The Lady Garden

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Category Archives: human rights

Gathered Together

cross posted

This is a slightly weird day for me. Today, something I’ve been fighting for for years is going to come to pass. The Marriage Equality bill is going to pass its third reading. What will I do tomorrow?

Obviously, the answer to that question, for me and hundreds like me, will be  ‘groan, wince, and think “I really shouldn’t have done that”.’ Tonight is for celebrating, with like-minded individuals.

It’s days like this when I really wish we could all be together. Not that you could fit all the people I’d want to spend this evening with into the same bar, but you understand the sentiment. The closest I will come is Twitter, where I fully expect to see the people I love making sarcastic remarks about ParliamentTV’s hold music.

Out in the meat-space, there are events all over the place. In keeping track of this, I am even more than usually indebted to gaynz for constantly updating this page as things have changed through the week.

Starting with Christchurch, because that’s where I am. There will be afree concert at the Pallet Pavilion from 6pm, featuring Anika Moa. The third reading will be shown.

I will not be there, and given the forecast and the venue, I won’t be the only one. Luckily (and contrary to what was reported in The Press) it’s not the only game in town. A bunch of us will be heading along to join Tony Milne and the Christchurch Campaign for Marriage Equality upstairs at the Pegasus Arms from 7pm for viewing and drinking. It’s always nice to have company when you’re yelling at the television.

Wellington, where they really know how to celebrate some legislation. Legalise Love has a lunchtime picnic planned on Parliament’s lawn from 12-2. Again, the weather is probably going to be a factor there. For the reading itself, the public gallery is full, but there’s now overflow space in the Legislative Council Chamber. On the other hand, Back Benches is also filming that night, right across the road. The official after-party is, of course, at San Francisco Bath-house, and it’s free.

You can also watch the debate and the vote at S&M’s and Ivy.

Auckland. You can watch the debate at Caluzzi, or The Zookeeper’s Son. The latter venue would like you to RSVP. I remain convinced there must be more going on in our northern city. Let’s not keep it a secret. EDIT: Gaynz have added an event at Family, from 9pm. That’s more like it.

The gaynz page also has details of events in Hamilton, Palmerston North, WaihekeIsland and, yes, Blenhiem. Nothing for Dunedin. Yes, it’s cold, but I know y’all have bars down there.

The debate will be on Sky and Freeview, and you can stream it here.

In the midst of all this celebration, I can’t help but spare a thought for the legislation’s opponents. They’ve found themselves a minority in our society that some people feel it’s okay to say mean things about. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. And imagine the strain of maintaining the cognitive dissonance of continuing to believe they were right when all around them, society fails to fall apart.

On the other hand, maybe they’re right, and I’m wrong. Maybe I really will wake up tomorrow gay-married to my cat while fire and brimstone rains from the sky. All the more reason to party hard tonight.


(Always gay-drink gay-responsibly and all that.)


A Reasoned Discussion of Trans* Issues. Please.

A brief summary. Suzanne Moore wrote a column in the New Statesman. In it she made what I’ll unhesitatingly call a “poor decision” to invoke the image of a “Brazillian transexual”. People objected. Instead of apologising, she doubled down, and some of the things she went on to say on Twitter were… really appalling. Abuse went both ways.

Good things came out of it. Stella Duffy wrote a post which generated a lot of useful constructive discussion. She followed it up with what I found a much better one, talking about what she’d learned. There was this response. And I found it good to be reminded that it actually wasn’t all that long ago that I didn’t know what “cis” meant, and I hadn’t heard of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

And then Julie Burchill wrote a piece [trigger warning for stunning transphobia] that would be in stiff competition for “stupidest most offensive thing ever to appear outside of 4chan”, and The Observer decided to publish it. Today they undecided to publish it, and of course this being the internet, it’s vanished without trace.

I think the Burchill piece is actually hugely useful. It’s the very simple answer to the question, “Why are these people so angry?” Why did people react so strongly to the Moore piece? Because it was written against a background where people feel okay saying things like:

To my mind – I have given cool-headed consideration to the matter – a gaggle of transsexuals telling Suzanne Moore how to write looks a lot like how I’d imagine the Black and White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run would look.  That rude and ridic.

