Our Whiringa-ā-nuku update – all items collected in one handy page!
Express yourself as queer youth
Tertiary scholarship for 2017
Canterbury feminist conference
Nouveau Party in Christchurch
Dunedin’s Alphabet Soup youthworker hui
Rainbow Tick for Otago Polytech?
Q2 Trust launches in Dunedin
Women’s centres struggle for funding
Make a lesbian contribution to the People’s Mental Health Review
On September 20, Trish Bendix, (ex) Editor-in-Chief of monumental lesbian pop culture site AfterEllen, left, delivered an internet bombshell by announcing that the site ‘as we know it will be shutting down’.) Explaining that AfterEllen’s corporate owner Evolve/TotallyHer Media was dismissing the site’s permanent staff to divert funds to its ‘moms and fashion’ properties, Bendix relayed the owner’s intention to keep the site’s archive online updated by freelance writers.
Her sadness and anger evident, Bendix characterised Evolve/TotallyHer as ‘mainly white heterosexual men’ and linked AfterEllen’s fate with the increasing disappearance of lesbian spaces in both the digital and actual world. Bendix’s post was made on her personal account because she had been denied permission to say anything on AfterEllen itself.
The story spread like wildfire through social media and online publications, while AE’s advertisers just as quickly poised themselves to flee the site. Evolve/TH’s response was as swift as it was ill-judged.
Breaking the previous day’s unprecedented silence on AE, General Manager (and indeed heterosexual male) Emrah Kovacoglu slapped up his first post as the new ‘editor’, titling it ‘False Rumour: We Are Not Shutting Down!’
Expressing his desire to ‘set the record straight’ (yes, this is the actual phrase he chose) Kovacoglu gave pretty much the same explanation of matters that Bendix had … but his implicit spin was that Bendix, having failed to steer the ship into profitable waters, was a disgruntled ex-employee with honesty issues.
The post almost certainly upped AE’s hit rate because it generated an avalanche of reader comments, but as most of these commenters expressed their resolve never to return to the site it was a radically short-term gain.
The howl of outrage this post evoked was heightened by the fact that on the self-same day Kovacoglu sent Bendix an angry email in which he fired her, thereby ensuring she would not receive the three weeks’ severance pay she had been promised. That he didn’t foresee the swift appearance of this email on LGBTQNation and Advocate.com lends weight to assertions that AfterEllen’s corporate masters truly don’t understand the site’s audience.
Loved or hated, Bendix is a long-standing, prominent, and widely-respected figure in the online LGBTQ community, and Kovacoglu’s attempt to bite back at her was like bringing a cock-ring to a lesbian flame-thrower fight. Whatever Evolve/HL’s intentions for the site actually are, the attempt to appease readers and advertisers may have in and of itself burnt the venerable old lady down.
Social media chatter certainly indicates that many in the online LGBTQ community do regard this as a case of money-hungry, heterosexual corporatists colonising and destroying a treasured lesbian space, with Trish Bendix being punished for defending her community.
A fundraising campaign to compensate Bendix for lost earnings reached its goal of $US5000 almost in a single day.
Even as articles continue to whirl around the internet debating the myriad causes and repercussions of AfterEllen’s wounded state, one thing is certain; LGBTQ cyber space is shrinking at an alarming rate. Now really would be a good time to donate to whatever favourite site(s) you may have.
The Charlotte Museum’s heritage walk on Saturday October 1 is fully booked, but younger women will enjoy Leane Carlson’s Heritage Festival talk, ‘The Sixties Closet’, on Sunday 2 at 2pm, about having to hide who she loved every day at work in a liberal profession. The museum’s new exhibition, 30 years after Homosexual Law Reform, also opens on Sunday 2.
The only lesbian museum in the southern hemisphere is facing a period of change, as founder Miriam Saphira plans to retire to the Paeroa area later this year. Miriam has managed the accounts, fundraising, event organising and day-to-day co-ordination of the museum with other volunteers, for most of the time since she opened it in 2008. The museum has had only occasional grants for paid staff.
Miriam and other board members Yvonne Johns, Catherine Taylor and new member Jo Crowley, are considering how to secure the museum’s future. As part of this, the board is holding a public community meeting at 1.30pm on Sunday November 6 (note the change of date from the original announcement) to discuss its strategic direction for the next five years.
Miriam plans to continue doing the museum’s accounts, reporting on grants already received and applying for grants from major supporters. This means that everyday management, event organising, and volunteer co-ordination will need to be re-allocated.
“This year we’ve excelled ourselves; we’ve run 19 events,” says Miriam. “It works better for the museum to run several small events aimed at different audiences.”
While a few items are on loan from Miriam, most of the collection of over 300 items belongs to the museum. “Visitors are really, really positive about the experience. Our regular volunteer Sabian has spread the displays out, and put the banners upstairs.”
Miriam has continued to apply for Auckland Council-owned venues, but did not hear back about a recent application for a subsidised council venue near the Mt Albert shops.
This is the last of our profiles of LBT local government candidates; local body voting documents must be returned by noon on Saturday October 8.
See our earlier profiles of Aucklanders Denise Yates, standing for the Waitakere Ranges Local Board, and Jo Holmes for the Waiheke Island Community Board; Wellingtonian Eileen Brown standing for the Capital Coast District Health Board; and Cantabrians Cynthia Roberts, standing for Environment Canterbury, and Rosemary Neave, for the Heathcote Community Board in Christchurch.
