Author: jeanniegrant

Did we think or just do pink?

The week of talking about bullying has now passed. Pink shirts have been hauled out of wardrobes and hung up again for another year and I am concerned about what comes next. I do wonder what sort of talking was actually done, if it was just talking, and just who was listening or was heard. I reckon there were probably more conversations about ‘yanny and laurel’ to be honest. So this coming week is youth week, with the theme of ‘be who you want to be’. I think we needed to talk about why we don’t let people be who they are last week.

For the sake of simplicity, bullying cannot be eradicated like some disease. There is no ‘social vaccination’ for bullying and it thrives in conditions where difference is feared. While we live in a world that is determined to make difference a problem, being who you want to be is not always going to be straight forward. I think it’s naïve to tell young people to simple ‘be yourself’ when then are very real risks for coming out as gay if you are from a culture or religious background that overtly hates, persecutes and punishes people for being gay. Or how about allowing young people to feel confident in their bodies, not shaming them for their size, shape, style. Maybe parents not freaking out when their 16 year old says ‘I don’t want to be a _______ (insert highly valued job/profession here) I want to _________(insert parents ultimate fear of failure or assumptions about less valued professions or careers).

Let’s actually have conversations about the ways we make it hard for people to feel included, valued, respected and cared for in this world rather than placing the onus on young people to ‘be’ something they might not be ready or willing to be.

And for the record it is ‘Laurel’ and if you think otherwise I can’t be your friend (please read as sarcasm).

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Train of thought part 2

My first week of using public transport has opened my eyes to a new world. I’ve partially adapted to the culture of the morning commute, which I describe as ‘the zombie apocalypse’. Everyone looks half dead, no-one is speaking or smiling or interacting. I had one human interaction the whole week a single ‘good morning’ which I received after I initiated contact. This was the one person I sat next to who didn’t have headphones in or was talking on the phone. I watched enviously as people boarded with bikes, that will definitely be my next step.

I was still easing in to full time work so the train home varied depending on the time I left. My favourite was just after 3pm when intermediate aged students were boarding. I enjoyed listening to their banter about school, laughing like human beings. On Friday I was even more adventurous catching the train from a new station and then a bus at the other end. I raced up to the platform hoping to catch the next bus, searching the times I couldn’t believe they only ran every 30 minutes. I had 20 minutes to wait so decided to risk using to bathroom. Big mistake, never again, honestly it could not have been further from the clean, well maintained, fresh smelling, well lit experience of the train. The bus finally arrived, but if it hadn’t been for my familiarity of the area I would have wondered where the fuck we were going.

Basically I think the bus routes in Auckland were made up by some drunk people at Auckland Transport one night by throwing darts at the map and saying ‘yip that street will do’, or let snails loose on a map with ink in their slime to mark out routes – who knows but it’s honestly random AF. If the trains are direct then buses are there to ensure you have to have a degree in geography, synchronising times and do not expect to get anywhere in a hurry. But I did get home and I’m definitely more positive overall, but I am counting down to getting back on the bike. I’d happily take daily abuse from motorists and random strangers chatting to me at the lights than the zombies.

A Train of thought

I started back at work today after 6 weeks off after surgery. My surgeon laughed when I discussed the idea of riding my single speed, it was a warm laugh – one that validated my body would not be ready (she said not for 3 months…we’ll see). Therefore I needed an alternative way to get to work, so today I embarked on an adventure with public transport, catching the train. Here are my first impressions:

I have my loaded Hop Card, and get on the 7am train, it’s already quite full but I find a seat. The only thing that surprises me is how bright it is inside, lights on full while outside it’s still pretty dark. I can’t get any sense of where I am, my bearings have all gone, I just stare out the window trying to pick up land marks. I resist getting out my phone but also respect that the guys I’m sitting next to probably doesn’t want to chat at this hour on a Monday morning. I’m suddenly conscious of my deodorant and the smell of my hair product, hoping I’m not suffocating the poor guy. Being on the bike is almost the opposite; it’s quite an intimate feeling in comparison, even if no-one is talking. I catch people’s eyes but am careful not to go full Cheshire cat smile. I have no idea what the etiquette is so I try and keep a friendly neutral face by occasionally checking in the glass to avoid RBF (resting bitch face).