We know that everything we have we got for ourselves. We have no family money, no safety net. And we are damned if we are going to be accused of being privileged by a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.

On the other hand, this is going to be the last website to pretend there aren’t jerks in any demographic, including trans* activists. I’m not tone-argumenting, it’s just a fact from years of experience at web moderation that the best results come when people try to express themselves reasonably even when they’re offended, and people try to listen and respond even when they’re angry.

People like Burchill and Bindell and Greer and our own Rosemary McLeod should be challenged on their transphobia. Their attitude that it’s distracting from the “real issues” and their refusal to acknowledge their own privilege is… well, it’s ironic to say the least.

But there are a whole bunch of other people, people like Stella Duffy, who are prepared to listen and to learn. We all had to learn at some stage, and we should offer others the same patience and help we needed.

Girl on the Net put it better, talking about a time when she was Called Out by a transwoman:

But I promise you this: I will never deliberately say hateful, horrible things that ignore my privilege and make life harder for you. I will always try to empathise and – if you correct me – I’ll try to clarify what I’m saying, or apologise if I’m wrong. If you tell me about my mistakes I can correct and clarify. If you call me a hateful psycho bitch-whore, I’ll never fucking learn.


Time to submit!

Submissions on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill close this Friday. So you need to do the submission thing NOW.

Here’s a post about how to make a submission: How to make a Select Committee Submission.

Here’s the call for submissions on Parliament’s website: Make a submission: Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. Very, very handily, if you scroll to the bottom of the Make a Submission page, you will find a button that enables you to make an online submission. So really, you can go ahead and make your submission right now. All you need to do is say something like, “I support the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, and I think it should be passed immediately.”

Please, do make a submission. Here’s what FoTLG Oliver had to say about making a submission on this bill, in his guest post (linked above).

… even if you have nothing to say except, “This is a wonderful bill, and I think it should be passed immediately[1]”, say that. Those submissions are counted, rather than considered, but they are counted, and the only thing every politician agrees on is that numbers are the most important thing there is.

So go on. Click on the link, and make that submission now. Make a submission: Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill

Submission Pun Goes Here

Cross Posted from Public Address

Submissions are now open for Louisa Wall’s Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill. They close on the 26th of October. If you want to make a submission, this page contains all the relevant information, and if you scroll all the way down to the bottom, a button for making an on-line submission. If you’re wondering whether or not you have anything useful to say, I’d recommend reading this post at The Lady Garden.

The bill has gone to the Government Administration select committee. That committee consists of:

Chris Auchinvole – NAT – voted yes at first reading

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi – NAT – voted no

Ruth Dyson – LAB – voted yes

Trevor Mallard – LAB – voted yes

Eric Roy – NAT – voted no

Holly Walker – GRN – voted yes

If, like me, you’re considering submitting in person, that list of names may give you pause. Somehow I don’t think they’re going to let me do it alone with Holly Walker…

Anyway, this is the body of the submission I will be making. (Just the body: check the links for formal formatting boiler-plate, etc.) Supporters of the bill have one almost unfairly huge advantage in making submissions: we can speak about how it will actually affect our lives. Its opponents cannot.

I am bisexual: sexually and romantically attracted to both men and women. Gender is one of the least important partner traits for me, yet currently it defines my options and rights in choosing the form of my relationship. I support this bill partly because it would finally give me equality not just with heterosexual people, but with myself. I would have the same relationship choices with a woman as I would with a man. Currently, I do not.

 My current (male) partner and I chose to formalise our relationship as a civil union. The chief reason for this was that I would not choose marriage when I could not marry a woman. I would not enter a relationship form I would not have the right to replicate with a future partner, should something happen to my current relationship. We are not married because marriage is, as the law currently stands, a discriminatory institution.

I have actually been married. When I was at university, I married my then-boyfriend so that he could have access to a student allowance. That marriage was entirely legal. I fail to see how my loving and committed marriage to a woman would be more damaging to Marriage itself, or anyone else’s marriage, than that marriage for money.