Sonya Apa Temata is a nurse with Cook Islands, Tahitian, Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Kahungungu ancestry, who is standing as an independent candidate for the Auckland District Health Board (DHB). The board has up to 11 members, seven publicly elected and up to four appointed by the Minister of Health.
Sonya was born and raised in New Zealand and has identified as a wahine moe wāhine (gay womyn), takatāpui and aka tutu tane (tom boi) since the age of 16. She has helped co-ordinate the Pasifika Pride Float for the last four years, and been on the committee of the NZ AIDS Foundation’s Pasifika Love Life Fono.
Sonya has had 15 years’ experience in district nursing, primary care and hospitals, covering cardio-thoracic surgery and transplantation, emergency department, sexual assault and sexual health in New Zealand, as well as working with indigenous peoples in Alice Springs. She also volunteers for Women’s Refuge, the Friends of Fiji Heart Foundation and Auckland City Mission, and is secretary for the Cook Islands Nurses Association Aotearoa.
She believes that providing holistic and culturally appropriate and competent care is central to the health of the “multi-diverse” Tamaki Makaurau region. She also thinks that more information and better engagement with Rainbow communities are keys to better access to health care.
Sonya told express that her aim is to raise “the voice of all people from marginalised communities. It’s about advocating and supporting the delivery of messages around health policies in a system in which we see a lot of disparity and inequality.” She wants to improve public transport for people trying to access health care or get to hospital services, since cost and lack of transport can be a major barrier.
She is concerned that the health system does not serve transgender people well; at Auckland Sexual Health, she was part of the Trans Initiative Key Pathways with Waitemata Consultation Project.
“It takes us all to raise the health status of our people,” she says, “especially our most vulnerable and high risk.”
See Sonya’s LinkedIn page. JR
Expression, a national multi-media arts competition for people aged 13-19, encourages submissions of films, artwork and writing on LGBTQIA+ themes by October 31.
The competition is run by Wellington-based queer and trans youth organisation InsideOUT, and offers prizes of $500 for winners in each category. Entries are expected to focus on Rainbow themes including positive representations, challenges to hetero norms and LGBTQIA+ issues.
The top films will be screened publicly at the end of the year, the artwork will be exhibited and the writing published, and all winning entries will be uploaded to the InsideOUT website, and announced on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. A diverse InsideOUT team will judge the entries, including on originality, concept and connection to the theme.
Collaborations, work in languages other than English, and multiple submissions are welcome, as long as the work was made in the past two years. Films are limited to seven minutes.
Entries must be submitted using the form on the competition website, and everyone appearing in film entries, or whose music is used, needs to sign a release form.
A scholarship for a full-time tertiary student who has made a difference to the Rainbow community is available for the 2017 academic year.
The $2,500 award is open to any student who has volunteered within the New Zealand Rainbow community in the last 12 months, and intends to continue volunteer work while studying.
Details of conditions, and the application form, are on the Rainbow Youth website.
The third annual University of Canterbury Feminist Society (FemSoc) ‘That’s What She Said’ Feminist Conference in September attracted 30 people to a wide range topics and sessions led by lecturers, post and undergrad students and alumni.
Topics on the first day included motherhood, gender-sensitive course development, women in philosophy, and sexual empowerment. Workshops on social media and Wikipedia editing were popular, with participants enthusiastically brainstorming and writing slogans on the sample memes, left, and posting them on the FemSoc Facebook page.
Wikipedia workshop participants learnt how few women contribute to the site and helped add new information to the article on ‘career woman’ to explore the process of finding and listing secondary sources.
Later topics included spoken poetry, women and technology, female Muslim athletes, female characters in Chinese films, and the relationship concept of the Friendzone. Organiser Kara Kennedy said the spoken poetry with Kyra Gillies, left, who identifies as gender fluid and bi, “was especially powerful and moving, with the audience snapping their fingers in agreement throughout”. See some of Kyra’s work here and listen to her here.
Topics on the second day included human-animal studies, LGBTQ issues, masculinity, and child sex tourism in India and Thailand. Many participants created new Wikipedia user accounts and started editing articles during a second Wikipedia workshop. A panel on reproductive technology was very well-attended, with several questions including on the new push for egg freezing for young women.
Kara says: “The conference closed with a paper about the power of women telling their stories, whether through an oral interview or a blog, which encapsulated the conference theme of ‘raising our voices’.” See tweets using the conference hashtag, #UCFemSoc16 and see the programme on the conference website.
Australian burlesque performer Ruby Slippers is the star entertainment at Nouveau: A black and white party for LBGTIQ* people and friends, organised by Christchurch Pride on Labour weekend.
Ruby won the Miss Burlesque Western Australia competition in 2015 and describes herself as a post-modern queer, a PoMo Homo who “leaves her mark wherever she goes, because glitter is very hard to get rid of”.
There will be prizes for the best-dressed in black and white, and music by DJs Jordan Eskra from Auckland and Knoxette from Christchurch.
The R18 party is at Sixty6 on Peterborough at the Christchurch Casino, 66 Peterborough St, from 9pm on Sunday 23 to 3pm on Monday 24. Tickets are $10 plus booking fee from Dash Tickets or $15 on the door.
The first hui in Otago for South Island youth workers, school counsellors and teachers will be held in November at the Otago Museum.
Hahna Briggs, Queer Support Co-ordinator with the Otago University Students Association, is organising the hui with queer student volunteers, and hopes to attract up to 50 people.
