Pioneering transgender politician Georgina Beyer dies at the age of 65

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Georgina Beyer, a pioneering New Zealand politician who became the world’s first openly transgender MP in 1999, died on Monday at the age of 65.

Friends of Beyer said she died peacefully while caring for a hospice. They didn’t immediately provide a cause of death, although Beyer had previously suffered from kidney failure and underwent a kidney transplant in 2017.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he doesn’t know Beyer well personally but knows she has a large following in New Zealand and has left a lasting impression on the nation’s parliament.

“I believe Georgina blazed a trail that made it much easier for others to follow,” Hipkins said.

Boyfriend Malcolm Vaughan said Monday he’s still dating Beyer, who he’s known for decades, and doesn’t feel ready to talk about her life just yet. He and husband Scott Kennedy issued a statement instead.

“Georgie has been surrounded by her loved ones 24/7 for the past week, accepting what was happening, cracking jokes and keeping a twinkle in her eye until the last moment,” they wrote.

They said it was a national treasure, or “taonga” in the indigenous Māori.

“Farewell Georgie, your love, compassion and all you have done for the rainbow and many other communities will live on forever,” they wrote.

Former MP Georgina Beyer walks May 4, 2012 during a Hikoi in Wellington.

Hagen Hopkins-Getty Images

Beyer, who was Māori, worked as a sex worker and nightclub performer before turning to politics. In 1995 she was elected mayor of the small town of Carterton on the North Island. Four years later she won national office for the Liberal Labor Party and remained an MP until 2007.

She helped pass the landmark Prostitution Reform Act of 2003, which decriminalized sex work.

Speaking to lawmakers at the time, she said the protections the new law offered could potentially have spared her being drawn into the sex industry at the age of 16 and sex workers being threatened and raped without the to ask the police for help.

“I think of all the people I’ve met in this field who have suffered from the hypocrisy of our society, which on the one hand can accept prostitution, but on the other wants to sweep it under the rug and keep it in the twilight world in which it exists ‘ she told lawmakers.

In 2004, she helped pass a law allowing same-sex civil partnerships. Nine years later, New Zealand passed legislation allowing same-sex marriage.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle mourned her death on Monday. Nicola Willis, the deputy leader of the conservative National Party, remembered Beyer as courageous and gracious.

“We came from different political sides but she had the power to break the divide,” Willis wrote on Twitter.

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