Ensuring Visibility of Queer Issues – Interview with Gary Farrow on 95bFM

The interview is streamable here, and the transcript comes with thanks to Tim Sanders

Gary Farrow: And with us to start off the show today, the discussion will be helped by Jen Kate Shields, fellow bFMer, who has written quite a lot about the parade and the events that followed.  Hello Jen. Thank you very, very much for coming up to the studio.

Jennifer Katherine Shields: Hi Gary.

GF: Good to see you again.

JKS: You too.

GF: Now, the activist who had her arm fractured by corrections officers at the parade on Saturday – how’s she doing?

JKS: She’s still in hospital. I spent most of yesterday with her and she’s in a lot of pain.  She had her upper humerus broken which, according to the orthopaedic’s nurse, is one of the worst injuries you can get.  She’s in a soft cast and was due to be discharged but kept behind because she’s in too much pain to move.

GF: Obviously, you know this woman because you’re involved in paying attention to queer issues yourself.  Do you want to tell us something about that, Jen?

JKS: Yeah, sure. I personally work a lot on this campus with trans students and the institution itself in improving conditions and Emmy, the woman who was hurt, has worked with me really closely on that, quite close, and I’ve been helping with her work around prisons and Pride.

GF: Just shortly – we’ve talked about this on The Wire yesterday – but could you explain the reasons behind the “No Pride In Prisons” protest, for anyone who hasn’t followed the events closely?

JKS: Sure.  So, for the first time this year, both police and corrections officers marched in Pride in full uniform and we took objection to that, seeing as queer people, especially Māori queers, and trans women are really highly susceptible to abuse from the justice system.  The biggest example is that trans women are still routinely put in men’s prisons, when we’re one of the people who are most highly affected by sexual violence and assault.

GF: What did the activists, exactly, do?  Did they try to stop the police float, or was it just an expression of disapproval?

JKS: They didn’t jump the fence, they sort of just pushed it out of the way, and then stood on the road with a banner, and then were dragged off by security and police.

GF: Was there much response, or support, or opposition, from the public who were attending the parade?

JKS: It was very mixed.  It was right by the GABA [Gay Auckland Business Association] GlamStand, and the response from there was quite negative.  There was a lot of yelling and jeering, especially along the lines of “This isn’t the place”, or “You’re ruining the parade”.

GF: What’s your thoughts on how GABA has handled the situation – them specifically?

JKS: I think it’s been absolutely terrible.  For people that don’t know, one of the people who was dragging the protesters is Heather Carnegie, the president of GABA, who was there managing the GlamStand.  And we also have very clear footage of her grabbing a protester’s phone and throwing it about five feet into the air, to land on concrete, which has destroyed evidence.  In response, she’s denied everything.  She’s denying any contact, or any violence, but we have photos of her pushing someone off the road and their face is quite clearly in pain.

GF: Isn’t it mind-blowing for anyone, I think, to think about that sort of thing being done to your means of communication during a situation like that?  If anything, it’s a situation which you want to be able to communicate and explain what’s happening.

JKS: Yeah, definitely.

GF: After the parade on Saturday, you posted on your blog, quote: “last night, thousands cheered in support of hundreds of drag queens.  They cheered as a trans woman was brutally abused”.  Is this sort of your main criticism of Pride – how it appears to be surprisingly exclusive?

JKS: Yeah.  I think it’s very one-sided.  The original Pride, at Stonewall, was a riot led by trans women of colour and now, there’s absolutely no way for a trans woman to protest, or express dissent, without being abused.  I marched in Pride, in an official float, in silence, for the death of a local trans woman last month, and I was met with either silence or verbal abuse.  So, even if you do it legitimately, through the way they recommend, you’re still met with abuse and violence.

GF: Can you imagine any ways which we could start to circumvent this sort of behaviour at such events?

JKS: It’s tough.  I think the big thing is community reactions and attitudes.  There’s a lot of satisfaction, especially after the gay marriage bill.  There’s the idea that a lot of things are okay now and nothing really needs to be changed.  I think what really needs to happen is we need to start listening to the people who are still the most marginalised.

