The whitest rainbow: 2020 New Zealand Green Party's LGBTQIA+ policies

I am writing this about a month before the General Election of 2020, and the Green Party is, for now, polling at the threshold of entry to parliament on party votes alone, at five percent. They are asking for votes. They are asking for my vote.

An issue at the fore of my mind is rainbow policy. In my previous post, I broke down the Green's disappointing 2020 vision page on Rainbow communities in some detail.

But this is not the sum total of the Greens' policy output. Oh no. It gets worse.

Let us walk through three more pages:

  1. The party policy Rainbow page (as distinct from the 2020 election initiative)
  2. The full Rainbow policy document (one with numbered policy positions)
  3. The Rainbow Greens group web page

These additional pages are instructive because they reinforce a theme which ought to be a historical myth: the Greens are white — at least insofar as the rainbow communities go, which they seem to view as a token, fringe interest of mainly Pākehā people.

The party policy Rainbow page

A Rainbow policy is listed apart from the 2020 election initiative policies (the latter includes the Rainbow communities policy). It goes on to link to a full policy document, but we'll get to that later. Let's begin by looking at the summarized items on this Rainbow policy page.

This page is a little more wide-ranging in its detailed changes compared to the 2020 vision, but not by much. Instead of going through it line-by-line and repeating criticisms from the 2020 breakdown, let's look for specifically new or interesting features.

The first feature is that this web page's text content is about 260 words long. Not one of those 260 words is “takatāpui” or “Māori”. I had to double-check that I wasn't looking at the website for the UK Green Party.

So we're two for two: neither the grand vision for 2020 nor the ongoing party policy mentions tangata whenua or their interests. There is then little hope that rainbow migrants, refugees and asylum seekers will get a seat at this table.

The first section of the page expands on the statement, “Rainbow communities are entitled to equal opportunities in law and in practice” which was in the 2020 vision for Rainbow communities. It mostly refers to amending the Human Rights Act and related laws. The final point is new:

Rainbow families should have the same access to legal partnership arrangements and rights, including adoption.

It is already troubling that this policy is oriented only around “families” and not “whānau”. It names “adoption”, but never mentions “whāngai” (Māori customary adoption practices), which for some, has been a pain point between Māori and the Crown due to Eurocentric adoption legislation, such as erasing the adopted child's whakapapa.

The questions then follow: what of takatāpui Māori? Does the policy say anything about how takatāpui Māori may access rights to adoption or whāngai? How might the interests of takatāpui tamaiti whāngai be promoted by policy?

There are also considerations involving borders and international law affecting rainbow migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and adoption and family reunification — what does the policy say about those relationships?

There is scant evidence that such voices were involved in drafting a policy like this.

The second section relates to health, and expands on the vision statement of “addressing the healthcare needs of rainbow people”. It begins with the point:

Specific health programmes should be developed and delivered, in partnership with rainbow communities.

This is the first time I have encountered the notion of a community partnership in any of the policies. And yet, it isn't about te Tiriti or specifically partnering with takatāpui Māori.

This position does not identify the multicultural, multi-ethnic diversity in the rainbow communities, although it perhaps ought to, considering the healthcare disparities in both outcomes and inputs, delineated by race and ethnicity.

Note: the working definition of “rainbow communities” has so far been about labels such as “transgender”, “non-binary”, and “intersex”; it has not acknowledged any other kind of diversity such as race, ethnicity, disability, class, wealth, etc. This is reinforced in the subsequent point, which again fails to note takatāpui Māori, let alone any other non-Pākehā culture:

Government should actively address the healthcare and other needs of intersex, transgender, and non-binary people.

While these points are open to interpretation as being possible to implement in a culturally-sensitive way, there is no guarantee. It may also be possible to implement by satisfying the needs of Pākehā trans, non-binary and intersex people alone.

The final recommendation in the health section, and the next section's point about eductation, are superficially harmless:

Health professionals, local and central government, and institutions including police, prisons, courts and the military, should be provided with education and training about rainbow issues.

Rainbow identities and issues, and human rights broadly, should be included in teacher training and school curricula.

The frightening thing is that if this training is developed along the lines of this Greens policy — i.e. erasing non-Pākehā rainbow people — then it risks perpetuating racism that will hurt the most vulnerable at the crossroads of multiple oppressions through existing systems already notorious for just that sort of discrimination. Needlessly, this low-quality policy presentation does not inspire confidence that the Greens are the people who can lead a rollout of a fair and just education programme on rainbow issues.

The last two points relate to community development. I have already dissected the matter of advocacy in foreign policy and the weak platform Aotearoa New Zealand would have, in the 2020 vision breakdown. So let's look at the other, novel recommendation:

Government should support the development of adequately resourced community centres, outreach programmes and events, and the creative self-expression of people with rainbow identities through drama, literature, and the arts

Here again there is no cognizance of ethnic diversity and the importance of taking a culturally-sensitive approach to reach people at the intersections and margins of society. For instance, among some nonwhite migrant and refugee communities, religious centres and organizations are close to the heart of community gatherings, events, and culture like drama and the arts. What would an outreach programme look like to promote the rights of rainbow people among those groups? Can the Crown forge partnerships with them on rainbow issues?

Although that premise of Eurocentrism goes unstated, we can, in our current society afflicted by prevailing racism, fairly re-read this point as:

Government should support the development of adequately resourced Pākehā community centres, Pākehā outreach programmes and events, and the creative self-expression of Pākehā people with rainbow identities through drama, literature, and the arts

An anti-racist policy would make mention of ethnic and racial diversity to counteract a monochromatic interpretation like the one above. But when it fails to make such mention, it lapses into a racist policy by default. There is no “non-racist” position.

Before we move on from this page, let's also note that disability never comes up. I can only extend my sympathies to Disabled takatāpui Māori who might be looking for refuge or hope in a place like this.

The full Rainbow policy document

Buried deep under several layers of policy summary like the the 2020 vision for Rainbow communities and the Rainbow page above, is a full policy document, with numbered items and all. This must be it; all the summaries may have taken shortcuts, but here we ought to find the nitty-gritty detail which fills in all the gaps.

Behold! At last, we have found a document bearing the Greens logo that also uses the word “takatāpui” — not once, but twice! This has to be it!

What does it say? In a footnote, it records, most reluctantly:

1 Rainbow – An umbrella term that embraces any person whose sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics (SOGIESC) differs from majority, binary (female/male) norms. This includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, takatāpui, intersex, queer (LGBTIQ) and other culturally specific terms such as fa’afafine

So the term “rainbow” was hiding the term “takatāpui” all along, what a plot twist!

This is obviously disappointing. Lumping these terms together is nothing less than “all lives matter” but for the rainbow communities. It allows for ambiguous policy to be developed without once referencing te Tiriti or kaupapa Māori. Not even the rest of this document makes such an effort. By overlooking these intersectional identities, we also overlook intersectional needs — from hauora to whāngai to whanaungatanga.

The footnote goes on to define “takatāpui”:

Takatāpui – An umbrella term that embraces all Māori with diverse gender identities or expressions, sexualities and sex characteristics. It emphasises[sic] Māori cultural and spiritual identity as equal to – or more important than – gender identity or expression, sexuality or having diverse sex characteristics

While this shows an awareness that a concept of being takatāpui exists in abstract form, it fails to identify any actual implications. What does this definition mean for the everyday lived experience, the history, and the material needs of takatāpui Māori? How could it figure into policy positions? The theoretical definition given is completely disconnected from consequence in reality.

In effect, the floating definition serves to assimilate the notion of takatāpui Māori into the Pākehā construct of LGBTQIA+, as if they were, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same thing but by different names. In this view, takatāpui Māori are just another flavour of the rainbow, and not a co-equal partner in te Tiriti. There is even a door left open to interpreting “takatāpui” as an ahistorical term that simply refers to the settler's cultural concept of being queer or trans, because no notice is given to its rich history that predates European arrival.

A rose by any other name. This is what colonization looks like.

Moreover, what's telling is even this obligatory footnote fails to identify ethnic or racial diversity in the rainbow communities beyond takatāpui and fa'afafine. It is literally “othered” as “other culturally specific terms”. Not even in this grudging acknowledgement of some diversity is there a representation of meaningful differences in class, wealth, or disability. These intersectional needs are also clearly overlooked across the rainbow policies.

At best, the design of the Greens' rainbow policies is for benefits to trickle down to the hidden “other” groups, buried in footnotes in detailed policy documents.

The rest of the document is as uninteresting as the previous summaries, and adds little to fill in the gaps identified earlier. We have already come to the root of the problem: who the Greens see as being a member of the rainbow communities or not, and what their needs might be as a result of their differences. Clearly, the Greens are most interested in affluent, abled Pākehā.

It's not a huge leap to infer that that must be who represents the rainbow communities within the party.

The Rainbow Greens group web page

Finally, let's wander into the web page on the Greens' site for the Rainbow Greens, an interest group that is doubtless behind the policy shambles we have toured previously.

It begins:

Co-convenors: Kate Aschoff and Matt Sharpe

I don't know who these people are but my first question is: what is their whakapapa? Do they represent takatāpui Māori at all? If not, how did the Greens end up without Māori informing their rainbow policies? If yes, how did they fail to identify intersectional needs among the rainbow communities, particularly takatāpui Māori?

The main passage opens with the line:

The Rainbow Greens network aims to promote the rights and welfare of all rainbow/LGBTQIA+ people.

Here again, if we are being charitable, we might find a whiff of a semblance of a hint of there once having been an acknowledgement of ethnic and racial diversity swept under the rug embroidered with the word, “all”. As in, “all lives matter”, if that can even be said — it is possible the variations meant by “all” are strictly confined to “transgender”, “non-binary”, and “intersex”, alone.

The rest of the page once again fails to mention anything about takatāpui Māori or any other ethnic diversity, or intersectional group such as Disabled rainbow folks.

There is an interesting highlighted sentence:

This year we have eight amazing Rainbow Green candidates running for Parliament.

These candidates include the likes of Elizabeth Kerekere and Ricardo Menéndez, who are representative of takatāpui Māori and tauwi rainbow migrant communities. But their profiles are unmentioned.

Not even the grand banner photo at the top of the page features people like them.

That is a curious disconnect between the Rainbow Greens, the policy authors, the candidates, and the elected MPs.


On the strength of the candidates alone, it may be tempting to vote Green. I should feel encouraged to double-down on that choice by reading the party's rainbow policies and vision statement. But here I am, in fact, alienated. and demotivated by the policies' deep racism, ableism and non-intersectional approach that by default promotes the interests of affluent, abled Pākehā in the rainbow communities.

Is it too late to amend these policies? As of this writing, there is still a month to go before the election. It may not make a difference whether I vote enthusiastically or reluctantly; a vote is a vote. It may make a difference for those who are on the margins. And it will make a difference for the voiceless who will be affected by the eventual implementation of any policy. The Greens must revisit this strangely racist, ableist, class-unconscious set of rainbow policies, and soon.