Georgina Beyer: We need to be able to talk without being offended

Since becoming the world’s first openly transexual mayor and member of parliament, Georgina Beyer has been recognised as a trailblazer for trans rights. Daphna Whitmore talks with her about where she sees the current trans movement

We start out talking about legislation the government put on hold that would have allowed people to change their sex on their birth certificates by a simple declaration. I put my cards on the table: Redline is a Marxist blog and supportive of the struggle for transexuals but also very critical of aspects of the new transgender activism which we see as encroaching on women’s rights. I tell her I’m also involved with Speak Up for Women.

Georgina Beyer

Georgina is every bit as forthright: “Look some of the concerns are overblown. The Family Court process is extremely demanding, it takes an extremely long time, and costs a lot of money. There’s a committee working on making it easier for people to change their birth certificates,” she says.

Okay, that is the situation now, but the law change would have allowed self ID, I say. So what about some of the concerns raised around sex self-ID such as male prisoners being free to declare themselves female and be moved to a women’s prison?

She tells me: “Oh yes, there does need to be some criteria, and there needs to be some scrutinising of applicants.” She also notes the medical community needs reassurance that there is informed consent for any medical treatments and procedures. 

She is both resolute and pragmatic. “The bathroom issue can be solved. Focus on housing, health, education that’s where the fight for equality needs to be.”  And she clearly has time and sympathy for women: “I don’t dismiss the concerns of women. I think there needs to be a coming together. We need both sides to listen to each other rather than insulting each other.”

Georgina admits Green MP Jan Logie has done good work on domestic violence, “but she just doesn’t want to discuss the issues being raised”.  Georgina recalls in the Civil Union debate “we heard the most vile stuff. By the time the Marriage Equality Act was passed ten years later, polls showed that most New Zealanders were in favour of it.”  She is very clear, “you’ve got to discuss the issues”.

Someone Georgina has a lot of time for is Chelsea Manning. She got to speak with her when she was in New Zealand. She sees Manning as a major flag bearer who has a great deal of influence. “She’s in jail now though, because she won’t give up information about wikileaks”.

With the wisdom of a seasoned campaigner she advises “be patient, educate, bring the public along with you”. 

Georgina has concerns around how the trans movement today has been opened right up. “I was talking to a University of the Third Age group the other day and said you all know about transexuals and transvestites, well now there are 31 different types of trans. They just all started glazing over, of course. It has opened it up to fetishists as I pointed out to Corin Dann in an interview on TV earlier this year.”

I ask if she has concerns about children and youth transing? “Transing children, well I am concerned about decisions being made by parents. I think like anything if it is going to be lasting and permanent wait until you are old enough to make that decision.” Rainbow Youth and Inside Out have a lot of influence, but people should listen to those with experience. 

Georgina has been following the developments with Stonewall in the UK and talked about divisions with a group of LGB breaking away. She notes “in the past lesbians, gay men and transexuals were very separate. Gay men were closeted and afraid because the trannies were too obvious. If they ran up to the gay civil servant in the street they sure as hell didn’t want to be seen with them.”

Georgina was in Melbourne a few weeks back for a conference on trans and aging issues and she noted the conference title was ‘LGBT and I’. They had separated out intersex. Georgina sees intersex as a separate entity from trans, and says intersex is naturally occurring, not an anomaly.  

She also voices concerns about the quality of trans healthcare. “When it comes to reassignment surgery there is now a surgeon working in Auckland, but where is the centre for excellence?”

Where does Georgina fit in the rainbow alphabet soup with its ever growing list of letters?  “I have always called myself a transexual who was born a biological male. Some now want to call themselves trans women and deny they were born a biological male. Sure, be whatever you want to be but don’t deny reality,” she says. 

She has some valuable advice for the new activist millennials: “You need to be able to listen, to hear the questions and learn from others. Learn from people who have gone before you.” To have that conversation Georgina is adamant people should be able to pose questions without being labelled ‘transphobic’. “I’ve been labelled ‘transphobic’, for instance. I mean, how bloody ridiculous.” 

Georgina’s take home message: “We need to be able to talk without being offended. Yes, you may hear something you disagree with. So be it.”

11 comments

  1. She is far too elusive in my opinion. She doesn’t really seem to clearly oppose the liberalization of self-ID. She doesn’t question the informed-consent model, which is terribly flawed. The affirmative approach in therapy is not even an issue here. She doesn’t really address with coherency the future of the LGBT alliance and whether we should consider an official split between LGB and T. The issue of detransitioners is absent. The ideological dimension of contemporary trans discourses has been left out. One very good point though is the importance not to deny reality, which she mentions at the end as she acknowledges being born male. But overall, it’s too shallow, I find.

