Georgina Beyer

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Georgina Beyer
Georgina Beyer at International Conference.jpg
Georgina Beyer addresses the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights in 2006
List MP for New Zealand Parliament
In office
17 September 2005 – 14 February 2007
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wairarapa
In office
27 November 1999 – 17 September 2005
Preceded byWyatt Creech
Succeeded byJohn Hayes
Mayor of Carterton District
In office
8 October 1995 – 27 November 1999
Personal details
BornNovember 1957 (age 62)
Wellington, New Zealand
Political partyMana Movement (2014–)
Other political
Labour (1999–2007)

Georgina Beyer (born November 1957) is a New Zealand politician and former Labour Party Member of Parliament. She was the world's first openly transgender mayor, as well as the world's first openly transgender Member of Parliament. She is also among a very small number of former sex workers to hold political office.

Early life[edit]

Beyer was born George Bertrand in 1957[1] at Wellington Hospital to Noeline (née Tamati) and Jack Bertrand and assigned male at birth. They named her after her maternal grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel George Bertrand, who was second in command in the Māori Battalion. Her parents were living in Hataitai at the time of her birth.[1] She is of European and Māori (Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Raukawa, and Ngāti Porou) descent. Her mother had a second child, Karen, to her first husband in December 1958. Karen was adopted out and few in the family knew that her mother had been pregnant a second time. Beyer was sent to live with her grandparents on their farm in Taranaki during this second pregnancy. Her parents divorced by 1962.[1]

Her mother married again in 1962. Her mother's second husband was Colin Beyer, a recent law school graduate.[2] The couple moved to Upper Hutt. Beyer, now aged four and a half years, returned to live with her mother and stepfather. A brother, Andrew, was born in December 1963.[3] Beyer attended Upper Hutt Primary School and from age seven, after the family moved to the Wellington suburb of Crofton Downs, Ngaio School.[4] With marital problems developing between her mother and her stepfather, Beyer was sent to Wellesley College boarding school, where she tried to commit suicide amid feelings of rejection by her parents.[5] From Form 2, she attended the school as a day pupil, as the hostel had closed.[6] After her parents' marriage failed in 1971, financial constraints meant that a private school was no longer affordable, and Beyer attended Onslow College in Form 3.[7] Beyer then moved with her mother and brother Andrew to Papatoetoe to be near family (her brother Raymond lived there, and her sister Joan lived in Glenfield) and friends, with Beyer attending Papatoetoe High School. Before enrollment, a legal name change by deed poll from "George Bertrand" to "George Beyer" meant that the difference in family name did not have to be explained at school. It was also seen as socially advantageous for Beyer to be linked to her successful father.[8] Beyer began acting while at that school and decided to make a career out of it, leaving school at 16 (against her mother's will).[9]

She lived in Australia for some time, and on her return to New Zealand began seeking work as an actor with increasing success, culminating in a GOFTA award nomination for "Jewel's Darl" in 1987. In 1984 she underwent sex reassignment surgery.

Beyer became a part of the Wellington gay nightclub scene, initially as a singer and drag-queen performer, and later as a sex worker.[10]

After shifting to Carterton, in the Wairarapa, she worked as a radio host. Beyer was the local news presenter and part of the inaugural breakfast crew on radio station Today FM, then owned by Paul Henry.[11]

Political career[edit]

Local politics[edit]

She also began to take an interest in local politics, first winning election to a local school board, and subsequently being elected mayor of Carterton in 1995, serving in that role until 2000. This made her the world's first transgender mayor.


New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate List Party
1999–2002 46th Wairarapa 40 Labour
2002–2005 47th Wairarapa 23 Labour
2005–2007 48th List 35 Labour

At the 1999 general election, Beyer was selected as the Labour Party's candidate for the Wairarapa electorate. She surprised the political commentators to win the typically right-leaning electorate with a 3,033-vote majority over former colleague and National candidate Paul Henry and become the world's first transgender member of parliament.

