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Andrew Whiteside: The Board Has A Bigger Responsibility Now

The Auckland Pride Board had a victory of sorts at the Special General Meeting on Thursday by they surviving a vote of no confidence in them.

It may not be a sweetly savoured victory however, because they now face bigger responsibilities and challenges than they had before the vote. 

Essentially, by banning police uniforms from the Parade, they have shown support for a section of our community that feels marginalised and also solidarity with others who have ideological dislike of powerful state institutions and private corporations. 

By doing so, they have alienated a large cross-section of our community well as the many sponsors and agencies who fund it. 

Reconciling that chasm is going to take a lot of work.

So where to from here?

Since Pride is far bigger than just an incorporated society and its membership, the Board needs to connect with everyone in our community.  

That will involve acknowledging that many in our community are now feeling hurt and betrayed. They could also acknowledge that they ran a well-meaning but potentially flawed consultation process, apologise and start again.

Starting from scratch would include talking to all the stakeholders who have involvement in Pride such as the many organisations and leaders in our communities who have strong connections to the many diverse populations within the Rainbow world. In my research, I have talked to many of these people and entities who say they were not consulted over the Police uniform issue. To do so now would be helpful. 

All of us can share the responsibility for deciding the future of Pride. Let’s all acknowledge we feel aggrieved in some way, and then perhaps decide we are not going to let the fantastic event and organisation we all built slip away.

I say this because at the SGM I saw something quite astounding – 500 people packed into a church on Thursday night because ALL believe Pride has value.  All those who spoke did so from the heart and with passion. 

Everyone I heard, and everyone I spoke to believe that at the heart of the Pride movement are some basic core values such as diversity; inclusivity, solidarity  – and fabulousness.  Those are wonderful values and they are shared by us all.

So, believe it or not, there is an opportunity to create something rather wonderful if we listen and talk to one another.

One of the steps in achieving this is to stop resorting to stereotypical views of opponents. For example, there are transgender people on both sides of this debate, there are also older and younger people, lesbians, Maori and pakeha and even cis gendered privileged white males on both sides. 

We might also take a look at that word ‘inclusion’ – its problematic isn’t it, because not everyone likes or respects everyone else.

The obvious examples were are already dealing with – if we include the Police, then people against the Police will feel excluded. If we include corporate sponsors, those who are against capitalism will feel excluded. 

If we open the net too wide and say everyone is welcome we may well end up with Brian Tamaki and his black shirts marching, and who wants that?

But if we start to get restrictive, how will we decide who should be there? Human beings are fallible, so at what level do we set our moral and ethical standards?  There will always be tensions around who is welcome at Pride.

Perhaps instead of concentrating on that word ‘inclusion’ we have a discussion about what ethical standards participants need to aim for in order to join us,  while also acknowledging that they don’t need to be perfect.

Make the Police and corporates demonstrate what they have done in the previous year to address complaints or issues – particularly those of concern to the LGBTQI communities. Also, make them state what they intend to do in the future and then audit that. Let’s give these entities the chance to improve and let’s hold them to account by using standards we have all thrashed out.

In terms of our own involvement in Pride, let’s all recommit to accepting one another and acknowledge that all of us have a right to self-expression and self-determination. At the same time, let’s remember that someone else’s expression of their identity doesn’t have to insult our own. We may not understand one another all the time, and we might have different desires, but Pride is about welcoming those differences. 

After all, if we demand acceptance by the wider society, we’d better damn well accept one another. 

If we have disagreements, then include them in the festival and Parade. Create theatre, protest floats, poetry slams – whatever it takes to get us talking about all of this. 

As I said at the beginning of this piece the Auckland Pride Board has a responsibility to sort this out, but they can only achieve reconciliation and solidarity if we all join in and if we all demonstrate flexibility. 

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