The one-and-a-half-day gathering will include sessions and workshops about takatāpui, running diversity groups, inclusivity in sport, sexuality education guidelines, and supporting parents with gender diverse children.
The gathering will explore ways to create strength-based, inclusive environments for young Rainbow people, and provide learning opportunities for youth workers and teachers. The hui will also provide a networking meeting for established LGBT+ youth groups.
The deadline for registration is 12noon on Thursday October 27. The hui runs from November 19 to 20 at the Otago Museum, 419 Great King St, Dunedin.
The hui is named after a support group for LGBT+ and questioning people aged 12 to 18 in Otago that has been running since 2014. Alphabet Soup meets weekly on a Friday, for social and peer support and activities, and is facilitated by trained university student volunteers.
The rainbow flag has flown in front of Otago Polytechnic from mid-September as lesbian, gay and transgender staff and associates work on the organisation’s application for Rainbow Tick certification, by developing processes that respect and include its Rainbow staff and students. Michael Stevens of Affinity Services in Auckland has run focus groups with staff to develop an action plan. The polytechnic hopes to be the first organisation in the South Island to be certified.
Dunedin Pride has been postponed this October as the area’s queer communities focus on setting up a new trust to run community activities and implement the Dunedin Diversity Strategy.
A meeting on October 4 will elect board members for the new Q2 Trust, which aims to “support queer and questioning (LGBTIQ) people in Otago”. The trust deed was developed after wide community consultation by Hahna Briggs, full-time Queer Support Co-ordinator with the Otago University Students Association, and representatives from University of Otago UniQ, Dunedin Rape Crisis and Southern DHB as well as other LGBTIQ people.
The meeting will appoint the board chair, secretary and treasurer and consider the next steps in implementing the strategy, which was published in 2014. Among other initiatives, the strategy aims to –
- Develop events that celebrate the queer community in Dunedin
- Develop community-wide education resources and training to raise awareness of queer issues and identities
- Get queer representation in all public decision-making processes
- Support schools to develop robust anti-bullying strategies and programmes
- Identify queer-friendly health and support services in Dunedin.
Hahna has had a major role in Dunedin Pride, including applying for funding. “Without a trust I had to apply under my own name, so I had the financial responsibility. Each year has been organised by a slightly different group. Last year there were six of us, supported by UniQ.” Once the trust is organised, it will take on events like Dunedin Pride.
The meeting will be held in the Evison Lounge, on the first floor of OUSA Clubs and Societies at 5.30pm. See the event Facebook page. JR
Christchurch Women’s Centre came within months of closing earlier this year, and they currently have funding only to the end of February 2017. They have had positive responses to fundraising efforts, large and small, but are still struggling in an environment where post-earthquake and rebuild stresses are increasing the need for services to women.
Auckland Women’s Centre, along with many community organisations, has lost significant funding. The Women’s Support Service, a free phone, email and drop-in violence-prevention service, is funded through a government grant which has stopped. Information about the centre, their services and how they support lesbians is available on their website and Givealittle fundraising page.
Many lesbians will have experience of the public mental health system.
Clients, professionals, concerned families and the general public are all invited to tell their stories to the People’s Review of the Mental Health System. It is designed to allow anyone involved with mental health in any capacity in Aotearoa New Zealand to tell their story via a purpose-built website. The intention is to personalise problems within the system, galvanise popular support and force the Government to take notice. Stories will be published anonymously.
The review was launched in September; in the first week, over 150 submissions were received, most of them from people with lived experience of the public mental health system and their families.
Carol, right, pictured with Juliet Leigh, left, Mike Stone, Carol’s partner Claire Gummer, and Lindsay Curnow.
The Auckland lesbian community is feeling the sudden loss of Carol Bartlett, who was a founding member of the collective that published the Tamaki Makaurau Lesbian Newsletter for over 25 years. (TMLN transitioned to this current online, national, news website nearly two years ago.)
Carol was a passionate and strong-minded woman. In 1975, aged 26, Carol moved with her husband and two infant daughters to New Zealand, and decided that she also had an opportunity to start again. So she enrolled at Mt Roskill Grammar for School Certificate and went on to a BA in English and Geography with a Trained Teachers’ Certificate in 1983.
From 1977-1981, she interviewed for Heylen Research then became the South Auckland Field Manager; she also delivered circulars and was involved in Girl Guides. Carol’s teaching career began in 1984 with four years at Epsom Girls’ Grammar, followed by three years at St Cuthbert’s College. There she demonstrated how far she was prepared to go both for her students and others in need, when she accompanied a school group to India to do volunteer work.
She moved to Rutherford High in 1990, where she met her friend Juliet Leigh, who was with her on her last holiday in Canada. “Carol probably clocked up five to six thousand equivalent years of experience with individual students,” says Juliet, “in the classroom and later as a Dean at Henderson High School. An allied passion was teaching those same adolescents how to exult in learning for its own sake, as much as for qualifications.”
“Other issues we shared were the continuing battles for equality and equity, mainly through active involvement in the Post Primary Teacher’s Association. Carol held several PPTA committee positions over the years, including that of chair at both Rutherford and Henderson.”
“In the early 90s, I well remember her on the other end of a bedsheet that advertised our discontent at the prospect of bulk funding of Schools. We had hung it over the Te Atau Motorway Interchange! At Henderson, Carol was on the Board of Trustees as a staff rep for years, advocating for her colleagues.”
