Title: Toiling for greener pastures Credit: Jacqui Stanford Features Monday 6th June 2011 - 7:55am1307303700 Article: 10450 Rights
(Left to right) Jan Logie, Kevin Hague and Brooklynne Kennedy As the Green Party's AGM broke for lunch, we spoke to three of its queer members. Like everything Green Party stands for, its representatives were an even balance; one gay man, one lesbian woman and one transwoman. The gay man was someone who really needs no introduction - Kevin Hague. The former New Zealand AIDS Foundation boss and ever-passionate gay rights campaigner who has been in Parliament for a term has found himself third on the party's list heading into the November election, meaning he is ranked behind only the party's co-leaders Metiria Turei and Russel Norman. The lesbian woman was Jan Logie, a Paekakariki battler for social change with a strong background in community work, who has been ranked ninth place on the Green Party list and is highly likely to become an MP, if the Greens can secure enough party vote. And the transwoman was ex-pat American Brooklynne Kennedy, who is the TRANZform founder and and co-convener of the army of Young Greens, as well as being married to writer Ryan Scott-Kennedy. Our relaxed chat in the sun at Pt Chevalier's Te Mahurehure Marae was rather different from the preceding mainstream media scrum as Turei announced the somewhat unsurprising news her party was "highly unlikely" to work with National after polling day. We started with jokes about answering the phone and admiration for Logie's impressive gaydar, after she picked this reporter as a lesbian from the moment I walked into the AGM, despite not knowing who I was. Clad in an "I Ride Bikes" t-shirt Hague expressed his pleasure at his third-place ranking and making it clear he takes the added responsibility seriously. "It probably means I need to be around the country more, it's all good though," he laughed. One a more serious not, he points out that he believes it's only the Green Party that has that belief in full equality. "And actually walks the talk as well, in terms of a really diverse party that honours and respects everyone and the diversity of the membership. It's fantastic for us." He jokes that Logie will probably be battling with him to be the one to speak out on queer issues if she is elected, and she responds that she is hoping they can split it. "You can have all the boys and I'll have the girls and the bois with an "i," she proposes, to which Hague replies that the party does have the tradition of male and female co-shared roles so it would probably work. Logie is fighting being overwhelmed at the likelihood she will become an MP, saying she is trying to focus on what she will be able to achieve by being in Parliament. She says her flippant answer as to why she decided to stand as a candidate is to stop herself from yelling at the radio, which evokes a laugh from Hague and Kennedy. "You know, to actually get more engaged in the process. Because I really am really unhappy with what's happening and I think the solutions are pretty obvious. I don't understand why the Government's not implementing them," she says incredulously. "So I want to be part of implementing good answers that create a society that works for all of us and recognises the environment." For Kennedy, joining the Young Greens was partially about the fact that as a transwoman it's hard to find an organisation where she is seen as "Brooklynne, a great organiser", she explains. "And the Green Party is one of those few places where people are like 'oh yeah, and I think she might be trans', which is really refreshing." She has worked for ten years in trans youth non-profits and realised she had plenty of organising skills to bring to the Young Greens table. The party clearly cares about the future of its party and nurtures young members. It currently has a candidate who is aged only 18 and and MP Gareth Hughes who is just 29. Hague says the issues facing glbt youth are the thing he is most passionate about. "As I think about my life as an adult gay man, my life is immeasurably better than it would have been back in the 1970s when I was coming out. But actually for the young 14-year-old, I'm not so sure that life is so different now, than what it was when I experienced it in 1974. So I have this project going where we're trying to build an agenda that we can unite our communities around, to create a more supportive an affirming environment. A safer environment for young people. Both before and after they're coming out. So that's the thing I'm really focused on and really trying to have at least a draft of that which we can be talking with communities around before the election." When the topic of Prime Minister John Key's meeting with Q-Youth and Rainbow Youth representatives following a strong Pink Shirt Day campaign is raised, Hague says he thinks the meeting was a good step. "But actually, here's a guy who voted against civil unions and a guy who seems to be prepared to say whatever people want to hear to be in political power. So I hope that actually there is some follow through to that meeting from the Prime Minister, but I fear that won't be the case." Logie says she will support Hague's work to create a more supportive and affirming environment for gay, lesbian, bi and trans youth, adding that she sees visibility for the diversity of who we are is incredibly important. She refers to the Queer The Night march being planned in Wellington in a way to claim back the streets from violence and says promoting diversity and celebrating it is one tool for fighting violence and protecting ourselves. "And that's something I want to be part of, because we need to be able to be ourselves and be physically and emotionally safe, and some of that challenge is going to be around being visible and some of it is going to be around legislation, and some of that's going to be around organising in schools and communities." Kennedy shares that she transitioned when she was 17-years-old, which is now 12 years ago. "It's sad for me to see that not much has changed," she observes. She points out that what has changed is that due to more education youth are transitioning younger and younger and sometimes avoiding the side-effects of puberty most transpeople have to deal with. "But the bullying and the violence hasn't changed, and that's a shame. It's been 15 years now that I've personally been fighting the 'it's so gay' phrase and I thought by now it would be over. There was really never a strong argument for it. So it's really great to see some great politicians actually saying 'bullying isn't right' and actually meaning it, and not just say it because that's what popular right now." When given the figurative GayNZ.comsoapbox to perch on and asked the blatant electioneering-enabling question of why they think this site's readers should vote Green, Hague replies that the party has far and away the best policies. "We're the only party with the policy of full legal equality. We also have the best track record. Every one of our MPs has voted for our measures when they have been in Parliament. And we have the best programme. We are the ones who are actually doing things on the ground to advance the situation of queer and transpeople. I know that a lot of GayNZ.comreaders will have traditional loyalties to other parties, but I ask them simply to compare our record and our policies against those other parties and consider making the change." Logie says voting Green means the community has the chance of a 20 per cent rate of representation. "I think that's something worth voting for. We're also a whole party and our policies are going to create a world that's more inclusive for everyone. And if people can connect to their experience of feeling marginalised and consider which party is going to reduce marginalisation, then we're that party." Kennedy says it should be for the same reason she gives the Greens her party vote; "there's no other party in New Zealand that's represents the queer people honestly and completely, without engaging in tokenism." is making efforts to speak to representatives of all parties in the lead-up to the election. Jacqui Stanford - 6th June 2011    
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