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Somewhere In the Rainbow: Celebrating Pride in Wellington

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It’s my first year of college, and I’m sitting on the floor in my room making friendship bracelets, because I never grew out of making friendship bracelets (and honestly, I probably never will). I can’t do anything too fancy, three colors being the maximum number of colors I can work with, but that’s perfect for what I want. I pick a pink that’s as sweet as cotton candy, a blue as bright as the sun, and a purple that could hide among lavenders. It’s so easy, so instinctive, this quick jolt of a gut feeling that hits my heart, when I see pink, blue, and purple, the bisexual colors. That friendship bracelet got worn down a year later, but my bisexuality isn’t something that can fray and fall away like my bracelet did. It’s a treasure tightly tucked into the map of me. Although I’ve had my ups and downs with my sexuality, with each year the ups happen more often, and part of the reason why is because of the support of my parents and friends. However, even with their support, I couldn’t help but worry a little about study abroad, New Zealand, and being LGBTQ+. Actually, one of IFSA’s Unpacked stories helped ease some of the worry on being LGBTQ+ in New Zealand — shout out to John Rosario and his story, “Being Gay in New Zealand”! I was greeted with rainbow patterns and a motto about pride when stepping off of the plane into Wellington’s airport, and that eased whatever was left of my worries. Walking around Wellington, it’s easy to feel comfortable with my sexuality here, as I see same sex couples openly holding hands or posters advertising LGBTQ+ nightlife. And, of course, there was the pride festival.

2019 Wellington Pride

Wellington Pride Festival (Tū Whakahīhī e Te Whanganui-ā-Tara) is Wellington’s biggest celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. This year, the festival lasted from March 8 to March 24, and for a little over two weeks Wellington exploded with color, camaraderie, and cheerfulness. In its fourth year, the festival organized over 120 events, showcasing a diverse array of activities such as picnics, dances, drag shows, rainbow tours of Wellington, and more. I’ve never been to a pride celebration so big before. For the first time ever, I watched a pride parade in person, instead of on my phone screen. I crackled with all the electric joy in the air, instead of dreaming of the sparks. It wasn’t what I hoped it would be; it was better. Before the parade, there were other events that I attended that provided the same kind of breathtaking fun, happiness, and pride in pride. At Swing Out and Proud!, I danced my heart out with the new LGBTQ+ friends I made; at the Pride in Aotearoa panel, I learned about LGBTQ+ history in New Zealand and the history of Wellington Pride Festival. A couple of months have passed since pride ended, but I’ll never stop feeling grateful for getting to be there for it all.

LGBTQ+ Support on Campus

At Victoria University of Wellington, the LGBTQ+ students on campus are known as rainbow students, and there are several sources of support that students should know about. Georgia Andrews, the university’s Rainbow and Inclusion Advisor, is here for students of all sexualities, genders, and sex characteristics and available for contact by email (georgia.andrews@vuw.ac.nz), phone (04-463-6712), or office appointment (room 213, Student Union, Kelburn campus). I met her at the Rainbow Students’ Welcome during orientation, and she was incredibly kind, caring, and willing to help in whatever way she could. Besides Georgia, there are two more important rainbow resources for students. First, at two of the three campuses, Kelburn and Te Aro, there’s an outreach nurse service specifically for rainbow students. Second, UniQ, the main rainbow club, is a group of students focused on providing safe spaces for rainbow students, supporting rainbow students, and hosting fun social events. I joined the club at the club fair, and in their emails they detail what’s been happening lately and what kind of social events are being held. Popular events are Board Games & Banter, Crafternoon, and movie nights! If you’re a LGBTQ+ student, and wondering if Wellington or Victoria University of Wellington is a good choice for you, I hope this post has helped you in some way. I’m a bisexual, cisgendered college student, so I understand my experiences may not apply to everyone reading this. For more resources, I recommend Gender Minorities Aotearoa (especially check out the tab for Community Support – Wellington), OUTline NZ (a LGBTQ+ helpline), and Queer Resources Aotearoa New Zealand (a masterlist of LGBTQ+ resources for New Zealand). And if you’d like to know more about the history of LGBTQ+ communities in New Zealand, I found 25 Years of Gay Rights in New Zealand, A History of Pride in New Zealand, and the National Library of New Zealand’s page on Queer History to be really informative. I’m writing this in June, so of course the only true way to end this is with a: Happy Pride! 🌈 Kristiana Petrie is an Environmental Science and Biology double major at Colby College and studied abroad with IFSA at Victoria University at Wellington in New Zealand in Spring 2019. She is an Unpacked Contributor for IFSA through the First Generation Scholarship Program.