strata of society, the gay kiaps were there quietly getting on with the job and going out of their way not to draw attention to themselves.
In those repressed times, third world countries like PNG had a certain attraction for the gay community, men and women alike.
Homosexuality was an accepted fact in many traditional Papua New Guinean societies. Physical homosexual acts even played a part in rituals, like initiation. Participants grew up to be ‘normal’ heterosexual men and women.
Homosexual expatriates, especially men, were most obvious among the ranks of the missionaries and teachers.
Their presence was tacitly acknowledged and, as long as they were doing no obvious harm, such as preying upon children, they were happily tolerated and valued for their skills.
This was not so among the kiaps.
Probably the most famous gay kiap was Randolph Stow, now acknowledged as one of Australia’s great writers and poets. Stow was bullied and persecuted by his fellow kiaps until he resigned.
If you read between the lines of his Papua New Guinea-based novel, Visitants, you can see the hints.
There is a deep irony in the fact that in today’s Australia an overwhelming majority of people – some 70 percent - endorse the idea of gay marriage. Gay police and soldiers and ambulance officers march in gay right’s parades.
While in countries like Papua New Guinea and Kenya, where homosexuality was once accepted, the societies have become ultra-homophobic.
The evidence of this is to be found in the laws of these countries but also in the rabid and nasty dialogue that occurs in their social media whenever the subject of homosexuality is mentioned.
The reason for this about-face in public attitudes is difficult to pin down but the most obvious explanation seems to correlate with the rise of fundamental Christianity.
There is another irony here. The Republic of Ireland, reputedly one of the most religious countries in the world, recently had a referendum which voted to legalise gay marriage. Even the Catholic Pope has acknowledged the rights of homosexual people.
I knew several gay kiaps, or at least men who I strongly suspected of being gay. It was not something you could politely enquire about and I had no desire to cause them angst or worry. A couple of them were senior officers.
To my knowledge none of them ever ‘outed’ themselves, even after their service had ended. And what did it matter anyway?
The thing that sparked my interest in this topic is that, recently, one of these men, now deceased, has become the subject of enquiry over a completely unrelated matter.
He was a very fine officer and I’m hoping that his reputation remains unsullied. I think and hope that at last we are above that sort of thing.
You're right Bill, in the long run it doesn't matter.
And yes, I was being rather coy about names and suspicions and I've no desire to refer to any gay kiaps who acknowledged their sexual preferences, openly or otherwise.
There is one thing you might be able to help with in your meticulous research. Somewhere in the last few years I came across a document that quoted a couple of kiaps who were in Milne Bay at the same time as Stow and who made several homophobic remarks about him and what should be done about it.
I thought I saw the reference on the exkiap blog but search as I might I couldn't find it.
Posted by: Phil Fitzpatrick | 28 September 2015 at 04:51 PM
“Gays kiaps I have known,” is perhaps an unfortunate title—unless intended in a biblical sense—but it is a title with a great hook. Hook, line and sinker: it starts to sink when the author abandons his claim later in the same article with the mitigating sentence: “I knew several gay kiaps, or at least men who I strongly suspected of being gay.”
As to the claim that " probably the most famous gay kiap was Randolph Stow … bullied and persecuted by his fellow kiaps until he resigned." Stow was not a famous gay kiap, and not a famous any-sort of kiap. He was in Papua New Guinea for less than a year, in 1959: the author arrived eight years later.
The National Library of Australia, custodian of his papers, states in their bibliography, “Stow was posted as assistant Government Anthropologist in the Trobriand Islands and Milne Bay area of New Guinea. Ill-health, however, forced his evacuation to Australia.” (1)
In the less reliable resources (Wikipedia and the literary reviews), there are statements that Stow was a cadet patrol officer and assistant [government] anthropologist; that he arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1959; was in Port Moresby and the Trobriands; contracted malaria, and was evacuated. He convalesced in Western Australia in 1960, and departed for England in the same year.
According to the National Library “Ill health … forced his evacuation to Australia.” According to the other sources, the ill health was malaria. So much for the story that he was “bullied and persecuted by his fellow kiaps until he resigned,”
To the other claims:
I spent some twenty years on outstations, from 1950 to 1973, and finished with a couple of years in Port Moresby. In all those years, I did not see any evidence that “homosexual expatriates, especially men, were most obvious among the ranks of the missionaries and teachers.”
