Up Front by Emma Hart

Read Post

Up Front: Making It Better

29 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 Newer→ Last

  • Deborah,

    I'll be slutwalking again this year, in Wellington, and this time with my 13 year old daughter. My other two younger girls will be going to the zoo with their daddy. I said that I would take them slutwalking too when they were old enough to explain it to me themselves. Having said that, if it had turned out to be one of the many days on which their dad was away for work, then I would have just taken them with me. I've taken them along to marriage equality rallies quite happily, because I didn't have a childcare option.

    I think one of the things that I'm taking away from this post is that words do matter, because they can help to create a climate in which change become possible. I think it's important not to get so frantic about words that people fear to speak because they might say something not quite right, but at the same time, we can recognise the powerful impact that words can have. There is a tension between these two ideas, but I think it's one we can manage with a bit of care.

    And not just the words, but being seen to say them. That's why old fashioned protest marches matter. They show that not everyone is happy, that plenty of people want change, that plenty of people support those who want or need change. This is one of the reasons why Typing Activism is useful, and why protest marches are useful.

    Long story short: great post, Emma.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1323 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I too came to my political consciousness during the Muldoon years, seems like there was a march through downtown Dunedin at least every month back then (and twice a week during the '81 tour) - I do miss attending National party campaign meetings in the town hall, one seldom gets a real chance to express one's anger directly to the powers that be any more.

    We brought up our kids in Berkeley, street marches (during the Bush1/Bush2 years) were not unknown - and we took them to many marches, one wants to raise them with your own values after all, creating signs to carry was an important part of the process - we'd talk to the kids and they'd make their own signs - sometimes with confused or somewhat mixed messages and often overly sparkly.

    My kids have marched in the SF Gay freedom parade twice (once with a mostly lesbian pro-choice group, the other with their half siblings with lesbian mums [my wife volunteered me]).

    But one needs to be careful - kiwis are so nice - protest marches are (usually) pretty sedate while in the US there seems to be a seething undercurrent of people who are just so powerless that things are likely to let go - the night they started bombing Baghdad (the first time I think) I found myself on a freeway wondering why people were dancing around a burning highway patrol car (it's full of bullets, run away!"), the night of the Rodney King decision was equally scary - definitely not things to take kids to, and sometimes something best to just walk away from yourself

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2173 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    As much as I think that Out To Dinner sounds like a good idea, I can't help shaking the feeling that it has a strong undercurrent of middle class "Some Of My Best Friends" privilege. Not that I can speak, of course, being as middle class as it's possible to be without reading the property pages. And I also don't think I'm the target demographic, because I'm really struggling to think of any "on the fence" couples that I know ... or all that many same-sex couples, come to think of it, as most of the LGBT people in my social circle seem to be either single or currently in heterosexual relationships.

    It would seem to potentially very useful in a more middle NZ setting (rather than my loose assemblage of urban liberal wastrels) where people are more likely to form firendships through suburban neighbourliness, schools, sports groups and the like. I suppose that's where you're likely to find on-the-fence people, or the sort of people who would like to think of themselves as modern and openminded but don't have much contact with LGBT people. Though as you say, the potential for social awkwardness would be enough for a whole season of Alan Bennett scripts.

    For the moment, my real-life activism might be limited to supporting roles at the likes of SlutWalk, as well as throwing the sort of parties where LGBT, kinky, and poly behaviour are not only allowed but actively encouraged.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Tom Beard,

    where people are more likely to form friendships through suburban neighbourliness, schools, sports groups and the like

    I've often described the school gate as "where you meet people you'd otherwise avoid", and that's how I know the people I had in mind when I heard that "on the fence" phrase. They don't think of themselves as homophobic, they're perfectly "nice", they just don't believe LGBT people have as much personhood as they do themselves. It's nothing personal. They're just better human beings.

    I do miss attending National party campaign meetings in the town hall, one seldom gets a real chance to express one's anger directly to the powers that be any more.

    One year (1990) we found out at the last minute that the Nats were having their conference at my old high school. About a dozen of us shot over there. We had to argue to be allowed to stand on the grounds (the school principal was a member of the Labour Party; we made a phone call) and then we were very nearly outnumbered by cops. Who stood around while we were aggressively verbally abused by young Nats. One of whom responded to my brother's reasonably complex position on nuclear ships with the telling point, "At least I shave, arsehole."