“She taught many subjects over the years as she was always ready to help out – Geography, Liberal Studies, Social Studies, Economic Studies . . . But her passion was English. (What better partner than a journalist and editor!)”
“For Carol, clear expression was a mantra; the enjoyment of the written, oral, filmed or even illustrated word an imperative. She didn’t care what kids said behind her back so long as they punctuated and parsed it properly!”
“In April, 2004, at the age of 55 she graduated with a Masters in Educational Administration, with a thesis titled Are you a lesbian Miss? Being Lesbian, A barrier to employment in NZ secondary schools. This gave her extra clout in many of her legendary epic battles on educational issues with other strong personalities … Carol was never one to resile from a good stoush for any cause she deemed worthy.”
“As a passionate worker for equality and equity, she could not help but be a Labour Party member, and she worked hard to help Chris Carter, a former teaching colleague, secure the Te Atatu Parliamentary Seat in 1993, and then again in 1999.”
“She obviously thought she had time to fill in the mid-2000s, as she volunteered for the Refugee and Migrant Service, working closely with a Somali woman and her daughter for over a year. Of course she ensured that the mother was enrolled in an English course!”
“Carol must also hold a New Zealand, if not world record, as the only 65-year-old woman to be concussed in a rugby incident! Even while she was recovering and unable to concentrate for any length, she offered her services to Owairaka Primary school as a reading aide, quickly becoming a favourite with many small people there.”
“I was privileged to share Carol’s last fishing trip, and I can assure you that many outstanding boxes were ticked for her. On our flight home, I was humbled by Carol’s bravery; every small respite she got was indicated with a thumbs up. Even in hospital, hooked up to machines and unable to speak, she wrote: ‘I always wanted to come to Honolulu!’”
Carol was a member of the Auckland lesbian Coffee & Stroll group from the start, enjoying easy walks in different places around Auckland each month, starting and often ending with coffee. It was not unusual to bump in to former students on these walks and observe Carol’s memory and interest in their well-being. Social media messages have noted this, with particular mention of her support for LGBT+ students.
Fishing and photography were very important components of Carol’s leisure time, as was watching sports.
Carol was on her way home from a holiday in Canada with her twin sister and a close friend when she had a heart attack. The plane was diverted to Honolulu, and complications with travel insurance mean there could be a shortfall in meeting health treatment costs. Those who knew and loved her are invited to help cover the bill, via GiveALittle.
Carol is mourned by her partner of over 27 years, Claire Gummer, her sisters, her daughters, their families, and the wider New Zealand lesbian community.
Photo at top by Adel van der Westhuizen, below by Andrea.
Jenny Ryan, owner of Tākaro Trails in Hawkes Bay, spoke with Jenny Rankine about running a successful outdoor travel business.
Jenny Ryan, left, ran a travel agency in Auckland for 14 years during the time that DIY internet travel gradually ate into the sector. “Travel agents are the middle man – you don’t have any control over the outcomes of packages that you sell.”
She sold the agency in 2006, and moved to Hawkes Bay for a gap year doing a Diploma in Recreation and Sport at EIT. “My father was born in the bay and we came here a lot as kids, plus I had friends here. And I couldn’t afford to study full-time in Auckland, but I could rent out my house there and afford to study full-time in Hawkes Bay.”
She loved living in the region, and decided to combine her love of travel and sport by starting a cycle touring company, launching the Tākaro Trails website on Labour Day 2009.
The third year
“I’d been selling a lot of cycle tours in Europe at my agency, and the Central Otago Rail Trail was becoming really popular. Hawkes Bay then had about 60km of off-road cycle trails. We now have over 200km of gorgeous, scenic, often flat cycle trails that criss-cross the regions’ highlights.
“But that turned out to be a double-edged sword; in our second year we had fantastic growth because there was really only us and the Otago Rail Trail, but by the third year there were another four or five regions offering cycle trails, and not enough people to use them all.
“So we got smashed in our third year, mainly by the Hauraki Rail Trail because of its easy access from Auckland. I didn’t know whether the business would come back from that but I got good advice, hung in and now we’re reaping the benefits of all the early work.”
Tākaro Trails now owns 100 bikes, including mountain bikes, and provides them to about 2,000 people a year, mostly on day trips but also on multi-day tours. “We get a lot of women’s groups from New Zealand, like book clubs and reunion groups looking for an easy weekend away.” The business also provides cycling tours for conferences and cruise ship passengers.
Jenny advertised in express early on, and regularly has lesbian and gay couples doing Tākaro tours. She is planning a three-day guided tour for lesbians and gay men, probably early or late in the summer – watch Dyke Diary.
Last year she launched a set of four, six and eight-day luxury tours, staying at Greenhill and Breckenridge Lodges and The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. “It’s becoming popular with Australians and North Americans; it includes about 35km of cycling a day, degustation dinners with matching wines, behind-the-scenes winery tours and private car transfers. We’re lucky because we can offer accommodation across the whole price spectrum.”
It was important to the government that the NZ Cycle Trail attracted new visitors to the country, so Tourism NZ assisted cycle tour businesses around the country. They funded the video on the Tākaro website, which includes lots of expensive aerial shots.
“I always host journalists, I’ve had incredible success from that. One UK journalists wrote an article for the UK Times and three years later I still have people book from the UK because they kept that article.”
“Tourism NZ featured us on the Australian Getaway travel programme; it was a week’s filming for a 20-min segment, and we’ve had a lot of Australian customers from that. Tourism NZ does a great job.”