I recall that in the 1950s, a much-liked priest disappeared from the scene without fanfare, I surmised he had transgressed and been sent home. In the 60’s, in a different locale and in a different Order, a young lay worker transgressed and was immediately sent to Australia. Two incidents in all those years, in a gossip-ripe climate where most people knew “who was up who and who had paid.”
I worked for, and with, many kiaps during more than twenty years, and I knew that we had our Gays, but I suspect they were limited in number. I knew of only one who acknowledged that he was, but there must have been more. I suspected some, and some of the few that I suspected later proved me to wrong. Did it, or does it matter?
Maybe we did not mirror the Australian community norm? After all, the Mandated Territory ended in 1942.
Posted by: Bill Brown | 28 September 2015 at 03:40 PM
Thanks, Phil. I admire your fair attitude and I'll look forward to hearing further.
I chased down a few of these stories myself, and generally found they originated in gossip in the bars of Port Moresby, either from people who were not actually there with him at the time, or otherwise were imposed in retrospect by people who came on the scene years later.
I'm sure you're in a better position than me to establish names and facts from Mick Stow's contemporaries at ASOPA in early 1959, or who were in Moresby from mid March to early May.
Stow was in Milne Bay as an assistant to Charles Julius from May till October 1959, and then as a CPO at Losuia and elsewhere to 13 November.
Afterwards, he was in Taurama Hospital in PM from about 14 November to 12 December, when he was repatriated.
Posted by: Suzanne Falkiner | 24 September 2015 at 11:20 PM
I can't provide you with any solid evidence Suzanne, it is simply a view that I formed while doing background research for my own novel, partly set in the Trobriands, and a collection of short stories by Chips Mackellar, also partly set in the Trobriands.
In the process I came across comments by several kiaps who were in the Milne Bay District at the same time that Stow was there. They were well aware of his homosexuality and I got the impression it was something talked about at District headquarters, if not in Port Moresby. The general drift of their comments was that they wanted him out of the district.
I've also spoken to a few other old kiaps and they told me the same thing.
I did sight a couple of references along these lines but I don't seem to have kept them on file and can't remember where they came from or who wrote them. I'll have a rummage over the next couple of days and see if I can track them down.
I think it is a line of enquiry well-worth pursuing and I'm pretty sure my claim can be substantiated.
Posted by: Phil Fitzpatrick | 24 September 2015 at 08:16 PM
I am just finishing a biography of Randolph Stow, for publication in February 2016. Phil, could you give us your evidence for the statement that Stow was 'bullied and persecuted by his fellow kiaps until he resigned'? Or email me privately. Thanks.
Posted by: Suzanne Falkiner | 24 September 2015 at 12:28 PM
It is quite interesting to note the issue of gays during those good old days. May be the influence stays on today.
In other words those days ladies were not availiable or rare so the gents resolve to the availiable beings to abuse as an opposite sex.
Posted by: Jimmy Awagl | 23 September 2015 at 12:16 PM
Hazel, if we had accounts of homosexual practices during the days of Noah then it is a practice that is as old as time. Even some of our prominent Greek philosophers and Alexander the Great engaged in gay sex.
Posted by: Bernard Singu Yegiora | 22 September 2015 at 04:17 PM
During my time with the Guards doing national service in late 1950s I recall being amazed at the amount of talk of sex – not the normal hetero but abnormal homosexual.
One day after completing battle training I was sent back to the training company at the now long gone Guards Depot, Caterham.
I opened the squad room to be greeted by a young guardsman being chased across beds up onto wardrobes by another young laughing man with his penis exposed.
The victim was terrified of being raped. It was merely fun though – if rather a new type of enjoyment I had never seen. Indeed the Coldstream Guards were nicknamed sheep-shaggers in those days.
I nearly killed a corporal who pretended - or did he mean it? - to give me a love bite, but that's a tale for another night.
So it later came as no surprise over the years of homosexual antics became norm for Western society.
Thus Phil's story today is nothing new in PNG where expats of homosexual tendencies perhaps felt they had achieved their idyll in the backwaters of the Pacific.
They were thrilled by the sight of healthy young men holding hands as they walked along the tracks. Apparently tradition to ensure they didn't raise an axe against one another.
In late 70s or was it early 80s I had to spend a weekend away from the bush in dusty dirty Moresby. I was blithely sat in my car almost at the western end Ela Beach that lovely sunny Sunday afternoon reading a good book whilst getting fresh air.