GF: It almost seems they want to include everyone, like the police and even the National Party who, of course, voted against gay marriage on the part of some MPs.  And indeed, John Key voted against it, at least the first reading and possibly the second?

JKS: Yeah, from what I remember.

GF: And then he voted for the third.

JKS: Yeah.

GF: So what do you think of that sort of behaviour?  How do you feel about that?

JKS: I feel like it goes along with what Queers Against Injustice are doing.  I think it lines up quite nicely with the idea of pinkwashing; if an institution, or somebody, or a corporation supports queer people, then suddenly everything else they do is okay.  The big example, that keeps being talked about, is the state of Israel – how they have trans people in their army and provide meals for vegans, things like that – small issues, that are easily supported, to sort of wash over everything else that’s happening.
GF: Just so listeners understand the protests that have happened involving the pink paint being thrown over the ATMs and at the police station in Ponsonby: that – throwing pink paint at a building – is not pinkwashing in itself, is it?  It’s a protest against pinkwashing.

JKS: Yeah.  It’s to symbolise what’s happening.

GF: I think some people are misunderstanding that, in the case of this protest, so I think it’s important that our listeners are able to understand that and it’s cool that they can now, after listening to our interview.  What’s your take on the discussions that have followed this year’s Pride?  Do you think it will have any positive effects, what happened?

JKS: We hope so.  We’re still talking with a lot of media and trying to get our side of it out there but, overwhelmingly, it’s been quite against us, especially from big community leaders – like GABA and people like Levi Joule and Paul Stevens – and I feel like that’s quite representative of the community and can also influence it as well.  So I think we’re fighting really hard to have our voices heard.  Hopefully, if we can do that, maybe we’ll have a better impact.

GF: What do you think these protests might achieve?

JKS:  Well, thinking big, we’re looking at a whole heap of stuff.  In terms of tangible changes, the corrections system – which went to review last year – that only barely fixed things.  We’re looking for more changes in terms of that.  We’re looking for more awareness of issues that are still happening within the community.  We’re looking for support, basically – support to People of Colour and trans people who are sitting out there in the cold.

GF: What’s your thoughts on the specific activism – is there a risk of alienating people from the cause because doing these sorts of things isn’t how they would behave?

JKS: I think so but also, at the same time, it’s kind of the only course of action.  This isn’t the first thing we’ve done as a group.  This is a long series, and it’s the only one that’s gotten any significant attention.  When you’re silenced over and over and over, sometimes you have to speak out in bigger ways.

GF: Are you from the specific activist group that did this?

JKS: Yeah, I’m involved with them, but also just in general.

GF: There was also the note on the bank this morning that had some points, including Israel using a pro-LGBTQIA stance to distract attention from the military occupation of Palestine.  I think some people are becoming sort of confused about that, thinking that this case is somewhat about Palestine as well.  Is that just a reference to the situation over there, likening it to the rhetoric we have being spouted here, to cover over policy?

JKS: Yeah.  I’m not with the group that threw the paint at things but, from what I see, it’s an example of the same concept of pinkwashing – using queer issues to wash over other, potentially more harmful, things.

GF: Have you got a lot more discourse going on in the last few days, now that this has been happening?

JKS: I think so.  I feel like a lot of it has just been around the physical object of the protest, and the response has been around whether or not it’s okay to throw paint at an ATM, rather than discussions of the concepts and why it was done.  It was interesting watching as Queers Against Injustice came out and said it was them because there was a huge shift from “This is a homophobic attack” to “This is a bigger thing”.

GF: I was interested, watching the news the other night, because obviously a lot of news sources – including bFM news – framed it in the beginning as an issue of homophobia but, since it has emerged that it’s an activity of queer activism, we are presenting it in a different way.  I was watching the news last night or the night before and the trans woman having her arm broken by security was almost a footnote in the story.

JKS: We saw that as well.

GF: I imagine that sort of thing would be quite disheartening.