By the time I get off at New Market I feel ready to stretch my legs and the walk up to work is perfect. Sitting at my desk at 7:45am I wondered about others who, like me, imagine public transport is somehow rough and unpleasant (I can’t comment for those who have accessibility needs) it gave me an opportunity to set aside my assumptions and allow experience to inform me. I even started looking forward to the trip at the end day which surprised me.

But it was a different story on the way home:

Scampering down to the platform with 2 minutes to spare, I sighed with relief when I saw the train was empty and I enjoyed being insulated from the wind and rain (Cyclone Hola had arrived). However a few minutes later we ground to a halt due to an ‘operational – personal matter’. The garbled barely audible message just instructed us to get off at Mt Albert and I really hoped it wasn’t code for an accident on the tracks. So out I get, disoriented with no-one directing us to buses I just thought ‘fuck it – if it has New Lynn on it I’ll get on’. Once on board my surroundings took on some familiarity but I felt some of my enthusiasm for public transport wane. Walking through my front door I reflected on the contrasting journeys, sure I was dry-ish but it still took me an hour and a half to get home, double the time it would take on my bike.

Maybe this is the beginning of a new relationship, but it’s off to a bit of an uncertain start. You could say I am courting public transport and I’m sure there will be a few more awkward moments – as there are with anything new but that’s not a good enough reason to give up on a potentially rewarding relationship, I probably need to give it some time. My bike (Emmett) need not worry though as I am a committed cyclist, we will be reunited soon and perhaps an unconventional union could happen – a blending of modes of transport as a way to ease back into things.

To be continued…hopefully not delayed…or derailed

Religious Colander-isation

Imagine in 20 years time looking back over your class photos, picking out mates, people you didn’t know and then the guy with the colander on his head. I’d love to have a time machine to see where this story from todays NZ Herald goes.

Briefly, a student has claimed his school breached his human rights by not allowing him to wear his religious headwear (a colander) for school photos, he is a Pastafarian – I’ll let you chew on that for a minute. Pastafarianism is a thing – a legitimate religion; therefore, he is entitled to follow his chosen faith. Now to be fair, the school probably didn’t know what to make of it when he showed up with his shiny colander and possibly needed to slow things down and ask more questions. Because on the surface, a kid turning up to school with a kitchen utensil on his head, does not fit the common understanding of religious headwear. I think the school could be forgiven for thinking he was taking the piss.

This brings me to another point. I am curious about Pastafarianism and it’s ‘mocking approach’ of religion. While I have never personally subscribed to any form of religion, I am wondering about the intention of ‘ridicule by infiltration’ or as I like to put it ‘colander-isation’ (like colonisation but punnier). This has the effect of drawing attention to the claims of religious beliefs as laughable and so are not to be taken seriously or be respected. I don’t know if that is their intention but it seems like it is a probable effect of their approach. For example the name of their church, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, was unlikely chosen in order to invoke a sense of reverence.

On a more practical note I’m thinking if Pastafarians want to play sport they might need to consider a softer version of their headwear. May I suggest they check out silicone colanders. It might also be important for retailers to ensure they mark items Pastafarian approved. If enough Pastafarians emerge then they could apply to create a special character school? It might be first with its own school lunches, and rituals to honour the Flying Spaghetti Monster, good luck hiring cleaners.

Regarding this young man’s future, some have suggested he will possibly regret this stand and it will harm his reputation. I’m not so sure as there have been plenty of instances of ‘rule challengers’ who have gone on to very successful careers. It reminds me of this clip from Zeitgeist Moving Forward. Jacque Fresco has never been scared to challenge the system and has started a global movement (The Venus Project) because of his ability to challenge ideas.

While I respect his right to practice his chosen religion I’m unclear as to whether the violation of his rights is worthy of a complaint to The Human Rights Commission. I’d like to see him approach the Board Of Trustees and request a uniform review and perhaps consult with other religious groups who have worked through these tricky issues. If he as committed as he says he is he needs to submit a proposal like everyone else.

Finally Religious persecution is a thing he might need to get used to. If he is a devout Pastafarian his faith should get him through the tough times. He simply needs to return to the sauce of his beliefs and feast on the goodness it brings.

