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Grant Robertson - Rainbow Politicians

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[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride in How long [00:00:05] have you been an MP? [00:00:07] I was first elected in November 2008. So we're just coming up to four years now. [00:00:13] Yeah. Have you been out that whole time? [00:00:15] Absolutely. You know, I was I was elected as a rtmp. And you have been, in terms of my longer political life, and it's been part of who I am. [00:00:29] For a long time publicly, so yeah, [00:00:31] so you out before coming into the public eye? [00:00:34] Yeah, definitely. So I kind of, I guess, came to terms with my, you know, who I was, and my sexuality is in my late teens, and, you know, and my friends are boys now. And and I guess, as, as you get into the public arena, these things mentioned, and so it's never been something I've had it all, [00:00:55] um, how is your private life had to change, you know, adjusting to the public are, [00:01:01] you start to realize, the more you're in politics, and the more you do that people are very interested in in your whole life, not just what you might think politically. So I'm very conscious now when I'm out in public that people know who I am. And so I'm a better and safer driver than I probably was before then. And it does affect a little bit. You know, my partner and I have had a few experiences of people kind of coming up and talking to me, and sometimes not always being positive, and it's not great. So you do have to kind of manage your social life a little bit just to acknowledge that. [00:01:37] How do you deal with, [00:01:40] Oh, you've just got to be in a position to be I think, just be calm. And if somebody is raising legitimate questions, or asking things and situations, okay, then I'm happy to answer them. If someone comes up to you and said, they know, and you're obviously watching the video on the TV at the pub, and it's not really appropriate. I just tried to say to somebody, look, can you come and see me next week? I usually give them my card or whatever, and say, he's the number you can bring in maybe to see you next week and talk about this. Try and defuse it a little bit. [00:02:07] Do they tend to take you up on your offer? [00:02:09] Not generally, interestingly, they're not not as much follow up as they might be. But But, but there are people who do, ya know, if I'm at the supermarket, or whatever, people often come up and just a few words, and that's fine. I mean, that, to me, that's part of being an MP is that you, you've got to be accessible and available. And the when a year, when it's somebody might have had a few too many drinks on the set day, then I think they can probably wait till Monday to work out whether they really need to talk to me or not. [00:02:35] And you said before that you started to come out in your late teens. What was your high school experience life [00:02:42] was okay, I end up being the head boy of my high school, and, you know, and I played rugby, and I did all those sorts of things. And, and I had some pretty big personal difficulties sort of going through what now when you're 12, you know, you're 12 particular literally, as I was kind of grappling with my, with who I was. And so, you know, I had some really down very dark depressing times, personally, but it wasn't so much to do with my high school, I wasn't being bullied or anything like that about it. It was more me dealing with it myself. And I, you know, I enjoyed my high school years, I had a really good circle of friends. And, and but I, I guess I, as I managed myself how I thought about who I was, that had some impact. And I, in my Steven form year, I kind of knew that I was gay, but I didn't. Close friends started to find out why I didn't make him make anything public about that I leave that he finished at school. [00:03:47] And did you face any homophobia in high school or anything? [00:03:51] A little bit? Yeah, yeah. I mean, there was one or two people who probably worked it out. And there was a little bit of that from people year, but because I wasn't really out as such. I mean, you know, I wasn't in a sort of public scenes out. As a teen as a high school, I didn't really have that bigger impact, but it was certainly people. And you know, it's incredibly an imagined as no different today for people trying to deal with it. And those teenage years where things is a real heightened sense of, of the importance of who you are, and your friends and your school. And it's a really hard period to manage. And I did struggle with it personally. Definitely. But it wasn't really didn't play out in the public arena so much. [00:04:39] Um, was there any way education? were when you were in high [00:04:42] school? Absolutely not? No. This is the mid 1980s, late 1980s. And there was no, there was nothing we I don't recall it ever being discussed [00:04:54] at high school? [00:04:56] And can you think of anything that we could do to maybe lower the grade suicide? [00:05:03] I absolutely. Look, and I think it's, it's incredibly important that we talk to people to teenagers, about people being able to make their own decisions, and that they, that there is a, there is support for them, that this is something that is fine for them to be able to deal manage with them. We basically need good role models, and we're getting more and more of those role models, you know, the, you know, mean, not just politicians, but you know, people like Tammany coffee, and they're being publicly, you know, this showing