I have two children, one male and one female. Today, no-one would argue that they should have different rights on the basis of their genders. Given the roles of both genetics and environment in determining sexual orientation, there’s a significant chance that at least one of my kids will be gay, lesbian or bisexual. I want my children to have the same rights regardless of their sexual orientation, and that includes the right to marry.

I also want them to have an easier time of growing up than I did. I was a teenager in Timaru in the 1980s. I was closeted, because I firmly believed that if I came out, I would be beaten up. Bisexuals have higher rates of suicide, depression, bullying, drug abuse and poverty than heterosexuals, but also higher rates than gays and lesbians. Bisexual women have higher rates of domestic violence than lesbians or heterosexual women. For us, sexuality-based violence is not a theory. It’s a very real risk we run all the time, simply by being who we are.

This bill is not a silver bullet for homophobic bullying. But it would keep our government from saying to our persecutors, “You’re right, you know. Those people aren’t as good as us Normal People.” Those in favour of legal discrimination may not condone homophobic violence, but I certainly believe they allow it room to thrive. How can we expect teenage bullies to treat LGBT people as equals when our State doesn’t? We need to support our LGBT teens by showing them we believe they’re just as deserving, just as much a part of our society, as anyone else.

Guest Post – How to Make a Select Committee Submission

FotLG Oliver has graciously agreed to write us a post on how – and why – to make a submission to a select committee. 

So, it may be of some minor interest to a few of you that something called the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill has been referred to a select committee of Parliament. That committee, the evocatively named Government Administration Committee, may well ask people to tell them what they think of it. So a couple of the Ladies thought it might be useful if I wrote a little bit on how that works and some tips on doing it well.

The short version is: It is definitely worth your time to make a submission, even if it’s just to say that you approve of the bill. (Or indeed disapprove, though if that’s you, you might be in the wrong place) The committee is likely to get a lot of submission s on this one, so everything you can do to make it easier for them to consider yours is a Good Thing. Make it readable, make it memorable, and keep it focused on the Bill.

The mechanics of making a submission on a bill are fairly straightforward.  You can make a submission through Parliament’s website once the Committee has agreed to receive submissions. As I write this, the select committee page says “submissions not called for”. Don’t worry, that’s just because the Committee needs to formally agree to receive submissions.  In theory, they don’t have to, but that’s not very likely. Use the web form, because it’s free and easier for the committee staff, but attach a nicely formatted document —the text box on the web form produces ugly courier type text.

Once submissions close, they’re all bundled together and sent to the members of the committee, and to the advisors, who will be people from the Ministry of Justice, most likely.  The advisors will read and summarise them for the committee. One very important thing is that submissions become the property of the committee, and are published on Parliament’s website.  After written submissions are all in, the Committee will make arrangements to hearoral evidence. For this one, they’ll probably do at least a couple of sessions out of Wellington, as well as hearing some people by teleconference. Being heard in person can be an extremely daunting experience. The committee knows that, and will bend over backwards to make you feel comfortable. They get you to summarise your submission, and make any extra points, and then they’ll ask questions. If you want to be heard in person, say that in your written submission.

The booklet published by Parliament is the best guide to the details. (Warning: .pdf)

Having read a lot of submissions, I can assure you that the most important thing is to make your submission readable, and the most important part of that is to make it short. The Committee is going to receive an awful lot of submissions, and they’re much more likely to read yours if it is a page.  The officials will read nearly all the submissions, and at least skim over the rest, but if your submission is more than three pages, no one will read it, unless you happen to be the Law Society or similar. I could talk for a long time about the writing, but the best tip I can give you is to get someone to read it and tell you if it makes sense.

The most common mistake I’ve seen in submissions is irrelevance. Keep it focused on the Bill. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk generally about the effects such a measure will have, and stories about despair and suicide are some of the most powerful. It does mean you shouldn’t talk about how people shouldn’t be allowed to get married unless both parties are present; or about how the marriage license form is too difficult to fill in, or how marriage is just an evil plot to encourage breeding and thus hasten the End Times. I’m making up examples, but not exaggerated ones.  Also, don’t be mean about anyone. Committees don’t like it, and I was at a meeting a few weeks ago where a committee decided to expunge someone’s evidence from their record because it was potentially defamatory. Focus on why you think it’s a good idea.