JKS: Yeah, definitely.  There was one news station that covered it and showed the footage that we had of her on the ground being rolled over and screaming, and it’s a really visceral sound, and they censored it, which was an interesting coincidence.

GF: Sometimes when stuff like that is done on the news, it’s because it’s actually really disturbing to the viewers but-

JKS: It kind of deadens the effect of it, how harsh it was to her.

GF: Yeah.  Sometimes that effect is needed and it’s almost like, with a lot of the media now, our vision of reality is being blurred.  In other senses, we’re being more conscious of it, though.  The way we heard about the latest protests this morning was from one of our news team members, Ben Bartley Catt, who was heading through Mt. Eden Village and just told us about it, just casually, and then we linked it in and then saw it on twitter and everything.  That’s starting to become more the way of communication.  I certainly imagine that you, and the people you work with, as well, are hoping that that becomes more of the case.

JKS: Yeah, totally.  Twitter in particular has been of huge benefit to us.  I wasn’t in touch during the parade and afterwards – I got home to check twitter and saw that someone had been hurt – so I had no idea what was going on, and I sort of checked back and people had been live-tweeting it so there was up-to-date, detailed information.  And that’s been going on since, with every single update.  There’s a huge amount of support we’re getting on there as well, which is really beneficial.

GF: That’s invaluable, really.  Jen Kate Shields, thank you so much for coming up here.  I really, really appreciate it.  It’s great to get your perspective on these events.  It would be good to make contact with you in the coming days, or weeks, as well, to follow how things are going because I’m sure that a lot of the people in our local communities feel very strongly about this – a lot of us, in support of you, as well.  Thank you so much, Jen.

JKS: Thank you too, Gary.

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Queers Against Injustice comes out in support of No Pride in Prisons and #NotProud

The group that attacked a GayTM earlier last week with pink paint to protest the pinkwashing of Pride and the queer community have done the same to an ANZ branch and a police station this morning, leaving behind statements explaining their aims – including a paragraph of support for Emmy, who is currently still in hospital after being assaulted by a Pride security guard on Saturday night.

From twitter this morning:

Pink paint on an ANZ branch. image via @vaughndavis
Pink paint on an ANZ branch. image via @vaughndavis
Pink paint on police offices. Image via @vaughndavis
Pink paint on police offices. Image via @vaughndavis
Queers Against Injustice's statement. Image via @vaughndavis
Queers Against Injustice’s statement. Image via @vaughndavis

Anyone involved in Queers Against Injustice is invited to get in touch with either me or @kamikazeballoon on twitter.

The #NoPride Facts So Far

This post will be updated as more facts and proof come in

  • Both actions (the float in mourning for the loss of Charlotte Loh, displaying a banner on the side of the road) were acts of peaceful protest. No protesters had planned or seeked to initiate contact or any kind of altercation
  • As evidenced by narrowing to navigate traffic islands, police and corrections could easily have marched right past the protest on the road.
  • Security and police were the first to initiate contact and violence.
  • Heather Carnegie of GABA is guilty of assaulting protesters and destruction of property; there is photographic evidence of her pushing a protester off the road, and much of the first-hand evidence filmed on a protester’s phone is irretrievable due to the device being thrown across the road by Carnegie. Carnegie is visible at the beginning of this footage throwing the phone. She is occasionally audible in the footage yelling “no, shame on you” back at protesters yelling “shame” at police and security.
Carnegie (in silver) physically pushing a protester off the road.
Carnegie (in silver) physically pushing a protester off the road.
Verified photo of Carnegie via Gay Express earlier in the day: evidence of dress + appearance
Verified photo of Carnegie via Gay Express earlier in the day: evidence of dress + appearance
  • Pride security are not legally allowed to touch anyone. Law.
  • Of the 3 protesters, the two Pākehā ones were largely ignored for the whakawahine.
  • Police took no action upon seeing security breaking the law in assaulting people and destruction of property. Thus far, no further action seems to have happened.
  • Police prevented a woman evidenced as screaming in pain from accessing medical attention.
  • Medics were on the scene 11 minutes after the initial contact, police did not allow them to deliver care until more than half an hour afterwards.
  • Emmy’s humerus is badly fractured, and surgery was being considered on the night of the incident. As of 11am Monday morning (more than 38 hours after the incident) she remains hospitalized. As of 11.51am, the hospital wants her discharged but she is still in too much pain to move.
  • There are at least 3 people captured on film as breaking the law, none of them protesters, all of them Pride or affiliated groups’ members.

