Monday, 15 June 2015

NZ Queer/Rainbow Poetry Anthology - Submissions Invited

An invitation to submit unpublished poems for a current collection of the NZ Queer/Rainbow poetry voice-all sectors of our community invited to submit. 

Inspired by the quality of poets at the last Pride Festival poetry reading, a call out to the queer community to bring heart, soul, fire, humour and clarity  through your poems. Obscurity and intelligentsia not recommended- bring your heart and soul to your work, to your voice, make it matter. 

Submission of 7-10 poems per person with a maximum collective wordage of 3500 approx. Close off date for submission 21st September 2015. 

Please ensure that your work is fully edited prior to submission. There is no guarantee of any or all poems being published but at least three people will be respectfully assessing the quality of voice and value for publishing within this collection. Gratitude is underwritten for all submitters and their works as is respect for ownership. If successful we will contact you for a brief bio.

Any skilled computer whiz/editor who can help template said collection into being please be in touch. Likewise any philanthropist/s who wish to donate money solely for publishing  (all else is unpaid and voluntary) with a hope of Pride/Out Games 2016 date please contact:

Michael Owen: email- or 09 3769599. 

All poetry submissions to: 

Thank you- bring it!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

More from Diane on being transgendered

Transgender - Born in the wrong body or born the wrong sex


What's it all about? An explanation.
An all too familiar statement made in relation to people who identify as transgender, one that is seen more and more every day. But who says it is wrong? I have thought a great deal on this as a transwoman, I was born a baby assigned as male.
As a child I never knew my body was wrong, for me, I was just me. A boy, or that is what my parents and everyone else said I was. Knowing no different I believed I was just that and did what boys do, or more to the point what I observed boys did.
While girls looked different, spoke different and behaved different, the concept of a wrong body never came into question. Life in post-war England was vastly different to life today, boys with short hair and shorts; girls, long hair and dresses. Never any concept of fashion; clothes were meant to keep you warm and to create a look of decency. Clothing was boring, mediocre to say the least, brought about by a lack of variety in fabrics and money.
Mums usually made kids clothes which as a result were very basic; mums dictated how we should appear in public. So there was no choice I never thought about the body, not once did anyone around me say “hey you should be a girl”. I guess I would never have expected them to, the great Societal Machine had decided I was a boy and that was it.
Society makes its decision of who we are by the way we look, and express ourselves at least when we are young, it is the way our parents see us, after all they should know! Like the saying goes “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, then it must be a duck” simple, you don’t need to be an Einstein to work that out, right!
I have no idea of what made me feel something was wrong, but as I became older I realised who I was, was not who I thought I should be. Whether it is as simple as day by day the mind pieces together every particle of our existence, every thought, every image or what, at some point the mind lets you know what it has decided.
With the mind’s ability to make comparisons it was not to long before I realised what my mind saw as a boy was not the same of how it saw a girl.
No doubt about it I was confused, not specifically about the body but about what my mind told me it should be! And mine was sure different to a girls, becoming even more so after puberty. I sure as hell did not have the body of a woman. And that revelation still haunts me to this day!
This was an almost incomprehensible revelation, how could this be, who can give me an answer who will even understand? In an attempt to come to terms with this issue, like many others I started the blame game, first it was my mother’s after all she gave me birth, did she do something wrong, and what about my dad, what part did he play in this process. Was my dad’s sperm slightly defective in some way in which case it was his fault? Actually all the study seems to indicate that it is something that goes wrong with the hormones that decide which sex we will be in those few weeks after conception.
Knowing nothing of such detail, above all I remain confused, yet I am still developing, no thanks to puberty into a young man, more able to use the testosterone that is surging through my being. I turn confusion to anger as I cannot understand who I am, my mind thinking female my body showing me male, I was scared and never told anyone.
As I became older and had a more worldly understanding of being human, anger gives me strength, I think who else can I blame?, how about God! After all he is supposed to be the creator; is who I am today, his mistake? But I have learned from the religious folk who tell me “God does not make mistakes” so that can’t be it!
Or is God the big joker in the sky?
Anyway; science, (clever sods) tell us that we all start life, as female then some of us change to male shortly after; creating both male and female. So can’t blame science anyway, as that’s after the fact.
Running out of suspects now, wrong body - wrong mind, right mind – wrong body actually mind boggling whichever way you look at it.
So here I am, on my own trying to figure it out, one thing that does not stop is time and neither does society who ideally would tie everything up in neat packages of boy and girl, female and male. Note: I reversed that order, ever wondered why we say boy first then girl or male then female; odd that, if we think we all start out as female first.
Getting off track here, back to me and my wrong body; only there was never ever anything wrong with it, worked perfectly, but only in a male context even when I fell in love, married and had kids.
However behind every thought of every day was this niggling aspect that my life was not as it should be. Was it simply a biological function that went wrong that left my mind with the expectation I would have a female body, which seems logical. Yet because of a malfunction a male body was the result, which would seem to confirm the statement "Born in the wrong body"
Consider instead the way we are born as more to do with our biological sex than the body. Making for a more correct statement "Born the wrong sex".
Naturally I have started to analyse every moment of my being, often, all too often I think about ending it all, just to get out of this place, but something stops me, as if an answer is about to be revealed, but of course it is not. Sadly because of my age, this thought still runs through my mind when I read of the discrimination that goes on in retirement homes.
Reading transgender people's stories must be one of the most challenging situations our cisgender brothers and sisters are asked to understand, hey we even have a new word to describe them – “cisgender” meaning those whose gender; their biological sex matches who their mind believes they are.
But then you already knew mine did not match, as for my body that is still a work in progress, not too hard to understand if you really think about it, and in a way I guess that’s all we ask.
Think, but do not judge, because being transgender is nothing scary, you can’t catch it, it's not a disease, we eat, breathe, think, make mistakes and do all the same things you do. So why then discriminate against us is the obvious question? This the reality of our existence and it hurts!
Actually if society can accept people with different coloured skin different coloured eyes, height, hair, weight then why not gender differences other than female and male? And guess what? We have been around forever, mentioned in the bible not with the names we use today but still mentioned, so being transgender is nothing new!
So really what’s really the problem?
Was the body ever wrong? No, it worked perfectly as a male! Did my mind see it differently? Yes, it expected it to be female!
Today almost 75 years later same body, although modified to how my mind expects it to be, the sex of a female, I remain convinced it was not my body but my sex that was wrong! It was however my body that prevented me from expressing my sex as the female I was in my mind. Consequently the person I presented on the outside was never, the real me, the female on the inside was.
When it comes to gender, it is important we understand that on its own it is nothing, the truth of our being is in how we express who we are – our gender expression.
Lastly remember another old saying "never judge a book by its cover".
- Diane Sparkes

