Article Title:Protest, Pride and the TPPA
Author or Credit:Sarah Murphy
Published on:16th February 2016 - 12:31 pm
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Story ID:17935
Text:Protest and Pride are two things that gone hand in hand and events around the world are often picketed by those who are anti-LGBTI rights, but what happens when the protest comes from within our community? As a diverse and broader community we have a history of standing up for our rights and making our voices loud and clear. No doubt you are aware of last year’s No Pride in Prisons protest during the Pride Parade and perhaps you noticed, among the glitterbombing and booing, a group holding signs reading ‘LGBT against the TPPA’, at The Big Gay Out in Auckland this past Sunday. Lexie Matheson of the group ‘LGBT Against the TPPA’ chats to us about why they chose to be visible at the Big Gay Out and the relationship between Pride and protest.   What is the LGBT Against TPPA group? It’s a loosely organised collective of like-minded LGBTIQ people with a social conscience and a deep concern for Aotearoa New Zealand and the direction in which it’s heading. TPPA is a unifying focus for us all for a wide range of reasons, some specifically to do with being LGBTIQ but most relate to the manner in which the process has been handled, the secrecy and the spin that has surrounded this proposed agreement from day one, and this concern – a concern for our democracy and our sovereignty – is of vital importance to all New Zealanders and not just to LGBTIQ citizens. Was the group involved in the protest as John key came on stage at the BGO and why did the group protest his appearance at the event? No. We were with Mr Key for all of his selfie stroll which wasn’t quite the cakewalk he described. There was a lot of noise, a lot of shouting, and police and the PM’s security were everywhere. We have a policy of respecting the office of Mr Key so our protest was largely placards and visibility but others were making a lot of noise. We were stopped 50 or so metres from the stage by police so didn’t have the opportunity to join the BGO crowd but we didn’t really need to, they did all our work for us and the PM’s speech had barely started before he gave up on it. I have to say the cops were great – non- confrontational and fair - which was helpful because some of the blue-shirted Young Nats got a bit elbowy and the officers calmed them down appropriately. The pinkwashing was great – I wore some of it – and I fully support what was done. It wasn’t us but it was a great choice because so many LGBTIQ folk were angry that he’d come to our event to touch the flesh and electioneer. The pink shirt was patronising in the extreme. I had to laugh when one Young Nat, confronted by an angry gay guy furious about Key’s pink shirt, tried to explain that it was actually fuchsia which simply made matters worse. Why is important that the LGBTI community stands up against the TPPA - what specific impact will this have on the community? What makes us unique is that we appear in every demographic and every culture and ethnicity in the world. We’re everywhere but there are specific aspects of our culture that are still unique to us. There are unresolved issues around access to pharmaceuticals and their cost. Many of our takataapui whanau have serious issues around ti tiriti and the relationship they have with the whenua and the resources that are defined in the document. There are over-arching issues around sovereignty and the power of corporations under TPPA that need serious work and despite the Prime Minister’s assurances these anxieties and concerns remain. It’s clear from the response of the BGO crowd – which surprised even us and we were very aware of the undercurrent of anger towards the government around TPPA – that our communities are as upset as mainstream New Zealand about this. New Zealanders are a tolerant people but when they stand up and say enough they say it loud and clear. That’s happening – at the march in Queen St and all around the country, at the Nines and the cricket and at Polyfest. New Zealanders are making themselves heard in numbers exceeding anything I’ve seen in my eight decades and we like to remind people, because Mr Key won’t that this is far from a done deal. The US senate has said they won’t sign it, Trudeau in Canada has said no, Vietnam has yet to decide but is looking like saying no and while the Japanese leader was polite it’s obvious he has real troubles at home as well. Did the group march in the protests on the day of the signing here in Auckland? Yes. We marched as a group and some of our number were engaged in the protests at intersections. It’s sad that the media focused on a few people who they could humiliate and make fun of. If they’d come down to where most of us were they could have spoken to lawyers, even a QC, shop workers, students and academics from both universities and business leaders. Not the ragtag rent-a-crowd described by the PM but a wide-ranging group of everyday Kiwis in their thousands. What is the relationship between the Socialist Aotearoa group and the LGBT Against the TPPA group? They help us with resources and provide a gathering point. They’ve actually been really supportive in our effort to get gender identity into the Human Rights Act and this coming Friday they’re showing Professor Susan Stryker’s ground-breaking film ‘Screaming Queens’ which is about the Compton’s Café transgender riots in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco which actually predated Stonewall. So, they’re good people of like mind helping us out and when it’s a queer event like the BGO or the parade we take responsibility. Is Pride an appropriate time to protest and why? Of course it is. Pride grew out of protest and has always been a tool for drawing attention to the injustices that the queer communities have faced – and still face – every day as we fight for full equality and the right to be safe in our everyday lives. The kaupapa of Auckland Pride has this written into its constitution which is why we’re surprised that the board capitulated and have allowed Department of Corrections and NZ Police to march in the Pride Parade. Things might be OK for the LGB part of the alphabet soup when it comes to these organisations but they’re sure as hell not for the T. If the Prime Minister can shamelessly use our vents to promote what his government espouses then he can expect to hear from us if we disagree – and thousands made that clear at the BGO. It wasn’t just us – it wasn’t even us. Yes, Pride is an appropriate time to protest because of the history of what Pride is and the fact that transgender people still are not protected under the Human Rights Act. When I asked the PM if he knew this he told me ‘yes’. When I asked when we could expect to have this changed he replied ‘it’s not a priority for us’. When a government chooses to ignore the human rights of a minority I’d say they should be reminded of the error of their ways effectively, noisily and often, wouldn’t you?     Sarah Murphy - 16th February 2016
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