He huatau

Pride and police in uniform – Lea Carlson
Pride and police in uniform – Betty Sio
Berlin Dyke March

Pride and police uniforms

The compromise decision by the Auckland Pride Board that Rainbow police were welcome in the Parade but not in uniform has been controversial, resulting in heated debate on social media. The board announcement says it came to the decision after hearing from people at feedback meetings that the uniform “made them feel less safe about participating” in the parade. LNA invited two opinions on the issue.

Lea Carlson, ALBA chairperson

At our November meeting we had an open discussion and the sentiment was that we acknowledge there are ongoing issues with government departments (we know there are bad eggs in all professions, even caring ones like teachers and nurses) who are still imperfect in their treatment of marginalised members of our community, in particular our trans brothers and sisters, Maori and Pasifika.

Alba logoWe took a vote, which was unanimous, to allow uniformed Police to participate in the parade, as we didn’t see how a ban on Police uniforms would improve relationships and the treatment of our minorities.

These issues need to be dealt with in productive ways such as the recent inaugural Joint Government Agency Rainbow Conference, which spent two days with agencies such as Police and Corrections collaborating with our community, including transgender, Maori and Pasifika members, to focus on solutions to address these problems.

On the last day of the conference the news came through of the Pride Boards decision, which disseminated like an icy shower on the warmth and kotahitanga (unity) of the event.

Research supports collaboration not separation as the answer such as Glasser’s work saying that people are far more willing to engage and change when we do things ‘with’ them (restoratively), not ‘to’ them (punitively), ‘for’ them (permissively) or excluding them (neglectfully).

The pedagogy of oppression  is when  those who were bullied can become bullies, abused become abusers, and in this case, those who have been excluded for who they are,  and what they do, (LGBTQI) are now excluding  others (the Police in uniform).  This perpetuates the negative behaviours we want to change, causes division and stops groups working together (mahi tahi) to find solutions.

At the hui in Grey Lynn it was sad  to hear the racism and disrespect expressed from both sides.

I spoke briefly telling the board of the ALBA vote for inclusion of uniformed Police. I also shared my experience as a mother of a Pasifika son who has been victimised by the Police, and that I still believe working ‘with’ these institutions is the best way forward.

The issue here lies with the majority at home on the couch, while community volunteers such as the Pride Board whom we do not wish to vilify, work tirelessly to create these events, often with little gratitude.

The outspoken voices that attended the Pride consultations were heard by the board, which allowed the mandate for this stance.  It’s democracy in action – if we don’t vote or become a member, we can’t really complain. Whatever side of the debate you’re on, let’s be respectful of each other, and stop this tortuous implosion in our diverse community, which is delighting homophobes.

For some of us, our days of fighting for inclusion have eased and we have become comfortable and generally accepted in society. Let’s remember our brothers and sisters who still experience discrimination, and utilise more constructive ways to address these issues, other than making our parade a place of exclusion.

We know what that feels like; some of us still bear the scars.  Let’s fight for change in a mana-enhancing way, not tearing each other apart. He waka eke noa, we’re all in this canoe together.

Peseta Betty Sio, BSW, QSO

I was one of the ones saying there shouldn’t be any police at all, given what they represent and people’s ongoing experiences with the police. In the parade they’re marching as that institution, which for some is oppressive. Violence is an inherent part of policing.

Betty SioThey represent the most direct means by which the state imposes its will on its citizens, as in the Dawn Raids. They are trained and authorised to use force as at Bastion Point. Police violence was implicit in just about every one of those encounters. For me, police represent violence as well as the law.

I remember being in the back of a police wagon with Pacific and Maori young people after arrested for hanging out at the bottom of Queen Street. A couple of cops hassling us and nek minit we were surrounded by cop cars. Knowing our rights didn’t help us. On our way to the cop station we were beaten for not doing as we were told, and at the station, we were beaten for not moving fast enough, for being defiant and for sticking up for each other.  Complaining would have caused further distress.

Some would say – what’s this got to do with being lesbian? Being Samoan is enough to be treated violently by police, to add being a lesbian could be worse.

I know a trans sex worker in South Auckland who was recently dragged by the hair, had their clothes ripped off them recently by the police. There’s no way she wanted to make a complaint cos it would cause her more harm. She has no trust in police process or them enforcing the law equally.

Some of the experiences with police were raised by young people at Pride meetings. I worry for my nieces and nephews out in their cars in the evening, they get stopped all the time. Racial profiling exists. When they challenge police about their rights, the police will hassle them more.

My nephews were pulled up by police at Mission Bay, they had a sober driver. They called me to tell me – I get calls often, cos they know to call me if that happens. This time they were let go, but being pulled up happens all the time. They’ve learnt to shut their mouths and be silent. Getting hassled by the police is normal for Māori and Pacific youth, they expect it.

We teach them to shut their mouths to survive and be able to come home. Always have a sober driver and don’t talk back – the law is always more powerful than you.

