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Murray Riches - Marriage Equality Conference

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in [00:00:04] My name is Mary Rich's communications student at work at a university just finished my fourth year of a Bachelor of communication studies and heading into masters next year, which I'm looking forward to. When it comes to mark, I grew up in turmoil to this small town near Mount rupee National Park City, but currently live in jury because my partner works in Oakland. So it's kind of halfway between Hamilton Oakland, what was it like growing up in town? Pretty, pretty isolated, [00:00:35] pretty pretty, you know, rural small town sort of situation. [00:00:42] quaintness or no gay role models were completely invisible names. And I think so. Yeah. [00:00:48] When did you realize that you might be gay? [00:00:52] It's always a really interesting question. Because I think in hindsight, we knew when you look back and think, Oh, well, he can actually knew from a long time earlier, but I didn't really acknowledge it or deal with it at all until I left home at 17 and moved to Paris, horrible places, just not much bigger and better. But it was a different town. So that was important. And you use social group and new connections and things and you know, they were to kind of explore a sexuality. [00:01:22] So in Tamil Louie How was gay or queer in a scene? Did you have any idea about gayness awkwardness? When you're growing up? [00:01:34] It was interesting. We're just talking briefly about these the word gay and I think very much growing up in terms of the only thing I knew about being gay was that it was a horrible negative kind of duty thing. And something that you certainly didn't want to pay, because the only kind of association I had with that word, and the idea was that really negative Connor, and stop put down sort of thing. So yeah, so definitely nothing positive associated with gayness. [00:02:02] Were you aware of any queer people in town? [00:02:10] No, I wasn't at the time. And, and it was only it's only looking back now that I realized that I was surrounded by obviously, there were other I wasn't the only Ghana village. No, there were heaps of other queer people around town, but they were completely invisible and absent, I think, to me at the time, from from their perspective being Yeah, looking back, I can see that they were actually there. And I'm, I'm frustrated that they were kind of upset because they would have been really important and helpful, almost. [00:02:43] How do [00:02:43] you think the town would have handled a lot of people were like, more openly out? [00:02:52] I think they would have been a lot of sort of, you know, just kind of rolling kind of chase about, you know, that's kind of by over there, sort of, you know, the townspeople or whatever. Yeah, I don't know. But in saying that, since since coming out, and coming and getting back to terminal, no, not living there permanently. But just being back there. I haven't actually encountered bit much prejudice, really, I think. Yeah, [00:03:21] I think sometimes being silent. [00:03:26] Because more silencing than just, you know, if you just come out and you're just out in a sound like that, it's actually not that big a deal, but it's just kind of it. Kind of [00:03:37] kind of structural silence that keeps people quiet anyway. Yeah. [00:03:42] Did you find growing up that you also have to participate in, you know, kind of like gay humor and calling people gay and stuff [00:03:50] to do differently? Yeah, there's, there's sort of a really funny, masculine culture, which spends a lot of time talking about kindness and joking about kindness and kind of high school boys thing of like, all the gay jokes, and they kind of gay situations and things and like, yeah, it's, it's quite quite bizarre that there's like a really strong focus on gayness. And, but, and I really needed to see. [00:04:17] So you moved to a new town, and then what happened. [00:04:21] So I moved to a new town today. So which, yeah, like I said, is just another small town, but but just being in a social group, where I was spending time with people who were a lot older than me. And there were people that I didn't have already sort of those relationships with. So it was sort of a fresh start new relationships with folks and that sort of thing. And [00:04:44] so I was able to sort of engage with them on a different level. And I actually, [00:04:49] one of my friends introduced me, she kind of had a thought that I might be gay. So she introduced me to an older gay man who lives in Midtown, and [00:04:58] we just became really good friends. And he was so like, a Roman citizen. Yeah. We just got on really well. And he [00:05:08] showed me I don't know, you know, [00:05:12] just introduced me to the idea of, you know, being part of gay culture and just not having to be here traditionalist. [00:05:22] What was that like, kind of discovering that kind of other cultural? [00:05:28] I really loved it. I kind of, as soon as I found it as just kind of in love with it. It was just so different. Anything I'd experienced before, I think and just, yeah, really, kind of liberating and exciting, I think. And kind of homely, like, I'm just kind of discovering it was kind of like, ya know, there's something quite kind of safe and homely about being in gay culture. I kind of found that. Yeah. Kind of fitted in. [00:05:59] Is this one of the reasons which prompted you into your your research? Yeah, [00:06:04] I suppose. So. Just that awareness that like, there are lots of people that grow up in small towns like me where cleaner says some tips and I suppose, yeah, yeah. And that. That is the big problem. [00:06:21] To me about the research project? Yeah. [00:06:23] Okay. So Well, well, it