The symbolic victory of same-sex marriage

marriage rally civic square

This article by Anne Russell was originally published on Scoop

Over the past year or so, the marriage equality bill has essentially served as a filter through which New Zealand has discussed queer sexuality and gender identity. Marriage is perhaps one of the least threatening manifestations of contemporary queer identity, reassuring all but the most raving queerphobes that queerdom does not, in fact, destroy the fabric of society as we know it. Many of the speeches made in Parliament opined that there were no reasons not to support marriage equality. National MP Maurice Williamson has made international news for his speech, for which 3News has labeled him an “unlikely gay icon”.

Unlikely indeed, given his position in a historically queerphobic party, combined with his own emphasis on what a minor law change it is. The public demonstrations of gratitude to Williamson and his right-wing colleagues show how little the queer community has come to expect from politicians. It also demonstrates the extent to which marriage equality has co-opted queer struggles in the West. At this juncture, it’s far more common to hear straight allies in the public sphere proclaiming their support for marriage equality than for queer equality. [Read more…]

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Interview: BOX Events (queer women of colour group)

Jac Lynch, Mr Brey kin Hearts and Bex Davis at the first BOX party. Photo credit: Jessica Savage Photography

BOX Events is a recently formed Wellington group that organises female-inclusive events, starting with the Shirts and Skirts event that raised funds for Wellington Rape Crisis. Spark writer Ian Anderson interviews BOX members Leilani and Trixie.

The Spark: First off, what is BOX and how did it form?

T: I only joined after the first event. But it’s a group of queer women of colour putting on events for other queers, focused particularly on queer women.

L: It’s evolving organically. My cousin and her friends were raising issues; as far as socialising spaces go there’s not a lot for gay people, especially for women. Initially I fluffed it off, but then I met more people saying same thing. So we decided to pull together and act on it. We’re very grassroots. We’re coming up with a manifesto soon.

T: I was in the process of organising an event, but then I found BOX. Revolution Girl Style Now [BOX event] has mostly been my idea.

L: Well Trixie’s idea matched up with our ideas. After Shirts & Skirts we were talking about what’s going on in Pasifika communities, how we needed something more cutting edge and relevant. So Trixie’s idea of Revolution Girl Style matched that. [Read more…]

Safer Spaces in Political Organising

“Safer spaces” began in forms such as consciousness-raising groups

Kassie Hartendorp is a Workers Party member, founding activist of the Queer Avengers, and works as a youth worker for a queer youth organisation. This article is adapted from a talk presented at the Workers Party annual conference.

What is a safe space?

As background, safe spaces began in forms such as consciousness-raising groups within the second wave feminist movement. These were spaces which allowed women to openly discuss the discrimination or abuse they were subjected to and strategise ways to fight against issues relating to sexism. The safety of these spaces was important as they provided an opportunity for women to come to terms with issues such as domestic violence or sexual abuse, within a supportive environment. They were also a space that addressed the issue of male domination within wider political groups and as such, often excluded men with the intention to minimise the chances of abuse or marginalization, so that those involved could move forward in their fight against oppression.

Nowadays, safe spaces are often associated with the women’s movement and the queer community. They were formed on the basis that women and queer people were often not physically safe within mainstream groups, and in these environments, people could feel confident expressing their identity or just existing without the threat of violence or verbal abuse. [Read more…]

Beyond Marriage

Originally printed on GayNZ.

The Queer Avengers have launched a new website highlighting the limitations of marriage and adoption law, and while supporting the call for marriage equality, it also underlines that it’s not the end of the line for LGBT struggles.

The site, beyondmarriage.org.nz tells stories of relationships, and family structures, excluded or oppressed by marriage law, including polyamory and whangai adoption.

It’s also underlining the continuing obstacles our community faces, including bullying, suicide and homelessness among LGBT youth, inadequate access to quality healthcare for trans people and common intimidation and violence in the streets.

Queer Avengers call for a struggle “beyond marriage”

Originally published on GayNZ.

Wellington-based activist group The Queer Avengers is calling for a struggle “beyond marriage”, saying while it supports marriage equality, it’s not the end of the line for GLBT rights.

While the group supports Louisa Wall’s Bill to introduce marriage equality, it says the community still faces a number of obstacles.

Member Sara Fraser says these include bullying, suicide and homelessness among GLBT youth; inadequate access to quality healthcare for trans people; and common intimidation and violence in the streets.

She adds that there are many family structures which marriage and adoption law does not cover, for example polyamory and whangai adoption.

“This is not the final struggle,” Fraser says. “We’re looking ahead to the struggles beyond marriage.”

However when it comes to the marriage equality battle, the Queer Avengers are critical of MPs who are against it.

