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Ihumātao – What Pākehā should *NOT* do

1 October 2019 2 comments

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With some historical and present context, it should become readily apparent to Pakeha that the occupation at Ihumātao is not a free-for-all conflict for any and everyone to become involved in.

First, some important dates:

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1840

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The year in which the Treaty of Waitingi was signed. Article Two of the Treaty was especially important for Maori;

Article Two

Māori version: confirmed and guaranteed the chiefs ‘te tino rangatiratanga’ – the exercise of chieftainship – over their lands, villages and ‘taonga katoa’ – all treasured things. Māori agreed to give the Crown a right to deal with them over land transactions.

English version: confirmed and guaranteed to the chiefs ‘exclusive and undisturbed possession of their lands and estates, forests, fisheries, and other properties’. The Crown sought an exclusive right to deal with Māori over land transactions.

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1863

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Twenty three years after the last signature to the Treaty document had dried, land at  Ihumātao was seized ‘by proclamation’ under the New Zealand Settlements Act. Four hundred hectares of land at Ihumātao was taken by the Colonial Government and transferred to settler families in the area;

“There was an accusation that was levelled against Waikato that there was an imminent plot to attack the settlers of Auckland. It was a fabrication, part of [Governor George] Grey’s dodgy dossier,” says O’Malley. “The accusation was window-dressing for the British Colonial Office, to give the appearance that Grey had no choice but to take troops into the Waikato.”

More than 400 hectares of land at Ihumātao was confiscated by the Crown, as punishment for the community’s allegiance to the King movement, and given to a handful of settler families.

Article two of the Treaty had been well and truly breached. “Exclusive possession of the land” had been “disturbed” as thoroughly as it could be.

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2008

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The Crown recognised Te Kawerau Iwi Tribal Authority with which to undertake settlement negotiations for breach-of-Treaty claims.

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2014

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A Deed of Settlement was signed at Makaurau Marae in Māngere, between the Crown and Te Kawerau ā Maki Iwi Authority.

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2016

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A group of tangata whenua calling themselves SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) establish a presence at Ihumātao Quarry Road.

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Present

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The presence  of SOUL and supporters at Ihumātao had swelled to several thousand people, from all over the country. The congenial attitude of Police, interacting peacefully with protectors/protestors, could be seen as the ‘New Zealand Way’ of doing things. (Subsequently, that good-will took a severe battering when some twit within the Police hierarchy thought it would be a ‘clever idea’ to publicly carry a firearm in the vicinity of the occupation.)

Politically, there have been many voices demanding many forms of ‘action’ or ‘intervention’.

From ACT’s shallow knowledge of history and feeding red-meat to it’s reactionary base;

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Mr Seymour’s references to the occupiers “break[ing] the law and illegally occupy[ing] other people’s private property“; “legitimis[ing] unlawful behaviour by capitulating to an illegal occupation“, and “capitulat[ing] to a ragtag bunch of socialists and prison abolitionists” can only be described as a toxic, noisome, brew of crass ignorance and racism.

There is black irony and unashamed hypocrisy is describing the occupation as “break[ing] the law and illegally occupy[ing] other people’s private property” and “legitimis[ing] unlawful behaviour by capitulating to an illegal occupation” when the land was originally unlawfully seized, illegally occupied, and on-sold to colonial settlers in the first place.

His description of the occupiers as “a ragtag bunch of socialists and prison abolitionists– without once mentioning that they were tangata whenua, was wilfully insulting, with more racism piled on.  David Seymour is without self-awareness or shame with his appalling comments.

Then we heard Simon Bridges criticising Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern making a state visit to Tokelau on Radio NZ;

“She’s put herself in it and where is she? She’s taken herself off for days to Tokelau – 1500 people – well every MP has a street she hasn’t visited that has many more people than that and look, whether it’s the stalling economy, whether it’s Ihumātao, whether it’s a bunch of other issues – the prime minister and government are showing themselves to be a part-time prime minister and government.”

But when asked by Radio NZ’s Corin Dann if she should have attended Ihumātao, his equivocation was cringeworthy and embarrassing;

“No. Because I don’t believe a leader necessarily needs to insert themselves in this. I think that’s – [interuption]

[…] She shouldn’t have got involved.

[…] She got involved. She set a bad precedent.

[…] I would not be intervening in this particular instance, the way the Prime Minister is.”

On Twitter, Russell Brown from the Public Address blog, put it perfectly when he summed up Simon Bridge’s insanely contradictory statements;

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Hone Harawira said it most clearly;

“It would be nice to see the Māori ministers leading here rather than being told what to do by Jacinda. I don’t think she knows what’s going on here. Stay overseas. Leave it to Peeni and the whānau here. Let’s get it done.”

This is especially vital considering that the dispute over Ihumātao appears to be a schism with local Māori. As RNZ’s Te Manu Korihi Editor, Shannon Haunui-Thompson, explained;

This isn’t a Māori versus Fletcher issue – on both sides are members of the same iwi, hapū and whānau.

When the eviction notices were served yesterday, well-respected kaumātua of Te Kawerau a Maki and Te Akitai accompanied police and asked for the occupation to end and for them to leave Ihumātao peacefully. They even performed a karakia.

Ms Haunui-Thompson also rejected that the dispute was “generational”;

“…to say it’s a rangitahi [younger generation] issue is incorrect. There’s definitely a divide though amongst the iwi, amongst the hapu and whanau.”

To make it clear, it was not for the Prime Minister to intervene. Calls for her to visit Ihumātao were misguided. Her presence, at best, would be symbolic. At worst, misconstrued as more pakeha paternalism.

What was appropriate was for Māori MPs to visit; to listen; to facilitate where possible; to carry back to the Government what they had seen and heard. Māori working with Māori.

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“It’s a tense feeling here at Ihumātao as ministers arrive at the whenua.” – Te Aniwa Hurihanganui, Radio NZ, @teaniwahuri

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Simon Bridges then played the “law and order” and “private land rights”, cards. On 30 July, interviewed on  TVNZ’s “Q+A”, Jack Tame asked the current National Party Leader if he “would support police removing the people who are occupying the land at the moment“. Mr Bridges dodged the question;

“Well, it’s pretty simple when it comes to protests. You have an absolute right in this country to legitimate, fair, vociferous protest; you don’t have a right to break the law and get in the way of other people’s lawful activity.”

When asked again, Mr Bridges played the “Dumb Card”;

“Well, I don’t know the ins and outs…”

It was a simple question. It had only two possible answers;

  1. Yes, I would support the police removing protestors.
  2. No, I wouldn’t support police removing protestors.

There is no third option.

Any mature person watching that exchange and listening to Mr Bridges’ response could reasonably infer that (a) Simon Bridges had no idea whatsoever of the issues surrounding Ihumātao or (b) understood the issues perfectly well, but did not have the guts to offer a definitive answer.

Neither option is an edifying position for The Man Who Would Be Prime Minister. If he doesn’t “know the ins and out” perhaps he should do what all new MPs do in Parliament: breathe through his nose.

Barely two weeks later, Simon Bridges was once again pontificating by press release, On 11 August, he demanded that Prime Minister Ardern tell “protestors to go home and let the landowners build houses for Aucklanders“.

So there we have it: Simon Bridges is of the opinion that Jacinda Ardern has the Stalinist power to command  “protestors to go home“.  Who would have thought she wielded such Imperial Roman authority over her subjects. Mr Bridges had best tread cautiously; the Prime Minister could send him packing as well.

The reality is that Mr Bridges can comfortably pontificate  what should or should not be done. Or both. His comments can (and have been) as contradictory as he fancies. He can cause harm; sow discord; rattle nerves. From the relative safety and responsibility-free-zone of  the Opposition, he can say whatever he likes, regardless of consequences.

What is telling is that none of his utterances have been in any way constructive. His chest-thumping machismo no substitute for calmer, cooler heads. We are fortunate that he is nowhere near the “levers of power”.

