Play, protest and pride: Un/happy queers of Proud to Play in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand

Publication Name

Urban Studies


This article extends discussion of urban activism through paying attention to the emotional and embodied politics of a sports event. We draw on research of the ‘Proud to Play Games’, an inaugural regional multi-sports event held during the Auckland Pride Festival in Aotearoa New Zealand, 2016. Feminist and queer theories of emotion and affect – particularly the promise of happiness – produce nuanced understandings of urban gay pride events. We focus on the experiences of three Proud to Play participants as they illustrate the tensions of play/protest, happy/sad and pride/shame in Auckland. The portraits highlight: a homonormativity pursuit of happiness and youthful masculine athleticism; precarious happiness and oppositional lesbian desire; and, the pursuit of indigenous happiness. Through attention to affective and emotional politics, we demonstrate that Proud to Play can challenge heteronormative urban space by simultaneously fighting for a better future and making a claim for the right to be unhappy.

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