    Which, yes, is another thing to take into account when you're taking children on protests.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Up until '81 the party leaders would barnstorm the country's Town Halls, a hang over from the pre-TV era I guess - in '78 the Dunedin town hall filled up to the gods and yelled at Muldoon for an hour, in '81 just after the tour they instituted tickets, only handed out to the faithful - in that pre-desktop-processing world they consisted of a yellow square of cardboard with a unique number printed on them - I distinctly remember the night before in the Cook, someone had figured out that yellow cardboard would go through a xerox ...... no one at the door had any way to check that the numbers were unique .... our local HART leaders came in disguised as nuns ... there was a lot of shouting, the SIS guy sitting next to me looked so pissed off ....

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2173 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Emma Hart,

    One of whom responded to my brother's reasonably complex position on nuclear ships with the telling point, "At least I shave, arsehole."

    Perhaps he was saying "At least I shave arsehole". Which would give us a very different perspective on the Young Nats.

    More seriously, I started high school in 1981, and I saw the unequal treatment of the two sides of the Tour debate in what was, for a state school, a very conservative and sports-focussed environment. I was formally warned for wearing a HART badge, being told that badges of any kind were against school policy ... but of course, a blind eye was turned to all the "Support the Tour badges" worn by the prefects and other meatheads. Nowadays I'm glad that I can support Hart more openly.

    My parents took me along to all the anti-Tour and anti-bomb marches, but balked at letting me come along to the Lancaster Park protest during the tour itself. They told me that it was because we were about to go overseas and they didn't want me to get a police record. Really, though, I think that they were just protecting me, which makes some sense given what happened and the fact that I was twelve at the time. Dad provided medical help for the protestors, and this was definitely not one of the times when kiwis were nice and sedate: he still won't talk about some of the things he saw.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tom Beard,

    As much as I think that Out To Dinner sounds like a good idea, I can't help shaking the feeling that it has a strong undercurrent of middle class "Some Of My Best Friends" privilege.

    I don't think we should get too hung up on that. If having an LGBT person as a friend -- or just meeting one over dinner and not being struck by lightning -- helps you do the right thing, then that's okay. Clem Simich's support for civil unions was a result of his son being gay -- and it made Ricardo proud of his dad. It's a small thing that was a big thing in the context of that family.

    Not that I can speak, of course, being as middle class as it's possible to be without reading the property pages. And I also don't think I'm the target demographic, because I'm really struggling to think of any "on the fence" couples that I know

    This is a problem. I don't know anyone I'd want to have over for dinner who would need convincing. Otoh, a young gay man I know moved to a regional centre to be with his boyfriend, who's a rugby referee. When the end-of-season refs-and-spouses dinner came around, my friend was invited, and welcomed. When I heard about that small thing it made me very happy.

    ... or all that many same-sex couples, come to think of it, as most of the LGBT people in my social circle seem to be either single or currently in heterosexual relationships.

    Wait till you're older, sonny.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18960 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Wait till you're older, sonny.

    I am older. I just don't (with a few exceptions) tend to stay friends with people once they settle down and move to the suburbs. It's not deliberate (though once conversations start to stray towards property prices and school zones, I'm outta there), it's just that there are fewer opportunities to see them so we drift apart.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1039 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    I think I may be very slightly older than you, Emma, and I find the debates about the word "queer" kind of interesting, in this context.

    It's always been a word used by our community this century, and more neutral than many. Sure, it's been used as a term of abuse - and hey, I'm not comfortable with the word "cunt" myself in any context, due to my history with it - but any word can be abusive with the right intonation. So while I absolutely support people who dislike it as a personal label, I wish there was a little less vehemence from some about how awful it is. It's a very handy umbrella term for those of us who find "GBTLIA..." and its permutations annoyingly cumbersome.

    On the other hand, there are (not trying to be patronising, truly - the self-identified queerest of the queer might want all or some of these things), more mainstream homo/trans/sexuals - who want to get married and have kids and have the picket fence and vote National and who are the same as everyone else except their orientation - who resent the term because of the connotation that homo/trans/sexuality can't be "normal". In that instance, yes, I think being labelled as queer would be incredibly irksome. My view on that is that until we have the same rights as heterosexuals (marriage and adoption being the two biggies in NZ), then no matter how "normal" you think you are, the law (and the section of society it represents) thinks of us as "not-normal", i.e. queer. In the same way some of those "nice" people at the school gate think of us as slightly subhuman.

    Anyway, not rehearsing all that for Emma's benefit - I'm sure it's very redundant - but just some perspective and my 2c for those who aren't too aware of the "identity debates". Time-consuming and annoying as they can be.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 487 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    As for the actual point of the article, is there anything about the Out to Dinner thing that isn't a film clip? If it is what it seems to be, it doesn't have to be a middle-class thing - it could be "out to the pub" or whatever. I spent enough time in the Cossie Club with my mother when I was younger, god help me.