Contrast Simon Bridges’ incoherence and impotence with that of the solemn mana of the Māori King, Kiingi Tūheitia Potatau Te Wherowhero VII, who on 3 August was welcomed onto Ihumātao with a formal pōwhiri;

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Kiingi Tūheitia offered to mediate between protectors/protestors and the Iwi authority to find a way forward. Kiingitanga spokeswoman, Rukumoana Schaafhausen, said;

“We have to hear all the mana whenua and find a way forward that works for all of them.”

The meeting would not include Fletchers, or the Government, Schaafhausen said. 

And that is the point that has eluded most people: this issue is for mana whenua to discuss and to arrive at a solution. It is not for the pakeha Coalition government to intervene. It is not for the police to force protestors out. And it is most certainly not for self-serving politicians from the Right to exploit this issue for a perverted “law and order” beat-up to win a few votes from ill-informed redneck voters.

This is for Māori to resolve.

As the Māori version of Article Two of te Tiriti states;

“…confirmed and guaranteed the chiefs ‘te tino rangatiratanga’ – the exercise of chieftainship”

At a time when Māori are determined to take firmer control of their own affairs – such as up-lifting and placement of Māori children by Oranga Tamariki – resolving disputes such as Ihumātao can only achieved by those directly involved.

The Crown – represented by the government – can assist. It can mediate. And in the end it can listen.

On 18 September, mana whenua announced that they had negotiated and reached a decision;

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Māori had arrived at a resolution. By Māori, for Māori.

Kiingi Tūheitia explained the position that had been arrived at:

“Mana whenua agree they want their land returned, so they can make decisions about its future.”

Kiingi Tūheitia further expressed mana whenua’s desired outcome:

“Kiingitanga has conveyed the views of mana whenua to the government and urged it to negotiate with Fletchers for the return of Ihumātao to its rightful owners.”

Now is the rightful moment for the Crown, through the Coalition Government, to sit at the table and play it’s rightful part as one of the two Treaty partners.

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References

Encyclopedia of New Zealand – Te Ara: Treaty of Waitangi – Interpretations of the Treaty of Waitangi

Radio NZ: Ihumātao land battle – a timeline

New Zealand Geographic: When worlds collide

NZ Government: Te Kawerau ā Maki – Summary

NZ Government: Te Kawerau ā Maki

NZ Herald: Battle for Ihumātao – How farmland became a flashpoint

Fairfax/Stuff: Police officer sings with protesters at Ihumātao

Fairfax/Stuff: Ihumātao – Police deny carrying firearms at protest after Facebook video outcry

Twitter: David Seymour – Ihumātao – 10:25 PM – July 26, 2019

Twitter: David Seymour – Ihumātao – 11:01 AM – July 27, 2019

Twitter: David Seymour – Ihumātao – 08:12 AM – July 28, 2019

Radio NZ: Ihumātao – Simon Bridges slams PM for timing of Tokelau trip

Radio NZ: Bridges defends ‘part-time PM’ criticism of Ardern

Twitter: Russell Brown – Ihumatao – Simon Bridges – 7:34 AM – July 31, 2019

Radio NZ: Ihumātao – Government ministers welcomed to protest site with powerful powhiri

Radio NZ: Explainer – Why Ihumātao is being occupied by ‘protectors’

Twitter: Te Aniwa Hurihanganui – Ministers arrive at Ihumātao – 12:11 PM, July 27 2019

TVNZ: Q+A – Simon Bridges interviewed by Jack Tame

Victoria University: Research Archive – Breathing Through their Noses – Candidate Selection and Role Adaptation amongst First-Term MPs in the New Zealand Parliament

National: Tell them to go home, Prime Minister (alt.link)

NZ Herald: Kīngitanga flag raised at Ihumātao, to stay until resolution reached

Fairfax/Stuff media: Ihumātao – Māori King invites mana whenua to meet to find a solution

TVNZ: ‘By Māori, for Māori’ – Oranga Tamariki hui reveals Māori want to look after their own

Radio NZ: Mana whenua reach decision on Ihumātao land

Beehive: Government welcomes Kingitanga statement on Ihumātao

The Spinoff: Mana whenua have agreed to keeping the land at Ihumātao. So what comes next?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 September 2019.

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The Abigail Article; Martyn Bradbury’s Article, and My Response

14 September 2019 3 comments

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This blogpost is different to my usual format of reporting on issues…

Since July 1011, I have blogged on a variety of political issues; near always political and/or environmental; mostly highly critical of the previous National Government. Other issues included Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and repression of the Palestinian people; the threat of climate change; human rights here and abroad; the  reaction to globalisation  manifested by the symptom of Trump and Brexit; opposition to the secretly negotiated TPPA; the obscenity of the international arms industry; the utter failure of the neo-liberal experiment as families were forced to live in motels, garages, and cars, and much more.

The hostile, dehumanising culture of WINZ was a problem I took particular interest in, as well as homelessness.

In February 2013, Martyn invited me to contribute to his ‘new’ project, The Daily Blog. It was a honour to participate and I devoted as much time as could be squeezed into a 24 hour period to research, write, correct, research more, format, write, proof-read – post! Always research. Make sure the facts were as correct as could be – though on occassion sharp-eyed readers picked up on a mistake and were not shy in letting me know. (Which I always appreciated.)

My motivating principle, as much as possible, was to highlight a injustice; point out where something had gone wrong, and offer a solution where possible.

The Key-led (later Bill English-led) government offered no shortage of issues to write up. There were even problems with this current government that I felt necessitated criticism.

I rarely took exception to issues and opinions expressed by my fellow Daily Bloggers, even when I thought they were wrong (we don’t all think alike as some collective ‘Hive Mind’ – more on that point in a moment).

At the top of my concerns were always those most vulnerable; the poor; the homeless; ethnic minorities, and others who were slightly different to mainstream white middle-class Aotearoa New Zealand such as the LGBTQI community.

On 5 September, my Daily Blog colleague (and in many ways, a mentor to me) Martyn Bradbury published a blogpost; “Imagine the uproar if any other Political Party self censored the way the Greens just did.

It was a critique on the Green’s decision to remove an article by “long-time Green Party member Jill Abigail“.

I have read the article.

Far from being a “moderate”, “mild”, or “reasonable”, it was a thinly-disguised attack on tran speople – specifically, trans women. Trans men are not mentioned anywhere once in her article. It was another in a line of attacks on trans women.

Ms Abigail tried to sound tolerant and inclusive;

“Transpeople are a vulnerable group that until recently has been excluded from general consideration and now justly claim their right to be treated with equal respect.”

But her subsequent comments revealed her true agenda and negated her previous sentiment;

“I am horrified by what is happening overseas: the shutting down of free speech; the silencing and abuse of academic experts; young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body, thus reinforcing stereotypes; women’s refuges and rape crisis centres no longer safe sanctuaries; lesbians being accused of transphobia if they insist on same-sex relationships; malebodied athletes entering women’s sports and taking the prizes; the very language changing to erase females/women, in the name of ‘inclusiveness’.

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Most serious of all is the medicalisation of children. I recently met a woman who had taken her 11-year-old daughter to a doctor because of a sore throat. The daughter is a tomboy, with short hair. The doctor asked the mother if she wanted the girl to go on puberty blockers. An 11-year-old goes to the doctor with a sore throat and is given a suggestion of puberty blockers?

Gender-critical feminists have allies among some transpeople themselves, who see this ideology as a misogynist, homophobic, men’s rights push. No previous extensions of human rights for new groups have involved taking away the rights of others needing protection. It would be progressive of the Greens to be working for solutions that are fair to everyone, rather than reinforcing the current divide.”

Like saying, “I’m not a racist, but…”

Those three paragraphs are a regurgitation of similar comments made by other so-called “gender critical feminists” (aka “TERFs”) and their over-eager cis male allies.

Let’s scrutinise those three paragraphs.

“I am horrified by what is happening overseas: the shutting down of free speech; the silencing and abuse of academic experts…”

Many of those “academic experts” have columns in mainstream media as well as reported widely via social media. The fact that Ms Abigail’s article has been widely reported; republished; and commented on belies her assertion of being silenced.