UPDATES as of 11.45pm, 25/02

  • In the footage, both Carnegie and a cop are seen speaking to Emmy. Neither are comforting her: the cop is taking her details and Carnegie is telling her she should be ashamed.
  • Emmy was admitted to hospital with a badly fractured humerus, not an actual technical break. Surgery was considered, hence references to it in blogs and social media. In the end it was not required.
  • Emmy got discharged this morning, after being hospitalised for 4 days.
  • Initial and subsequent pain relief was slow and inefficient due to logistical holdups. Claims that Emmy is a drug addict are entirely unfounded: she was taken off IV pain relief because she was due to be discharged, but was not actually released until two days later.

#notproud

My partner and I marching in protest at Auckland Pride, photo courtesy of Theo Macdonald
My partner and I marching in protest at Auckland Pride, photo courtesy of Theo Macdonald

I marched in the Auckland Pride Parade last night. My friends crashed it in protest of the police and corrections presence in the parade. Emmy, a Maori trans woman, ended up in hospital with a broken arm after Pride security assaulted her. Police left her for 30 minutes without providing first aid. Parade spectators cheered as she was dragged off the road, being physically harmed. MPs who have held discussions directly with the trans community in which we made it very clear we were concerned about police and corrections treatment of us are posting in support of police. Parade organisers are upset and think Pride “shouldn’t be politicised”. Supporters of the organisers are saying Emmy and co could have marched ‘legitimately’ and had their message seen and recognised.

I marched in silence. In black. Holding a candle left over from the vigil for Charlotte Amelia Loh. I marched “legitimately”. I was a parade fucking marshal. Was I recognised? No.

Artspace float, photo courtesy of Andy Flint
Artspace float, photo courtesy of Andy Flint

Response from onlookers varied but was never positive. Applause and cheers for floats ahead of us died down as we approached. Some clapped politely. Others ignored us and yelled in support for those behind us. The worst hurled verbal abuse at us: “put a smile on ya face” or “lighten the fuck up”.

This community does not want us heard. It has benefited from the labour and work of trans women of colour since Stonewall and now that it has all the cis white gays need it’s kicking trans women out. We are routinely ignored, dismissed, erased, and labelled crazy, demanding, and problematic. This community denies the claims that it loves us more dead than it does alive, and does everything it can to make sure we don’t last.

Last night thousands cheered in support of hundreds of drag queens. They cheered as a trans woman was brutally abused.

Watch this footage of Emmy on the ground. Listen to how obvious her screams of pain and for help are. Watch as police and security do nothing for her.

Watch this footage of Sylvia Rivera at Stonewall in 1973.

Sit down and fucking realise what you’ve done, queer community of Auckland. Realise what you’re doing, and realise that you need to change.

Update 4.07pm: it’s come to our attention that the president of GABA, Heather Carnegie, physically pulled one of the protesters off the road and severely damaged another’s phone to the extent that footage being filmed is irretrievable. This behavior, responding with violence instead of support, is absolutely reprehensible for a community leader.

Update 4.29pm: A storify of tweets from last night and this morning can be found here.

Update 23/02 10.40am: NZ Police have “reviewed footage” and found themselves innocent of brutality or of any “improper action” but are still investigating other parties (which we hope means Pride security, the ones who threw Emmy to the ground, breaking her arm).

Update 11.27am: No Pride in Prisons have released a statement to media. Emmy is still hospitalised.

