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Issue 14, 2017

Issue 14

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  • Shock Over Proposed Job Cuts at University of Otago

  • HIV Free by 2025

  • Parliament Apologises for Historic Convictions

  • GWRC Did Undercut Unionised Bus Staff

  • Candidates Debate

  • NM Cherry Blossom detained for transporting stolen goods

  • Greens Welfare Package Announced

  • Faculty of Health Scholarships

  • Reactivate

  • Features

  • winter

    Medical Anomalies: Trans and Intersex vs. Medicine

    CW: transphobia, gender essentialism, sex mention, genital mentions   First, some definitions: Chromosomes: Large coils of DNA. They come in pairs (usually), one from each genetic parent. Sex Chromosomes: The 23rd pair (assuming there’s two) of chromosomes, X and Y. Typically a “female” will carry XX and a “male” will carry XY. Gonads: Testes and […]


  • newwords

    We Need New Words

    NB: This article has been edited for Salient — a version of the original can be found here.   This piece is addressed first to fa’a(fa)tama, fa’afafine, and to an extent fa’aafa; to the MVPPRTWTAFFFFF+ community (and in particular those whose names follow a similar format to the previously described); all “indigenous gender minority” communities […]


  • photoessay


    As a writer I’ve often found the hardest thing to do is finish a piece. Deciding when it’s done. But writing this piece I’ve found it very difficult to start. I think that’s because there’s so much to say about gender and I can’t fit it all into 1000 words. Should I talk about my […]


  • lets-seeeee

    Let’s See How Far We’ve Come

    As Dani and I thought about what we’d like to see in this queer edition of Salient, we reflected on the state of UniQ as it stands right now, both at Victoria University and throughout the country. As we come to the end of our time as co-presidents for 2017 we considered what we feel […]


  • winter

    The Binary is History

    Note: This text is provided as is, with a glossary at the end for definitions of uncommon terms.   Two hushed and expectant couples wait in adjoining ultrasound rooms, watching their future children wriggle and kick on the screen. Two doctors look closely at the fuzzy images and declare their genders. Two happy declarations ring out: […]


  • winter

    Medical Anomalies: Trans and Intersex vs. Medicine

    CW: transphobia, gender essentialism, sex mention, genital mentions   First, some definitions: Chromosomes: Large coils of DNA. They come in pairs (usually), one from each genetic parent. Sex Chromosomes: The 23rd pair (assuming there’s two) of chromosomes, X and Y. Typically a “female” will carry XX and a “male” will carry XY. Gonads: Testes and […]


  • newwords

    We Need New Words

    NB: This article has been edited for Salient — a version of the original can be found here.   This piece is addressed first to fa’a(fa)tama, fa’afafine, and to an extent fa’aafa; to the MVPPRTWTAFFFFF+ community (and in particular those whose names follow a similar format to the previously described); all “indigenous gender minority” communities […]


  • photoessay


    As a writer I’ve often found the hardest thing to do is finish a piece. Deciding when it’s done. But writing this piece I’ve found it very difficult to start. I think that’s because there’s so much to say about gender and I can’t fit it all into 1000 words. Should I talk about my […]


  • lets-seeeee

    Let’s See How Far We’ve Come

    As Dani and I thought about what we’d like to see in this queer edition of Salient, we reflected on the state of UniQ as it stands right now, both at Victoria University and throughout the country. As we come to the end of our time as co-presidents for 2017 we considered what we feel […]


  • winter

    The Binary is History

    Note: This text is provided as is, with a glossary at the end for definitions of uncommon terms.   Two hushed and expectant couples wait in adjoining ultrasound rooms, watching their future children wriggle and kick on the screen. Two doctors look closely at the fuzzy images and declare their genders. Two happy declarations ring out: […]


  • Arts and Science

  • A Tribe Called Queer

    Queer rap seems like something of an oxymoron, given the amount of homophobia and transphobia still so prevalent in the hip-hop industry. Nevertheless, in spite of a culture that invalidates their very existence, many queer and trans artists have persisted. In honour of this week’s queer issue, we have compiled this (by no means exhaustive) list of rappers we think you should be listening to. Presumably, none of these people would want to be pigeonholed as “queer rappers”, but they have all positioned themselves somewhere on the broad LGBT+ spectrum and also happen to make music that is reflective of these experiences.



