John Key has received a fail mark from secondary school
teachers who say the Prime Minister's use of the word "gay" as
a disparaging adjective has undermined their campaign against
hate speech directed at gay students.
The teachers' criticism came yesterday hard on the heels of
The Hobbit star Sir Ian McKellen's warning to Mr Key that his
language was "careless" and could damage lives.
In an open letter to Mr Key the Post Primary Teachers
Association's "Rainbow Taskforce" said the Prime Minister's
use of gay as a derogatory term belittled a vulnerable group
of young people.
The taskforce had been developed to educate secondary
teachers about the challenges lesbian, gay, transgender and
intersex youth faced in classrooms and on playing fields at
The focus of the campaign was getting teachers to challenge
the use of homophobic language, specifically the use of the
"So we are saddened to hear the leader of our country not
only use this homophobic language but then explain it away
with, 'young people use it all the time, I don't think too
many people would be offended by it'.
"You are perpetuating the harmful use of such a simple word,"
the teachers said.
Openly homosexual Green Party MP Kevin Hague said Mr Key's
use of the word "gay" to tease a radio host last week relied
on homosexuality being perceived as something "pathetic,
awful, sad, terrible" or, as Mr Key claimed, weird.
Mr Hague said he was sure Mr Key did not set out to offend
anyone "but the fact is that as Prime Minister when he uses
the word in that way he is reinforcing that negative
Mr Key used the word to describe a radio host's red shirt
during an interview last week but yesterday refused to
comment, saying he'd dealt with the matter on Monday.
Sir Ian, who plays Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings series
and upcoming Hobbit trilogy, said Mr Key's language reflected
badly on New Zealand.
"Mr Key should watch his language," the gay actor said in a
"I do hope John Key listens to his critics."
Last week: Reportedly saying English footballer David Beckham
was "thick as batsh*t" and telling radio presenter Jamie
Mackay his red top was "gay".
October 2011: In his haste to congratulate victorious All
Black captain Richie McCaw after the Rugby World Cup final,
Mr Key joins McCaw and International Rugby Board chairman
Bernard Lapasset in an unusual three-way handshake seen by an
international television audience of millions.
January 2011: Wearing purple and teal Rugby World Cup
volunteers' garb Mr Key minces down a catwalk , flapping his
hands and waggling his behind.
May 2010: Mr Key's flippant remark about having dinner with
Ngati Porou, as opposed to their neighbouring iwi Tuhoe, "in
which case I would have been dinner, which wouldn't have been
quite so attractive", is picked up by international media who
describe it as "a cannibal joke".
- Adam Bennett, NZ Herald