What Do We Have to be Proud Of?: Corrections Officers at Pride and Trans Women in Our Prison System

So Corrections Officers will be marching in the Pride Parade for the first time this year, adding our racist prison industrial system to the list of things not to be proud of about the event.

Our imprisonment rate for Māori is well over 3x our general imprisonment rate. Our prison system is an undeniable tool of the ongoing process of colonisation, and this “step forward” is nothing but an element of the pinkwashing that gets used to obscure it.

But even then it’s on absolutely shaky ground, seeing as New Zealand still puts trans women in men’s prisons. From my twitter this morning:

  • fact: a trans woman is imprisoned according to her birth certificate: “If staff have a copy of the birth certificate that specifies the prisoner’s sex, the prisoner must be placed in a prison that manages prisoners of the sex specified on the birth certificate.”
  • fact: changing the nominated sex marker on a birth certificate requires a long, stressful, and expensive process that is only available to a privileged few
  • fact: as a result of this, a trans woman who has lived her whole life as a woman and has surgically transitioned, if she has not also changed the sex marker on her birth certificate and it is available to Corrections staff, will automatically be placed in a men’s prison.
  • fact: a trans prisoner can be moved prisons if any staff member has any “doubts” about their sex. Corrections states that doubt can arise at any time, and may stem from something the prisoner says, her birth certificate, a search of personal property, or a strip search.
  • fact: under New Zealand law a trans woman may NEVER be placed in a woman’s prison if she is now or has ever been convicted of a sexual offence.
  • fact: trans women are abused, sexually and otherwise, more than cis women.
  • fact: trans women abuse, sexually and otherwise, less than cis women.
  • fact: the current system, even with its new provisions for nominated sex, explicitly values cis prisoners over trans ones because of this. (Note: the only reason a trans prisoner may not even begin to apply for a transfer is if she has been convicted of a sexual offence)
  • fact: even if a trans woman is in a men’s prison, her file is flagged with “transgender”. This would indicate that Corrections recognise that trans prisoners have particular needs, but apparently do not consider “safety from rape and abuse” one of those needs.

(from the Corrections Prisons Operation Manual)

How many trans women and Māori queers have these proud corrections officers locked up in the last year? Why are they so proud of their jobs in a “challenging environment”? Why are you proud of “who you work for” – an institution that systematically imprisons Māori at an abhorrently higher rate than the rest of us, one that actively puts trans women at risk? If diversity is such a key focus within Corrections then why does this happen?

Score! Rugby, Masculinity, Heteronormativity, and Queer Deaths

written for a reading response assignment for socio 101: sociology of aotearoa, at the university of auckland in february 2015.


“I was hoping I was going to kill myself before people found out then… nobody would have known that I was going to. I didn’t want to embarrass my family, which is what I thought would happen when people found out I was gay – if they found out I was gay. But I never ever thought I was going to get to the stage where I am now. I never knew that it was possible to live and be happy as a gay person. And as soon as I realised that I was a gay person it seemed completely impossible to be happy.” (‘Andy’, cited in Town, 1999, p. 135)

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.” (Alcorn, 2014)

Masculinity has many negative outcomes in society, for men and others. As it stands, the construction of masculinity in Aotearoa is heavily influenced by sport, in particular rugby, which, according to Richard Pringle, holds a privileged sociocultural position in our society (Pringle, 2007).

Richard Pringle’s article, ‘Sport, Males, and Masculinity’ provides a solid overview of the influence of sport on masculinity, and a good basis for critique of both sport and masculinity in Aotearoa. Pringle introduces Raewyn Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity and discusses how it has dominated sport sociology in the last two decades. Hegemonic masculinity describes the socially valued, privileged, and idealised version of masculinity that is held above all other forms, implementations, and performances of masculinity. While dependent on and influenced by context, hegemonic masculinity almost always puts men in power, and more often than not it is exclusively heterosexual and anti-feminine. Importantly, hegemonic masculinity is not embodied by all men, but rather is something that men may aspire to. Connell uses the term “complicit masculinity” to refer to men who do not enact a strong dominance or embody hegemonic masculinity but receive the beneifts of patriarchy regardless (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005). Connell uses Gramsci’s concept of hegemony, which describes “how a ruling class or group establishes and maintains cultural dominance over subordinate groups” as well as the way the subordinated legitimise the system of beliefs enacted by the dominant group (Pringle, 2007). As a result, hegemonic masculinity not only describes the dominance of men over women but naturalises it along with certain ways of performing masculinity.

