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Elizabeth Kerekere - Rainbow Politicians [AI Text]

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I've been, I guess, political since I was a young person. I was a youth activist from when I was about 15, but even before that, I'm around other people who were organizing and I was just kind of supporting babysitting their kids while they're at Hui and things, and so.. About 15 is when me and my friends started actually organizing things ourselves. So, political, addressing, you know, mainly racism and things around anti [00:00:30] nuclear and, and feminist issues. Um, but party political, never thought that I would end up here. On some ways I always thought I would, and then on other ways not. Because.. I always lobbied against the government or, you know, trying to get change from the outside. So it wasn't until I was much older that I thought, actually, it makes sense for me to come into here. I joined the Green Party [00:01:00] about seven years ago, and I was asked to run. So that's when I put my name forward for 2017. I didn't get in that time, but then of course I was elected in 2020. So I feel very comfortable here. It's nobody that knew me before this is surprised that this is where I am. So yes, it's a long time political, but party political, not that long. Uh, [00:01:30] how has your overall experience been here working in Parliament? Overall, I've really loved it. Uh, I think I've come into this place a lot older. I'm older than, uh, many of the MPs who are here. But also I.. My background, especially for the last 20 years or so, I've done contract work, I've always travelled, uh, so there's lots of aspects of the job that I'm very comfortable with how we operate. Things are changing all the time, we [00:02:00] have to be quick on our feet, so I'm used to all those kinds of things. Uh, there's, it's long hours here in the house. And that's fine, I'm a night owl. Um, but also there are no less stars. So, it's, it's a lot of commitment. Of course, you've come to interview me at a time when we're in urgency and we're working till midnight. So, it's, there's a certain level of stamina that's required for being in this place. So, it's really important to make sure you're taking care of yourself and you have a team that looks after you. [00:02:30] Uh, There's aspects of which I, I didn't expect, and of course in any job you don't know what it entails till you're there. Uh, and just having to navigate all the different types of relationships that you have in the house inside your own caucus. Uh, but then with the other parties and then of course with government. And when you're trying to make change, that's the power player. And so, the ability to get things done is, is based on the level [00:03:00] of your relationship with different ministers. And, and, and the government as a whole. So, overall, I'm loving it. I've gotten some good things done while I've here so far, and I'm hoping to do a lot more. With being in government with the most, um, queer political figures in the world, how does it feel to be amongst one of them? I think it's really exciting to have this, I mean, what are we, we're 20, 10% of the whole of [00:03:30] parliament, but the Greens, we're 40%. And we have often, Often had good representation from rainbow people. Really conscious though that we're all cisgender, all 12 of us, and I'm really looking forward to the time when we can have trans, non binary, intersex people. It is absolutely my goal that the Greens are the next people, the next party to put, uh, hopefully put one of them into Parliament. And until such [00:04:00] time, it's really important for us to use us this privilege to open up the space and bring those voices in and be able to speak on their behalf when we're talking to bills and when we're making change in this place. Do you think that might happen sometime in the near future? I'm really hoping it's the next election. I'm hoping next year we can get someone trans, non binary, intersex. I am putting the word out. It's like, we are looking for you. Where are you? Because it's so.. It's so important. We do as much [00:04:30] as we can, but for our communities, need to see themselves represented in a place like this. It's the house of representatives. And how do trans, non binary and intersex people see them represented? We, who are cisgender, can only do so much in that respect. We can speak to the issues we can't. Uh, we, we can't represent them. Do you think there's more we can do for the trans and non binary community in Aotearoa? Always. Always. The sites of [00:05:00] struggle have changed over decades, and that's where we have to put a lot of energy into. Things are not perfect for everybody who's lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, by any means, or asexual, aromantic. It's just.. listening to what those communities are telling us need to happen, uh, shout out to people like, uh, Jamie Veal and, uh, Jack Byrne, Counting Ourselves Survey, uh, the mana langi work [00:05:30] that's being done for Māori, uh, for Pasifika who are rainbow and, um, MVP, um, FAF. It's.. It's listening to what they're telling us. They're not new things. We need gender affirming healthcare. We need safety in schools. Uh, we need to, uh, stop non consensual medical surgeries on intersex children and give lifelong care to intersex people. These are consistent messages that are [00:06:00] being said over and over and over again. And so, We need to go beyond having to listen to them say, Yes, yes, we've heard you. Thank you for telling us. Again, we need to say this is what we're going to do about it. Do you think at this current time our parliament has progressed towards equality for the LGBTQ plus community? I think as a whole, this country has been moving towards that, uh, so many years after homosexual law reform in 1830, not [00:06:30] 18 36, 19 86, uh, strides continue to be made with each piece of legislation in and of itself. It, it's, it's a particular thing. It, it gives rights to particular parts of our community, such as marriage equality, uh, But the, the real benefit is that it shifts the whole country's thinking. Because when a whole lot of people thought, oh, this is not appropriate, the law changes, it happens, and the [00:07:00] sky does not fall down. And so people