An important part of empowerment is to know your rights and be able to advocate for them.

‘Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social systems and institutions’

So far in this section

  • Write a letter to the editor
  • Make a media release/press release
  • Make a submission to parliament

Writing a letter to the editor

The opinion page is one of the most widely read pages in the newspaper, so it’s a great way to get your message out to the public.
You can write a letter to the editor in response to article which they published, or in response to another letter to the editor which you read in their paper.
Ususlly people send leters to the editor by email, often on the same day so they can be published in the next day’s paper. They include the subject line ‘letter to the editor.’

Make your letter under 200 words, to the point, set out logically, and current. Because the original article will have been published on a different day, your letter needs to make sense on it’s own. Be concise, educational, and compelling – a well written letter is much more likely to get published. Facts and statistics are your friend.

Stick to just a couple of points, and explain them succinctly –  under 25 words per sentence, one to three sentences per paragraph, a three to five paragraphs total.

Name drop – if you want an MP to read your message, mention them. They care about how the public thinks about them, and whether their stance on an issue is appreciated or not. Choose your allies based on the stance they take on issues important to you, and let them know they’re doing a good job. Alternatively, slam any transphobia.

Your letter is most likely to be published if it offers a different perspective, however, the message is more important than the messenger (avoid ‘as a transgender person’ etc.)

Let people know  an action they can take or how they can contact you. You must write your name and full address, though your exact address/street will will not be published.
Here are the email addresses of all the main newspaper editors:

Whangarei – Northern Advocate
Auckland – New Zealand Herald
Hamilton – Waikato Times
Tauranga – Bay of Plenty Times
Rotorua – Rotorua Daily Post
Gisborne – Gisborne Herald
Hawkes Bay – Hawkes Bay Today
Wanganui – Wanganui Chronicle
New Plymouth – Taranaki Daily News
Palmerston North – Manawatu Standard
Wairarapa – Wairarapa Times Age
Wellington – Dominion Post
Marlborough – Marlborough Express
Nelson – Nelson Mail
Westport – Westport News
Greymouth – Greymouth Evening Star
Christchurch – The Press
Ashburton – The Ashburton Guardian
Timaru – Timaru Herald
Oamaru – Oamaru Mail
Dunedin – Otago Daily Times
Invercargill – Southland Times

Writing a press release

A press release is a written statement to the media announcing news.
It may be published as is or the information in it may be used  by the journalist to write a news story.

Start by considering whether your story is new, unique, surprising, or interesting.
Next identify who are your target and what are their interests, and taking a media angle which they will be interested in.

Lay out your statement in logical order, making it super easy to follow, keeping on point, and avoiding excess detail, and keeping it between 300 and 600 words.
Keep it truthful and punchy with facts and figures. Short sentences, short paragraphs, no fancy jargon. Deal with who, what, when, where, why, and how. Remember to add human interest.

Get someone to check that your statement makes sense, is easy to understand, and has good grammar and no spelling mistakes.
Journalists are very busy; so the more ready for press – the more likely it is to get published.

The following are our tips for getting published and for maximum impact:

  1. Time your press release to be published on an important Rainbow Community date, in the lead up to Rainbow Community event, or tie it in with a current issue which people are talking about.
  2. Send your release by email, in the subject line type your headline title, and ‘Press Release for immediate release/XXX date’ (no more than a couple of days in advance)
  3. Your headline needs to grab attention – it is a good idea to write your headline after your body text, using keywords from your statement. :
    ”30 year wait for life saving surgery” rather than ”trans patients are put on a 30 year long waiting list” or ”transgender patients are unhappy about…”
  4. Capture your entire idea in the opening summary, elaborating on the headline:
    ”Transgender patients are placed on a 30 year waiting list for essential surgeries, which is a violation of the Human Right to appropriate healthcare.”
  5. In your next paragraph, get your main spokes person to cover your key messages. For example, your key messages might be:
    • Adequate healthcare is a Human Right
    • There need for clear, resistance-free pathways to receiving treatments
    • Implement an Informed Consent Model as national policy & provide professional development
  6. Give a quote from an expert, community leader, researcher, or someone else who will lend credibility. Again, name public figures who you want to have read your press release.
  7. Tie your point to current events:
    “Recently, gender identity was once again rejected from inclusion in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act as a protected group. Since then, Family First has released a document encouraging schools not to accommodate the needs of transgender students”
  8. Add simple statistics – not too many:
    ”41% of transgender people have attempted suicide. This figure escalates to a staggering 60% when healthcare professionals withhold support”
  9. Summarise again:
    ”Trans people need access to medical treatment, so they can live happy, healthy, and full  lives’
  10. Give a positive aspiration and a call to action:
    ”Let’s continue to be at the forefront of human rights – let’s make 2016 the year we carry the torch for transgender and intersex whanau”.
  11. Give a contact:
    ”For further info email Gender Minorities Aotearoa on”

Follow this with some info about your organisation or group, and a phone number so the journalist can contact you easily.
Under this line, either type ENDS in bold or ###.
Send it by email, cut and pasted rather than as an attachment.

There are various places you can publish your press release, including New Zealand’s Independent News Media Scoop, as well as Stuff and many other mainstream news outlets.

Writing a submission to Parliament

Structure your submission as follows.

Submission on the …….. Policy (or Bill)
To the ……….. committee

  1. Personal Details
    a) This is a submission from ……..(name of person, group, or organisation, address, and post code)
    b) Details about yourself, or your organisation, it’s purpose, membership, structure, other relevant details as to your/your group’s experience in this area, and people involved in writing the submission
    c) We can be contacted at (contact details)
  2. Submission (under 800 words)
    a) We support/oppose the intent of this bill because ……
    b) Community experience – this is your chance to capture hearts, so don’t just give facts, include personal stories.
    c) Recommendations – list the specific recommendations which your group or organisation want the committee to take into consideration
  3. We wish/do not wish to make an oral submission before the committee

Committees may have dozens or even hundreds of submissions to get through – they don’t want to read more than two pages. Again, if you keep it short and to the point you will make more of an impact.

It is important to note that if you intend to give an oral submission, you are only allowed to talk about the things you have mentioned in your submission – so for example you might want to mention healthcare access rather than surgery access, which gives you more scope for elaboration.

Submissions are either entered online, or 2 hard copies are required if submitted by post. These must be received by the committee secretariat before the closing date.

Community Law have law reform advice and a pipeline of upcoming bills/proposed law changes here

*** Note:

If you are passionate about advocacy, are anywhere under the transgender and/or intersex umbrellas, and want to get really involved in trans rights work, please get in touch.

Gender Minorities Aotearoa in the media

Gender Centre Celebrated This Pink Shirt Day May 2016

National Hui to Address HIV Stigma and Discrimination in Te Ao Māori

International transgender day of visibility March 2016

Transgender day of visibility: ‘visibility’ and safety March 2016

“Without resources, visibilty is meaningless” March 2016

© Gender Minorities Aotearoa 2016