Ngā pitopito korero
Lesbian and queer female candidates
Last month we interviewed wāhine takatāpui Elizabeth Kerekere, standing for the Green Party in the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti Māori electorate, and Kiritapu Allen, standing for Labour in the general East Coast electorate. With the election on Saturday 23, we profile four more queer female candidates and two sitting MPs, all members of either Labour or the Green Party. You can also check out a natty graphic about which parties have policies on a range of queer issues, produced by Out@Work, the Rainbow network of the NZ Council of Trade Unions.
Like the East Cape of the North Island, there are two queer female candidates standing in the Clutha-Southland general electorate. We interviewed Cherie Chapman, standing for Labour, and Rachael Goldsmith, standing for the Green Party; both identify as Pākehā and bisexual.
Cherie, left, said that when she and Rachael were “on the way to a political meeting, we realised we had four queer people in the car – I didn’t know about her and she didn’t know about me. We go to lots of election things together; we’re doing the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Green Party) relationally.”
Cherie says the electorate is varied, containing a huge rural area as well as the resort town of Queenstown, Balclutha and Gore. While it is very different from city or suburban electorates, housing, health and the environment are the three big issues, she says.
“In Queenstown, housing is a key issue – it costs $800 a week for a three-bedroom house, and there are a lot of empty houses owned by overseas people who just come for the ski season. Workers can’t afford to live in the town. In Invercargill and on the east coast, a lot of the housing stock and rentals is run down – some houses are very cold.”
“The Southern DHB has had lots of cuts, and there are very long waiting lists. People have to drive a long way for health services, from Queenstown or further to Invercargill or Dunedin. And the environment is a huge issue with the impact of intensive dairying on rivers and lakes.”
Cherie grew up in a working-class family, has lived in Wellington and the Waikato and moved to Southland in 2012. her Rainbow CV includes establishing the Schools Out support network in Wellington, activism in the Homosexual Law Reform campaign, helping to organise events for queer women in Hamilton, and researching the needs of GLBTI patients using GP services.
She says “a lot of people are in the closet and there’s not much of an overt gay community” in the area. “I’d love to build a network here, there’s a need to meet and get strength from each other. Teachers aren’t out,” she says, having spent 30 years in education to assistant principal level. Her new boutique museum, Oyster Allsorts, is closed for the election period, but has “a mini cinema; I’d love to do a queer film festival”.
Cherie decided to stand as a candidate from teaching in Westport, where “I saw the impact of the National Government on kids. They came to school hungry, their families moved around because of rent rises, there were lots of mental health problems, and the school didn’t have the resources for that. I raised $10,000 for a hardship fund in my first month; it’s just not good enough that schools have to do that.”
She says solutions are “structural not superficial. I want all those kids to reach their potential. I came from a poor background, our dad was violent and we shifted around a lot. If I was a kid like that now, I wouldn’t be able to get out of it. Schools need more resources, and health workers. People are starving and tax cuts aren’t enough, they need a raft of support.”
Cherie is 61 on the Labour list, and standing for the first time. “After the election, I want to restore the Bluff wharf, and make NZ Smelters take back all their dross. This aluminium oxide and other toxins was sold to a company for processing into fertiliser but they went into liquidation and it’s sitting in sheds around Southland. The smelter won’t take it because it isn’t theirs.”
“I also want to help strengthen Labour groups in the electorate for 2020. And somewhere in there I might have a little lie-down.” JR
Bisexual feminist Rachael Goldsmith, who has Kai Tahu whakapapa, is standing for the third time as Green Party candidate in the Clutha Southland electorate. Born and raised in Southland, she is long-standing member of the party’s Policy Committee, represents the committee on the party executive, and co-convenes the party’s disability network.
For her, “presenting Green Party policy to communities is very important”. She is active in policy-making about women, housing, inequality, animal welfare and industrial relations.
She says inequalities in the region “have widened over the last three years. The Greens have always campaigned to end poverty, but it is increasingly urgent. More and more people are desperate.”
She also believes that water and climate issues have also become more urgent over the last three years. “Funding and infrastructure is not keeping up with tourism in the area”, and housing is poor in areas that are losing population, she says. She is pictured below with her son on the Kingston Flyer.
In 2011, Rachael helped lift the party vote in the electorate by more than three percent, and hopes to boost it again this year.