The police have done some good work in heterosexual domestic violence, we’ve made great relationships with some police over those issues, but they still haven’t got there. They don’t know how to deal with domestic violence between same-sex couples – they just say it’s a domestic and walk away.

Police talk about us in quite derogatory ways. There’s a long way to go before their oppressive behaviour stops. The police may have done lots of work, but our experiences haven’t change. We don’t want to be confronted with the police in our parade.

The Pride consultation meetings were transparent; police and corrections were there – I went to four of them. PAPA [People Against Prisons Aotearoa, formerly No Pride in Prisons] wasn’t at all those consultations, it was other people speaking. The issues raised were discussed a lot.

Asking the police not to wear their uniforms was the Board finding a way forward, a response to the voices over three months of consultations. The police declined the offer of compromise.

I get asked how many people were at the consultations. Why does it matter? Some talk about majority rules, but I will always be a minority among White people.

White people with privilege who pull out funding and support for Pride are supporting police over people who are in the margins.

Berlin Dyke March

Miriam Saphira was in Berlin in time for their Dyke Pride March on Christopher Street Day. 

Berline Dyke March 2The first CSD LGBTI parade, with lots of truck-based floats, took to the streets in West Berlin on June 30 in 1979 and Dyke Pride Marches began in 2012. They had also been held in New York in the 70s, and since in 1981 in Vancouver.

Dyke Marches are a platform for lesbian visibility, anti-sexist and feminist topics. They are free of commercial advertising and political party banners and floats.

Dyke on Bikes, including a bike group from Hamburg, led the parade of 5,000 women including many lesbian feminist groups and issues. The sole vehicle pumped out women’s music, and was pushed for part of the parade to save petrol.

Berlin Dyke March1Among the placards were ‘Lesbians are the new queer’ with a women’s sign intertwined with a labrys; ‘The lesbians are coming’; ‘Remember the riots’; ‘We have so much clit we don’t need balls’; ‘my wonderful aging programme loves sex’; ‘lesbian against the right’, ‘For my own chosen living space when I am old’; ‘The future is fluid’; and many waving labryses.

The march ended with the Dycyles – Dykes on bicycles.

Berlin Dyke March 3.jpgAlthough the placards represented difficult aspects of discrimination, ill health and housing, it was a very jolly parade. After the closing speeches at the Südblock, the celebrating and discussions continued at three nearby bars.

The Dyke March was very different from the CSD Parade the next day, which included many corporate and political floats, involved a million people and lasted more than six hours in 36° heat.

What I also found exhilarating was the lesbian show at the Schulz Museum. Usually this gay museum is male dominated but this year it had a large lesbian herstory exhibition. It featured early music in podcasts, which visitors could listen to on earphones; film clips from the early lesbian movement; and a range of poets, writers and artists.  I saw work from Claude Cahun (1894-1954) that was new to me, and my friend Käte Weiss who founded a woman’s centre and gallery.

Die_freundin_1928I was sad they did not show a copy of Die Freundin, the first known lesbian magazine in the world (1924), recently found in a box in an attic. Spinnboden, the lesbian archive, had to raise €6,000 euros to buy them. Several other gay groups pitched and they are now archived, with copies at Spinnboden to view. The Charlotte Museum Trust in Auckland also has copies as well as other lesbian magazines in different languages.

We were so lucky to stay in Schöneberg, the old gay district I have been visiting since 1986. We were able to see the tribute to poet Hilda Radusch, who survived incarceration in a concentration camp for being lesbian. Hilda and Käte Weiss are no longer with us but their memory is recorded. It was a poignant time for me.

Photos of the march by Brigitte Dummer.

One thought on “Opinion”

  1. Lesbians have been participating in the parade for years – either marching or on the sidelines cheering. We are women who each year have done this despite the ordinary normalized unsafe ness of being anywhere that men are.Stats show that women’s experience of harassment has not reduced really over the years. Despite this everyday unsafeness which we were born into and live around, doubly so as lesbians – we had a parade that had always been about making us visible and proud. The unsafeness claimed by other groups could well be viewed in this context. Women are now being aggressively chased off one of the few nouns we have left to describe ourselves as adult females. If it is no longer safe to say things like women do not have penises, and no longer safe to acknowledge that identity is never completely separate to biology and the impact of growing influenced by that biology ( we bleed, we get menopausal etc as overt examples) then how safe are we from transgender people? When our basic naming of ourselves and our collective identity is undermined then what more harm could be done? Why do transgender not claim their own identity as transgender and stop making the words and places for women disappear by subverting the term? Well let us start with many being men who bring their misogyny with them to their new identity along with the power and entitlement they grew up with – as current transgender politics has all the hallmarks. Where is all this analysis in lesbianaotearoa? Where is a voice for women and lesbians? Or is it the threat of retribution from trans people that silences us once again.

    Liked by 1 person

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