Pride and Protest

Pride marches and events are rooted in protest. They are the LGBTTIQ* version of “Fuck you! I won’t do what you tell me”.

The controversy surrounding the greeting of the National party representatives at BGO has been responded to by a number of representative groups, media commentators and individuals on social media. The presence of TPPA protesters, the participation of ‘straights’ and then the Prime Minister’s post BGO comments which focussed on Greens and Mana representatives discounted “gay and lesbian” participation and have provided a perfect opportunity to talk about how we report on and uphold our democratic right to protest as LGBTTIQ* communities.

The Prime Minister’s comment that, “with all due respect, the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) is not a gay and lesbian issue” is a common example of the way everyday citizens silence or reduce the needs of LGBTTIQ* communities to a single issue minority voice. “With all due respect” is an adverb politicians and debaters use to signal that they are about to disagree or in this case criticise an action or statement. It’s akin to that person that says “some of my best friends are trans* but . . . .” In the context of the Prime Minister’s comments this was an example of a heteronormative world-view that excludes LGBTTIQ* communities from having a view on anything other than marriage equality and HIV/Aids in healthcare.

We do it ourselves too. LGBTTIQ* representatives responded yesterday and made a connection with HIV/Aids drugs in order to make it easier for the mainstream media to get the ‘relevance’ to LGBTTIQ* communities. While this is an issue for our communities, so are homelessness, youth suicide, access to healthcare, workplace discrimination and exclusion, access to affordable education and living everyday in a fixed societal gender binary that excludes, silences and torments so many people within LGBTTIQ* communities.

The Prime Minister also neatly inferred that the Mana and Greens representatives were out of place, just a few straights, troublemakers who had no place at the BGO. The failure to recognise MP’s from the LGBTTIQ* communities alongside the importance of straight allies in regard to the advancement of rights is both disrespectful and divisive. One could be excused from thinking that it was a homophobic strategy to close down the voices of LGBTTIQ* activists and their allies.

The Prime Minister went on to say “there’s a hell of a lot of people there who are celebrating their sexuality and who are celebrating the gains that have been made for gay and lesbian rights”. We should be concerned that the elected leader of our country has an expectation that communities will annually celebrate historical movements in the achievement of gay and lesbian rights and not seek to improve the rights and everyday challenges faced by Trans*, Intersex, Bisexual, Queer and Takataapui communities.

The TPPA, Climate Action and all changes to the laws and acts that govern this country are not and never have been sexuality issues, they are issues of citizenship and democracy and if the rights of the LGBTTIQ* communities are as advanced as the Prime Minister would have us believe we would not be protesting alongside our straight allies and other concerned citizens of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The gain of legislative equality has done little to protect LGBTTIQ* from either overt or subtle discrimination and bullying from families, work colleagues or other aspects of day to day life. The shock and horror responses that ‘it’s illegal’ do nothing to creating a more inclusive society that respects and accepts diversity in all of it’s colours, shapes and forms. What the Prime Minister has achieved is an illustration of how our communities continue to experience homophobia and oppression through both language and heterosexual privilege everyday.

This weekend the Pride March will take place in Auckland and the idea that Pride is a celebration of the gifting of rights to the LGBTTIQ* communities will be promulgated in all of the mainstream media. There will be screams of anguish from the sidelines as community activists use this one day in the spotlight to try and improve the lives of those who the Prime Minister and our heteronormative society make invisible every day by upholding their right to protest.

Protests did take place at the Pride March and unsurprisingly the media appears to have been selective in their sourced comments. The protest group led a successful inconvenience action that won some media coverage and  encouraged wider conversation among queer activists in Aotearoa. I look forward to being a part of progressing the Pride, Protest and Inclusion discussion.

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