go, oh, it's not a thing. And then they have more people in their family who get married. And then, it's okay. And so it shifts people, it shifts the world. And each one of those pieces of legislation does that in our term. The pressure we put on to make sure we ban conversion therapy, uh, changing, um, the BDM RRR so that we could have our trans, whānau more easily change their [00:07:30] sex markers on their birth certificate. You know, all those kinds of things that shifts the country's thinking. And those people, the loud, really vocal, transphobic, um, awful people. They might be loud, but they get smaller and smaller, and they have less impact. They can still hurt, they cause harm by those words and their actions. But, more and more people go, You know what? What you're saying does not make sense. And actually if we could [00:08:00] finally change our hate speech laws and, and create proper hate crime legislation for discrimination against our communities, then people could actually pay a price for that. But as a minimum, each piece of legislation says this is, your discrimination is wrong, it's not acceptable. And so we move towards a world where the mana of all of us is upheld, regardless of, in celebration of our diverse genders, sexualities and sex characteristics. What is your future vision for Takatapui [00:08:30] people of our country? For Takatapui, it's that we can, in every space in our life, uphold our whakapapa as Māori and tangata whenua on this land, as well as live our lives in safety, in celebration, as just kind of getting on with things without getting hassled every day. In our diverse genders, sexualities, and sex characteristics. [00:09:00] We acknowledge takatāpui is an umbrella term for all Māori, uh, in our rainbow communities, but we know that some parts of those communities are preferring to find other Māori words, and this is an awesome thing, because it strengthens our Māori identity. And, so my vision is, yeah, that we can, Live our lives in our awesomeness, in our whānau, on our marae, but also in our schools and our places of worship in a way that just [00:09:30] allows us to flourish. So our beauty, our creativity, our hope, our understandings, our unique perspectives and knowledges just becomes part of the fabric of this life, of this world. Can you tell us a little bit about your own personal experience coming to terms with your own sexuality? It was such a long time ago, uh, I remember, I think I [00:10:00] was about 11 when I first was attracted to another girl. And so I thought, oh, and I had no name for that. I had no context for that, but I just knew that that was real. And so by the time I was 16, I was pretty clear, uh, that I preferred. Girls over boys. I'm using that terminology because that is definitely what we were using at the time as teenagers. And, and so then I started to come out. I told most of my family pretty much as soon as I [00:10:30] figured that out, straight away. I've been brought up to be quite strong, to be confident in who I am. And so it was the same for me with this. It's like once I realized it, I'm like, cool, this is who I am. I'm going to tell people, and if they've got a problem with it, That's their problem. It's never going to be mine. And I was really fortunate because I know with all the research I've done on Takatāpui and exactly this question, how did your whānau react, [00:11:00] what support did you get, that my whānau were 100% in support. And I know, especially on my Māori side, that some of my cousins did not get that support. And even though my father, who was kind of a bit ambivalent at the beginning, his support was 100%. And so everyone knew, do not muck with my daughter. And that is, that attitude, I absolutely bring into the world now. When I'm working with young people, when [00:11:30] I'm mentoring young people, it's like, do not muck with my young people, because these are my kids, and these are our collective kids we're all responsible for. You muck with my kids, you muck with me. And that, I had the power of that support behind me, and so I grew up in absolute pure confidence of who I was. I am. I'm very conscious that it's a privilege and not everybody has had that and so I have always wanted to help give that to [00:12:00] be that person for others who may not have that in their life. Uh, I couldn't have children. And so there is that thing of wanting to steal other people's and adopt a whole lot of nieces and nephews. 'cause you can never, and, and some, uh, are non-binary and non-binary kids because you can never have too many. Mm-hmm. , how do you sort of bring that or unlock that confidence in a young person, for example, do you ever sort of, Your own approach to it that is best effective? [00:12:30] I think it's because I'm unequivocal. I think unconditional love, unconditional support, um, Any young person that I'm mentoring or anyone who comes to me for any kind of advice, I'm always straight up. Uh, but I have an absolute belief in the power of our young people to know, to know their own minds. So, I don't, I never need to tell anybody what to do, ever. It's like, [00:13:00] okay, here's some ideas, what do you think? Uh, what's going to make sense? Because if you work to the strengths of young people, then.. And you help build that up, but also I think it's that, that strength to say, say in the example, I've had young people where they were having hassles at work. And especially if it's a rainbow context, I was going, you tell them, sort it out, or Elizabeth is going to come down there and sort it out. And, and [00:13:30] so for some of our young people, that's all they need is to know they've got someone behind them. And so it gives us strength because sometimes, in all of us, we don't feel strong in every situation. Sometimes we get triggered of stuff that's happened in our childhood. Uh, there's things we might be having a really bad day and then it's just the next thing and it's, it's just too much. Can't be dealing with it. And so, in those instances, and however that comes about, no matter what it is. [00:14:00] What's the context? To know there's someone else that will step in means often they don't need to do that. Just the knowing of it is what gives you strength and that it's rock solid support and I mean, I, I absolutely foster the thing and everybody I work with