06 May 2013

Georgina Beyer Gravely Ill

In 1999, Georgina Beyer became the first openly transgender member of any parliament in the world.  She won election in a normally conservative district of Wairapa, in New Zealand, and served until 2007.

She was about to announce her campaign to be elected the mayor of Wellington when she was diagnosed with kidney failure.  If Ms. Beyer, who is 55, doesn't get a kidney transplant, she will need dialysis four times a week for the rest of her life.  She has not confirmed that she will no longer stand, but,she says, "I'm sure as hell not going to sit back and think 'woe is me'."

She had her gender-reassignment surgery in 1984, which definitely makes her a survivor of the Lost Generation of Transgenders.  Before her surgery, she acted on stage, in Australia as well as in New Zealand.  Before her surgery, she was also a radio host and was part of Wellington's gay club scene.  However, she also fell into a line of work that claimed too many members of our Generation:  prostitution.  

However, she was not merely a "first"; she was one of those rare people who has managed to be a sort of visionary as well as a canny, shrewd politician.  As an example, during a 2004 speech at the UniQ: Queer Students Association conference at Waikato University, she warned that gay and lesbian New Zealanders would face a turbulent time, in which rights they gained from the homosexual law reform of 1986 would be questioned and attacked. She also expressed her support for a civil-union bill, since she believed that gay marriage wouldn't become legal in New Zealand "for at least twenty years."  At least that prediction didn't come true:  her country passed same-sex marriage legislation last month.  

I hope that Ms. Beyer gets all of the support and care she needs.  We still need her.

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