LGBT History Month
Claiming our history, celebrating our present and creating our future!
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Christine Jorgensen 1926-1989

Georgina Beyer MP 1957-
"It is important to allow people who want to be positive contributors of our society regardless of sex, race, creed and gender to reach their human potential. We need all human potential to make our communities thrive, to make them more vital, the very centre of our reason for being and living. The most important thing at the end of the day is about people, people and people!" - Georgina Beyer
No matter which way you look at it, Georgina Beyer is an exceptional survivor and achiever.
Born with a boy's genital anatomy into the New Zealand Māori culture, and obliged to work in the sex trade for a period in order to survive, she underwent Gender Reassignment surgery in 1984 and then worked variously as an actor, publicist and broadcaster before being first elected to her local council in a largely white rural community in 1993. Two years later Georgina became the world's first transsexual Mayor and then, in 1999, the world's first transsexual Member of Parliament - a distinction she still holds, unchallenged, whilst continually strengthening her electoral majority.
Georgina was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1957. She was brought up initially by her Māori grandparents in Taranaki until the age of four and a half, before moving back to Wellington when her mother remarried. Later, aged 13, the family moved to Auckland, where she completed her schooling -- still obviously presenting as a boy at this time.
Her theatrical career began when, aged 15, she won her school Drama Cup. Later that career was to blossom when, as a woman, she was nominated for Best Actress in the NZ Guild of Film and Television Awards in 1987.
Before that recognition came, however, Georgina spend many intervening years "finding herself", as many trans people do - finally completing the physical part of her gender transition with surgery in 1984. It was during this period that she found it necessary to turn to the sex trade -- as a stripper and a prostitute -- in order at one point to survive.
The best actress nomination, just three years after her major life change, was to be the first of a whole series of significant stages in the accelerated development of a newly confident and outgoing personality.  In 1992 she turned to radio broadcasting for a short while, as a presenter for the morning show at "Today FM" in Wairarapa.
Later that same year her political career began, when she ran for the Carterton District Council. She lost this first attempt at public office, but only narrowly by 14 votes - becoming the highest polling unsuccessful candidate.
Coming back for another try a year later she won a local by-election with a clear majority, before going on to be elected Mayor two years later in 1995, with a 48% majority over her nearest rival. In 1998 she was subsequently re-elected with what had, by now, grown to a 90% majority. Above all this marks Georgina as someone whose political success is not about novelty, but about convincing her electorate that she could represent them effectively.
Georgina became a Justice of the Peace to add to her public responsibilities in 1997 -- also holding office as a trustee of the NZ Aids Foundation between 1996 and 1998. She became a patron of several other groups during this period, when she also published her biography, "Change for the Better" (1997, Random House).
It was in 1999 that Georgina stood for Parliament for the first time, in her own community of Wairarapa -- a predominantly straight, White, rural community with traditional values -- not the sort of people you would imagine embracing a transsexual former stripper. Yet she won at this first attempt with an overall 32% swing from the defeated National party.
As a Parliamentarian, Beyer quickly found her feet. In her first three years she was to serve on the Law and Order and the Local Government and Environment Select Committees - to name just two. Within her own Labour Party, she was also a serving member of seven committees, including Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade, Arts Culture and Heritage and the Rainbow Caucus.
These committments meant that she resigned her simultaneous position as Mayor of Carterton in march 2000; however this freed her to defend her own parliamentary seat at the next general election and increase her winning majority to 6372 -- a healthy lead in any election.
Since then Beyer has been re-elected again with a healthy majority in 2005 and, in spite of vowing to step down at one point, recently declared that she had changed her mind and was in no mood to quit any time soon. Her defiance owed much to the kind of opposition which her background inevitably attracts.
Many awards have followed as a result of Georgina's tireless public work. In September 2005 she swept the table at the local "Glammies" - the annual awards for Wellinton's LGBT community - earning awards in all four of the categories she was nominatedin : Miss Personality; Community Service Female; Community Service Transgender and The Lifetime Achievement Award for her service to the GLBT communities of New Zealand.
Georgina Beyer stands as an inspiration and a challenge to all LGBT people to stand up for themselves, and to then use the strength learned from personal struggle to represent others. In Britain some politicians may have achieved their position first by playing down their minority status and later "coming out". For trans people such selectivity is not likely to be an option, because news of their past is always liable to accompany them without extreme efforts to hide it. Georgina's achievements show that having a controversial background should be no limitation if you are just plain good at what politicians are there to do -- which is to be an effective representative of  the people who elected them - even in the most conservative of communities.
Christine Burns
More about Georgina Beyer:
Official Web Site -
Interview with Middle Eastern Trans correspondent, Yasmene Jabar:
Profile - Transsexual Successes
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