What Pride means to me

What Pride means to me

Members of Te Papa’s whānau recently established an informal Takatāpui Rainbow Sharing group. The group is open to all Te Papa kaimahi and acts as a hub to share information on collections and upcoming events (internal and external) relating to our various communities. To mark this year’s Wellington Pride Festival Tū Whakahīhī e Te Whanganui-ā-Tara (3–17 September) some of our members have written about what Pride means to them.

Isaac Te Awa (he/him/ia), Curator Mātauranga Māori

“Before colonisation Māori were a sex-positive people… Takatāpui were part of the whānau, we were not separate, we were not put down, we were not vilified for just being who we are.”
To be Māori is to acknowledge whakapapa; the lives, connections, and mahi of those that have come before. While much was taken and lost as a result of colonisation, these words spoken by Dr Elizabeth Kerekere bring acceptance, comfort, and hope to many.

In my life, I am fortunate to move through spaces with understanding; where my presence, contribution, and involvement is welcomed. As I look to Pride, I contemplate that this acceptance isn’t universal for all, it comes from whakapapa – the layering groundwork of all those who have come before me. Pride for me isn’t one thing, but the combined layering of physical, spiritual, and mental ideas and concepts as diverse in meaning as the people who make and support Aotearoa’s Rainbow community. Together this provides space for all and moves us all into a brighter future.

A photo of three wooden carvings on a black background
Three Pou which inspired Poem: hands on stomach lizard body by essa may ranapiri.
Pou (carved post), 1750-1850, New Zealand, maker unknown. Te Papa (ME003144/1); Pou kātua (stockade post figure), 1800s, New Zealand, maker unknown. Te Papa (ME013087); Pou kātua (stockade post figure), 1800s, New Zealand, maker unknown. Te Papa (ME013088)

Lucy Schrader (she/they), Kaitūhono Hora Raraunga | Digital Channels Outreach Manager

Pride is my history – and I mean that in the way that history creates, informs, and lets us understand the present. Pride is the ongoing community response to the demand we so often face to feel ashamed. Instead of disappearing, letting ourselves be reduced or neutralised, we assert the fundamental reality of our existence.

An inverted pink triangle with with edges and a white map of New Zealand on it, with the text "We are everywhere" on it
We Are Everywhere badge, National Gay Rights Coalition; about 1979; New Zealand. Gift of Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand, 2017. Te Papa (GH025206)

Pride is connective tissue – in our varied and often fractious community, we’re each a scramble of identity and circumstance. But what we have in common is that we challenge the idea you can only live, only love one way. When that makes people scared, or angry, or violent, Pride shows us how many people are like us so we can seek each other out.

A purple, black and white sports outfit on a headless mannequin with a white background
Player’s shirt and shorts, Amazon Softball Club uniform, Anna Louise Schoolwear; manufacturer(s), about 2000; New Zealand. Gift of the Amazon Softball Club Inc., 2012. Te Papa (GH017600)

Pride is a political demand – that we deserve not just respect but safety, homes, work, and healthcare like anyone else. We know all too well that silence is death, so we make noise.

A patchwork quilt that has eight sections with different images and words on each of them celebrating people or names connected with the Aids crisis
New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt, Various; maker/artist; 1988-1991; New Zealand. Gift of The New Zealand AIDS Memorial Quilt, 2011. Te Papa (GH017458)

Roger Smith (he/him), Rights Officer

For me, Pride is a time of reflection. It’s time to pause and think about how far we’ve come in Aotearoa New Zealand, and to see how far we have still to go to make this country a safe place for those of diverse genders, sexualities, and sex characteristics. To remember with gratitude all those who worked so hard to blaze a trail for the rest of us, and who continue to inspire through their fabulousness.

It’s also a time for me to reflect on my own journey – from an early self-awareness that something was different about me, and that that difference could be dangerous, to teenage and early adult years of shame and denial, through to acceptance and now happiness in the knowledge that it’s OK to be me. The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is part of that journey for me and knowing that one of the stories it tells is mine, makes me feel proud indeed.

