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Wednesday 09 November 2016


GLITTFAB lives in Palmerston North

Posted in: Our Communities
By Craig Young - 29th October 2016

MaLGRA (the Manawatu Lesbian and Gay Rights Association) is the oldest continuously existing LGBTI+ organisation in Aotearoa/New Zealand, having been founded in 1977. It celebrated its thirty ninth anniversary during Labour Weekend and held a GLITTFAB Symposium at Palmerston North's Hancock Community House in King Street.

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GLITTFAB? The term means Gay, Lesbian, Intersex, Transgender, Takatapui, Fa'afafine, Asexual and Bisexual. While most of this year has been focused on the thirtieth anniversary of homosexual law reform elsewhere in the country, the Symposium was commendably focused predominantly on the here and now, as well as the intermediate future insofar as changes in professional practice and legislative reform are concerned.

Several organisations were represented at the Symposium. Inside Out provided some sobering statistics on the ordeal faced by adolescent LGBT individuals currently within secondary schools and the problems they face from organisational barriers, tolerance of anti-LGBT bullying and consequent substance abuse and mental health problems that result in this context. inside Out, Rainbow Youth and our other LGBTI youth organisations are doing excellent work, but the scale of their task is immense and their influence is constrained by funding restraints. There were also speakers from the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, Positive Speakers Bureau, Palmerston North Women's Health Collective and the Palmerston North-based Transcend transgender support group. Transcend/Inside out provided attendees with an excellent interactive game that brought home just how many hurdles that transgender individuals must negotiate in New Zealand if they are to access hormone treatment, affirmative counselling and psychotherapy and the eventual possibility of reassignment surgery. The Womens Health Collective representatives discussed health consumer activism and Mani Bruce Mitchell talked about the consequences of intersectionality for our lives.

Unfortunately, an uncooperative alarm clock meant I missed the opening and two morning presentations from Palmerston North takatapui representatives and a local Police Diversity Liaison Officer.

One particular strength of this weekend was the focus on establishing the need for New Zealand-based research on HIV/AIDS, sexual orientation and gender identity. While prior New Zealand legislative reform has been achieved with the assistance of some limited existing New Zealand based research when it comes to HIV/AIDS prevention and early intervention planning, and other legislative goals have been reached with the use of relevant and applicable overseas research projects within relevant disciplines, such as same-sex parenting, nevertheless New Zealand's LGBTI communities also need local and timely research programmes so that we can finish the job and legislate for the direct inclusion of gender identity within the Human Rights Act 1993 and comprehensive and enforceable antibullying programmes within New Zealand schools, as well as address our stake in other contemporary social debates such as the current New Zealand housing crisis.

All in all, the Symposium was a well-run and insightful look at modern LGBTI lives in New Zealand in 2016 and beyond. MaLGRA is to be recommended for funding it, especially given unco-operative Palmerston North City Council responses to requests for community welfare spending. It is to be hoped that as we near the next New Zealand Election in 2017, other New Zealand regional LGBTI organisations take a similarly responsible stance toward evaluating our present and undertaking strategic planning for the futures that we want.

Craig Young - 29th October 2016

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