Shaneel Lal named Young New Zealander of the Year

Shaneel Lal

LGBTIQA+ rights campaigner Shaneel Lal was named Young New Zealander of the Year on Friday.

They are the first transgender person to receive the award.

The 22-year-old activist has been at the forefront of campaigns to ban conversion therapy in New Zealand, advocated for the removal of bans on gay men donating blood, and was a prominent figure in the recent skirmish with anti-transgender activist Kellie-Jay Keen, who is known online as Posie Parker.

Last year when it was announced that Lal was one of the nominees for the award, their social media accounts were swamped with transphobic comments.

“Today happens to be Transgender Day of Visibility,” Lal said.

“The irony is that a lot of trans people on social media have had to make their accounts private and go into hiding as a result of the rise of transphobic hatred from the visit of Posie Parker.”

Lal said the reaction of New Zealanders to the British activist’s appearance last weekend showed that transgender people were an important part of New Zealand society.

“I think it sends a clear message… that trans people are a part of our country.

“I was talking to so many parents (at the event) who came up to me and said that it made them feel hopeful, that the world would be a better place for their queer child.” Lal told local outlet Stuff.

Lal was born in Fiji and is non-binary and vakasalewalewa, a group of people from Fiji who are assigned male at birth, but have feminine gender expression. After experiencing conversion therapy practices Lal moved to New Zealand in 2014 in search of a safer home.

Māori Astronomer and scholar Ahorangi Rangiānehu Mātāmua was named this year’s New Zealander of the Year.

OIP Staff

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