    Arguably the jewel in the crown of New York City’s well-celebrated queer rap scene (including Mykki Blanco, Zebra Katz, and Cakes da Killa), Le1f’s low drawl and androgynous swagger are unmistakeable. On the track “Wut” from his 2014 EP Hey, the standout lyric — “Ukrainian cutie, he really wanna cuddle / the fever’s in his eyes, he wanna suckle on my muscle” — is accompanied in the video by a muscled, nearly naked white boy sitting on Le1f’s lap in a Pikachu mask. Seeing as the prevailing narrative often involves white men sexualising women, and often women of colour, it is interesting to see this flipped on its head, so that a faceless white man is being sexualised by a black man. Le1f’s music is continually unflinchingly honest about his experience as a gay black man, and this is carried into his 2015 album Riot Boi. You can find him on Soundcloud and Spotify.



    Damn, Princess Nokia is cool. The New York-based queer rapper and bruja has Taino and Yoruban ancestry, and frequently uses these languages and makes reference to her heritage in her work. Her recent EP 1992 is an opus of experimental beats and woke discussion. On the track “Tomboy”, she deals with not aligning with contemporary ideas of how a woman should look and act with humour and intellect. She also has her own podcast where she recites poetry and discusses social issues with incredible sageness and wit. You can check out Princess Nokia’s music on YouTube and iTunes.



    Now to our one homeland hero on this list, Auckland-based rapper Randa. There has been a cloud of hype surrounding him ever since his 2014 banger “Rangers”. Deservedly so, as he is incredibly gifted, puts on a stellar live show, and is an actual angel of a human. He is also openly trans, in a time when it is so crucial for young trans and gender-variant New Zealanders to be able to see people who have gone through similar struggles killin’ it in their lives and work. Randa has recently released two new singles, “Fashion” and “Angel Boy”, and these, among his other music, are located on Bandcamp.



    Babe Field is part of the rap collective Barf Troop, an array of wonderful women, queer, and nonbinary people of colour from around the US who connected via Tumblr, and all have some form of the word “babe” in their rap moniker, including the sublimely-named Babeo Baggins. Babe Field released one of my absolute favourite hip-hop EPs of all time, 2014’s Half Ripe, which is stuffed with impeccably produced beats and woke dialogue on femininity and black identity. I urge you to drop everything and scramble over to Bandcamp to check it out.



    Tempest is an out gay woman, and a stunningly erudite poet and lyricist who tells unbelievably complex, interwoven tales of life in modern London. She has a cast of characters that she introduced to the world in her 2014 Mercury Prize-winning debut Everybody Down, who represent facets of herself and people she has known, and who are all elaborated on in her novel released last year, The Bricks that Built the Houses. This is a bleak and truthful look at being young and confused and broken in various ways and yet still trying to stay afloat and navigate life with some semblance of dexterity. Like a Zadie Smith novel, with a splash more queerness. She released another hard-hitting album Let Them Eat Chaos last year, peppered with biting social commentary on the many-splendored hypocrisies of our capitalist culture and emotive personal stories. Check her out on Spotify.



    Also going by the name of Michael Quattlebaum, he created the Mykki persona as a type of performance art, and an ode to drag culture. He will often switch between his own persona and Mykki, highlighting the fluidity of his gender and the multitudes of splendour that can be held within one being unbounded by gender. He is also very outspoken about being an HIV-positive gay man, which is incredibly important to see, given the stigma still attached to this following the AIDS crisis (if you want an example of this, gay men are still unable to give blood in New Zealand). She can morph effortlessly from swaggering, electronic-inspired trap lord to ’90s-inspired feel-good bopper, both showing off her trademark textural growl. Mykki has her roots in the NYC riot-grrrl and queer communities, which means she is unapologetically political and affronting in her art. Though this has led to various beatings, arrests, and gig cancellations throughout her career, she nevertheless channels the anger this creates into his music. You can look up her most recent album Mykki on Spotify.