Furthermore, there is no automatic right for anyone to be published anywhere, unless engaging in self-publication or self-blogging. The Green Party does not publish opinion pieces by National or ACT supporters and vice versa. The Daily Blog does not publish blogposts from David Farrar or Cameron Slater, and vice versa. Even supporters of a given group cannot expect automatic right of publication.

The Daily Blog itself often declines publication of comments from individuals for various reasons. I publish on TDB at the ‘pleasure’ of Martyn, which he may rescind at any time. That is his prerogative. Anything else is “entitlement”.

The so-called “abuse” Ms Abigail references is often legitimate push-back from trans rights activists; others in the LGBTQI community; cis women; and Inclusive lesbians. It has to be reminded that publishing a controversial  opinion piece (like this one) will attract critical as well as supporting responses. That is the free speech we are continually called upon to speak out for.

young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body, thus reinforcing stereotypes…”

What “young children” is she referring to? What age?

Apply that statement to young people who identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, etc and it becomes an obvious slur attacking Rainbow people. No one is teaching “young children being taught they can be in the ’wrong’ body“. Just as no one is teaching young people to develop same sex attraction.

What “stereotypes are being reinforced”? Is Ms Abigail suggesting that only binary sex and heterosexual orientation is acceptable? Binary heterosexuality would constitute stereotyping.

The statement makes no sense except to conjure up frightening images of “young children” brain-washed by unknown agents of a secret cadre of LGBTQI.

Similar slurs were made against gay men during the horrendous “debate” surrounding the 1986 Homosexual Law  Reform process. Homophobes constantly accused gay men of lurking in toilets and changing rooms, waiting to turn young straight males gay and fearing that gay law reform would facilitate that “corruption”.

It never happened. Civilisation did not collapse. The sacred family unit has not been dismantled.

“lesbians being accused of transphobia if they insist on same-sex relationships…”

That one is more complicated to unpack because no examples are given. What constitutes transphobia? A simple rejection usually doesn’t. A full-on attack on a transgender person would do it. Have any heterosexual cis men been accused of homophobia because they declined an advance from a gay man? A polite decline would hardly constitute homophobia. A vitriolic response attacking gay men would do it.

“malebodied athletes entering women’s sports and taking the prizes”

According to Wikipedia, there are 28 prominent male-to-female trans athletes and 12 female-to-male. (And those numbers are spread over a fortyfive year span.)  Forty trans athletes out of millions of sports people around the world.

If the trans community were planning for world domination in sporting endeavours, they have a long way to go.

“the very language changing to erase females/women, in the name of ‘inclusiveness’ ”

This metaphysical complaint should be seen for what is it: chauvinistic. There is no suggestion of “erasing females/women” any more than the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1986 erased heterosexuality. Lesbianism has not “erased” heterosexual women.

Curiously, the Gender Critical Feminist theory of “erasure” appears to echo the Great Replacement theory espoused by White Identitarians;

The great replacement can generally be understood as two core beliefs. The first is that “western” identity is under siege by massive waves of immigration from non-European/non-white countries, resulting in a replacement of white European individuals via demographics…

When both are analysed side-by-side, the similarities are striking. It is no coincidence that both Erasure and Replacement fears have gain wider traction during the current Trumpian Era when “The Fear of The Other” is heavily influencing US, European, and British political discourse.

US journalist, Katelyn Burns wrote an in-depth analysis of the convergence and close co-operation between Gender Critical feminists and conservative Think Tanks, organisations, anti-abortion activists, and a prominent rightwing host on Fox TV. In Britain, Gender Critical feminists have been supported by media mogul Rupert Murdoch in his tabloids.

So maybe it is not  a coincidence that “Gender Critical Feminists” are (almost always?) white, middle class women. Likewise their cis male allies.

This chauvinism is further demonstrated with comments such as this, by Martyn;

However. As a white heteronormative cis-male, I also believe you can’t force women to accept Trans women into their spaces. Telling women who the must and must not include in the spaces they have fought for seems utterly contrary to respecting feminism.

Which makes certain the assumption that all women think alike on this issue. As mentioned above, and by a reader’s post-article comment, women do not have a single Hive Mind on this subject. There are as many diverse views on this issue as there are with cis men – and bloggers.

At the same time, consider whether any one group in society has the right to define and dictate human and civil rights for another. Think very carefully of the implications.

Does The Majority have the right to define and limit the rights of a minority? If the answer is yes, consider the implications this would have for Maori in a predominantly Pakeha society. Or gays and lesbians (as well as trans) in a predominantly heterosexual society.

Remember that women’s right to vote was determined by men. Now imagine if that vote had failed.

It was only in 1971 that women in Switzerland won the right to vote – after a general referendum by men voting. Twelve years earlier, men had voted against women having the vote.

In apartheid era South Africa, it wasn’t even a Majority holding power and denying a minority equal rights – it was the other way around until 1994.

When one group in society can define and dictate the rights of another, there should be cause for concern. That some Gender Critical Feminists are advocating some form of gender-chauvinism and denying trans women their right to self-identify as such (with some even denying to exist at all), is a giant stride back in time. It would seem to be everything that feminism and the LGBTQI community have struggled to achieve.

Over the last hundred or so years, white heterosexual men have had to share their power with others; women; gays; lesbians; other ethnic groups; etc.

It should not be a surprise that cis women are now called upon to do likewise for their trans-sisters. Radical? No more radical than women’s emancipation and dismantling patriarchal privilege.

That this seems to make some regular commentators on The Daily Blog react negatively is not only disappointing – but disturbing.

In my eight years of blogging I have read many chauvinistic, reactionary comments on the pages of Kiwiblog and Whaleoil. Whilst I shake my head at the wilful ignorance of those right-wingers, I understood that they were railing against the gradual dismantling of their white male privilege.

So it was disheartening to read similar comments – many openly transphobic – from a few TDB regulars.

We resist and condemn the injustice shown to welfare recipients; the working-poor; solo-mothers; Maori, prisoners; the homeless, and others who have been marginalised by the neo-liberal system that treats us as “consumers with spending power” rather than citizens with rights. We understand the innate injustice of an economic theory that treats humans as disposable units.

But when push-comes-to-shove, this current challenge to the predominant status quo is met with scorn, derision, and hateful comments. The response to the transgender issue on The Daily Blog, from some, has been shameful.

In 1986 we decriminalised male homosexuality. Cis hetero men did not “erase” overnight. Toilets and changing rooms are still safe to use. Civilisation  has not collapsed into public debauchery.

New Zealand was not just the first sovereign state where women won the right to vote, in 1999 we were the first country to elect a transgender woman to Parliament.

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In Wairarapa – a rural seat! Not exactly a hotbed of progressive politics pushing for LGBTQI rights.

In 2013, Aotearoa New Zealand gained marriage equality. The “sanctity” of marriage did not end. Heterosexual’s right to marry was not “erased” just because same-sex couples now shared that right.

These are rights that quite rightly we have shared with everyone. No one is denied equality and inclusion because one group feels threatened. “Get over it!” we told the homophobes and the male chauvinists.

For gods sakes, people, no one asked which toilet Georgina Beyer used when she entered Parliament.

Instead, we were damned proud of that achievement.

As a blogger, I will continue to write for those who are marginalised, attacked, scorned, and powerless. I will continue to support Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Trans people to be included in our society and to have the same rights and privileges straight cis people take for granted.

Not because I’m Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Trans, but because I’m bloody minded and I know it’s the right thing to do.

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An injury to one…

… is an injury to all.

(Popular motto of trade unions around the world)

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Postscript

Disclosure: I am a Green Party supporter (if that makes any difference).

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References

Wikipedia:  Transgender people in sports

The Guardian: The ‘white replacement theory’ motivates alt-right killers the world over

Vox: The rise of anti-trans “radical” feminists, explained

Wikipedia: Women’s suffrage in Switzerland

Additional

NZ Herald: Greens members leave after ‘transphobic’ article in magazine

Other Blogposts

Imagine the uproar if any other Political Party self censored the way the Greens just did

Previous related blogposts

Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

Anti-trans activists fudge OIA statement – Report

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 September 2019.