A seasonal business
Cycle touring is a seasonal business, “but this year we operated right through for the first time, with two people full-time in winter. In summer we have four full-timers and six contractors doing guiding and conference activities.”
“We’ve had mostly female staff, although it varies from season to season. Kerry-Anne, (pictured on the right) has been the other main staff member for the last five years.”
Jenny, who is Pākehā, links her customers with Waimarama Māori Tours and takes cruise ship customers to the Otatara Māori Pa site outside Taradale. “Tākaro means play; I chose a Māori name because I wanted it to be uniquely New Zealand, and I’m mindful that we need to do more. International visitors are very interested in Māori culture. Hawkes Bay Tourism are arranging for me to meet local iwi and discuss future options.”
Jenny is looking ahead: “I said I’d give it 10 years; I’ve done seven and now I’m lining up the ducks with a view to selling the business in three years. So I entered the NZ Tourism Awards this year, and Tākaro Trails was a finalist in the business excellence category for businesses with less than $6m in turnover. To have got this far is really great because they had a lot of entries.”
“It’s quite a difficult process; you have to write a case study of a challenging situation, so I talked about our third year with all the cycle trails opening so quickly. I described where I looked for new markets, spending to get into the Australian market, and working with travel chains around the world. It was a solid week’s work.”
Being out in the industry
Jenny doesn’t like any of the available labels and reluctantly identifies as lesbian: “I’m not not out, but I don’t make a big song and dance about it. Since I’ve been here I’ve been single and happy; I tend to be a bit of a lone wolf.”
She originally met someone “a long time ago and fell in love. We were together for three years and I’ve had another couple of significant relationships, but I’m not actively seeking one.”
“Last summer I worked 164 days straight; it’s pretty intense but there’s a lot of variety and I love the people I’m meeting. I’m there every day in the season. I vary what I do – if I’m tired of reception, I might guide a tour. Some days I might just clean helmets; there’s always something constructive to do. But there isn’t a lot of other time; I jog, walk the dog and see friends.”
We welcome your suggestions of websites, books, films and any other media of interest to lesbians and queer women: send them to LNAotearoa@gmail.com.
Short stories by Gina Cole, Huia, $30
If there was ever any doubt about the tone of Gina Cole’s Black Ice Matter, the opening line in the first story, ‘Tabua’ clears that up straight away: “Serafina lay dying.”
The only time I’d heard Gina read her work was at a South Pacific Association of Commonwealth Literature and languages conference in Wellington some years ago. She read a tongue-in-cheek piece about the odds involved in finding a girlfriend. So the dark tones of this, her debut, were a surprise to me. (If the odds story piqued your interest, it finds its way into another story in this collection.)
It’s clear Gina’s strength lies in the details. She said in a Huia interview: “the hardest thing about writing it was to stop writing it, to let it go. Even now I want to keep amending and editing it.”
Perhaps this explains the confident tone in this first collection of short stories. She’s pored over this manuscript so many times that she’s carved any superfluous words off of it. Thank you, legal training and years spent writing legal briefs and plucking the goodness out of dense legalese.
Gina dazzles you with the swirling details all falling into place and you don’t even realise you’re being dazzled. This works best in the stories with lesbian themes, I think. I don’t have to convince you, gentle readers, that the devil is in the details. In ‘Swim Bike Run’ and ‘0.001’, however, Gina seems to ask, “is it better the devil you know?”
‘Glacier’ (a Swedish man in New Zealand grapples with the sudden loss of his wife) and ‘Till’ (a man falls down a crevasse and makes an unexpected discovery) get my favourite stories votes. It appears nostalgia, inner monologues, sudden loss, and spirituality work for me.
It would be interesting to hear why a Fijian-Scot-Welsh lawyer in Auckland became so obsessed with ice and glaciers while writing the book. I understand one needs a theme to pull a collection together. How did you get to ice? And as this is becoming something of an open letter, from one Fijian to another: why drag out the ole ‘national malaise’ cliché about Fiji? As you’re adept at assuming other people’s voices, I would be intrigued to hear you speak in the voice of one of the men who stand around “leaning on shovels” in the hot sun.
I also wasn’t comfortable with ‘Baby Doll’ assuming the voice of a child working in a Chinese sweatshop. How could I be all right with you assuming other diverse voices but not this one? Maybe it was the pidgin. Maybe I could imagine you having shared or lived experiences similar to the other characters, but this character was a step too far for me. It didn’t sit well at all.
Other than these sore points, I think this is a solid first book. I am glad that Gina decided to go with the political content. I enjoy hearing others say it, and I like writing that this is Gina’s ‘first book’. To me this implies that there will be a second book, and perhaps several more after. I look forward to reading them all.
Disclaimer: I have known Gina Cole for some years now. We don’t see each other often. We did dress up as Prince that one time at a party though. (Gina is on the left.)
Lesbian visibility put on its designer dress/outré tux and strutted its stuff at the 68th Emmy Awards this year. One of the queer women jostling for space on the stage was Jill Soloway, left, creator of Amazon’s Transparent.
Accepting the award for Best Directing for a Comedy Series, Soloway expressed gratitude for being able to make “queer folk, trans folk” heroes, subjects not objects, in Transparent. Thanking the trans community for their “lived lives”, she called for an end to violence towards trans women.