  • chris††† — social justice whatever


    In the distance a fire rages. The smoke has filled the town, making all activity a choking, teary mess. But there’s still mail to be delivered, bills to be paid, work to be done, and so everyone just goes about their day, red eyed and crying.

    A man enters the bank. All the employees are from out of town, and he’s never particularly liked it. But since they bounced his last cheque, he’s been furious. He screams at the young teller, who’s unsure how exactly him having no money is her fault, but she takes the abuse anyway, because any attempt to retort will end up with her being fired. As the man leaves, it’s difficult to tell if he’s crying in anger, or if it’s just the smoke.

    The burning building was once a burgeoning mattress factory, but since the man from out of town introduced the company to machines, they’ve not been hiring anyone, and in a frenzy to cut costs, they laid off the entire staff. The building had no more human presence, with all the mattresses being produced, marketed, and shipped solely by the network. But still, people remained in the town. This was their home, and they weren’t going to abandon it.

    Deep in the town, a computer begins to whirl up. It hadn’t anticipated the factory fire, and was running hundreds of simulations on how much fluoride and free pornography would be needed to ensure the populace didn’t end up rioting. Its best case scenario involved bringing in three more truckloads than usual, and an increased amount of sugar in the food.

    Payments are made, and other factories in the town begin to whirl up.

    The police chief looks at his daily report. Three aggravated assaults, four armed robberies, and a rape. All in all, good figures, supporting his re-election goal of “20% less crime (and 100% more smiles!).” He was initially unsure about the proposal to replace most of his staff with statistical models, but he certainly couldn’t complain about the results. By sectioning off parts of the city, and loading them onto the neighbouring district, he didn’t even need to do anything to be considered to be doing a good job. Though some citizens did still wonder why the park in the middle of the town belonged to the neighbouring city, they all knew to avoid it anyway, so it didn’t bother them too much.

    The fire is still a concern though, and he weighs up letting the factory burn to the ground. He types a few words into his helpful chatbot asking for advice.

    $15,000 has been deposited into your account.

    The fire engine is called, and they begin the 15 mile journey to the blaze. It’s midday, and the fire started at 4.00am.

    A month later, the fire is forgotten, but the smoke never really went away; it simply lingers over the town. The police chief has been demoted after it was determined to be the best course of action for the overall health of the populace, and at his old desk a new terminal whirs quietly. The mattress factory continues to function well, as increased taxes helped both rebuild and replace the failing machinery. The extra fluoride didn’t end up being used, and the town now holds a stockpile. The populace doesn’t know where it came from, but prices have been rising lately, and it might be a nice way to rejuvenate the park.

    Everything slowly decays and dies, but nothing ever really changes, and the whole time chris††† plays on a loop.

    This is your life now.


  • Things to see places to be

    New shows have opened and there are a bunch of events on this week. I’ve listed a few here — I hope you find something you might enjoy.

    The Adam Art Gallery has just opened it’s new show, The Tomorrow People. The exhibition “brings together a selection of works from an emerging generation of artists that offer urgent, resourceful, and playful possibilities for navigating troubling times.” It’s a big show (25 artists!) that asks interesting questions about the world we stand to inherit.

    A new range of exhibitions has just opened at The Dowse Art Museum, including Fiona Clark: Te Iwi o Te Wāhi Kore, an exhibition of documentary photographs from the ’80s to the present by Fiona Clark which “reflect the activities, concerns and taonga of tangata whenua of Taranaki”; Maureen Lander: Flat-Pack Whakapapa, three installations by Maureen Lander which use raranga as a means of exploring the concept of whakapapa; and He Taonga Te Reo, an exhibition of objects from the Dowse’s collection which consider how language is integral to identity, 30 years after te reo Māori was made an official language.