A photo of a full rainbow stretching over a section of Wellington. There is a carpark and trees in the foreground and buildings and a hill in the background.
A rainbow for Cole Hampton photographed from Te Papa. Photo by and courtesy of Gareth Watkins

Avon Tautuhi, Facilities

My grandmother was a dressmaker from Gisborne who moved to Wellington in the 1950s. She found a pool of customers who helped keep her financially independent. One of them was Chrissy Witoko.

I remember a few of the local queens would come to see Nana, big women who were not able to easily find clothes for themselves. They had a hard life, trying to be true to who they were, dodging the police and trying to make an earning. Queens like Carmen, Chrissy and Marlene looked after a lot of the younger ones who were new to the city and weren’t accepted in mainstream society.

For me, having these women treated with respect and love in the home I grew up in was a major lesson in the diversity of our communities. We are richer for being open to getting to know those around us.

So Pride week for me is a vivid reminder that everyone is entitled to be who they are, and should be accepted as they are. I have so much respect for Carmen, Chrissy, and Marlene. They helped create the vibe, community, acceptance and diversity that Wellington still thrives on.

Much aroha nui to the girls.

Detail of an Evergreen Coffee House Collage panel; Chrissy Witoko; maker/artist; circa 1994; Wellington. Gift of the Witoko family in memory of Chrissy Witoko, 2012. Te Papa (GH015956)

Caitlin Watters (they/them), Kaiwhakaahua Kohinga Taonga | Imaging Technician

Pride is a lived experience. Being visibly queer is only possible through the mahi and sacrifice of many, many people in the past and the present. For me, Pride is most alive when people see me fully for who I am without judgement.

A pale cream badge that looks like a pill. There are the words They/them printed on it.
They / them pronoun badge, Rainbow Youth; publisher; 2018; New Zealand. Gift of Stephanie Gibson, 2019. Te Papa (GH025412)

It is still not an easy life for many in the rainbow whānau in Aotearoa but through visibility, community is found and grown. The increased acceptance of conversations around preferred pronouns and gender identity allows people to see and celebrate each other for how they wish to be viewed. The opening up of dialogue around gender and sexuality gives everyone room to explore and evolve how they see each other and themselves. The greatest part of being queer is the freedom found within community and self-expression within that larger whole. To be seen.

A flattened off-white t-shirt on a black background with a medieval style line image of a people standing in a circle with the sun above them. The words "a queer tribe" is printed underneath
‘a queer tribe’ t-shirt, A Queer Tribe; producer; about 1990; United Kingdom. Gift of Michael Eyes, 1995. Te Papa (PC004262)

Gareth Watkins (he/him), Collections Data Manager

I think Pride for me has been a barometer of my own journey to personal acceptance. I clearly remember years ago not wanting to go near any Pride events for fear that people would think I was gay. But as the years have gone by, I have become a lot kinder to myself. I remember the first time attending a film screening at the Out Takes: A Reel Queer Film Festival in the 1990s. To be surrounded by a cinema full of hundreds of Rainbow people was a revelation. And to attend my first Pride parade in San Francisco was wonderfully exhausting – with the march lasting almost 6 hours.

A colourful parade of adults and children walking along a coastal road with the sea in the background. The people in front are holding the edges of a large rainbow flag.
World’s (Unofficial) Shortest Pride Parade 2019, Paekākāriki. Photo courtesy of Roger Smith

Nowadays I find attending smaller, more localised Pride events really inspiring. Particularly occasions like the World’s (Unofficial) Shortest Pride Parade in Paekākāriki where the whole community come together to celebrate diversity and inclusion. There’s a pre-march along the coastline before the Pride parade proper takes place across the town’s pedestrian crossing. A few steps that can have a life-changing impact.

Children in colourful fancy dress costumes are crossing a pedestrian crossing with filled in with rainbow colours. There is a hill in the background and people watching on.
World’s (Unofficial) Shortest Pride Parade 2019, Paekākāriki. Photo courtesy of Roger Smith

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