Dear Minister of Immigration Michael Wood,
Was it worth it?
Before Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull’s rally in Auckland, many queer folk, including me, and allies, wrote to you to stop Keen-Minshull from entering our country because we were worried for our safety and wellbeing. We begged you to act.
On March 22, you said that you “would prefer it if Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull never set foot in New Zealand”, but “the decision on whether to suspend her NZeTA sits with Immigration New Zealand”.
That, as we know, following the Auckland Pride, Gender Minorities and InsideOUT case against you, was not true.
Justice Gendall in the High Court stated that you were “provided with an opportunity to intervene with the decision” and you “declined to do so”.
I find it hard to believe that you preferred for Keen-Minshull to never step foot in our country knowing that you had a chance to ensure that but chose not to.
You condemned Keen-Minshull’s “inflammatory, vile and incorrect world views”. Minister, you cannot have it both ways.
You weren’t a helpless bystander. You would like us to believe you were helpless, but the reality is that you were empowered by law to intervene if you wanted to. You made a choice to let Keen-Minshull enter our country.
As a result of Keen-Minshull coming to our country, the New Zealand trans community has come under attack like never before.
Researchers have noted a spike in online anti-trans hatred since the visit. Disinformation Project researcher Dr Sanjana Hattotuwa says there is a strong likelihood that online hatred could spill into the real world through physical violence. Hattotuwa describes the rise of anti-trans hatred since the visit as “genocidal”. Trans people “are being hounded, harassed and harmed and hated upon online - to a degree we’ve never studied before”, he added.
In the last two weeks, people have threatened to snap my jaw and crush my skull. An attendee of Keen-Minshull’s anti-trans rally in Auckland warned me that I am “marked”. Another attendee recorded himself shoving me unprovoked and posted the video to Twitter with the caption, “Here’s me violently assaulting Shaneel.”
People have been editing photos of me into monsters and blood-sucking insects and comparing me to Hitler.
There are people who want to portray trans people as evil, violent, and dangerous. If they succeed at doing that, then they have convinced people that we are a threat. When people think something is a threat to them, they do not think twice before they hate and hurt that group of people. That, in my view, is the end goal.
Was remaining politically neutral to Keen-Minshull’s entry to appease the far-right and conservatives? Was it worth the hatred trans people in New Zealand are receiving? Do you think the far-right and conservatives will vote for the Labour Party because you didn’t intervene? I don’t think they will. They were never planning to.
I think you wanted trans folk to believe you had our back when you claimed to condemn Keen-Minshull’s view, but I also think that when you had a chance to prove your allyship to trans people through action, you turned your back on us.
This is not me writing you off. Instead, it is a plea on behalf of trans people to you and your colleagues to use your powers to protect vulnerable people.
Shaneel Shavneel Lal (they/them) was instrumental in the bill to ban conversion therapy in New Zealand. They are a law and psychology student, model and influencer.