    Pātaka has also just opened three new shows: Máximo Laura — Eternal Vision, work by Peruvian tapestry artist Máximo Laura; TAKU HIKOI, LA’U MALAGA — My footprint, my walk, my journey, artworks by artists who have accessed the Te Korowai Whariki mental health services of Rangipapa, Purehurehu, and Tangaroa, and the Rangitahi/youth service, which showcase how artmaking can aid the journey towards mental wellbeing; and Flock Together, which brings together works across a range of media by Whanganui artists Leonie Sharp, Angela Tier, Tracey Piercy, and Emma Cunningham, exploring their shared interest in birds as inspiration, subject matter, material, and resource.

    On Monday, July 24, from 12.15–1.15pm, Charlotte Wood and Emily Perkins will be in conversation at Te Papa as a part of their Writers on Mondays series. Their conversation will focus on what it means to write from this corner of the globe, and ask what fiction can grant us in the contemporary moment. Writers on Mondays is a weekly series that runs until October 2. Visit for more details on who will be speaking and when.

    Also on July 24, Jeff Sessions will be talking at City Gallery Wellington from 6.00pm as a part of the Deane Lecture Series. His lecture “The Maungapōhatu Diamond: The Poetics and Truth of Prophecy” will focus on the significance of the Maungapōhatu diamond to Rua Kenana and his movement and its vision of political and economic independence.

    Anxious Garden, an exhibition of new work by George Watson, opens at Enjoy Public Art Gallery on July 26 at 5.30pm. A text to accompany the exhibition, written by Anna Rankin, will be released that night.

    On July 27 Horizons, an exhibition of camera-less photography by Poppy Lekner, opens at Toi Pōneke from 5.30pm.


  • Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star

    Developer: Marvelous

    Publisher: Marvelous/Xseed Games

    Platform: PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)

    Review copy supplied by publisher.


    Oh great, another obscure Japanese franchise that only nerds like me have even heard of! Be warned — deep lore and pointless fanservice lies ahead…

    The Fate series began in 2004 with the visual novel Fate/stay night, and has since branched out into every medium that an otaku can conceivably obsess over. The basic premise of the series is fairly consistent: in a ritual called the Heaven’s Feel, the spirits of heroic historical figures are assigned a human Master, a class based on their abilities (Saber, Archer, Lancer, Rider, Caster, Berserker, and Assassin), and a Noble Phantasm, an ability and/or armament that personifies their legend. They are then made to compete in a battle royale for the Holy Grail, which will grant the winner a single wish.

    Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star is set in the aftermath of the RPG Fate/Extra, where the Holy Grail War was fought in the virtual world of SE.RA.PH and won by the player-character and their Servant, Saber Nero (based on the infamous Roman emperor, except female). The player-character’s being has been split between their Mind, Body, and Soul, each with a physical form and a respective female Servant wrestling for control of SE.RA.PH. Starting with Nero, you’ll guide the Servants through battle while getting to know them intimately outside of it.

    And how do they tell of such an epic tale? By combining visual novel-style storytelling with the gameplay of Dynasty Warriors, of course!

    Let’s be perfectly clear — this is not a game for casuals. If you want to get any sort of enjoyment out of Fate/Extella, then you need to be truly dedicated to either the Fate franchise or to the Omega Force style of game design, because you’ll simply be confused otherwise. While massive interconnected universes have become quite popular in modern entertainment thanks to Marvel, they can only really work if individual parts can stand on their own merits. If one entry only works in service of the wider universe, it is that much harder to appreciate. While I’m largely aware of the workings of the Fate universe, few others are, and even then I still had to keep looking up terms on the series’ wiki.

    If you do manage to grasp onto the story, you’ll likely be drawn in by the connections you form with the Servants. While the prose isn’t exactly masterful, it can be entertaining when it’s not bogged down by the lore. Romance is a key ingredient in many visual novels, this one included, and I’m glad to see the dialogue doesn’t drastically change whether you pick the male or female character model. The anime-style character designs are well detailed but unfortunately don’t look the best in 3D, the whole game being somewhat lacking graphically; it doesn’t help that I’m playing the Switch version.

