Drew Hadwen, co-director of the Wellington Pride Festival 2019 (8–24 March), recently spoke to the Friends of Te Papa about the work that has gone into celebrating pride in Aotearoa. Here, we share their speech with you.
“I would like to begin by acknowledging those who have gone before us and walked the real hard yards that allow us to celebrate pride in Aotearoa today. I also want to acknowledge everyone who is still facing adversity and fighting the good fight for LGBTTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, takatāpui, queer, intersex, plus) rights across Aotearoa and the world.
“The Devotion Parade in February 1995 was fabulous and all about community – just bunches of friends and people dressed in their rainbow finest. Every colour of our rainbow was there and represented, whether on a trailer or ute, waving from the back of an open-top car, walking, dancing, watching, or joining in from the footpath as the parade progressed – there were no barrier fences and we all could find our own safe way to participate. It was amazing!
“Less than 10 years before we’d celebrated the passing of Homosexual Law Reform (1986), where many of us came face to face with so much hate and violence from those campaigning against it. Here we were, out and loud, out and proud!
“Wellington’s first pride parade was in November 1993, called the Love Parade. It was protested by a very small group of Christians who thought they’d tell us we were immoral. The feeling I can’t quite describe right in that moment on Courtenay Place affirmed for me right then why I’d volunteered to organise the Devotion festival for the four years it ran alongside the Devotion dance parties, and why I volunteer now to help organise the Wellington Pride Festival Tū Whakahīhī e Te Whanganui-ā-Tara – seeing people from all parts of our communities, their friends, whānau, and allies together celebrating ourselves.
“It’s not about a parade – that’s just one small thing that happens as part of pride celebrations. It’s about celebrating wins, remembering where we came from and coming together, because we are an oppressed minority culture who still have a bunch of fights for equality ahead.
“Aotearoa has a very long and pre-colonial rainbow history, herstory, and theirstory. The fight for homosexual law reform somehow strengthened those networks across the rainbow. Soon after the law reform we saw all sorts of events continuing and starting to happen – things like summer camps, festivals, hui, dances, parades, dance parties, fairs, AIDS candlelight memorials, and even our ‘own’ TV show (Queer Nation).
“In the late ’80s and through the ’90s we maintained strong rainbow networks, but the festivals and celebrating pride faded away. Who knows if this was just down to burnout of those organising them, or that we’d come so far from the energy that homosexual law reform created amongst us. It could be because the politics of the time were harsh and not for people like us, grinding down so many in our communities to a place where we were fighting just to survive. Or could it have been that ‘mainstreaming’ brought a sense of assimilation to some of our communities?
“The adversity too many of our rainbow whānau face didn’t and hasn’t gone away. I don’t think we knew the words then, but in essence, it’s intersectionality – many of us were and are facing compounding oppressions. We have had a lot to celebrate and we still have a long way to go!
“This is why celebrating pride matters.
“Since Homosexual Law Reform we’ve come together as the rainbow communities to support, fight for, and in time celebrate things like the Human Rights Act being passed (1993), civil unions (2005), Prostitution Reform (2003), the removal of the provocation/gay panic defence (2009), marriage equality (2013), etc. – but not without a cost to our people, our whānau.
“We’re currently grappling with the government deferring the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Act reform. This would align existing processes for updating gender markers on a birth certificate with the processes for updating those on passports and driver licences by following an accessible self-declaration approach.
“There is tension in gaining equality and moving to the mainstream – there are wins to be celebrated but there’s also discovering the differences that sometimes seem to divide us. The realisation that societal change doesn’t happen without pain – even in our own communities. We need to sit with that discomfort.
“The one thing that remains strong throughout organising Pride celebrations is the voluntary input. So many people contribute their passion, skills, and sleep deprivation to put on the events that make a pride festival an inclusive celebration of our culture. I want to acknowledge those people who make a voluntary contribution, because without them and their energy we would not have a celebration of pride.
“We respect that we have been elected by members of our communities to these roles and we listen to them. We consult with them as much as we can, and where we can’t do that immediately, we wait until a time that we can do – we do not shy away from conflict.
“The support the rainbow community receives from our own communities, from allies, and externally for pride celebrations is fantastic. You will have seen the extent of it this year around Wellington with the extra financial contribution because of international visitors attending the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA) World Conference.
“It’s just a shame it isn’t ongoing. There is a long way to go to achieve equality, people in our communities are facing real adversity and the organisations working to support them need sustainable ongoing funding. Pride isn’t just for two weeks of the year. Rainbow issues aren’t just for two weeks of the year.
“If we want to live in a world where people are accepted without exception, we all need to be part of the solution. Being an ally is about listening to and learning from someone else’s experiences and showing your support for them.
“I’m really looking forward to the Pride Hīkoi on Saturday morning, and hope to see you at some of the great Pride Festival events.”
The Pride Hīkoi, Sat 16 Mar, starts at Waitangi Park at 10am and ends at Civic Square in time for Out in the Park, the annual queer fair, at 10:30am.