Ticked off

I currently work at Epsom Girls Grammar, a public school with a proud history and one that cannot sit in isolation from our brother school – Auckland Grammar (AGS). After celebrating its centenary last year, EGGS is looking to the future to consider what the next century will ‘look like’ for ‘girls education’ as will AGS for ‘boys’. Perhaps one of the starting points for any educational institution ‘looking to the future’ should be to locate its values and image, particularly ideas of ‘tradition’. By locate I mean what century these are drawn from. Which is why this article about AGS building unisex bathrooms in a bid to be more inclusive of transgender students raised my eyebrows in a way that might have given away my age more than the growing silvering of my hair.

So why the eyebrow raise? AGS has been on a journey toward the rainbow tick. The rainbow tick is a certification process to ensure work places are gender and sexual diversity inclusive. On the surface, this seems ideal and robust, having measurable outcomes sounds like progress. However, I do have some genuine questions for some of the implications of getting diversity ‘ticked off’ as compliance. I am not suggesting bathrooms are a token gesture, but I am a bit cynical about the meaningful impact these will have for becoming more ‘inclusive’. Maybe it raises some pertinent questions about the idea of single sex education.

For a start, why in the 21st century are we holding onto single sex education? The gendered ideas that excluded girls from education then ‘allowed’ them to access seem archaic yet are often still used to justify segregation. I’ve heard it first hand when EGGS staff discuss assumptions about how boys and girls learn differently .

One argument is that parents that want single sex schools and sometimes religious beliefs insist on segregation. I think there will always be a place in the private and special character schools. I wonder if a more accurate statement is one of style and culture. Discipline, hierarchy, power, punishment model and versus relational accountability and mutual respect. Neither is better, and they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In their polarity form (sometimes mirrored in single sex schools but not always) they are clearly different models of learning. So I think the question of ‘who is peeing where with what plumbing’ becomes irrelevant in an school that defines it’s character on its ways of relating to other human beings. This paves the way for AGS and EGGS to drop their biological criteria for attendance in the future. These schools could then advertise these more openly and allow parents to choose what model of learning and relationships they would prefer their children-young people to be exposed to rather than ‘you have these bits – you go here’ (let’s not even go there for intersex young people…that would blow the sex/gender binary to bits).

When I discuss the idea of attending an ‘all-boys’ school with young trans guys at EGGS there is a lot of face pulling and shoulder shrugging. They seem unsure of the level of support they would feel and their sense is that the gender fluidity present around them would be lost and they would need to comply with a model of masculinity to be accepted. So providing gender neutral facilities does not ‘tick their boxes’ of an inclusive, safe, school. My suggestion for AGS (for what it’s worth) is ensuring you are providing for current trans AGS student needs. The denial of any current trans students is just as problematic for me and I would rather see energy put into ensuring mtf (male to female) trans students needs being addressed, or is that too challenging for notions of maleness and masculinity?

Yes building bathrooms is a step and I want to be hopeful about AGS’s journey toward being more open and accepting of gender and sexual diversity, and I still think EGGS has work to do (uniform especially). My experience tells me one important step for students is to have a support/social group up and running – supported by the principal, student leaders and to have ongoing, genuine consultation happening of the queer AGS/EGGS community – including parents.

Redefining men and masculinity in the 21st Century is potentially the greatest and most challenging building project – the blueprints are all there but if people are determined to keep with the traditional bricks and mortar approach then those bathrooms will be about as inclusive as saying ‘we have ramps so we are inclusive of disabilities’ and I’m not even sure if AGS has ramps.

Part time critic

Six weeks at home (recovering from surgery) in the middle of a Kiwi summer (which at any minute could be winter) I’ve been trying to manage having a foggy brain with pain management and keeping myself occupied (hence the sudden splurge of ranty blogs). Now it is 99% humidity and I am missing my air-conditioned office at work – but not the work yet.

So after finally reading Brave New World so that I could actually say ‘I had read it’ (was glad I had read under a cloud of opiates – amazing but seriously depressing) I returned to Netflix to catch up on some sci-fi. Lying at home, trying to ‘be good’ (the idea of not being able to ride my single speed for nearly 3months is torture) I’m going to entertain you with my amateur attempt at being a critic.

