Rest in Power

Georgina Beyer, the World’s First Trans Parliament Member, Dies at 65

Georgina Beyer, the first openly transgender person in the world to be elected member of parliament, has died at the age of 65. Beyer served from 1999 to 2007 as MP for New Zealand’s Labour Party, advancing LGBTQ+, indigenous and sex worker rights.

On March 6, Beyer passed away from kidney disease. Her close friend Scott Kennedy announced the news in a Facebook post, writing, “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 until the final moment.”

Beyer was a former sex worker, drag queen, and singer who turned to politics to fight for marginalized people. A trailblazer from the outset, she was elected as mayor in the rural town of Carterton in 1995, becoming the world’s first openly transgender mayor. Recalling her underdog victory, she told New Zealand Herald, “It’s less of a reflection on me but a wonderful reflection on them – rural conservative New Zealand. Who would have thought?”

She carried that momentum forward, being elected to New Zealand’s national parliament as the world’s first openly transgender MP. Throughout her tenure, Beyer worked tirelessly on bills that would bolster human rights protections for same-sex couples, sex workers and the indigenous Māori population.

She championed the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act, which decriminalized sex work. A speech she gave in support of the bill reportedly convinced at least three other MPs to vote in favor of it, securing a narrow majority.

In 2001, she helped advance the Human Rights Amendment Act, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. She went on to fight for the Civil Union Act of 2004, which conferred some marriage rights to same-sex couples and preceded the full legalization of same-sex marriage in 2013.

In 2003, Beyer advocated for the passage of the Māori Language Act, according to Te Ao Māori News. This bill funded a Māori Language Commission and the preservation of the Māori language. 

For these efforts and her overall record of public service, Beyer was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit. In light of her passing, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins paid tribute to Beyer, saying, “I certainly think that Georgina blazed a trail that has made it much easier for others to follow.”

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