Pringle then critiques the use of hegemonic masculinity, citing Helen Yeates’ discussions of Australian rugby leage and its commodification, stating that increased media intrusion and the appearance of players in magazines for women shows them in “softer social contexts” (Pringle, 2007, p. 363). Toby Miller also provided a similar argument, saying that players’ bodies were marketed not just for straight, complicitly masculine men, but also straight women and gay men (note: although the hegemonic ideal of masculinity is heterosexual, gay men still receive benefits from the patriarchy on the basis of being men and can be considered complicitly masculine). This is not a coherent critique of hegemonic masculinity’s use in sport sociology for two reasons: firstly, Connell addresses the potential for hegemonic masculinities to change in her 2005 revisitation:

“Hegemonic masculinities therefore came into existence in specific circumstances were open to historical changes. More precisely, there could be struggle for hegemony, and older forms of masculinity might be displaced by new ones.” (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005, p. 832-3)

Secondly, the idea that the marketing of the bodies of the oppressors to the marginalised somehow negates the oppression is not coherent – in fact, it is a function of Gramscian hegemony. The idealisation of a specific kind of body and a specific performance of masculinity is no more than an hegemonic tool to encourage the subordinated to legitimise their subordination (Gramsci, 1971).

The only coherent critique provided by Pringle of hegemonic masculinity’s use in this area is a Foucauldian one. Hegemonic masculinity relies on a top-down model of power, stemming from a ruling class and acting upon the subjugated. As such, the model of power it utilises is purely hierarchical and sorts people into distinct categories, with the potential to ignore key distinctions and differences. Instead, Foucault theorised power to be a relational concept and not a substance that could be possessed or acquired (Foucault M. , 1983; Foucault M. , 1978). Foucauldian post-structural analysis of power examines each individual in an interaction and how power is being exerted or expressed in that relationship, and as a result does not obscure the key differences that a Marxist theory of power such as hegemonic masculinity does.

Pringle provides evidence from qualitative studies around the production of masculinities that value aggression, pain tolerance, and risk taking, along with the associated cultures of sexism and alcoholism. Rugby grew out of a culture that believed that physical sport would create “real men” and would push down feminine characteristics, enabling and reifying a gender order. Sport has been so heavily associated with femininity that to fail at sport is akin to failing at being manly – contributing to the fragility of masculinity that ostensibly leads to emotional problems and potentially domestic abuse. In my experience, “sporty” or “manly” men tend to be a lot more aggressive and threatening, and not just physically.

Shane Town’s research on young gay men in ‘Queer(y)ing Masculinities in Schools’ provides a specific if narrow insight into queer experiences in the school system. Town outlines three practices enacted in schools that enable and support a culture of heteronormativity, which in turn supports a culture of homophobia. These three practices are a) silence both in and outside of class about sexuality (especially homosexuality), b) the pathologisation of homosexuality by the implicit linking of it to HIV/AIDS in the health curriculum, and c) the strict policing of heterosexual masculinity, predominantly through violence, homophobic abuse, and social conformity. (Town, 1999)

All the young men in Town’s study report staying closeted in school due to fear of the consequences of coming out. The article starts with one of the students talking about how he would pray for God to make him straight, and directly attributes it to the school: “I guess that is how much the school and community had conditioned me” (Town, 1999, p.135). The practices lead to a culture of absolute heteronormativity. In art history classes teachers would talk about how Michelangelo and Da Vinci were arrested for sodomy, directly portraying homosexuality as negative. When AIDS was brought up in the health curriculum it was linked to homosexuality, inducing a fear for the students’ physical health and creating an avoidance of sexual contact.

