Backing our rainbow community

The Government’s Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill will ban conversion therapy. Photo by Delia Giandeini on Unsplash

The Government recently announced it was introducing the Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill that will ban conversion therapy.

The landmark legislation will stop a practice that has perpetuated discrimination and abuse towards the rainbow community.

As Minister Kris Faafoi said, conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand.

Research has identified the practice causes severe depression and anxiety, alienation and an increased risk of substance abuse and suicide.

There is never any justification for trying to force someone to change their sexuality or gender identity. These are not things that need to be ‘fixed’. The law change will codify the already widespread rejection of this practice among health professionals, religious leaders and human rights advocates.

Importantly, the Bill introduces both a criminal offence for serious cases and a civil redress scheme through the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

But this Bill is just one part of the work needed to stop the oppression and discrimination experienced by rainbow communities.

I believe east Auckland is a community where we can celebrate our diversity – both in terms of ethnicity or age, but also sexuality and gender.

We already have incredible community advocates who are leading the charge. Earlier this year, I attended Howick Pride at the Howick Information Centre. To see hundreds of our rangatahi proudly sharing their identity in the centre of our community was incredibly moving.

Creating change requires breaking the norms and claiming space where there once was discrimination. But we all have a part to play. Even the small things like using someone’s preferred pronouns hold significant meaning.

There will inevitably be opposition but that cannot stop progress. I understand some would say it is inappropriate to teach our rangatahi about sexuality or gender, who perhaps would prefer to see the rainbow community isolated and contained.

But watching hundreds celebrate their identity earlier this year, I couldn’t help but think that any opponents of reform had missed the boat.

We already have a vibrant and youthful rainbow community. Our rangatahi are the ones leading the charge – they are ahead of everyone, shaping our community to their vision.

It was Young Labour that put the Conversion Practices Prohibition Bill on our agenda. As a Government, we’re just catching up.

  • Naisi Chen is a Labour List MP based in Botany