Lynda Chanwai-Earle is a poet, playwright and journalist who has taken a moment to explore a part of many New Zealander’s lives that most would prefer not to talk about. Travelling around the country, Chanwai-Earle has created a four-part radio documentary titled Intimacy in New Zealand. Exploring a range of situations and ages, the documentary covers diverse topics including, in its final installment, an exploration of queer, trans* and polyamorous relationships. Rainbow Youth Digital Content Manager Toni Duder chats to her about the project.
RY: What inspired you to go on this journey?
C-E: I’m always keen to explore territory that is close to the bone when I make documentaries or write stories (as a Playwright)… I wanted to find out more about how we interact with each other, how we meet up and how we approach intimacy these days. Given that much of our communication is currently cybernetic, it seemed appropriate to focus on the internet and speed dating events as one of the most popular ways for people to meet. I was inspired in part by my own “virgin speed-dating” experience and wanted to make this a humorous and ice-breaking part of the documentary, or at least as the starting point for this documentary.
RY: Was there anything about talking with queer and trans* people about their intimacy/ relationships that you found unusual, surprising or interesting compared to the heterosexual discussions?
C-E: Yes, the individuals that I interviewed from the LGBT community were by-and-large much more open and honest about their experiences and often chose not to be interviewed anonymously. I really respect the courage that comes with this outspoken and frank attitude. Nikki and Natalie (the couple from Waiheke Island) in particular, were very outspoken and positive about their experiences.
RY: Which subject in your project would you have liked to explore more thoroughly?
C-E: I want to return to the younger generation, the 40 minute documentary timeframe meant I wasn’t able to include some extra interview I conducted with other single LGBT and straight people in their 20’s. I also wish to explore further the so-called “darker” side of intimacy and/or definitions of intimacy that are outside the so-called norms including; sex-addiction, bondage and discipline and more… In my interview with Sex Therapist Mary Hodson (STNZ), she voiced concerns around safe sex practices and AIDS awareness in regards to heterosexual married men who are bi-curious or closet, in particular.
RY: Do you think that the issues of queer and trans* intimacy is an unexplored subject in New Zealand? Why do you think it is/isn’t?
C-E: Yes, I think queer and trans* intimacy is still largely an unexplored subject in New Zealand’s mass media. I think it has been this way because, as is with same-sex marriage, the general public may still be grappling with this subject matter and possibly balking at more information. It’s certainly seems to have been viewed as an unspoken and more taboo area for ethnic minority communities in New Zealand, which is what prompted me to do a three part special on Queer Asians in NZ (Gaysians!) for Asian Report on Radio NZ.
RY: Has interviewing queer + trans* people for this project brought up issues or questions that you didn’t expect?
C-E: Yes, I hadn’t really considered what it would be like to be living in a polyamorous relationship and hadn’t really heard the term used before, let alone what a ‘cis’ woman was, so I learned lots with Wai Ho that day!
The four-parts of Intimacy in New Zealand can be found on the Radio NZ website in podcast form for free download. Check out the link here: