Who Am I and Who Cares? Highlights From the GAYCATION Panel

From coming out and fighting for safe spaces to identifying as an inanimate object, here's what went down at the VICELAND identity panel.

by Tess McClure
21 February 2017, 10:10pm

VICELAND celebrated Auckland's Pride Festival with a GAYCATION screening and panel discussion: Jess Holly Bates, Moeawa Tamanui-Fransen, Ana Cahill, and Dan Eichblatt discussing identity, sexuality and LBGQTI rights in 2017.

Our panelists talk through the challenges of coming out, the growing myriad of sexual and gender identities, and the big battles facing the next generation of LGBTQI youth. Here are some of the highlights, plus photographs from Danny M Thompson.

Jess Holly Bates 

I don't count milestones by legislative milestones. What I'm interesting in society flipping on is femme safe spaces. More than anything else, I think that this country, right from its roots, has a super problem with toxic masculinity–across the genders. I'm starting to see tiny bubbles popping up around spaces where femme can exist safely. I know growing up that femininity was super pressed down and I found it really difficult to know what authentic feminine looks like. I think it's a challenging and interesting conversation for us to start because I think it's at the root of lots of stuff.

Ana Cahill

Generally I think, education is the biggest thing that needs to change. I didn't know until I was 16 that there was anything else to think about. It is just as simple as telling people what the world is like and that there is more than just what you see, there's so much more. it comes down to people knowing and understanding. That's the biggest bridge to cross.

Moeawa Tamanui-Fransen

If there is anything I want to see changing [for the next generation], it is their own homes, their own families. If that's not a space place, and they don't want to be a part of it, that's cool, there are other places they can go to. When I think about the programme that I run with young people, they do all this stuff and they feel safe and then they don't want to go home because it's not safe. It's not open. They can't talk about things like sex. Pleasure is something they can't talk about. I'd love to see change within homes and make those places safe.

Dan Eichblatt 

When I came out in the last 90s I was 20, and I counted coming out as when you tell your mum. At that time things seemed quite cut and dry. People were still getting their heads around the concepts of gay and lesbian, but for me it was quite simple. I knew I would go to a gay bar and find my tribe. These days, what I'm seeing with teenagers is that the community is fragmented with a myriad of different identities. I don't know if fragmented is the right word to use? But I have the perception that people are defining themselves as different from others rather than part of an LGBT community.

Jess Holly Bates

I would say proliferate, instead of fragment. I think it's great. I think there is some sense of normative heterosexual bias to see threat in lots of identities forming and I don't see any problems with it. I think it's so wonderful. I think more. Come through, more. However you want to self authorise, and i don't see it as fixed.

Dan Eichblatt

I've falling into a Tumblr hole a few times. I've met students who identify far beyond the LGBT and all the letters that we're familiar with. Young people who identify as inanimate objects, fictional characters, celestial constellations, cars, animals, anything you can think of. Sometimes they have a whole community living in their heads. There are words like otherkin and headmates. I wonder how far is too far in terms of identity?

Moeawa Tamanui-Fransen 

It's everyone's job to support that person and help them navigate where they want to be. I don't think it's terrible. I've been in a group where there are a community of androids and been like, what it is this? But when you sit in with that community it makes absolute sense. It's our job to be understanding, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable. When it's too far, it's clearly when people are hurting themselves.

This even was supported by Whammy Bar, Brothers Beers, and Auckland Pride Festival.

GAYCATION sees actress and activist Ellen Page travel the globe with best friend Ian Daniel, exploring LGBTQ cultures and uncovering incredible stories of repression and triumph. It screens Tuesdays at 8.30 on Sky Channel 13.