Georgina Beyer: Tranny sex worker MP

In the United States politics, escorting and prostitution rarely go hand in hand. Usually they’re only put in the same sentence when one of our elected officials gets busted with writing a check to a brothel or cheating on his wife with an extremely attractive professional escort. Our politics are not generous to women in general compared with other countries, as we’ve never had a female president or vice president and our Senate and House are still extremely male-heavy. We may lead the world in many ways, but where politics and progressive thinking are concerned, we’ve got a lot to learn.

From New Zealand.

Yep, New Zealand. And a woman named Georgina Beyer.

Georgina was born George Bertrand in 1957 to a Maori (indigenous Polynesian) family. Her parents divorced while she was young and she was shuttled between private schools and family members before settling down with her mother, stepfather and stepbrother in a rural part of New Zealand, eventually taking on her mother’s new surname.

From a young age George knew something wasn’t quite right about how she related to other boys her age. She recalled in an interview how she once skipped school, put on a dress and went into town to see a film: the honest thrill of it confirmed suspicions she had questioned in herself for a long time.

Against her parents wishes she dropped out of school to pursue acting at age sixteen. And that’s when trouble started.

Now, New Zealand is generally a much more liberal country than many others, including the United States. But transsexuality was not yet so common during George’s early years (especially in the rural, white, religious part of New Zealand where he grew up) that she knew how to identify with it or even what it was. It wasn’t until she saw a drag show as a teen that her eyes were open and she found the community she was looking for.

George starting singing cabaret, then doing drag, then stripping, and eventually prostituting to make money, often on drugs. It was not a classy situation, and she didn’t transition into escorting as some dancers often do. She was once arrested for solicitation. And an unfortunate trip to Sydney, Australia landed her in the shady King’s Cross part of town, where she had a terrible encounter with four men.

Don’t worry, it gets better. Promise.

Now, such a night could be a turning point for any human being to go down varying different paths, some much darker than others. But George looked at it this way:

I felt angered by the injustice of it all; it seemed to reinforce the “scum-of-the-earth” attitude that society seemed to have toward people like me. I felt I had no rights to charge the rapists, and even if I did, I wondered how seriously a sex-worker tranny from New Zealand would be taken. I felt worthless enough to do nothing at the time. Later, the experience defined for me that no person should ever have to feel that worthless and helpless-that hate crime is wrong and that I will prove my worth as a human being who happens to be transsexual.

So George went into social work.

She used her income from prostitution to get a sex change at age 27, changing her name officially to Georgina. She left her questionable past behind along with her male body and for a few years made a great name for herself as a film and television actress. But she felt boxed in by the continuous drag queen and prostitute roles she was landing. And her experience in Sydney sat sorely with her.

She found her way to Carterton, a rural town near Wellington on New Zealand’s northern island, and started studying social work. She was an anomaly for this little section of the Wairarapa region: she was tall and imposing, obvious, “the queer that moved into town”. But Georgina was kind, and patient, and quickly won over the locals with her open-minded fairness, her honesty, and the empathy that she exhibited for social injustice.

With urging from her colleagues, she ran for the local council, which she won by a narrow election, and two years later was voted in to be the mayor. When the Labour Party approached her to run for Parliament, the win seemed impossible: the region of Wairarapa was extremely conservative and voters were mostly rural farmers and highly religious. But an advertisement by the opposing National candidate Paul Henry actually worked in her favor. He said, “You say Georgina is a serious person. Well, she’s a transsexual. Do the two things necessarily go together?”

The voters supported Georgina by a huge margin. Her natural warmth, ability to connect with people of various backgrounds and the country’s lean against prejudice made her the first transsexual Member of Parliament in the world.

For 8 years, from 1999-2007, Georgina would advocate for the rights for homosexuals and transsexuals while remaining loyal to her conservative supporters. She also voted for reform on the harsh prostitution laws, pointing out that she was the only member of Parliament with first hand knowledge of the prostitution trade. She was in office when prostitution was made legal and regulated in 2003. Currently New Zealand leads with one of the most liberal prostitution systems in the world, including registration and regulations on escort service as well (20% of social meetings are through escort services and not prostitution).

While this sometimes came into conflict as their interests clashed, she was so seen as “one of us” by both sides that she was voted into a second term, one in which she originally did not plan to run.

Upon leaving Parliament Georgina continued to fight for LGBT rights, using her personal history and political knowledge to speak out for reform in other factions of local politics and internationally.

It has often been asked throughout her career — and sometimes challenged — as to how Georgina found herself with any means of political power. With a history that included a sex change, solicitation charges, drug addiction and prostitution, how did she ever rise to be not only a political figure but respected by those in her field and her conservative constituents?

They elected me on the basis of knowing what I was, and my mandate comes from people who don’t give a stuff.

Party on, Georgina. Party on.