    In addition, as a Warriors clone, it’s honestly not that bad. The emphasis during battle is on taking territory by hacking and slashing your way through hundreds of enemies at a time, with a strategic component being prevalent as well. Each sector is worth a certain number of keys needed to fill a Regime Matrix, so choosing which sectors to tackle is important; it’s not always a matter of taking the biggest or toughest areas immediately. While I’m a fan of the Warriors style, it is rather repetitive and doesn’t always offer a substantial challenge, which is typical of the style and what holds it back.

    If you can get over any of the aforementioned issues, you might just find Fate/Extella a compelling experience, if only for a short while. With three six-hour campaigns, 17 characters to play as, and a litany of extras, it certainly isn’t lacking for content, but you may just risk being called a weeaboo for the rest of your life.



    Let’s start by being honest here.

    Country rap is one of the worst concepts ever thought up. They don’t mesh well. I don’t care what you think about that one Nelly/Tim McGraw track, it’s absolutely terrible. Stylistically, the two genres could not be any further apart. So when Thug announced his next album was going to be full on country, I was skeptical to say the least.

    This fear of mine was compounded when Thug said this was going to be his singing album. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with rappers branching out into singing (see 808s and Heartbreaks) it’s an inherently risky move that can easily turn a fan base against an artist.

    The big day came. I saw the cover. And I’m not going to mince words — it’s fucking terrible. Badly photoshopped, blurring into a dark scene with mannequins. Thug is holding an acoustic guitar upside down. Lord give me strength.

    And then to my surprise, he did. The first track on the album “Family Don’t Matter” fucking blew me away. The guitar riffs aren’t particularly experimental or anything, but they’re country to the core. Thugger yells YEEHAW. Absolutely nothing about this combination should work, but together the trap beat, the acoustic guitar, Thug half mumbling/singing, and Millie Go Lightly create something incredible that I never expected.

    It is a bit of a shame, because “Family Don’t Matter” is such a strong song that it somewhat overshadows the other tracks on the mixtape. “For Y’all” with its Latin guitar would be so incredibly strong as a single released earlier, and “Take Care”, the album closer, is a fantastic EDM track that would see a huge amount of radio play as a loosie.

    But it speaks to the strength of the project that I can pick tracks off the album that could easily succeed as a single on their own. As a project, this is Young Thug at his most comfortable. The entire album is experimental when it comes to both Young Thug’s sound, and what works with trap music in general. As a rapper who has always pushed boundaries, this type of project is something he is clearly very happy to be doing, and it shows.

    Thug’s singing, too, was a lot better than expected. He hits his notes, and if it’s autotuned, it sounds remarkably natural. Perhaps it’s something I should have seen coming, given I thought his performance on Kanye’s “Highlights” was one of the high points of the The Life of Pablo. He displays a range I didn’t know was in him, and manages to create one of the more decent sounding country albums I’ve heard, even if we ignore all the trap elements.

    I think the best way to describe this album is just fun. Everything about this is entertaining. Thug’s (warranted) obsession with oral care, “I love her so you know I got her flossing”, to the genuinely hilarious country lines, “Country Billy got a couple millie”, combined with some of the most inventive sounds I’ve heard out of Atlanta over the last couple of years, this album is just straight bop-able.

    I’ll fully accept that this album isn’t for everyone. It’s an absolutely ridiculous concept, and at times the execution isn’t as perfect as it could be, and when those moments crop up it’s very obvious. If you didn’t like Thug on his earlier work, this album probably isn’t going to be for you.

    But when BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS finds its stride, the effect is incredible.

    So hitch up ya horses, slap on some chaps or something, this is the album to get you through those cold nights out on the trail.



  • The Sandman: A Game of You (1993) — Neil Gaiman

    Pencilled, Inked, and Coloured by Shawn McManus, Daniel Vozzo, Todd Klein, and Colleen Doran.

