August 26 2019 by Casey Lucas-Quaid
Why is Winter Pride Important? On June 28th, a headline article in The Atlantic boldly proclaimed, “The struggle for gay rights is over. For those born into a form of adversity, sometimes the hardest thing to do is admitting that they’ve won.” If that’s the case, why are events like Queenstown’s Winter Pride still relevant and necessary?
Setting aside the horse-blinders obliviousness of that statement – is a struggle for “rights” ever really over when they must be constantly defended? Or when queer people who are poor, homeless, HIV positive, or trying to adopt children still face massive discrimination? Or when trans people can still be fired from their jobs simply for being trans, even in wealthy western countries? Events like Winter Pride in Queenstown still serve a necessary, wonderful community function.
All people in Queenstown have felt it – this is a tough town to build community in. It’s a transient town where people come and go with the seasons, where those in one socioeconomic bracket rarely mingle with others, where maintaining friendships can be fraught with difficulty due to contrasting hospitality-based rosters. The longer you stay in Queenstown, the more you watch friends and loved ones move away because they’ve had their fun or they just can’t afford to live here anymore. It’s bloody tough for any person to forge close relationships here.
Winter Pride and Gay Ski Week before it have done a fantastic job at not only bringing in the tourist crowd, but giving the often-fractured and scattered members of Queenstown’s LGBTI+ community a place to gather ‘round and mingle and be seen, a place to find and connect with people in a safe and accepting environment. And while some may say that “safe” isn’t something people have to worry about in New Zealand, it’s important to remember that many Queenstown residents come from places that aren’t so tolerant. And not only that, but many queer people still face violence and discrimination on our own shores.
It can be an isolating experience to be gay or trans in a place where building connections is difficult for everyone. Even as LGBTI+ people receive more legal protections in New Zealand, the social necessity of events like Winter Pride lives on: providing a place where people can be themselves, meet people on a similar wavelength, and experience warmth and community in a place that can sometimes feel a little chilly for reasons other than the snow.