Kiwis elect world's first transsexual legislator

Having gotten over "the gender thing," New Zealand teaches a lesson on tolerance and maturity.

Published December 1, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Dec. 2, 1999

Sex scandals can cripple an American politician's career, but in New Zealand the voters are far more forgiving. Last Saturday a tall, male-to-female transsexual who once labored as a prostitute was elected to the Kiwi Parliament to represent the conservative rural Waiararapa district north of Wellington.

Georgina Beyer of the Labour Party dominated her National Party opponent by 2,778 votes. Born George Bertrand in 1957, she realized early in childhood that she had a girl's soul ensconced in a masculine body. At the age of 17 she attended a drag show; she burned all her male apparel and feminized her name soon afterwards, notes the Nov. 27 Deutsche Press-Agentur.

Hormone tablets made Beyer's bosom blossom as she embarked on a transvestite hooker/stripper career. In 1984 she finally switched genitalia in the sex-change operation that she claims "will always be the most significant and greatest achievement of my life." Her employment also shifted at that time to jobs in acting and publicity.

In 1995 Georgina became the world's first transsexual mayor when she was elected head of council in Carterton (population 7,000). Her platform firmly espoused regional economic development and health issues.

Her autobiography, "Change for the Better," was published early in 1999. This candid full disclosure revealed her extraordinary past in such graphic nakedness that nothing was left for her opponents to unveil. "My life is an open book," she announced as she campaigned successfully for higher office on the strength of her political record.

Georgina was born additionally disadvantaged because she's Maori, an indigenous and marginalized ethnicity that makes up 10 percent of New Zealand's population. "I am proud," she declared to the Christchurch Press on Nov. 29, "if it motivates people like myself in all minorities who struggle to achieve their dreams against the adversity of society's disapproval and discrimination." She also claimed that her win showed that Kiwis are "over the gender thing."

Tiny New Zealand (population 3.8 million) should commend itself on its tolerant and open-minded electorate. Will the massive United States (273 million) ever evidence this maturity?

By Hank Hyena

Hank Hyena is a former columnist for SF Gate, and a frequent contributor to Salon.

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