Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind


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Trans woman denied Gym membership

A new Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration bill to replace the 1995 act is currently making its way through Parliament. One of the new provisions will be to allow the self-declaration of gender identity. But I wonder, if the bill was already law, it would have helped Penelopy Mansel, a transgender woman, gain membership to a women’s gym.

As the law currently stands, a person can have their gender recorded on their birth certificate changed provided they can satisfy the Family Court that they identify as their nominated gender and have, or are undergoing appropriate medical treatment to make their appearance more in keeping with that gender. Surgery is not required. In fact in Aotearoa New Zealand, gender reassignment surgery is not an option. Funding for reassignment surgery is so minuscule, that one is likely to be on the waiting list for more than forty years before one can go under the knife. Few are likely to be able to afford to have it done privately in NZ, or overseas for that matter.

According to Penelopy’s birth certificate she is now female, but she has not had gender reassignment surgery. And this was enough for the gym to deny her membership. Our human rights legislation does not specifically ban discrimination against transgendered people or others who are not gender conforming. According the the Crown Law Office, and its advice to government, it’s unnecessary as the comprehensive coverage against sex discrimination effectively covers transgender rights as well. However, this has yet to be tested in court.

Court cases over discrimination are relatively rare in NZ as complaints regarding discrimination are referred to the Human Rights Commission. The Commission prefers education over prosecution, and so the testing of whether or not discrimination against transgendered or other gender nonconforming people is illegal may never reach the courts. The new Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration bill does nothing to clarify the matter.

In the video clip linked to below, Renee Gerlich argues that “The legislation undermines a lot of the work that suffragettes did, they fought for the women’s vote, they wanted to give women a way of making political demands that pertain to our sex when, we can’t do that once the definition of what a woman is has fundamentally changed”. It does appear that she is confusing sex and gender. The legislation will allow for self-identification of gender (a socially defined atribute) not sex (biologically defined).

The argument that the new legislation will distort statistics is, I believe, a red herring. As only 1.2% of the NZ population self identify as trans, and about the same number identify as gender nonconforming, their numbers are relatively small. Where it is important that statistics refer to sex and not gender, such as for funding of breast and cervical screening, then I’m sure appropriate adjustments can be made. In fact, it seems that our five yearly census will cover this well, as in future it will ask about both sex and gender.

Some speakers in the following clip refer to WINZ. This term is familiar to all Kiwis, but others may not know that it is an acronym for Work and Income New Zealand – the government department that oversees social welfare benefits and pensions, and supports the unemployed and those on a low income into work and to find housing.

Wellington transgender woman denied membership at female gym

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It’s a girl!

Amid much less fanfare that I thought was likely, our Prime Minister gave birth to a baby daughter yesterday. Rather surprisingly, when Google’s landing page is opened from a New Zealand IP address, a rather small image acknowledges the arrival. This is what you see:Selection_070

Unless you know what the image really is, you could be forgiven for mistaking it as some stylised question marks. Why Google chose to make the image so small, I don’t know. It’s not like there’s much else on the Web-page. In fact the image consists of a small fish hook cradled between 2 big fish hooks representing two parents and child:Selection_071

If you know that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s partner, Clarke Gayford, is the host of a popular TV fishing show, then the use of fish hooks starts to mean something. The image is the work of artist Stephen Templer of Wellington who based the design on one Jacinda and Clarke posted to Instagram when they announced they were expecting. As an aside, Clarke will be a stay at home dad and full time carer of the baby when Jacinda returns to work in six weeks time.

Matau (fish hook) is a prominent feature of Māori art alongside the koru (unfurling fern frond) and features in Māori mythology – New Zealand’s North Island was pulled from the depths of the ocean by a fish hook fashioned from the jawbone of Maui’s grandmother.

Hei matau are highly stylised fish hook ornaments, traditionally carved from pounamu or whalebone. Today it’s not unusual to see them made from other materials, but those with the most mana are made in the traditional manner.

Hei_matau


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Stubbies

A comment over on Behind the Glass regarding short shorts, reminded me of the era when such attire was part of the modern man’s wardrobe in Aotearoa New Zealand. It was even appropriate where in other parts of the world a business suit would be more appropriate. Such fashion is now a distant memory for those of us who lived through the seventies, but perhaps Trump’s determination to accelerate climate change, will see them return before too long.

This is what sprung to mind on reading short shorts:


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Dangerous Aotearoa New Zealand

While this country has no large predators, and in fact no native mammals (apart from two species of bat), we do have creatures that pose a danger, not necessarily to people, but to things we value such as motor vehicles. Yes, we actually have an animal that likes nothing better than to deliberately harm motor vehicles, and for no better reason than that it can.