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Transphobic Government?

Dear Minister,

The following article was written in an attempt by me as an affected party; to bring to public attention, the issue relating to the National Governments constant denial of the Human Rights Commissions recommendations to the Government made at the Labour Governments request back in 2006, and reported to the National government in 2008.
While I acknowledging the Attorney General has stated that in his view discrimination against transgender people is covered on the grounds of sex, I find as do many others, that this is a limited view and is unacceptable.

Only inclusion of Gender Identity in the Human Rights Act will adequately cover discrimination against Transgender persons.

I relate a personal experience that happened at the beginning of 2013 where I was assaulted because of who I express myself as, (my gender identity) as a transwoman. The offender told the police he hated me and people like me!
Reporting this to the police was futile as they did not understand the problem, refusing to take the complaint further on those grounds as it seems hate is not a crime and gender identity had no merit.

The point I make is the offence was committed because of who I was, not because of my sex.

However because discrimination on the grounds of Gender Identity is not specified, I am left without any protection.

Note: I have all documentation recorded of this incident to which I refer.

I have not publicly made reference to this incident before because I thought the National Government would do the right thing; and it would be only a matter of time before the Act was amended. It seems I was wrong because of your recent public statement.

I am offended that I and every other Transgender New Zealand person should be reduced to some kind of second class citizen. For the only reason I/we now identify my/our gender is different to that I/we was born. It seems that I, a transgender woman has no value!

My reasoning for the article is the National Government must therefore be Transphobic as all the other political parties do not seem to have the same intense objection to fixing this issue, particularly as it affects so few citizens.
I look forward to your reply.

Diane Sparkes
Below: Article for your review.

