And then it was Christmas

On new years eve eight years ago I moved back home to Ōtautahi, a city I hadn't lived in since I was ten, a city that had changed so much in the years since. It was the best decision I ever made - I'm so grateful for it today.

8 min read
And then it was Christmas

Kia ora e hoa mā - I hope everyone is safe and well, today and over the summer break.

Yesterday we had another rally for Palestine, two days before Christmas, and Ōtautahi once again continued to show up.

A rally of a few hundred at the Bridge of Remembrance, gathered around a Christmas tree.

These two told us how they'd been talking about what's happening in Palestine at their pre-school. They made their signs and wanted to come show their support.

Two young children holding signs reading "bombing kids is not self defence" and "murdering children is not 'fighting terrorism', it is terrorism"

In my social media memories this week was a photo from eight years ago, when I had been in A&E in Tāmaki with a viral skin infection. I was in and out of hospital in the days before Christmas, dealing with a mental health crisis, and making some pretty poor decisions that left me pretty isolated. I remember sitting in the hospital bed two days before Christmas, watching the re-opening of te Puna o Waiwhetū the Christchurch Art Gallery, and I think that was what sealed it - I was coming home.

The aunties sorted me enough money for a flight, and on new years eve eight years ago I moved back home to Ōtautahi, a city I hadn't lived in since I was ten, a city that had changed so much in the years since. It was the best decision I ever made - I'm so grateful for it today.

The whole raruraru over at Substack has really left me in a state I haven't been in in a long time. I'm still getting subscribers over there, as someone re-shares a post about the terfs, and every time I do I take a look at who they are, who else they follow, what they've engaged with - and about 75% of them are terfs at the moment. It's really unsettling and doing my head in.

Substack will show you this column of stars to show how engaged each reader is - the most 'engaged' in the last two weeks, invariably, have been terfs hate-reading everything I've written. It's unhinged!

There are a couple of pieces of essential reading for anyone out of the loop on what's happening - the long and the short of it is that Substack not only hosts and allows Nazis to monetise their Nazisim on the platform, but that Substack in fact invited and paid advances to some of these people. What I didn't know, being newer to the platform, is that this has all happened before - with terfs.

This, from Frankie de la Cretaz:

And I’ll be honest—I feel a little bit ambivalent about the whole thing. Because of course Substack has a Nazi problem. It was always going to have a Nazi problem. Trans people could have told you that years ago.

Frankie's post led me to this absolutely excellent piece from Jude Ellison Sady Doyle, who left substack years ago because of their willingness to play ball with terfs:

Those are just the assholes. Increasingly, Substack is tolerating and funding extreme trans-eliminationist rhetoric: They host Jesse Singal, a high-profile supporter of anti-trans conversion therapy who is also widely known to fixate on and stalk trans women in and around the media industry. I would list Jesse’s targets, but at this point, I don’t know a trans woman in media who doesn’t have a story. Graham Lineham is a transphobic bigot so extreme and abhorrent that he’s been permanently banned from Twitter, Medium, and basically every platform but the one I’m using to talk to you right now. He reportedly considers Substack a major source of income.
I’m not even listing all the problematic bylines here. (Andrew Sullivan! Bari Weiss!) Those bylines themselves are not the problem. Self-publishing platforms can’t control who signs up. Substack isn’t a self-publishing platform, though. It curates its writers. It pays them, sometimes massively, and it makes choices as to who gets paid well and who doesn’t. We’ve seen instances of tech companies allowing hate group leaders to acquire huge followings through negligence, from white supremacist YouTube stars to a President who has to be banned from Twitter for trying to start a civil war, but those were cases where the platforms failed to keep bigots out. Substack is actively bringing the bigots in. Then it’s giving them paychecks.

Jude has long since moved to ghost - you can follow their new newsletter here.

It's been jarring to hear all this history as a trans person so relatively new to the platform - sad, unsurprising, the usual story.

But, as so many on substack have pointed out - it's been nice to see the collective power and collective decision-making amongst those who signed the initial open letter - people are working together to figure out what to do, where to go, how to move platforms in a way that doesn't threaten people's livelihoods. Because so many people I care for make a living on that platform - I couldn't fathom the complexity of having my primary income being so wound up in that mess.

In other 'holy fuck did that really happen' news this week, the coalition of chaos repealed the RMA or Resource Management Act in a move to 'remove red tape'. What they actually did was replace 'te Tiriti o Waitangi' with 'the Treaty of Waitangi', and 'iwi and hapu' with just 'iwi'. Making fast moves to push their racist, colonial agenda.

