I've been keeping abreast of the drama that has been unfolding around the police's involvement in the Auckland Pride Parade, but only from a distance. I've avoided the hui and Facebook rants, but I've heard about them second hand from friends and colleagues.
I can see both sides of the argument, but I'm deeply troubled about what I've heard. For me, whether or not the police march and how they dress, pales in comparison to the way this issue has been addressed within the LGBTQI+ community.
Overall, as is so usual with issues such as these, there is a polemic discourse about whether or not the police march in uniform. This has split the community into two factions – "the fors versus the againsts". It's interesting that we always take these oppositional stances, even in the context of a compromise. The option of bickering over whether or not the police should march has been taken away, so let's sling mud over their attire.
There are other themes to the central debate. This is not a deeply researched analysis, just my impressions as I watch and listen from the sidelines.
One of the key dynamics behind the banning of uniforms is that Māori, and by association takatāpui, are over seven times more likely to fall victim to police brutality. Police marching in civvies is symbolic of an opportunity for healing this inequality, as Emmy Rākete, a spokesperson for People Against Prisons Aotearoa, explains to Guyon Espiner in this RNZ interview:
"Pride as a celebration is a space that should be enjoyed by our entire community, not just a majority. As Gay, cisgender men, it’s high time we check our privilege and start to look at things from a ‘community’ perspective rather than a ‘gay’ perspective. Let’s rally together and stand for those that have fought with, and even for us, in the past."
Neo-liberalism and capitalism
In the same RNZ interview, it is mentioned that "[s]o far Vodafone, BNZ, ANZ, Westpac, NZME, the Ponsonby Business Association, NZDF and the Rainbow New Zealand Trust have all withdrawn support for the parade."
Espiner, surprisingly putting his foot in his mouth, feels the need to ask, if all those corporate/government agencies aren't going to be there, "who's going to be left in this parade then?" Rākete calmly states the bleeding obvious: "Gay people probably." No shit, Guyon.
That the Parade has become the PR platform for institutions to prove their "rainbow-friendliness" is farcical. Not only is it the antithesis of the community connectedness that Pride represents, but it is also actively fueling division among us.
For me, the most concerning and sad thing about this division in the community is the way individual people have expressed their opinion. I've heard of cis, white gay men shouting at transfolk in community meetings. I've heard of politicians debating with community members on social media who disagree with their stance. The Pride Board has said they have "heard numerous stories of transphobia, racism, misogyny and homophobia directed at members."
Minority infighting, in my opinion, is one of the most destructive phenomenon in our society. It cuts to the very heart of diversity and identity. As marginalised people we have to learn to disagree with each other with respect, dignity and generosity.
What do I think?
The bottom line for me is this: The Pride Board is an elected group of people charged with the responsibility of kaitiakitanga over the kaupapa of Pride. They are generous, committed volunteers who give their time and energy graciously and willingly. I feel obligated to respect their decisions, even if I disagree with them, not through my toys out of the cot.
I think that the courteous way forward is to honour the trustees' decision. Let them do their job. Bugger the corporates and institutions. Let's hang together as community.