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by Sam Clark (he/him)


Nau mai, haere mai – welcome back!


I hope everyone had a nice break, and you're all ready for the final push of the year. We’re kicking off the semester with an issue dedicated to gender: celebrating diversity, discussing its issues and confusing our grandads.

Gender is a powerful thing. It surrounds us, as many of us perform roles that have been ingrained into our actions since birth – whether we’re aware of it or not. It’s also inherently political, with ongoing issues like trans healthcare and closing the gender pay gap at the front of our minds this election. We’re all acutely aware of the work that needs to be done in this space, but it’s easy to forget about the transphobia and sexism that exists outside of the progressive university environment. Because we surround ourselves with like-minded people, we often assume that everyone else shares the same values, so it can be quite alarming when we’re exposed to ideas that clash with our own.

Ella cut my hair

I experienced this when I was in Northland last weekend, where fringe party NZ Loyal is campaigning against vaccinations, climate change legislation, sex and gender education in schools and abortion rights. It’s troubling to see how these extreme ideas have such a strong presence in Aotearoa. However, if we’re mindful of these ideas and where they stem from, perhaps we can think of better ways to address them.

Aotearoa journalist David Farrier puts it like this: “Go and learn about that conspiracy theory as much as you can. Dive into Wikipedia, Google it, learn what the arguing points are. And then in a very simple way, when you meet your friend, just tell them you want to understand what they believe. Then you can explain that stuff back to them better than they know it.” Often, these ideas have no scientific basis – like fear mongering around letting trans people use the bathroom that matches their identities; when studies show that trans people are far more unsafe using the bathroom that opposes their identity. The Spinoff’s website is also a good place to start. While it can be useful to affirm our own beliefs and find out which policies align with our values – it’s also beneficial to learn about opposing views, and understand where they come from.

I also hope this issue can provide some positivity and a break from the madness leading up to such a monumental election. We‘re very lucky to feature some insights from our trans whānau, while our writers focus on trans artists and creators working in Aotearoa and beyond. That’s all from me whānau – please enjoy this very special edition of Debate!

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