    Printed by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics, Gaiman’s critically acclaimed graphic novel series The Sandman recreates the eponymous DC character as Dream, one of the seven Endless; a powerful being that is simultaneously lord of dreams and stories and their anthropomorphised form. The comics, which span 75 issues and have earned 26 Eisner Awards, follow the protagonist through his travels, but also incorporate several mini-series which only focus tangentially on Dream and instead broaden the scope of the universe with tales of mortals living during different eras. A Game of You is one of these. Published as the fifth instalment of The Sandman, it collects issues 32–37, first appearing in paperback and hardback in 1993, and it can be read alone if you wish, though it features some characters from Volume Two.

    If you read any of Neil Gaiman’s works you will undoubtedly encounter characters coming to terms with their identity. A Game of You is no different, with a cast dominated by female-presenting characters who live in an apartment in New York. The collection depicts the everyday lives of recently-divorced Barbie, her best friend Wanda, a pre-operation trans woman, as well as Foxglove and Hazel, the lesbian couple across the hall. Their struggles with rediscovering and remaking their identities are set against the backdrop of Barbie’s fantasy world, which begins to bleed into the real world in a dangerous way. All four characters use their control over tangible things such as their appearance to help them dictate how they wish to be seen by others. In two cases, characters have changed their names in order to create a “clean slate” onto which they can project a new identity, emphasising the importance of names as a marker denoting who someone is.

    Wanda’s journey through life is especially emphasised as, haunted by dreams of having surgery to become anatomically female, she struggles to reconcile her true gender with the one she was assigned at birth. The anxiety of constantly having to justify her identity to everyone she meets is vividly depicted in her daily routine. The appalling treatment by her family, who utterly reject her transition and preferred name and pronouns, incisively demonstrates what trans people have to deal with on a regular basis (even in death) and invites readers to think upon their own interactions.

    Gaiman has stated that A Game of You was a story “filled with the kind of people I knew in London and New York who didn’t seem to get stories of their own… so I put them into MY comics.” Inhabiting the subliminal spaces of society, Wanda’s narrative brings to light a story which was very much missing from mainstream comics in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, now in 2017, it seems that they still are. After all, how many titles that have a trans character play a major role in the story arc can you name? For this reason, even if you don’t wish to experience the delightful, dark, and creative oeuvre of Gaiman in its entirety, A Game of You is an important read, though the art can be a little brash at times.


  • Queer Television

    The good television options available to the Queer¹ community are limited: in straight television, we seem to be stuck with either tired clichés, cameos, or are simply not there. Queer television exists in a beautiful niche, whereby if shows are exposed and catered to straight audiences they may lose some of their substance which made them good in the first place. These are all big issues, so I will try to be concise.

    In 2016, GLAAD (a US non-governmental media monitoring organisation) released a study which found that in 2016–2017, 4.8% of scripted characters will be Queer in the shows it tracks. This may seem like a small number, but it is the highest that GLAAD has ever recorded in the 21 years that it has been conducting the study.

    Despite this, the Queer community is almost invisible to straight audiences and, when we are present, our portrayal is problematic. Gay men in television are often the butt of jokes for femininity, interest in fashion, or making unwanted advances on straight men. Queer women, more often trans women of colour, are used as plot points for when straight men want to kill something. In 2016, the GLAAD study found that in the television shows it monitors, 25 Queer women were killed by straight men to advance the plot. The reduction of Queer characters to plot points, or one dimensional stereotypes, is dangerous in a myriad of ways.

    The nature of the Queer community is that we are geographically and socially concentrated. Many straight people live their entire lives without meeting an openly Queer person, and the way that Queer people are represented in the television that they consume correlates with that (lack of) experience. If a straight person has only seen the portrayal of gay men as sex pests through television, for example, and had not met a gay man in real life to disprove this, then it stands to reason that such a narrative would shape their thinking, attitudes, and behaviours. This is why accurate representation matters. The plurality of Queer people needs to be translated into the small screen so that those who may not interact with our community in the day-to-day can see how beautiful and diverse our community is.

