The Gay Young Nat
Anyone who has met me or has the misfortune of being my friend on Facebook, knows how much I love politics. However, what less people may know is that I am gay. When I first came out I had been an active Young Nat for over two years. I knew everyone I needed to know, and was friends with most of them. Despite this I was painfully aware of the stereotypes, things like ‘the Young Nats are all white homophobes’ and ‘you can’t be queer and like the National Party they all think that you’re sick’. So, to say I was nervous would be an understatement. Nevertheless, I was in Napier campaigning in the middle of a cyclone last year when I came out to the Chair of the Lower North Island Region of the Young Nats (Sam). To my amazement Sam said, “stoked mate” and gave me one of his beers as a well done (for reference Sam is now my flatmate and thinks Eureka should have won RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10, scandalising really).
From the night of the cyclone I began my real education in what it means to be a queer Young Nat. The Young Nats have been at the forefront of queer politics since the organisation existed. We fought for marriage equality in 2013, marched for adoption law reform to allow same sex partners to adopt children, worked with National MP Nikki Kaye to march in the Auckland Pride Parade and walked with Prime Minister Jenny Shipley in the Hero Parade in 2001, becoming the first New Zealand Prime Minister to attend any Pride event. We lobbied within the Party for the wiping of historical homosexual convictions, we pushed the Bolger National Government in 1993 to allow gays, lesbians and bisexuals to openly serve in the military, we supported Chris Finlayson and Paul Foster-Bell so they could serve as openly gay National MPs. The Young Nats have had a proud tradition of being led by amazing queer Presidents and Executive members since the 1980s.
The Young Nats is one of the most inclusive LGBT organisations in New Zealand today, to the point where telling the difference between a night in Ivy and a Young Nats event can sometimes be challenging. This has led to the Young Nats becoming one of the more active, and powerful, LGBT+ rights groups within New Zealand politics. We have pushed the LGBT+ message since 1969 and as a result National MPs always want to hear from queer people.
The issue for me is that some queer people writing off National and its MPs due to the stereotypes or their own not-so-hidden prejudices. This became clear to me at last Clubs Week when Nicola Willis (who works tirelessly for the LGBT+ community) went to talk to UniQ to offer her support. They refused to speak to her (or even shake her hand) because of her stance on prisoners’ voting rights. An important issue, but unrelated to UniQ’s purpose. In last week’s issue of Salient, ‘The Dude Sitting on the Couch’ was accused by Kate Ashcroft of being a queer-foe and not putting thought into his own political processes, because he voted for National. Something that is overwhelmingly different from reality.
The National Party wants to hear from all people, queer or not. If you have something that’s affecting you, send us an email or a message over Facebook, we’ll do our best to connect you with one of our amazing MPs. Or better yet, go to one of the Young Nat stalls at Pride Festivals and Parades throughout the country. We and several of our awesome MPs will be there!
This piece was published in the Victoria University of Wellington student paper 'Salient' in 2018 as a response to a previous article.