Dictionary: - Transphobic: A fear of or a dislike directed towards Transgender people, or a fear of or dislike directed towards their perceived lifestyle, culture or characteristics.
This is article is written in attempt to highlight an issue of importance while recognising the statement may not be applicable to individual government members who make up the collective government.
However it is a concept of a behaviour; which, if it was written about a company or organisation instead of a Government would constitute discrimination under the Human rights Act.
Instead it is an observation of the way the National Government collectively attends or appears to, by its actions; the issues of transgender people in New Zealand.
The writer is well aware and thankful that there are many members of parliament cross parties, who are supportive of the rights of transgender people.
The recent government response to having gender identity included in the Human Rights Act would seem to answer the question in the affirmative.
It is acknowledged that Prime Minister John Key has publicly stated and shown his support for the gay community accepting same sex marriage and his attending Big Gay Out events.
National says it supports for LGB; but stops short of including the 'T', transgender!
John Key as head of the Government seems to draw the line at acknowledging the existence or needs of the transgender community; perhaps it is as simple as they have no idea about what it is to be transgender.
Proof provided in a recent statement by Associate Justice Minister Simon Bridges who said the application for gender identity inclusion in the Human Rights Act was denied; stating the reason as: -
“It could generate public debate or controversy”.
Then the Health Minister Jonathan Coleman described funding Gender Reassignment Surgery as a: -
"Nutty idea"
He actually stated further that Labour MPs who support LGBT were: -
"Totally out to lunch"
I think it is reasonably obvious why transgender issue gets nowhere, National seems to be Transphobic and while Labour clearly says it supports LGBT, a recent statement by Grant Robertson indicates it’s is unable to make any change to the situation until it is in Government.
But this issue is not about politics it is about people; it is an issue beyond politics!
The real problem is, a great majority of MPs, like most New Zealanders, just do not understand what it is to be transgender.
Ok, transgender people may have different issues to that of the rest of society but the reality is their condition is not of their making, no one would choose to be transgender; they are born that way.
If being born gay can be accepted even supported in the marriage stakes, what is it that makes it so difficult to accept and support transgender people? New Zealand supports discrimination against all people orientated conditions except one, gender identity, the right to be who you are.
The associate Justice Minister said it was about controversy and public debate. That seems very much like a smoke and mirrors answer. Talking mirrors - maybe the minister does not have one, at least not one like mine, which must have been broken for over half a century as everyday it told me I was male, when I was really female!
Sorry if that is too confusing for some, but it is the reality of being transgender.
Diane Sparkes
Taking this article to a personal level - let's cut the crap and get down close and personal so that everyday folk can understand the issue.
I was conceived 75 years ago, when I was born, the doctor who did not really know for sure, told my mum when he saw bits of me that should never have been there in the first place, that I was a boy, yippee! Problem was nobody thought to ask me; actually kids did not talk at birth then, so he is forgiven, thinking about that, still don't, could have really made a difference. "Note to God, make kids talk at birth".
As I grew up, everybody said I was a boy, took me a while to realise that was wrong even the mirror lied. Also in those days nobody would have listened to my story as kids were only meant to be seen, never mind talk, anyway everyone said I was a boy so I must have been.
Life for me was confusing, painful and scary, then I realised it was more scary to talk about it, people who did not understand often killed, and locked away people like me in intuitions, even mums and dads sometimes abandoned their kids to the street. Still do sadly.
Move forward 50 odd years and I realised I was not on my own with this problem there are thousands of others like me. Actually not so many really compared to the rest of the population. Times had changed; finally something called Gender Confirmation Surgery was available, giving me a way to get my body's sex to be what my mind had always told me it should be, female.
Did I care about surgery at my age, was I scared? Hell no. Not as scary as a lifetime of silence, although you don’t realise it at the time. Anyway I was never happy with the male body; it was a lie, it was never me, thought about getting rid of it many times. What could I lose; I went to Thailand for my surgery found out that it was not a big deal to them, and superb care. At 67 my male bits gone forever, I became like most people, 'living my truth'.
As to the Minister’s comments on controversy, I would point out that since my transition nobody is bothered, mostly after the initial shock, (no shock horror) by the way, society it seems has no problem, in fact quite the opposite.
Maybe there might some religious bigots out there who might debate what I have done, truth is, the only person my transition affected was me, and maybe my family who have adjusted in the same way everybody does to a new situation.
So please Minister and the New Zealand Government show us National is not Transphobic!
Let us be who we are, the sky will not fall, no controversy, I have faith that the New Zealand public will more likely wonder why you have singled us out and denied us our rights. As we ask for no more than they have, but for our survival it is important you correct the omission in the Human Rights Act, and anyway it only affects a few of us.
And if you believe you govern for all New Zealanders and you take youth suicide seriously. Maybe you don’t understand that worldwide, transgender youth rates, highest in the statistics for suicide, and New Zealand has the highest rate for youth suicide in the world, really you don’t have to be Einstein to work out why. Of course you will not have any such New Zealand statistics because you do not record them and our laws regarding publication of suicide details are outdated, wonder why?
Compared to other health costs Gender Confirmation Surgery is minimal, and while it may need surgeons skilled in the procedure, very competent ones can be found overseas that have performed them in world class hospitals.
The question that should be asked is why you would even think of trying to provide this kind of surgery in New Zealand, when it involves so few patients. (Current waiting list 62) When overseas success is virtually guaranteed: at a price that is cost effective, done by surgeons that routinely performs these kinds of operations.
To my mind this is truly spending the tax dollar wisely, while at the same time allowing vital surgery necessary to save a life.
Oops! Editing this just made realise it might just be controversial after all!

- Diane Sparkes is a retired teacher who is now a transgender advocate
Diane Sparkes - 2nd June 2015