The trans stripe of the Rainbow-hued evening was painted even brighter when Jeffrey Tambor, accepting the award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series, waved off the shut up music to address television creators: “Please give transgender talent a chance. Give them their story… I would be happy to be the last cisgender male to play a transgender female.”
This plea echoed out transwoman Laverne Cox who said as she presented an award: “Give Trans talent a shot. I would not be here today if someone didn’t give me a chance.”
Beyond this pomp, prestige and polemic on prime-time TV, a small, independent web-series had already enacted these hopes, in the process garnering an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series. Written by and brainchild of out transwoman Jen Richards and equally out lesbian Laura Zak, the creative team, actors, and crew of Her Story are almost all LGBTQ folk, telling and inhabiting their own stories. And a damned good story it makes.
The show’s nomination was viewed on all sides as “shocking” and surprising, partly because it is an independent production, but mainly, one suspects, because of by whom, for whom, and about whom it was made. Because the quality of this series definitely makes it award worthy. Directed by Sydney Freehand, produced by Katherine Fisher/Speed of Joy Productions, with cinematography by Bérénice Eveno, Her Story looks great and is exceptionally well paced. Made up of six episodes and with a run time of just under an hour, the show manages to pack in a lot of story without sacrificing the slow unfolding of character and emotion.
The show follows the lives of trans friends Violet (Jen Richards) and Paige (Angelica Ross), each of whom face the possibility of new love. Ross, as well as being drop dead gorgeous, possesses great screen magnetism and the shallow part of my brain initially questioned why Richards, rather than Ross had been given the role of Violet, whose slowly and reluctantly evolving relationship with lesbian Allie (Laura Zak) is central to the show.
However, in a nifty trick of filmmaking and acting, as Violet begins to open up to Allie, and the reasons behind her self-containment are revealed, Richards starts to shine in her own right. The chemistry between Violet and Allie also becomes more and more apparent as the show progresses. (In identifying the Violet-Allie pairing as the main relationship I worry that I’m being discriminatory, given that Paige is dating a man. However an independent, albeit lesbian, source assures me that this is not the case).
Despite the impression I have just created, Her Story is far more than the sum of its love stories. Without wandering too far into preachy territory or interrupting the emotional flow of the narrative, the show starkly, movingly engages with many realities and issues faced by transwomen. One of these issues is the bigotry and exclusion transwomen all too often face from and within the lesbian community. This bigotry is personified in the character of Allie’s friend Lisa (Caroline Whitney-Smith). With her persistent mis-gendering and blatant, active transphobia Lisa comes across like a comic book villain, too awful to be truly believable.
Sadly, compared to some of her real-life online counterparts, Lisa is almost a picture of moderation. Truth is sometimes less credible than fiction. However, for all Lisa’s hideousness, Whitney-Smith creates a sense that there is a history of pain behind her character’s fear and loathing of transwomen, a story yet to be told.
Romance and socio-political issues aside, it is stories told and untold that form the heart of the aptly named Her Story. Allie, left, a cute dyke with great tattoos, is also the show’s seeker and teller of stories. A writer for an LGBTQ publication (an occupation that clearly marks her as heroic) Allie begins the series in a state of ignorance about transwomen’s lives; as she says herself, she doesn’t “know shit about transgender issues”.
But unlike Lisa, her ignorance is open and questioning. Late in the series Allie reads her article on trans women in a voiceover reminiscent of The L Word’s Jenny Schecter, but without eliciting a watcher’s accompanying desire to strangle her. This fictional article includes a line that best sums up the rewards of Her Story as a trans-centric narrative: ‘…our world is less rich without their stories, their laughter, their voices.’
This series makes a great, entertaining job of bringing these voices to the fore and is well worth the watch. Roll on Season Two!
Those of us who have been excited about the openings and operation of women’s bookshops in Aotearoa and saddened about the slow inevitable closing of most of them, will be instantly attracted to this book.
A story from north America, Feminist Bookstore was published earlier this year, focussing on the 1970s to 1990s. It is based on interviews with many women, personal knowledge, and significant resources. Many of us knew about Feminist Bookstore News, for example (some of us read it), which in pre-internet days, was one of the ways we found out about feminist and lesbian book and magazine publications.
What may not otherwise come immediately to mind is the ‘lesbian antiracism’ part of the title and the story. It is clear from the first pages that this is an essential part of the story, and provides challenge, information, nostalgia and energy for the reader.
The author takes us through what it was like operating a feminist business in the wider business and social, that is capitalist, world. She also takes us through challenges between bookstores, and within: women challenging themselves, and each other. And women understanding and enacting their accountability to each other.
Read about the ‘feminist shelf’, the “complex practice of using spatial organization, programming, and reflection to map shelf sections as ways of relating to each other, as feminist love”. Read about the development of feminist vocabularies.
The book is a solid read, not difficult, but it requires attention. There are 190 pages of text plus photos, more than 40 pages of notes, and 20 pages of bibliography. Auckland Libraries hold 2 copies, but it appears not be held in other libraries yet. Two suggestions: suggest your library buys it (that’s how it got on the list for Auckland), and/or, request it by interloan.
Read, enjoy, remember, consider, act.
Thursday 6, 13, 20 and 27 All Talk with Anika Moa and guests, Māori Television, 9.30am or on demand.
Saturday 29 Gay in the Bay Pink Drinks at Kohukohu from 4pm, with optional stay-over and breakfast the next morning. Pink Drinks is a social group for queer people in Northland. Bring a plate of food, drinks, a gold coin donation and bedding for those who want to stay over. RSVP on the website to get the venue, with numbers coming, staying over and breakfasting.
