Michael Stevens

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[00:00:00] This recording was made up a second, the Asia Pacific Outgames human rights conference held in Wellington, New Zealand in March 2011. [00:00:09] I'm Michael Stevens, I'm a gay man, I work in academia. I'm a sociologist at the University of Auckland with my PhD. My main research areas are around HIV and gaming, and [00:00:25] sexuality. [00:00:28] And you came to the conference because [00:00:30] I came to the conference because one I was invited to come and speak here to give a presentation on human rights and religion and how the hell has to have intersected in the world of sexual minorities. And because I'm always interested in getting some kind of international perspective on what's going around and in the queer world, so I wanted to see what's happening. [00:00:54] So with your presentation, how do those two things intersect? [00:00:58] I would say they, I mean, there have been aspects of religion that that have been supportive of queer rights, but generally established religion as not. So I was sort of looking at the factors that feed into that. [00:01:10] Can you give me some examples? [00:01:13] Or we can see things like [00:01:16] some branches of Christianity becoming more and more open to sexual diversity and sexual minority. These are not the mainstream churches, not the big churches, like the Catholics or the Orthodox typically. But often smaller church groups have decided that their interpretation of Christianity means they should support sexual minorities in their achievement, and they struggle to achieve full dignity and human rights. So sort of examining the social forces that that drive that in the areas of social change that push churches to change their position. [00:01:47] Do you think that change, particularly in New Zealand does, I mean, it's becoming more liberal, more conservative? [00:01:54] New Zealand? Yeah, I'd say Zealand society is fairly liberal, not radical, but it's, it's fairly liberal. And religion doesn't play a large part in the public sphere in New Zealand, life is seen as a private matter. So there's a lot of public tolerance for difference now, much more so than there was, say 20 years ago. I think there's been a distinct change, whether it's going to last rather 20 years is another measure. [00:02:17] What he said, [00:02:18] Well, I'm just aware that things do change over time unexpected social forces can arise, something could happen to switch, you know, the country to a much more conservative mindset or something that's that is possible, I don't think it's likely I'm just saying it's possible. [00:02:33] What are the biggest thing that you get out of out of a conference like this? [00:02:37] I think it's the face to face context, with some people from around New Zealand and from around the region. So whatever form of sort of sexual minority we belong to, just being able to hear the stories to meet them over coffee to discuss a few ideas to say, yeah, that really resonated with me or that's interesting idea, thought about it that way. Just that sense of connection, and also that sense of recognition. And, you know, museums tucked away at the bottom of the world, we're a long way from everywhere and everybody. So it's great when we get a chance to talk to people from, you know, around the region who come here. So I think it's a really valuable opportunity. [00:03:16] Has there been anything that's really challenged? What you fought or some of your ideas? [00:03:24] No, not yet. No, I mean, this is a human rights conference. And I guess I'm a human rights Hawk. So on, nothing's actually challenged my way of thinking have here a lot of things I really agree with, or some things that have made me really pleased to hear about, but nothing's sort of, I don't think my position needs too much changing. So [00:03:43] what are some of the things that have resonated with you the most? [00:03:46] I think for me, the highlight so far has been Nolan Waring's speech of the opening plenary, probably because we come from a similar generation. So she was talking about her life story. And a few years behind him, I remember all the event she was discussing and talking about. And I think just the way she talked about it, and how she presented it just I thought it was excellent. And for me, that was that was the best thing I've heard so far. [00:04:13] Can you describe the mood or the vibe of the conference? What have you picked up? [00:04:19] I think the vibe is very positive, very upbeat. [00:04:22] It seems very productive. [00:04:26] session too busy. No one's complaining that I can make out everyone's things happening. So that's a good sign. [00:04:33] I guess one of the things is how to translate over the positive energy in the woods and to actions after the conference and to keep the momentum going. Do you have any thoughts about that? [00:04:43] That's always the problem. And that will depend on maintaining networks, getting in contact with people and keeping the ball rolling, basically, I think it will. I mean, you know, people, this is not the first time this conference is being held, certainly won't be the last time. Sure. So this will be an ongoing event. [00:05:02] Now, I know that you're very media savvy, and that you blog, and very interested in kind of game media. And I'm just wondering if you had any comments on the level of reportage that has happened about this conference and the heart games, both in the game media and also in the mainstream media? [00:05:21] Well, the mainstream media is ignored. It basically hasn't noticed which is disgraceful. This is a major event happening in the capital, and they should have been some coverage somewhere. I mean, I hadn't seen anything. [00:05:33] I think there was a small amount