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Gay role models: Grant Robertson MP

ANDY BOREHAM introduces us to last New Zealand gay role model from this series. This week we meet Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson.

I only really met Grant Robertson a few years ago, in the build-up to his inevitable entry to Parliament. Aaron and I spent a couple of hours over a few weeks volunteering for Grant’s campaign for Central Wellington. We didn’t do much, just delivered a few pamphlets here-and-there, manned the office one afternoon per week, and took part in a few placard swings.

Grant won the seat, of course, and is now nearing the end of his first term in Parliament.

Aaron and I began visiting Grant’s office office at Parliament weekly to chat about issues and current affairs, plus some more flippant junk, for our radio show.

Grant is a professional, articulate, humble man who has a lot of talent, as evidenced today in his promotions under Labour’s reshuffle, with a Dominion Post headline summing up the situation: ‘Robertson big winner in Labour reshuffle’.

In just his first term, Grant has impressed the Party greatly, taking on the Health portfolio ahead of other, veteran MPs.

He’s managed to somehow become an out-gay MP who isn’t referred to as such on every occasion that he is mentioned in the media, which is a huge step forward for GLBT people in New Zealand. It looks as though Chris Carter’s over-use of the ‘gay card’ hasn’t left a bitter taste in the mouth of our media.

Grant is definitely one of my top gay role models in New Zealand, and he is going to do great things in his life. Just watch.

Andy: Tell us about yourself.
Grant: I am Grant Robertson, a 39-year-old male, living in Wellington with my partner of 12 years. I grew up mainly in Dunedin, but moved to Wellington 16 years ago, and apart from a couple of years overseas have lived here ever since.

What do you do now?
I am the MP for Wellington Central

What is your history in the GLBT community (please don’t be shy/modest)?
I am currently the Chair of the Labour Party Rainbow Caucus, and have served as a member of the Rainbow Sector Council of the Party for the last five or so years. I have been a Board member of the New Zealand Aids Foundation, as well as volunteering for the Foundation for many years. I established UNIQ when I was the Co-President of the New Zealand University Students Association in 1996. It’s great to see it still going all these years later.

How important are GLBT role-models for young, queer people who are coming out and/or new to the GLBT world?
Incredibly important. We all need someone to look to for guidance. In my maiden speech to Parliament as an MP I paid particular tribute to Chris Carter and Maryan Street for their trail blazing in the world of politics. It’s the same at a personal level. Having someone who has made a success of their life and dealt with all the issues that come up for GLBT people is essential.

Are visible, successful role-models utilised enough in the well-being of our community?
I guess for some people it might be quite hard to know about successful GLBT people, or how to get to talk to them. Especially if they live in the provinces. There is definitely scope for more to be done.

Do we look up to our role-models enough?
For people who have role models I am sure they do. Sometimes our community can fall victim to the ‘tall poppy” syndrome and we should support people as they have successes in life.

Are there any GLBT role-models in the media (NZ, internationally, movies/media, etc) that you think are valuable? Who are they? And why?
I think any GLBT person living a fulfilling, happy life is a role model. There are still loads of barriers to doing that, so making a success of your life is an achievement worth celebrating.

Who do you look up to?
In the political world both Helen Clark and Marian Hobbs were great political role models. In a gay sense I have great admiration for couples who have stuck together, especially those who came out pre law reform. Des and John here in Wellington, and Malcolm and Euan down in Dunedin stand out for me. And there is my Mum, who I admire for lots of reasons.

That’s the end of my gay role models series — I hope you’ve all enjoyed it. Role models are a really important part of life, in my opinion, and I hope you all take the opportunity to get to know yours better (in real life or by researching).

Thanks to all of my gay role models who took part — you’re all awesome!

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Aaron and Andy says:

      He is MY role model; I’m not saying he has to be yours. This series is designed to get people talking about role models and perhaps finding some of your own. Who are your role models? Why do you look up to them? Be interested to know.


      • Anonymous says:

        sonny bill williams and randy orton are my role models. Because of their athletic ability, their mental focus, the way they look , the discipline they posess and their conditioning.

        sorry this guy in here whatever his name is looks like a dodgy red wine swiller, I dont give a shit about politicians either, theyre all the same, they link they are smart and try to control other peoples life, but theyre just yuk inside and out

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        • Typical ignorant/stupid person’s response. The decisions that are made by politicians affect our lives everyday.

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          • youre dumb Jack, sorry I just dont look up to wrinkly looking wine riddled people that think theyre smarties and no best for everyone. I acknowledge that politicians are a necessary evil, but i still dont see why it makes me stupid if i think that they are a ugly bunch of pretentious winos, all overweight YUK! I dont have to look up to that, i hate all their traits and physcicalities

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          • oh and Jack, I take it you are old and yuk and want to be one of those politician types, because you’ve wrecked your decrepit body and the only thing that vaguely works now is your wine addled brain.

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  2. I’ve loved all of these features Andy. Well done. Great idea very well formed. Hearts to you. xx

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Andy, can i ask do u have like a fetish for older guys or something? its like by doing this ‘series’ that you are expressing your attraction for all these oldies. Mel is ok and kind of cool, but the others ummmm? Have u slept with any of them?

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    • Have you seen his boyfriend?
      It’s pretty obvious it’s the other way round.