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Tom Scott and Aramoana’s Long Shadow

From Tom Scott’s collection of cartoons, “Life in New Zealand” – his tribute to the Aramoana massacre on 13 November 1990 where a crazed gunman shot and killed thirteen people.

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The next one is a Public Service announcement to explain to “gun rights” enthusiasts what the purpose of weapons is:

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Anti-trans activists fudge OIA statement – Report

23 March 2019 3 comments

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An Official Information Act (OIA) response released to this blogger appears to confirm suspicions that anti-trans-activists mis-represented six cases of trans-women prisoners allegedly involved in violent incidences in Women’s correctional facilities.

The OIA response from the Corrections Department, was first released to persons unknown (see original document, with recipient redacted) in September last year. The recipient asked several questions related to trans-gender women (male-to-female) prisoners held in Women’s prisons:

  • How many trans-identified males are in New Zealand prisons.
  • How many are in for violent crimes, including sexual assault?
  • How many trans-identified males are in women’s prison’s?

The ‘loaded’ language of the questions pointedly referred to “trans-identified males” instead of the more common-usage of “trans-gender women” by the LGBTQI community.

This is a strong indication that the unknown recipient had their own bias on the issue of trans-gender men and women.  The unknown recipient was setting the narrative by not  correctly address trans prisoners in women’s prisons as trans-women.

It may also have created some confusion in the mind of the author of the OIA response;

“As your request focuses on ‘trans-identified males’ in prisons, each of these questions has been interpreted to relate to transgender individuals who may have been assigned female at birth, but identify as male.”

It is apparent, though, that the unknown recipient actually had in mind “assigned male at birth, but [who later] identify as female”.

The Corrections OIA response states;

“Custodial staff are also being provided with training material to develop an understanding of gender diversity, with a focus on the use of correct pronouns and appropriate language.”

Mis-use of  correct pronouns and appropriate gender terms has been prevalent by “gender critical” activists to the point where accurate meaning is obscured and becomes denigrating to trans-people. This appears to be deliberate.

Previous commentators on The Daily Blog and social media have also referred made reference to attacks on women by trans-“men” prisoners;

six attacks on women by trans men in prison

Correction says that over the year there have been six attacks on women prisoners by these trans men who retain their male bodies

six women prisoners have alleged they were attacked by some of the men transferred into the women’s prison

“I have an OIA from NZ Corrections. SIX women were assaulted by male-bodied people (who id as women) in the last 24 months. NO women assaulted a male-bodied person”

One commentator asserted, inaccurately;

“Some men are imprisoned for committing violent crimes against women. If they are trans in prison they may be attacked themselves. Corrections have moved to protect these people by transferring them to women’s prisons.”

– though this was later retracted by the same person, admitting it could not be substantiated.

However, the OIA response from Corrections does not verify the allegations. Corrections has clarified the issue by pointing out;

“… no transgender individual housed at a women’s prison (either identifying as male, or female) has been convicted of sexual offences.”

There has been no reported instance of a ‘Karen White‘-type assault in New Zealand. In the case of British sex-offender, “Karen White”,  Jenny-Anne Bishop, from the UK  transgender rights group Transforum, was highly critical of the way in which White was not correctly assessed, nor that White’s sexual offending against women and children had not been more rigorously considered.

In Britain, Ms Bishop, said;

“The case boards* are a good way of doing things – you can’t say the system is wrong when it goes wrong once. It is almost the exception that proves the rule – you’ve just got to look at what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. No system is perfect. It’s human nature that people will sometimes get it wrong.”

(* A local transgender case board consisting of prison managers and psychologists who decide where to place trans-identifying prisoners – eg; “Karen White” – within three days of incarceration.)

In New Zealand, Corrections has stated that a trans-gender prisoner who has  been convicted of a sexual offence against a person of their own nominated gender would not be placed alongside prisoners of their nominated-gender;

“A transgender prisoner whose detention relates to a serious sexual offence against a person of their nominated gender, or who was released from a prison sentence for such an offence within the last seven years, will not be eligible to apply to the Chief Executive [for placement in accordance with their nominated gender].”

At no point have “gender critical” activists publicised this salient point from the OIA release.

The claim that there have been “six attacks on women by trans men in prison” (ie, trans-women) has also not been fully confirmed by the OIA release.The statement confirms six alleged assaults;

“A total of six prisoner on prisoner assault incidents occurred in women’s prisons from January 2017 to the date of your request, where the prisoner alleged to have committed the assault had a transgender alert.”

There is no clarity provided as to the circumstances of the alleged assaults. No incident reports have been attached with the OIA release. There is no indication what investigations were carried out or what findings, if any, were made.

All we are told is that there were six incidents and the prisoner(s) involved “had a transgender alert“. There are several questions that remain unanswered;

  • How many trans-gender people were involved? One? Six? Is it the same person involved in all six incidences? Or six people in one incident each?
  • Were the alleged assaults made on CIS women, or were trans-prisoners involved in incidences involving each other?
  • And were these incidences cases where the trans-gender person was the instigator, or self-defence against harassment or assault by another person?
  • What was the nature of the assault? A shove; a slap/punch; a life-threatening attack?

The Corrections Dept OIA release breaks down the number of transgender prisoners in women’s facilities’

“Of the 33 transgender prisoners mentioned above, 26 were housed in a men’s prison, and 7 were housed in a women’s prison.”

Interestingly, one of those seven was a trans-man (assigned female at birth, but identifies as male);

“One transgender prisoner in a women’s prison is recorded as identifying as a male.”

There is no indication whether this female-to-male trans-prisoner was involved in any of the six incidents.

It is a struggle to understand how “gender critical” activists can make a case against housing trans-women in Women’s prisons based on such a profound lack of clear evidence.

What is clearly understood is a history of trans-people suffering harrasment, assaults, sexual violation, and worse within prisons in New Zealand and overseas. For “gender critical” activists to now target trans-people as threatening women in “safe places” such as prisons is disturbing.

Prisons are already brutal institutions where ongoing brutalisation takes place on a daily basis. Page 84 of the 2016/17 Corrections Dept Annual Report reveals that in the 2016/17 financial year, there “were almost 1,500 non-serious/no injury assaults (on prisoners and staff)”, twentyfive of which were serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults.

There is no break-down on gender, ethnicity, age, location of facility, etc.

That is not to say that women’s (and men’s) prisons should not be made safer. It is our social responsibility to ensure that people whose lives have been damaged and de-railed (often from a very early age), and then incarcerated by the State,  are not brutalised any further.  It serves no useful purpose to see prisoners eventually released into the community more bitter and violent than when they went in.

Focusing on six transgender prisoners out of a prison population of approximately ten thousand is unhelpful.  Re-victimisation of an already marginalised minority is something that is no longer acceptable in New Zealand.

Whatever point “gender critical” activists have attempted to make with those three loaded OIA questions, and the subsequent mis-representation of the response from Corrections, has been lost in a swirling miasma of irrational transphobia.

They have not helped their case one iota.

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References

Corrections Dept: OIA statement on transgender prisoners – 3.9.2018

Radio NZ: Sex self-identification debate a ‘cesspool of harmful stereotypes’

Snopes: Did a Male Rapist Who Identifies as Female Transfer to a Women’s Jail and Assault Female Inmates?

Transforum

The Guardian: Karen White – how ‘manipulative’ transgender inmate attacked again

Corrections Dept: Annual Report 2016/17(p84)

Previous related blogposts

First they came

Fairfax media and Kiwiblog revise incorrect story denigrating trans-people

Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 March 2019.

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15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

22 March 2019 1 comment

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On a day when our young people succeeded in prodding grownups to take notice of the looming climate change disaster bearing down on us, other “grownups” had more nefarious, murderous thoughts in mind. On a day which should have been positive and filled with idealism and hope, we ended with tragedy and tears.

This was not our first terrorist attack in modern times. Many of us will recall the Wellington Trades Hall bombing in March 1984 and most of us will recall the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour a year later.

