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Posted by Philip on 17 February 2011, 8:32 am in , , , ,

Open letter to Chester Borrows

UPDATE 19 Feb: GayNZ.com story

Dear Chester Borrows

Last night on TVNZ7's Backbenches you engaged in a discussion about the merits of bringing back the Hero Parade. You said that, personally you didn't support the Parade; that you didn't think being gay or lesbian necessarily made people heroes; that no-one should define themselves or be defined by their sexual preference; and that people should be freely able to love whomever they choose.

Metiria Turei then labled you homophobic, which I think was unfair, unhelpful, and uninformed.

I think you may have thought with some care about your position and come to a rational and quite reasonable stand. As a gay man, I agree with your position.

I don't support parades and parties as public platforms to affirm identity – I think they polarise, stigmatise and trivialise the issues we face as a marginalised community. I also think the perpetuate a collective, psychosocial adolescence that the non-heterosexual community has become stuck in. We've needed to celebrate the end of our oppression, but we've been doing that for 20 years and it's time we became adults. Sure bad things happen to some of us and that's not right, but bad things happen to lots of people - that's a sad part of humanity that still needs work.

I don't think we are heroes just because we are lesbian, gay, queer, transgender or intersex, either. I think we are living in a time where our task is to challenge the status quo, increase tolerence acceptance and awareness, and create a more inclusive world. Doing that is not heroic, it's purposeful. Personally I don't think heroism is a public role; it is something we are better assigning privately to those we admire for certain values, attributes, actions or achievements.

Your vision, that no-one should define themselves or be defined by their sexual preference, is one I fully support. Labels categorise, separate and exclusify people and, if we are to truly value diversity and exemplify inclusivity, we need to recognise that the need to categorise and define one another has past. We have achieved that goal. We now need to learn to live together, noticing and exploring one another's similarities and differences, and valuing and expecting that each person is unique in some contexts and common in others.

Finally, your commitment to a world where people freely love whomever they choose is admirable and I stand beside you in your determination. If you, as a political leader, can ensure that you share that simple truth with others who may feel threatened by it, then person by person, you will help change the world. And that, of course, is what leadership is all about.

I hope you didn't believe what Metiria said last night, because she, unintentionally I'm sure, but somewhat hyocritically, labled you in the same way as she criticises others for labeling us. For society to change, that polarised, didactic behaviour needs to stop.

I hope you will not go away believing you are homophobic, because that belief will likely make you intolerant. I want you to go away believing your are a champion of fairness, reason, balance and responsibility.

You will no doubt be aware that there is still homophobia among people in society and that those people need to be able to change their views in order to live in a civilised society. I encourage you to have the confidence to share your point of view with them. Let them know they don't have to like the Hero Parade or think we're heroes. Share with them your hope that none of us have to use sexuality as a defining characteristic. And remind them that love, in whatever form it takes, is the energy that connects us as human beings.

Doing that, if you can, is, in my estimation, heroic.