Saturday 1 Charlotte Museum Women’s Walk 2-4pm, from St Kevin’s Arcade to Albert Park, down town and back to Stark’s cafe and bar at the Civic theatre. Along the way, history-making women associated with 17 sites will be celebrated. Free, bookings required: Miriam Saphira, 021 157 3304, firstname.lastname@example.org. Part of Auckland Heritage Festival.
Sunday 2 Dyke Hike Zion Hill/Paharaha valley/Karekare Beach. This hike starts at the beautiful Karekare Beach. The track goes through some mature taraire forest, up and over the hill and down into the Paharaha valley. The track then goes past lagoons and through a very short tunnel which leads us to the beach and back to Karekare. The track is likely to be muddy. Meet at the car park at Karekare beach. About 3-4 hours. Grade: Moderate (boots recommended, short hills, some muddy patches). Email email@example.com, visit www.lesbian.co.nz or the Facebook page.
Sunday 2 The Sixties Closet 2-4pm, a panel discussion about how lesbians tried to hide their sexual orientation from landlords, employers and often family. No-one could be trusted. The loss of job, home, career and threat of incarceration into a mental hospital was very real. Now in a safer environment some lesbians have shared their stories. Free, no booking required. Charlotte Museum, 8 Bentinck St, New Lynn. Part of Auckland Heritage Festival.
Saturday 8 Breast Cancer Foundation’s Pink Star Walk 4pm for 21km, 6.45pm for 5km, Auckland Domain. Wear pink, walk to increase awareness of breast cancer and raise money to support NZ women. Pricing varies for earlybird and by age. Visit the Pink Star Walk webpage.
Sunday 9 Pink Ribbon Ride 9am-3pm, starting at Auckland Netball Centre, 7 Allison Ferguson Dr, St Johns; finishes at Western Springs. Annual ride to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation, usually attracts 500+ bikes. Details on Facebook event page.
Monday 10-Sunday 16 Kiwi Bacon Yellow Bus exhibition 9am-8pm, opening Monday 10, 5-8pm. Ponsonby Central, 136/146 Ponsonby Rd (cnr Richmond Rd), Ponsonby. New paintings by Sam RB.
Saturday 15 aLBa fundraising quiz: ‘Lesbian icons’ Grey Lynn community centre, 7.30pm. $25 per person, $160 for table of 8. Food and drinks (including wine and beer) for sale; raffles. Book direct with aLBa (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact Violet on 021 440 788. Fundraiser for the Auckland Women’s Centre.
Sunday 16 Coffee & Stroll 10am, meeting at Mangiamo Cafe, 378 Beach Rd, Mairangi Bay. 10.30am stroll along the beach and cliff-side flat rocks to neighbouring Murrays Bay.
Thursday 20 The housing crisis for renters: rights & struggles in NZ & USA The housing issue, 6.30-8pm, Lecture Theatre 5, Owen Glen Building, 12 Grafton Rd, University of Auckland. This talk will look at collective efforts to improve experiences of private renting in Aotearoa and the United States. Elinor Chisholm: New Zealand’s history of renter activism, Milo West: lessons from renter activism in the USA. See Facebook event page.
Friday 21-Monday 24 Awaken Christian conference for Christians, pastors, leaders and youth workers who are a part of or work with the LGBTI community. All Saints Church, 284 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby. $39-$89, register with Eventbrite.
Friday 28 Lesbians Voices & Pride – your opportunity to contribute to planning for lesbian women’s events in the Auckland Pride Festival, with Kirsten Sibbit and Julie Swift, members of the Pride Board. 6.30-8pm, Grey Lynn Community Centre, 510 Richmond Rd, contact Violet, email@example.com or visit the Facebook event page.
Sunday 30 Ladies Litera-tea with comic Urzila Carlson and her new book Rolling with the Punchlines, plus 9 other female writers and a lavish afternoon tea. 1-5.30pm, Raye Freeman Arts Centre, Epsom Girls, $65. Organised by the Women’s Bookshop. See website for tickets.
Saturday 22-Monday 24 Glittfab symposium, Hancock Community House, 77-85 King St, Palmerston North. Celebrate significant achievements over recent and not-so-recent years with workshops, presentations, and discussion forums. Social events include MaLGRA ball (Saturday night) and dinner (Sunday night). 1 day pass $20, 3 day pass $50; details and tickets from Eventfinda.
Saturday 22 MaLGRA (Manawatu Lesbian & Gay Rights Association) 39th Annual Ball Distinction Hotel, 175-185 Cuba St, Palmerston North. 7.30pm-1am, a night full of entertainment, socialising and fun. Refreshments available for purchase. Tickets from Eventfinda or from Ice Breakers on Thursday nights: $15 members, $20 non-members.
Anytime Self-guided LGBTTI walking tour of 24 historic rainbow locations around Wellington’s waterfront in one hour, free. Start at the former site of Carmen’s Balcony on the corner of Harris and Victoria Sts, now the City Library, walk through Civic Square, onto the waterfront, down to Bats Theatre and then back to the Michael Fowler Centre via Courtenay Place. Hear short eyewitness accounts at each location with your smart device using the interactive Google Map, or download the mp3 audio before you set off. See the website.
