Pride, politics and performance: The resurgence of drag in New Zealand

Drag has always been one of the most recognisable parts of gay culture, but until recently it has been an art on the decline.

But recent leaps forward in LGBTQI rights and the prominence of gay celebrities has seen a surge in its mainstream appeal.

While happy with the steps forward, advocates like Frances Arns from Rainbow Youth say New Zealand still has a way to go.

"We all agree that we are seeing some positive changes in attitudes and understanding of gender and sexuality, but that doesn't change the way that institutions and our society is structured.

"Schools, education, healthcare, justice, you name it - all of those are set up in a way that doesn't acknowledge or incorporate the diversity of gender and sexuality and intersex status, which leads to exclusion and discrimination against our young people and our community."

A 2012 survey of 8500 high school students in 2012 found around 15 percent identified as queer, gay or unsure. They were three times more likely to be bullied every week than their straight classmates, with half having been hit or harmed at school in the previous year.

The same study found that one in five had attempted suicide, compared with one in 20 of their straight peers.

The trans community also faces unique challenges in New Zealand, and advocate Aych McArdle says protecting gender identity and expression under the Human Rights Act would be a major step forward.

"It would be a piece of legislation that wouldn't cost any money but immediately it would say that trans people have exactly the same rights and responsibilities in a community as their peers."

Trans people wishing to transition face additional barriers in our healthcare system, as the last surgeon who performed gender reassignment surgery retired in 2014.

The previous National Government came under significant criticism for not filling the vacancy. National's spokesperson for Rainbow Issues, Nikki Kaye, acknowledges it could have done more.

"For any government, you're not perfect on every issue, and I think particularly the access to surgery issue is something that needs to be looked at, and so I acknowledge we're not perfect and there's more to do."

There are currently 105 people on the waitlist for gender reassignment surgery in New Zealand, with the total cost of all their surgeries sitting at around $8 million.

The Ministry of Health only funds four operations every two years - none of which take place in New Zealand.

Labour's Louisa Wall has promised action sooner rather than later.

"I know our community is frustrated, but please know that we are actively engaging in a process with our coalition partners to come up with a solution, and, yes, this parliamentary term."

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