Opinion: Air NZ backlash proves homophobia still rife in New Zealand

The airline has been bombarded with homophobic tweets.
The airline has been bombarded with homophobic tweets. Photo credit: Air New Zealand/Newshub.

A post on social media from Air New Zealand promoting its involvement in last weekend's Big Gay Out event has revealed homophobia is still alive and unwell in Aotearoa in 2020.

The day before Valentine's Day, the airline's Twitter account posted images of its staff taking part in the annual rainbow event in Auckland.

"Our diverse community of people are what make us special, we're proud of our Pride!" the tweet said, alongside a rainbow and the #AirNZPride hashtag.

At the time of publishing, the tweet has had 147 retweets and 2200 likes.

Disturbingly, some of the replies are more like hate speech than disagreement, let alone support.

"Sick bastards. Won't be flying on you anymore. Have you totally forgotten the rest of us," one tweet read.

I've chosen not to name the accounts tweeting such alarming messages, but other examples include:

  • GROSS!!! I DON'T WANT AIDS!!!
  • DISGUSTING F*****S
  • Euthenasia am I right?
I've chosen not to name the accounts tweeting such alarming messages.
I've chosen not to name the accounts tweeting such alarming messages. Photo credit: Newshub.

I had to check the calendar to make sure I'd not caught a ride with Marty McFly back to the early '80s.

Some commenters doubted the ability of homosexuals to fly aircraft: "Yea seeing that effeminate male in the second pic makes me rethink whether I want him as a pilot."

Well, 99 percent of gay men I know hate the thought of getting a minor scratch on their car, so imagine how protective they are of an aircraft worth hundreds of millions of dollars?

The rants continued.

Opinion: Air NZ backlash proves homophobia still rife in New Zealand
Photo credit: Newshub.

"This kind of balderdash makes you puke. Be more considerate of the 99pc of normal people that are your customers."

"Imagine being proud of being Sodomites. OK. Enjoy an immune deficiency disorder...."

I could have summarised these tweets, but I feel it's important to read them as they were written, so you can see just how extreme they are.

I was almost proud of these anti-love crusaders for not regurgitating the old "it's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve", but maybe that's for next year.

It's important to remember these aren't just words on a screen - they have repercussions.

Imagine an at-risk young teen dealing with issues around sexuality reading those tweets. It's hardly positive reading for them.

Then there are those who harbour similar views. Seeing others externalise homophobia may lead them to believe that sort of opinion is acceptable.

Members of the rainbow community are five times more likely to take their own lives than those of the same age who identify as heterosexual. 

Five times.

In the United States, nearly two million LGBTQ youths aged between 13 to 24 consider suicide each year, according to a study released last year. (Here's a link to a PDF of the study).

Opinion: Air NZ backlash proves homophobia still rife in New Zealand
Photo credit: Newshub.

Air NZ's response to the homophobic tweets was light-hearted.

It posted a series of gifs inspired by LGBTQ pop culture including unicorns, K-pop stars BTS and RuPaul telling those posting abusive tweets to 'sashay away'.

Offline, the airline's response was more serious, saying its involvement in pride has support all the way to the top.  

"Our CEO, board and executive team are big supporters of diversity and inclusion, and they are supported by a dedicated diversity and inclusion manager and leaders who sit throughout our business units," a spokesperson told Newshub.

"Our vision is to create an organisation that is proudly representative of Aotearoa, a place where Air New Zealanders can be themselves and thrive."

It's not the end of Air NZ's involvement in 2020 Pride events. The airline's 'Party Gras' flight takes off from Auckland bound for Sydney's Mardi Gras later this month, and this weekend the airline will be flying its flag at a rainbow dog show in central Auckland.

The hate will sadly continue, but so will the pride.

And it needs to - until hateful tweets like those above become a thing of the past.

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