Whiringa-ā-nuku / October
Sunday 2 DANSS classes for LGBT people and friends to learn classical Ballroom, funky Latin American and elegant New Vogue dance moves, upstairs, Thistle Hall, corner of Cuba and Arthur Sts, koha. 7pm, Beginners Rumba. 8pm, Intermediate Quickstep. See the website or the Facebook group page, or email DANSSNZ@outlook.com.
Sunday 9 Wellington Lesbian Overlanders walk the Skyline Walkway. Meet in front of the Wellington Railway Station at 9:50am to catch the 10:02 Johnsonville train. Walkers will decide on the day where to start and finish. Dress for the weather – some of the track is quite exposed. Phone Ellen 027 209 4004. See wellington.lesbian.net.nz/overlanders/index.html
Sunday 9 DANSS classes for LGBT people and friends to learn classical Ballroom, funky Latin American and elegant New Vogue dance moves, upstairs, Thistle Hall, corner of Cuba and Arthur Sts, koha. 7pm, Beginners Jive; 8pm, Intermediate Merilyn. See the website or the Facebook group page, or email DANSSNZ@outlook.com.
Friday 14 Rainbow Drinks 5-7pm, Fringe Bar, 26-32 Allen St, Te Aro. Monthly social event. Contact via Facebook page.
Friday 14 Guerrilla Gay Bar 6-8pm Location announced the day of the event Let’s ‘take over’ (in a fun, silly, inclusive way) a local bar for an extra gay happy hour. Open to all LGBTTQQIAAP folks and friends.
Flashmob style. Wear something green for visibility. Visit the Facebook event page for details.
Sunday 16 DANSS classes for LGBT people and friends to learn classical Ballroom, funky Latin American and elegant New Vogue dance moves, upstairs, Thistle Hall, corner of Cuba and Arthur Sts, koha. 7pm, Beginners revision; 8pm, Intermediate revision. See the website or the Facebook group page, or email DANSSNZ@outlook.com.
Saturday 22 A Rainbow in the Village dance St Peter’s Village Hall, Beach St, Paekakariki. 7pm-12midnight. Celebrate 30 years of Homosexual Law Reform in Aotearoa New Zealand. Dress code: 1980s Fabulous. BYO, R18, for GBTQI and allies. Waged $20, unwaged $10; tickets from Eventfinda (door sales only if not sold out prior), details on Facebook event page.
The Lesbian Connection (TLC) sends a monthly email of events in the area, Nelson and Motueka in particular. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org to go on the mailing list or for more details of any events.
Wednesday 5 Nelson Games night from 5.30pm, Prince Albert Hotel, 113 Nile St, Nelson.
Sunday 9 Nelson walking group LoTL-WoW!! Lesbians on the loose walking outside at weekends! All welcome including your dogs. 10.30am, meeting point to be advised. Please note: If you can’t make the walk feel free to join us 1 hour later for coffee. Contact TLC for details.
Sunday 9 Nelson brunch/lunch 11am, Sinful Coffee, 276a Queen St, Richmond.
Wednesday 12 Nelson Pool@Shark Club from 5.30pm, Shark Club, 132 Bridge St, Nelson.
Wednesday 19 Nelson Games night from 5.30pm, Prince Albert Hotel, 113 Nile St, Nelson.
Wednesday 26 Nelson Pool@Shark Club from 5.30pm, Shark Club, 132 Bridge St, Nelson.
Sunday 30 Motueka brunch/lunch 11am, The Red Beret, 145 High St, Motueka. Contact TLC for details.
Friday 7 Who’s counting? Marilyn Waring movie night fundraiser for Our Children’s Future Hikoi, 7-9pm, WEA Canterbury, 59 Gloucester St, central Christchurch. Celebrate Marilyn Waring’s birthday and her amazing work in helping make New Zealand nuclear free. Koha/donation entry. Visit Facebook event page.
Sunday 23 Nouveau: A black and white party for LBGTIQ* people and friends. 9pm, Sixty6 on Peterborough at the Christchurch Casino, 66 Peterborough St. Tickets $10 plus booking fee from Dash Tickets or $15 on the door. R18, organised by Christchurch Pride. See the Facebook event page and Ruby Slippers’ Facebook page.
Saturday 29 Breast Cancer Foundation’s Pink Star Walk 4pm for 21km, 6.30pm for 5km, North Hagley Park. Wear pink, walk to increase awareness of breast cancer and raise money to support NZ women. Pricing varies for earlybird and by age. Visit the Pink Star Walk webpage.
Tuesday 4 Q² Trust Special General Meeting to invite people onto the committee and elect board members. 5.30pm, Evison Lounge, OUSA Clubs & Societies Centre, 84 Albany St, North Dunedin. This brand new trust has been formed to support LGBTIAQ+ and Questioning people in Otago. Discussion also on Dunedin Diversity Strategy Charter. Email Hahna email@example.com or phone 03 479 5445.
Thursday 27 Deadline for registrations for the Alphabet Soup hui for youthworkers, teachers and school counsellors working with Rainbow youth. Email Hahna on firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 03 479 5445 or see the hui website
Sunday 30 Wild Women Winter Walking at Grahams Bush, a two-hour walk; no dogs. Meet by 10am at the parking area at the end of Hall Rd area. Email email@example.com for details or if you need a lift.
Thursday 6-Sunday 9 Gold Coast Glitter Festival.
Friday 21-November 6 Feast Festival: Adelaide Pride.
Saturday 29–Sunday 13 November Canberra SpringOUT Pride Festival.