World’s first openly transgender MP and mayor Georgina Beyer dies aged 65
|Tim Barnett is hugged by Georgina Beyer after his Prostitution Reform Bill was passed in 2003. Photo / Ross Setford
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Georgina Beyer, the world’s first openly transgender member of Parliament and mayor has died aged 65.
The “rainbow legend” and “fearless trailblazer” died at Mary Potter Hospice in Wellington.
Beyer became the first openly transgender mayor in the world when she was chosen to serve as Carterton’s mayor in 1995.
She was later elected as a member of Parliament in 1999 as Wairarapa MP.
“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we share the sad news that Georgina Beyer, the world’s first openly transgender MP, national taonga, former mayor of Carterton, Labour MP, activist, dearest friend and rainbow legend, passed away peacefully at Mary Potter Hospice today,” the owners of S&M’s Cocktail Bar, Scott Kennedy and Malcolm Vaughan, said in a message to the LGBTIQA+ community and close whanau.
“Georgie was surrounded by her nearest and dearest 24/7 over the past week, she accepted what was happening, was cracking jokes and had a twinkle in her eye, right to the final moments.”
Former prime minister Helen Clark said Beyer had been a much-valued Labour MP in her government.
“Georgina broke new ground in becoming the world’s first openly transgender Member of Parliament,” Clark said.
“Her election [as mayor of Carterton] speaks volumes about both Georgina’s personal skills and dedication to community service and the district’s willingness to accept her on her merits without discrimination.
“Georgina showed tremendous courage in stepping into public life. She published a book about her past and the public warmed to her honesty.”
Clark said Beyer had a sharp wit - “a great asset in the debating chamber”.
She conveyed her condolences to Beyer’s wider family and friends.
“Her death at 65 has taken her from us far too young.”
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins paid tribute to Beyer, saying he didn’t know her well but extended his condolences to all her family.
He believed she made a lasting impact on Parliament.
“I certainly think that Georgina blazed a trail that has made it much easier for others to follow.”
Tributes have started to flow for Beyer, including from leaders in the LGBTIQA+ community.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Facebook Beyer was “a trailblazer at so many stages of her life”.
“She always stood up for the marginalised and the stigmatised. I will always remember her courage. I was with her on the steps of Parliament when Brian Tamaki and his mob arrived to oppose civil unions.
“And then followed her when she went to confront them. With a mixture of awe and genuine fear for her safety I saw the very best of Georgina that day,” Robterson wrote.
“I considered Georgie a friend and to be so meant the odd difficult moment. I know that she struggled at times, especially post-Parliament to find her place.
“But I also know that she knew she was an inspiration to so many people, especially in the rainbow community, and that she played her part in many significant social changes like prostitution reform, civil unions and marriage equality.
“Thank you Georgie for your life of creativity, drama, activism and aroha. Rest easy now.”
Auckland Pride co-chair Christian Rika said on social media that Beyer led the way.
“Her advocacy for sex workers, and on some queer issues, made a difference for communities. Moe mai rā.”
Former Auckland Pride executive director Max Tweedie said: “Deeply saddened by this, Georgina Beyer was a fearless trailblazer and icon. Her courage and determination will continue to be an inspiration to many.”
Queer activist and Herald columnist Shaneel Lal paid their respects to Beyer, remembering her as a “formidable leader” at a time of hostility towards the LGBTQIA+ community.
“The passing of whaea Georgina Beyer is deeply saddening,” Lal said.
“I spoke on the phone with her and she always said that she wanted trans people to be allowed to just live. That was her dream. Trans people will inherit her fight. Rest in power!”
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said Beyer was indelible and she remembered their last encounter where Beyer told her: “Being a 1st matters so much.”
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