|We are now on the election roller-coaster ride until the 27th of July. Politicians of all shades have started to bombard us from many directions with their policies. It is up to us to decipher if what they are saying is the truth, a hypocritical promise, utopian idealism, or downright twaddle.
Already I have become overwhelmed by the onslaught, so I will just dip into the quagmire and pick out a few points of interest. First we must take a look at the English/Boag 'superduper' National List of names from times past. Well, what a disappointment it is to us in the gay and lesbian community (or communities as some pedants would have it). Openly gay Nat member Stephen Rainbow is not on it. In the days of the Shipley/Slater regime he was tipped to be high on the List - but now he is nowhere to be seen. And one of National's strongest supporters for our community, Belinda Vernon, has been dropped to a shaky position at 23 from 17. If the MPs who are not standing on the List are factored into the equation through winning their electorate seats, and with National's low polling rates, Vernon may not be returned to parliament. For although she is standing in the Maungakiekie electorate she is up against Cabinet Minister Mark Goshe, and it would be an uphill struggle for anybody to unseat him. So, who would be our friends in National after the election? Certainly not Bill English, the Dipton father of six. For in his interview in the 5 June issue of Express he stated that gays in National are not the 'politically-active out type' and 'they don't necessarily support left-wing ideas'. (So when did standing up for your rights, and for equality become solely the domain of the left-wing?) English then went on to say that National gays, 'tend to be people who are getting on with their lives'. Does he mean they are 'happily' in the closet or in 'lavender' marriages? Gay and lesbian rights were not just given to us they were fought for by people who are 'out' - of whatever political hue. And while we are on the subject of the Dipton daddy, why did he get so much praise and publicity for his boxing? Sure it was in a good cause, to raise money for the prevention of youth suicide, but is the sight of two grown men (and one who wants to lead the country) smashing each others heads in going to stop young gay and lesbian members of our community from killing themselves? I think not. Many young people are trying to get away from violence in their homes and schools, and to have English turn it into glamour event is alarming. Young gays and lesbians especially need 'out' homosexual role models in their lives to give them the courage to survive. As Chasity Bono says in her book Family Outing - 'Clearly an increase in the number of positive role models or images in the media of gays and lesbians can offset the negative conclusions many gay people come to about themselves'. So if National were to show us 'out' successful members of their party, that would be more effective for the well-being of young homosexuals than any amount of sweaty boxing. Gays and Lesbians have recently suffered another parliamentary lose with the retirement of former Alliance MP Sandra Lee. Lee has always been a significant straight ally for our community. MPs such as Lee have been a good conveyor belt between the homosexual community and parliament, and the vacuum she leaves needs to be filled. Although the Greens are trying to fill it by choosing to put openly gay and lesbian people in important positions on their List. And Jon Carapiet, an openly gay man, will be standing against Helen Clark in Mt. Albert. So, if the Greens do go into coalition with Labour after the election, the combined gay MPs of both parties will be a strong force for us. But a stumbling block could be the inflexibility of the Greens over specific issues, which could lead to the downfall of a progressive Labour government - for the 'baby may be thrown out with the bath water'! One of the important elements of leadership is flexibility - which is not a sign of weakness. Hopefully the Greens during this election will exercise leadership and look at the whole picture of New Zealand society and not just fixate on one issue. Being 'one issue' people is something we in the gay and lesbian community must also guard against. Although it is possible for all issues to be assessed by looking through a homosexual lens. A new candidate who appears to have become a high flyer for Labour, makes me feel a little uneasy when I think of him in connection with our community. He is Russell Fairbrother (also a father of six) who is standing in Napier replacing retiring MP Geoff Braybrooke (who was not a friend of ours). Recently there was an article about Fairbrother in the 15 - 21 June Listener. He was presented as a caring liberal who has an understanding of how destructive racism is in New Zealand society. But my perception is that he has very little analysis of homophobia and its consequences. According to the Listener article Fairbrother, who is a barrister has, 'handled many high-profile cases including Napier's recent "broomstick" trial'. He was quoted as saying about the school boys involved in the case that, ' I think that basically on the night there was a lack of one person there to steer them in a different direction'. What does that mean? Was the destructiveness of homophobia and it 'offspring' hate crime considered in connection with this case? Fairbrother was also the counsel for the defendant in a case which is mentioned on this website in the article 'New Zealand's Sad Record of Violence Against Gays'. It was the 1994 case Regina v Dale J. M. Campbell, which was appealed in 1996. So, I think it is important that we as a community find out what Fairbrother's views are on homosexuals, homophobia, and hate crimes before he enters the legislative chamber of parliament. The next few election weeks are going to be stressful, long, and also exhilarating. By the 27th of July we should have flushed out who is on our side, and not have voted for the ones who are not. Doreen Agassiz-Suddens - 20th June 2002