June has seen the celebration and awareness of Pride worldwide. So what is Pride? Pride is a global movement and opportunity to raise awareness of the fight for equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, or other sexuality and gender diverse identities).
It’s a celebration of diversity, acceptance, equality and people coming together to show how far LGBTQIA+ rights have actually come but also to acknowledge that there's still a lot more mahi to be carried out. Pride is being proud of who you are, love is love and why should anyone be stigmatised for that. Although we’ve come exceedingly far, this stigma that is attached to our rainbow community is still very prevalent.
Dudley with one of the woof! petitions, one of the many located around the city.
Local community member and co-owner of Ōtepoti’s premier establishment WOOF!, Dudley Benson, has proposed a Rainbow crossing in support of Dunedin's LGBTQAI+ community. Rainbow crossings have been installed throughout Aotearoa and the world, to symbolise support for the Rainbow community. Dudley says that visiting other cities around Aotearoa and walking across their rainbow crossings gives him a sense of pride and energy. He feels it is a symbol of love and acceptance and intuitively adds to the identity of a city. Dudley feels it is a strong statement: this is who we are, and our community supports us. The fact that Ōtepoti doesn't have any rainbow/queer symbolism in support of the LGBTQAI+ community has lit a fire within him to do something. Ōtepoti has thousands of rainbow citizens, and it is our queer and trans people who are still more likely to suffer mental health issues due to the negative impacts of homophobia and transphobia. It is an issue extremely close to Dudley’s heart and he believes a crossing would be a significant way to show support for a vulnerable portion of our community and take a stand against this type of bullying and bigotry.
Ngāmotu/New Plymouths rainbow crossing
Dudley's vision is for the largest rainbow crossing in the country to be painted at the lower Stuart Street/Moray Place barn dance; he believes the location is ideal. The area radiates hospitality with all the bars, cafes and restaurants, and obviously his establishment WOOF! is right on the corner and is a safe space and meeting point for the Rainbow community, so it just makes sense. It’s also an area that is heavily trafficked by families. Children are curious and will ask why it's different, and this is where the conversation and education can start for the normalisation of Rainbow life. To visitors of Ōtepoti it will show our values as a city, support and inclusivity, and is a great photo op.
Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland pride crossing
To create the design, Dudley and the chief designer will host a hui with the Rainbow community. Dudley believes it's vital that takatāpui (queer Māori) ō Ngai Tahu have a voice in the design to make sure the crossing represents everyone. “I reckon that by bringing in as many queer voices as possible, we're going to have a globally unique crossing that will be seen and talked about all over the world.”
The DCC has been taking some more progressive steps of late and this is one of them. When Dudley presented the idea all 15 councillors were on board. The next steps are meeting with the DCC and NZTA. The petition closes July 10. If you agree with it, I implore you to sign one, theres 25 around the city of Ōtepoti. Did you know we hold a petition down here at VP HQ?
Every signature shows support for this meaningful, powerful and beautiful symbol!
We’ve even filled an entire page thus far! It’s wonderful to see our community come together to support one another, and the words of encouragement are heartwarming!
Check out Dudley's interview on local student radio network Radio1 91fm