    Not to recycle 80's politics too much, but I think "visbility" is an important thing to get our message out there. Not in the sense of pride parades - although that has a point too - but the fact that we're out and queer and at the same school gates, same pubs, same shops and have the same money and same concerns as hets. Engaging with each other with human beings.

    Also, I vote for bloody getting the gay choir out the front of these happy-clappy or fundy churches who bug me in town on Saturday. Sunday morning at about 11 in front of the church, by preference. We could hand out leaflets on "are you CONCERNED about teenage pregnancy?"

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 487 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    I always liked that Gay Lib badge from the '70s
    - "How dare you assume I'm heterosexual"
    (or words to that effect....)

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5046 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    @Ian - that's a classic one. :-)

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 487 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    As for the actual point of the article, is there anything about the Out to Dinner thing that isn't a film clip? If it is what it seems to be, it doesn't have to be a middle-class thing - it could be "out to the pub" or whatever.

    Linking to a clip of the guy behind it, Zach Wahls, on The Daily Show. I think it's very deliberately aimed at "Middle America", and I don't think there's anything wrong with that - not every action has to be equally applicable to everyone. And like Tracy says, the general idea is easily transferable to a bunch of different settings.

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-april-30-2012/zach-wahls?xrs=share_copy

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    "How dare you assume I'm heterosexual"

    This is one of my specific 'how do we get there's. Watch your language. We do have an utterly conditioned basic assumption that everyone we meet is heterosexual-monogamous-vanilla, and it comes through in our language.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Kris V, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Watch your language. We do have an utterly conditioned basic assumption that everyone we meet is heterosexual-monogamous-vanilla

    Heh... We were discussing the original Ellen DeGeneres show in a UC post-grad media class last year, although I think the lecturer and I were the only ones who were old enough to have watched it on tv when it first screened. Anyways, when I mentioned the change in flavour on the show as it became more & more focused on her/the character's sexuality, my lecturer assumed it was due to my heterosexual viewpoint.
    All I said was 'no, not necessarily'.
    In a class that consisted of myself & 5 early/mid 20's women (the lecturer & I are of similar age), I didn't feel like initiating a discussion about sexuality & non-monogamy with a group of younguns who were still contemplating their first 'real' job after graduation. I just didn't have the mental energy... Maybe one day I'll feel differently, who knows.

    Shakeytown • Since Nov 2008 • 61 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    I always liked that Gay Lib badge from the '70s
    - "How dare you assume I'm heterosexual"
    (or words to that effect....)

    The only time I encountered one of those in use was at a 1977 Wellington gallery opening of a gay-themed show. If memory serves the wording was 'presume'. There have been moments since when I've had a hankering for something similar to fit the occasion, like "How dare you presume I give a shit about the Black Caps".

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3553 posts Report Reply

  • Nat, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    The only time I encountered one of those in use was at a 1977 Wellington gallery opening of a gay-themed show. If memory serves the wording was 'presume'. There have been moments since when I've had a hankering for something similar to fit the occasion, like "How dare you presume I give a shit about the Black Caps".

    Ha! So useful for so many situations - my particular bugbear is people assuming or presuming I am married. Referring to my "husband" or asking for Mrs <partner's surname> on the phone (I say she's not here).

    And Emma said:

    We do have an utterly conditioned basic assumption that everyone we meet is heterosexual-monogamous-vanilla, and it comes through in our language.

    I think it is even more general than this: people who are part of a mainstream majority assume that everyone else is too, whether it is about sexuality, chocolate or football preferences. And one way to discourage this way of thinking (as you do with your writing), is to keep pointing out that this is not true.

    I find it disheartening that most of my gay colleagues past and present have not been out at work, even in environments which I didn't perceive to be homophobic or threatening at all, but they obviously felt to be too risky. They don't talk about their partners, holidays and weekends are referred to in the first person singular. Not that any of us necessarily fully express who we are at work, but this seems like a pretty fundamental prohibition of expression. I would love to see that/help that change.

    On a more heartening note, before she died, I took my 87 year old Gran on a road trip to Western Australia, where she had grown up, and we were staying with a dire relative who was regaling us with his homophobic best. And my Gran gave him what for, on the basis of her acquaintance with one of my gay friends. I cheered her then, and I cheer her now, and I hope that she planted a small seed of doubt in said dire relative's mind.

    Sydney • Since Jun 2011 • 46 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    We do have an utterly conditioned basic assumption that everyone we meet is heterosexual-monogamous-vanilla, and it comes through in our language.

