Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Divorcing equality

Let's say a newspaper writes a beat up story about a flat advert about a household asking for heterosexual people not to apply.  The article subtly ridicules all the ways the flatmates self-described themselves through the liberal use of quote marks:
It was for a four-bedroom house in the suburb of Newtown, which the existing flatmates described as a "queer, transgender, vegetarian household".
They described themselves as two "feminist/politically switched on adults"......
The Human Rights Commission gets the chance to respond.  It's not unreasonable to expect they might raise the persistent discrimination sexuality and gender diverse people experience in housing.  Like the facts around how vulnerable our young people are, when families reject our sexual or gender identity, and we have to find housing before we're actually ready to be independent.  Or the complete lack of safety for anyone who isn't a cis man in our homeless shelters - we have too few options for homeless women, queer or not, and no options for people who don't fit gender norms/are non-binary. 

Or what happens to us when we rock up to apply for a flat, and the person renting it realises we are not straight, or we are trans, and suddenly the room or house isn't available anymore.  Add being Maori or from any visible ethnic minority to that and you've got an even smaller pool to choose from.

Or what about when we find a flat, and it's ok, they even know we're queer - but then we get a similar gender lover, and suddenly people don't actually talk to us properly anymore? 

These are all overtish - rarely will we be told any of this is about being queer or trans or brown - but we know.  There's also all the covert stuff when you live with homophobic, biphobic or transphobic people.  The inability to have ordinary conversations about your experiences, because those people don't want to hear or don't understand or when you try talking, they are glazed over, bored, because it's not their experience and they don't really care.  The failure to acknowledge significant pain points, like the way your family treat you at Christmas or the hoops you have to jump through to get the hormones or medication you need to be recognised as who you are.

See, I EXPECT our Human Rights Commission to have heard those stories, because they monitor discrimination in this country.  They held a Transgender Inquiry in 2008 which said about housing:
"The Inquiry heard that finding a home was not always easy for trans people.  Those who transitioned as young adults were usually dependent on shared rental accomodation, particularly in flatting situations.  Social marginalisation and negative attitudes towards transpeople affects access to shared accomodation.  A trans woman told of being offered a room in a flat but was later turned away when the other tenants realised she was trans.  One trans man described the stress of boarding in a large house where flatmates continually harassed him by referring to him as "she"."
But instead the Human Rights Commission gave a weak waffling response about how we didn't want to live in a country with prejudice, whether that was saying "No straight people" or "No gay people".

The fact the HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION doesn't understand structural discrimination is terrifying.  Because guess what - straight people can live everywhere else in the whole world almost - the fact that a couple of queer trans peeps in the lovely suburb of Newtown want to feel safe at home doesn't restrict straight people's housing options.

It kind of gets worse, with once again, our more mainstream Rainbow community organisations not knowing how to deal with talking about marginalisation, safety and discrimination.  There is no story here apart from the fact that queer and trans people must have the right, in an incredibly discriminatory housing context in Aotearoa New Zealand, to develop homes which feel safe for us.  And the Human Rights Commission and every single Rainbow organisation commenting on this should be saying that.

Because home is where we go to recover from the world.  It's where we most need to feel safe, to feel seen, to know how we are is just fine.  It's where, if we're talking psychologically, we need to be able to sleep without fear and rest from how we are treated on the streets, at work, in study, whenever we try to access anything we need.  All of those experiences can be more difficult for trans and queer people.

Marriage equality has dulled our senses, drugged our supposed protections, shifted the focus from most queer and trans people's experiences - particularly those of us who are poor, not white, disabled and/or less able or have less desire to fit in.  Expect no less than rage from those of us who never wanted to get married in the first place - it's time for the Rainbow community to divorce this unhealthy relationship with "equality" and start dating around.


Bell Murphy said...

Thank you for writing this!

LudditeJourno said...

You're very welcome Bell. It's been a rough week eh.

Adam said...

Great point! Clearly, gay divorces, like heterosexual ones, are painful. Whether amicable or acrimonious, they can provoke feelings of doubt, sorrow, loss of self-esteem, financial insecurity, and resentment of a former loving partner. And unfortunately, sometimes they create sensational headlines.