Correspondence with the NZ Green Party

Query sent on Sunday 9th June 2019 — as of 30th November 2019 I have received no response

To Gareth Hughes, Gwen Shaw, and James Shaw,

I am writing to you to enquire as to whether the Green Party of New Zealand has a social media policy for members of parliament and, additionally, if that contains guidance on when it is appropriate to block constituents. I also ask that you simply reflect on whether the Green Party culture and policies are discriminatory towards lesbians.

I ask this because I have been blocked by MP Golriz Ghahraman on Twitter. I understand she has received some unacceptable abuse online which would merit blocking, however I have not taken part in any such behaviour. In fact, I have condemned it.

What I have done is disagree with her. I have also spoken about my profound disappointment at a lesbophobic Twitter pile-on in which she took part. I was the target of the pile-on because I asserted — in response to another tweet — that as a lesbian I am same sex attracted and do not consider transwomen as potential sexual partners because they are male (and over 80% of them do not even have surgery). This prompted some of MP Ghahraman’s Twitter friends (@bexielady / @natdudley / @sarahhbickerton among others) — with whom she seems to have regular casual correspondence — to call me “vile”, “transphobic trash”, and “gross”.

Of course I do not hold MP Ghahraman responsible for the actions of her friends, but she later joined the thread deriding what she called my (presumably sexual) “boundaries” as responsible for “almost 1/3 of our Rainbow community [being] made homeless”. Her use of “our Rainbow community” did confuse me given I am a lesbian and she is a straight woman. Her friend responded calling me, “mediocre and white,” and MP Ghahraman sarcastically noted that people like me are the “first ones to get offended if any of those boundaries are prejudices against them”.

I contend that behaviour like this falls well short of the values listed on your website. In particular, “engage respectfully, without personal attacks,” “actively respect cultural and individual diversity,” “enable participation with dignity,” and “foster compassion”. It is also incredibly lesbophobic. While I have developed quite a thick skin for this kind of thing, my fear is that young lesbians or women afraid to come out will see comments like this from an MP and feel marginalized and like being same-sex attracted is wrong. Just last week Green MP Chloe Swarbrick spoke out about her own fear holding her girlfriend’s hand in public. Then a few days ago there was a horrible assault on a lesbian couple on a bus in London because they would not kiss for their attackers.

Lesbians face the double oppression of homophobia and misogyny. We are being erased from our own spaces in the LGBT community and no one in New Zealand politics has been willing to stand up for us. I recommend you look up Scottish National Party MPs Joan McAlpine and Joanna Cherry QC as they are strong voices for women and lesbians in all of this silence.

Lesbians are female homosexuals and we are being maligned and bullied for that fact. If we state that we are not sexually attracted to male genitalia we are labeled transphobic and ostracised from LGBT communities and political spaces. I have voted for the Green Party in every election and I used to be a member, however I no longer feel welcome or represented by the party I believed in. I know a large number of women that feel the same. We aren’t troublemakers or right-wingers. We are women who believed in the Green Party, campaigned for you even, but now feel incredibly let down.

I do not believe I have done anything warranting any Green Party MP to block me on Twitter, but if I have I would appreciate being notified of what I did. If it is that MP Ghahraman has taken such great offence to my lesbian “boundaries” that she has blocked me I would expect that the Green Party would address this discriminatory behaviour appropriately. Fair criticism and challenges are a key part of democracy and not the same as abusive or threatening communications so I would hope that my disagreeing with her would not be the cause either. My party vote helped MP Ghahraman into parliament and as her constituent I think it is right that I have access to her public platforms.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this and I hope you will be willing to consider my points without prejudice.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Ani O’Brien

(Twitter @aniobrien)

Gender-critical lesbian radical feminist. Support me