Press Release – Paul Letham
A parade celebrating Auckland’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community is returning to Auckland Central. Whilst this event is being warmly welcomed by many, an Auckland counsellor is reminding the community of the work that still needs to be done.
Many years have passed since the GLBT community in Auckland had a festival to call its own. The Auckland Pride Festival, beginning on February 8 with a gala evening, looks set to shine the spotlight on the community once again.
Running for a little over two weeks, and culminating with the Proud Party on Saturday 23 February, the festival seeks to celebrate and make visible the GLBT community’s culture and identity. The return of a parade running the length of Auckland’s “cappuccino mile”, Ponsonby Road is particularly welcomed by the community and its supporters.
“The visibility of the GLBT community is sometimes a contentious issue” says Mind Your Head counsellor Paul Letham. “Some feel that the overtly camp stereotypes typically demonstrated at these sorts of festivals serve only to further marginalise those who may be struggling with their sexuality. Others, like myself, believe that a bold, colourful statement of the GLBT community’s culture can really only be a positive thing.”
As a counsellor who specialises in GLBT issues, identity, sexuality and self-image concerns , Mr Letham is only too aware of the issues that can arise when a community, especially one as diverse as this, does not feel able to freely express itself.
“Things have undoubtedly changed over time, a result of various pieces of legislation being passed, together with the normalisation of GLBT characters in films and television, however there is still work to be done,” says Mr Letham.
“GLBT individuals remain over-represented in mental health, addiction and suicide statistics. Gay youth continue to be kicked out of their family homes, and many in the GLBT community live in situations where to explore who they are carries significant risk. These issues can negatively influence the choices they then make.”
Whilst the Pride Festival allows for the broad expression of cultural identity, localised community-based services provide tailored support to people on their journey towards self-acceptance.
Equity and social justice remain contentious issues in the lives of GLBT individuals in Aotearoa New Zealand. Issues of stigma and discrimination continue to pose barriers to their wellbeing. Full access to equality has yet to be achieved. Auckland’s Pride Festival 2013 signals a step towards redressing this imbalance in the lives of GLBT people by providing them the space to be who they are, without compromise.