As we near the end of Queer History Month, I’ve been thinking about how objects at Te Papa work together to illuminate aspects of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) life in New Zealand. One particular aspect I’ve noted is how society can both celebrate and marginalise particular groups of citizens regardless of legislation and our commitments to human rights.
For example, in March 2011 Wellington hosted the 2nd Asia Pacific Outgames. It was the biggest festival of LGBTI sport and cultural events ever held in New Zealand. Over 1300 participants from 26 countries competed in a wide range of sporting competitions. It was a great success and brought a celebratory air to the capital city. Te Papa collected a range of material from the games including this cheeky drink bottle.
But only three months later in June 2011 people were marching in the streets to reclaim the night in response to recent violent attacks on members of the LGBTI community. Queer the Night Collective noted: ‘Attacks based on an individual’s perceived sexuality or gender are an attack on us all…. The only real way to battle community violence is through community action…the march is not just about fear of being attacked on the street, but also the institutionalised homophobia and transphobia in our society.’
Later that year in October 2011, The Queer Avengers also used these symbols for their poster advertising the ‘Queer our Schools’ campaign. They demanded that the Ministry of Education make ‘all schools accessible to transgendered, queer and gender-variant students through providing flexible dress codes and non-gendered bathrooms; and incorporating sexuality and gender diversity into school subjects.’
By collecting such objects and bringing them together, we’re able to reflect the complexities of society at a particular moment in time, and remind ourselves that there’s still a lot of work to be done to eliminate discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.
Stephanie Gibson, Curator History (Contemporary Life & Culture), Te Papa