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John MacDonald: Why shouldn't Chch have a rainbow pedestrian crossing?

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Apr 2024, 1:12PM
Wellington's rainbow crossing on Cuba Street. Photo / Celeste Fontein
Wellington's rainbow crossing on Cuba Street. Photo / Celeste Fontein

John MacDonald: Why shouldn't Chch have a rainbow pedestrian crossing?

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 3 Apr 2024, 1:12PM

When I was in Wellington a few weekends ago, a couple of things happened. 

One: I was walking down Cuba Street in the central city and it occurred to me how ironic it is that we have probably one of the most conservative governments we’ve had in New Zealand for quite some time, and it’s based in one of the country’s funkiest cities. If not, the funkiest city. 

The second thing also happened when I was walking down Cuba Street.  

I was crossing at the lights, and I saw a guy and I thought ‘Oh, there’s Razor”. As in Scott Razor Robertson - former Crusaders coach and now coach of the All Blacks. 

But then I saw that this guy was walking with another guy, and they were holding hands. So, I did a double take and could see it wasn’t Razor, but he was a pretty good look-a-like. 

The reason I’m telling you this is because a guy who grew up in Christchurch but who now lives in Wellington —where he moved to study— thinks Christchurch isn’t a welcoming place for the LGBTQIA+ community, or the queer community as it’s come to be known. And he reckons if we had one of those rainbow pedestrian crossings here, it could make quite a difference. 

In fact, he’s saying today it could have “a profound impact”. 

His name is Claude Tellick, and he’s 20-years-old. And he’s got me listening because, as a middle-aged straight guy, who am I to say whether he’s right or wrong? 

In fact, I’d go further than that and say that, if he thinks it would make a difference, then I’m sold on the idea. 

Because again, as a middle-aged straight guy, it’s very easy for me to go into default mode and say, ‘what the hell is a multi-coloured pedestrian crossing going to do?’. And, in some ways I do think that, because do you really think someone who is all anti-gay or anti-queer people is going to change their thinking because of one pedestrian crossing? 

From my view of the world, I don’t see how it could make a difference - or have the “profound impact” that Claude Tellick says it would. 

But that’s because I don’t know what it’s like not to be straight. I might like to think I do know what it’s like. But I’ve got no idea. 

I’ve got no idea what it’s like to realise you’re queer. I’ve got no idea what it’s like to tell people you’re queer. And I’ve got no idea what it’s like to try and form relationships when you’re queer. 

And I’ll be a hundred percent honest with you, I even find using the word “queer” a bit odd. For me.  

Another thing I’ve got no idea of, is what it’s like to be gay, or bi —or any LGBTQIA+ person— and not see myself reflected where I live. 

You know, the world is made for straights like me. Especially in places like Christchurch. But, for others, it's a different story. 

Claude Tellick —who’s pushing for a rainbow crossing in Christchurch— says the city doesn’t feel a very welcoming place for queer people. He thinks a lack of visible diversity is part of the problem. 

And his view of Christchurch is that, even though there are many people and organisations who work hard to make it a safer place for non-straight people, he felt forced to leave and go to Wellington to live without prejudice. 

Again, if you’re heterosexual like me, you might be quick to say “oh, he’s just being too sensitive that young fella. Some of my best friends are gay. Love them like a brother - or a sister.” 

But again, we don’t really know what we’re on about - because we haven’t lived it.  

And, certainly for me, I don’t have the lived experience that some parents have —probably a lot of parents— who find out that their child is queer. Back in the day, some parents cut their kids loose if they came out. Couldn’t handle it. 

Things are a bit different these days. But don’t underestimate the impact on parents of queer people, when society is quick to dismiss their desire to be seen as normal. And quick to dismiss their desire to see themselves reflected in the communities they live. 

Which is why I hope we —as in our local community here— aren't too quick to dismiss the issue that Claude Tellick is raising. And which is getting more support by the day. Already around 1200 people have put their name to his petition. 

Because if he thinks a rainbow pedestrian crossing would make a difference, who am I to argue?  

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