Mr Gay NZ Māori contestants want more LGBTI support

By Jessica Tyson

Māori contestants of Mr Gay New Zealand (MGNZ) 2020 have spoken up about how vital it is for the wider community to accept lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexed (LGBTI) people.

The competition was held at Auckland's Big Gay Out on Sunday, where contestants got to voice their opinions on the most important issues facing the LGBTI community.

Tia Walters, of Ngāpuhi, says there is a lot of acceptance within the community but more can be done.

“We still have a lot of boundaries that we have to break down not only to get accepted in the wider community but to be accepted as individuals in our community as well.”

Jethro Gardiner, of Ngāti Ranginui and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Horohoro, spoke about the importance of supporting those within the Māori community.

“One of the things I’ve realised in my experience coming out being Māori is that being gay and being Māori is actually a high form of responsibility.  I, for myself, have to look out for the rangatahi. I, for myself have to be there standing because I’ve been in that position and I didn’t know what to do.”

Jethro Gardiner speaks. Source: File

Tia Walters says he wants to see more LGBTI rangatahi feel more body confident.

“From what marketing put in the media, a lot of young Māori, young takatāpui and young LGBTI guys look at, is they want to look like that typical muscle body and a lot of them find it hard to get to that body so they put themselves through a lot of stress and that may lead to depression and suicide," he says.

 “I'd love to see a lot more Māori coming forward and standing and being proud of who we are. That’s why I’m proud to stand especially alongside Jethro, two Māori standing proud and showing our younger generation that they can stand proud as well.”

Prior to the competition final, contestants had a full-day workshop with the New Zealand Aids Foundation.

“We learned a lot of new things yesterday that really talk to the issues facing men who have sex with men, issues that around HIV and AIDS,” Jethro says.

During Big Gay Out contestants also collected donations for the foundation. The winner of MGNZ 2020 went to Liam Reid from Wellington. Despite not winning first place, Jethro and Tia will continue supporting others.

“This is a world we haven’t touched the surface on. There is a whole iceberg underneath the ocean really of issues, of people.”

Walters says, “Stay happy, live, and accept your flaws and you're always beautiful.”