Yet again – a disclaimer. I do not see myself as an expert, or even someone who has read and seen everything in the sci-fi genre. I’m a bit fussy and hard to please and I have a tendency to change my mind after viewing or reading things multiple times. I will limit myself to those shows/movies where I have some clarity about my position. I also do not want to be negative, as I think all writers and producers have a particular vision they are bringing to life and my lack of connection with something does not detract from this.

First up – Star Trek Discovery

I am first and foremost NOT a Trekkie. That should immediately disqualify me from commenting. But I love this series. Some fans lament the detour from what they see as they heart of the ST stories. I see it as a refreshing ‘posthumanism’ exploration of deeper philosophical concepts. I like the break from traditional scientific models of life, where quantum physics and biology are not separate entities. STD (unfortunate acronym) pushes scientific concepts to the edge rather than reproducing the ‘same old’. There are the familiar players – Clingons, Vulcans, Humans and The Federation. So much is familiar and also different. Leading women, gay characters and cultural diversity are not there for cannon fodder (red shirt syndrome). And if it’s ‘too PC’ for some – just load up on the original series and JJ Abrams reboots.

Second – Altered Carbon

Initially, I was swept away by this series. But once the honeymoon was over (probably after the 4th episode) it started to feel a bit like a Marvel series; Man has traumatic past – loses parents and sister – loves a woman – loses woman – tortured man has new identity – has a mission. It’s sexy, slick, and again pushes posthuman ideas (an area I am particularly interested in). The key concept of AC centers on technology (‘stack’) that enables consciousness to be moved to another body with ease means there can be a lot of room to ‘play’ with concepts of identity, connection, love, intimacy. To be ‘spun up’ into the body of the opposite sex is seen through mainly through the experience of women becoming men, it’s pretty phallocentric. There is a lot of nudity, violence and sexual violence in AC. So whilst I appreciate some of the ideas I’m left with an uneasy sense of misogyny masquerading as equality. There is no genuine shift in gendered relationships in AC – but it is still a great ride.

Third – The Cloverfield Movies

Confession – I HATED the first Cloverfield movie. The shaky camera work (yes I know it was intentional) and the ending had me wanting a refund on my time. So I was really hesitant to see 10Cloverfield Lane and The Cloverfield Paradox. I gave Paradox a go first and because it was more about quantum physics I got excited. It worked well and there was enough humour in it to smooth out some of the familiar sci-fi limits. Bit of a spoiler – but I loved the amputation scene and the hand continuing to live as a separate entity trying to send a message. This movie makes the original plausible by opening up the idea that rips in dimensions and space/time could occur. 10Cloverfield Lane therefore sits somewhere in the middle of all this more as a psychological thriller. And here comes the ‘BUT’ – why the monsters. It’s like kids telling a scary story but they get lost on how to finish it so they say ‘and then A MONSTER’. I guess I am wondering how that adds to the tension, for me it was a huge deflation.

Next up – Legion

If you were to smash The Twighlight Zone, XMen, and Inception together you have Legion. It is full on, like a darker, creepier XMen. In fact it is part of the XMen universe. Definitely do not let your kids see this – it is more horror than sci-fi and while I’m looking forward to season 2 I hope they can dial back on some of the surges between layers of reality. If you like Twilight Zone and mutant stuff – this is great. Just sleep with the light on after.

Finally – Dark

Not all sci-fi needs a space backdrop. Actually, I struggle to classify some series (The OA in a similar vein). Dark has been a shining light for me and is more a time travel, esoteric drama than sci-fi. Comparisons to Stranger Things seem inevitable but it is nothing like ST except for some of the story settings (small town and young people with mysterious things going on). Brilliant acting is undone by terrible dubbing into English and at times it’s like watching English dubbing of Kungfu movies. I did watch it a second time in German with subtitles. If you can focus on the eyes rather than the mouths it works – but I hope they can rectify it before season 2.

Dark is an aesthetic series. It is beautifully shot and the sound track creates right tone throughout – you feel Dark as it spans three timelines (with a 4th being touched on – no spoilers). The characters are not over cooked, there is a lovely balance of diversity and a genuine sense that these characters are there not just to ‘fill the diversity quotient’ as many others feel. This is a good vrs evil story as well but it is much more subtle and mysterious, the simplicity of the story does not do justice to the complexity of the plot. There is so much going on you need a second go at it as some characters span 3-4 timelines and there is an economy of dialogue that means every line potentially hides a clue. Another way to think about it is to see Stranger Things as a ‘half-strength soy latte’ compared to Dark – an espresso (short black), it’s possible to like both flavours but most people will have a preference.

