An Asian gay man speaks out, at the expense of his parents discovering through the media. A Muslim teenager is exposed for hiding injuries behind a burka inflicted by her father for “kissing a girl in school”. Thai couples wanting to get married here draw suspicions from Immigration authorities of their true “intentions” in New Zealand.
You simply love these stories, don’t you, ‘mainstream’ New Zealand? Hell, even ‘gaystream’ New Zealand laps it up!
While the Herald profits, I wonder if anyone realises the sacrificial costs spent of not just these individuals, but the extent of its impact on the diverse ethnic communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Today marks the beginning of PrideFest, an annual gayloria calendar of events that supposedly aims to celebrate the fabulousness of Auckland’s LBGTQI community.
This time last year, I performed as part of Melting Pot Massacre at Big Gay Out. It was our first time publicly identifying ourselves as a queer & genderqueer entity to a mainstream audience, many of whom were friends, friends of friends, and families of friends of our families in our ethnic communities. We were 15-second rockstars with 15 minutes to express our stories as youth of Asian immigrant descent. For us, it was an effort to amplify the unseen, unheard or under-represented voices of others such as us. It was an unforgettable experience. Many young people approached us afterwards for autographs, and told us how much our music spoke to them.
However this year we decided not to perform at any event at PrideFest. There was some kerfuffle on their transgender policies at Heroes Out West who invited us to perform initially, and then of course Auckland Pride Parade had not considered that Asian cultures exist, in the text of their event description on Facebook (which on January 15th, I had posted “WOW NO ASIAN?” on their wall. They have, am sure, assured themselves of ractifying the situation by way of inserting the word “Asian”, in between “European” and “Pacific” cultures). Loving also the creative yet tokenist wording of how the rainbow communities are “the coloured threads”, whose “remembering our histories” will enable us to “weave through our future”.
What’s new?, sighed a group of takaatapui, fafaafiine and queer Asian feminists who resorted to ranting online and supporting ourselves amongst ourselves over this. I mean, we are only but part of the 40% of Auckland’s population according to the latest Census report.
But for how long?
How long do we, as people of ethnic minorities have to put our energies into calling out within predominantly white gay-centred societies on the racism that has existed due to its failure to recognise the history of colonisation of this land and the lands that many of us have come from?
How long do we have to tolerate the ‘unintentional’ political ‘incorrectness’ of the mainstream media in churning racial stereotypes of us, the immigrant “Others” in New Zealand as exploiters of lovely New Zealand marriage equality policies, barbaric child-bashers and homophobic families?
How long do we as Asian peoples have to succumb to, and sacrifice our right to express (or not express) our gender and sexuality, in an attempt to feel like we can belong and be included somewhere (ANYWHERE!) in New Zealand?
How long do we have to hear stories of young people predominantly girls and young women, of Asian, Middle Eastern and African minorities at risk of suicide, honour-based violence, losing their lives and sense of dignity, growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand?
How long before we can truly celebrate the amazingness of a united, connected and inclusive community, that acknowledges and respects the existence of people bringing our faith and spiritual differences into the mix, rainbow and beyond?
How long before all people in Aotearoa New Zealand can actually say we are living in a society that raises all our children with the pride that our ancestors left behind and none of the prejudices they had to endure?
Until then and only then, will I and am sure many others like myself can say, we are ALL finally home here in New Zealand.
Shasha Ali, activist and vocalist of defunct all-Asian punk band Melting Pot Massacre writes on the price of challenging racism, homophobia and transphobia in New Zealand, and the non-existent benefits of such contributions.