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    • Aaron and Andy says:

      LOL, what a naïve understanding. No, I have not had sex with any of my role models. I just tend to look up to older members of the community who have achieved something in life that I’d love to achieve myself some day.

      You say your role models are Sonny Bill Williams etc, for their athletic ability. That just illustrates your priorities in life and what you view as being admirable and praiseworthy. I specifically look up to people who have achieved in the arts or politics, in changing the world, or trying to.

      Do you have any gay role models? Ones that specifically make you proud to be gay (if you are)?

      • not many, possibly Ian Roberts would be the only one I think of, I just dont like that style of older gay man that runs around pretending to be rich and smart liike some creepy know it all, its just yukky and pretentious and that accounts for all of the older gay men i have encountered, most older gay men i have encounted are also wine skullers, which i dont find at all enviable.

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        • Aaron and Andy says:

          It’s a real shame that you’ve had such a bad experience associating with older gay men — there are many, many gay men who have valuable and interesting experiences that I love hearing / learning about.


          • have u not been to auckland? there is one older set that pretend to be like andy warhol and operate like they exist in another paradigm that we are all to stupid to understand, another older set that pretend to be like politicians and act like they all know best. and another older set that pretend to be rich.

            the linking factors between all 3 sets is alcohol misuse and pretentiousness.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    this website is so bad that it’s good. thats why i come back. it’s my drug.

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  5. Wise Old Man says:

    We’re all getting older, right? And I guess we’d all agree that’s better than dying. But the gay world can be a harsh place for older gay guys. We put so much emphasis on looking young and hot, and having a beautiful body; it can turn the gay world into a scary place for men as we age.

    Gay magazines and posters are always full of the buff and beautiful, often hairless which makes them look even younger. You don’t see that many images of hot-looking older guys, and a lot of men say they feel invisible in the clubs and bars when they reach a certain age.

    There are of course, pluses and minuses to getting old. In general most people feel more comfortable with who they are as they get older, and there’s no reason for gay men to be any different. But the gay scene doesn’t tend to welcome the older homo.

    Sometimes they get stuck with the “dirty old perv” label, as if being 50, or 60, or 70 suddenly means what was sexually normal before is perverted now. Sometimes they get laughed at, mocked, for trying too hard to fit in. And the common stereotype is that old gay men are inevitably lonely. But mostly, so reports say, they get ignored.

    That seems a real shame. A lot of those older guys are the ones who fought hard to get us our rights. A lot of them watched their lovers and friends get sick and die around them. Our world and lives today would be a lot worse without all that hard work those guys did in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

    What really seems to upset some younger gay guys is the idea that these men are still sexually active. This is not just a gay thing – it seems pretty widespread across our world.

    Once you’re “old” (whatever that is) you’re not allowed to be sexual anymore. You’re not supposed to enjoy your body, or another guy’s, in the way that you did when younger. There seems to be this weird contradiction in the gay world, that when you’re young stresses sexual freedom and fun, but as we age, we’re supposed to shut down, or at least have the decency to do it in the dark, at home, away from where some pretty young thing might see and suffer shock.

    But older men still have the desire for sex, and can still be very good at it. They should be, after all the practice they’ve had, right? And a lot of older gay guys actually aren’t that into twinks. When you look at the whole “Bear” phenomenon, you can see a group of men who tend to be older and very happy and comfortable with it, and they’re not running after boys in their 20s, they tend to like men around the same age. You can be 67 and still have a great sex-life – you’d think that piece of news would cheer young guys up, not make them wrinkle their noses in disgust.

    But more importantly than that, older gay men are part of our community, they’re part of who we are, and they do deserve a bit more respect and welcome than they often get.

    It pays to remember, every hot, toned, beautiful young 20-something will one day be old, wrinkly, not toned, and slower. One day we’ll be old too, if we look after ourselves. So getting in the habit of treating older gay guys kindly and inclusively isn’t just about being nice to others now, it’s about our own future. When you’re in your 50s or 60s, do you really want to be treated as an annoying sad old pervert? So let’s learn to be nicer now, and pass the habit on because we’ll all be old one day.

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  6. i agree with wise old man comments, well thoughtout, well written … and very true

    reading the above comments about overweight, overbeareing politicans was disheartening.

    i have enjoyed reading the series on gay role models. good series – well done

    politicans and people involved in arts etc are important, makes society more well rounded, not all people are sonny bill or ab fans – there is more to life than external beauty. it saddens me to read the petty, personal attacks on a persons physical appearence – its unnecessary. a persons weight doesnt make a person who they are, affect their iq, change a persons compassion, empathy etc. if only more people could accept people for who they are, nz would be a better place to live

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    • Gummy Sue says:

      I have a feeling the comments slagging off andy was by someone who is obviously beautiful…. he knows it too…. im sure he has also accepted the fact that he has no depth or personality either.

      He knows that when he is “old and wrinkly” his body is the only thing he had going for him! he will end up being that creepy old gay man at the gay bar that people freak out about…… and the other older men suffer because of his damaging ways have caused a stereo type…. and they pay for it!

      i know he will be in full denial but darling, slagging someone/something off doesnt mean it wont effect you!


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  7. Ha!~ is that a BNZ pen that Grant is holding in the pic above?

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Grant is the man…much better than those fella Goff kicked out…Queen Chris and touchy Darren

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