Opinion: Visibility.

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Sam Te Kani gives his thoughts on the Pride Parade and our assimilation.

I didn’t see the parade. I was working. It was at work though I had a conversation with an anonymous malcontent. The aforementioned stated with almost gleeful resistance that he would not be attending what he coined an ‘assimilationist’ event.

Having reveled in the carnival atmosphere of Pride myself, this comment forced me to consider what I’d previously felt to be a positive event, as perhaps servicing a wider condescension of society’s privileged position holders over those less so.

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As a young gay man living in Auckland’s CBD circa 2015, I don’t feel especially brutalised by an intolerant majority (which a conscious avoidance of the suburbs might have something to do with). This in no way makes me complaisant though. I realise that on a global scale, and in spite of what appalled conservatives might argue, ‘equality’ (a dubious word) is far on the horizon.

I was stunned though. If anything, I’d have thought ‘confident young gays’ of this fairly liberal city would be parade-absentees for other reasons, like institutionalised homophobias and not wanting to identify with any ‘community’, or out of urban laxity where such a thing as a parade seems like a hackneyed, irrelevant gesture.

From personal experience I’m aware of a bracket fiercely dissociated from any perceived ‘movement’, out of some tenuous notion every civic liberty has already been attained, game over, all resistance thereafter redundant. These attitudes mostly mask fears of not wanting to be ‘too gay’.

It was then surprising to find someone rejecting this public representation for not being gay enough. Assimilationist? Fair call. From what I’ve heard, and from the parade’s exclusive Ponsonby route, it does smell like a local bid for the Pink Dollar rather than a reminder to comfortably queer urbanites that outside our cosy liberal bubbles people die for admitting to their basest (meaning natural) instincts.

Let’s talk Hero. A parade in the nineties obviously meant something very different from a parade in 2015. I don’t know what it was like growing up gay a few decades ago, but I can imagine a certain militancy would’ve been the obvious temperament, whereas now being ‘political’ seems secondary to embodying a profile of success and social mobility (Gym-cults, Nike etc.).

Comparing Pride to Hero, the latter had its conflicts more clearly defined (Fight the Power!), where the former has a sneaky corporate element, domesticating vibrant subcultures into commercial bastards. And are we going to ignore the fact that certain MP’s marched who in fact voted AGAINST the marriage amendment?

Also, in view of things like Grindr, there appears to be a contemporary culture of invisibility where one can satisfy every and any sexual proclivity without the almost spiritual upheaval of coming out. This in mind, I’m pro-parade if it combats this internal issue, but not if we then whore it out to anyone looking for a career boost (National, cough).

I am not criticising the organisers or accusing them of compromising community interests by recruiting questionable event-backers. I understand that money is power, in essence neutral, and that good can be done with it no matter where it’s come from (within law and reason, eg. blood diamonds). What’s at work here are the necessary flaws of democracy itself, and our vigilance comes from discussion. And we can only have relevant discussion when the issues are visible. So kudos to the parade!

But let’s not confuse the carnival for triumph.

Article | Sam Te Kani

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