    In terms of Queer television, this year RuPaul’s Drag Race has been nominated for seven Emmy awards. In doing so it has cemented the transition away from a show that filled a niche gay corner of the television viewing market, towards an audience larger in numbers, and more heterosexual in nature. I’m of two minds about this: it certainly is time for a straight mainstream audience to pay their dues to the cultural force that is RuPaul, but I am nervous that in becoming more mainstream, it will lose some of its essence. Queer culture has become what it is because of the decades during which it has faced suppression and life underground. What will exposing it to daylight do? There exists a tension, and it will be interesting to watch what happens to RuPaul’s Drag Race now that it has found fortune with the straight mainstream audience.

    Good Queer television can be hard to come by, so I asked my friends, and UniQ, what some of their favourites were. Some recurring names that came up were:

    • The L Word
    • Sense8
    • Orange is the New Black
    • Dawson’s Creek
    • Queer as Folk
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Eastsiders
    • Supergirl
    • Looking

    Happy watching, and let’s hope we get better representation of Queer people on television soon.

    — Joshua James (@tejoshuajames)


    1. The author has opted to use Queer in this piece, because of its all-encompassing nature. In doing so I recognise the historic (and ongoing) problematic nature of the word, and all the pitfalls that are associated with it. However, in this instance, it is useful to paint with a broad brush, and using the word Queer instead of LGBTQI* allows me to do so.  


  • Nancy

    “The most revolutionary act is to be my authentic self,” says Lena Waithe, star of Master of None, and a guest on Nancy, a new show from WNYC Studios that combines storytelling and magazine-style journalism on LGBTQIA+ issues. Hosted by Tobin Low and Kathy Tu, the podcast interviews those from the LGBTQIA+ community on a range of topics including representation, advocacy, and tolerance.

    Each half-hour episode usually features two stories, one from each of the hosts. Some stories are inspired by current events, but often they are inspired by Low and Tu’s own experiences. In episode two, Low, an Asian-American gay man, explores the stereotyping of Asian-American men in pornography and the dichotomy of representation. Low speaks candidly about how encouraging it was as a teenager to see men on film that looked like him, and how his attitude has changed over time, as he is now aware of the harms caused when the roles performed rely on negative stereotyping. By choosing issues that are close to the hosts, the podcast feels more personal and accessible.

    Another notable story from Nancy that is more journalistic is episode four about the Log Cabin Republicans, a LGBTQIA+ group supporting the Republican Party. The intersection of the LGBTQIA+ community and Republicans seems like an unlikely alliance, so it was very interesting to be exposed to their perspectives. While the Log Cabin Republicans seem to have been staunch advocates for marriage equality, their advocacy for the trans community is non-existent.

    A strength of the show is its engagement with listeners. Episode 10 is dedicated to listener feedback, and Low and Tu do not shy away from their critics. They’re happy to admit when they’ve got a story wrong — in the case of the Log Cabin Republican episode, Low and Tu accept that they did not push hard enough on the neglect of transgender activism.

    Nancy is an excellent podcast that combines honest and personal stories with interesting investigations of LGBTQIA+ issues. Start with episode two — Sarah Lu’s story about Maura, her only gay role model as a child, and her journey to reconnect with her. It’s a beautiful story, and I cried my eyes out listening to it (maybe not an episode to listen to on the bus!).


  • Doctor Who

    So there we have it — Time Lords are genderfluid. It has been confirmed that Jodie Whittaker, a woman (gasp!), will take on the traditionally male role of the Doctor in Doctor Who once Peter Capaldi leaves the show.

    I was first introduced to the show during its Russell T. Davies-led reboot in 2010 through family viewings with my sisters — and initially our dad, who had watched it as a kid. My interest piqued at some point during the Matt Smith era when, with Steven Moffat at the helm, the Doctor turned into a sonic screwdriver-brandishing Sherlock Holmes, and I was no longer swept along in the mystery but having events explained by the man himself in retrospect.