Town’s research indicates that the “correct” performance of masculinity is a heterosexual one. Any indication of homosexuality indicates a failure at masculinity, and any failure at masculinity indicates a homosexual identity. Compulsory heterosexuality, an aspect of heteronormativity, means that many queer youth take until their mid to late teens to come to understand their identities, myself included.

Both Pringle and Town make explicit references to rugby as a masculinising (and thus a heteronormative) practice. Pringle describes rugby has occupying a privileged socio-cultural position in Aotearoa – evidenced by its dominance of the sports (and often non-sports) media, attention in schools, and its influence on social life. He points out that the understanding of rugby as “a man’s sport” means female players are marginalised as not conforming to expected gender norms, and that men not interested in rugby are marginalised in a similar manner. To play rugby is to perform masculinity. This is also evident in Town’s study, as many of his interviewees refer to the first XV and the first XV ‘type’ of boy being the ones to utilise homophobic abuse. The violent nature of rugby outlined in Pringle’s work makes a reappearance in Town’s study, where taking part in violent situations was a “significant part of their ability to project and maintain public, masculine and heterosexual images” (Town, 1999). It is in this way that performances of heterosexual masculinity is linked to violence and homophobia, and how the culture of heteronormativity in schools leads to a sibling culture of homophobia among the students: they enforce heterosexuality and masculinity via violence and homophobic abuse and slurs. If a student does not perform masculinity well enough they are considered effeminate and thus queer. In Town’s study, this lead to even the young gay students abusing others in an attempt to keep up their reputation as straight and masculine.

Both Pringle’s and Town’s papers speak to my experiences of high school as a queer trans woman who did not come out until university, as queer youth of all identities have shared experiences in terms of erasure and abuse. While I never held any particular interest in performing any form of masculinity even when I thought I was a man, the lack of community and education and the fear of my identity hits home. As a victim of abuse at the hands of men both in childhood and adolescence I am ideologically opposed to the violent and bigoted form of masculinity rugby contributes to the construction of. This relates to what I found missing from Pringle’s analysis along with many other articles in the study of masculinity: there is a prioritising of the detriments of masculinity for men, as opposed to the ways it may contribute to violence and abuse of women and children. As Pringle states, there is anecdotal evidence that suggests that cases of domestic violence increase during televised screenings of All Blacks matches (Jessup, 1999, cited in Pringle, 2007). This is a reflection of my past experiences with liberal feminism, in which men must be appealed to via explaining the effects of patriarchy on them in order to gain their support.

While Town’s research is worthwhile and obviously important, it falls into the trap that most queer theorists do: that of focussing exclusively on cis gay men, to the detriment of others. While I am not denying the struggles that young gay men go through, mental health statistics for trans youth paint a much more depressing picture. None of the youth in Town’s study had attempted suicide, whereas a recent study in New Zealand schools shows that over 41% of self-identifying trans students show significant depressive symptoms (as opposed to 12% of the cis population), 45.5% self-harmed (23% of cis students), and 20% attempted suicide (4.1% of cis students) (Clark, me ētahi atu, 2013). A similar study from the same report showed similar worrying rates for other queer youth today, showing that even with the notion of widespread societal acceptance, little in our schools has changed. The quote at the start of this essay from Leelah Alcorn, a trans woman who took her life late last year, highlights this clearly.

As an active advocate for queer and trans youth in schools, the knowledge that studies were done in the late 90s proving that change needed to happen is extremely distressing, especially with the recent Youth’12 data proving that relatively little has actually changed. These papers have highlighted a problem in schools I had not previously considered alongside improving the curriculum and bullying policies: the prioritisation of typically masculine pursuits such as rugby over everything else. This will become another focus of my work on making things safer for our youth.


Alcorn, L. (2014, December 28). Retrieved from https://jenniferkateshields.wordpress.com/2014/12/31/leelah-alcorn-and-cultural-transmisogyny/

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