Amid a climate of vandalism and hostility, comes a plea to the government not to exclude the LGBTQIA+ community from the proposed hate speech law reform.
Tēnā koe Ms Allan, and NZ Labour MPs.
This letter is an expression of the greatest concern regarding the proposed withdrawal of protections for Aotearoa’s LGBTQIA+ community of Aotearoa, from the Hate Speech Law Reform process.
In the same spirit that the Muslim community appealed to the government in the months preceding the 2019 atrocities, we do this now.
2022 has seen an unprecedented rise in homophobia and transphobia in Aotearoa, both offline and online, and to an industrial scale. Offline, the burning down of Tauranga’s Rainbow Youth drop-in centre and the vandalising of Greymouth’s pink church were designed both to intimidate, and to vent the hatred stewing within the individuals that took part. Online, it is a harm signature studied every day, and according to our disinformation experts, is at levels comparable to more studied harms and hatred associated with Islamophobia. Through both imported and domestic content production of written expression, memes, QAnon-framing and Russian disinformation projection, we are standing before a wildfire. Anti-vaxx and anti-mandate communities feature hateful discourse against our people as a matter of normalised discourse, across all social media platforms. Any identity that is not cisgender, Pākehā, and alpha male is subject to dehumanisation. These attitudes and their subsequent offline acts of destruction of our meeting places are profoundly disturbing to us, and are the stepping stones toward physical violence against individuals.
In this treacherous situation, we must also understand that violence is not just an offline outcome. Psychological harm is already being committed against our people in online spaces. Campaigns of harassment, “othering” and sustained, targeted haranguing are a major source of psycho-social trauma. They contribute to stress, fear, anxiety, and hyper-vigilance in our communities, with young or isolated people especially vulnerable.
Particularly alarming: social media in Aotearoa has imported the “groomer” rhetoric that has abcessed from US “anti-woke”, QAnon, MAGA, and Kremlin-scripted movements. Queer and non-binary people are routinely accused of being pedophiles – with no evidence, of course. It appears growing numbers of people genuinely believe that their LGBTQIA+ neighbours, family members and colleagues are grooming children for sexual abuse. They are pushing these ideas at an alarming pace, with these baseless fantasies gaining traction. Some signees of this letter have received death threats this year, unprovoked, and related to this toxic and growing conspiratorialism, which we note has led to significant violence which just this year has involved acts of arson, physical violence, and terrorism domestically, and internationally.
To the minister of justice: we do not accept your explanation that strengthening hate speech laws to protect our people could create more harm. Harm is being done at this moment. By every metric used by disinformation experts in Aotearoa, exacerbated by the acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk, harm is increasing, and rendering that platform a new haven for harms.
The temperature is rising, and doing nothing is unacceptable.
It is our belief that our people are in danger, and this is an opportunity to offer the minimum of protections and respect. We appeal to you, as individuals and as a government, to treat this with the utmost seriousness, and act urgently to protect those who are vulnerable.
Kā mihi nui
Dudley Benson (Co-director Woof!, Ōtepoti)
Burnett Foundation Aotearoa
Jennifer-Rose Tamati & Leilani Thompson-Rikis (Rainbow health professionals, OutLine Aotearoa, Tāmaki Mākaurau)