the support causes like Rambo youth and that kind of thing, it's actually really important to be able to do that. But we've got a, we've got to support young, particularly young men, because it's with the suicide rate is it can be as you know, I mean, it's bad for my name mean, but I think we've got to be able to provide people with with positive messages about where they're lights can go. The one thing I can remember from how I felt as a teenager, was that I couldn't really see beyond where I was. And that's the problem with youth suicide, particularly for queer people is not being able to see beyond that, you know, the message and let BM the campaign that was done in the USA valid gets better. You've seen that campaign out here, then is that it's been a message is, is the core of it for me, because that's, but when you're in that space, you don't feel that way. And I didn't as a sort of 16 year old, I didn't know that there was a way out for me. You know, and I drank too much. And I and I reacted elided personally, other people reacted in other ways. And we've got to be able to get the message across to people that there is a positive path forward for you. Role Models play a huge. [00:06:55] And you're talking before about the youth suicide rates being mean, young women? Um, do you think that it's harder to be an out queer man or a woman? And [00:07:12] I think I don't I can't really answer that question. Because obviously, I don't have the experience of being an out queer woman, I think I think there is still challenges and a degree of prejudice for all people who come out in that way. What I do know is that the we still in New Zealand have a culture for men and boys, that would make it hard. And so I guess that I'm really speaking from my own experience, the that there are cultural aspects that make it more more challenging, maybe for me, but I don't have the experience from the other side. And I'm sure if you were sitting here with a with a lesbian woman, I can talk to you more about my opinion. [00:07:57] So I'm you you just said about the culture around? I [00:08:01] mean, can you think of ways that that could change possibly for the president? [00:08:06] Well, I think one of the things we've got to do is, is let people be who they are. And I think we've got to encourage and support the fact that there is success in a lot of different areas, I actually think schools are getting better at this, you know, I went to a single six boys school. And I now spend some time in single six boys schools around Wellington and around New Zealand, and I do notice that there is a lot more encouragement of, of other kinds of activities outside of just playing rugby. I mean, I did play rugby, so it was fun for me, but outside of just playing rugby, there are actually some, some greater level of options for people. So I think one of the things we're going to do is open all of that up and say, you know, success can come in many different forms. And we need to make the culture of, of being in a school to be inclusive of the diversity of people. And the provide the diversity of options, you know, and I think in other, you know, places, things like the Gay Straight alliances that have developed have been great where they've developed, you know, because I think that really gives people some ownership of the kind of diversity issue within schools. So I think those sorts of things should really be encouraged. And having rainbow youth come into schools is really good and positive as well. So there's lots of things we can kind of do to break that kind of cultural stuff down. But you know, there's there are going to be barriers and challenges for people along the way. [00:09:33] You talked before about, I think, homophobia when you're out in the public eye. What about in Parliament itself? It's [00:09:42] not really no, it's actually been pretty good. There was this, were couple of comments are kind of interjections thrown across the chamber. One particular occasion, which, you know, would be in the category of homophobia directed at me. But other than that, no, and in fact, I've been, you know, I think it's a huge change. You know, I remember talking to Chris Carter, when I first became an MP, and he, when he was the first out gay male MP in 1993. Now, he had dreadful stuff said to him, and john banks was here, the International MP, and whenever Chris would get up, he'd put papers in front of himself. So you know, he didn't have to look at Chris and things terrible things would get yelled out on Christine, and all those kind of things. So things have changed a lot in the intervening 19 years, which is good. There's the odd moment, there's not so much maybe about parliament and being an MP, but now getting invited to functions or whatever, and people making assumptions about about my partner, if I have one will be a female and they kind of thing. You know, there's that sort of latent. I'm a phobia that kind of sits behind a lot of what's going on. But I'm overall, it's been it's actually been okay. [00:11:03] And how do you deal with statements that are thrown across? [00:11:06] Oh, look, I teens to try and confront the person, pretty much directly. I don't think there's any point and not and I did on that particular occasion, just makes the person aware that I was aware of what that said that I didn't find it acceptable. So I think that's what you might position. It's what you need to do. [00:11:25] And do you think that your sexuality affected whether or not people voted for you? [00:11:31] That's really interesting question. I suspect for some people it