And if a bullet should enter my brain…

It’s been 33 years since Harvey Milk was assassinated.

The first openly gay man elected to public office in California, Milk went on to push through a strong gay rights ordinance and successfully campaigned against the infamous Briggs Initiative, which would have made firing homosexual teachers, and those who support them, mandatory.

The world is a better place because Harvey Milk was in it. He campaigned tirelessly for our right to simply exist in a world that was full of incredible hostility, receiving increasingly violent death threats. He put up with a lot, and fought incredibly hard.

I wasn’t around during that time; Milk was killed six years before I was born, and it would be a further two before we would be legalised here. I don’t remember the Briggs Initiative, or Milk’s campaign. I don’t remember our own Homosexual Law Reform and the Salvation Army’s campaign of hate. I don’t even remember John Banks standing up in the house telling us why he was opposing all human rights because it would mean that the gays would get some too — I had just turned 9 when he did that.

All I have to go off is the film Milk, and the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, upon which the former is based. But they are powerful films, and bring me to tears every time I watch them. Because a lot of what they fought against is still real. I do remember Proposition 8, and I do remember Destiny’s marching, fists in the air, upon parliament to oppose civil unions.

Milk was right: “You’ve got to elect gay people.” Labour and Greens are doing this well, but a look at National and their coalition shows them to be conspicuously absent.

Believe it or not, but there’s an election tomorrow

So go vote. Vote like the wind!

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for — not out of any respect for out electoral laws (which I do actually have respect for) — rather mostly because I can’t actually decide if there’s any party that I support well enough to endorse them publicly.

But I will suggest voting for those parties who have good human rights records, and have explicit policy for the further advancement of those rights, and we all know who those are, don’t we?

If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. (Although, some would say that if you do vote, you can’t complain — because you’re the ones who elected the arseholes).

[Belated] Transgender Day of Remembrance

Sorry this is a day late. I’ve been incredibly busy and haven’t been able to organise a post for International Transgender Day of Remembrance (20th November — it still is in some parts of the world)

I was pointed to this post over on the Empty Closets forum by my friend Aya, which details it better than I ever could (certainly considering my current busy schedule):

[Trigger Warning for discussion of suicide, transphobic violence and murder]

Clicky click.

I’m afraid I’ll have to leave it at that, as I have rather a lot of work to do.

The Fight to be Human

[This post was originally published in Gyro zine, #18, 2011.]

I

n 1986, we were granted legality — we were allowed to exist. In 1993, we were granted the right to exist — to be free from discrimination. In 2004 we were granted legal recognition of our relationships, and in 2005 those relationships were granted the same legal status as straight marriage.

In 2009, killing one of us was now considered murder (before that, it was only manslaughter; a “normal” person would be expected to fly into a homicidal rage when propositioned by a gay man — instead of, you know, politely declining). While we still can’t adopt, legally we have it pretty sweet in New Zealand.

Now, of course, when I say “we”, I mean gays. Bisexuals are still largely thought not to exist, trans* people still have no explicit laws protecting them from discrimination — unless they allow bureaucrats to pigeonhole their bodies into boxes they may not be comfortable with; technically trans* discrimination is illegal, but that’s never been tested in court, and discrimination does happen. The medical community still seem completely incapable of comprehending intersex bodies. And anyone who falls outside of the rigid binaries of sex, gender, and orientation are told they have to conform.

We were promised equality. We were promised freedom. We were promised a country where we could be ourselves; to love whom we want, to love how we want. Yet, we still have to put up with the Paul Henrys and the JTs in the media, the Tau Henares and the Trevor Mallards in our parliament, and the Bob McCroskies and the Larry Baldocks in the lobby groups. We still have to put up with the words we use to identify ourselves being used by straights as insults. We still have to put up with the bullies in our schools, who are driving our young queer people to suicide. We still have to put up with being yelled at or spat on down the street, or being dragged down an alley and beaten. We have to put up with our houses being vandalised and our businesses burned. We still have to put up with being raped to ‘correct’ us, or as punishment for not conforming.

We have a long way to go.

New Zealand should be a country where we are all free to be ourselves; to express ourselves however we see fit. But we’re not. When queer/LGBT issues come up in the media, people have run the gamut from telling me I’m taking things too seriously, to accusing me of trying to create a homosexual new world order where everyone will be forced to have gay sex all the time.

Often, people will ask if I’m “one of them.”

No. I’m one of us.

We are all human, and we all have to share this small mote of dust we call Earth. We all have the right to this thing called life. And we should all be able to demand to live it with the dignity and respect we all deserve.

And on that note…

While we’re on the topic of Human Rights and Elections, I thought I’d draw your attention to LudditeJourno’s article with regards to the parties’ women’s and gender policies, complete with ratings:

New Zealand First has a policy manifesto.  No women’s policy, but women are mentioned six times in the 116 page document. Rating: Negligent.

ACT has no policy on women or gender inequality.   There’s no need, because market forces ensure girls can do anything.

Women’s rights and their place in society, like queer rights, aren’t something that we should have to consider when voting. In the words of Rachel Maddow: “They’re not supposed to be voted on. That’s why they call them ‘rights’.” But, as these parties and politicians show, they’re very much are something we have to vote on. In Aotearoa, we do that by proxy when we give our ticks to parties and politicians that we can trust.

Go read the post. It’s quite well done.

(Hat-tip QoT)