Fairfax opinion piece: Media profit from bigotry

As a result of Friday’s action against media transphobia, members of the Queer Avengers (and friends) were offered an editorial to counter Rosemary McLeod’s. This piece was co-written by Ian Anderson and Rosie-Jimson Healey.

EGO-TRIP: compound noun, informal. An activity done in order to increase one’s sense of self-importance.

One would think that giving birth is an activity unlikely to be deposited scathingly in the ego-trip category.

Perhaps bringing a new life into the world does increase one’s sense of self-importance; it is an astonishing example of the power of the human body when a perfect tiny human emerges from a uterus that has casually grown to 500 times its usual size.

Not to mention the presentation of a helpless, beetroot-coloured miniature human being. Even so, we don’t imagine many would link the term “ego-trip” to this particular moment in most parents lives.

However, this was the case in Rosemary McLeod’s piece that bore the headline Why I feel sorry for the children of ego-trippers (February 23). An innocent enough title, certainly not one that would sound immediate alarm bells in the reproductive rights, hate speech and eugenics departments. [Read more…]

Fairfax Report: Trans-gender community protest against column

About 50 protesters from Wellington’s Queer Avengers lobby group picketed the offices of The Dominion Post at lunchtime levelling charges of transphobia at the paper, its parent company Fairfax and the wider media.

The controversy arose yesterday when veteran Dominion Post columnist Rosemary McLeod published an opinion piece entitled Why I feel for the kids of ego trippers.

The column dealt with the issue of transgender parent Thomas Beatie who has given birth and appeared on television shows and in numerous media reports as a result.

Protester Sara Fraser said McLeod’s column was “appalling” and was part of a transphobic trend in the New Zealand media.

“She claimed not to know anything about the topic but still wrote about it.”

Ms Fraser said of particular concern was the use of the split pronoun he/she that McLeod used to refer to Beatie.

She said the over-riding issue was the column made transgender people look like unfit parents.

“Rosemary needs to wake up and smell the 21st century – such hatred is not acceptable in this day and age.”

Skye Shaddix, a 17-year-old female-to-male transgender person, said there was no reason why “trans-people should not be allowed to have kids.”

Shaddix and his 19-year-old boyfriend –  also female-to-male transgender – were considering having children in their late 20s.

“We should not be judged on how we were born – we have the working body parts, so why can’t we have the kids?”

The protesters gathered outside The Dominion Post‘s Boulcott St offices in downtown Wellington carrying placards bearing slogans like “transphobia is bullshit” and chanting “hey hey, ho ho transphobia’s got to go” and  “we’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t f#$k with us.”

Speakers at the protest said the media was profiting from racism, bigotry, homophobia and transphobia.

Queer Avengers’ Brooklyne Kennedy called McLeod’s column the “asinine rhetoric of the past” to cheers from the other protesters.

The group proposed a one day boycott of Fairfax’s Stuff website before going into the ground floor lobby of The Dominion Post to deliver a letter to management.

Dominion Post editor Bernadette Courtney said the column was carried on dompost.co.nz, and in print, in sections clearly  identified as opinion or comment.

“The piece represents Ms McLeod’s opinion and, while I accept that not everyone would agree with it, and may even have been affronted by it, I believe that when balanced against the principle of free expression, it would have been going a step too far to have banned it,” Ms Courtney said. [ed note: private newspapers select what to print and what not to print.]

– © Fairfax NZ News

Queer Avengers protest media transphobia

Members of the Queer Avengers, a queer and trans activist group, have called a protest against a transphobic article by Rosemary McLeod. The rally is taking place at 12:30 Friday 23rd February, outside the headquarters of Fairfax Media, who own the Dominion Post.

McLeod’s article states that transmen are in fact women, repeatedly using the pronoun “he/she.” Outrage has erupted online, on Twitter and elsewhere. The Queer Avengers event is circulating widely on Facebook, with over 100 down to attend in the space of an hour.

While a Dominion Post spokesperson says the article was merely Rosemary McLeod’s ‘opinion,’ protesters point out that the Dominion Post provide a platform for such opinions.

“They’re just profiting off bigotry,” says Queer Avengers activist Emily Haskell. “It happens throughout the media, and we won’t stand for it.”

McLeod asserts that she is worried for the kids of transmen. However the Queer Avengers note that in another article printed on the same day, a US study noted that children who express themselves in ways contrary to their percieved gender are often targeted for abuse, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder. “Transphobia hurts children and parents,” asserts Queer Avengers activist Stephen Jackson.

The Queer Avengers formed out of a ‘Queer the Night’ march with around 300 attendants in 2011. They have called a press conference on Thursday the 15th of March to discuss press coverage of gender variance, following on from the rally at Fairfax headquarters.

