The capital's Pride Festival is not only a chance to celebrate the rainbow community but to inspire, says a Wellington musical comedian.
Queer performer Maxwell Apse, best known for the love song they wrote for Ashley Bloomfield over lockdown, will be performing in their first Wellington Pride Festival this month.
The 27-year-old musician identifies as bisexual, and came out as transgender and non-binary last year.
Having been personally inspired by the likes of Wellington drag king Hugo Grrrl, Apse said it was important for young people in the community to have proud queer performers to look up to.
"Pride Festival is a time to not only celebrate my identity and my sexuality but I hope it's really a time to inspire other people as well.
"I really think about that every time I'm posting on social media or performing - I'm trying to do what non-binary people did for me.
"There is something huge, for queer people especially, to know that you're not new – you're not the first of who you are, there've actually been millions of you before.
"That gave me a lot of strength to be able to stick with that term."
Apse has been making music for most of their life, and last year worked on the musical composition for Glitter Garden, Hugo Grrrl's drag show for kids.
"It was so amazing to be working with so many trans artists and it kind of inspired me to come out," they said.
They also composed and sang a love letter to Ashley Bloomfield, written during lockdown, which has since been viewed more than 100,000 times on YouTube.
Apse said Wellington is for the most part a very queer-friendly city.
"I go out in dresses and skirts and makeup and all that, and for the most part I feel pretty safe.
"I still get the stares sometimes and the comments, and at night things can get a little dicey ... I think it's a pretty queer-friendly city but there's still a ways to go."
They said normalising gender-neutral bathrooms and gender-neutral pronouns would help the trans and non-binary community feel safer.
Visiting a bathroom at a bar or restaurant could often put them in the position of having to choose a gender.
"I really don't want to make a statement, I just want to go to the bathroom," they said.
"And also just more normalisation of people asking for people's pronouns.
"I just want to give my name and my pronouns and go back to work, I don't want to get into a whole debate or story here."
They also encouraged straight and cis-gender people to be an ally to the rainbow community by speaking up.
"Be vocal, go support trans artists, stop the transphobia when you see it, stop the homophobia when you see it," they said.
"People do have questions ... when I say I'm non binary, someone who hasn't done the research I've done or is cis-gendered, they may have never heard the term before."
Apse encouraged people to do their own research, or to ask a trans person. But also not to be afraid of getting it wrong.
"If you get it wrong, that's OK," they said.
"People in the queer community, people in the trans community get my pronouns wrong ... just apologise and move on."
"It's a process of learning and understanding … we're always constantly learning about people's identities, and how to support them through that."
Maxwell Apse will be performing at Out in the City on Saturday March 27, along with various other queer performers.