of any small articles on the Dominion post, but not not. [00:05:38] No mainstream TV news. Yeah, I mean, you would have thought we would have we've got 30 seconds somewhere on the TV news or something. So I think that mainstream coverage is being poor. And I think it's a sign of hatred, sexism, I think that's a Christian, if you like, the blindly protocols, you know, the marginalizing us, if they don't talk about us become visible, even though we've actually been extremely visible in the city. But if the media makes us invisible, that just empowers us to some extent. So I don't like that. What I've seen at the game media, well, all I've seen is games. And they seem to be updating their website every couple of hours or so with stories at the moment. So that's been great, I think in the way that I've been trying to cover it. [00:06:20] Now you're based in Oakland, don't you? [00:06:23] Yes, I'm based in Oakland. [00:06:24] So how is this conference in the game scene in the Oakland gay circles? [00:06:31] Well, I think the Outgames was much more visible in the conference itself. And people were looking forward to it. People were talking about training and participating and having a good time, and really looking forward to come into it. I didn't really hear too many people who knew that much about the conference itself, unless they were other academics or activists. But an awful lot of sort of, I don't know, non activist, if you like, ordinary gaming, that I knew we're coming down here to participate in the games, and really looking forward to it. [00:07:01] What will you take away from this conference? What are the biggest things you take away? I think [00:07:05] it's always that sense of solidarity of hearing, you know, when you hear stories from halfway around the world that you can relate to, and you think here, that's actually something I've seen in my life to build a sense of solidarity and connection. And I think that's always an important thing to do for any marginalized group that to have that awareness of each other, and just reinforces that we might be minorities, but we're not alone. [00:07:32] What do you think the biggest issues are for queer cultures in New Zealand? [00:07:36] I think some of the biggest issues are complacency. I mean, I think a lot of people think that we don't have any real problems Lyft any longer. And I'd say that's not true. I think there's still a lot of homophobia out there. I think when you look at gay, mental, queer mental health, in general, queer alcohol and drug use queer suicide rates, a vastly disproportionate compared to the rest of the populations is bad for something we don't like. So I think that's something to be that we need, we need to be aware that we've made great gains, but we haven't achieved complete equality at all, as the Human Rights conference. And for me to achieve for human rights means to be treated exactly the same with the same level of dignity, the same rights and the same responsibilities with anybody else. The fact that the number of people except the civil union, though instead of marriage, for example, I would say that so Lisa, form of relationship with Alyssa form of recognition, it doesn't give us full equality in terms of human rights. And it's something I personally opposed at the time, I think we should have gone for quality or nothing. So I think, I think complacency, I think thinking, you know, things are much, much bigger than they were 2030 years ago, there's no denying it. But we still got we still got things to fight for, we still have to struggle. If you're a young, young queer of any sort of type growing up, and Taylor Moser or less going to be still can be pretty hard, pretty isolating, how do we reach those people? How do we look after them? I think we've still got real issues to face. But I think I think they're getting it's getting harder to make people see them. [00:09:11] In what way [00:09:12] are because so many of us do live comfortable urban lives. You know, we can be out in our workplace and that sort of thing. We just get on with our lives. And we tend to forget about the people who aren't enjoying that kind of lifestyle and who might be able to and that's what I mean, I suppose by the complacency, we sort of look around if you if you live in it and willing to no cry or Cortland you know, you can you can see game in my case around you successful living ordinary lives, everything seems fine. You forget about all the people that aren't included that that don't have that level of freedom and and ease in their lives that we do. So I think we need to remember that. It's, you know, we are privileged and privileged doesn't spread out to everybody equally. And I would like to see us push for that level of social privilege to be more widely distributed. [00:10:05] So if somebody is listening to this type in 50 years time, what would you like to say to them [00:10:10] be at nearly? [00:10:16] What would I like to say? And for someone in 30 years time, I hope, I hope things have you know, I hope we haven't gone back was it all, I hope sexual minorities are no longer the issue that they are in this time and that being queer of any type is has become a non event. And those sort of help some of those social indicators that I mentioned earlier, like suicide rates, drug and alcohol abuse, etc. I hope that they are down to the proportionate level with the rest of the population. I hope that you know, that it's a better world and a better place, but I'm not sure it will be

This page features computer generated text of the source audio - it is not a transcript. The Artificial Intelligence Text is provided to help users when searching for keywords or phrases. The text has not been manually checked for accuracy against the original audio and will contain many errors.