For the last four years, Ash Sanders has organised Plaid an Auckland-based queer meet-up collective for people who identify as women, non-binary or trans, with over 650 members. She talks to express about her inspiration for Plaid and hopes for the community.
Ash Sanders lives in Tāmaki Makaurau with her wife and is expecting a baby any day now! Ash describes herself as a creative master-of-none who enjoys running queer events, songwriting, performing, and writing.
What makes you tick?
Thought-provoking books, art, films, and music. Real conversation and connection. People’s stories. Pretty skylines. Colours.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Either a Pop Star or work in a dairy?
How do you identify yourself?
I identify as a Queer person. I’m aware that the word is perceived differently by people in the community. I find it to be a great umbrella term that simply shares that I don’t identify as straight. It also allows me to avoid the old generalisations that are attached to bisexual, lesbian or pansexual archetypes.
What drove you to start Plaid?
Despite living in Auckland in my twenties for many years, I didn’t venture out into the Rainbow community all that much. Once I went overseas to live in London, I sought out like-minded people and ended up assembling a great friendship group of queer women, and honestly, it was such a relief!
Returning to NZ in 2016, not knowing what was out there for LGBT+ people (apart from Family Bar), I sought to recreate this feeling in a bigger way. I used dating app profiles and word of mouth to invite people to join a Queer Collective based out of a private Facebook group (and later Instagram too) and with each meet-up we grew.
I’m really passionate about a community that is connected and that lifts each other up. Plaid is filled with talented, interesting people of diverse ages, backgrounds and stories, while we are all so different there’s something that unites us.
What can you expect at a Plaid outing?
The first time is always scary, but everyone is there for the same reasons – to make friends and be around like-minded people. The second time these people aren’t strangers and eventually, they are friends. I’ve planned a few larger events such as The Big Queer Quiz of the Year, Speed Mate-ing and L-Word Bingo, but I feel like the best events are where people can sit down and really chat and get to know each other – whether it’s a brunch, BYO or a movie.
As it’s a collective, anyone can post and create their own event. It’s been fun to see the growth of Plaid, there’s even a Plaid Playgroup for queer parents and a Plaid Fitness page set up by the hardcore sporties.
People come and go from regularly attending events depending on their circumstances, stage of life, and relationship status. But you can always trust there’ll be a friendly face.
How could we improve New Zealand’s LGBTQIA+ community?
I’d love to see more unity in the community for all members of the LGBT+ community. I think we need to focus on trans rights especially with encouraging understanding and visibility in mainstream society.
I’d also love to see more groups set up regionally! We often have people across NZ asking to join Plaid but the point is to keep it local and based on real-life interactions. I would love to see people across the country starting their own groups in their towns – it just takes one person. I’m an introvert and I did it, so you can too!
What do you want out of life?
I want to look back and know that I really lived and did things that excited me, while also connecting on a real level with people.
What are your Top Four Rainbow recommendations?
Book: Another Country – James Baldwin.
TV Show: Tales of the City.
Song: Hayley Kiyoko – Curious.