A life was lost on each occassion.

On 15 March, 49 unarmed, innocent people – men, women, children – were shot dead by a coward. His political agenda – white nationalism. His means of “persuasion” – a high-powered rifle.

It was a gutless act of terror espousing a corrupt, poisonous ideology.

The handful of fanatics responsible do not represent Aotearoa New Zealand and our espoused values. Not even close. Their minds are as alien and repellent to us as something that crawled out of a primordial swamp.

It is still early days. New Zealanders are still in shock as disbelief is replaced with reality setting in. Then will come the other stages of grief, including anger. Our Prime Minister’s steady, measured voice of calm reassurance has been a godsend. Her resolute rejection of extremism was heartening, almost Churchillian;

“For those of you who are watching at home tonight and questioning how this could have happened here, we, New Zealand, we are not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate, we were not chosen for this violnece because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism, we were chosen for the fact we represent none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it.

And those values, I can assure you, will not and cannot be shaken by this attack. We are a proud nation of more than 200 ethnicities, 160 languages and amongst that diversity we share common values and the one that we place the currency on right now and tonight is our compassion and the support for the community of those directly affected by this tragedy

Secondly, the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology for those who did this … we utterly reject and condemn you.”

After the grief and anger, there will be debate and questioning. Perhaps I am premature, but these are some of the things we, as a nation, will have to confront and address…

1. A Message to the GCSB and NZSIS: where were you?

Why were security services targetting left-wing bloggers like Martyn Bradbury and investigative journalists like Nicky Hager – but white supremacists were “unknown” to them? What do they spend their days and budget on?

Commentator, Matthew Hooton was one if the first to put the question on social media:

@MatthewHootonNZ
I know this is early, but it seems to me the Director-General of Security should at least offer her resignation to the Prime Minister, even if it probably shouldn’t be accepted today. This is a disastrous & inexcusable failure by the intelligence services. 
9:09 PM · Mar 15, 2019
Former member of parliament, Tau Henare, put the same question;
@tauhenare
It was so easy for the Security Forces of NZ to lay camera’s in the Urewera to spy on Maori “terrorists” It was so easy for them to arrest Tame and to send him to prison for having a clapped out Lee Enfield rifel. I’m sorry, but this is NZ. “How did we miss this” the media ask?
8:22 AM · Mar 16, 2019
As events unfolded, Police Commissioner Mike Bush admitted what many were already starting to suspect:

“No agency has had any info about these people. I’ve been in touch with my Australian colleagues who had no information about them either.”

It cannot be for a lack of resources and legislative power.

Since 2002,  successive governments (mostly National) have enacted a string of amendments and new laws. Each law change ramped up surveillance powers of the State’s agencies:

Labour government

Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

National government

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013

Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill (aka Customs and Excise Amendment Act 2014)

National/Labour

Customs and Excise Act 2018 (legislation) (history)

The Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013 – one of the most contentious in recent history – increased the reach of the GCSB to allow monitoring of New Zealand citizens, and other individuals, at home and abroad.

Prime Minister at the time, John Key, justified increased State surveillance by invoking the threat of terrorism;

“In a world of global terrorism where Isis is trying to reach influence into a country like New Zealand, of course on a much lower scale than they do somewhere else, we can best defend ourselves by stopping that before it ever happens.”

During a review of the security agencies in 2016,  Michael Cullen put the case for widening the surveillance powers of the GCSB by invoking emergency scenarios;

“Let us suppose a New Zealander is in imminent danger, in terms of their life overseas. Maybe lost at sea or some other example. Under this legislation as the GCSB feels it has to interpret it, the GCSB’s capacity to trace an individual’s cellphone and to say exactly where it is, cannot be used.

We have no way of finding out where that person is, using that capacity, in order to take immediate and urgent action, in whatever way, to try to protect the safety of that New Zealander.”

The National government got the “green light” and the GCSB Act was duly amended.

And it did not help us one iota.

As for financial resources, both the GCSB and NZSIS enjoyed a considerable increase in funding over a decade:

GCSB:

2008/09: $48,888,000 (up $8,543,000 from 2007/08)

2018/19: $158,029,000

NZSIS:

2008/09: $36,889,000 (up $3,138,000 from 2007/08)

2018/19: $82,843,000

So any suggestion that  State agencies did not have the legislative power or government funding to enable monitoring of extremist groups in this country is not credible and flies in the face of facts.

The threat existed. Just not from ISIS. The State was looking in the wrong direction.

Indeed, surveillance was widespread in Aotearoa New Zealand by State agencies, even going so far as to employ private investigators to spy on Christchurch  property-owners, affected by the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

The spying by Thompson and Clark was illegal, but it indicated a strong willingness by various State agencies to carry out snooping when it suited them. Thompson and Clark spied on political activists, iwi groups, and environmental protestors such as Greenpeace.

The invasive and illegal breach of Nicky Hager and Martyn Bradbury’s privacy by Police is also a matter of public record.

But when it came to keeping a watchful eye on our own, local hate groups, the Police, SIS, and GCSB failed.

They had one job to do and they failed us. They failed 49 innocent people.

Where were you?

2. A Message to Simon Bridges

As the awful horror of the terrorist attack slowly dawned on us, social media was flooded with many messages of support, well-wishes, empathy, as well as disbelief, anger, and horror, our elected representatives added their voices.

One, from current leader of the National Party, Simon Bridges, ‘tweeted’;

Simon Bridges
@simonjbridges

I’m shocked to hear about the incident unfolding in Christchurch. My heart goes out to the families and I stand with the Canterbury community.
2:49 PM – 15 Mar 2019

My response – perhaps overly emotional as the Christchurch terror-attack impacted on me – was not impressed;

fmacskasy
@fmacskasy

Replying to

Simon Bridges
@simonjbridges

Mr Bridges, I have one request of you. DON’T YOU DARE USE THIS TRAGEDY AS SOME PERVERTED LAW & ORDER ELECTION ISSUE NEXT YEAR. Don’t even think about exploiting this for votes. Just. Don’t.
6:29 PM · Mar 15, 2019

Is it a forlorn hope that National’s party strategists, desperate to regain the government benches, would not exploit this tragedy and the deaths of fortynine people? National has exploited the “law and order” issue in the past;

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If, as I suspect, National goes down this road, I hope the vast majority of good New Zealanders responds accordingly.

Does Mr Bridges really want to end his career as the self-serving politician who was willing to exploit the worst terrorist attack in our modern history? I hope that wiser heads in the National Party counsel him against such a grotesque idea.

Don’t do it, Mr Bridges.

3. A Message to my fellow Progressive Comrades
Last year, two alt-right (I call them polite-fascists) Canadian activists visited Aotearoa New Zealand. Their visit generated much soul-searching and debate – especially within progressive circles. There were many bloggers and  left-wing commentators who – whilst opposing Southern and Molyneux’s racist, transphobic, Islamophobic, and sexist beliefs – supported their right to free speech.

I held a different view.

On 29 August last year, I explained why I believed that countenancing the spread of hate-ideology by visiting “activists” was a luxury we could ill-afford;

For many others, free speech was not absolute. Spreading racist, homophobic, sexist, and transphobic vitriol belittled already-marginalised and disempowered people in our society.

For others, their Care Factor was zero. Faced with an empty refrigerator, or sleeping in a garage or car, or choosing whether to pay the power bill or medication for a child with rheumatic fever, was a closer reality for many New Zealanders.

If you were white, male, and straight – you would be right to feel safe from the bigotted chauvinism of two alt-right Polite Fascists .  A White, Male, Straight could countenance violence as a price for “free speech”.

If you were a person of colour, gay, a woman with a career and a baby, or transgender – not so much.  You might feel less inclined to welcome people into our country whose main purpose was to denigrate you; deny you your equality; your inclusivity in society; your very identity.

[…]

For the more rational angels on the side of the Free Speech debate, it was a necessary price to pay for a free society.

Unfortunately, it could be said that ‘price’ was paid mostly by those minorities and women targetted by our Polite Fascist visitors.

