Casual Pride-day

There has been an outpouring of opposition to Auckland Pride’s decision to ban uniformed Police from the 2019 parade. Which is understandable. Who turns down the opportunity to see men in uniform?

To protect and service.

Specific opposition has come from Pride founder Gresham Bradley, a large number of sponsors (including SkyCity, Westpac, and Vodafone who have all withdrawn support), sentient mid-life crisis Mike Hosking, and…Rupert Everett?

We’ve all had irritating experiences with the police but I think we have to put all of that behind us and move forward.

Thanks for your contribution, Mr Everett. And for all the white privilege.

People will always be unhappy as to who gets to participate in our parades. Drag queens were banned by Free Pride Glasgow because they might make some trans people uncomfortable. MP Louisa Wall has just said that anti-trans groups like Speak Up For Women should be banned.

But someone has to make call as to who is in or out, and the Auckland Pride Board made their call to put the Police in casual gear based on the fact that:

whilst there is goodwill towards the NZ Police, as an institution they do not currently meet the degree of safety and awareness of intersectionality required by our rainbow communities.

Pride’s statement leaves many questions unanswered. For example, what is the required degree of safety and awareness of intersectionality? And just what is intersectionality?

Banning is a final solution. It’s the extreme stick end on the carrot-stick spectrum. If change does not come, then where to next?

The obvious answer there is to ban Police marching as a group, in or out of uniform.

Personally, they’re more welcome out of uniform.

If Pride are in a banning mood, then how about banning everyone who actively oppresses us? Hopefully that means preventing National MPs like Melissa Lee and Alfred Ngaro from taking part in future parades. They marched in 2015, despite both voting against marriage equality.

Those homos don’t deserve equal rights but they do know how to throw a fabulous parade!

Former Minister of Police Judith Collins marched in 2016. She did vote for marriage equality, but she also voted for the failed Marriage (Gender Clarification) Amendment Bill in 2005 that would have seen marriage defined as solely a heterosexual institution. And a recent tweet proves she’s ready to abuse the T part of our acronym to pander to the alt-right base she’s courting.

Consider your invitation to future Prides revoked, Judy.

If the Police are failing us that badly, then why allow Government Ministers to march? They’re the bosses of those in uniform. That would mean no Prime Minister, no Minister of Police, and no Minister of Finance, even though the latter position is currently held by Grant Robertson, a gay man.

If this is starting to sound ludicrous, then that’s the slippery slope that comes with banning anything. Prohibition needs to be defensible, or else it becomes risible.

Like fish in a barrel…

In hindsight, it’s easy to see where Auckland Pride went wrong – starting with a ban, insufficiently explaining their decision, then poorly defending it. They dropped a nuclear bomb, then seemed clueless as to how to deal with the fallout.

The dominant narrative in most media is that Pride’s decision is foolish, and that the Board no longer represents its base, and has been captured by lobby group People Against Prisons Aotearoa (PAPA).

PAPA, once called No Pride in Prisons, was formed to protest at the 2015 Auckland Pride parade, “as a group concerned about the treatment of transgender people in prisons”.

There’s a ‘PAPA, can you hear me?’ joke in here somewhere.

Since then they have developed an ambitious set of goals, from reforming abortion law and decriminatisation of HIV transmission, to abolishing the Police, closing courts, “decolonising” New Zealand, and instituting tikanga Māori. All this is explained in their manifesto – Abolitionist Demands.

While their aims would benefit many members of the LGBTQ acronym, it’s clear from Abolitionist Demands that PAPA is no longer solely LGBTQ-in-prison focused, which they admitted when they announced their name change:

We are not just a queer and trans organisation — we are an organisation that encompasses all groups affected by incarceration.

Like Auckland Pride, PAPA has also insufficiently explained their part in this ban. They were given a good opportunity when their press spokesperson, Emilie Rākete, was asked questions by Gay Express:

Prior to the hui, did any members of PAPA have any close connections to or relationships with, any of the current Pride Board members?

