Pride in what?

On Saturday 21 February, both Police and Corrections marched in full uniform as part of the 2015 Auckland Pride parade.

Right now in New Zealand prisons there are trans people fighting for their right to necessary medical treatment, placed in facilities based on the gender they were assigned at birth and generally being marginalised within a system that already disproportionately oppresses marginalised people.

There’s also an ongoing culture of racial profiling within the New Zealand Police, and a shameful history of Police illegally spying on and shutting down any mention of indigenous independence. Meanwhile, Māori make up 51% of our prison population. Police in New Zealand also continue to fail communities which need them, and although some headway has been made with the creation of Diversity Liaison officers, Police still embody much of that which radical queer, trans and non-white activists fight against.

Queer Police and Corrections officers exist. They have a right to be out and safe in their workplace. They have the right to be part of the queer community. But they don’t have the right to go without challenge for their direct participation in systems which actively harm trans folk, indigenous people and also harmed queer people within living memory of many in the community.

For reasons that I hope will now be pretty clear, some members of the Auckland queer community decided to protest the inclusion of Police and Corrections in the Auckland Pride parade. My friends Emmy and Justine and their friend Tim took a banner that said NO PRIDE IN PRISONS, and as the Police contingent arrived, they walked onto the parade route in protest.

Emmy, a tiny Māori trans woman, was directly targeted by parade security and police. Her two white-passing friends were not. While Emmy was being forcefully removed from the parade, a security member broke her arm, and she was then left for nearly half an hour, screaming in pain while being denied medical assistance by police.

She was eventually taken by ambulance to Auckland hospital where it was confirmed she has a badly broken arm.

I want to say up front that I’m heartened by how many people responded when the news first broke. My progressive twitter bubble was outraged, many people contacted and corrected media and did anything and everything they could think of to help. People donated in droves to the Givealittle I made for Emmy, which has now reached over $3,000.

But outside the bubble, in the real world, here’s what’s happened:

  • The first news story to mention a protester had her arm broken called Emmy a “transvestite” and used male pronouns. I guess maybe the mass use of “trans” was confusing for the author, but I’m unclear how “woman” got missed out except for deliberately.
  • Gay media have published statements and stories denouncing the protest in a myriad of ways, including items defending the head of the Gay Auckland Business Association who was literally filmed grabbing the phone of one of the protesters and hurling it onto the road in the first few seconds of this video. Gay media have also published stories from people who felt bullied by a group Emmy is part of (how this is related to her having her arm broken, I’d love to know), written editorials slagging off the protesters and just generally being dickbags.
  • Broadcaster Russell Brown basically called the protesters ‘kids who had no idea what they were doing‘, shared the status of a woman who claims one of the protesters punched her wife…and then contains a comment from her wife clarifying it was probably an accident. He also shared a news story from the UK containing allegations trans people sent death threats to a gay dude, and then seemed completely confuzzled on why the timing of this share might be bad taste.
  • Some piss goblins ethics 101 enthusiasts seem to be stoked to use the actual injuring of an indigenous trans woman to theorise on acceptable kinds of protests.
  • The crossing of a parade barrier seems to be the magical line between ‘probably not okay to break someone’s arm’ and ‘she was asking for it‘.
  • People are just dicks.

Basically, fuck this. Pride has always been a protest, and should always be a protest. Just because Pride is now sponsored by an international bank and gets Ponsonby soccer moms bringing little Stella and Ruby down to watch after their netball games, doesn’t mean the goal is to become more and more palatable to the mainstream.

Straight cis folks have literally nothing to weigh in on. This isn’t your community, this wasn’t your event, there’s nothing at stake here for you. Shut up.

The queer community gets to debate what kind of protests we embrace at what kind of events we hold, I guess. But what’s really freaking me out here is that suddenly the queer community has become a synonym for gay cis men who are freelance event organisers or magazine news editors and have decided that because they’ve won a bunch of battles, other people’s battles and when they choose to fight them, is poor taste.

I guess I’m feeling more and more distant from the concept of ‘fabulousness’ and Pride, and it’s because these ideals seem to now somehow come with a silent full stop at the end. Like this is what the queer community embodies and promotes in 2015. The struggle is over, we’re getting to sit with the cool group at lunch now so for god’s sake play it cool.

And I guess when my friend has a fucked up arm because she was too queer for Pride, I don’t feel very cool or very proud.

It feels like we’re pulling the ladder up after us because some people’s issues distract from the sequins and parade floats. And honestly? We don’t deserve a parade if that’s how we treat our own.