It’s time to give thanks to our rebel with a cause.
What has not been said about Georgina Beyer? Not much. There has been everything from downright salacious tabloid fodder to the ordinary banality of the daily machinations of a parliamentary select committee.
It’s impossible to encapsulate in a few words the contribution to New Zealand and our community that Georgie has made over the last few decades. And she has not finished yet, which is welcome news to those who understand her drive for social equity. There have been significant and seminal changes in our social structure during her life and some of them are directly attributable to the barrows she has pushed and the stands she has taken.
The interruption of a couple of failing kidneys is not going to stop this powerhouse of articulation and energy from achieving a few more milestones in her time. What Georgie does, she does for all of us. Her wins are our wins, although she is often the one thrown into the spotlight and not always willingly. Meeting with her on a sunny Wellington Saturday over a coffee it is easy to see why people are captured by her charisma.
For those who don’t know, Georgina Beyer was the world’s first transgender mayor, as well as the world’s first transsexual Member of Parliament. “My success was never about me, it was about ‘us’; I just happened to be the vehicle in which it happened at the time.” It sounds a little weird out of context for her to say that, but if you make yourself a nice cup of tea watch Georgie Girl the documentary film by Peter Wells and Annie Goldson, it makes perfect sense. It’s easy to find online. Georgie has always been about the things she can do to help others― it’s in her nature. “People don’t understand the more altruistic reasons why someone may go into politics. Sure it hardens up the character but it does get you down from time to time, in the end it’s about making a real difference for real people.”
As we sit and have a laugh, our conversation flows from politics, to community and to Carmen. I can’t help but feel slightly miffed at how quickly we forget and how sad it is that once a spotlight is moved away from people like Georgie in our community they fade into the back of our collective consciousness. At best we forget. At worst they become pariahs or caricatures. Why do we rush for the scythe and chop our beautiful poppies down? What she did was remarkable, and she has so much institutional knowledge and experience there to be built on. She admits to being gobsmacked about how often we try to reinvent wheels without seeking out our elders to offer guidance or advice on how to achieve a social or political goal.
“My dialysis is an awkward interruption, and it’s annoying and yes it’s pretty serious; but I can’t let it get me down and get all depressed and think that this is the end. I am going to adapt as best I can to its needs as I have to do something useful again in the future and [I have] a lot more to achieve.” Before the kidney issues arose last Easter, Georgie was about to announce her candidacy for the Wellington City Council for the Lambton ward.
Having been in local government and parliament she is well qualified to participate effectively in local body politics. In the big picture she sees that amalgamation in one form or another is definitely on the cards for Wellington and she thinks there are some exciting times ahead. “If we want to compete with Auckland, which is just consuming everything, then we have to hang on to what makes Wellington unique. It’s not just about the city. It’s about the region. If Auckland wants to be the most live-able city to make its stamp on the map, then I think Wellington should concentrate on being the most welcoming city. We’ve done pretty well as a living space, but we need to accelerate our diversification economically to build on employment opportunities. Of course Wellington has general social issues that need addressing and we need to bring our compassion back to the places that matter, something we as a society seem to have lost a little of over the past few years.”
She chuckles as we discuss the forthcoming tribute on Thursday 14 November dedicated to her achievements initiated by Labour Rainbow MP Louisa Wall. Of it Georgie says, “I’m not dead yet but it’s like I am attending my own wake!” But there is a hint of resignation there too. This ‘story so far’ event will help raise some money to help support Georgie with her health challenges at a time when she needs us to be there for her, and it gives us a chance to publicly say thank you. No less significantly it will help remind us of two other really important things. Firstly, that achievements of remarkable people should not just be allowed to fade from our memory and consciousness with the passage of time; and secondly, that Georgie may be on the back foot right now, but like all true rebels with a cause, she’ll be back.
The tribute to Georgina Beyer is on Thursday 14 November from 6.30 to 11.30pm. Shane Taurima will compare the evening and entertainment will be provided by Amanduh la Whore, Lorae & Pinky, Zane Te Wiremu Jarvis, Miss Ribena and the South Side Sisters. Tickets are $115 each and include three-course dining, bubbles, wine, birthday cake, entertainment and sparkles. To book tickets email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Jo on 021 100 2351.
| Vaughan Meneses
Photo: Alex Efimoff. www.pro-photography.co