Inside the cupboard in the spare room of my flat, I have a drawer full of old Pride and protest t-shirts. I’ve accrued them over the past 10 years from one event or another; one a replica of the 1980s Pits and Perverts shirts, one that reads ‘Queer as in fuck your borders‘, one from a regional Pride, and so on … It wasn’t until I was getting ready for the recent Tāmaki Makaurau trans rights march that I recognised I’d built a tradition of opening that drawer every time (and only at these times) I needed to get ready for a march or protest — choosing the most relevant slogan for the day, putting on the shirt, a sort of accidental uniform.
It was also on that morning that I first felt weary of doing this. I’m only 28 but I already have a decade of experience in protest, and all the chanting, screaming, fighting that comes with it. This was a ritual that I once looked forward to, putting on the right outfit. It was the preamble to entering a space where I found community and bolstered my hope for change. This time it felt like I was putting on a uniform for a dead-end job; I didn’t know if I had the energy to do something that I don’t know is making a difference. I put on the shirt anyway. It was the ‘fuck your borders‘ one. A classic.
I arrived at the march and there were people taking turns speaking on the stage. Each person that spoke was so young — some were only 16 or 17, trans youth who came out to share their story and fight for better healthcare for themselves and those who will come after them. I still felt tired watching them — do we really have to keep doing this? But I also felt a quiet spark of hope at seeing trans teenagers (vocal, supported, able to transition publicly) living a life I couldn’t have fathomed when I was a teenager in the 2000s and 2010s.
My friends arrived and we collected some solo marchers as part of our group as we strode up Queen Street. Aside from a handful of frowning onlookers, I felt that the people observing the march were supportive — we got shouts and honks and hands raised with thumbs up. It all felt like déjà vu, dozens of past marches flickering through my mind.
I’m glad these marches are happening and I’ll always feel good to have gone and added my voice to the chorus. I don’t know if I’ll feel the same energy or conviction that I did as a teenager — but then that’s why we need so many different voices, and to hear youth in political movements alongside voices of all ages. I believe change is possible, don’t get me wrong. It just hurts to keep having to stand up and scream for change like this while the suffering carries on.
I’ll keep putting the shirt on. One day I hope I’ll love doing it again.
Featured photo by Karollyne Hubert on Unsplash.