The Ministry for Rainbow Communities

Ani O’Brien
Mar 10 · 7 min read

Or ‘How to make discrimination against lesbians more systemic’

Green MP Jan Logie

Green MP Jan Logie has called for the creation of a new government ministry that would “improve access to funding and representation for LGBTQIA+ New Zealanders”. It would be fair to assume that any community would back calls to have a government minister dedicated to manage their interests, but for many of us who are lumped into the alphabet soup acronym (that seems to change as often as the hair colour of those it represents) it is a prospect we greet with a groan and our head in our hands.

The first issue with forming such a ministry is that the needs, wants, and beliefs within this so-called community are disparate. In the past year the rest of the New Zealand public has finally been exposed to the spilling over of discord between different factions of the LGBTQ* community that has been apparent to those of us on the inside for some time. The destruction of Auckland Pride was the most notable example of that.

Although there is some crossover, the main fault-line has the LGB on one side and the TQ on the other. The reasons why are obvious when you consider that for the LGB this is about sexuality and freedom to love who you love while for the TQ it is about identity. We actually have little in common; who we desire and have sex with is not the same thing as feeling as though the gender roles you enact do not fit with your biological sex.

Historically, the community was about the LGB. Sure there were cross-dressers, drag kings and queens, and transsexuals, but the community was based on none of us being heterosexual. Speaking to older lesbians I have learnt that the hostility that exists in the community now was not always there. They say that there was a mutual respect between transsexual males and lesbians in that they socialised together at collective events, but lesbian spaces were still allowed to be just that.

Transsexuals — as they were called then and as the older crowd still call themselves now — were small in number and much more tightly defined than today’s “transgender” umbrella. Nowadays, being transgender is a simple matter of declaring oneself to be after which any denial of identity is classed as a grievous attack on life and liberty. A heterosexual man can present masculinely and behave as he has always done, but after identifying as a woman he must be accepted as a lesbian. This type of cognitive dissonance is what has driven wedges in the LGBTQ* community. We are expected to affirm the identity of transgender people in all ways or risk ostracism and yet we are admonished if we point out that it is we who are invalidated when we are told a heterosexual male with a beard and sneans is a lesbian.

The preferencing of transgender-aligned narratives over any that support lesbians and gays is just the beginning. Organisations, advocates, groups, social clubs, and more, which our LGB created are now almost entirely dedicated to upholding gender identity ideology. Lesbians, bisexuals, and gays are an after-thought in the very places we helped build and felt safe.

Older generations feel sorry for those of us who will never know the thriving communities they had just a few decades ago. We have nothing. People often challenge us and say, “well create a community then”. Well, we have, but these communities have to be secret. We have to have secret Facebook groups with vetting questions and only word-of-mouth referrals. Likewise the few ‘real life’ lesbian social groups I have been part of have been word of mouth only. This means we miss out on meeting new people and being free and open in our social organisation. We do this because if we advertise lesbian events publicly we are unable to set boundaries without them being challenged or suffering consequences. Trans activist groups seek out such events in order to challenge them on their “exclusionary” behaviour. They will publicly shame them or the venue that is holding the event, they will threaten legal action or violence, they will bully and manipulate until the group is shut down.

And so as we are pushed into the shadows in our social lives and essentially back into the closet, we are now told it will be great idea if this whole situation is made more official by sticking a government stamp on it. It isn’t as if they aren’t already weaving the inequality of the community into other aspects of government anyway.

As one Kiwi tweeter pointed out, the Ministry of Education neglected to even mention “the LGB in its guide for LGBTQIA+ inclusivity, I think we can see very easily how a ‘Ministry for Rainbow Communities’ would work. It would erase gays and lesbians even further.”

We can look to how the Ministry for Women is being managed by Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter for further reasons to be cynical about Logie’s proposal. Genter failed in her duty of care to women by neglecting to do any analysis or research on the impacts of sex self-identification as it pertained to the BDMRR Bill that was recently deferred after a Speak Up For Women NZ campaign illuminated the deficiencies in consultation. It was apparent from early on that the Green Party had decided to push the controversial piece of legislation hard and that any conflicts of interests with their portfolios would be ignored.

The many lesbians who oppose sex self-identification and who were completely ignored by the Minister for Women and her party are unlikely to have much faith that their voices will be heard in a space where trans voices will be even more heavily prioritised.

Lesbians are accustomed to being marginalised within LGBTQ* communities nowadays and having that marginalisation formalised into a ministry would be a terrible step backwards. There are many voices speaking on behalf of lesbians already legitimising rhetoric that erases us and giving collective consent to redefining us in a way we would never agree to. To have a ministry, with the authority of government, able to speak for us would be a nightmare.

Jan Logie’s positions on transgenderism are her own and currently, although it is tiresome to hear her undermine lesbianism using her political platform, she is unable to formally make those positions the official position of lesbians in New Zealand. However, presuming she was made the Minister for Rainbow Communities she would have the power to do so nominally at least.

We have a hard enough time pushing back on unofficial rhetoric that says that anyone can be a lesbian if they identify as one without the government endorsing the nonsense. A Ministry for Rainbow Communities that was run by Logie and the Green Party with their current gender identity ideological positions would be hugely detrimental to the lesbians in this country. Young gay women are already facing being told that refusing to have sex with someone simply because they have a penis is bigoted and transphobic before they have even exited the closet. It is horrendous that any political party is happy to push that narrative let alone wants to have a ministry to do so.

One of the few positives about establishing such a ministry would be that we would be able to OIA (Official Information Act) the minister for actual breakdowns of funding allocation. It is widely speculated within LGB parts of the community that transgender projects and needs get a lot more funding than any lesbian or gay projects. Of course, we aren’t actually allowed to have any of our projects anyway as this would be exclusionary.

We would be able to formally chart our marginalisation within our own community if we could gain access to the documentation that currently is off-limits. We could demand to know how many of their policies were designed for the purpose of improving the lives of LGB people. We would know who the decision makers are and lobbyists. We would be able to request statistics that show population size versus funding allocation for each part of the “rainbow community”. We would see the studies and research they use to justify their positions and their decisions. They would, in short, be able to be held to account.

Maybe they might want to rethink if such a ministry would be a good idea after all.


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Ani O’Brien

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Gender-critical lesbian feminist.