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MediaMay 18, 2024

The Weekend: A landmark case for trans rights in Aotearoa


Editor Madeleine Chapman looks back at the week and shines a light on some increasingly rare longform journalism.

Mōrena and welcome to The Weekend where there will sadly be no aurora to see. After a busy week last week of short, sharp pieces, this week we swung the other way, with longer features about broader, societal issues. The cover story, as it were, was senior writer Alex Casey’s carefully navigated story about a trans Corrections officer who has brought a case against his employer to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, the first time the Tribunal will consider a case on the basis of sex involving a transgender person.

This story would be a big deal at any time, but it feels particularly important now, as New Zealand First (particularly the deputy prime minister) plays directly to the small anti-trans base with its new bill that would see individuals fined if caught using a toilet that does not align with their assigned sex. Will the bill ever pass? Almost certainly not. But its purpose was never to pass, simply to stir discontent.

Adam*, the man who spoke to Alex about his experience working at Corrections, is not an “activist” nor an “advocate”, he is simply someone who wanted to do their job and felt it increasingly difficult after coming out as trans to his employer.

These types of stories (which Alex writes better than anyone in the country) are a crucial pillar of journalism. They take an issue that has morphed into a “culture war” and political football, and show the very real people within it. Because regardless of your politics, Adam’s story touches on some very basic and universal themes: communication (or lack thereof), the right to privacy, and the desire to live as one’s true self, free from harassment.

This week’s episode of Behind the Story

I spoke to Alex about the unique process and care involved in telling these types of stories – it’s not just a short phone call and some transcribing. This particular story took about a month (which is actually very quick for a long feature of this nature) and involved numerous interviews, on and off the record, and a lot of talking about things well beyond the scope of the article. Plus, some insights into the anxiety and nerves that accompany every “big story” up until, and in the moments after, it’s published.

Listen wherever you get your podcasts.

So what have readers spent the most time reading this week?

Comments of the week

A lot of solidarity among those that missed the aurora

Healthy debate on the value of green space on last week’s piece about Wellington’s Berhampore Golf Course

Pick up where this leaves off

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