“Bill English says that equality is not a priority. Instead, National would like to focus on the important things, like making deals with casinos and scapegoating beneficiaries for the financial crisis,” argues Queer Avenger Ian Anderson.

“This government is more interested in cutting back rights than extending them.”

Anderson adds that equality is a matter of principle, not personal conscience. “If parties support the principle of equality, they should treat it as such. This is a basic civil rights issue. Conscience votes are a cop-out.”

Gay Pride 2012: A brief report from New York City

This report on NY Gay Pride was irst published on the Kasama Project blog. Ish also writes at The Cahokian.

June 24, this last Sunday was the 42nd annual gay pride parade in New York City. The event commemorates the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising in which lesbian, gay and transgender New Yorkers fought back against a police raid against the Stonewall gay bar.

It’s been a long time since what started out as a “march” was officially turned into a “parade.”

The parade is now shorter than it once was: In recent years the parade route was shortened by request of the city of New York, allegedly to save money. The good news is that the parade is still the occasion for queer New Yorkers to celebrate in the streets. Thousands of people marched, thousands more lined the route, and thousands more went down to the Village — no longer really the gayborhood it once was — to party on the streets and piers.

There were plenty of contingents and floats from the dread corporate sponsors, as well as from the usual spectrum of community and religious organizations. Plastic rainbow gewgaws bearing corporate logos piled up in the streets as the parade passed.

[Read more…]

Marriage: Equality, abolition, and the Mana movement

Ian Anderson

The marriage equality discussion has found increased currency in recent months with US president Barack Obama coming out in support of same-sex marriage. MPs Louisa Wall and Kevin Hague, of Labour and the Greens respectively, both have bills in the ballot box supporting same-sex marriage and adoption.

This country has a different legal situation to the US. Health insurance is less of an issue due to our primarily public health system, while Civil Unions largely provide an equivalent to marriage. However same-sex couples do not enjoy the right to adopt; in fact the Adoption Act has not been amended since 1955.

Aiming to remove the last legal distinctions, the marriage equality group “Legalise Love” focuses on two key demands; the right to marry, and the right to adopt. Legalise Love has been criticised for its lack of community engagement. At their 2012 AGM, Legalise Love passed a new set of goals, including building a stronger relationship with other community groups, and “maintaining a healthy working relationship with the state.” In practice this means acting as a Labour Party lobby group, while trying to win over the progressive sections of other parties, and ensuring state sanction for actions such as marches.

Legalise Love is looking increasingly likely to win its two key demands. However, progressives must be on guard, as conservatives will rally their troops in the lead-up to the bill.

During the 1986 Homosexual Law Reform campaign, Labour MP Fran Wilde privately warned against militant street tactics. However, the anti-gay Coalition of Concerned Citizens caught supporters by surprise, launching a nationwide petition against the bill which necessitated a more confrontational approach. Polls indicate that 60% of New Zealanders favour equal marriage, including 79% of 18-30 year olds, and progressives must be ready to fight for this reform.

Marriage reform or marriage abolition?

Some question the institution of marriage itself. Marriage is an institution designed to regulate kinship relations, which until the 1980s legalised rape within marriage in this country. An article on gay website Aaron and Andy jokingly described Legalise Love as having “a myopic obsession with hetero-assimilation.” On her Facebook page Annette Sykes also raised that Western marriage was imposed on Maori through colonisation, replacing previous kinship structures.

Members of the Queer Avengers, a Wellington activist group, have differing views on marriage. The group aims to fight queer oppression in a multi-faceted way not limited to legal reforms – dealing with street violence, youth homelessness and transphobia in the media. Some Queer Avengers have joined Legalise Love, while others call for repeal of the Marriage Act. The group has agreed that while members have different views on marriage itself, there should be no legal discrimination between same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

An article by Dougal McNeill, on the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) website noted this contradiction: “many of the best LGBT campaigners have been lukewarm about, and sometimes openly antagonistic, towards the question of equal marriage rights… It’s understandable why this is the case – why fight for a reactionary institution like marriage, when its a pillar of sexism and the nuclear family, sustaining heterosexist ideas?”

McNeill noted that this is a question of principle, and civil rights: “A campaign for equal marriage rights shouldn’t be seen as primarily about marriage, but about rights.”

Although the Workers Party does not have a determined position beyond support for marriage equality, an article in the August 2011 issue of the Spark argued: “Sections of the ruling class may support gay marriage, but they retain the right to maintain property relations by regulating consensual relationships… While the Marriage Act exists, we must support progressive reforms. Ultimately, we must aim for abolition of the Marriage Act.”

This is comparable to the question of oppressed groups participating in the imperialist military; we fight for civil rights in even the most bankrupt institutions.