kind of started by just a conversation with the lecturer of mine, who happened to be a man as well. We talked about wanting to do something like this. And he got in touch with Kevin Hague about maybe something like that he might be interested in doing and he said, but he was like, yeah, wonderful. I've actually been thinking about the same sort of things. And the fact that there's a product that been in our game in and you sound as is not really that difficult for him, in his experience, like it's something it's, it's much better than it was, to many years ago. But for young people, it's actually still really challenging. So. So we need to look at how we can make it better. So that it kind of started out in the name, which has kind of kind of sounds a bit clumsy, if there's no context to it. How do we make it better? sort of came out of that idea that [00:07:20] you remember the bet kids project that went around? Started in America, I think. [00:07:28] And so the idea was, Well, yeah, it does get better for most queer people, but how we actually make it better now? How do we change the culture? for young people? It's, it's just not so hard, because all the statistics and the youth and statistics and things that they all point to the fact that it's pretty tough for young people to be queer. Yeah. [00:07:46] What are the statistics now in terms of like, suicide and bullying and violence. [00:07:54] And the youth Oh, seven statistics, which are probably the best ones currently in New Zealand [00:08:00] suggested that queer youth, I think it's six times more likely to commit suicide, then they hit your sexual peers, and things like mental illness and substance abuse and risky sexual behavior or a lot higher than the heterosexual kids. So differently, much higher risk factors for queer young people, what he had to do some research. [00:08:26] started it the start of 2006, it started last year, and wants to involve, it was basically was sort of it started out as been an academic sort of project started out with a literature review type thing, looking at what other countries are doing and their experiences of how to improve the situation and things like that. And also, the statistics in New Zealand, and how queer youth have here in New Zealand. But then the major part was really, to talk to [00:08:56] community activists and community youth workers, because we kind of felt that there are a lot of people in New Zealand doing really amazing things with young people. And like, for example, the USA Network that's recently been established and in rainbow youth, and all these people that are really, really doing wonderful things, and it would be really great to talk to them, because they are the people that really know what's going on and what we need and to be able to kind of bridge that gap between the kind of grassroots wisdom and sort of policymaking and that sort of thing, and sort of making those sort of changes at that level as well. Yeah. So, so we, so the major part was to really, to talk to them, so 22 people and just basically interview them and ask them about what the major problems they thought were facing queer youth, and pretty much how we can improve the situation. What needs to be done [00:09:52] with these face to face interviews. [00:09:55] Yesterday, mostly festivals, [00:09:57] and was that across the country? Yeah, yeah, [00:09:59] it was people from Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, underneath in Christchurch, and Nelson. So try to get a good spread of the country, and also a good spread in terms of age range, and what people are doing within the community. So talking to, like, for example, student activists, as well as people who have been involved with the community for a long, long time, as well as MPs and people like that. [00:10:27] Have you ever done a project before where you had gone and talk to such a variety of people? No, never [00:10:35] know, it was, it was an amazing experience. Actually, I really, really enjoyed it. And just just the chance to talk to people with like, such wisdom and such passion. For third time, it was very cool. But no. [00:10:49] And Had you ever been involved in such a kind of queer project before? [00:10:55] know now heading actually, something I kind of talked about a little bit in the report as this guy. [00:11:01] It's what I call it, the discourse of silence where there's this idea that, like good queer people, or good guys don't really talk about being gay that much like it's kind of to be to be a good guy, you kind of, you know, like a good guy, and then sort of speech max. Good. Like, [00:11:20] you fit into heterosexual society, and you kind of you like counsel, pass, like, yeah, so there's this idea that it's okay to be gay, but just kind of time flaunt your sexuality, don't push your gayness on to anybody else. And so that's certainly my experience, especially in sort of more rural centers and things like that. Yeah, you're, you're okay to be gay. As long as you're sort of you straighten up and you carry on like the rest of us kind of thing. Yeah. Yeah. So um, so when I started talking about doing this project, my first kind of [00:11:55] get reaction was kind of all I'd much rather talk about poverty or environmental issues or something that, you know, wasn't so personal for me, because this kind of idea that you don't really want to talk about being gay or queasiness at all. So um, so really doing this project was almost like a kind of second coming up for me, I think like it. It totally changed my perspective on queer issues, and just kind of really threw me into queer activism way that I was, like, I just didn't want to engage with before. I think so. Yeah. It was very cool. [00:12:30] Doing this face to face interviews kind of changed you and any other way can