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Gender Matters in Writing

Sam Orchard talks to writers Emma Barnes, Jackson Nieuwland and Jiaqiao Liu about the complexities and beauty of writing about gender in Aotearoa today. Writing about identity and embodiment can be a complicated and vulnerable task, but each of these three writers find unique ways to share themselves with their readers, breaking binaries and building new spaces to be themselves. The recording begins with an introduction by Paul Diamond and ends with an expression of thanks from Chris Szekely, Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

The event was held in Taiwhanga Kauhau - the National Library auditorium - on 16 August 2021 (just a day before New Zealand again went into a nationwide Covid Level-4 lockdown). It was organised by the New Zealand Society of Authors (Wellington) in association with the Lesbian and Gay Archives NZ and the Alexander Turnbull Library.

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This event, titled "Gender Matters in Writing," took place at Taiwhanga Kauhau (National Library) in Wellington, New Zealand, on August 16, 2021. The discussion featured four writers – Emma Barnes, Jackson Nieuwland, Jiaqiao Liu, and moderator Sam Orchard – who shared insights into the intricacies and allure of writing about gender in Aotearoa. The conversation was opened by Paul Diamond and concluded with thanks by Chris Szekely, the Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

During the event, the speakers expressed the complexity and vulnerability involved in conveying identity and embodiment in their writing. They discussed how their work encapsulates their unique experiences, challenging gender binaries and forging new personal spaces in their creative expressions. The writers also highlighted the empowerment that comes from sharing one's stories, despite the potential exposure to societal misinterpretation and prejudice.

Sam Orchard, a comic artist, initiated the conversation by admitting feeling intimidated by poetry, despite assembling the panel. The speakers, including Orchard, talked about their professional backgrounds in writing and their respective journeys in understanding and expressing gender identity through their literary works.

Emma Barnes, a poet whose work has been widely published, shared personal experiences about realizing the nuances of their gender identity through the act of writing. Their description of poetry echoes a significant personal tool for self-discovery, articulating the internal identity struggles faced and the social misperceptions encountered daily.

Jackson Nieuwland, a genderqueer writer, bookseller, and publisher, described discovering non-binary concepts through the medium of poetry and emphasized the impact of reading work by other trans writers on their self-realization process. Nieuwland's solidarity with fellow poets appeared to serve as a keystone for their gender exploration and expression.

Jiaqiao Liu, a Chinese non-binary poet pursuing a creative writing master's degree, discussed their engagement with poetry. Touching upon themes like family, queerness, longing, myth, and technology, Liu spoke about poetry providing a sense of playfulness and a means of screwing with language, which has been instrumental in understanding and shaping their own gender narrative.

During the event, the writers read some of their poetry aloud. These performance pieces ranged in tone and theme, each carrying a personalized representation of the author's reflection on their gender journey and broader themes of identity.

To conclude the session, the attendees were reminded about the significance of writing as both an individual and a communal activity. The writers reiterated the importance of maintaining varied and inclusive spaces for literature and emphasized the relevance of literary works that reflect diverse sexualities and genders. A vote of thanks underscored the sentiment that words related to LGBTQ+ identities matter and should be respected, upholding a firm call for greater inclusivity within literary outlets.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.

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Record date:16th August 2021
Location:Taiwhanga Kauhau (National Library), Wellington
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004628).