Every year, after presenting our New Years Honours, GayNZ.com Daily News staff look back at those who have particularly disturbed us in their attitudes to glbti people. Here they are in no particular order... and there are a couple we're not sure about.
There is an argument for leaving Brian Tamaki off this list, not because his hypocrisy, bullying and dog-whistling to homophobes aren't worth a mention here but because if we and other media would just ignore him his daft and dangerous views would be heard by far fewer people. The trouble with that view is that some, particularly his money-gifting acolytes and those affected by their views (remember the fist-pumping Mongrel-Mob-lite Enough is Enough marches?), will still hear his denigration of gays and have their lives distorted and blighted.
So here Tamaki is again, spouting forth his pseudo-religious, self-serving, homophobic claptrap linking disastrous earthquakes with the 'sin' of homosexuality. But before you dismiss him as an anomaly look around your town at your local evangelical Christian church groups, the ones that selectively promote the bible as the word of their god. Tamaki may be the most visible of this lot but there are others, some with congregations just as big or bigger and similarly blinged-up. They're just a bit brighter and so keep their homophobic winding up of their followers more on the down-low.
How unbelievable was it when a glorified hairdressing salon providing shaving and trimming services ditched a staffer when she advised them that she is a transgender woman. Dakota Hemmingson had been with the salon for a month before she told her boss she was wanting to fully transition. She was told her transition would not fit in with the business's 'commercial profile' and was forced to resign. She subsequently won an employment court action against barkers which very quickly went into liquidation.
It's been over twenty years since NZ's Human Rights legislation was amended to disallow discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, twenty years of remarkable social change. Yet Barkers' owner Matt Swan arrogantly decided he was above all that and figured he could treat a transgender person like shit.
Throughout the whole affair Swan avoided publicly fronting up on the issue.
As the year progressed it became more and more obvious that the Ministry, for reasons that remain unclear, no longer give much of a toss about HIV. The government under-funded NZ AIDS Foundation is having to borrow money to try to keep its core services going in the face of the worst yearly new-infection rates ever. Every HIV expert everywhere in the world (except the homophobic pariah states in Africa and Eastern Europe/Russia) knows that getting newly-diagnosed HIV-positive people on to medication right away leads to huge benefits in individual health and epidemic control. The science has for a couple of years now also clearly shown that PrEP, a medication-based HIV prevention technique, can help with keeping HIV epidemics under better control, but the Ministry and drug-funding agency Pharmac are still stalling on making those sufficiently available where they are most needed, instead putting off their introduction year by year and only minimally assisting the researching of the information the Ministry says it needs.
And on the subject of research, the Ministry's refusal to fund the one regularly conducted attitudinal research programme which underscores all HIV-prevention work and enables meaningful monitoring of the epidemic's underlying causes, is disgraceful. The Ministry has effectively blindfolded the NZAF and other agencies trying to get the epidemic under control.
Here's a hypothesis: The government is increasingly under-funding the health sector (see doctor's strikes and other widening cracks in the health system) to the point where the District Health Boards and Pharmac have had to draw their budgetary lines somewhere above HIV and gay/bi men's health. So the Boards and Pharmac put out increasingly PR-groomed statements disguising what's really happening. In other words the Ministry hasn't made a sufficient case to Cabinet to be funded enough for our gay and bi men's health to matter as much as they did some years ago.
As the prisons bosses dig their heels in deeper and achieve stuff all in treating their, admittedly sometimes difficult, transgender prisoners with respect and humanity and instead rely on PR gestures and blatant attempts at manipulation (we've had experience of that ourselves) the gap between the Police and Corrections becomes greater and way more obvious. For some years now the Police have worked to understand the real issues underlying problems between themselves and the glbti communities and individuals. They've reached out, listened, cleared their mind of preconceptions and misconceptions and no longer treat us as the enemy. They're given the right staff the freedom and authority to engage professionally and personally with actual glbti people living actual glbti lives. They understand us much better now and we know them better too. As a result relations between the police and glbti people nationwide is streets ahead of what it once was.
No Pride In Prisons are not the only ones increasingly looking at how Corrections deals with the issue transgender people required to be in their 'care' with concern.
Here's a suggestion to Ray Smith, the boss of the Department of Corrections: Ring Police Commissioner Mike Bush, offer to take him for a coffee and ask him how his department has managed significantly better than Corrections in the area of glbti people and cultures. As a follow-up offer to meet with glbti people other than your own glbti staff, and come to that meeting(s) with an open mind and only one agenda: Making things better for glbti people who come into contact with your staff, your systems and your culture.
While minister for Justice Adams made no apparent effort to make progress on wiping the historical convictions of men convicted of gay sex before decriminalisation in 1986. She referred it to the bureaucrats who looked at the matter from a purely bureaucratic position and declared it to be too hard. Month after month, year after year, for what seemed an eternity Adams just parroted that line. Now, after all this tome she's seen the blindingly obvious, that there are approaches â€“ which other countries' judicial systems are adopting â€“ and just before Christmas instructed her Justice Dept pencil-pushers to have another look. Couldn't you have done that a long, long time ago Amy?
It still staggers the mind that any
half-decent person could think that putting a picture of a deceased
transgender woman hanging by a rope from a rafter on the front page
of its Sunday edition was in any possible way justifiable. The sanctimonious and frankly unbelievable rationalisation subsequently cobbled together by the
publisher of Samoa's most influential news publication, who was
helming the Observer while its usual editor was on leave, was simply disgraceful. The follow-up apology "if you're still offended" was grotesque.
The Samoa Observer has in the past been fearless in going up against smug, entrenched and self-aggrandising politicians and bureaucrats. It has fought, often successfully, on the side of humanity, rightness, fairness, progress and honour. It may continue to do so but in putting that gruesome and totally disrespectful photo on its front page, and in trying to say it was there to illustrate that their god was saying to the country's churches to play nice together, showed that in some of the most respected quarters of Samoan power and influence, even those more liberal quarters which regularly take on 'the system,' transgender/fa'afafine people are still regarded less than human, less than people, less that worthy of total respect and therefore lesser beings than the rest of the population.
TWO WE'RE NOT SURE ABOUT:
Jevan Goulter's toadying to the Tamakis, and Hannah Tamaki in particular, is worrying to say the least. Goulter, a gay man who has a habit of involving himself in dubious schemes and greasing up to people of cultural or political influence, is welcome to his own views but in coming very publicly to the defense of Brian Tamaki during the 'gay earthquakes' affair reminded us of how he a couple of years ago ran to an aggressively anti-gay writer to dump on prominent lgbti people he had been involved with. Sad or bad? We're not sure.
What to make of Bill English's statement, on his rise to the Prime Ministership that he would now vote for same-sex marriage because he now realises it doesn't harm straight marriages after all? As a staunch Catholic this places him at variance with his church leaders all the way up to the pope. Until now he has been against equality for gblti people and we're not yet sure how deep his epiphany goes. Perhaps an apology for treating us like second-class lowlife would help a little. We're not sure.