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'She broke so many barriers' — The legacy of first-ever trans MP, Georgina Beyer

12 March, 2023

Interview by Spike Keith, adapted by David Liwei Shi 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Listen to the full interview

Georgina Beyer, a trailblazing activist and political figure in Aotearoa, passed away earlier this week. 

She was both the world’s first transgender mayor, and first transgender MP, and campaigned relentlessly for LGBTQIA+ rights over the course of her life. 

Head of Rainbow New Zealand Charitable Trust, Gresham Bradley spoke Spike Keith on 95bFM's The Wire about her life and legacy. 

“She broke so many barriers,” said Bradley. “This woman was extraordinary.”

“When you break down that kind of barrier in a rural community, earn the respect of farmers and people in a small town, who vote for you as a mayor, and hold her in high regard, that says a lot about her as a person and the way she performed her role.”

Beyer won both the mayoral and parliamentary race in the Wairarapa, which is typically a right-leaning electorate, back in the 90s and early 2000s.

She was elected to the Carterton District Council in 1993 and won in a landslide victory in the Carterton mayoral election in 1995. Beyer was then re-elected in 1998. 

As an MP, Beyer was an advocate for progressive policies such as LGBTQIA+ and Māori rights. 

During a speech to Parliament on the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, which decriminalised prostitution in Aotearoa, she identified herself as a former sex worker. 

She also supported the Civil Union Act 2004, which legalised same sex civil unions at a time when gay marriage wasn’t legally recognised. 

Bradley says public support for trans rights has been a slow moving, but changing process. 

“It’s like watching an iceberg melt. Georgina was the tip of that iceberg.”  

Bradley believes Beyer’s legacy will live on. 

“I don’t think we’ll see anyone quite like her again, with that pride, strength, clarity of mind, and willingness to stand up, take the sticks and stones that were thrown at her, throw them back, and achieve the goals that she set out to achieve.”

“She was one of a kind and she won’t be forgotten.” 

Public interest journalism funded through NZ On Air