Overview: Pride In Defence Conference
For a lot of young people who grow up and realise that they identify as queer and trans*, the armed forces doesn’t really figure as a viable career path. There’s no denying that the common perceptions of a hyper-masculine and strict environment, as well as the famous history of opposition to queer and trans* people serving deters queer and trans* youth from considering the defence force as a career.
Before yesterday, I’d never met a queer or trans* identifying member of the military. I wasn’t naïve enough to think that that was because they didn’t exist, just that I didn’t think it was something that was talked about and certainly not something that was celebrated.
But then I walked in to the Diversity in Defence Conference held by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and saw this gigantic rainbow flag hanging in the foyer (seriously, it was huge. I stared at it like this guy).
Right from the word go, the conference defied expectations.
Over two days we listened to discussions relating to the functioning of Overwatch, the NZDF service which works to support queer and trans* service members in the Armed, Naval and Air Forces.
Diversity and inclusion in the wider area of businesses and organisations was also discussed, with representatives from Coca-Cola Amatil and ANZ sharing stories of how their organisations embrace the interests of queer and trans* employees as well as clients. Michael Stevens from Affinity New Zealand spoke about The Rainbow Tick, an initiative to provide businesses and organisations that meet a high standard of diversity, inclusion and safety with a confidence mark in the form of…well, a rainbow tick.
Here’s my top six moments from the Pride in Defence Conference:
1) The fact that the Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force (aka, the dude at the top), Lieutenant General Rhys Jones not only endorses Overwatch but is actually going to march with them in the 2014 Auckland Pride Parade. How cool is that?
2) Speaking of marching in the pride parade, I chatted to an Airman who marched in the parade earlier this year and told us it was one of the proudest moments of his life. He was stunned at the reaction from the crowd who, as soon as they caught sight of the Overwatch members marching down the road, went crazy cheering. He said that first time in his life, people were cheering not just because he was in uniform; they were cheering for him because he was being himself– which was something the Airman never thought he’d be able to celebrate while wearing his uniform.
3) After lunch on the first day of the conference, we had a wreath laying ceremony in the Hall of Memories. These ceremonies to remember those who have given their lives for New Zealand always give me Goosebumps and I dare anyone not to be moved when hearing the Last Post. But this wreath laying ceremony was the most powerful I’d ever been to. We were crowded closely together in the War Memorial Carillon, as the Hall of Memories was being earthquake proofed. There we paid special respects to all the unknown queer & trans* soldiers who sacrificed for their country, the ones that all the other memorial ceremonies I’ve been to have never spoken about. It brought tears to my eyes and looking around, I saw that others were similarly moved.
4) The conference brought together members of foreign militaries from England, America, the Netherlands and Australia. One of them, an ex-marine from the U.S, approached the Rainbow Youth stand to find out what we did. We began talking about marriage equality passing in New Zealand and the ex-marine said that he’d been so moved watching our Parliament break into Pokarekare Ana when the Marriage Equality Bill passed in April that he decided he wanted to use it as his wedding song back in the states.
5) At the RY stand, we had some WTFNZ stickers that proved to be pretty popular. The greatest moment was the resident chaplain from the NZDF asked with a cheeky grin if he could take several for his office and his diary. It was so great to know that not only the New Zealand Military, but some of the religious faculties included within it are ‘So F**king Proud’!
6) During the drinks and mingling and nibbles evening after the first day, the official NZDF ‘It Gets Better’ video was launched. Filled with courageous testimonies and varied support from across all facets of the NZDF, it truly is a landmark video in that it signals the first time a National Defence Force has spoken out officially in support of a queer & trans* campaign. See the official Outwatch ‘It Gets Better’ video here:
A special mention also has to go to Mojo Coffee, who very generously donated $1 of every cup sold at the conference to RY and OUTLine!
The Inaugural Pride in Defence conference marked a breaking down of boundaries and also showed how forward thinking and modern our Defence Force is. Knowing that our military is putting their best foot forward in being one of the most inclusive militaries in the world is very affirming as a queer person who grew up thinking that the military would be the last place that I would be welcome.
