Title: Poverty and the "New Immorality?" Credit: Craig Young Comment Friday 9th August 2013 - 9:00pm1376038800 Article: 13778 Rights
How is it that the Auckland Council can bless our forthcoming marriage equality nuptials while trying to drive vulnerable and marginal transsexual street sex workers, and now beggars, off the streets? I think I know why and it's not a particularly pleasant prospect. When did lesbians and gay men become "respectable?" Apparently, we became respectable when we started to undertake professional or skilled manual trades, moved to the suburbs, sometimes started families and even tied the knot in ceremonial measures, albeit without the approval of religious social conservatives. As religious social conservatism has shrivelled and religious institutions have become increasingly unable to define what "is" and "is not" "moral," lesbians and gay men have become increasingly "normalised" as long as we have sex behind closed doors at home, or within a sex on site venue. It helps if we have gainful employment, families and engage in civic and prosocial activities. However, there's an unpleasant flip side to all this, which is what is now "immoral." Granted, it no longer seems to be founded on whether particular forms of sexuality and gender relationships are likely to result in children any more, except for certain conservative religious subcultures or homophobic and misogynist youth subcultures, which are not majority public opinion any longer. Instead, the "new morality" (and "new immorality") seems to be shot through with class, ethnicity, gender and gender identity differences and constructed 'inferiority." In the case of the Manukau City street sex workers, the Auckland Council, Papatoetoe Reclaiming Our Streets, the Manukau Ministers Network and Asenati Lole-Taylor have a particular view about "proper" Manukau and Auckland City "responsible citizens." They are not street sex workers, they are Manukau City residents and ratepayers, and the street sex workers are an "alien" presence from "outside" the Manukau community, whose "aggressive and antisocial" "public nuisance" behaviour "requires" them to be expelled from the Hunters Corner area to strictly sited brothels or remote street areas. "They" take drugs, proposition residents in broad daylight, there is (gasp) evidence of safe sex (condoms) around Hunters Corner, human waste and syringes. "They" do not engage in "responsible" civic and social behaviour and their lifestyles, habits and behaviour "must" be forbidden. Of course, according to successive Ministry of Justice reports, that isn't the real situation at all. Auckland Council, PROS, the Manukau Ministers Network and Asenati Lole-Taylor exaggerate the scale of the "problem," neglect to mention that some of the street sex workers live in the Manukau area, ignore and excuse the violent and antisocial standover tactics of the defunct PROS anti-sexworker vigilante group, ignore council public toilet closure and the abundance of liquor outlets, and blame the consequences of the recession and business flight on vulnerable and marginal street sex workers, as if the context of a minimally regulated market economy had nothing to do with it. It's fascinating to watch the fundamentalist Shine Television's "Nzone" current affairs programme on this subject, given that the pay television channel in question has been actively aiding and abetting this agenda. Witness one item from 2011, cited below. Note the elderly palagi/pakeha woman in this item's introduction, as well as the citation of fundamentalist Manukau New Life Church minister Stephen Miller complaining about the public presence of street sex workers. Such opportunism is breathtaking. It wasn't so long ago that Family First was trying to harness an alleged 'avalanche' of Pacific Island religious social conservatism against marriage equality, which fell afoul of an unwritten rule about New Zealand social movements- if there is poverty within a given social constituency, it will hamstring any efforts at mass mobilisation in the interests of any given social issue. Still, it's enough to make one wonder if Asenati Lole-Taylor actually does have any substantial support for her despicable attempts to attack marginal and vulnerable street sex workers amongst most Pacific Island communities? A fortnight ago, another abhorrent manifestation of this unpleasant "new immorality" perspective surfaced when the Auckland Council decided to try to ban public begging and panhandling on city streets. Commendably, the Council's latest enthusiasm for "social cleansing" ran afoul of Sue Bradford, her allies in Auckland Action Against Poverty and (also commendably) the New Zealand Herald, who editorialised against it. What does this have to do with us? Well... Well, one only has to look overseas in this context. On the streets of Sydney, Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London and New York, one can find lesbian and gay youth sleeping rough, panhandling, engaging in casual street prostitution, and having a miserable time of it in halfway houses or park benches. Their lot is made worse by oversubscribed space in what LGBT-oriented youth shelters and underfunded organisations do exist in this context and prohibitions against street sex work and 'vagrancy', begging and panhandling. Granted, lesbian and gay youth homelessness doesn't seem to be a problem in New Zealand (to our knowledge), but according to Dr Gillian Abel and her associates, homeless transgender youth may be involved in survival sex. It's not only that. Witness the recent (June 30) TV3 "Poverty and Parenting" The Vote current affairs debate. Bob McCoskrie, Hannah Tamaki and Christine Rankin got to argue that it was "family structure" that actually resulted in impoverishment of children and families, which provided an excuse to attack the "morality" of beneficiary parents and solo parents and proselytise for (straight) marriage against comprehensive welfare provision that "assists" "bad parenting." While Rankin was a former WINZ chief executive and Hannah Tamaki runs Destiny Social Services at her husband Brian's Pentecostal megachurch, they are both advocates of "New Right" blame-the-victim stances when it comes to issues of poverty and "deserving poor" as opposed to "immoral" and impoverished parties. Tamaki's church is driven by rackrent titheing and "prosperity gospel" rhetoric which provides Ms Tamaki and Brian with an affluent personal lifestyle while leaving many of their marginalised Maori and Pacific Island parishioners in abject poverty. And as for Bob McCoskrie, his Auckland University qualifications are in accountancy and tax law, not social policy, social work or social science. It almost seems as if now the Christian Right can't micromanage and interfere in lesbian and gay everyday lives anymore, it seems to be trying to "police the poor", including marginalised transsexual individuals within our greater LGBT community through providing erroneous populist stereotypes about particular impoverished individuals and social groups as "abject," "dirty", "non-resident," "drug addicted" or "alcoholic", "dependent", "transient," "vagrant", "promiscuous" or other terms used to depict transsexual street sex workers, beggars, the homeless and other marginal social groups. Of course, this chimes in with proposals for radical welfare privatisation from the Maxim Institute and other New Right organisations. We cannot let this happen, otherwise our community will have lost its soul and sense of connection to greater social justice issues. It is time that concerned LGBT individuals stepped in to protect our vulnerable Maori and Pacific Island transexual street sex worker community members, as well as asking ourselves questions about whether we have compromised too far and let poverty, class, ethnicity and gender identity drive wedges within our ranks? Recommended: "Welfare groups slam Auckland begging ban": 3 News: 03.07.2013: "Manukau Street Prostitution (NZone: 20.01.2011:) "Kiwis say parenting the key factor on TV3's The Vote:" Family First: 20.06.2013: Dr Gillian Abel" Submission on the Manukau City (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill: Jeff Weeks: Invented Moralities: Sexual Values in an Age of Uncertainty: London: Polity Press: 1995. Mariana Valverde and Lorna Weir: "Struggles of the Immoral" Review of Feminist Research 17:3: September 1988: 31-34. Simon Buckingham: "Being poor a 'crime' in New Zealand" Not Recommended: Family First: Maxim Institute: Craig Young - 9th August 2013    
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