Sunday, 22 February 2015

It's raining racism and transphobia on my Pride parade

Content warning: this is about racist, transphobic violence and has been put together from a number of sources online available at time of writing.

Last night during the Pride parade in Auckland a Māori trans woman had her arm broken as she protested against New Zealand Police and Corrections staff taking part.  Other protestors say the security staff targetted her for violence, while cis Pākehā protestors were treated more gently.

You should not have your arm broken when you are protesting.  It's unclear yet whether her arm was broken by the Police or by security staff.  It's also unclear why there was a long delay in seeking medical attention despite numerous reports she was screaming.

We can thank social media for alerting us to how serious this is, because mainstream media coverage to date has been woefully incomplete.  In fact, it almost looks like the Police comms team went straight (pun intended) to work.  The NZ Herald tells us "Proud Police march Pride parade":

The Police press release/NZ Herald article explains that many Police participating were not "gay" (hint: NZ Police, neither are most LGBTIQ folks), they just wanted to show they "value diversity."  Then right at the end:
The only disruption to the parade was a vocal group of three who protested the police contingent.

Protester Tim Lamusse said police had a history of targeting queer communities, "particularly in the 60s, 70s and 80s, they would turn up to gay clubs, make everyone come outside and shame them in front of everybody".

The protest was poorly received by the crowd, which responded with calls of "you're ruining the parade!".

Lamusse said police never apologised for their past prejudices and "they continue to beat up queer kids".
One of the protesters was arrested and later treated by St John staff for injuries she suffered during the arrest.
Both RadioNZ and Stuff at least lead their Pride coverage with the assault, but details at this point are scarce.  Stuff have also apologised for an earlier version of the article describing the woman injured as a "transvestite".

Let's just imagine, for one moment, the quantity and depth of coverage there would be if the Pride parade had involved property damage to a known homophobic bar. Investigative reporting might not be missing in action for that kind of assault.

But that's not the most disappointing part, for me at least.  Because the response from the queer* community has included event organisers saying how "well-handled" the incident was.  Unless, I guess, you're the Māori trans woman in hospital this morning, having your bones reset.

GayNZ has a small story, including a request for more information from those there.  But they also have a much more detailed editorial lauding Pride for being bigger, better and more mainstream than ever before.  Police are praised for the "massive symbolism" of taking part.

How about the "massive symbolism" of racist, transphobic state-sanctioned violence?  How about the "massive symbolism" of people filming the assault also being arrested, or having their phones destroyed?  How about the "massive symbolism" of a uniformed mob allowing an assault in front of them and not intervening to keep a member of the public safe?  

If you're not sure why NZ Police and Corrections staff have a difficult relationship with the queer* community, do some reading.  The Trans Inquiry in 2008 led by the Human Rights Commission detailed transpeople being subjected to violence, harassment, misgendering and exposure to unsafe environments by NZ Police and prison staff, abuse which continues to be an issue.

I have personal knowledge of queer* people trying to report same-sex sexual assault to the Police and being told there was no crime, or worse.  NZ Police do not always take the harassment and violence queer* people experience on the street seriously, even when that violence is lethal.  And the much vaunted Diversity Liasion Officers are certainly a step in the right direction - except when I tried to report some homophobic and biphobic violent threats I'd received a couple of years ago, Wellington Police Station didn't know what DLOs were, and couldn't tell me who I should be talking to.  

Marginalised people do not trust the Police, for good reasons.  In the Trans Inquiry, trans people reported regular Police harassment; Pacific peoples are twice as likely to be tasered as
Pākehā, Māori between the two.

So if you're a trans person of colour, it probably doesn't make you feel proud to see NZ Police "valuing diversity", it probably makes you feel scared.  "Massive symbolism" is empty if it's a lie.

You can support the woman lying in hospital today here.   


Lash of Thanatos said...

Pride parades used to be statements of defiance towards the force structures of the state. Now the force structures take part. It's sad.

LudditeJourno said...

Isn't it? I cannot think of a more appropriate place to raise issues of state violence towards all gender and sexuality diverse peeps, especially trans women of colour, than Pride.

Simone said...

Whose "Pride parade" is it? Yours exclusively or the community in general?

LudditeJourno said...

That's the point of the post, Simone. When "the community in general" leaves out the people in our community, we have a problem.

Lash of Thanatos said...

@LJ: I think we have to accept for the forseeable future that pride parades are not palces for activism, they exist mostly so that the force structures and corporate interests can indulge in tokenism and do advertising.

I was at Houston Pride last year and I wanted to cry as I saw the Log Cabin Republicans float go past.

LudditeJourno said...

Yep LoT, I hear you.

Lash of Thanatos said...

And I hear you too sister