Ngahuia Te Awekotuku: “Inclusivity is an assumption”

In 1981, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku (Ngāti Whakaue) MNZM became the first Maori female to gain a doctorate in Aotearoa. She went on to become an award-winning author, expert on indigenous heritage and the first Maori female Emeritus Professor in NZ. She discusses the construct of inclusivity and our colourful female future.

In 2020 do you believe we have an ‘inclusive LGBT+ society’?

No. It’s a construct. Acronyms and capital letters in ENGLISH do not embrace and enhance; they are more likely to confound and confront. Other issues – poverty, classism, suicide, domestic violence, substance abuse,  – impact much more on the lives of the people I love. Classism is as toxic as racism. And that’s all I wish to say about that!

Do you foresee a bright future for queer Maori?

This is a loaded question, and I am not clairvoyant.

Hope springs eternal! I had such hope in 1970-71 when I shouted to be noticed when I spoke at a Wellington Women’s Liberation Conference March 1971 about lesbianism;  the Maori women all walked out, accusing me of “spouting filth”. There were only four of them; I followed them afterwards, crying, trying to explain myself. One was kind; the other three were ashamed and disgusted.

That was fifty years ago.

I was young and unstoppable; so are many of our Taiohi youth today.

So yes, there is always hope. Just be unstoppable. Never give up.

What does Pride mean to you?

Pride is a safe pathway for people who are still deciding; who are unsure and fearful, or just wondering; Pride is a place where the bold sassy brave ones can show off, demonstrate their creativity and fabulousness; Pride is a time to celebrate our triumphs; remember our heroines and heroes who have gone; and also to mourn our losses. And own up to our failures and our problems.

Most of all, it’s about being together, and being out there.

Uenuku Pride promises to ‘celebrate the laws passed in our country’s history and acknowledge the firsts that have shaped our inclusive LGBT+ society,’ what firsts are you particularly looking forward to discussing?

Inclusivity is an assumption. You cannot legislate to change the hearts and minds of humans; you can only hope. Trump has exposed how shallow it all is, and how deep and pervasive people’s hatred is.

Firsts for me include the brave older men of the Homosexual Law Reform Society (in the 1960s), and the feisty Maori billiards and softball women of that same time, who founded the Karangahape Rd Kamp Girls Club. They had courage. And I honour all those wonderful people “like that” who just got on with their lives, asked for nothing, and loved.

Awareness of intersectionality in feminism is growing, how do you think this will shape the movement moving forward?

This is someone’s doctoral thesis topic. Let them answer it.

But I believe the future if we still have a planet to live on (!), is female and it is coloured. Mixed heritage; polyglot. Complex. Venturesome. And fabulous!