On Saturday, 18 June, we once again bore witness to Qtopia’s all-ages and all-inclusive Pride Ball at the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū during our Christchurch and World Pride.
For those based outside Ōtautahi, Qtopia is a social support service for our LGBTQIA+ rangatahi in Ōtautahi and across Te Waipounamu. This ball was organised by the magnificent crew at Qtopia: our wonderful professional aunties Alice (Executive Director), Jen (2IC), and Kerry, delivering peer support work within our communities. The evening was hosted by Tāmaki-Makaurau-based Mister Hugo Grrrl and showcased Queer excellence and Queer euphoria.
Qtopia holds a special place in my heart as one of the current co-chairs (alongside MahMah Timoteo) and as a former attendee of the youth group myself. The organisation strives to create positive social change through education, advocacy, support, and celebration. This is all through the hard work of Alice, Jen, and Kerry and their continued commitment to our Rainbow communities.
The Pride Ball is a beautiful space that allows our LGBTQIA+ rangatahi to celebrate their identities in a safe and caring environment. This year, I had the honour and privilege this year to address the 500+ rangatahi, whānau, and allies at this sold-out event.
Now, I want to share my heartfelt words from that evening with you.
Kei aku nui, kei aku rahi, tēnā koutou.
Ko te mihi tuatahi ki ngā mana whenua o tēnei rohe me ōna uri, Ngāi Tūāhuriri. Ko te mihi tuatoru ki ō tātou manuhiri o tēnei pō. Kua tae mai nei i tēnei pō ki whakanui ō tātou hapori, ō tātou whānau āniwaniwa. Nō reira, ngā mihi nui ki a koutou i ō koutou tautoko tonu.
Ko wai au? He uri ahau nō Haina ki te tonga, he Hainamana ahau, nō Hong Kong ōku mātua. I whānau mai au i Te Awakairangi ki Tai, engari kei Ōtautahi ahau e noho ana ināianei. Ko Jake tōku whaiāipo. Ko Sidney Wong tōku ingoa. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.
Nau mai, tauti mai. Welcome to Qtopia’s 2022 Pride Ball!
Kia orana. My name is Sidney Wong. My ancestors are from Southern China and I’m Cantonese. I want to welcome you all in my native language. 大家好，歡迎大家理都今晚個排隊. My pronouns are he/him, but also any pronouns with respect. I’m one of the co-chairs on the Qtopia board alongside our beautiful, wonderful, and fantastical MahMah Timoteo.
What a wonderful crowd we have here this evening. My younger self would not believe in my wildest dreams, that I, a Queer Cantonese youth-adjacent person, am out and proud, and standing here in front of you this evening to welcome you to tonight’s outstanding event.
I have been given this honour to speak to you this evening as a board member and as a member of our Queer community in Ōtautahi. I want to thank the team at Qtopia, Te Puna Waiwhetū, and all of our supporters for making this event possible. They have all worked so hard these past few months and I would like us to give them a round of applause for creating this beautiful space. I also want to thank Christchurch Pride for organising this incredible programme despite the on-going challenges we face as a community.
Whenever I talk about Qtopia, I like to remind everyone I was once a young Queer person myself. I remember what it was like learning to navigate my identities. As a Queer Person of Colour, I have experienced my share of racism and homophobia in Ōtautahi—a place I call home. And thankfully, Qtopia was here at the time I needed it the most. I still remember walking into the room and I was immediately struck by Alice’s warmth and Jen’s enthusiasm. For the first time, I felt like I belonged. For the first time, I could be myself.
I want to personally thank Alice and Jen. They allowed me to flourish and develop into the person I am today. Their support allowed me to live audaciously and for me to be unapologetically me. This is why when I was offered the opportunity to volunteer on the Qtopia board, I jumped at the opportunity. I wanted to do what I can to give back and share this gift with our communities.
You may not know but Qtopia has been around for over 20 years and a lot has changed in the last 20 years in terms of Rainbow rights across Aotearoa and Te Waipounamu. One of our core values as Qtopia is mana tūpuna me whakapapa where we acknowledge our Rainbow elders and our history. And I want to thank our Queer elders and allies who have fought so hard to ensure that we as a community not only survive, but thrive. We as a community have advocated for change so that our youth can live their life authentically.
However, we live in challenging times. And right now, more important than ever, we need to come together and celebrate, educate, and advocate for our Rainbow communities so that we may continue to flourish. For me as a Queer ethnic minority, I know that coming out and staying out is a privilege. We need to harness our privilege to be effective allies and amplify and uplift the stories, perspectives, and experiences of those who may not have our privilege to be their authentic selves.
Our existence is an act of defiance to those who challenge our existence. Pride has always been about education and advocacy. The fact we have gathered here today is a form of protest against bigotry. But I’m hopeful that our youth in this room, our leaders, will lead us into an even brighter future.
Lastly, I want to end this with a whakataukī gifted to us by Kahukura Pounamu in consultation with our former co-chair of Qtopia, Rāwā Mahu Karetai Wood-Bodley, nō Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe, me Kāi Tahu ia. “Ka whanawhana ai te tīwhanawhana o Kahukura i te rāngi”. Let the arch of the rainbow glisten.
Thank you everyone, Ngā mihi mahana ki a koutou. I hope you all have a great evening.
It might seem like an insignificant moment, but for me, I really want to acknowledge how learning to be myself in a supportive environment like Qtopia (and other inclusive Rainbow spaces) has allowed me to flourish into the person I am today.
Small community-based Rainbow organisations like ours are here to build a kinder world for everyone. We’re leading change in how whānau, communities, the healthcare system, schools, employers, and churches care for our Rainbow young people. Our shared vision is for all LGBTQIA+ people to thrive in a society that supports, celebrates, and trasures them.
If you want to support Qtopia so Alice, Jen, and Kerry can continue doing the incredible work they do for our community in Ōtautahi, please go to: https://www.qtopia.org.nz/support-us/
It’s still not too late to be involved with Ōtautahi Christchurch Pride! Events run until Wednesday, 29th June (Christchurch Pride Programme).