#transphobictampons: It’s Not Offensive, It’s Oppressive

Kassie Hartendorp, Workers Party member and Queer Avenger.

At the end of 2011, an advertisement for Libra tampons was pulled from air after members from the queer community called out the company for its transphobia. Many argued that the company was sending a strong message to those who did not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, that they were not as ‘authentic’ as their biological counterparts.

The issue was framed as being problematic for only a small amount of ‘oversensitive’ members of the trans community but the advertisement can be linked back to the way that negative images work to oppress many on the gender and sexuality spectrum.

[Read more…]

“I am a Queer Avenger”

Queer Our Schools speech by Kassie Hartendorp, Workers Party Wellington branch organiser and Queer Avenger. Further speeches on GayNZ.

We’re here because we’re angry. Our anger should not come as a surprise, in fact its long over-due; the ministry has consecutively failed, year after year, in its legal care-of-duty to provide safe and affirming environments for their students.

[Read more…]

Queer Our Schools

“it’s about human rights, stupid” – Oscar WildeThe Queer Avengers is launching its “Queer our Schools” campaign on 6 October with a march from the Ministry of Education at 45-47 Pipitea St, Thorndon, Wellington. We will be marching to Midland Park on Lambton Quay for speeches and entertainment.

Our youth-focused campaign is our first of three campaigns. Our other two campaigns on gender variants and older queers are still b…eing formulated.

Below is the list of demands for our youth-focused campaign and our immediate goals for this march.

Demands to the Ministry of Education:

1. Government resourcing for the formation of student-led, community supported queer-straight alliances in every secondary school in the country.
2. Incorporating sexuality and gender variance diversity into all relevant subjects, including history, health, science and English.
3. Making schools accessible and safe for gender variant students

A. Gender neutral bathrooms/private changing facilities

B. Non-gendered dress codes

C. Resources and education which fits the needs of gender variant students

D. Trans affirming spaces and role models

4. Zero-tolerance of homophobic & transphobic bullying and requiring professional development of staff to model queer positive spaces.

Our demands shouldn’t come as a surprise to the Ministry of Education. For years they have flaunted their legal care-of-duty to provide a safe mental and physical environment for students. It has known since at least the last 2007 Youth Report that schools are not safe places for queer youth. 33% of GLB youth reported being bullied at school on the basis of their sexual identity. We know that schools are not sites where queer identities are affirmed, where queer people can learn about their history and where they are encouraged to explore their queerness. If schools were affirming sites, the statistics on GLB youth making an actual attempt at suicide would not be five times higher than that for heterosexual students (20% as opposed to 4%). Further, the Ministry has also known since the 2008 Human Rights Commission’s report “To Be Who I Am” that schools remain simply inaccessible to many gender-variant youth. Education is a human right, yet the Ministry has done nothing to remove the barriers which make simply going to school a herculean task for youth who either don’t fit into the gender binary or are transitioning somewhere else along the spectrum.

We know that these statistics are not just numbers but real people. For years the Ministry has known these problems have existed yet have managed not to take any action to either making schools safe places for queers or simply accessible for gender-variant students. It’s time to hold them to account. It’s time to say that enough lives have been hurt due to their inaction.

If you want to get involved, contact us at thequeeravengers@gmail.com

(Gay) Marriage and (Queer) Marxism

Ian Anderson, Workers Party member

Internationally, demands for gay marriage are galvanising important mass movements. These movements develop from diverse origins: Australia’s Equal Love campaign regularly mobilises thousands, while same-sex marriage is one of the constitutional demands in Nepal’s ongoing revolutionary struggle. In countries such as Sweden and South Africa, activists have achieved the demand for gay marriage; in countries such as New Zealand, activists have achieved an equivalent in the Civil Union Act.

These achievements leave important question marks. The Civil Union Act did not grant adoption rights to same-sex couples; did not grant any rights to polyamorous relationships; both Civil Unions and marriages are fairly uncommon. Ultimately the new status quo leads many in the queer movement back to questioning marriage itself. Activists in Wellington’s newly formed Queer Avengers, which mobilised hundreds for its Queer The Night march, have discussed ‘repeal of the Marriage Act’ as a possible slogan. It’s important in this context to tease out the historical nature of marriage, and the arguments for marriage abolition. [Read more…]

Red & Purple: A Marxist Perspective on Queer Liberation

by Ian Anderson, adapted from a talk presented at Marxism 2010.

What does queer liberation mean?

This article aims to deal with this question utilising historical materialism, the mode of enquiry pioneered by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Historical materialism explores social relations, such as homosexual oppression, by explaining the productive forces that shape them. With a particular focus on New Zealand history, this analysis aims to sketch the material basis of modern queerness, attempts to control or suppress it, and the politics that have emerged from this contradiction. [Read more…]