Kia Ora whanau,
What can I say? Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Getting into the Top 5 finalists was unexpected, but to win this title was something else altogether. When I arrived in Auckland for Pride I met a host of beautiful individuals, four of them my fellow competitors. Oh my gosh, the Mr. Gay NZ team sure knows how to pick em’! Such incredible stories, and passion for what they stood for – the Fabulous Five are going to change the face of Aotearoa.
Firstly, to my amazing team who got me to Auckland – thank you for everything you have done for me. We will continue to work towards equality for all, so goes my favourite song “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” To the New Zealand Aids Foundation, Gay Express, Gay Nation, Family Bar, G.A.Y, thank you for this beautiful opportunity, I have a lot of work to do and it’s an absolute privilege to have your support. To Nick Francis, such big shoes to fill! I’m excited to take up the sash and follow on from your good work. Matt and Tony, you are my guiding light on this crazy journey. Thank you for everything you do for me, and for our community.
When I talk about change that needs to come, I talk about so many things: Change to our education system across the board, starting with a more inclusive approach to learning about our indigenous cultures, the struggles they have gone through, and what that means now. Education for the people of Aotearoa to bring conversations of acceptance and exploration into the household.
Change to our nightlife and bar space. We need to equip our 18+ spaces to better deal with issues consent, respect and safe sex practices. Information is key and there isn’t enough of it. This means empowering our talented bar staff (and each other) to better identify, appropriately intervene, and diffuse a hostile situation before it gets out of hand. This also means educating our rainbow community on how to help each other identify and navigate potentially dangerous situations.
For open, public spaces we need there to be more coverage and acceptance of our Rainbow Community. I am hard at work with The Umbrella Project in creating spaces in existing business, and also new areas of the Wellington community where everyone, and I mean EVERYONE can feel welcome to discuss, inform, even question our society. Youth, POC, refugees and immigrants, women, men, trans, non-binary, and allies to the LGBTTFQI+ community (just to name a few). In the Burner community, we call this Radical Inclusion and this needs to be a principle of our community too.
It’s time to start getting involved with one another on a scale where we tackle more than just one issue. Human beings are multifaceted and intersecting creatures, so to are the challenges we face in society.
Change to how we treat each other. Enough of belittling and shaming one another, each of us has faced bullying and exclusion in some shape on our journey, why continue that cycle among ourselves? Let’s move past this – let’s use our energy for more pressing issues, like standing beside our Pasifika and indigenous whanau, supporting them in dealing with family acceptance, or tackling global issues like Global Warming.
I want to see us leading the way by example for the rest of the world to follow. In Aotearoa a lot of us are blessed with privilege that other countries deny their queer citizens. We have a lot that we have fought for, and plenty more to stand up for. From radical inclusion, through to education and climate change, we all have the power to make an impact in our community. Locally, and globally.
In April I’m off to represent NZ in the Mr Gay World competition – and I thought I was nervous before Auckland Pride! I’m thrilled and excited to represent our beautiful rainbow nation on the world stage.
In sharp contrast to these incredible highs, last week I lost someone very close to me. To lose a father figure so suddenly was jarring to say the least, so I would like to leave you with words from a far wiser man than me:
“Sometimes the smallest drop can have the biggest ripple.” – Bruce Geddes