At the 2002 election, Beyer re-contested Wairarapa for Labour. She was easily re-elected with an increased majority of 6,372 votes.[12]

In a December 2002 interview, Beyer said: "I get asked questions no other politician would ever have to answer. Regarding the surgery, you know. ‘Did it hurt?’, or, ‘When you have sex now as a woman, is it different to how you had sex as a man?’ Well, honey, obviously."[13]

In her speech to Parliament on the Prostitution Reform Act 2003, Beyer identified herself as a former sex worker. She is credited with influencing three MPs to vote for the Bill, which passed with 60 votes for, 59 against with one abstention.[14]

Maiden speech[edit]

Traditionally, newly elected MPs have the floor for 10 minutes to introduce themselves to their colleagues. An excerpt from her speech follows:

Mr. Speaker, I can't help but mention the number of firsts that are in this Parliament. Our first Rastafarian [Nándor Tánczos]… our first Polynesian woman… and yes, I have to say it, I guess, I am the first transsexual in New Zealand to be standing in this House of Parliament. This is a first not only in New Zealand, ladies and gentlemen, but also in the world. This is an historic moment. We need to acknowledge that this country of ours leads the way in so many aspects. We have led the way for women getting the vote. We have led the way in the past, and I hope we will do so again in the future in social policy and certainly in human rights.[15]

Political views[edit]

In June 2004, Beyer spoke at the UniQ (Queer Students Association) national conference at Waikato University, Hamilton, where she reiterated her support for the Civil Union Bill. She stated that she did not believe that gay marriage would be legal in New Zealand for at least 20 years, and feared that gay and lesbian New Zealanders were facing a turbulent time in which rights gained since homosexual law reform in 1986 would be questioned and attacked. She became emotional while referring to her internal battle between her membership of the New Zealand Parliament, which she described as the world's oldest "true" democracy, and her Māori heritage, when it came to the seabed and foreshore legislation of May 2004, which she voted in favour of.[16]

Human rights and gender identity[edit]

In 2004, a bill in Beyer's name was drawn from the ballot for members' bills, and introduced to Parliament. The Bill was intended to add "gender identity" to the Human Rights Act 1993, and thereby prohibit discrimination against people because of their gender identity. The Bill had been Labour Party policy in the 1999 and 2002 election manifestos, and had attracted controversy. Beyer maintained that the Bill ensured human rights for transgender people, and merely clarified existing provisions of the law. In 2006, the acting Solicitor-General wrote a legal opinion that indicated that transgender people were already within the ambit of the Human Rights Act, and Beyer withdrew her Bill.


In early 2004, Beyer announced that she would not stand in the 2005 elections. Tension with her electorate committee, which opposed Beyer's views on the seabed and foreshore, may also have contributed to the decision. In September, Beyer changed her mind. She announced that she would seek a position on the Labour list, without recontesting the Wairarapa seat. She stated that a rally by the conservative Destiny Church the previous month had influenced her decision, as she believed that the message of such rallies must be opposed.

Beyer resigned from parliament effective from 15 February 2007, and gave her valedictory speech to Parliament on the previous day.[17] The vacant list position was filled by Lesley Soper.

In 2010, Beyer stated that she was struggling financially since leaving politics and was applying for welfare.[18][19]

Beyer was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2013, and required dialysis several times a day until she received a kidney transplant.[20] Beyer had a successful kidney transplant in 2017 and has resumed public appearances.[21]

2014 Mana candidacy for Te Tai Tonga[edit]

On 27 July 2014 the Mana Party announced that Beyer would stand for Mana in the Te Tai Tonga constituency in the 2014 New Zealand general election.[22] She polled 9.87% of the vote, the fourth-highest total behind Labour, the Māori Party, and the Green Party, and ahead of only the Legalise Cannabis Party.