might have I certainly got some leaders and so on, immediately after I was elected one couple in particular, one in particular, and another one that alluded to it, we clearly defeated 30s people and the positive know, in a negative way. But I don't think in general, it has I think that and Wellington Central, particularly, it's a very inclusive and tolerant electric. I think, it certainly wasn't a major issue for most people. And I think now, hopefully, people are judging me on whether I'm a good MP or not, regardless of my sexuality, I was reelected with a much bigger majority than the one that I had when I first got in. So there was good. There was a little bit of a kerfuffle around the initial my initial election in 2008, because my opponent was a national opponent was a guy Stephen Franks. And he had made some comments which previously, when he'd been an MP, which quite a bit of publicity during the election campaign, he, he famously said, during the civil union debate, he said, I love my dog, but it doesn't mean I should be able to marry it. And that got raised during not by me, but by some other people got raised during the campaign that we had, in the last story been getting some footage of us having a bit of a discussion about at a meeting ended up on TV, and, you know, there was some issues that kind of floated around around that, but it wasn't so much about me, as about him. And his views. So I think Wellington Central's a place where there, I don't think it really has a feet to my vote, in general, of course, specific people may well live concerns, so big, [00:13:21] and every positive experiences that have come from being queer in Parliament, [00:13:26] all tapes, you know, I mean, one of the things is that we, you know, we, you know, I get to, as a result of that, I get to interact with all sorts of really interesting groups of people. On Saturday afternoon, I was asked by a group called agenda New Zealand, which is the transport group that operates nationwide Comm. And they had some issues in the group, and they wanted someone to be an independent cheer of, of the group for the annual general meeting. And I came in today. And, you know, by doing that, you learn so much about other people's lives and other people's experiences. And so I think it's been from that point of view, it's been great. You know, and I guess the other but is knowing that you can act as a role model for people. And you know, there was a guy who wrote to me some time back who, who I've sort of had a little bit to do with it was, it was coming out as a teenager and interested in politics. And for someone, you know, for him to write to me and say, hey, it's great that you're there. And I kind of know that I could have a pass through to this, if I wanted to, that kind of thing is really great to hear people say that kind of thing as well. [00:14:37] Um, and so you're glad that you publicly came out? [00:14:40] Well, for me, it's, it's a no brainer, because it's who I am. So I'm not, I'm completely happy and comfortable with who I am. And so it's just part of me, I never want to be a person who's judged solely on the sexuality. That's not why I'm in politics, I got into politics, because I believe in the values of equality and social justice and opportunity for everybody in there, the values of the body. That's why I'm here, I, I'm a politician who is gay. I'm not a gay person who's a politician. So, you know, that's, that's how I see it. And I'll always stand up for the rights of the rainbow communities, because for me, it's part of the quality and part of values that drive me. So I'm coming out with something I'm did a long time ago. And it's just part of who I am now. And I've never had never tried died. And I'm happy to be judged for all of who I am proud of which is this. [00:15:43] And um, do you know of any other not out queer politicians? [00:15:49] Yes, I do. And that's, it's there, obviously, is a decision that they have to make. And you can't know that someone's personal circumstances and that way. I would, I would hope that we lived in a world where a person could just be who they were in politics as they are in any other part of the life and doesn't feel that there's anything holding them back. So I but I can't judge for the people. I don't know exactly why it is that they perhaps are. Part of it, I suspect will be that people don't want to be judged on the basis of the sexuality. They want to be judged on other things. As a site for me, I don't want that either. But I don't see that those things are mutually exclusive. I think people can be comfortable that they know you and can still judge you on the range of your abilities. [00:16:44] And so you don't think that's necessarily a legitimate concern? I hope [00:16:47] it wasn't. But you know, yet as I say, you can't actually necessarily judge Exactly. On You know, what someone's own circumstances. So I can say for sure why particular person might, might not be. [00:17:03] And do you think that New Zealand queer people are underrepresented in Parliament? [00:17:09] I don't know. was happy to see more. I think we do pretty well, to be honest, I mean, we've currently got representation within library, greens and national. Yeah, will be it through somebody who doesn't really want to talk about a match at all, in terms of Chris. So it's, you know, I think we're doing okay. But, you know, obviously, the more the merrier. And but again, you know, inside the Labour Party, what we're going to looking for our good employees, who can represent the values of the Labour Party, and we're not going to judge