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Beyer, Georgina (b. 1957)  
 
page: 1  2  

In 1999, the Labour party approached Beyer to run for the Wairarapa seat in Parliament. She agreed, though no one really believed that a left-wing Maori trans woman could possibly win in the traditionally conservative district.

However, her opponent's negative campaign strategy backfired, and Beyer won the seat, becoming the world's first openly transgender Member of Parliament. She reluctantly resigned her position as Mayor of Carterton in 2000 in order to focus on her national duties.

Sponsor Message.

As a Member of Parliament, Beyer worked hard to represent both her rural constituents and the national and international queer community that looked to her for progressive reform. She remained as unapologetically open about her trans identity as ever, answering even questions about her sex life with frank humor, while speaking out about gay rights and working for the reform of prostitution laws.

As she told Australian journalist Steve Dow, "I get asked questions no other politician would ever have to answer . . . . Regarding the surgery, you know. 'Did it hurt?', or, 'When you have sex now as a woman, is it different to how you had sex as a man?'" To the latter question, she responded, "Well, honey, obviously."

More seriously, she has eloquently described the profound relief she felt following sex reassignment surgery, seeing it as liberating her from the "soul-destroying" feeling of "being trapped in the wrong body."

Although she was unable to achieve the passage of a gender identity protection bill, she showed remarkable political savvy in persuading both the Solicitor General and the Attorney General to sign a statement making that protection explicit under New Zealand's current human rights bill, thereby achieving the same result.

Able to speak with the authority of one who had worked in the sex industry, she was a major force in the passage of the Prostitution Law Reform in 2003. She opened her speech in Parliament on the issue by declaring: "Madam Speaker, I shall take the liberty of assuming that I am the only member of this House with first-hand knowledge of the sex industry." As journalist Kathy Marks notes laconically, "No one contradicted her."

She was also an effective proponent of the Civil Union Bill of 2004, which accorded same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities of married heterosexual couples.

In 2007, exhausted by the long hours and demanding workload of a national representative, Beyer resigned from Parliament.

Though she had won the votes and hearts of many of her constituents, Beyer remained a political outsider, and the Labour party did not offer her the support that was often given to ex-MP's.

Beyer was not offered a job on any government commissions and was rejected for a seat on the Human Rights Commission. Discouraged and angry, she expressed regret at leaving local politics for the national arena.

A brief stint as coordinator of the community group Violence Free Wairarapa ended in 2008, and Beyer found herself looking for a job. In 2010, she was working as a sales clerk in a jewelry store when she decided to re-enter local politics by running for mayor of Masterton, the largest town in Wairarapa. Though she had considerable community support, her bid was cut short when her major donor died, leaving her short of funds to campaign.

Beyer's experiences as a groundbreaking politician, her public role as a transgender spokesperson, and her glamorous, theatrical persona make her an internationally popular speaker on issues of sexual and gender identity.

Beyer's life is the subject of an autobiography, A Change for the Better (2002), and of a documentary by Annie Goldson and Peter Wells, Georgie Girl (2003).

Tina Gianoulis

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   Related Entries
  
literature >> Overview:  Autobiography, Transsexual

Transgendered individuals have published autobiographies not only to tell or to clarify the stories of their lives, but also to educate others in an effort to gain greater acceptance for transgender people.

arts >> Overview:  Cabarets and Revues

Historically, cabarets and revues have been much more likely to mention or imply same-sex desire than the "legitimate" theater; and same-sex desire has been less frequently condemned in cabarets and revues than in mainstream plays.

social sciences >> Overview:  Civil Union

Vermont's Civil Union law conferred all the rights, benefits, and responsibilities of marriage on same-sex couples.

literature >> Overview:  Cross-Dressing

In literature, the gay male cross-dresser and the lesbian cross-dresser are depicted quite differently.

arts >> Overview:  Documentary Film

The queer community has used documentary film to resurrect historical memory and to permit the marginalized to bear witness, as well as to build an image base that reflects our diversity and counters distorted representations.

arts >> Overview:  Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators

Female impersonation need say nothing about sexual identity, but it has for a long time been almost an institutionalized aspect of gay male culture.

social sciences >> Overview:  Elected Officials

In the United States, glbtq candidates have achieved some significant successes at the ballot box in the last three decades, running for and winning local, state, and national elections.

social sciences >> Overview:  New Zealand

Recently, New Zealand has distinguished itself for its liberal attitudes towards those of diverse genders and sexualities and its progressive anti-discrimination policies.

arts >> Overview:  Stage Actors and Actresses

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual actors and actresses are among the elite of contemporary theater, but only recently have many come out publicly.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender

"Transgender" has become an umbrella term representing a political alliance between all gender variant people who do not conform to social norms for typical men and women and who suffer political oppression as a result.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Activism

Since the late nineteenth century, transgendered people have advocated legal and social reforms that would ameliorate the kinds of oppression and discrimination they suffer.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Issues in the Law

Despite some recent progress, people who do not conform to society's gender norms continue to experience discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, marriage and family litigation, medical care, prisons, schools, and hate crimes protection.

arts >> Ashley, April

Outed as a transsexual in 1961, the indomitable April Ashley rose from poverty to become a glamorous entertainer and top model who married into the British aristocracy and later became a transgender activist.


    Bibliography
   

Beyer, Georgina, with Cathy Casey. A Change for the Better: The Story of Georgina Beyer. North Shore City: Random House New Zealand, 2002.

Crombie, Nathan. "Beyer Joins Masterton Contest." Wairarapa Times-Age (May 6, 2010): http://www.times-age.co.nz/local/news/beyer-joins-masterton-contest/3913914/

Davis, Andrew. "Georgina Beyer: From Prostitution to Parliament." Windy City Times / Edge Boston (October 4, 2008): http://www.edgeboston.com/index.php?ch=news&sc=&sc3=&id=81270

Dow, Steve. "Georgina Steps Up." Steve Dow, Journalist (December 31, 2002): http://www.stevedow.com.au/default.aspx?id=81

Espiner, Colin. "Post-Politics No Party for Disillusioned ex-MP." The Press (Christchurch, New Zealand) (August 15, 2008): A3.

"First Trans Politician Retires." Herizons 22.4 (Spring 2009): 14.

Goldson, Annie, and Peter Wells. "Georgie Girl." POV: Documentaries with a Point of View (June 20, 2003): http://www.pbs.org/pov/georgiegirl/

Marks, Kathy. "Georgina Beyer: The Double Life of Georgie." The Independent (London) (July 19, 2002): http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/georgina-beyer-the-double-life-of-georgie-648719.html

"Michael Hill Girl Dreams of Getting into Chains." New Zealand Herald (April 12, 2010): http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10637777

Ritchie, Daniel Simmons. "Broke Beyer Quits Mayoral Race." Wairarapa Times-Age (August 17, 2010): http://www.times-age.co.nz/local/news/broke-beyer-quits-mayoral-race/3919463/

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Gianoulis, Tina  
    Entry Title: Beyer, Georgina  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2011  
    Date Last Updated March 1, 2011  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/beyer_georgina_arts.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2011 glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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