Perhaps my background as the son of immigrant parents gave me an insight that other New Zealanders, whose parents were also born here (or immigrated from another Anglo-Saxon country) could not easily appreciate.

I repeated my subtle warning that “free speech” was not free and “unfortunately, it could be said that ‘price’ was paid mostly by those minorities and women targetted by our Polite Fascist visitors“.

As in the United States, many Americans support their Second Amendment “right to bear arms”. At least 5% support gun rights with “no or very few” restrictions”. For those Americans, mass-shootings is the “price” to pay for their Second Amendment rights. Unfortunately, that “price” is paid by others.

Just as the sale of one gun, from one gun shop, somewhere in New Zealand, probably didn’t contribute directly to the mass-shooting in Christchurch. Or the sale of one gun in the US didn’t contribute directly to mass shootings in Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Columbine, etc.

Am I suggesting that Southern and Molyneux were directly responsible for the terror attack in Christchurch. No, not directly.

After all, their voices were only two, of many.

But really, what did people think  was the purpose of Southern and Molyneux  to visit Aotearoa New Zealand? To engage in rational debate with progressives over a cup of Earl Grey and gingernut? To do the Tourist Thing and take ‘selfies’ on the Fox Glacier?

What did we think their purpose was to visit Aotearoa New Zealand?

Let me answer that. They were not here to debate. They are past debate.

They were here to (a) encourage new recruits amongst the disaffected and (b) re-energise existing far-right and alt-right groups.

It took barely six months after I wrote my rebuttal to permitting the Polite Fascists to visit. They came, nevertheless. They made their public speeches. (There was no debate.) And they left, to continue their ‘mission’ to spread their poison somewhere else, to eager listeners with anger and hate in their minds.

So we had our free speech. Only, it wasn’t “free”. There was a cost attached.

The price for their free speech has been paid-in-full. By the gods, we paid dearly.

Or at least, people of colour; of another religion; another ethnicity, paid. Those earnest, white, Free Speech Advocates who called for free speech – they didn’t have to pay the price.

The alleged shooter reportedly approached a white male by-stander outside one of the Mosques and spared his life. Because the person was white. Fortynine others were not so lucky. Wrong skin colour.

I hope that Aotearoa New Zealand’s naive notions of free speech for visiting far right extremists has come to an end.  Extremists have no natural, “god-given” right to enter our country. That “right” has never existed and was an indulgence we mistakenly encouraged.

The price to pay is too high.

15 March was a day when thousands of  young people took to the streets to demand action on worsening climate change; which would impact on them and steal their futures. Meanwhile another “grownup” was committing cold-blooded murder. On a day which should have been positive and filled with youthful  idealism and hope…

… it ended in tragedy and tears and grief that would break our hearts.

15 March 2019 – it was the best of days, it was the worst of days.

15 March 2019. Our Day of Infamy.

#Love

#Christchurch

#ThisIsNotWhoWeAre

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References

Radio NZ: Christchurch mosque shootings – ‘This can only be described as a terrorist attack’ – PM Jacinda Ardern

Twitter: Matthew HootonMatthew Hooton

Twitter: Tau HenareTau Henare

Maori TV: Christchurch shootings – Man charged with murder

Fairfax/Stuff media: New GCSB bill allows spying on Kiwis

Radio NZ: Focus on Politics – 11 March 2016  (alt. link)

Budget 2008/09: Vote Communications Security and Intelligence

Budget 2008/09: Vote Security Intelligence

Budget 2018/19: Vote Communications Security and Intelligence

Budget 2018/19: Vote Security Intelligence

Radio NZ: Thompson and Clark spied on earthquake victims, inquiry finds

Radio NZ: Private investigators used vehicle register to spy on environmentalists for years

Twitter: Simon Bridges – 15.3.2019 2.49PM

Twitter: Frank Macskasy – 15.3.19 6.29PM

Southern Poverty Law Centre: Stefan Molyneux

Fairfax media: Southern and Molyneux good test for our free speech tolerance video

Mediaworks/Newshub: Jacinda Ardern ‘simply can’t’ be both a mum and Prime Minister – Stefan Molyneux

Fairfax media: Oscar Kightley – This free speech victory tastes a little strange

Reuters: Gun control support fades three months after Florida massacre – Reuters/Ipsos poll

Previous related blogposts

Audrey Young, Two Bains, old cars, and… cocoa?!?!

National Party president complains of covert filming – oh the rich irony!

An Open Message to the GCSB, SIS, NSA, and Uncle Tom Cobbly

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland

One Dunedinite’s response to the passing of the GCSB Bill

The GCSB Act – Tracy Watkins gets it right

The GCSB Act – some history

The GCSB – when plain english simply won’t do

The GCSB law – vague or crystal clear?

The Mendacities of Mr Key #1: The GCSB Bill

Campbell Live on the GCSB – latest revelations – TV3 – 20 May 2014

The real reason for the GCSB Bill

Letter to the Editor: John Campbell expose on Key and GCSB

A letter to the Dominion Post on the GCSB

Big Bro’ is Watching You!

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

Dear Michael Cullen: the GCSB is not International Rescue!

“Free speech” – The Rules according to the Right

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 March 2019.

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Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

5 March 2019 1 comment

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apartheid

noun

1. (in the Republic of South Africa) a rigid former policy of segregating and economically and politically oppressing the non-white population.
2. any system or practice that separates people according to color, ethnicity, caste, etc.

Dictionary.com

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Imagine having to apply a State body to confirm who and how you identify. Imagine if you are a Pakeha or Maori; CIS male or female; or a gay, lesbian, or bisexual,  having to acquire evidence from multiple medical specialists and compile a file to support your identity.

Imagine if you, reading this blog, had to rely on that Court’s decision as to how you would be identified by society.

Imagine, for example, if the identities of fellow bloggers Willie Jackson’s as a male Maori; David Farrar as a male Pakeha; Martyn Bradbury as a male Pakeha; Susan St John as a female Pakeha, former blogger Marama Davidson as a female Maori – were all determined by a Court of law.

Imagine if the required paperwork to present your application to the Court involved corroborating documentation from various professionals.

Imagine that the process was not free, but costs thousands of dollars. Imagine if you could not afford the cost, you could not apply to the Court: it was dependent on your ability to pay.

Imagine that the final decision then rests with a Court and a solitary judge (usually an old white male).

Imagine that your application could be knocked back; denied on a number of grounds.

Imagine that without approval from the Court, you could not identify as the gender, race, etc, that you felt yourself to be.

No need to imagine.

It exists.

There is a class of New Zealanders for whom all of the above is a reality: dictated by law.

But not for everyone. For the majority of us, there is no legal requirement for us to undergo a process to define who we are.

If you are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, you are who you are. The State plays no role in determining who you are or how your identify (for gay and bisexual men, since 1986).

You are a free citizen.

But the same does not apply for 100% of New Zealanders. We have a two-class system operating in this country.

If you accept the broad definition above, it may be surprising to discover we have an invisible  form of apartheid operating in this country.

The following is ‘Andrea’s’* story and how our own apartheid system has impacted on her.

Andrea is in her late 50s/early 60s. She is a university-educated professional, highly respected and successful in her field. Her research papers are required reading and has been referenced overseas by others working in her area of endeavour.

She is smart, observant, highly capable, articulate, and with a strong, supportive, close circle of  friends, loyal work colleagues, and loving family. She has two sons who adore her and are not shy or short of offering plenty of hugs, and an ex-partner with whom she maintains tight bonds of friendship and mutual support.

Andrea is also a trans-woman.

Andrea’s journey to transition to the gender she identifies with – female – did not begin in 2002, when she undertook gender-reassignment surgery here in New Zealand.

Andrea’s journey did not begin in 1999 when she came out to her work colleagues.

Andrea’s journey did not begin a year earlier, when she confronted her own true self and disclosed to her then-wife, Sharon*, that she identified as a woman and not as the male’s body she had been born into. It ended their marriage (which had already been under considerable pressure because of Andrea’s hidden gender dysphoria) – but in turn her disclosure to Sharon created a much stronger bond of trust and friendship.