Being out as bisexual is “almost a non-issue” she says. The media, the public and other candidates “have left it alone”. She says she and the Rainbow Labour candidate Cherie Chapman have “a similar perspective; my campaign team is 100 percent Rainbow, lead by a campaign manager who identifies as takatāpui and a non-binary lesbian, and hers is mostly Rainbow.”
However, the environment for Rainbow people in the region is still not welcoming, she says. While there are new queer support groups in Invercargill, Rainbow people in smaller centres “feel isolated”.
She believes that “we’re getting into the grittier issues” as a community after having won the first wave of populist Rainbow rights like marriage equality. She gives the example of gender neutral toilets as raising a few difficulties for local licensing trusts, and the difficulty of coming out for trans and non-binary people. “They fear losing custody of their kids, being seen as an unfit parent”.
The party plans to review their Rainbow policy after the election in the light of changes for trans and non-binary people, she says.
Rachael is number 37 of the list, and doesn’t plan to stand again in the next couple of elections. She’ll concentrate on building collaborations between disability organisations in the region, and community development for refugees and community housing.
She will continue her paid role as station co-ordinator at Radio Southland, the region’s access radio station; she is still searching for a local Rainbow person “keen to get in front of the mic”. JR
Linsey is a bisexual Pākehā list candidate in the Whanganui area. She is campaigning alongside Labour candidates in Rangitikei, Waikato and Taranaki-King Country; “my role is to push the party vote, go to different electorates if candidates have a need”.
In Whanganui she says health care, housing and education have major problems. “Access to health care is a really big issue; it took me three weeks to get a GP appointment.”
“Housing is a massive issue in Whanganui; when I moved here at the beginning of the year we had 30 people looking at one flat. People renting out properties can pick only people without kids, pets, or other ‘liabilities’. We shouldn’t have this in Whanganui, let alone anywhere else.”
“We’re lucky that our housing is the cheapest in the country to buy, but people on low incomes or casual employment contracts, and without a deposit are all stuck renting.”
About education she says that “a lot of our young people don’t go for further studies, and the courses on offer at the polytech have decreased. People can’t access education, so it’s a lot harder to keep young people in the town.”
For queer women, getting health care that affirms their identity and accepts them for who they are is a real challenge. We get a heterosexual idea of health care and misinformation is really dangerous. Queer women get told they don’t need a sexual health check because they won’t get sexually transmitted infections – how do you work against that?”
“Our young people have a higher risk of suicide and mental health problems; they have poorer outcomes because they’re not accepted and don’t always have family support. Organisations like PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) are important.”
Linsey has been involved in student politics for the last three years; “last election I was grilling candidates as president about what they’re delivering to students. We’d submit to select committees and there’d be overwhelming evidence against a piece of legislation, but the government would still pass it.”
Linsey believes that for “Labour that’s not the case, policy is research and evidence-driven; it’s about fairness. The moment I finished my job at the national student union, I signed up to the Labour Party.”
Linsey works at the Whanganui District Council and is campaigning on evenings and weekends; she is number 65 on the party list. See her Facebook page. JR
Jan believes the choice between parties and policies “has never been starker” than in this election. “The government is saying ‘things are going really well’, but what they are offering is more of the same entrenched poverty and record homelessness.”
Jan is a Pākehā MP, standing again in the Mana electorate, and Green Party spokesperson for Rainbow and women’s issues, social development, state services and local government. She was brought up in Southland and now lives in Wellington.
Jan is concerned this election “that conversations I’m having is communities is quite different and more marked” than those happening in the public arena. She gives the example of the response to former co-leader Metiria Turei about welfare issues “in Māori media compared with mainstream media”.
She points to climate change as an issue where the Green Party is “making progress on mainstreaming” a proactive approach – “the government is having to acknowledge it, at least in rhetoric”. She’s also pleased that “Labour is picking up climate change and cleaning our rivers, which have been Green priorities for years”.
When asked about issues for lesbian, takatāpui and queer women, she pointed to economic inequality and safety in schools for young people. “In the 90s, we talked about the feminisation of poverty, which is heightened for lesbians whose incomes aren’t boosted by their male partner’s.” She describes the income support poverty trap as a lesbian issue. (She is pictured door-knocking with Green MP Marama Davidson.)
The equal pay case for carers “was a real opportunity, but the government has make it harder for other women, increased the barriers” to equal pay for other women. She says Green Party policy is to hunt out areas of salary discrimination for women and fix them.