like, personally in terms of how you react to people, or your level of acceptance or things like that. Yeah, [00:12:42] I think it was hugely educational for me too. And also, not just during doing those interviews, but as part of the project, I got to go along to some of these queer youth rallies that [00:12:54] USA Network is doing. But the first one I went to was Kazem, which was run by Rainbow youth in Oakland. And that was just it was completely an experience of Queens that just, I hadn't experienced at all before, like him. I think there's a really strong gay culture, which I've been a part of, which is sort of it [00:13:15] yet sort of, kind of celebrate straight acting, sort of gay men sort of it's almost. Yeah, [00:13:25] it's not, it's not really what I would call queer culture. It's gay culture sort of thing. Whereas this Kazem, who he was sort of my first experience of queer culture, which is much more fluid in terms of the way gender and sexuality is looked at. And that was, with it just kind of really just blew me away, I was just really amazed by these young people that talk about gender and sexuality and dislike such a fluid way and just just a really accepting and open and kind of, it's kind of just natural for them this kind of lightness to it. Yeah. So yeah, pretty education for me. [00:14:02] You mentioned coming out, and I'm wondering, how did your family respond when you're doing such a queer project? And how did they respond to you, I suppose initially, you know, in terms of coming out, and in terms of like, just being out there with us this kind of project, [00:14:19] I suppose initially, coming out. Like, like anyone, I suppose this kind of initial kind of shock and challenge. And yeah, and probably I had a lot of anxiety. My parents are Anglican ministers. So they sort of have a lot of respect in the small town community. And so I was quite concerned about sort of the impact that would have on them and the way people might respond to them as more than how they might respond to me, I think so. So that was quite challenging. But I think, during this project has probably been quite a learning experience for them too, because I've been able to kind of, kind of share all these insights that I've gained with them. And so my mom has become like the biggest sort of, you know, [00:15:08] Queer as Folk p flag, mom, she's kind of a little bit like that TV. Yeah. So she's also raised in queer and activists. Now she's really cool. She actually just recently came out, and the newspaper and older because she's an actress, he can enter an email and all that sort of robes, and supportive gay marriage and sort of saying that she wanted she couldn't wait for the church to [00:15:35] marry same sex couples and got a bit of flack for us real proud that she came into [00:15:41] celebrity sport. [00:15:43] When you see that in the newspaper, what do you think? How do you feel? [00:15:48] I think it's really cool, because it's something that I kind of really tried to emphasize and claim that I really learned when doing this project was the power of silence and the power of invisibility, how much life matters in life, like my experience of growing up initially being surrounded by queer people, but not seeing them as I think probably one of the most marginalizing things? I think so. [00:16:13] So something like that. I want to keep kind of pushing us that we have to keep being really visible, and we'll keep making statements and stuff. So yeah, so for her to come out and, like make it public statement and to be really visible. I think it's really good. Yeah. And I'm really frustrated that I think my experience of the church is that a lot of people are really supportive. But they don't say anything. And so the this silence as part of the problem? I think so. Yes. It's really important that she comes up and says, [00:16:45] How long did the research take? [00:16:48] And [00:16:51] it took about what we wanted to finish it for him awesome pride, which was in September 2011. So we said at the start of the year, so it was spent nine months? Yeah. Just working part time. I did it as a university Packers. Yeah. Through the [00:17:06] M, what were the kind of key learnings that you got from research? [00:17:14] Well, we we came up with a sort of, [00:17:18] it's probably about 20 recommendations, which are kind of policy recommendations, as well as kind of [00:17:26] need for activism and visibility from within the community as well. And so. So there's a few different things like, for example, we talked about the need for your reporting to be much more specific and much more actually doing something like not just kind of this tokenistic at the moment, there's a sort of a checkbox exercise where schools have to say that they have policies to prevent bullying, including homophobic bullying, but all it really is, is kind of a check the box and you pass kind of thing. And so this other thing is, I'm suspicious. There isn't a lot of real, genuine engagement with homophobic bullying from a lot of schools. And so. So that's something that I think really needs to be pushed as kind of a policy thing. [00:18:13] Was that something in your interviews with the support people in terms of you know, what was bullying? quite prevalent? Yeah, [00:18:22] definitely. I think there was also, the idea of bullying was quite big in the media at the time when this was going through last year. And there's a lot of frustration that people were talking about bullying, but just talking about bullying, and not talking about bullying, which is kind of quite, quite separate and quite significant in probably actually much more [00:18:45] damaging, and actually probably much more [00:18:49] present than just non homophobic bullying, I think. Yeah. [00:18:57] Something else that people really talked