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Grant Robertson and "Identity Politics"

Thu 8 Dec 2011 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

Grant Robertson So, Grant Robertson is in the running for Labour's deputy leadership after the departure of Annette King from that position. But is Robertson gay or "post-gay?"And what are the boundaries of LGBT politics anyway? Grant has always been out as a Labour MP although unlike earlier Labour LGBT MPs Tim Barnett, Georgina Beyer and Charles Chauvel, he has primarily concentrated on his shadow portfolio, defence of the public sector against the ravages of hamfisted National/ACT capacity reduction, inept public risk management (as with the Rena case and the Pike River mine disaster) and funding and service cuts. Given the Key administration, this is a prominent organisational role, and he has handled it well. He has widespread respect within the Labour caucus and party organisation, as well as political commentators. Is Labour and New Zealand ready for an out gay deputy leader- or even eventual party leader or Prime Minister? And is Grant gay or "post-gay?" What do I mean by "post-gay?" I tend to be sceptical of the usefulness of the term post when affixed to contemporary social movements, given that it implies that there's been some forward movement, but that full social and legislative equality still eludes us. However, we now have seven lesbian and gay (Labour, Green and National) MPs in the fiftieth New Zealand Parliament, and Charles Chauvel and Kevin Hague seem to be doing the necessary work on eventual legislative reform insofar as undertaking the drafting of private members bills to facilitate eventual adoption equality and other issues goes. But what are the boundaries of LGBT politics, anyway? Fundamentalist 'left' commentators like Chris Trotter relegate questions of ethnicity, gender, sexuality and disability to the status of 'identity politics.' Supposedly, this means that our issues are primarily those of recognition of civic equality and human rights and have no element of economic inequality and misdistribution of wealth as trade union politics goes. I have always thought that was a fairly ignorant prognosis, given that most western gay men witnessed the US HIV/AIDS epidemic and witnessed it spiral out of control through the sheer backwardness of the United States insofar as its lack of a comprehensive welfare state and strong trade union movement went, which may explain its engorged levels of Christian religious observance and the strength of the US Christian Right compared to mainstream western states like New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and much of Western Europe. For that reason, I've been increasingly focused on social policy issues like LGBT youth emergency housing, welfare retrenchment and privatisation risks and LGBT poverty and the Pharmac debate in the context of the Transpacific Free Trade Agreement with the United States and other Pacific Rim nations. LGBT politics needs to address issues of economic inequality and attacks on the public sector. To bring this back to Grant Robertson, he is therefore acting in our communities and our interests in his current shadow portfolio, although perhaps he'd like to verify whether I'm accurate in assessing his particular standpoint as a centre-left gay man. As for the leadership question, I suspect so. No-one else seems to have commented that Louisa Wall has just become the first out lesbian MP to win a constituency seat since the days of Marilyn Waring in the seventies and eighties. No-one seems to be commenting on Grant's sexual orientation as a disqualification for his potential role, not even obnoxious loudmouths like John Tamihere. As with Helen Clark's eventual premiership and gender questions, there'll probably be more lesbians and gay men in positions of premiership and executive responsibility when he eventually becomes Prime Minister in any case, like Johanna Sigurdasdottir in Iceland and Guido Westerwalle (German Deputy Chancellor) today. Recommended: Grant's website: Craig Young - 8th December 2011    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 8th December 2011 - 6:33pm

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