Jan says there are signs of improvement in bullying of Rainbow people in schools “but progress is slow in response to the level of harassment – we need urgent and serious action.”
“There’s also a crisis in mental health across the country. We’ve been fighting for what used to be called Pink Health for more than 20 years – queer-friendly, community based mental health services and we’re still not there. Mainstream services are slowly considering whether there is discrimination built into their services.”
A positive move since the last election has been the creation of a cross-party Rainbow Network, co-chaired by Labour’s Louisa Wall and National’s Paul Foster-Bell, where Jan has been an active member. Before this initiative, she says, there was little traction within the education system on a report about the safety needs of queer students, commissioned by former Green MP Kevin Hague. “A report on the Education Review Office’s (ERO) auditing of schools showed real problems, with schools saying they had no queer students”, and other disturbing results.
“Yet this term, with the cross-party group, ERO will review safer sex programmes in schools, inclusivity and safety for trans students. There’s still further work to be done, but we’ve made exciting progress.”
Two other issues she sees as important are “urgent action on health care for transwomen – so many DHBs provide no services at all for trans people – and medical protection for intersex people.”
The cross-party group has also contributed to Rainbow youth organisations getting more funding, and to the recent establishment of a Rainbow policy group involving several different government ministries, she says. “We need a strategy across government to ensure government policies and procedures meet our needs – one-size-fits-all doesn’t work!”
Jan believes the polls will show increased faith in the Greens; “we’re aiming to grow our vote”. JR
Louisa (Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Waikato) is standing for her third full term in South Auckland’s Manurewa electorate. She is currently Labour’s spokesperson for courts and youth affairs as well as associate justice and sport spokesperson.
She was a Silver Fern from 1989 to 1992 and a member of the world champion Black Ferns team in 1998.
As co-chair of the cross-party Rainbow parliamentary network, we asked her about issues facing lesbians and other Rainbow people, and she replied by email.
The network “has been engaging with Ministers and officials” about national and international issues. National issues include –
- Recommending that the Education Review Office investigates the wellbeing of LGBTIQ students
- Advocating for supports for the physical and psychological needs of those born intersex and their families
- Advocating for an adequate supply of publicly-funded gender reassignment health services, including counselling, endocrinology and surgical services, as well as the rights of transgender people in prison.
International issues include –
- Taking a first principle approach to international human rights and universal homosexual law reform
- Expressing concern about the purge of gay men in Chechnya, and the public flogging of men for consensual gay sex in Indonesia’s Aceh province.
Louisa says that these issues have been raised “by and with our community and are also being addressed with national and regional human rights and social justice partners”. She is pictured with Sophie Tauhara, left, and Huhana Hickey at a Rainbow Labour event.
Louisa reiterated a request for lesbians to contact her about issues they want raised in parliament, which she made at the May dinner of the Auckland Lesbian Business Association.
“I look forward to engaging with Alba and our members to determine lesbian specific kaupapa.”
“Is there a demand, for example, for lesbian couples to be eligible for access to assisted reproductive technology (ART), which is currently only available to heterosexual couples? This proposal is currently being debated in France and I am interested in its relevance to our community in Aotearoa NZ.”
“Just what are the issues lesbians are passionate about?” She invites lesbians to email her at Louisa.Wall@parliament.govt.nz. JR
Jo stood as a Green candidate for the Waikato Regional Council, but this is her first time standing in a national election for the Hamilton West electorate, where she sees the major issues as income, housing and water.
“There are a lot of people on fixed incomes or benefits; they want enough food to feed their children, secure rental accommodation, and be able to participate in the city life. We have lots of minimum wage jobs; families have to get government top-ups to get by.”
“We’re 1,300 houses short of what we need, there are increasing number of homeless people and families here, and security is tenuous, especially if you’re renting. Quality of housing is an issue.”
“I’m a beneficiary advocate – I often work with people moving from sleeping in a car to a motel to rental accommodation. They often haven’t received their full entitlements, and if they had they’d have been able to maintain their rental income instead of sleeping in cars.”
“Often people can get only casual work, and they struggle to maintain their rent because their income fluctuates and WINZ is inefficient.”
“What comes through when we’re door-knocking is people want all children to have the same opportunities; they can see the inequalities.”