them on their sexuality, we're going to judge them on their abilities. And, you know, that's, hopefully, you know, queer people will feel that they can come into politics and see it. [00:18:01] And what do you think, needs to change in New Zealand for more queer people to be interested in? [00:18:06] Well, I do think it comes back to that point of us as a society as a whole valuing difference, valuing diversity, that we support a culture where we allow people to be who they are and succeed as, as who they are. It's not really about politics, and actually, it's about New Zealand as a whole, and then people feeling comfortable that they can Kevin, the other thing is more general to politics, which is that it is it's a tough life, in terms of your family. And in you know, you, your family are automatically dragged into a more public place. And for a lot of people that's just not where they want to go with their lives. You know, my partners are reasonably private person, he's not somebody who would seek the limelight in the way that I guess I have. And so, you know, trying to keep that back those boundaries is actually a struggle for all politicians. But I guess it would be even more so potentially for for queer ones coming in. So here [00:19:03] and who are your heroes? [00:19:06] I've got my main political one is Harvey Milk, which might be a surprise to anybody, I don't think because he's, you know, anyone who breaks ground and shifts boundaries I, I admire tremendously, you know, and the the attribute of courage that people like having blockchains great in New Zealand, you know, all of those who've gone before me and politics and I mentioned in my maiden speech, and I mean, I've had my issues with Chris Carter, subsequently, she was hit with the Labour Party, but I still really admire Chris for being the first really out MP that we've had, I'm by Marion street for being the first at least be an MP and Parliament as well to Ambani, who made giant strides and getting a lot of the legislation push through as well. And particularly Georgina buyer, because Georgina has a as the first trans MP in the world, had to break ground and face huge challenges. And, and you know, didn't have a one of the things go away in his political career, but, again, broke ground and had, you know, showed real bravery and courage to, to do that. But there's all sorts of people, you know, the other day I was just reflecting with what does it have a 14th anniversary of Matthew Shepard Steve in the States, you know, now, you know, Matthew isn't a hero as such, but he somebody you know, I look at I look at people like that, and I think there is a huge amount of to work for. So yeah, but there's lots of people. I mean, I've got lots of people I've met in my life who I think have been brave and courageous, particularly older capitals, people who work through the homosexual law reform, period. Who when security was illegal, you know, so lots of heroes, the heroes aren't always the big public figures. There are and just the people who've gone about their lives and, and Shannon, bravery and courage along the way. [00:21:06] Um, what do you think about the wording of the Human Rights Act when it comes to trans people? [00:21:12] Yeah, it's an interesting one. So when when we were in government, Georgina, by a head of bill to explicitly recognize train trans people in terms of the egg. What what the Human Rights Commission can be considered was we interpret the language to include trans people? We're, we're probably it is to say, well, that's good. So that means that where there is discrimination that the Human Rights Commission would say, well, we are already considering them. I don't personally think there's any harm and recognizing it explicitly. And it really don't, you know, sexual orientation, gender identity, and not the same thing. And you know, we know that in so while legally, it's covered, I could certainly see either personally, I can see the argument for that language changing. [00:22:04] And what can the queer community do to support queer politician? [00:22:09] Oh, look, I think, I think the queer community do already, I don't think there's anything that really needs to change. I mean, again, I'm not expecting someone just because they gay to vote for me vote for labor, that people will have their own views. And one of one of the real strengths of I believe, of the queer community is that recognition of the diversity within the community, that they are gay rugby players and gay planners and gay ballet dancers and gay artists. And, and that's great. And that's, for me is a really important thing. So I think I'm not really expecting anything particular from the Greek community in terms of supporting me, as a politician. Where I think it's important is where their issues come up, that are important to the community, the community mobilizes around them. So if it's marriage equality, or recognition of trans community, whatever, that the community mobilizes on those issues, and does the work to support those issues, I'm much more keen on it than worrying about whether we're being particularly supported or not. [00:23:06] And what kind of support do you get from [00:23:08] Bob? Right, you know, I mean, in terms particularly here locally in Wellington, you know, I mean, I know a lot of people in the community and I've had really good, strong and positive support.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio. It is not a transcript, it has not been checked by humans and will contain many errors. However it is useful for searching on keywords and themes.