My knowledge about history in general is problematically limited. But whatever small and simplistically explained fragments of history were covered in my high school education, I can with confidence say that they featured a total of zero LGBTQ+ figures.
This erasure of rainbow peoples’ lives from our history is an issue because, as HuffPost Queer Voices Editor James Michael Nichols writes, it sends the message that “…the lives and struggles of LGBT people aren’t real or valid enough to merit inclusion in formalized education. These lives aren’t important.”
Which is why it was so significant when Te Papa in collaboration with Gender Minorities Aotearoa, Tranzform, and trans members of InsideOUT and Tīwhanawhana published their Trans Past, Trans Present: The Making Trans Histories Project last year. This project asked trans people of many ages to share the stories behind objects that had personal meaning to them. The twenty nine objects that were collected formed “a quirky collection that is a testament to the diversity of trans experiences, and which disrupts established (and cis-written) narratives about trans lives.”
Recently, a rainbow colleague had a pretty distressing experience of transphobic comments in her workplace. I mulled over this for a while, and thought one of the ways I could show support was to take part in Sweat with Pride, a fundraiser for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and RainbowYOUTH. It is an often invisible or side-lined political issue, but Aotearoa’s systems are failing some of our most marginalised rainbow community members who have higher rates of mental health issues and suicide, and are disproportionately affected by some physical illnesses.
Sweat with Pride so far has been a pretty fun initiative as a participant so far, but one of the unexpected silver linings to signing up for a month of daily exercise was that they email you a newsletter called The Sweat Gazette. In this, they have a section called Queer History 101 where they go over some of the icons and trailblazers both abroad and onshore who have “paved the way for queer rights today”.
Marsha P. Johnson. Sylvia Rivera. Christine Jorgensen. Lili Elbe. Mary Jones. Lucy Hicks Anderson. Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy. Sir Lady Java. Amanda Ashley… These are some of the many names that deserve to be known and celebrated and remembered in our herstory. Their contributions, and our remembering of their lives, are crucial for our building of a more inclusive, more just, and kinder Aotearoa.
To support the New Zealand AIDS Foundation and RainbowYOUTH, click here for a link to Maria’s fundraising page.Support Villainesse