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On This Gay Day | Georgina Beyer was recognised by Queen Elizabeth II

Georgina Beyer made history many times during her life. She’s remembered as the first transgender person to be elected to the position of mayor anywhere in the world, and then became the world’s first transgender member of parliament.

Warning: This story has language in a historical quote that might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

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On this day in 2020 Queen Elizabeth II recognised her contributions to New Zealand awarding her the country’s Order of Merit for her services to LGBTQ+ rights and local government.

She served as the Mayor of Carterton from 1995 to 2000, and then as the Member of Parliament for Wairarapa from 1999 to 2007.

During her time in parliament, she was a member of the New Zealand Labour Party and served as a member of several select committees, including the Health Committee and the Justice and Electoral Committee.

Beyer, who was Māori, had worked a sex worker, nightclub entertainer and radio host before she turned to politics. During her time in parliament she helped pass the landmark 2003 Prostitution Reform Act, which decriminalised sex work.

She was also an outspoken advocate for marriage equality. In 2004 she helped pass New Zealand’s laws which allowed civil unions, and nine years later she supported the introduction of same-sex marriage.

Beyer was born in Wellington but moved to Australia as a young adult. She returned to New Zealand and surprised many when her political career took off in the small conservative farming community 80km northeast of Wellington.

She spoke to OUTinPerth about her political career back in 2008 sharing that while at first she encountered transphobia, she soon found she had the backing of her local community.

“When I started out I was ‘Georgina the tranny’. And then at some point, I became ‘just Georgina’. When my opponents would try to use my past to discredit me, there’d be no need to defend myself, the next day Mrs Conservative from my electorate would have written a letter to the newspaper saying “don’t speak about our Georgina like that!”

“It seems I am genuinely loved,” she adds, “People will come to me like we are old friends, I think it’s because I was always honest. Even if, for example, I’d vote on something differently to how my electorate my wished me too, I’d be honest about it, absolutely upfront. Tell them no, this is how I voted, and this is why.” Beyer said.

Georgina Beyer passed away in March 2023 aged 65.

In 2024 the Carterton proposed creating a statue to honour Beyer but the suggestion received a lot of negative responses from the local community. While some constituents were opposed to a transgender person being recognised for their achievements, many also baulked at the high price tag to create a statue.

This post was first published in 2023 and subsequently updated.

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