Passports, Progress, and Rain before Rainbows
I am bisexual. It is a sexuality that has been described as impossible, because depending on who you are in a relationship with; you are viewed as either straight or gay. I too thought it was this simple. When I first realised that I was attracted to women I thought that I had a decision: I could either just date men for the rest of my life and never come out, or I could date the woman I had fallen in love with and come out of some closet I never chose to be in. I was extremely privileged that the latter was easy enough, so I followed my heart to the front door of my first female crush. I thought it was a decision, and in my head created a parallel universe where the straight version of Lucy lived.
My decision to be straight or gay wasn’t really a decision though. As I fell deeper in love I realised the straight Lucy, in her made up world, was oppressed. I lamented for the version of myself who didn’t get the chance to experience the world in the way her mind and body knew best. I am a queer woman through and through and I was never going to fit the heteronormative cookie cutter.
There have been moments in my life when I have thought, my goodness, it would have been easier to just pretend I was straight. There have also been a few occasions (approximately three) where my sexuality has led me to feel very scared.
No one should ever feel scared for peacefully expressing who they are. Yet, my three instances of fear are but a fleck of dust on what the majority of LGBTQI folk live globally. For them, fear is on the cards; cards they carry around everyday.
I spent a week last month in a room with 28 other young people from Asia-Pacific commonwealth countries discussing gender and sexuality. Perhaps naïve of me but it was the first time I realised the extent of the role that our nation state, law and governance, plays in dictating our lived experiences of these axes of difference.
I am not saying there aren’t people in New Zealand who live in fear everyday, because there are. I work for a national phone counselling service and I hear these stories of fear every shift. The nature of a free national phone service means that our work transgresses socio-economic, geographic, ethnic, and other divides. These struggles are real, they are intersectional, they are complex, but there is a stark difference…
In New Zealand homosexuality is not a crime. You are allowed to get married. Conversion therapy is on its way to being ruled out. As a world first, domestic abuse survivors are being given annual leave for protection and time to recover and go to court. You can call the police if you feel afraid. You can call the government funded human rights commission if you need support and advice.
Although a culture of homo/bi/trans/xx-phobia still lives on, we have legally reformed the homophobic legacy of colonisation. But New Zealand, England, Canada, and Australia are unique in this respect. Most former British (and other) colonies suffer on with rigid templates of gender and sexuality. These are embedded in a legacy of colonial law, and infiltrate all aspects of livelihoods.
I try to follow a range of feminist instagram accounts and be open to all angles but recently found myself extremely frustrated at some accounts screaming about how allies don’t belong in pride parades. I belong in a pride parade. And even though I am queer I am more so an ally. Here is why:
My first pride parade was a coming of age glitter extravaganza. It was great, and I don’t want to undermine that legitimately great experience to any flourishing queer human. While it is a human right to have freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination, we must also remember that privilege is relative. Having this right is such a win, it is fantastic, it is extremely hopeful, but it is also a relatively huge privilege.
The first Pride was a riot. My predecessors fought for my rights and my heart is filled with rainbow gratitude for them, but the fight is far from over. My daily freedoms are the reflection of the fights, and are tied to the colour of my passport.
Intersectionality discourse often underplays the role of geography, politics, and time. Allies who want to show support for anyone with an axis of disadvantage more severe than their own should be welcome, because we always need more of the world respecting and rallying rights. We can all be allies: be kindly quiet when someone has something to say, but loud when demanding someone gets a platform to say it. I am an ally for my friends who won’t be at a pride parade soon, because geography is unequal. I am an ally for my friends with a different coloured passport. I am an ally in a lived position of hope.
So what does this mean?
So far it means signing campaigns on All Out, and donating where I can https://allout.org/en
Perhaps it might also mean getting more of a picture of the problem, Where love is illegal is one of my favourite projects http://whereloveisillegal.com/
As I finish my dissertation on something completely different my head is not currently sure of the next steps. I feel like I am still piecing together some of the shards of conversation I had with my new friends during that week. My job has made me generally good at hearing bad things, and boxing them away. This time I’m all pulsing heart and boiling blood: Common symptoms of the injustices of love, I suppose.
At the end of that trip I went home crying, because that girl who suppressed her sexuality is no longer the made up version of myself living in a parallel universe. I met that girl, and she is my friend.
Article by Lucy