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July 23, 2018 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The Importance of Transparency for Queer Identities and Politics in Aotearoa

We’re sitting in a circle. All us queers on the floor, laughing, him quietly on the couch. “But hold up-” says Megan between chugging her drink, “we all voted Green right?!” The room erupts with laughs and screams in response, a big “yes” from everyone who’s oppressed for their gender and sexuality. But he shuffles uncomfortably. “Oh no, really?” – Megan responding to his silence. Which meant something I didn’t pick up on at first, something I thought must have been a joke. The quiet friend of a friend at this birthday party, was a National voter. Everyone shuffles uncomfortably but I try to look him in the eye and ask “Well, why?” He waves his arm, takes a sip of his drink and says he doesn’t want to talk about it. Everyone goes back to their own drinks and playing Uno. But I couldn’t get this encounter from early July out of my head, so here we are.
I was shocked. To my knowledge, The Dude Sitting on The Couch, isn’t queer, but surely he’s someone who’s put thought into his own political processes, rather than having the answers handed to him, right? Everyone else at the party is queer, so if he’s an ally, he’s gotta be someone who thinks beyond his own experiences. A false assumption on my part, unfortunately.
Inevitably, most people will vote for a party that supports their own current and existing needs. Take wealth and money for example. If you have it, you vote for the party that will keep it in your own pocket. If you have none, you vote for more money to be put into your own — and other’s — pockets. That’s just how it works, for now. Until people are ready to assess their own privileges and what others lack because of systematic and social oppression, which reinforces their own privileges, we can’t get governments and social systems that are good for us all.
As queers often live in our own echo-chambers, we can be easily fooled by the goodwill and political alliance of others around us. When I’m in a queer space, I don’t need to question it. The kind of queers I roll with live very similar experiences to me, and I know that we have very similar visions of what a thriving future for our community and country would look like. But we shouldn’t get too comfortable in these echo-chambers. We should be breaking out of them, and speaking freely about our lived experiences and how personal and national politics influence them, and continue offering questions and answers to the confusion that faces the queer community, our identities, and our national politics.

I am, very transparently, a Green voter (until there’s a more anarchist/feminist party that aligns with my ideologies) — and I think now that we have a center left government system it’s important that we don’t get lazy in our politics. Just because we have SuperMum, Jacinda Ardern leading the country with her sidekick stay-at-home dad, Clarke Grayford looking after bubs, doesn’t mean we’ve peaked in political or social equality. The Labour party made a lot of statements about progressing Rainbow rights in Aotearoa pre their election but are yet to show concrete evidence of this from their time so far in government.
We need to continue to wear our rainbow badges in public, tell people our pronouns, talk with mum and dad about bills going through Parliament, engage with people who don’t know what a gender neutral pronoun is or about HRT or what all the letters in LGBTQIA+ stand for or why it’s important to have them all there. It’s not a time to relax or assume. We still need our visibility and that means being transparent about our identity and national politics. It’s not enough for our allies to just support us when it suits them, and we need to let them know this. It’s not easy, I personally find it really scary and often isolating. But if we want to promote actual conscious, revolutionary, and systematic change before the next election, “We’re here, we’re queer – and our politics matter too” needs to be the forefront of each step we take.


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