Andrea’s journey began when she was three years old, when she “didn’t feel right” as a boy, and wanted to be a girl.

Her journey was not a simple one. But she says the surgical intervention she went through seventeen years ago was the least of her considerable challenges.

The surgery itself was reasonably straight forward,” she says.

The real challenges were the legal, procedural, and regulatory barriers she had to face.

To achieve a diagnosis for gender dysphoria and gain access to the female hormone oestrogen she first had to be assessed by a psychologist. That assessment consisted of ten, one hour long, sessions. It was a financial cost she had to bear.

Her next step was another specialist, an endocrinologist. That assessment was paid through her local DHB. This allowed Andrea to be prescribed androgen-blockers as well as critically-needed oestrogen.

She underwent electrolysis for unwanted facial hair. This process would be required for the following fifteen years. Cost, around $25,000, paid by Andrea.

Then came the major event that would transform her forever: genital reassignment surgery by New Zealand’s sole plastic surgeon qualified in this particular field. Cost, around $27,000,  again paid by Andrea.

But first – more professionals came and went through her life. The surgeon required two independent psychologist’s assessments; a psychiatric assessment and report, and an assessment by a social worker. The cost of these professionals – around $4,000 – was paid by Andrea.

In 2003, following succesful surgery, Andrea applied to the Family Court for a Declaration changing her gender, and recognising her as female. This required a sworn affidavit from Andrea’s endocrinologist to be presented by her lawyer.

A personal, sworn affidavit was also demanded from Andrea,  affirming that she would not change her mind – despite already having undergone radical genital reassignment surgery. (Perhaps law-makers thought she might “want it put back” later that afternoon?)

Cost of lawyer and court fees: paid by Andrea.

Andrea suffered an unexpected setback when the Judge refused to accept the endocrinologist’s affidavit. He demanded instead that the operating surgeon supply the required documentation.

Disappointed, but with black humour, Andrea asked her lawyer;

“What does he want? That I lift my dress and drop my knickers?”

Her lawyer replied that would probably not be helpful.

She paid more lawyer’s fees – around $3,000 – to obtain the surgeon’s affidavit. Another Court hearing followed.

That was followed by a process called tracheal shave – paid by Andrea. Cost, around $7,000.

The eventual Declaration by the Court reaffirming Andrea as legally female allowed her to be issued with a new much-needed female birth certificate.

That, in turn, would allow Andrea to apply for a passport in her newly identified female gender.

This permitted her to undertake facial feminisation surgery in Belgium. Cost, approximately $40,000, paid by Andrea.

That was followed by vocal chord surgery in Luxembourg in 2016, costing Andrea about $15,000.

A year later she had additional corrective surgery. More cost for Andrea; $12,000.

Andrea recognises that she is highly privileged. Her social status; high education; generous income; progressive employer and work-colleagues; and well-defined support network have benefitted her in ways that the vast majority of trans-people do not enjoy.

At the time the public health system funded only two trans-gendering operations per year and she could personally afford to “jump the queue”. There is an underlying painful sadness in Andrea’s tone when says ruefully that most trans-people are nowhere as lucky or privileged as she is.

Her decades-long journey to become her true self could by no means be described as a “spur-of-the-moment” fancy. The many years she waited; the number of professionals involved; each momentous step; the milestones achieved; the high financial cost;  the regulatory demands from medical professionals and Court; the incredible patience and support from her colleagues, friends, and family – was not for the faint-hearted.

Yet, this is what we demand from those who are our trans-brothers and trans-sisters.

Nowhere else do we expect people to jump through regulatory hoops and cross artificial barriers to simply be allowed to be who we are. Whether you are straight or gay or bi-sexual, you don’t have to fill out a form and beg a Judge’s approval on a “Declaration”.

But we demand it from people who identify as “trans”. For no apparent, logical,  reason that makes any coherent sense.

There is the spurious argument that trans-men and trans-women are a “special case” because they require invasive surgery to allow them to function as they identify.

Yet we don’t expect the elderly to undergo multiple psychiatric, psychological, social worker assessments, plus a Court Declation, to undergo hip surgery. Or organ transplants. Or any of the myriad millions of other invasive medical interventions which nearly all New Zealanders undergo throughout their lives.

But we demand it from trans-men and trans-women.

There is no clear reason why we treat trans-men and trans-women so completely differently to the rest of the population.

As a person who self-identifies as a CIS Male, who do I have to appeal to, to be recognised as such? No one of course.

If the State demanded such stringent, bureaucratic, legal  rules from the rest of us, there would be widespread, massive public resistance. “State thuggery” and “nanny statism” would be screamed from both Left and Right.

But for reasons that remain unclear, it is considered acceptable to treat trans-people in such a callous, inhumane way.

In some ways, the way we treat trans-people is a form of legally-sanctioned, socialised bullying. As if society has found the smallest, weakest, most vulnerable minority in our community and saddled them with huge demands that exists nowhere else.

On TVNZ’s Q+A, Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin, announced that the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill would  be deferred. She offered the excuse that it was necessary  to deal with “problems” caused by the select committee process;

“However, significant changes were made to the Bill by the select committee around gender self-identification and this occurred without adequate public consultation. This has created a fundamental legal issue.”

The Select Committee is usually the appropriate forum where public consultation takes place. It is unclear where Ms Martin believes “adequate public consultation” should occur, if not Parliament’s Select Committee – the highest “Court” in the nation.

It would be disturbing if a tiny, shrill minority of so-called “gender critical feminists” has put pressure on Ms Martin. If a Minister of a supposedly progressive government cannot act with courage to protect our most vulnerable, then that would be a tragedy.

I hope I am wrong in thinking that is what took place behind closed doors.

When Fran Wilde presented gay reform legislation to Parliament in 1986, she suffered unbelievable threats of intimidation, violence, and death. Opposition to homosexuality elicited insane arguments from homophobes;

Some people argued that the law would lead to more homosexuality and that this would eventually mean the collapse of the family unit. Fear and a lack of understanding led some to claim that young boys would be put at risk. Homosexuality and paedophilia – sex with children – were sometimes regarded as the same thing.

 

Many of the lunatic arguments against legalising male homosexuality in 1986 are being repeated again against trans-people. Most of those arguments are similar to the “claim that young boys would be put at risk” – but this time the supposed “victims” of the trans-bogey are girls and women “threatened in safe places”. Such claims are unclear in specifics and are deliberately vague to create a sense of unease with a phantom menace.

So-called “gender critical feminists” have taken to using offensive and degrading terms such ‘misgendering’ and ‘deadnaming’ to further undermine and deny trans-gender activists’ identities. It is an unnecessary, cruel tactic more commonly found on right-wing websites.

But Ang Jury, from New Zealand Women’s Refuge refutes any suggestion of problems with trans-gender women with Susan Strongman reporting for Radio NZ that “there is a solid process around deciding who gets into safe houses, and that transgender women have been allowed into many refuge spaces for years without issue“.

Last year, National Council of Women and YWCA came out strongly in support of the trans-gender community, with NCW CEO, Gill Greer, stating;

“Trans women’s rights are women’s rights – and ‘women’s rights are human rights.”

Feminists who support the trans-movement know full well that there are few such “safe places” and that most sexual abuse/attacks on girls and women occur in the home (or work place) and the perpetrator is usually known to the victim/survivor.

Exploiting the fear of “stranger danger” against the trans-community – many of whom have themselves been victims of harassment and/or sexual assault – is obscene.

The trans-community and it’s supporters counter opposition to the right to self-ID and describe it as fear-mongering;

Local transphobic campaigners are backed by a large group of extremely bigoted international social media accounts, many of which are controlled by extreme right wing and religious fundamentalists.

This article from the Southern Poverty Law Centre helps explains the relationships between the groups driving the campaign.

Campaigners are making claims about predators using the proposed law changes to gain access to vulnerable people. These claims are manufactured and intended to create a moral panic. Evidence shows that no such incidents have been reported in countries where these changes have been made.

