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Wednesday 08 April 2009

She'll be right - Georgina Beyer keeps it Kiwi

Posted in: True Stories
By Matt Akersten - 23rd November 2008

Staying in NZ: Georgina Beyer
"JOBLESS BEYER EYES AUSSIE," trumpeted Wellington's Dominion Post back in August. "Former Labour MP Georgina Beyer plans to move to Australia because she cannot find work," the bleak article began. Yikes – is New Zealand really in danger of losing its highest profile transgender activist?

I begin our gossipy phone chat with a little fact-checking: "So was that article in the paper accurate?"

"Mmm… vaguely accurate… but 'spun out' a bit too much," Beyer begins. "When a girl says 'oh Australia might be good for a while', it doesn't mean I'm going to be running off forever – which is what it sounded like, didn't it?

"But I didn't want anyone to get the impression that I was totally fed up with New Zealand and that I was going to pop off," she clarifies.

It seems the Aussies would be happy to have her there though. The seasoned speaker's appearance at Melbourne's Outgames Human Rights Conference was received with 'rapturous applause' according to the gay press there. She was often on the international speaking circuit while she was an MP, and that hasn't slowed down since she left Parliament last year. Copenhagen is on her itinerary this week and there's Mexico shortly after that.

"Copenhagen is looking at Prostitution Law Reform, and there's been quite a spirited public debate apparently," she explains. "So I was asked by the university over there if I could give the Kiwi experience on our world-leading Prostitution Reform Act.

"Then on the 10th of December I'm going to Mexico, where a PPT – which is a Mexican version of an MP – who is one of he only out gay politicians there, is holding an anti-discrimination and human rights forum. Being a heavily Catholic country, Mexico isn't as tolerant as we are in New Zealand, but Mexico City is a little more liberal than the rest of Mexico."

She's loving these chances to travel and share her stories with new audiences. It all began when she went to the Outgames in Montreal a few years ago – "I gave a keynote address there, got to freak out the Kiwi team, and got to march into an Olympic Stadium, which was amazing."


Keynote speaker: Beyer's in demand
In terms of regular employment though, it's been bitsy since she left Parliament. Beyer completed her part-time role with Violence-Free Wairarapa in September: "It was an initiative that I and a lot of concerned people started after those awful murders in the area in the early 2000's. I had chaired the Social Service select committee for about 3 ½ to 4 years, so it was interesting to go back to the coalface of that anti-violence social work."

She says she doesn't really want a normal 9-to-5 job just now though. "My work in Government has been extremely long hours and hard work. Now that I'm out of the political scene, I'd quite enjoy things like comparing conferences, that sort of thing."

After some delays, the feature-length movie of Beyer's remarkable life story – entitled Girl – should be completed by the end of 2009. So far she hasn't had much involvement with the crew filming it – despite them asking her to play a role: "I didn't want a part in it and all that … but they kept on insisting I had to. I thought I might instead be a consultant, thinking it would be fun, but still a little bit removed from it," she explains.

"I felt a bit strange – they wanted me to play my grandmother. But she died when I was nine, and I have a very limited memory of her up to that point. It would be odd karma to be playing a relative like that too."

So is our Georgina still happy in NZ then? "Oh yeah," she answers quickly. "I don't want to live anywhere else in the world. I've done a bit of travelling in the last eight years and I'm quite certain of where my home is."

She's acutely aware the 'jobless Beyer' story is in the zeitgeist now, but she's taking it on the chin. "I was in Whangarei recently and people were asking me 'have you got a job yet?' and 'are you all right?' At first I didn't realize that the story had gotten as far as it did. I got quite a bit of criticism as a result, too… 'Petulance' they said.

"That's fine. I don't really have to be defensive now as I'm not in a position of public office where my actions reflect on my electorate and Party as an MP. What do I care anymore?"

What should Georgina Beyer do next? Let us know what you think on's Forum, linked below.

Matt Akersten - 23rd November 2008