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Sunday 12 October 2008

Maryan Street: ‘Walking the Talk’

Posted in: Features
By Maryan Street - 24th June 2007

Maryan Street
Just recently I was party to an email conversation about supporting gay and lesbian candidates for the upcoming local body elections. One participant said that what they do is more important than the fact that they are gay or lesbian. I quite agree. Our various and varied GLBTI communities are long past the stage of voting for someone solely because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex. We are more diverse and more sophisticated than that these days.

I am the only lesbian in Parliament – to my knowledge! I am a Labour MP. There was a lesbian MP once before, over 20 years ago, who was outed by her leader, Sir Robert Muldoon, in his attempt to discredit and marginalise her during a significant policy disagreement. She was a National MP. She lives with the legacy of her party's actions in Parliament and their policies. I work to enact Labour policies – that is what I am in Parliament for. We are both judged by our party's actions in power. But we are also judged by our personal actions.

I am very aware of who I am as I move through my work as a Labour MP. I do not separate out any part of my life from any other. So I'm out and proud to be one face of the lesbian community, and to represent issues which our GLBTI communities tell me need representation.

We four Rainbow Labour MPs (Chris Carter, Tim Barnett, Charles Chauvel and myself) meet every Parliamentary session to coordinate our activities and discuss issues that need advancing on behalf of our communities. This session we decided to respond in a practical way to a particular need which was put before us.

The Auckland Gay and Lesbian Welfare group (AGLW) put out a call for sponsorship of their counsellors through the Gayline “Adopt a Counsellor” Project 2007. For $40, you can “adopt” a counsellor for one year, thereby contributing to their training and the maintenance of this telephone counselling service. AGLW has run services for the GLTB communities for 35 years. Some years ago, I watched close up with interest as Gayline transformed itself, with the help of an able counsellor, into a professional telephone counselling service, complete with proper skills training, a code of conduct, and supervision systems. They have gone from strength to strength and now help over 5000 people a year through this service.

So my colleagues and I decided to contribute $100 each and sponsor 10 counsellors. MPs talk a lot in the course of our jobs, but this was a moment to put our money where our mouths are!

If you are interested in contributing $40 in this way, contact Neil Denney, the AGLW General Manager on 09 309 3268. Or you could just post a cheque made out to AGLW to PO Box 3132, Auckland. It's tax deductible too!

We have a lot to be proud of as a Labour MPs – from 1 July this year we will have brought down doctors' fees for everybody, lowered the cost of prescription drugs from $15 to $3, introduced 20 hours free early childhood education, and delivered KiwiSaver – the best chance ever for low income people to be able to buy a house, or save for their retirement and have something to top up their superannuation when they are 65. And they are only the top 4 things which come to mind. As well as that, we are keen as individual gay and lesbian MPs, to support services like Gayline with personal contributions.

I am happy to be judged on Labour's actions in government and my own actions as a lesbian MP.

Maryan Street - 24th June 2007