The only time I’ve ever really met any Pride board members is during Pride meetings. I think I met Cissy once when she facilitated a meeting at Rainbow Youth during my time there as Tangata Whenua representative.

That’s not an answer, it’s a sidestep.

I swear, that ‘PAPA, can you hear me?’ gag would be gold if I could just find it.

In that same piece, PAPA rubbishes claims that Pride’s decision was some sort of conspiracy. But you can hardly blame people for being suspicious when they see basic questions about influence not being answered.

One hardly needs statistics to know that there was, and is, systemic abuse by the Police against those of us who are LGBTQ, and of some of us more than others. Māori LGBTQ, for example. One hardly needs statistics because the Commissioner of Police has admitted to racial biases that disadvantage Māori.

My Facebook feed is peppered with evidence of this treatment. One post challenged others to imagine how they might feel if they been profiled, harrassed or abused by the Police, then went to the parade and saw a squadron of uniformed officers, saw a Police car like the one they were tossed into decked out in rainbows. Auckland Pride could have provided better context for their ban by highlighting stories like this.

Fabulous symbol of inclusion or cynical symbol of oppression?

My Facebook feed has also been filled with posts from friends of LGBTQ Police officers. I have read posts that claim that by banning their uniformed identities, Pride has abandoned them. If the Police need to be transformed, aren’t the LGBTQ inside the Police a key driver for change? Wouldn’t more be achieved by pulling them close, rather than placing them in the middle of us airing our dirty laundry?

That’s how I feel when I see issues like this spill into the MSM – that our family secrets are being exposed. We bicker among ourselves, but when it’s confined to gay media it feels safe. When these spats hit the straight media it becomes uncomfortable, especially because there’s nothing they love more than pointing out our divisions. Just like any dirty laundry, it makes for good headlines.

Dirty laundry should be handled in private. And while naked.

Again, more a more compelling narrative from Auckland Pride would have helped beat down some of this beat-up. Instead, Cissy Rock, the Chair of the Pride Board backed up their ban by announcing that:

The 2019 Auckland Pride Parade was always intended to be a place to cultivate our roots in activism and protest.

I use the word “announcing” because this appears to be the first time that intention was communicated.

Pride parades may have started as protests, but most have long had their militancy bleached from them. Auckland Pride is a commercial entity that relies on sponsors. Sponsorship comes with strings.

And sometimes speedos.

Once you start running in a direction that sponsors don’t like, expect them to jerk on those strings, or cut you loose.

Rock continued by noting:

The Pride Parade is … about our Rainbow community coming together to both celebrate and fight for a future where everyone is free from systemic discrimination.

It’s ironic to speak of a community “coming together” while at the same time being responsible for a decision that caused it to pull apart.

I have never been comfortable with phrases like “Rainbow community” and having watched this current battle I finally understand why. The LGBTQ acronym represents not a community so much as a coalition. We are a group people with broadly similar goals who realised a long time ago that working in unison was more productive than working alone.

There’s nothing wrong with that – but a coalition is, by it’s very definition, a political grouping. And politics works on majorities. While tyranny of the majority is stark and cruel, advances cannot be made without some buy-in from those who hold the numbers.

Auckland Pride also works on numbers – it is an elected board answerable to the membership. The Board’s aims are laudable, but like any elected officials they may find themselves victims of their failure to pull voters with them.

And if they truly wanted to “cultivate our roots in activism and protest” then they will have succeeded, because no matter what happens next I get the feeling the 2019 Auckland Pride parade is going to end in a lot of angry shouting.

I will go to my grave working on that ‘PAPA, can you hear me?’ joke…


In ONE MILLION DOMS, DC Sheehan comments about political stuff. Yes, the column’s name is a parody of ONE MILLION MOMS. No, he won’t be at Auckland Pride, mainly because parades of any kind make him think of clowns.

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