“I stand on the shoulders of people who went before me and now people stand on the shoulders of people like me.” -Georgina Beyer
Throughout this year of HerStory, we have been showcasing people who have, through their work, advocacy, and courage, provided a way forward for others, for the next generation. June’s HerStory recipient is one of those people, first as the first openly Trans person to run a municipality, and next as the first openly Trans person in national office. She is very careful to include the descriptor “openly,” because, as she states, surely there have been others, who have been forced, through society’s pressures, to hide their true selves.
Georgina Beyer was born in a small town in New Zealand, and is of both European and Maori descent. As a young adult, she began working as an actor and performer, becoming active in the nightclub scene and as a drag performer and sex worker. She is one of very few former sex workers to hold political office.
On paper, it didn’t look as though Georgina Beyer was someone who would win or hold political office, particularly in a largely conservative electorate. She was openly Transgender, and unapologetically in support of Indigenous issues. A true intersection of many identities, that resulted in her supporting legislation to uplift the most marginalized. She was inspired to live her life as an example to others, and to run for public office, after being brutalized by a group of men when she was a sex worker. The marginalization she experienced as a Trans woman, and as a sex worker, cemented her resolve to fight for those who could not fight for themselves. In her time in office, she advocated for Civil Unions and the Prostitution Reform Act (during the debate about which she came out as a former sex worker, changing the minds of at least 3 of her colleagues to secure passage of the bill). She recognized that her place, her job, was to be herself, as loudly and unapologetically as possible, to ensure smoother sailing for those who came after her. We think she’s done just that.
Our Red Umbrella colorway is an homage to Georgina Beyer’s tireless work for LGBTQIA+ and sex worker rights. We’ve combined the colorways of the inclusive pride flag with a red umbrella, which represents sex work. The liberation of all marginalized folk is tied up with each other; as Lilla Watson, noted Australian Aboriginal Elder and Activist said, “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”