knows anything, request anything that comes from a young person goes, gets privileged above everything else that I'm doing, [00:14:30] uh, because my commitment is complete. It's absolute. And I can't give people confidence, but I will always want to uphold what people are doing to help build it. And so they know if Elizabeth's got their back, they can do anything, even if their family doesn't. And I have had many, many instances where I have gone in and talked to people's families. I've talked to parents, I've talked to grandparents, [00:15:00] uh, just to say hey. And my, my saying is always, we understand sometimes, especially in whānau, that, that they get scared. They get scared for their kids. And they worry they're going to get hurt when they go out there, and I always say, love them so hard, you make them strong to withstand what's out there. Don't make them smaller to try to protect them, [00:15:30] because that only, only hurts them, and in the end, that hurts the whole whanau. And for Takatāpui, it's even more important, because if you're disconnected from your whānau, usually that means you're disconnected from your iwi and your marae. That is not acceptable. And so if you have to bypass that, you must do that, because those connections are part of who we are. It's in our blood. It's literally our DNA that connects us to this whenua. When we cut off from that, we cut off from a little [00:16:00] bit of what makes us alive. Do you have any queer heroes? I think there are the, um, expected ones, I would say, uh, our whakawahine, who, especially our elders, and some of them who've passed, I, um, will always acknowledge, uh, Jennifer, Miss Lee Edwards, as one of my mentors. And that generation of whakawaihine, for [00:16:30] whom, um, sex work was the only option that they had in this country. And then that, as, as the years went, there were, uh, those who could get other work until they're, you know, fully integrated in our world now. Uh, but who held their mana always in that space. And.. And I remember I interviewed her a few times and I really loved, she said she [00:17:00] respected her role as a sex worker because that enabled her to live as a woman and she would be always thankful for that. And she could buy the clothes, she could afford to wear the clothes she wanted to wear, she could present how she knew herself to be and, and just so regal and so graceful and of course Georgina Byer again. Holding the space against an onslaught in a time when it wasn't cool, especially, to be incredibly, the first Takatāpui, [00:17:30] uh, the first trans woman mayor in the world, the first transgender MP in the world. And I mean, she left Parliament in 2007, 15 years since we've had anyone else. I really, really hope that next year we can bring the next one in. Uh, but heroes, if I think about that now, it's generally our young people. Uh, I think of ones who are involved in Te Whanau Whanau, uh, my, my Takata Apoi organisation, uh, other ones on our board like [00:18:00] Cassie Hartendall, uh, Tony Tudor, um, Morgan Butler. Again, I call them my kids. They're fully functioning adults. Um, but they, they're incredible young people. They're incredible leaders. They are my heroes. Uh, as, as an MP here, I get to work really closely with Rainbow Greens, predominantly young people. Incredible leaders. Incredible organizers. And just, for them, an incredible vision.[00:18:30] For what they want to see in the world, and it's absolutely my job, and I commit my life to helping make that vision come true. Have you experienced any sort of treatment change being an openly queer person in parliament for better or for worse? No, no, I've been out for a very, very long time. I'm a leader in our rainbow communities. Well, before I got here and in Takatāpui, I've been working and doing things overseas, [00:19:00] including at the UN for a long time on rainbow issues. So. Not at all. No, my partner I've been with for nearly 31 years, and so we've been married for a very long time, so no, no change. I think if I was someone who's maybe been more closet, uh, more stealth, before I got here, and then suddenly I'm being all.. Miss Rainbow, uh, I think there might be some, maybe some backlash, but also [00:19:30] I've got serious attitude. Not many people, uh, have the guts to go up against me. Uh, I'm very friendly, I'm very respectful, but I have a backbone of pure steel. And so, and that, that comes out. I think, uh, and I'm fortunate also in that. Because I've always been staunch. And, and because that's something I do not give people any space to hassle me on. [00:20:00] One thing though about being an MP that I didn't really think about much before I got here is we get a lot of emails from random people abusing us. Now, when we were doing, uh, Conversion Practices Law and the BDMRR, that's Births, Deaths and Marriages Relationship Registration Act, I was inundated with horrible, uh, emails and [00:20:30] That's part of the job, but it was really, really heightened at that time. So when there's a big issue that comes up, then I get additional abuse, but it's all, it's not even anonymous people. It's people's home emails. Sometimes they'll put their address and phone number on there. They own their hatred. And unless it's really serious, we do, we just delete. But it's those heightened times that then we see [00:21:00] an onslaught, but It's very, you're a person advocating for trans people, how dare you, or you're a rainbow person, you shouldn't be in parliament. Mostly though, it's Māori, it's the Māori stuff, it's the racism that is the worst. And of course as Takatāpui experience that interwoven, uh, intersectional oppression, racism, discrimination, whatever, uh. that entwines all of those things. But yeah, that's, that's when I see the change. It's [00:21:30] like, it's really nowhere, we're talking about trans women's sports during the Olympics, then we got heaps of mail about that because I'm out there saying, uh, she's a woman. Full stop. Of course she should be in the women's competition. Full stop. That's it. That's what else is there to say. And then I get heaps of, um, but inside here. Oh, good. Oh, good.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio. It may contain errors or omissions, so always listen back to the original media to confirm content.

AI Text:September 2023