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Transgender in Tairāwhiti

Hiking the stairs of the old post office building, to the 5th floor, I wondered how we once depended so much on this structure for our communications. Pushing through the weighted door led me to numbered offices. Office number 8 held inside of it the precise measurement of determination and tenderness to deliver an important, and sometimes stigmatized moment, becoming and being transgender.

Laughter rattled through office number 8’s door. I paused for it to have its full course. When I knocked, a warm and resonating voice answered keenly “come in!” I entered to a room of 3 people, all wearing wide smiles. Tee Wells, Tink Lockett and Jase, “We’re celebrating” expressed Tee, filmmaker and owner/operator of Tairāwhiti TV. Tee is non-binary and prefers the pronouns, ‘they/them’. They handed around a bowl of lollipops - these genuine and nostalgic offerings that would lend insight into the reason for representation of this project.

This kaupapa is Transgender in Tairāwhiti, the bones of a 4-part pilot of documentary shorts, representing four people as they express their experiences as trans people in Tairāwhiti. The documentary will consist of a 10-minute clip for each collaborator, with each of their experiences portrayed through videography and photography.

Transgender in Tairāwhiti consists of 4 diverse collaborators: Gio, Lesley, Nganeko, and Jase. The first collaborator on the scene was Gio, a trans woman, Tongan and in her mid-twenties. Through connections of Gio came Lesley, also a trans woman, Pākehā and in her mid-sixties. Undeniably, Lesley’s experience stepping into their truer self in a 1950’s Gisborne is unfathomable. From up the coast came Nganeko, a trans woman, Māori and in her early twenties. Finally, and therefore the reason for sugary celebrations, was Jase, Pākehā, early twenties and the only trans man of this kaupapa.

The mana in the room was pulsating, Tink Lockett, a renowned photographer of nude imagery expressed her deep desire for fairness, “we’re all the same with no clothes on”. I mistook what Tink’s nude imagery meant. Off the cusp, I thought that her intention for nude photography meant that she was looking for sex appeal. I was quite wrong. Tink wishes to change body imagery, proudly extending an ambition to desexualize how we see our bodies.

There sits a bricolage of diversity within this kaupapa. As previously mentioned, these collaborators hold their own ‘identity markers’ within each of their kete. Tee is proudly Queer - we both spoke of our experiences existing as ‘lesbian’ at Gisborne Girls’ High School. Tee has travelled the world working within film, also working with Māori Television and TVNZ. They have also developed some life experience of Queerdom both in Aotearoa and overseas in Australia and Cambodia. It makes sense that a Queer, non-binary person speaks to and captures the experiences of these people trying to navigate their way through their trans journeys. But what of Tink? Well, it should comfort you in knowing that Tink profusely checks herself. She’s very open in knowing her privileges and her status. She reiterates to me, “I’m white, I’ve got blonde hair and I’m straight”, there is something intensely trustworthy in Tink’s transparency.

The pair met a few months ago after working with Queer Vocal Loop Artist and Musician EJ Barrett from Taranaki. When Tink found out that EJ was coming to town to film a music video, they tee’d up a time to do a quick nude-art photo shoot during *EJ’s visit. It was the video project itself which piqued Tink’s interest to make contact with Tee. Coffee and kōrero was shared at PBC, and the rest grew out of the 5th floor old post office building.

Sitting now in this same office, I watch the two exchange the most fluid discussion; it unravels in front of me, and reveals this excitement of positive representation. I’m told of another collaborator, Chris Shotton, who identifies as Gay and understanding the need for this type of work, donates his time to help Tee and Tink.

This project is nurtured in authenticity, with underlying values making up the very beams of this kaupapa. Of course, as is the case with most artistic endeavours, this documentary is being created off of the backs of these wonderful humans. The group wish to secure future funding to help tautoko the continuing movement of this kaupapa.

Here at Gizzy Local, we’re fortunate to be welcomed into this space as it evolves. Further to this, we’ve been invited to watch, listen and ask questions of these collaborators at a panel, soon to be announced.

* EJ does not hold any gender and prefers to be acknowledged by name only

Story by Jordan Walker Images provided by Tink & Tee

If you’re keen to follow this journey of Transgender in Tairāwhiti, give Tairāwhiti TV a follow on Facebook and on Instagram. More on Tink’s work can be found on her Facebook and Instagram pages.


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