Haere rā kuia Georgina Beyer
Te Atiawa, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou
by Judith Corbelletto-Thompson
Georgina Beyer burst into the nation’s consciousness in 1995, when against the odds she won the Mayoralty in conservative Carterton. Some of us had seen her 10 years before in Peter Wells’ beautiful short film Jewel’s Darl and knew Georgina had talent and charisma. But still, it seemed a bit of a stretch to go from sex worker and Alfie’s nightclub performer, to being Carterton Mayor.
As the world’s first transgender Mayor, Georgina came under a prurient media spotlight, hounded with personal questions that no other politician would be asked. She handled it all with a forthright honesty and dignity that became her signature style.
Once all the excitement about being transexual settled down, the rest of Aotearoa came to realise what Carterton voters already knew. Georgina won because she was the best. She was talented, intelligent, hard-working and could relate to people at a very human level.
I first met Georgina around this time. I was President of an organization called Gay Auckland Business Association and we invited Georgina to be guest speaker at a dinner. Her time allocation was something like 20 minutes, which she totally ignored, and no one cared about. We were completely in her thrall.
She was resolute and unafraid. By being who she was, she showed us all what was possible. Georgina fought to improve the lives of trans, takatāpui, gender diverse and queer people.
In the early 2000’s I was part of a lobby group working with Labour MPs including Georgina, Tim Barnett and Maryann Street, advocating for marriage equality. In the end same sex marriage was a bridge too far for mainstream Aotearoa New Zealand and it was watered down to the Civil Union Bill. But that was still outrageously too far for the Destiny Church who threw all they had at opposing it, culminating with the Enough is Enough march through Wellington. The image of Georgina Beyer standing on Parliament steps, staring down Brian Tamaki and the entire menacing mob of Destiny Church protesters, is unforgettable.
Georgina was a trailblazer. She was resolute and unafraid. By being who she was, she showed us all what was possible. Georgina fought to improve the lives of trans, takatāpui, gender diverse and queer people. She also fought for human rights on a broader level, challenging narrow attitudes and changing mindsets. Championing the rights of sex workers, of beneficiaries. Georgina created a momentum that has shifted Aotearoa to a more inclusive accepting place.
Haere rā kuia Georgina. You are remembered with much aroha.
Judith Corbelletto-Thompson is a free-lance consultant and director. She is the former Director of Design, NZTE. Judith lives in Tāmaki Makaurau with her wife, artist Chiara Corbelletto.
Highly recommended: Jewel’s Darl by Peter Wells (Director, Writer), Anne Kennedy (Writer, Original author)
Also by Corbelletto-Thompson: Design. Diversity. Two powerful words. What happens when they collide? / Jade Tang-Taylor, Judith Thompson, Idealogue, May 7, 2019