Aotearoa New Zealand might be a better place to grow up queer than any of the 72 countries where same-sex love will get you chucked into prison, but it’s still harder than growing up opposite-sex attracted. Same and both-sex attracted young people are more likely to be bullied, use alcohol and drugs, self-harm, feel depressed and try to commit suicide.
So the report released by Green MP Kevin Hague this week is timely. Author Murray Riches interviewed a bunch of people who work with queer youth to come up with some recommendations for making queer life easier – and he also highlights that we may not even know how hard it is for trans young people.
Riches says the problem is heteronormativity and it’s converse, the idea that queer people “flaunt” our sexuality whenever we talk about not being straight, or not having a gender identity which matches our biology, or the gender people assign to us.
How does this work say, in the biggest cultural event going on in Aotearoa right now?
Well, there’s been precisely one out gay male international rugby player, Welsh player Gareth Thomas. It seems statistically unlikely that Gareth’s the only rugby-playing boy who likes kissing boys, so that suggests to me it’s not too easy to “flaunt” being queer if you’re a male rugby player.
What about the messages we get watching the games? There’s plenty of opportunities for enjoying the male body – if you’re female.
Messages about queer desire here, despite how incredibly easy it would have been to include, because really, you’re telling me you couldn’t find any men who like the look of Sonny Bill? Zilch.
More broadly, rugby and Air NZ have made sure we know those All Blacks don’t like queer boys by having Richard Kahui make himself available for random kisses from women, but firmly unavailable for random kisses by men.
Yep, the Rugby World Cup is a pretty good example of what’s wrong with the world if you’re a young queer person. And that’s not even going into the fact we seem to find it impossible to remember we have an international rugby team that wins world cups and which plenty of queer women might enjoy watching.
As well as supporting Kevin Hague with this report, if you’re interested in supporting young queer people check out the Queer Avengers in Wellington on 6th October. They are asking the Ministry of Education to ensure school is a safe place for queer students. It’s hard to argue with that.