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 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.”