Politicians love standing up for our rights, as long as they don’t have to actually stand or anything.
I am so fucking sick of seeing politicians at pride events. I spent about an hour trying to make that sentence more creative, but if the people who run this country won’t do the bare minimum, why should I? LGBTQ+ rights have reached the extremely frustrating stage where most people kind of agree that they’re probably all right. On one hand, it’s no longer socially acceptable to queer-bash. ✨progress✨. On the other, politicians will show up to rallies, force themselves into safe queer spaces, with cameras, and tell us how much they looove LGBTQ+ people. But when given the opportunity to act, they suddenly trip, fall down the stairs, and tie themselves into knots—through no fault of their own of course.
The week before last, Micheal Wood, Minister for “not doing much hbu?”, expressed his desire for a certain adult British female to never set food in this country. If only he held some kind of immigration portfolio with broad discretion over visa decisions…alas when push came to shove, the minister, who definitely cares, tripped, fell down the stairs, and found himself tied up unable to do anything. Auckland Pride found Wood’s claims of impotence dubious and took legal action. While they were unable to get Wood’s decision overturned, the Judge noted the discretion available to the minister; confirming he would have been able to block Posie if he wanted to.
What’s more disappointing was cabinet members’ hollow signs of support after Woods’ failure to act. Kiri Allan posted on Instagram in support of the protests—of course making sure to mention there was nothing that could be done about Posie’s entry in the first place. As we now know, this is just not true.
Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall also posted in support of trans rights. Within days however, she was silent on the removal of official puberty blocker advice on the MoH website. These seemingly small changes can have a big impact. Government health advice is often the first place parents of trans children turn to. When the Ministry of Health removed that advice, apparently to appease a vocal minority, it invited opportunities for misinformation to fill the gaps.
Real harm is caused by malinformed parents with no verified information, no Instagram post or naturopath blog entry is going to fix that. Ask yourself, why is the MoH happy to remove information about puberty blockers but not similarly controversial information about vaccines? I’d say ask the minister but she probably won’t get back to you.
Perhaps if Labour actually tried to stand up for their policies they might have better success. Ever since their incredible achievements with Covid19 Labour has declined to even attempt to control the narrative. Whether unable or unwilling, they have neglected to fight for themselves; staying defensive and quiet on co-governance, hate speech, and drug law reform. Rather than taking an offensive position and building the narrative, Labour cedes the initiative, preferring to deflect and rejet. Their apparent goal? morphing into the nation’s most inoffensive political putty, saying nothing and standing for less. Talk is cheap, action is expensive, and Labour has made it clear who they’d rather spend their political capital on.
However, where cabinet failed to show up, Aotearoa did. The pro-trans protests of the March 25 weekend delivered the largest display of queer solidarity in decades. Predictably the principled free speech warriors were furious—funny that.
National and ACT made the incredibly reasonable demand that queer people should just sit down and have a nice chat with those who seek to eliminate them. Making their position clear: when a bigot tells a queer person to fuck off, thats free speech; but when a queer person tells a bigot to fuck off, thats intimidating and undermining the debate vital to a democratic society. Certainly an interesting position for Luxton to hold after claiming to support LGBTQ+ communities at Big Gay Out.
Free speech, hate speech or whatever you want to call it has had an interesting journey through the debating chambers since Labour introduced proposed legislation. What started as a response to the Christchurch Terror Attack has turned into stalling, halting and a whole bunch of nothing. Last year Labour member Kiri Allan drastically watered down proposed hate speech legislation; removing protections for women, the disabled and rainbow communities. Finding this wasn’t far enough, earlier in the year, Labour leader Hipkins threw the policy into the bonfire, citing debates around the policy as “going nowhere”.
After demanding the queer community to ‘hear them [bigots] out’ Luxton ignored his own advice and turned his ire towards Marama Davidson. After a comment about the perpetuation of violence by ‘white cis men’ were uttered by Davidson, Luxton demanded she issue a blanket apology to white people. A statement so bizarre I (a cis white man) genuinely didn’t believe he’d said it at first. By most accounts what Davidson has said is true; at an institutional level it is undeniable cis white men are the primary drivers of violence. National and ACT never demanded an apology from Posie. They felt comfortable hiding behind claims of neutrality and a supposed principled defence of rights. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” claimed Nicola Willis, that is of course unless it’s shining on the ideas of a brown indigenous woman.
All this reminds us that we cannot let idle platitudes distract us. It doesn’t matter how many photo-ops we see of Hipkins sporting pride slogans and wide grins, when he disappears as soon as the community actually needs him. We all deserve more than political cowardice. At the end of the day the only thing that makes politicians hold the line is the fear of losing their seat. It is essential to stand up and make some noise, if only to keep the conversation going. When we allow Labour to get away with saying nothing, When we let National change the subject, and when we let ACT continue to be an aggressor towards queer, indigenous and minority communities; we let them know that it’s ok. That it’s ok to pitt constituents against each other, it’s ok for the ugly to overpower and it’s ok to do it again and again.
Politicians must be held accountable, forced to explain themselves to the public. People aren’t too fond of bigotry—and that’s why politicians expend so much effort cloaking theirs in empty promises and faux arguments about freedom (the freedom to do what exactly?). When MP’s are forced to stand and explain themselves, they often reveal their true selves to the public. We deserve a news media that will take them to task instead of repeatedly asking cheap gotchas about the price of butter.
The LGBTQ+ community is winning, that much is very clear. At our most publicised “gender critical” rally, TERFs couldn’t muster support of more than 50, in contrast Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch marched in the thousands to support trans whānau.
Unfortunately, this isn’t where the fight ends. History has shown time and time again that without pressure governments get lazy. Legislative progress on queer rights has never come from a major party in government. It has always required the efforts of either a minor party or an activist MP in opposition. But just introducing a bill isn’t enough. We need to apply sufficient pressure, so when poll numbers drop three percent, minority rights aren’t the first policy on the chopping block. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. New Zealand has a proud history of being forward thinking, we just need to remind our politicians what that means. After the community’s response to Posie Parker I’m confident we’ve got it in us.