New Zealand mayor calls out groomer sign at Pride event as ‘bigotry masquerading as concern’

Winter Pride in Queenstown

The mayor of a town in New Zealand has slammed “groomer” graffiti outside a Pride event, claiming the slur represents “bullying” and “bigotry”.

It was reported that Queenstown Lakes District Library, which was hosting a reading session as part of the town’s Winter Pride celebrations, was vandalised with spray paint reading “child grooming”.

The incident follows several right-wing attacks on Drag Queen Story Hour events in the United States and the UK.

Queenstown Lakes mayor Glyn Lewers explained that the “groomer” rhetoric spreading about the LGBTQ+ community represents “bigotry masquerading as concern” for children.

“Vandalism – particularly that which is organised, premeditated and carrying divisive sentiment – will not and cannot be tolerated. Neither will direct threats to our staff or the people freely giving of their time to enable these events,” Lewers said in a statement.

“A recent spray-painted claim that one of council’s Rainbow Reading sessions was ‘child grooming’ is, in my view, bullying and bigotry masquerading as concern about the extreme sexualisation of children. 

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“I was initially hesitant about including the specific wording of the graffiti but I think it’s important on this occasion to be upfront in order to provide a full explanation of why I, on behalf of thousands of others, oppose it.”

He added that it’s “essential” that libraries “remain safe spaces for everyone” in New Zealand.

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“Whilst Pride Week often feels like a celebration these days, it’s important to remember that pride events began decades ago as a way for members of the Rainbow community to fight for equal rights and recognition,” he said.

‘A loud voice and a minority of people’

Winter Pride organiser Martin King told New Zealand outlet Stuff that the graffiti represented the first time in 20 years of the event that there had been an anti-LGBTQ+ incident.

“It’s disappointing but, equally, I don’t want to provide them any more air time. It’s a loud voice and a minority of people who feel that way,” King said.

“This is not the way the community feels. The community is embracing Pride.”

According to Stuff, local police said they were called about a report of graffiti outside the Queenstown Library on Thursday (31 August), and are making enquiries. 

Former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern was known for her trailblazing legacy on LGBTQ+ rights, becoming the first PM in the country to walk in Pride, passing vital reforms to gender recognition laws, and banning conversion therapy during her five-and-a-half year leadership.

Conversion therapy survivors in the country can even seek an apology and compensation if they have been subjected to the practice, thanks to New Zealand’s Human Rights Commission.

According to Equaldex, New Zealand is the 19th most LGBTQ+ friendly country in the world, ranking just below Finland and Sweden.

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