Beyer continues to live with kidney disease,[citation needed] though she reports her health as "steady" and welcomes the new challenge. Beyer regarded her 2014 candidacy as "a way of making amends to Māori for voting for the foreshore and seabed bill".[22]

Public speaking[edit]

Beyer was a keynote speaker at the First International Conference on LGBT Human Rights in Montreal in 2006 and the Second in Copenhagen in 2009, as well as for the Egale Canada Human Rights Trust's annual Gala, held in Toronto on 24 September 2010.

Beyer was invited as a speaker to a public event at Oxford University's debating society Oxford Union[23] on 23 October 2018[24] and at Cambridge University on 31 October 2018.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Beyer & Casey 1999, p. 7.
  2. ^ Beyer & Casey 1999, p. 17.
  3. ^ Beyer & Casey 1999, p. 18.
  4. ^ Beyer & Casey 1999, p. 22.
  5. ^ Beyer & Casey 1999, pp. 31–32.
  6. ^ Beyer & Casey 1999, p. 35.
  7. ^ Beyer & Casey 1999, p. 39.
  8. ^ Beyer & Casey 1999, pp. 43–44.
  9. ^ Beyer & Casey 1999, pp. 46–48.
  10. ^ Materville Studios – Host of Windy City Times. "Georgina Beyer: From prostitution to Parliament – 3385 – Gay Lesbian Bi Trans News Archive – Windy City Times". Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  11. ^ "Paul Henry happiest in Wairarapa". Wairarapa Times-Age. 10 June 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  12. ^ "Official Count Results – Wairarapa – 2002 General Election". Electoral Commission (New Zealand). 10 August 2002. Retrieved 27 December 2011.
  13. ^ "Steve Dow, journalist". 25 January 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
  14. ^ "Trailblazers: Georgina Beyer". The New Zealand Herald. 16 September 2018 – via
  15. ^ Speech published in Out! magazine, issue 520, p 30. Text: page 30 Archived 24 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine page 32? Archived 24 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Trevett, Claire (27 July 2014). "Georgina Beyer joins Mana Party". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  17. ^ Hansard record of valedictory speech
  18. ^ Davison, Isaac (18 August 2010). "Ex-MP heads for dole queue". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  19. ^ "Deborah Hill Cone: Wanted: One jammy appointment". The New Zealand Herald. 25 August 2008. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  20. ^ "Georgina Beyer seriously ill". Newstalk ZB. 5 May 2013.
  21. ^ "Georgina Beyer is back and ready for some fighting talk". Stuff. 13 October 2018.
  22. ^ a b "Georgina Beyer to stand for MANA in Te Tai Tonga" (Press release). MANA. 27 July 2014. Archived from the original on 30 July 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  23. ^ "Georgina Beyer honoured by invite to speak at famous Oxford University debating society". TVNZ.
  24. ^ "Georgina Beyer – the Oxford Union".
  25. ^ "Georgina Beyer – First Transsexual MP @ The Cambridge Union, Cambridge [31 October]".


  • Beyer, Georgina; Casey, Cathy (1999), Change for the better: the story of Georgina Beyer, Auckland, NZ: Random House, ISBN 978-1-86941-371-2

Further reading[edit]

  • Wairarapa Pride (sound recording), Carterton, NZ: Masterton International Relations Committee and HUHU Music, 2002, HUHU WP001
  • Goldson, Annie; Wells, Peter; Madigan, Catherine (2003). Georgie girl (videorecording). Auckland, NZ: Roadshow Entertainment Ltd.
  • Hutchings, Jessica (2007). "Of two spirits". In Aspin, Clive (ed.). Sexuality and the stories of indigenous people. Wellington, NZ: Huia. ISBN 978-1-86969-277-3.
  • "She'll be right – Georgina Beyer keeps it Kiwi" by Matt Akersten, 23 November 2008
  • A Consummate Politician Accepts New Challenges
  • Profile audio interview with Georgina (2013),
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Wyatt Creech
Member of Parliament for Wairarapa
Succeeded by
John Hayes