In March this year, the Australian International weightlifting championships were held in Melbourne. The event made news when the women’s over 90kg division was “dominated” by… Gavin. Gavin Hubbard, now known as Laurel – the white, male-born descendent of an Auckland-based breakfast cereal tycoon, who identifies as transgender. Hubbard lifted 19 kilos more than Iuniarra Sipaia, the Samoan woman who was left to take home silver.
Now, to begin with, I have two possibilities here for advocates of transgenderism to ponder in light of this. The first, which I personally lean toward, is that biological sex is real. The second is that a great marketing opportunity is currently being overlooked by all of those invested in Hubbards’ Honey Bumbles.
Or maybe it is Berry Berry Nice that’s the breakfast of champs? In any case, Hubbard woke up to something special that morning of the Australian International, that allowed “her” to lift 19 kilos more than competitor Iuniarra Sipaia.
Another relevant question to ponder is this. Exactly how many times would patriarchal New Zealand quite like to colonise Samoa?
During World War One, the first action New Zealand took was to invade Samoa, introduce influenza and wipe out almost one quarter of the population. A quarter. Samoa’s Mau Movement was established on the graves of those who died because of that epidemic.
Then, during our postwar labour shortages of the 1960s and 70s, New Zealand targeted and encouraged Pacific islanders, including Samoans, to come here and provide labour for white employers. Then when us New Zealanders were done needing said labour, we just sent the workers packing. During the Dawn Raids in 1982, hundreds of Polynesians were arrested and deported back to the islands, evicted on the grounds that they were not New Zealand citizens.
Samoan woman Falema’i Lesa was one of those deported – but she fought. She took the New Zealand government to court – arguing that as New Zealand had colonised Samoa, Samoans who lived under the New Zealand administration were New Zealand citizens. Lesa lost at the High Court and the New Zealand Court of Appeal – but at the Privy Council in London, she won. The Privy Council ruled that every Samoan born in Samoa between 1924 and 1949 was a New Zealand citizen, and so were their children.
She won – fought hard against all obstacles and won her battle – like Sipaia should have.
Then what happened? Muldoon. Passing the quickest law in New Zealand history, he quietly overruled the Privy Council verdict and all Lesa’s work, with the Citizenship Act of 1982. Sounds familiar.
Then in 2003, one hundred thousand people signed a petition to have the Privy Council ruling honoured again. Helen Clark simply ignored it.
Also in 2003, Dick Hubbard fought his own battle over his breakfast cereals, when he had to go to media because Sanitarium sent out a press release comparing its Honey Puffs with his Honey Bumbles and Bugs ‘n’ Mud and said that Honey Bumbles and Bugs ‘n’ Mud deserve a “thumbs-down” nutrition ranking. Dick Hubbard said he was “shocked” by this statement from Sanitarium. Shocked.
Now, I am not saying that the Hubbard family never suffered. They have. But supposedly one of the pillars of transgender ideology is “intersectionality”.
This is a word that refers to how various forms of oppression can compound on individuals. So for instance, a working class white man experiences class oppression – but a working class black woman experiences class, race and sex oppression. It’s treated like its own Olympic tournament by some, but this is an important lens through which to understand power and power dynamics, in any given situation.
This concept helps us not to forget that a woman like Iuniarra Sipaia has fought to get where she is past the impacts of not only race oppression and colonisation, but sexism too, and these in combination. Samoan women of course are subjected to additional struggles with the introduction of Western patriarchy, which, among other things, denies women their strength.
One way it has done this in the Pacific islands, is by co-opting ownership of land, and creating an obesity epidemic by restricting access to traditional diets, and substituting these with staples of sugar, flour, canned meats and fruits, soft drinks, and, well, Western foods like sugary breakfast cereals. Western researchers then have the gall to go out and condescendingly theorise about a Samoan “fat gene” – while New Zealand is still happy to capitalise from Samoan athletes representing us, in sports.
Still – Iuniarra Sipaia became a weightlifter. And not only that, she takes the world stage in women’s weightlifting, and she represents her home country, Samoa.
She traveled to the Australian International with the power not only to win, but to prove something to Samoan and Pacific island girls, the significance of which only they can comprehend. What it is to work your way to a chance at a world title through the current and intergenerational impacts of racism, sexism and colonisation combined, is beyond me.
But who stops her? A white man, representing my country, New Zealand. Gavin, who managed to swan into the competition on Bugs ‘n’ Mud money. Gavin purportedly even skipped the drug tests Sipaia had to take.
Sort of gives a new meaning to “clean and jerk”, if you ask me.
Even Googling Sipaia’s name now, all you see is pictures of Gavin Hubbard, lifting weights in a women’s competition.
As if this were not bad enough, it is apparently not only “intersectional” to advocate for the likes of Gavin in a context like this, according to transactivists – it is also important to lobby to increase the presence of surgeons who would profit from removing his genitalia, through reassignment operations. We are being told by New Zealand’s Mental Health Organisation that some young people need surgeons around like Pete Walker right here, so that they can better align their bodies with their wairua.
We are allowing this neoliberal, gender identity movement to gain rapid momentum, in the name of listening to oppressed people through the lens of “intersectionality” – even while it preaches to us about how freedom can be bought from plastic surgeons, even while it has us celebrating the theft of a gold medal from a Samoan woman by a rich, white man.
Honestly, I think this is the real test that the concept of “intersectionality” helps to carry out: do people like Gavin and Pete benefit from your liberation movement?
If so, then sorry.
But it’s very likely not actually a liberation movement.