about the need to keep, keep doing those visible celebrations and things like the Big Gay out. And now also talking about bringing back the hero for it, and Oakland, which is really cool to see and really exciting, just because those sorts of things. They're really nice for the queer community to sort of all rally together and support each other. But they're also really important in terms of the media visibility that they get, because like, for example, the 14 year old boy growing up and turban annoy, that doesn't have any gay role models, but can do it on the six o'clock news and see all these beautiful queer people and just kind of have this idea that this this community out there, which one day I just might find my run into. And so yeah, just that visibility, I think is really important. keep pursuing that be great. But I [00:19:45] guess that also leads onto the track trying to, I guess, influence the media, so they don't necessarily just portray stereotypes. Yeah, that actually they portray the breadth of the queer community. Yeah, yeah. [00:19:57] And it was another concern that people were it says that when you have just here parades and things like that, the only images that get portrayed in the media sort of these really hyper sexualized. Yeah, [00:20:12] just just specific queer identities that not everybody, like some people certainly do and identify with those entities, but not everybody. So there's definitely a concern that how do you get? How do you get visibility that is kind of genuine and reflective of the queer community, it's a challenge. Something that I kind of talked about a little bit in the report and syndicate quite like to do, but to think about developing as the idea of like, [00:20:39] just like a toolkit for media engagement for queer activists and queer communities and that sort of thing, and or even like, [00:20:49] a spreadsheet of sort of go to people in the queer community who can speak to media outlets, and things like that, and just kind of keep engaging with the media and keeping that positive and positive, kind of accurate presentation, things like that. So yeah, [00:21:05] just kind of making putting the steps in place so that we have all these really [00:21:11] great people who would be fantastic role models, but just kind of putting the steps in place that they can be talking to the media and in a positive way, I think would be something that's quite helpful to visibility. [00:21:25] to any of your findings surprise you. I think, [00:21:30] from the very beginning, they probably all did, like I think, even just realizing the statistics around queer suicide and things like that. Yeah. [00:21:41] The whole lot. Just really, I think I went into it really, just a really ignorant, white middle class came in, you know, and just, yeah, so the whole lot was just really educational. And surprising to me. I think [00:21:57] you mentioned earlier that that the initial part of the research were to look overseas and to see what other countries are doing and what they're up to. And how does New Zealand compare to countries overseas? [00:22:08] I think they're, like, I think all every different country is sort of has really good things and really negative things. And so we had to sort of rank them at say, but I'm, like, certainly Scandinavian countries seem to have seemed to be further ahead, I think, in my own view, that they have built a kind of education systems and things like that about talking about gender and sexuality in schools, which is much less kind of hit your normal, which is very much the case. And it's an education system is very kind of hitter normative and sort of masculine as well. [00:22:48] And also, there are some, some great things in the states as well sort of around whether I'm curious, a model, which is something that I think is really important and really exciting came out of the GSA network. And the states, which is the Gay Straight Alliance from the curious, a nice enough to the question lights, [00:23:09] which is great. [00:23:12] And probably most surprisingly, to me was Tasmania seems to have really progressive and liberal education policies and community health policies, swishing around sort of transitions and things on it, which is, yes, surprise me, but which is really cool. Like a model that New Zealand could take on, I think, in lots of ways. [00:23:36] It's interesting. You mentioned about the GSA and curious it. And the idea of labeling and I'm wondering, you know, do you know why in the US, it's called the Gay Straight alliance in a museum that's called the queer strike Alliance. [00:23:51] I'm not too sure. I think, in New Zealand live really claimed the idea of Queen us and the queer identity and kind of rejected the word gay is an all encompassing word. Whereas maybe in the States, there's still holding kind of onto that notion of gay representing the queer community, or what I would call the queer community. So I think that's just a difference in languages. Yeah, I think it would be quite strange. For the curious site. And its current model, which is very much queer to kind of call itself that GSA it would be very kind of strange. Yeah. [00:24:26] In your interviews around the country, what were the kind of words that people were using to either label themselves or people that worked with? I think, [00:24:40] probably there's an interesting generational thing maybe going on, whereas with perhaps, the older generation of people are talking to what identify as gay and lesbian and and sort of maybe use acronyms like LGBT, whereas the younger people are, I was talking to would just talk about being queer or queer people queer and trans, maybe. But yeah, but just use. Yeah, queer or gender queer as they're kind of all encompassing terms, I think is an interesting, generational shift. Yeah. And