“The Waikato River is very important to people in Hamilton; it’s a much-loved taonga – our roads and walkways all track and cross it. People want the river to be clean and the water to be accessible. Not many people are brave enough to swim in it, and it’s not recommended. It has improved over the last ten years – part of that is the work of the Kaitiaki group led by Waikato Tainui, but they still haven’t tackled the pollution from the city itself.”
Jo raised in a dairy-farming family in the Bay of Plenty and then the Far North. She has worked in the union movement, co-convened the CTU Out at Work network, and the Rainbow Greens.
She describes herself as a dyke, is married to a lesbian and came out around 2001. “Since 2000, Hamilton has become a much more inclusive city, a reasonably safe place to live for women-loving women. Non-passing women have a more challenging time, as they do in most places.”
She identifies issues for aging, parenting and young lesbian, takatāpui and queer women. She’s concerned about the future income and housing of “aging queer women who are single, and those who are not femme or straight passing as they get older. She’s keen to bolster Hamilton’s Waikato Queer Youth and UniQ, as well as a lesbian mothers’ group for those with young children.
“There is lot more being done about workplace Rainbow rights and how heteronormativity affects people. There’s an assumption that marriage equality has solved everything, but it’s very difficult for us to talk openly and be authentic at work, to dress as we might be most comfortable.”
Jo says she’s “been surprised how people are so nice to people who knock on their door to have a conversation. They go from unfailingly polite through to positively enthusiastic about what they’re voting for this year. I’m number 30 on the list. I’d definitely do this again if the members selected me.”
After the election she expects to continue as a beneficiary advocate with People’s Power and Single Parent Services in Hamilton. JR
Registrations for the National Day of Silence (NDS) on August 18 were up by 18 percent this year, with 89 from individuals and organisations like Yellow Pages, and 43 from schools.
The annual campaign is run by Wellington-based Rainbow youth organisation InsideOUT, to create action against the silencing effect of bullying, name-calling and harassment of Rainbow students.
“Not all people know to register and we don’t know how many participated in all the events, but expect it is in the thousands,” says organiser Laura Duffy. Just over 200 #Selfiesforsilence were posted to the InsideOUT NDS Facebook page.
This year InsideOUT created new graphics for the event which can be re-used each year, as well as t-shirts, tattoos and stickers.
Laura believes the unlearn posters and social media graphics, pictured, were a strong point of the campaign this year, showing that negative attitudes about lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transpeople can be unlearned. She said the campaign received a lot of suggestions about what unlearning looks like. JR
Lesbian event organiser and café co-owner, Verity George, and senior social media manager and Yankiwi Cassie Roma were provisionally elected to the board at the first AGM since the Auckland Pride Festival became a membership organisation.
The election results are subject to police and credit checks, which weren’t able to be done in the short time since the constitutional change. Six people stood for the two board positions, offering a wide range of experience and many years of community involvement.
They included long-time Pride volunteer Baz Bloomfield, HIV+ volunteer Vincent Koh, part-time Family Bar manager James Laverty (aka Miss Chocolate), all gay men; and Tracy Phillips, Senior Police Professional Conduct Manager and a member of the Police Rainbow working party for Auckland Pride events, who identifies as heterosexual.
More than 30 people packed the room, hearing evaluation of the 2017 festival, including information about the board’s decision not to allow the Department of Corrections to march in the 2017 parade, also made by Wellington Pride.
Board chair Lexie Matheson, left, said that the decision “was a big wake-up call” for the department, which has since created “a game-changing policy” about transgender people in prison to be released shortly. Rainbow staff have also recently established a staff network, Rainbow Corrections.
Tracy Phillips told the meeting that police have shared Rainbow training policies and processes with Corrections, and Lexie said their involvement in the 2018 parade had not been decided.
The meeting heard that Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) has cut funding for the parade from $100,000 to $45,000. Festival Director Julian Cook has somewhat offset this loss with regional event funding from Auckland Council, and has applied for other funding.
Treasurer Richard James said, in response to a suggestion from the meeting, that after five years the festival brand was at the point where it could consider raising income from some commercial festival events.
The board acknowledged that it needed to improve its reporting to funders and Rainbow communities. It became evident during the meeting that due to personnel changes, the board did not yet have notes from some recent community feedback hui.