Hone Harawira and Mana

Socialist groups including the Workers Party committed to helping build the Mana movement last year, as we view it as a class split from the Maori Party and it represents the demands of the oppressed. However in recent months, party leader Hone Harawira’s social conservatism has raised questions about the progressive nature of Mana.

In an interview with Bryce Edwards, Harawira explained “I’m actually politically radical but socially very conservative.” With two bills for marriage equality in the ballot box, this has now become a more pressing question. The key issue is not what Harawira personally believes, but what politics the movement supports. Mana contains many takataapui and pro-LGBT progressives, so a vote against the bill would have a divisive impact.

Mana has already passed a Rainbow Policy, which supports the extension of marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples. In a recent post on his blog Maui Street, Morgan Godfery argued:

I don’t think Hone will be able to maintain his position. Party pressure will be considerable. On the small chance Hone remains steadfast though, his former party provides a salient illustration of what happens when you ignore your members.

This coming period will test the internal democracy of the Mana movement. Progressives within Mana must seek both to reaffirm the Rainbow Policy, and ensure that this is not treated as a “conscience vote.”

Homophobia still a real issue in New Zealand

Article by Robert Read, a Workers Party supporter based in Christchurch.

James Froch will present a talk on Queer Liberation and Socialism at Socialism 2012.

On Saturday the 26th of May 2012 at around 7pm an 18 year old, Zakk Davies, was walking home after dropping some friends off at The Viaduct. He was approached by three males.

These males began to flirt with Zakk which he believes is because they had thought he was a female. Even though he was dressed like any other teen male on a Saturday night in jeans and a t-shirt, once they realized he obviously wasn’t they very quickly became aggressive towards him. They began to punch him until he fell to the ground at which point they proceeded to punch and kick him mainly in the abdomen.
He remembers, while they were kicking and punching him, they were shouting some of the most disgusting homophobic comments he had ever heard. He recalled that they were “Calling me disgusting and a burden on society”, but the worst comment he can remember was that they “wish they could do to the gays what Hitler did to the Jews”.

At some point they were kicking him in the head and he must have been knocked-out, as he awoke 3 and a half hours later in gutter. Bloody, crying and bruised he got up still not sure entirely of what happened and walked to the next place he knew would feel safe, his friend’s place.
He has posted on his facebook account a picture of his face, battered and bruised, with this statement.
“I am uploading this not for sympathy, but as a warning to the gay community. When in town at night, always stay as a group because homophobia is still around, and there are people out there that want to hurt you. Thank you to the 3 guys that decided to beat me up last night, for taking it out on my body and avoiding my face.”

His facebook profile has been flooded with messages of support and outrage that this is still happening not only around the world but in our own back yard. Zakk said his “spirit will never be broken” and that he strives to use his experience to help the gay community.

A comment from Gay Bi NZ online community personality Ricardo Edwards says “It saddens and angers me greatly that atrocities such as this continue against members of the gay community. Against members of the HUMAN RACE. This incident has further fuelled a desire that has already been burning in me for some time, and that is to rid our beautiful country of the hatred and bigotous attitude that still lingers in ugly pockets throughout our society. Our goal, our dream, and it WILL be our reality. True equality.”

Patty Boy and Zakk d’Larte performing at Out in the Square in Wellington

Queer The Night speech

Speech by James Froch, key organiser of last night’s Queer The Night march, Schools Out facilitator, Wellington Gay Welfare Group trainee co-ordinator, and Workers Party Wellington Education officer.

TV3 image from the Queer the Night march, 9/6/11. Click link above for TV3 footage.

 

I’m one of the organisers of this march, but I’m also here as an organiser for Schools Out.

Homophobia is something each of us has to live with.  We hesitate to hold our partners hand in public because we fear straight people’s reactions, their dumbfounded staring, their screams of dyke or faggot, their fists and their bottles.

Their homophobic actions aim to rein in our various identities and orientations, to keep us off the streets and in the closets. Its intent is to make queer and trans-people live in fear.

We’re here to say we’re not afraid. We’re here to say we stand as a community against homophobia and transphobia.  We’re here to fight until everyone has the right to express and explore their queerness without religious, economic, legal restrictions. [Read more…]

Film review: MILK

milk

Gus Vant Sant’s new film “Milk”, is a biopic of the 1970s gay rights activist Harvey Milk, played by Sean Penn. Penn gives one of his best performances to date as the charismatic and outspoken gay leader, portraying him from his very few last days as a Republican-voting, Wall Street bureaucrat in the late 60s early 70s to his awakening as a fighter against gay oppression and subsequent assassination in 1978.

[Read more…]