I think [00:25:17] for the older generation, queer is a really funny word that they don't like to associate with, like, I know, my parents really struggle with me using the word queer, because I think it's quite a really negative word, whereas gay has got quite a positive, kind of spin to it for them. Whereas for my generation, gay, certainly has a very negative connotation in terms of high school culture. And so queer is Listen, I think we have the more positive connotation. [00:25:44] And I also have to apologize, because at the front of this interview, I, I see it all and you're gay. And I was completely making a whole range of assumptions. So [00:25:54] how would you identify yourself? [00:25:59] I would ask identify as gay, but I would say, I'm gay. My, like my gay identity fits within a queer community rather than fitting within year two. Does that make sense? So, so queer being the kind of broader umbrella term, but my identity would still be game, I suppose. [00:26:26] What impact has your research head? [00:26:30] And [00:26:31] I hope that it's a valuable resource to people wanting to pursue change. I don't know whether its head too much in place just yet. There's still more sort of things we're hoping to pursue with it, which hopefully will have more impact? Yeah, I don't want it to be, I think, is kind of a tendency with, especially academic reports to kind of produce something that can lead to sort of talk about it for a little while. And for it to sort of be forgotten. No. Yeah. And I think that would be, and for, because I think it'd be a waste of the people I was talking to sort of a waste of their time and their voice, which I think is really valuable, and I hope is kind of heard and represented well. So yeah. [00:27:13] So for example, some of the things will be pursuing, hopefully into the future is looking at your reporting in its current state, and how effective or not effective it is, by looking at policies around bullying and things like that. And hopefully, [00:27:31] presenting some kind of evidence about why Venus change there and hopefully getting getting some kind of change that would say, actual policies and actual programs implemented into schools that would, [00:27:44] that would actually address homophobic bullying rather than just suggest that it's not an issue and it's going to take a box. [00:27:52] I have a feeling I have a feeling that you're being modest because I was at a thing the other night, we're a member of parliament was very difficult referencing your research. What does that feel like for you to have a name the referencing? Yeah. Yeah, [00:28:14] there was there was pretty cool. I loved it. [00:28:18] So beautiful. She's Yeah. But [00:28:23] yeah, that was really amazing and very cold to think this. It's serving kind of a purpose or like, something that can be useful be referencing. Yeah. [00:28:40] So what next for Mari? [00:28:42] So hopefully, we'll be able to pursue some more kind of research around schools and that sort of thing. But an immediate future of getting back to uni next year and doing masters project and carrying on with my studies, I really enjoy studying and university life. [00:29:00] What are the kinds of areas that you'd be interested in and maybe doing more research, and [00:29:05] I'm really interested in ideas about language, and especially media and how you kind of frame the debate and how things are talked about and how ideas are constructed, and kind of public discourse and public conversation. So I'd like to look at how we can [00:29:22] kind of use that tool of language in framing issues to break down the silencing and sort of hatred out of structures that we see really apparent in that public discourse. That'll be something that I'd love to look at more. [00:29:40] We're just coming to the end of the marriage equality conference, which we've been attending over the last couple of days. How has that been for you? [00:29:48] It's been really cool. Actually, I [00:29:52] was kind of when the marriage equality, sort of movement started off, I kind of was a kind of felt a bit funny, but I kind of thought of all the issues for the queer community to sort of rally behind and kind of get active about I kind of, didn't think that marriage equality was the most important one I sort of, I would say, [00:30:14] just youth issues and bullying and silencing and those sorts of things is actually in suicide is actually way more important than two people's right to get married, which is, which is important, for sure. But just yet, in the scheme of things, I wasn't sure it was the most of the priority. But I think it's been really, really helpful and really important, just be really amazed at how the community has really got behind it and sort of kind of gone through this re coming out process, we've all sort of [00:30:47] been amazed to see my friends who have really struggled to talk about the craziness in the past to kind of write submissions that are like, incredibly powerful, and just have me bawling my eyes out when I read, I'm just really sharing this story. And I think it's been really empowering for queer people to just come out and campaign behind this issue and to kind of come together in in the process. I think it is breaking down all those issues around silence and hatred on with it, because we're kind of challenging this kind of marginalization by talking about this issue and pursuing it and saying that this is that we, you know, we want equality this kind of our writers citizens. Yeah, I think it's been like it's been a [00:31:33] it's given like huge energy and growth to the community, even though it's probably not something I initially expected to be really important or really powerful. I think it definitely has been

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