The Committee is made up of humans, and what they will be most concerned about is how a proposal affects actual people. If you have a personal example, use it. If you want to get married but can’t yet, say that. If you had a civil union because you weren’t going to get married unless everyone could, say that. Those very personal stories are good to go and say in person, because the committee will remember them, and often refer to them in the next stages of the debate.  But even if you have nothing to say except, “This is a wonderful bill, and I think it should be passed immediately[1]”, say that. Those submissions are counted, rather than considered, but they are counted, and the only thing every politician agrees on is that numbers are the most important thing there is.

And that’s about all I have to say. It’s worth your time — make a submission. Make it readable, personal, and focused. Participate in your democracy, so that, in the brighter future, when the children ask, you can say, “yes, I was there, and I told them they should make the commencement a month after the Royal assent, so that people had time to get new forms printed”.

[1] “Immediately” in government time means within a year.


Dear Garth George, I Love You

No, seriously. I was getting really sad about the lack of complete garbage being written about marriage equality. I’d even been to NZConservative, and it’s a bit sad when you can’t rely on Lucia to bring the frothing crazy.

But George has saved me. I love our morally-bankrupt moral guardians. And at least he’s honest:

So, again, why set out after same-sex “marriage”? The answer is it is another step in a decades-long campaign to convince everyone that homosexuals and lesbians are no different from the rest of us and deserve all the rights and privileges known to mankind.

That’s pretty clear, right? “Gay and lesbian” people (the existence of bisexuals being obviously far too confusing for Garth) are different from “us”, and NOT deserving of the same rights. Not just different, but lesser.

Garth trots out the tired, stupid old “marriage is totes for having babies” argument, but even that isn’t sufficiently stupid and restrictive for him. Marriage is for people who want to “have children and to bring them up in a traditional family environment.” It’s not entirely clear what that means, but I’m pretty sure it’s “the 1950s”.

Thing is, that’s clearly not what marriage is for. Sort of accidentally, my children have been raised in a two-parent two-child two-cat household where the man goes out to work and the woman stays home and cooks. And we’re not married. Marriage and breeding are obviously two different things that function independently of each other.

I’m also not entirely sure whether Garth thinks I can have kids. Because I’ve had sex with women, and “by their very nature, homosexuals and lesbians cannot reproduce”. I really would like to see Garth asked the question, “Should bisexuals be allowed to get married?” because I suspect he might apoplexy. Having sex with someone of the same gender is a thing you do. Having a child is a thing you do. Neither is a thing you are. Gay people have kids. Straight people have kids using IVF or surrogacy. If this is your best argument, it’s obviously, simply, clearly wrong.

Garth is honest enough to admit that he “doesn’t understand” male homosexuality. It appears there are rather a lot of other things he also doesn’t understand. For instance, “it is disingenuous to complain about rights being taken away when they have never existed in the first place”. You go tell that to Kate Sheppard, Garth. I want to watch.

Also, if you’re quoting stats on civil unions, and you use a bunch of solid, concrete numbers, and then you say “a fair number of which have since been dissolved”, we can work out that you don’t want to tell us what the number is, and therefore it’s probably approximately “buggery fuck all”. (Also, note the comment where Garth is totally taken to school on the stats, it’s a piece of genius.)

Garth, I’d missed you. I’d assumed you’d been tucked away in a little home somewhere, with a blanket tucked over your knees, writing (or cut-and-pasting) furious little columns which your nurse sincerely swore were being published somewhere, honest. I liked to think of you, in a tiny darkened room, watching educational videos to try to understand male homosexuality, and stroking your Services to Journalism.

Turns out you’re still being published. Who knew?

Let Clamour Ring

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?

If you have friends or co-workers or schoolmates who are on the fence or who argue against, try sending them here: if they’ve got an argument I haven’t covered, I want to hear it.

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?