Worse than showing mere lip service to Rainbow inclusion, ACT leader Jamie Whyte showed stunning arrogance when appeared at a candidates debate on rainbow issues hosted by the Auckland University Students’ Association last Thursday.
The stunning hypocrisy was evident as Whyte – who doesn’t identify as gay – presented while his homosexual list candidate Stephen Berry was reduced to clapping like trained seal in the front row. At least he was allowed to have an ACT rosette.
But conflating him with a poor captive animal performing lest it be starved would be to do an injustice to marine mammals kept as slaves. Even their trainers know they’re wild animals who want to advance their cause: Freedom. Unlike Berry who despite his privilege was unable to find a voice at this forum and was unable to persuade his straight boss that he had a stake in this discussion.
Whyte with all his straight white male privilege wasn’t aware of discrimination under the law but for the adoption issue same sex non-married couples face. He had no idea about the Human Rights Act transgender exclusion, nor prison’s depriving them of medical treatment in a policy considered torture by American courts.
All he wanted to talk about was one law for all and tax rates while he ensured the only gay ACT candidate in the room could do nothing more than clap. Mind you, and continuing the marine mammal theme, he has now snuggled up to Whale Oil and published a blog talking about the “brave” presentation made by Whyte.
He went further and suggested that my statement that transgender jokes was offensive meant I sought legislation to ban them in what he said was an attack on free speech. I’m not sure if he asked his boss if he was allowed to speak, but in a brief (and perhaps ill-advised) foray into the comments section on his ACT page, I’ve challenged him to make a few trans jokes so we can have a case study on how freedom of speech works. He’s free to make more of a fool of himself (if the boss lets him) and I’m free to call him out. It would make my day.
That he would embrace Whale Oil at this point – unarguably a hate site – reflects very poorly on him. Not only is he a mere keyboard warrior, but it will take a lot of good works before he’s viewed with any credibility by the Rainbow community. Even briefing his boss on the issues might be a small contribution and indeed common sense.
Meanwhile, it was gratifying to see Kevin Hague from the Greens attending. Although the gathering was small, it reflected that he took the meeting seriously. No one needed to brief him on the issues. As one seal said to the other, that Whale Oil really sticks to your fur.
Miriam Pierard from the Internet Party attended and while she doesn’t identify as being within the Rainbow community, she left no doubt about her strong support. But again, why not a member of the community presenting for the Internet Party?
National sent along Paul Hutchison who I’ve always been a fan of. I’m too polite to call him politically deluded to his face for he has been a strong ally of the Rainbow community within National, even if he doesn’t openly identify as gay or trans. But there’s the thing. Like Pierard, he’s not part of the community. He’s straight. And while I have great respect for him, the fact that he, an outgoing MP, was sent along reflects how seriously the Nats take us. Indeed when I talked of Crusher Collins this year squishing hopes of trans inclusion in the Human Rights Act, he did little more than quietly blush and whisper to me “She’s gone.” That was Thursday night.
I guess the point is that Rainbow issues haven’t gone away because there are still inequalities to address. Labour and the Greens demonstrated commitment last week with a “nothing about us without us” approach. The Internet Party and National were, at least there, presented and listened. ACT really should have stayed at home. I expect ACT members will be doing more of that after September 20.
Kelly Ellis, Whangarei Labour Candidate, former journalist and current lawyer grubs her living from the criminal justice coalface but dreams of being a better parent and more dutiful partner to her long-suffering family.