The 49th year of the Auckland Pride March was a little different to its predecessors. One of many Pride events postponed due to the latest lockdown, it reflects the current issues of the world we live in.

The mandatory registering of all attendees for contact tracing, QR codes plastered around, and masked faces spread among the crowd demonstrated the commitment to keeping the march safe, a constant visual reminder of the risks of gathering in large numbers. To some extent I found these signs distracted me slightly from the overwhelming messages of the march, bright yellow scan-in signs drawing my eye amid bright flags and banners.

It’s easy, in a world ravaged by covid, to be distracted from other issues. To forget about these marches, and social justice protests across the world. It’s easy for one particularly recent issue to receive more coverage, more attention, and essentially overshadow others.

However, the annual Pride March was attended in huge numbers, with people from all backgrounds marching to acknowledge the issues that the rainbow community has and continues to face, both here and overseas.

Auckland Pride Party’s Sani Squad – Photo by Becki Moss

Flags and banners with the trans colours were among those flown in the march, this integral section of the queer community well-represented, unified and proud. Transphobia remains a huge issue experienced by many trans and genderqueer people, with those of colour particularly vulnerable. While the promotion of transphobic views by influential figures such as JK Rowling have contributed to ongoing discrimination, some of the most sinister discrimination comes from within the community. The criticism from a number of lesbians levelled at actor Elliot Page after he announced his status as a transman demonstrates this, and it would be ignorant to claim this isn’t an issue within New Zealand too. 

HIV remains in the minds of those marching, as men attracted to other men continue to be overrepresented in HIV cases. While the illness has been declining in New Zealand for some time, those who watched recent TV miniseries It’s A Sin will have been reminded of how deadly and widespread AIDS was when it first emerged, yet it wasn’t given nearly the same amount of attention or care as covid has now.

Politicians have also been addressing other queer issues recently. Dr Kerekere from the Green Party is pushing for gender identity and expression to be included under prohibited grounds of discrimination within the Human Rights Act. Meanwhile the Green party also presented Government with a petition last week calling for the ban of conversion therapy, which has accumulated over 150,000 signatures.

The general queerphobia within many religious communities is another issue many queer people are faced with, even as the world arguably becomes more inclusive all the time. This was one issue that was illustrated quite clearly at the march. The small group of people attempting to convince marchers to “repent for their sins” were largely drowned out by the crowds celebrating diversity, who countered with their own chant: “God loves gays.” 

In a country like New Zealand it’s easy to take what we have for granted. We live in one of the most progressive countries in the world in terms of protection and support of the queer community. We also have (or had, prior to the following lockdown) the ability to congregate in large numbers when the majority of the world cannot. While the issues outlined above are really the tip of the iceberg, it’s also important to acknowledge how far we’ve come. 

The first Pride March was led by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku from the Gay Liberation Front in 1972. Now a prominent Māori and feminist activist, at the time she had been opted to study in the United States, until her visa was denied on the grounds of “sexual deviancy”. It’s unclear as to how many people attended this march, however this year’s march, once again led by Te Awekotuku and overseen by an elected board, was attended by an estimated 9000 people, evidence of the thriving LGBTIQA+ community in Auckland.

While the March exists to draw attention to many queer issues, the overwhelming numbers and support shown for it, even during a pandemic, demonstrate the progress of Pride in Auckland. Current pandemic aside, it’s always deeply uplifting to stand among a group of people, of all ages, who are united by love.

SOPHIE STONE is a third-year Communication student at Massey uni who loves cats, ice cream and musicals.

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