Two young men were eyeing me across the carpark and I wondered if I was going to be mugged..but there were too many people around for that I thought.
Then one minced in the traditional homosexual gait that often exposes their tendencies. He looked in at my open window and gave a lovely smile and sweet 'Hullo Sir!' I grunted back and went back to my book.
Not long after rejoining his companion he sauntered over again and made some remark but this time I just snarled in my deepest voice, “Piss off!!” He recoiled and they both walked off.
A few minutes my old friend Tim Omundsen came up to me followed by his lovely wife. They had been out marathon training I guess. I told him of my encounter with the homosexual looking youngsters and he laughed as he told me, “Arthur you are sat where homosexual expats make pickups!” That put an end to my ever using Ela unaccompanied by my family.
Yes even then there were such activities in PNG, which now appear to be on the increase all over the world, even in Welsh rugby union,. But must say that in PNG Sodomy and Bestiality are still illegal. Not only that but my wife's tribe would roar at any 'girly-girly' they ever found in the community. Certainly not a normal way of life for the Lavongai.
We did have a relative who liked his little bitch who followed him around everywhere and I was told that he was not averse to a chicken too...uncle I mean not his female pet who given the chance liked to eat poultry. Sadly uncle was the butt, pardon the pun, of everybody.
Phil suggest fundamental Christianity, while refraining from citing homophobic Islam, as perhaps a cause of the spread of what could be the literal death of mankind if we all became followers of unnatural sexual appetites.
The long term mission to the Lower Fly tells how the Suki area population was declining as men turned away from normal sex.
But it isn't merely Christianity or Islam that forces reaction towards liberalisation of homosexual way of life because it doesn't gel with recently ex-Communist Russia, still mostly socialist where I believe their parliament, The Duma, voted 99% in favour of outlawing proselyting of homosexuality.
The nice polite conversational pieces in the media encouraging homosexual freedom steer clear of the revolting sexual activities that being homosexual requires.
We are told only that is a human right to be allowed to love anyone even if of the same sex.
Nothing about the enemas and reinforced condoms and meticulous hygiene before and after which should be norms for such activities but we saw nothing of that being discussed in the recent Irish debate.
Oh and by the way only 37% of the eligible Irish voters voted in favour of Gay Marriage which was in fact a desire to attack the Catholic Church as homosexual partnerships had already been allowed since 2010.
Where will moralising laws end? Sadly the cult of the individual is alive an kicking throughout the world. I wonder if there will be moves to lower the age of consent in many nations anxious for their menfolk to avoid prison as paedophiles; what about bestiality? After all a man's best friend is his dog or so we are told.
Then let's keep it in the family with incestuous love or if you are a glutton for punishment polygamy or perish the thought for macho-man polyandry. I read some of the dissenting Supreme Court Judges in the recent judgement on USA homosexual marriages.
Here is one - “The majority’s reasoning applies with equal force to plural marriage. It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage. If “[t]here is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.
"Why would there be any less dignity in the bond between three people who, in exercising their autonomy, seek to make the profound choice to marry?
"If a same-sex couple has the constitutional right to marry because their children would otherwise “suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser,” why wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to a family of three or more persons raising children?
"If not having the opportunity to marry “serves to disrespect and subordinate” gay and lesbian couples, why wouldn’t the same “imposition of this disability,” serve to disrespect and subordinate people who find fulfilment in polyamorous relationships? - Chief Justice John Roberts”
I think we could all feel it is a reasonable question that Chief Justice Roberts raises.
While it is wrong to discriminate in the UK we still allowed in 1990 for the forming of a Gay Police Officers Association. Imagine if someone had tried to start a Straight Police Officers Association.
Finally I'll end back with night-time in the Guards of 1959. We had just had lights out in the squad room and a few were finishing their final cigarette of the day. One of those still awake in the dark said, “I know there's a queer in the room!”
“Who?”, some of us asked.
“Give me a kiss and I'll tell you!” came the speaker.
Kiaps, be you straight, bent, e-dysfunctional or mere memories- a good night's rest will help.
Posted by: Arthur Williams | 22 September 2015 at 06:59 AM
It never entered my line of thoughts that our kiaps in the past had gay members among them. An eye opener.
Posted by: Hazel Kutkue | 21 September 2015 at 07:35 PM