It’s important to remember that anybody making changes to markers on their birth certificates would make a statutory declaration in front of a Justice of the Peace under penalty of perjury. The ability to more easily change the gender marker on your birth certificate can’t be carried out on a whim or with dubious intent. The changes proposed simply brings the process for changing all major forms of identification in line with one another.

Minister Tracey Martin has a moment in our history to do the right thing. Fran Wilde led the way with gay law reform.

But the movement for social justice and inclusion did not end thirty-three years ago. Just as the feminist movement still has much to accomplish.

We cannot, as a society, exclude a small minority by creating a system or practice that separates people according to their status as trans-gendered.

That is apartheid.

And we’re all agreed that apartheid is a bad thing?

To Minister Martin I say this:  thirty-three years years ago, your Parliamentary predecessor, Fran Wilde, did the right thing by standing up for gay men. She endured a storm of personal threats and vitriol that would wither most of us.

But she stood up for what was right.

Will you do the same; will you stand up for what is right?

It’s not a difficult question. Fran Wilde knew the answer.

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Acknowledgement: this author wishes to thank Andrea and others in the Wellington trans-community for sharing their experiences  and allowing me to honour their stories. – Frank Macskasy

* Name changed to protect ‘Andrea’s’ and ‘Sharon’s’ privacy and prevent harassment.

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References

Dictionary.com: Apartheid

Radio NZ: Births, deaths and marriages bill deferred to allow more public consultation

NZ History: Homosexual law reformPage 4 – Reforming the law

The Right To Self ID: What is the Births Deaths and Marriages Act?

YWCA: We support trans rights in Aotearoa

Radio NZ: Sex self-identification debate a ‘cesspool of harmful stereotypes’

Additional

Radio NZ: Transgender and non-binary communities disappointed at bill deferral

Robinhead: Gender Roles

Previous related blogposts

First they came

Fairfax media and Kiwiblog revise incorrect story denigrating trans-people

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 February 2019.

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Nikki Kaye – playing politics with children’s health

16 February 2019 5 comments

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It is a given that most politicians will do whatever it takes to win voters to get elected. It’s pretty much why their reputation is often at the same level as telemarketers and sex-workers (which, fair to say, is a slight on sex workers and telemarketers).

The responsibility for our perceived untrustworthiness of politicians is generally laid directly at their feet, when they often say things that are;

  • a manipulation of facts/statistics
  • cherry-picks facts, omitting the whole picture
  • promises that are eventually watered-down or dumped entirely (eg, as with National’s policy to include agriculture in the ETS scheme in 2008, 2014, and 2015
  • convenient “memory lapses”
  • an outright, obvious lie

Our previous prime minister, John Key, could be flexible with the truth – and the public knew it.

The latest piece of self-serving political grandstanding came recently from National MP, Ms Nikki Kaye.

Usually one of National’s more sensible and mature MPs, she took a swipe at Green Party MP, Gareth Hughes’ call to restrict unhealthy foods sold in schools and instead opt for healthier options;

“Last year we saw 29,000 kids have their teeth pulled, obesity is going up – we are facing an epidemic – and our schools are still selling pies and cokes and chips and lollies.

I think we’re a food bowl in New Zealand. We could be providing nutritious, affordable food for every kid.”

Ms Kaye’s response was to drag out the old “Nanny State bogeyman;

“We need to acknowledge the world’s moved on since 10 years ago, so we need to acknowledge many more schools are providing healthy options and it is a bit nanny state.”

Her snide dismissal of addressing this crisis in our children’s health flies in the fact that obesity is a growing epidemic in our country. According to a recent statement from the Ministry of Health;

New Zealand has the third highest adult obesity rate in the OECD, and our rates are rising. Almost one in three adult New Zealanders (over 15 years) is obese, and one in ten children.

Ministry of Health statistics show a grim increase in our obesity levels – including for our children;

Adult obesity statistics

The New Zealand Health Survey 2017/18 found that:

  • around 1 in 3 adults (aged 15 years and over) were obese (32%)
  • 47% of Māori adults were obese
  • 65% of Pacific adults were obese
  • adults living in the most deprived areas were 1.6 times as likely to be obese as adults living in the least deprived areas*
  • the adult obesity rate increased from 27% in 2006/07 to 32% in 2017/18.

Child obesity statistics

The New Zealand Health Survey 2017/18 found that:

  • around 1 in 8 children (aged 2–14 years) were obese (12%)
  • 17% of Māori children were obese
  • 30% of Pacific children were obese
  • children living in the most deprived areas were 2.1 times as likely to be obese as children living in the least deprived areas*
  • the child obesity rate increased from 8% in 2006/07 to 12% in 2017/18.

The increase in child obesity occurred under National’s watch and was not helped by then-Minister of Education, Anne Tolley and then-Minister of Health, Tony Ryall, who scrapped the previous Labour government’s Healthy Food in Schools policy;

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By 2038, an estimated two million New Zealanders will be obese, according to Otago University. The additional pressures on our health system with increased diabetes, heart disease, etc, will be staggering.

Even National could no longer ignore our worsening obesity epidemic. In October 2015, the Ministry of Health launched a Childhood obesity plan. The policy appeared largely ineffective as obesity levels grew.

And even Nikki Kaye understood the looming crisis, when she stated in April last year;

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“Physical inactivity cost New Zealand’s health care system over $200 million in 2013 and some research indicates that around 20 per cent of young Auckland children are overweight.

The Education Minister needs to continue the Auckland Education Growth Plan which was being worked on by the previous Government and was due to be considered by Cabinet last November. It is important to look at the work done so far to factor in potential opportunities around sport and recreational infrastructure.

We must prioritise sport and recreation in our communities and Auckland Council and the Government must front up with more funding to support Auckland’s sporting infrastructure.

Nowhere does she address the grim reality that we are feeding crap “food” to our children.

National MPs would be hysterical with rage if marijuana, alcohol, tobacco, etc, was made legally available to children. Not for one moment would they accept the nonsensical proposition that banning children from accessing such drugs (whether legal or not) would be  “Nanny Statish”.

But when it comes to crap food with high levels of salt, fat, and sugar – then it’s acceptable to National MPs. It becomes a “free choice” issue. That’s despite a supposedly intelligent, well-informed person like Ms Kaye being cognisant of the fact that “… around 20 per cent of young Auckland children are overweight”.

Referring to plans to combat rising obesity in our children should be a social responsibility, just as preventing drink-driving and smoking in restaurants and bars became the norm.

Labelling anything that reduced child obesity as “nanny state” is reprehensible because it plays politics with our young people. Invoking “nanny state” to win a few votes is self-serving.

A politician who casually parrots and throws around catch-phrases like “Nanny State” exploits the health of our children for personal gain.

Ms Kaye should reconsider her stance on healthy food in our schools. Or consider changing professions to something equivalent to political activity – but not likely to be a liability to our children’s health.

Try telemarketing.

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References

Bay of Plenty Times: So, just how trusted is your profession?

Scoop media: ‘Carbon neutral’ policy added to scrap heap

Interest: National would phase in ETS obligations for transport, electricity, industrial sectors; Will review Agriculture in 2014, will only put it in if technology to help is there

NZ Herald: Agriculture ruled out in Emissions Trading Scheme review

TVNZ: Defiant John Key defends Cameron Slater texts: ‘I haven’t been caught out’

Mediaworks/Newshub: Public sides with Dotcom in poll

Mediaworks/Newshub: Green Party calling for return of food in school guidelines to keep kids healthy

Ministry of Health: Obesity

Ministry of Health: Childhood obesity plan

Ministry of Health: Obesity statistics

NZ Herald: Greasy school tuckshop food on way out

Fairfax/Stuff media:  Schools’ healthy food rule scrapped

NZ Herald: Two million obese New Zealanders by 2038, study finds

National: Council & Govt must prioritise sport infrastructure

Previous related blogposts

Can we afford to have “a chat on food in schools”?

National’s Food In Schools programme reveals depth of child poverty in New Zealand

Children’s Health: not a high priority for Health Minister Tony Ryall

Why did the fat kiwi cross the road?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 11 February 2019.

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