The fact that the New Zealand Defence Force welcomes queer and trans* recruits exemplifies one more way that bit by bit, the world is opening up for us.
Two Internship Positions Available at RY & OUTLine
Have some spare time on your hands? Want to help Rainbow Youth out? We have two exciting new internship positions available.
The Drop-In Centre Intern will be required to spend one 6-hour day per week for a minimum of three months. Basic responsibilities include ensuring the centre is open, answering phone calls and directing them as appropriate, as well as making sure the drop-in centre stays clean and tidy. The position is a great opportunity for work experience as well as something to beef up your CV. Extra perks include meeting and working with a diverse range of awesome people, as well as a $20 per day koha to assist with travel, parking and food. Applicants for the Drop-In Centre Intern should be skilled in engaging with young people and others from the community, as well as being friendly and welcoming to all drop-in centre visitors. For more information you can download the full job description here.
The other position is as an IT intern for Rainbow Youth & OUTLine, managing the technical side of our websites, computers and phone systems. This position will require four hours per week online as well as one day on site per month (at either Rainbow Youth or OUTLine). This is a great opportunity to gain practical industry knowledge with the broad range of skills required to keep RY and OUTLine moving and improving. The internship will also be a great addition to your CV and an opportunity to meet and make connections with a great bunch of people. Some of the key skills for this position involve an enjoyment and passion for technology as well as being keen to learn, skills in troubleshooting and working with people. The full job description for this position is available here.
Applicants for either position should email their CVs (with the desired internship title included in the subject of the email) to email@example.com.
Zine Workshop with Sam Orchard & Ash Spittal
With roots in the modernist literary movement of Paris and New York in the 1920s and 1930s, zines have historically been associated with underground, self-published booklets with a generally small circulation. The term has also garnered political attributes when punk and feminist zine production rose to prominence in the 1970s -1990s.
Folks who attend the The RY Zine Workshop will be given the chance to explore the different stories and ideas that they can share through comics and zines and a chance to make their own minizines.
Sam Orchard explains: “we’ll be talking about our experiences making zines. Ash is going to give a 101 on illustration, and I’m gonna give a 101 on storytelling. We’ll also be sharing our favourite zines, talking about what makes a zine, and the different ways you can put them together. It’s going to be a practical workshop, so we want people to be prepared to come up with ideas and stories that they want to share – and to work to put together a zine!”
Sam says that he got into making zines about ten years ago. “I made a minicomic zine to give to my friend as a way to come out to her. I was so afraid of saying it out loud, and I knew that I’d chicken out, so I put together a 10 page zine and gave it to her. Since then it’s just been a fun way to put short stories and ideas together, and to share them with other people.”
Ash is more new to the format. “I got into making zines about a year ago,” he says. “I got into them because they’re a really open format that can be about anything and everything. I had a collection of drawings of transmen I had done over a period of a few months. Turning those drawings into a publication seemed to be the best way to share them with others.”
Sam and Ash are aiming to foster the growing interest in zine production in young art circles in New Zealand.
“I really love the fact that self-publication allows you to control all aspects of the final product,” Ash explains. “You get to pick the papers, fonts, materials and production methods you want to employ in order to create your own unique zine which is super fun!”
“Everything is welcome in a zine,” Sam says. “Whether it’s a fanzine about your favourite band, or a collection of deep philosophical essays and thoughts. I also like that because zines small, and done with love, it means that it’s perfect for telling stories about identities, and most of zine culture is super queer friendly.
“We want people to get inspired and get creative about stories and ideas that they wanna talk about. We’re hoping that people will come away with a zine they can take home to photocopy and share around.”
Fancy getting some tips from these two crazy talented individuals? Pop over here and invite your friends along. If you’re one of those people who like to come EXTRA prepared, here’s a little rundown of how to make a Zine from Rookie Magazine.
Educating for Diversity Video
Couldn’t make it to our Educating for Diversity Report Launch? Here’s a wee video of the the night, with some key folks from Rainbow Youth sharing some key info about the report.
If you want to read the report in full, click here.