  2. Agree with the comment above and would add that referring to him as “she” throughout the piece gives credence to the false claim of transgender ideology that one can change to the opposite sex, which is physically impossible. Trans “rights” are dependent upon diminishing women’s rights to privacy, and shielding from male violence. This point is never made. Rather, this piece makes it seem like “everyone” on “all sides” needs to behave better and then the problems will be solved. This is a shallow and weak assessment and proposed solution to the problem of growing misogyny in our society due to trans ideology and activism.

    • Well, I cannot let you say that. Trans people do exist and deserve to be treated with respect in their specificity. For trans people who are clearly dedicated to living the way they see fit and who come across as being authentic; I use the pronouns of the person’s subjective sex. It is a question of respect. Addressing the excesses of contemporary trans activism and respecting trans people are not mutually exclusive.

      • Well Patrick, there is also the question of respect for women which is largely absent from this debate. It always about the alleged rights of born males, whether it be that they want to marry other males or be considered females. We hear today from gay men who would love to have a uterus transplant, just temporarily of course, so they can bear their lover’s child. Is there no disrespect for women there. Is there no disrespect for human life and the lives of the potential children. I’ve had enough of the insanity of the LGBT. It does nothing but harm to civilisation.

      • I mentioned the harm done to women with: “She doesn’t really seem to clearly oppose the liberalization of self-ID.”.

    • Georgina’s main point is that there needs to be open debate on issues that have become highly polarised. Georgina has a lot of influence in LGBT communities, and transactivists probably assume she will support their views without question.

      That she has asked for them to listen to opposing views is a BIG call, as indicated by Georgina saying she has been called transphobic.

      Beyer is opening the way for a more productive debate. For her to strongly take up one position would be counter productive at this point. Respect!

    • I do have issues with calling men “she.” Georgina was born male and is still a male, no matter how many surgeries and how many hormones. He still has his prostate gland and if he needs medical attention it is important that his actual sex be taken into account during treatment. I have never met a radical feminist who takes issue with men wearing dresses and earrings and pushing their chests together to make it appear they have cleavage, but there is nothing radical about this, nothing that challenges gender stereotyping, nothing that challenges patriarchy and society in any way whatsoever.

      • People who go through this experience do not adopt a political stance, they experience a psychological dynamic: transidentity. This phenomenon has always existed, and I wouldn’t dismiss it. I think calling a trans woman with “she/her” is legitimate and respectful. Calling her a woman goes too far, because she is not. She is this third form of human existence, beyond “man” and “woman”.

  3. Georgina Beyer identified equality for trans people should ” Focus on housing, health, education”. I would add work and income.

    This should be the focus in legislation.

    For females & feminism, the focus is on those areas as well as on the need to recognise the sex-based nature of the oppression and marginalisation of women and girls.

    “Sex” is defined by law in NZ and internationally, as focused on the biological realities of a cluster of primary sex characteristics, which generate a variety of secondary sex characteristics. Medically and surgically transitioned people transsexuals remain their birth sex, while changing some features of mostly their secondary sex characteristics.

    There is no clear definition of “gender” or “gender identity” in science or law. The massive expansion of the transgender umbrella to include non-binary, and part time cross dressers have just created a muddle, which cannot be defined in law. In some explanations gender identity includes those of us who don’t conform to gender norms, but don’t ID as trans. I think butch women and feminine men, who don’t ID as trans, also get discriminated against and harassed as much as some of those who ID as trans.

    As I recall, Beyer put forward a Bill in parliament to protects transsexuals against discrimination. It never became law because it was considered that transsexuals were covered by protections based on sex. So, probably, at that point gender became subsumed under “sex” differences.

    Now transactivists want to subsume sex under gender.

    The bottom line for feminism has usually been to accept sex-based biological differences, while contesting the discriminatory and oppressive ways sexist and misogynist social constructions of gender are built around those differences.

    So, in law, females need to maintain our sex-based rights and protections. This needs to be clearly differentiated from protections and rights focused on differences in gender expression, behaviour and bodily presentation. I think probably their also needs to be clear protections and rights for transsexuals – but the status as transsexual needs to be clear in law, and based on scientific evidence and biological realities.

  4. Wish women had men in their court, like the trans people do, forty years ago when we were all called ugly hairy legged lesbians by the PM for fighting for women’s rights, not a peek from most men..not much has changed. Georgina is a good person whose behaviour is nothing like the women hating abuse I have seen directed at women in recent times by some transactivists.

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