First it tries to lure vehicles off the main road as seen in this video:

Then, with its mates, it systematically disassembles the vehicle as seen here:


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Where’s our flag?

As the 2018 Commonwealth Games draws to a close on the Gold Coast, one thing has struck me. When the TV cameras pan over the spectators we see:

The English supporters waving this:
England

The Kenyan supporters waving this:
Kenya

The Canadian supporters waving this:
Canada

And of course, the Australian supporters waving this:
Australia

So it might be reasonable to assume the Kiwi supporters would be waving this:
New_Zealand

 

Wrong!

 

Instead you’ll see them waving this:
silver-fern-flag

We had a flag referendum couple of years ago and decided to retain the current flag. So why do we seem to have a reluctance to fly it?


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The land of awkward terrorists, communists and fascists

For several weeks, I’ve been struggling with completing a post regarding the Kiwi propensity to avoid conflict and how it has a tendency to neutralise extremist views. Today I stumbled across an opinion piece first published in April 2017 which neatly summarises what I was attempting to write, and even poses a question very similar to what I wanted to ask.

So in the interests of getting a post out at all, I have abandoned writing my own, and refer readers to the Stuff article New Zealand: the land of awkward terrorists, communists and fascists.


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(A belated) Happy Hundredth Birthday Sir Lloyd

For the last 2 months I have wanted to dedicate a post to the achievements of Sir Lloyd George Geering who reached the great old age of 100 on the 26th of February this year. The problem is I have been struggling not only with what I should say, but how I should say it.

While I’m able to spout facts as well as anyone (especially if it’s on a topic I have an interest in), expressing more abstract notions presents a real problem for me. I’m not sure whether my thought process is closer the that of the autistic mind or that of the neurotypical mind, but I have great difficulty in converting what I feel/sense about ideas and concepts firstly into words and then into a series of ordered sentences.

So I will simply say thank you Sir Lloyd for helping me realise that my beliefs were not “way out” or heretical way back in the 1960s when I liked to think I was Christian and for affirming to a large sector of NZ society, both within and without Christianity, that religion does not have to be steeped in supernatural beliefs.

Oh, and a very happy (and belated) 100th birthday!


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Wahine fifty years on

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Wahine disaster with the loss of 53 lives. I was almost 19 at the time and can still recall listening to the minute by minute live radio commentary as the disaster unfolded. What is so memorable is the feeling of helplessness. The ferocity of the storm meant the would-be rescuers could only watch while remaining onshore.

At that time, television broadcasting was only eight years old in Aotearoa New Zealand and this was the first occasion where a significant disaster was able to be recorded as it happened.

Almost no one remembers the name of the ex tropical cyclone (I had to look it up: Cyclone Giselle) that collided with an Antarctic front over Cook Strait causing perhaps the most severe weather event in NZ in the last 100 years. Everyone remembers it as the “Wahine Storm“.

Unsettled weather is common for this time of the year. Today, much of the country is experiencing gale force winds, tornadoes and snow. Where I live we are experiencing high winds, reaching gale force at times, and it’s currently 8°C (46°F), whereas at the same time yesterday it was calm, sunny and a mild 19°C (66°F). However, today’s weather is nothing compared to this day 50 years ago.


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A Creation Myth

Growing up I was familiar with both the two creation myths of the Bible and of several variations of creation as told by the Māori of Aotearoa New Zealand. I don’t recall either the Biblical or Māori version as being any more “true” than the other. Neither were thought of as being real events, but as a vehicle for conveying an understanding of the human condition. In this, the oldest of the creation myths, which found in the second chapter of the Genesis, is the only one that sets out to blame the “sins” of the world on humankind.

Interestingly the three versions are strikingly at odds as to the order in which man and woman are created.

Genesis 1: Man and woman are created equal on the 6th day.
Genesis 2: Man is the first living creature, while woman is the last creature created, and from a rib of the man.
Māori mythology: Humankind was not created until an indefinite time after the separation of sky and earth. The first two of humankind are both female.

Here is one variant of the Māori creation myth:

It was from this myth that I was taught that personal desires can have consequences that may be harmful to others, and so one must be mindful not just of ourselves but of others as well. I notice that within Māori mythology, there is no attempt to explain the nature of “good” and “evil”. Instead they seem to tell us that actions have consequences: some desirable, some undesirable.


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Census “Night”

Once every five years, on a Tuesday evening in March, everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand completes a personal census form, and one person in each household completes a dwelling census form. This year Census night was the 6th of March, but unlike previous censuses, this one is being conducted online. Already this has caused widespread concern.

