Pride Week is wonderful. The time set aside every year during which we can all celebrate diverse sexual orientations and gender identities inspires a certain amount of love and tolerance that can often be missing throughout the rest of the year. Pride reminds us what we are aspiring to. However, despite the unconditional acceptance that is felt at these Pride events, and despite what the laws might tell you, New Zealand still has a way to go in terms of total societal acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community.
Yet there are small beacons of light that may rejuvinate your hope and faith in our little country. Last week, after much hard work and a fundraiser run through Kickstarter, Kiwi writers Adam Reynolds and Chaz Harris announced the publication of their children’s book – Promised Land. The book follows the story line of most fairy tales, in which there is a villain, a hero, a madly-in-love couple, and a happy ending. The only difference is that the characters in this book show diversity in terms of both race and sexual orientation. Not only that, but unlike the fairy tales of old, there are no damsels in distress to be found, only strong and fierce female characters. In short, it reflects the truth of a modern day world.
While LGBTQI+ issues have been making their way into mainstream media for some time now, Promised Land is rare in that while the story shows diversity, that is not the story line's main focus. This is important because it makes children who do not fit the common depiction of the white, cisgender, straight characters of old, realise that who they are is nothing out of the ordinary. They, too, can be superheroes and warriors because characters just like them have done it in the books they read.
The project was backed by 796 pledgers on Kickstarter, who between them, raised over $43,000. The significance of this is that while there is still certainly work to be done, there are enough people who believe that New Zealand’s children deserve to be brought up feeling equal to their peers, and seeing normality in all races, gender identities, and sexual orientations. With any luck, this book will make its way into classrooms and homes around the country. Hopefully other writers will follow suit, ensuring that our children are not only exposed to heteronormative worlds. Those worlds don’t reflect 2017 New Zealand, and perhaps is more of a fairy tale than that of the Promised Land.
In New Zealand, we want our children growing up being inclusive, mindful, and accepting of all types of people and ways of life. By introducing them to diversity issues early in life, we are much more likely to achieve this.