    I think it is even more general than this: people who are part of a mainstream majority assume that everyone else is too, whether it is about sexuality, chocolate or football preferences. And one way to discourage this way of thinking (as you do with your writing), is to keep pointing out that this is not true.

    There's another way in which the problem is more general. As well as our assumptions being constructed such that we assume cis/hetero/vanilla as a default, they also make us think that we can make assumptions based on behaviour, appearance etc. to "guess" someone's orientation. While eg. homosexual erasure is probably a bigger problem in general, being for example a straight man who people think is gay based on dress, voice etc. is a different side to the same problem.

    We need to learn that sexual identity is not something you can ascribe to anyone without their input. The complicating factor is the definition of "input" - for instance a gay man might deliberately dress, act "camp" as a statement of ownership of that particular stereotype, in which case one might be forgiven for taking him at his (implied) word. But I personally try not to, as I have been wrong before.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to James Butler,

    they also make us think that we can make assumptions based on behaviour, appearance etc. to "guess" someone's orientation.

    Cf when a celebrity Comes Out, and even quite liberal people will say, "Yeah, like we didn't know that." (The most recent I can think of is Zachary Quinto.) What they're saying is, "I think I can tell when someone is gay because they look gay, or act gay."

    Yeah. No you can't. Shut up, you're Not Helping.

    On the up side, both my partner and our friend Shaun have had multiple occasions where, because they're referred to their partner as their partner rather than their wife, co-workers have assumed they're in a same-sex relationship. Complicated for Shaun because his partner's name is Teri.

    Also... okay, this is a little awkward for me to talk about. I'm going to try to be unspecific without being incomprehensible. In the last couple of months I've told a number of people, mostly in one-on-one conversations, that I'm now in an Unconventional Relationship. By far the dominant reaction has been not exactly negative, but people have used language they would never use if I was telling them I was in a new vanilla-monogamous relationship. And these are fairly liberal open-minded people. I've found it so demoralising I've actually just stopped telling people. It's good gossip: they'll tell each other.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Emma Hart,

    And these are fairly liberal open-minded people. I've found it so demoralising I've actually just stopped telling people.

    See, I'd just be all "pics or it never happened" on yo ass. ;-)

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2151 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to nzlemming,

    See, I'd just be all "pics or it never happened" on yo ass. ;-)

    You know I call bluffs, right?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I suspected but had no proof.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2151 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Adding as a comment here a post I just made at The Lady Garden:

    It’s not often that your opposition tells you exactly what you should do. Even less often it turns out to be a good idea. But, and I can’t really believe I’m saying this, John Key is right.

    Yesterday he was asked his opinion on marriage equality. Turns out he doesn’t have one. He’s put as much thought and sense of personal ethics into this as he did the Springbok Tour.

    He said he didn’t think there was any “clamour” for gay marriage in New Zealand and it was not on the government’s agenda, NZ Newswire reports.

    Got it? No clamour. If we want marriage equality, we need to make some noise about it. And given how often this issue actually makes an impression in the media in New Zealand, we need to do it NOW.

    Those in favour of same-sex marriage outnumber those opposed nearly two to one. Yet you’d never guess it from the amount of noise we make. This is our chance to make ourselves heard on an issue that, apparently, our Prime Minister has no strong views about. David Shearer and the Greens are in favour. Peter Dunne wouldn’t comment.

    So let’s clamour. Make some noise. Tweet. Facebook. Say you support marriage equality in New Zealand. Use the #clamour hash-tag. Write to Key. Tweet him (@johnkeypm). Go to the marriage equality website and sign up. If you’re in Wellington, Queer the Night is tonight. Go be clamoury there.

    I don’t often get hectory. But this isn’t a lot to ask. If you’re in favour of marriage equality, if you think it matters, say something. How can we expect schoolyard bullies to treat us as equals when our government doesn’t?

    One thing Key has admitted: there are no legitimate arguments against gay marriage. Just a lazy feckless government that doesn’t give a shit. It’s up to us to change their minds. Who else is there?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4369 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Emma you're helping make it better.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2608 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    Picking up on the assumptions thing, it's interesting. I'm currently officially out at this job, but I wasn't at my last. However, I was out about being poly in my last job, and not so much at this one. So yeah, go figure. Not wanting to completely put myself beyond the pale in either situation?

    As for kink, that's on a need-to-know basis, which certainly doesn't include my family. I do go to public parties, though.

    With each of the relevant sub-communities, I'm out about everything, although sometimes cautious about the kink aspect at lesbian-orientated gatherings.

    Interesting the risk heuristics we engage in when there isn't THAT much physical risk.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 487 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.