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Past and Prejudice? The Postgay Agenda

Thu 16 Oct 2014 In: Comment View at NDHA

Grant Robertson has been more identified with issues outside the 'traditional' LGBT legislative reform domain. What does the term "postgay" mean in this context? And how does Louisa Wall come into this? While the UK Christian Right group "Core Issues Trust" is trying to annex 'postgay' as a synonym for 'exgay,' it makes more sense to interpret it in the context of other social policy frameworks like 'postfeminism' and 'postcolonialism.' The latter terms have aroused their share of scepticism amongst feminists and indigenous rights activists who encounter it. For example, Australian Aboriginal activist Bobbi Sykes' reaction was amazement that existing questions about Aboriginal land rights, a national Australian indigenous rights treaty, lifespan disparities, Aboriginal deaths in imprisonment custody, assimilationist 'stolen generation' thefts of Aboriginal children and the whole disgusting edifice of Australian colonialism and institutional racism had vanished seemingly overnight. A similar feminist reaction is that violence against women, residual criminal status of abortion, wage and workplace discrimination against women, the absence of equal pay for work of equal value, child sexual abuse and other aspects of discrimination and violence against women still exist. "I'll only be a post-feminist in post-patriarchy," goes this refrain. Likewise, is it premature to use the term "postgay" or "postlesbian?" Granted, lesbian and gay New Zealanders have now acquired most of the legislative reforms that we have lobbied so vigorously for, from decriminalisation of male homosexuality to antidiscrimination law protection for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and people with HIV/AIDS to civil unions, relationship equality, same-sex parenting equality and marriage equality. All we need is comprehensive antibullying legislative and policy reform and our side of the LGBT legislative reform agenda is achieved. As for the New Zealand transgender community, obviously there is the long overdue addition of gender identity to the Human Rights Act to address, as well as some subsidisation of reassignment surgery to render it more affordable and more accessible. Conversely, the international intersex community seems to want to ban involuntary "remedial' surgery on anomalous intersex genitalia, although there are no signs of that legislative reform agenda emerging overseas as yet. But is 'postgay' a similarly premature phrase? Homophobic violence still happens. And what about the fact that we live in a society characterised by increasing economic inequality, decline of trade unionism, labour market casualisation, attacks on government social welfare provision, privatisation and outsourcing of welfare provision to religious institutions, the rise of (predominantly religious) charter schools and other signs of worrying social stratification? What happens to people with HIV/AIDS in this context of attacks on government social and health services? As one seventysomething lesbian feminist said to me, she didn't march with banners raised in the seventies and eighties so that a professional lesbian or gay couple could ride obliviously past in their hybrid Audi while a group of takatapui and whakawahine queue at a foodbank. And nor, for that matter, did I. So yes, the achievement of LGBT legislative reform doesn't mean an end to LGBT rights activism. It means the rise of stakeholder LGBT activism, which measures the amount of residual homophobic and transphobic discrimination and how it affects economic inequality and disparities in access to housing, education, employment and social services. This means LGBT social service professionals will probably have to roll up our sleeves and get surveying and number crunching to make those various cases. And for gay, bisexual and MSM men, HIV/AIDS is still with us. That means getting serious on possible causative factors like regulation of bareback gay porn and P/crystal meth. What does this all have to do with Labour's current leadership contest? Grant Robertson may not be as visibly gay as Louisa Wall, who seems to be the 'heavy lifter' in terms of LGBT legislative reform within the current parliamentary context. Still, does Grant have to be? Isn't the primary objective of the New Zealand LGBTI movement to give all LGBTI New Zealanders increased access to equality of opportunities, life choices and material resources? Like feminism and the advent of Helen Clark, Grant Robertson's Labour leadership candidacy is a sign of increasing social and cultural egalitarianism. Granted, Grant may not get in this time either, but he's still the youngest candidate in the field. He has time to wait. As for the other candidates, there have been two additional nominations before they closed on 13 October, so I'll profile them briefly here.David Parker has made some commendable comments about recognition of the current diversity of the Labour caucus and rank and file membership at prior party conferences. Parker is a much-respected high-calibre figure within the caucus. As well as serving as deputy to David Cunliffe during his leadership term, Parker has also been Minister for State Services, Minister for Energy, Minister for Land Information and Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues during the Clark administration last decade. He was co-founder of the Dunedin Community Law Centre before he entered Parliament, and later served as a litigation lawyer and in the biotechnology field. During Labour's Opposition period more recently, he has been finance spokesperson. Andrew Little is a former President of the Victoria University Students Association and NZUSA. After graduating from that university, he became national secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, one of New Zealand's largest trade unions, as well as President of the Labour Party. In his EPMU capacity, he became interested in encouraging higher-productivity workplace practices. He is currently Labour spokesperson on Justice, Labour, Tourism and ACC concerns. Even if he doesn't become party leader this time, Little is probably a future contender for the role. Whether or not the endorsement of immediate past leader David Cunliffe is beneficial after Cunliffe's withdrawal from the leadership race on October 13 is a moot point. More problematically, though, he also opposes core current Labour policies like capital gains taxes. Nanaia Mahuta was a surprise early entry for leadership contention, but fairness and equity requires a summary of her political career to date. Nanaia Mahuta is of chiefly Tainui heritage and has strong connections to the Kingitanga movement. She is Hauraki-Waikato's representative MP and has been in Parliament for the last thirteen years. She has an MA (Honours) in Social Anthropology. She crossed the floor to vote against Labour's seabed and foreshore bill, which led to felllow MP Tariana Turia leaving Labour to help establish the Maori Party, during its first two readings. She served as Minister of Customs and Youth Development during the Clark administration. She now serves as Labour's spokesperson for Maori Development, Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Climate Change, as well as Labour's Senior Maori Vice-President. As well as her parliamentary responsibilities, Nanaia Mahuta also serves as a trustee of Te Whakaruruhau Maori Women's Refuge, and the Waikato College for Research and Development. She is also co-chair of the Waikato-Tainui Governance and Representation Review Committee. She would be an asset in a position of leadership within Labour, possibly as deputy to one of the other contenders. However, her governance and management experience may serve in her favour in such a context. As for the former leader's withdrawal, it is praiseworthy that Cunliffe finally came to the conclusion that nothing further could be achieved through his continued presence within the leadership contest and prudently decided to exit the fray. One hopes that such good strategic sense will be met with high office in any future Cabinet considerations. At the close of nominations on Tuesday 16 October, there were four figures in leadership contention- Grant Robertson, Andrew Little, Nanaia Mahuta and David Parker Returning to the remaining legislative reform issues, Louisa Wall has the self-discipline, tenacity and professionalism to deal with those. And we're approaching the 'business end' of such reforms. Once transgender rights and comprehensive antibullying legislation and policy have been achieved, my own Gaynz.Com columns will probably be predominantly focused on issues to do with overseas LGBT solidarity concerns and various cultural goals, such as the significance of the first gay All Black when the great day finally arrives, and HIV/AIDS concerns.   Craig Young - 16th October 2014    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 16th October 2014 - 11:24am

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