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After nearly twelve years of volunteering for the Christchurch Pride Board, the death of a close friend led Akira Le Fevre and Jill Stevens to reassess what the city’s rainbow communities needed. They talk to YOUR ex about creating ‘Queer Care’ with support from Christchurch Pride.

Where and when did the two of you meet, and was it love at first sight?

Akira: Maybe 14 years ago? If it were love at first sight, it would have solved our many
years of single solitude, but we both batted for different teams – but there was plutonic
love for each other. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Jill. Everyone needs a committed
lesbian in their life!

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Jill: We both sat on the board of trustees for Qtopia (a Christchurch queer youth charity).
No romantic music was playing – it wasn’t a candle-lit moment – but it was still the start of
our bromance.

When did each of you first sign up for the Christchurch Pride board?

Akira: I may have tricked Jill into joining the Pride Board 12 years ago after the earthquakes, where we had to rebuild it from the rubble.

Jill: I thought it would be a great way to meet some new rainbow friends. That plan worked
out, as I have made so many long-term friends through Pride.

What are your favourite memories of your time on the Christchurch Pride Board?

Akira: Being able to connect people, provide safe spaces, see friendships grow, queer up spaces, see our city get behind Chch Pride and become more diverse and inclusive, and
see other community groups emerge and grow in strength.

What are some of the more challenging aspects of being on a board like that?

Jill: Balancing time. If you have a partner, they need to be supportive and understanding of your passion. I have always said to the committee, “If every time you have a pride meeting scheduled, you think, “Damn, not another one,” then it may be time to give it up. It does need to be enjoyable.

Akira: The behind-the-scenes dedication it takes, the energy you need and the time it takes you away from friends and whānau. Realising how you cannot please everyone and how some people’s expectations can be unrealistic when a board is made up of all volunteers who are juggling full-time careers, studies, relationships and whānau commitments. There are challenges, but these are outweighed by the positive outcomes.

So why was the end of 2023 the right time for each of you to leave the Pride Board?

Akira: I had just gotten married and wanted to spend more time with my husband. I had just attained a national role in my career, and I felt like Chch Pride was in a great space, ready for fresh blood and ideas.

Jill: I wanted to give other people space to make Pride shine. There are some amazing people on the committee. I had entered a new career a few years back and was struggling with my time management and the late-night events. It wasn’t an easy decision to make. I just didn’t have enough time to give it the respect it deserved.

Tell us about your relationship with well-known Christchurch performer Adriaan and
the impact his death had on you.

Akira: Adriaan was always the first to offer support and check in on you. He was so full of energy – always so positive and had become such a staple part of our local queer community, someone you expected to always be here. It's still strange to speak of him in the past tense.

Jill: Adriaan had the kind of personality that just made you smile. He was always willing to perform or support events. The first time I met Adriaan was at a party at Akira’s house about 8 years ago. I swear he twerked his ass off that night – dancing for hours! I was deeply saddened to have lost such a fabulous friend, yet honoured to help look after his close friends and family during the weeks that followed – as their funeral director. This led me to the realisation that there was a different path I wanted to take with helping people.

Which is where the inspiration for Queer Care came from?

Akira: To the community and the outside world, Adriaan was so strong and positive. Sadly, like many in our communities, there are still barriers to seeking support around well-being. We want to help remove those barriers by connecting people with services and resources to improve their health and well-being, whether that is spiritual, physical, mental and emotional, family, social or foundational – using the Te Whare Tapa Whā model of health.

Jill: Rather than leaving Pride completely, myself and Akira have taken a side step, still with Pride but on a different journey… There are people in our community who need support and connection. Mental health and well-being are serious parts of our lives, but do we check on each other enough? Do we take time to think of ourselves? I wanted to address that on a deeper level.

What would you like Queer Care to be initially, and what are your hopes for where
you could take it long-term?

Jill: One of our initiatives is a webpage for the Christchurch community. There is a lot of good information out there, but it’s hard to find. We want to try our best to centralise this into one place – to make it easier for people to find support and information.

Akira: We want to connect our communities with organisations and queer-friendly services and resources by creating an online directory. We also have an agreement with Chch Pride, who will donate a percentage of the money raised through their annual events, which will go towards supporting our communities in times of distress or need. We want to grow that fund so it’s sustainable and accessible.

If any of our readers would like to support Queer Care in some way, how should
they go about doing that?

Jill: Getting the word out is such a huge help. Please follow our socials and feel free to reach out and chat if you offer a safe space or service that could help the rainbow community within Christchurch. queercarenz@gmail.com

For more information, follow Queer Care on Facebook.

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