Idiot/Savant (
RMA repeal repeal bill has one hell of a Henry VIII clause,allowing Ministers to alter or suspend portions of the RMA at will by fiat with no parliamentary scrutiny…

The bill also has what's referred to as a "Henry VIII" clause - don't worry, I had to look it up, too. A Henry VIII clause enables the government to change things through 'secondary' legislation, which is subject to much less scrutiny and oversight than regular changes - no surprises from this government who are pushing changes through under urgency with no regulatory impact statements.

I can't even begin on the trans people in sport stuff (she says, about to begin) - at least, they haven't made any active moves yet, and the reporting this week was a Herald reporter picking up on a line in the coalition agreements (the usefulness of that reporting I think I'm a little skeptical about, to be honest).

Both the sport funding thing and the repeal of the Relationships & Sex Ed Guidelines have something in common, though - the government can set out their own transphobic guidelines as much as they like, but they can't force schools or sporting bodies to do what they want them to do through guidelines alone. Sporting bodies in Aotearoa are already working on trans inclusion - Sport NZ and InsideOUT just worked on some great guidelines around this. Schools around Aotearoa are already providing great environments for our trans whānau, and inclusive education is enshrined in legislation. If this government wants to come after legislation to force these changes, they're in for a hell of a fight.

I thought I'd share some watches and reads - things that have really stuck with me over the last little while. First off the bat - and I really do recommend just chucking this on the telly at some point during your family gathering, in all sincerity, get everyone to sit down and watch (especially uncle Tim) - this incredible new documentary about the far-right think-tanks that coordinated against the Voice referendum in Australia and are already coordinating for a referendum about te Tiriti here in Aotearoa:

If you're keeping up with the anti-trans disinformation, a lot of this won't be new - part of me feels like they've used transphobia as a training and recruiting ground for this, bigger, even more dangerous campaign. I mean, even the same old faces are trotting out anti-Māori sentiment pretty publicly these days...

Ani O’Terf quotes Orwell “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered…History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right” in response to a tweet about how the protest-defaced English-language Treaty at Te Papa is being left up for summer

Josh Drummond worked on the documentary, and his writeup is worth a read:

Having seen extraordinary success in Australia with the triumph of the “No” vote on the Voice, these same forces look to be coming for Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Since it gained limited judicial and legislative recognition, Te Tiriti has been a bugbear for neoliberals. It represents everything they hate: an example of collective recognition and responsibility, and an admission that indigenous people do in fact have continuing inalienable rights that pre-date colonisation. Perhaps most importantly, Te Tiriti acts as a potential handbrake on the kind of unfettered property rights required for mining and fossil fuel companies to prosper.
So it’s no surprise that the ACT Party and lobbyist enablers like Hobson’s Pledge want nothing more than to get rid of it.

Also worth your quick time is this excellent list from Tina Ngata - What's Required of Tangata Tiriti?

A number of qualities occurred to me today about what I expect to see in a good Tangata Tiriti. Let me say before we go any further – this is not an exhaustive list, it doesn’t shortcut the work Tangata Tiriti have to do to figure out their responsibilities. I’ve been asked a few times “What do Maori want” – its a rude and reductive question, and not one that I recommend anyone ask… because WE are not the problem and what we WANT is not the point. The real question to be asked is – what does justice demand of us? And what follows are just a few things that justice requires of Tangata Tiriti.

I think the defining experience for us Pākehā over the next three years is whether or not we step into our role as tangata Tiriti. Te Tiriti is what gives us the privilege of sharing this land, and it equally gives us the responsibility to stand up for te Tiriti, for the whenua, for tangata whenua. Read this list, embody it - no better time to get some practice in than the Christmas gatherings, eh e te whānau?

One of the strange effects of everything that's happened with Substack has been finding a whole host of other trans writers on that platform. So, for your Christmas Eve, this, from Robin Taylor, That Trans Friend You Didn't Know You Needed:

I didn’t set out to lie to my children, and I made sure to point out to them that no one can really say for sure whether Santa or Casper are real or imagined. Maybe you don’t believe in them, but the world is vast, and I have not yet checked each corner of it to prove or disprove their existence.
More important to me is to learn to believe, to hold onto that feeling of mystery and joy in the unexplained. I don’t always need to know why or how, and sometimes I am better for not knowing. I can appreciate the beauty of things in this world without understanding how they came to be.

Meri Kirihimete, e hoa mā. Aroha mai, aroha atu x