There was some discussion of the role of commercial organisations in the parade, with suggestions that only those with Rainbow Tick accreditation or similar commitment to our human rights could take part. Members were told that most of the companies taking part had received the tick, but thought that this was not widely known and should be promoted in the parade.
The board is working with AUT to gather more data about Auckland region Rainbow communities, in the absence of data from Census and Statistics NZ, but this will take time. See the Pride website. Jenny R
Two women have helped steer Hamilton’s annual Pride Festival to encompass more events and a wider range of the Rainbow community
Chair Rhiannon Bond, left, 22, who describes herself as queer, has been supported by co-chair Kyro Selket, below, a lesbian who is a generation older. The festival runs from Friday 8 to Saturday 16 and includes 11 events, two of them organised by groups of lesbians/queer women.
Rhiannon, a former president of UniQ, the queer student group at the University of Waikato, is pleased that the Lesbian Social Group (LSG) is organising a cocktail party on September 9. “It’s hard to meet other queer women – our free dating apps are pitiful!” At the time of writing 80 women had expressed interest on the event Facebook page.
The other event by women is a Trivia Night on Saturday 16, run by the Rainbow Warriors lesbian/queer women’s softball team, and MC’d by Hamie Munroe, co-presenter of Free FM’s Flat Out Pride show.
Team co-manager Leslie Forrest says players have been regulars at former LSG Pride quiz nights, and took it over as a fundraiser for new team uniforms when LSG decided not to run it this year.
“We want to open it up to friends and allies – everyone’s welcome”, says Leslie Forrest. They hope to increase numbers from around 50 to 80 or more at the hard-fought event, with a pride category among many others. Teams are up to six people, and entry is $5 with a cash bar. See the event Facebook page.
Rainbow Warriors welcome any women-loving-women and friends to their practices and games as supporters or players, whether or not they’ve ever thrown a ball. “We are proudly in last place in the women’s senior league, getting better all the time,” says Leslie. They practice on Wednesday evenings and play on Saturday afternoons, both at Resthills Park. See the group Facebook page.
Family Planning (FPA) is also running ‘A night of learning and love’ on Saturday 16, an interactive workshop on healthy relationships, specific to queer people. Rhiannon says “there’s not enough education in schools or adult life about relationships and communication, and some of that is heteronormative,” and has valued previous FPA workshops.
Other events include a Proud Party, a tramp at Mt Pirongia, ten-pin bowling, a family picnic, the screening of Australian docco Gayby Baby, and an alcohol- and drug-free youth disco.
Rhiannon is keen to see more women at mixed events. “I so often go to events and it’s just boys; I want that to change. The only way is for us to get involved and make events for us too.” She invites women to “bring a tribe of your friends.” See Dyke Diary, the Facebook page or the website for details. JR
Up to 2,000 people, including around 400 lesbians and queer women, are expected to visit Queenstown this month for Gay Ski Week QT from Saturday 2 to 9. Around 1,400 are expected to attend the 14 events, including a Queer Quiz, a drag race on the Remarkables skifield, and speed dating.
The event attracted 1,000 people to the town in its first year, “so it’s doubled in six years”, says organiser Sally Whitewoods, right. People attend different parts of the week, with some from Dunedin and Christchurch driving over for weekends and others staying for only part of the week, she says.
The Rocky Horror film night in Arrowtown was booked out in late August and more events will be sold out before the week starts, Sally says. She is most excited about the Propaganda Party, on the last night of the week, a gay event from Auckland featuring DJs Adam Love from Sydney and Jordan Eskra from Auckland.
Sally advertises the week as inclusive, with “something for everyone” rather than separate events for men, women or other groups. “I don’t want boundaries,” she says.
Members of the Spectrum Club, a queer-straight alliance for LGBTQIA+ people and supporters aged 15 to 24 in the Queenstown area, are volunteering on the GSWQT information desk at the airport and other sites.
Sally says Queenstown businesses have become more involved, including in a window display competition. Businesses decorate their windows around two GSWQT posters, and photos of their displays are posted on the GSWQT Facebook page on Monday 4.
GSKQT participants Like the photo they want to win, and the winner is announced on Friday 8, winning $1,000 in Mediaworks advertising. Sally says seven businesses entered the first competition and hopes this year it will be up to 30.
Another event, Gay Ski Week NZ, was run from Australia at the same time of the year for the previous two years, but is no longer happening. See the GSWQT website. JR