    It is from this affectionate distance, and as a writer myself, that I’m interested in the media and online discussion of this casting choice. This latest change makes sense within the world of the story — why would a character who can move through universes and transcend their own body be restricted by something like gender?

    The change is great in the sense that it foregrounds a female-bodied Time Lord as someone who has power, presence, and agency. There is also the potential for the change to be explained in a way that would (re)position the Time Lord as a genderfluid or genderqueer figure in pop culture — although it remains to be seen if the writers will do this.

    However, here we have the actress — who said the role was important to her as a feminist — urging fans not to be “scared by [her] gender.” We also have the casting of a female lead being reported as though it is a daring choice. It is a first, yes, but it is not daring.

    It is also deeply pragmatic. It offers the new head writer (Chris Chibnall of Broadchurch) a way to make his mark fairly immediately. It also responds to criticism that Doctor Who has become sexist, with only 57% of recent episodes passing the Bechdel Test in comparison to 89% in earlier reboot episodes. It responds to what the programme’s largely non-male fanbase has been wanting to see for years — that they can be the hero(ine) too and not just the helpmate.

    Perhaps, most usefully, it is another popular springboard from which to consider how women and nonbinary folk fare across film and television. Critique leveled at this show is symptomatic of a wider industry in which we are frequently not in control of our own stories, or the financial beneficiaries of those stories as they are told.  

    We need to support getting more women and gender diverse people into positions as directors, as producers, as writers before we can see real sea-change in storytelling. We can look to our own communities as well as to wider popular culture and be supportive of, and gentle with, those new voices who are trying to present more diversity and take risks. And as this happens, we should feel heartened by this small step across time and space.


  • (de)construct

    (de)construct, directed by Cerea Maree Brown, is an emotional whirlwind. Performed at La Mama Theatre in Melbourne from June 28 to July 2, this dance-theatre piece unfolds on a small and strangely lit stage. Nabs Adhan, Lucy Pitt, Antonia Yip Siew Pin, and Jai Leeworthy embark together on a deeply personal conversation about identity, social anxiety, language, gender, sexuality, and living away from home. The four cast members perform as themselves, sharing fragments of their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, in dialogue with each other. Flecked with ums, ahs, and bouts of silence, the conversation seems unrehearsed, yet, contradictorily, every word spoken is projected onto two huge, white sheets suspended on each side of the stage. It becomes apparent that the dance-theatre work is a re-performance of a previously recorded and transcribed conversation, deconstructing the boundaries of time and blurring the lines between past and present (or at least I think that’s what it’s about).

    Through the blending of words and dance, (de)construct captures the emotionality of coping with mental illness and living our day-to-day lives. Although each member of the cast comes from a different background with different stories with different struggles, they each have in common a strong sense of alienation, anxiety, and longing to connect — to belong. Intriguingly, in voicing their personal sites of struggle, the cast allow the audience to peek into their lives, creating a sense of intimacy that is further heightened by the small, classroom-sized theatre. The audience sits within reach of the cast and so close to each other, it’s easy to be distracted by the shifting facial expressions of those sitting across the other side of the stage. Throughout the show, there’s a twinge of guilt, a sense of taking without giving, knowing that we, the audience, can remain safe and anonymous as the cast bare a little bit of their souls to a crowd of strangers.

    Writhing, flinching, falling, bodies embody the frustration and despair of feeling isolated, and of wanting yet being unable to reach out to others. Not too abstract or contrived, the bodies are beautifully expressive, capturing and distilling the essence of a human feeling into flesh and movement. At the same time, the carefully choreographed dance, like the transcription and re-performance, highlights the gap between inner thought and feeling and external communication. It reveals the impossibility of expressing and presenting ourselves to others in a way that exactly reflects what we truly think and who we truly are. The act of self-expression always require a process of translation. No matter how hard we try, it’s impossible to have others know us in the same way that we know ourselves.

    Burdened with this heavy thought, we left immediately after the play to go and get dinner, speaking to no one but each other.


  • About the Author ()

    Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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