While there is an option to complete a paper based census form, you have to request that the forms be posted to your home address. Unlike previous censuses, there is not an army of thousands of enumerators armed with forms roaming the countryside to ensure every resident, tourist, freedom camper, homeless person etc receives and returns the census forms. The fact that a household pass-code was mailed only to dwellings with known addresses means that many more people than in previous years will miss out.

And as in many cases the letter containing the pass-code arrived only a few days before census night, those that are unable or unwilling to go online will not have enough time to request and have delivered paper forms in time for census night.

As I see it, the poorer sections of the community and also the elderly are more likely to not have a means of completing an online form. Within both groups, the odds of not having access to an internet connection or a smart phone are much higher than for other groups, yet these are the very people that are most likely to benefit from services and support that is funded according to population counts. For example, health districts are funded by central government based on the population within the district.

Even with a paper based census, some health districts have been underfunded as those in the lower socio-economic groups are more likely to fail to complete a census. And as these are the very people that place the most load on the resources of health districts, some district health authorities are struggling to remain solvent. The new method of collecting census data is only going to exacerbate the problem.

I appreciate that collecting census data on line results in a considerable cost saving, but if it results in inadequate or inaccurate data, what’s the point? I do hope that more thought goes into how data is gathered by the time the next census roll around in 2023.

Census Questions

The range of question asked were very similar to those of previous years, but I was pleased to see that some were more open ended than previously.

Damp Homes

Until the 1990s, newly built homes were poorly insulated and a great many NZ homes suffer from dampness, mildew and mould. Then around the start of the millennium, many homes built in the 1990s began to display what is now termed “Leaky Home Syndrome“. This is likely to be a financial burden on home owners, local authorities and central government for some time.

I don’t recall seeing questions about damp homes in previous census, but this time there were two questions specifically about damp homes: “Is this dwelling damp?” and:
Can you see mould
I have a sneaky feeling that if the previous government had not lost the November elections, this question would not have been included.

Religion

In previous censuses, this question was usually multi-choice and asked for your religious affiliation, with the major religions and denominations, “no religion” and “object to answering” listed, plus an option of “other” with a small space for writing a name of an unlisted religion. This year, the question is more open ended and did not ask for affiliation, but one’s actual religion.

I thought quite a bit how I should respond to this question. In previous years, I’ve either selected  “other” and written “Religious Society of Friends”, or selected “none” as I’m not a believer in the supernatural. I’ve never been completely happy with either choice as Quakers are included in “Christian, other” for statistical purposes, and I don’t usually consider myself Christian. On the other hand, although I don’t believe in a supreme being or any other supernatural manifestations, I consider myself religious and take the tenets of Quakerism seriously. I finally settled on “Non-theist Quakerism”, and I’ll leave to the statisticians to decide what that means.
What_is_your_religion
At the last census, 42% claimed no religious affiliation, while 49% claimed a Christian affiliation. It’ll be interesting to see if “no religion” outnumbers all the Christian factions/denominations combined.

Ethnicity

For the third census in a row, the question on ethnicity has annoyed me. The term Pākehā has been dropped from the multi-choice answer in favour of “New Zealand European”. I don’t identify as European, and prefer to use Pākehā. So once again I selected my ethnicity as “other” and wrote in “Pākehā”.

Health

There seemed to be more questions about difficulties one experiences due to health issues. These included:

  • Do you have difficulty seeing, even if wearing glasses?
  • Do you have difficulty hearing, even if using a hearing aid?
  • Do you have difficulty walking or climbing steps?
  • Do you have difficulty remembering or concentrating?
  • Do you have difficulty washing all over  or dressing?
  • Do you have difficulty communicating using your usual language, for example understanding or being understood by others.

I don’t recall a similar series of questions in previous censuses, but perhaps the questions have more significance now that I’m in my late 60s, and I found myself answering some of them in the affirmative.

Other questions such as sex, income, voluntary work, employment status, education levels etc. were similar to those in previous censuses. I made a mental note that my income 20 years ago was more than seven times larger than it is today, and when inflation is taken into account it was more than 10 times greater. Such is life. Yet we don’t feel any worse off than we did back then. We’ve been on three ocean cruises in the last five years and generally have spent more on leisure activities over the last decade than we ever did when both of us had full-time professional careers. In hindsight, perhaps we didn’t have our work/life balance quite right.

In past years Census Night was a family affair, all sitting around the table completing our forms. That feeling just wasn’t there tonight. Sitting in front of the computer screen doesn’t compare. Will I ask for printed forms next time round? Definitely not. I will miss the “good old days”, but completing the census online was quick and effortless, not to mention that mistakes were easier to correct!

Why are our censuses always conducted on a Tuesday in March? Statistically, these are the days when the least number of people are in transit within Aotearoa New Zealand.

Now we just need to wait until the early results of the number crunching starts to trickle out in a month or two.