The following interview is with Kassie Hartendorp (Wellington Workers Party branch organiser and Schools Out facilitator and chair of Queer Avengers). And Jason Frock (Wellington Workers Party branch education officer, Schools Out facilitator, and trainee-coordinator of the Wellington Gay Welfare Group and member of the Queer Avengers). Both have been in highly involved in the recent Queer the Night demonstration and in the formation of the Queer Avengers campaign organisation.
The Spark: What was Queer the Night?
KH: Queer the Night was a march organised in response to the day-to-day violence that members of the queer community face while in the streets. The fear of verbal insults and physical attacks is something queers constantly carry with them everywhere.
JF: The streets are especially dangerous places for queers. Twice as much near bars at night which are highly sexualised areas where concepts of ‘masculinity’ need to be protected. They are often impossible to pass without having aninsulthurled your way if you’re visibly gay. It was also becoming normalised in Wellington to have regular queer bashings. Within our own friend networks it was becoming roughly 1 every other month.
KH: The purpose of the march was to call-out the queer community for its general silence towards the pervasive homophobic and transphobic street culture. We wanted people to realise that “enough is enough” and to begin to think about how to collectively organise beyond the march itself and to actually fight our continued oppression.
JF:Homophobic and transphobic violence is something experienced by queer community as a whole, but the responses to it are generally acted upon at an individual level. We wanted to break that atomisation by having a visible, militantand proud march through the centre of town and opening up a place where queers can come together and talk about our social oppression.
KH: What we needed was a celebration, a big bang to break the silence. We needed a powerful event which could break through the general apathy towards collective action. We needed an event which would empower people to take ownership of the queer community.
The Spark: How did the march itself go?
JF and KH: Overwhelming success.
KH: The energy was amazing. For many of us it was the most militant march we’ve been on. There was a good turnout, of about 400 people. The militancy, size and feelwere much greater than the numbers. I’ve been on bigger marches that weren’t nearly as powerful. There were four official guest speakers; all were received well by the crowd. It was a very emotional and raw event. People were crying. Actually making the streets a queer space was a very powerful experience for people.