I’m also really excited about Annihilation. This isn’t being released in on the big screen in NZ, the studio was concerned it was ‘too intellectual’ for the masses. Netflix scored it and I don’t think they’ll regret it.

Well – that was fun, I don’t envy people who do this for a living, knowing regardless of your opinion people will shred you. There are a bunch of other shows I could comment on…save it for another rainy day, there seem to be enough of them at the moment.

 

Census or Censor Us

(Disclaimer: second blog in as many days – still possibly a bit rusty/ranty)

I can time the census by the time it takes me to get around to clearing out my wardrobe. Five years already since the last one? But I’m unclear about being ‘counted’ because statistics is a strange process of deciding what matters, in other words it has the power to shape what is counted as real, important, ‘true’ representation of households in 2018. Here is the official blurb from stats NZ:

“Every five years, we run the census – the official count of how many people and dwellings there are in New Zealand. By asking everyone to complete a set of questions about themselves and their household, we can capture a snapshot of who is living in, and visiting, New Zealand.”

Sounds simple enough until you get to the kinds of questions being asked or in this case NOT being asked. This snapshot is going to be taken in …well…black and white and I’m not referring to ethnicity. This year they have decided to drop options around gender diversity and sexuality. Important information about people’s identities, something so fundamentally intrinsic to being human that in some countries you can be killed (legally…and not), is not being collected. This begs the question of the legality of the census. Everyone has to fill out the census accurately and it’s illegal not to complete. Not including gender identity and sexuality for me contradicts the purpose of a census – to collect an accurate picture.

The irony is how many other people seem invested in the existence of rainbow communities. The daily onslaught of abuse, violence, invisibility and persecution of queer people all around the world should make it plainly obvious that it matters! It’s weird to live in a country with marriage equality then not have that counted. Stats New Zealand have explained their position which basically boils down to ‘too hard basket’ and ‘it’s a bit personal for some people’. They won’t get ‘high quality data’ – yes we are a bit of a messy bunch and that is my point. When statistical modelling is privileged over representation the picture is ‘straightened’ out, focus sharpened, cropped neatly (painlessly – because we don’t want to cause offense) there is a cost – further marginalisation as the margins become exclusive rather than inclusive.

It’s good to know they are ‘working on it’ but FFS – it’s not like it’s a new phenomenon. Religion is a bit messy as well but that is still included, so is ethnicity. Perhaps to keep it more in line with the heteronormative stance, they should just have ‘Christian and non-Christian’ – and how Christian do you have to be, to be counted as Christian – what is the criteria – church attendance, bible verses able to be recited? God knows. Why is someones faith or beliefs put ahead of the material being and reality of LGBTQIA+. Funny how LGBTQIA+ are over represented in other stats, suicide, hate crimes, mental health, lack of housing, but are somehow too difficult to count.

The really sad thing is enabling people to make a meaningful decision to identify. Imagine being a young person and this is your first census – You’ve just come out or you have become aware you are intersex – yes – someone who is statistically just as common as red heads – and you only get M or F as your sex (apparently they will let you tick both…how accommodating of them). How does that help a young person feel their identity is meaningful and valued, real and their existence matters? Or anyone for that matter finally having language to put their identity.

In light of it being Auckland Pride Festival, and all things rainbow are being covered, show me actual change, real life shit – not words, publicity stunts (rainbow police cars), platitudes, hand wringing angst about diversity.  Sam Orchard  points out the problem (probably more succinctly than I am) of how can services, support and funding be legitimately advocated for if diversity is not represented? Perhaps what this demonstrates is society has outgrown it’s comfortable containers (not that some of us ever really fitted – we had to be squeezed in).

Finally – the only legit way to avoid the census is to be out of the country. I’m thinking a cruise ship out in international waters on the 6th March, shit I could have hitched a sweet ride to Mars yesterday – riding a big rocket, playing David Bowie…pretty gay