Georgie Girl

PBS Premiere: June 20, 2003Check the broadcast schedule »

Film Update

POV: How has your life changed, if at all, since the completion of the film?

Georgie Girl - Georgina Beyer, Mayor of Carterton in 1996. Photo by Donald Yee.

Georgina Beyer, Mayor of Carterton in 1996. Photo by Donald Yee.

Georgina Beyer: It’s changed remarkably. I’m now getting an international perspective on how people have responded. It is reflective, I think, of part of our New Zealand character, “Well, we can do anything, and have a go, despite our size and relative importance in the world.”

POV: You are both a politician and a gay icon. So to speak, you’ve gone from a drag queen to meeting the queen. Now, as a political veteran, do you ever pinch yourself in disbelief?

Beyer: The most notable occasion was probably the most recent one, where I met the Queen on her 50th Jubilee. When she came to New Zealand I was there when she landed, at the staircase at the bottom of the plane, and people were aghast that I was there. The remarkable thing about that was that the Queen knows exactly who she’s going to be meeting, in an official lineup greeting her on her first landing in a country. If she didn’t want to have me there I wouldn’t have been there. While in London one time, I ended up doing quite a bit of BBC-sort of interviews, and I was just gobsmacked at the curiosity and interest in me, being newly elected to Parliament in New Zealand. And I find it a wonderful opportunity to converse with people who represent places and countries where people like me would never enjoy in their lifetime the kind of rights I manage to enjoy. Now that I find myself in this position, I have certain moral responsibilities to communities that are inspired by my story, that want to know how they can improve aspects in their own countries.

POV: How does the fact that you represent a traditionally conservative electorate influence your work on gay, lesbian, and transgender issues?

Beyer: I don’t have the freedom I might like to have to totally focus on gay, lesbian, and transgender issues. The people who elected me put me here, and so my first priority is to service them as their Member of Parliament. Also, because I have a personal interest, and because I’m in a place to be helpful, I do my bit with my other out gay colleagues. And we’ve got some major advances coming on. But in all honesty, my political priority has to be to the electorate first. I try to put an effort into all other areas that demand my time and my effort. And my patience. I’ve had to share the patience around.

POV: As a member of the Labour Party’s Rainbow Caucus, what would you say are the most important goals that you wish to achieve before the general election of 2005?

Beyer: That we get success for the civil union legislation that’s coming up. We have substantive rights already, it’s now making sure that they weren’t just tokens, that they actually mean something, in wider implications, and in social legislation particularly.

POV: You recently worked the crowd at the LGBT Pride Parade with Sir Ian McKellan, who starred in The Lord Of the Rings, another little film that’s putting New Zealand on the map. What did you chat about?

Beyer: My goodness, you’ve done your research. What did I chat about with Ian McKellen? Oh look, he is a darling, darling man. And he enjoyed his time here in New Zealand, and he had quite a length of it, when he was deeply involved with Lord of the Rings. His visits are not now so frequent, but he enjoyed his time here. A number of stars in the film who are here seem to enjoy the relaxed nature of New Zealand. There’s a certain amount of informality that they can enjoy that they don’t seem to get elsewhere and still feel safe. Anyhow, I was being beautifully, wonderfully hosted. It was the most fantastic party. Then Ian, he was so generous in his welcome, and he remembered me of course, and the familiarity was wonderful. And that fabulous city hall there was just — this is little old me, Georgie Girl, from New Zealand, Wellington, and here I am in this fantastic arena — it was just the most humbling experience.

POV: You received a GOFTA Best Actress nomination in 1987. Do you have any intentions to act again?

Beyer: Yes, yes, I do. And I did so recently. I did a performance of a local production of The Vagina Monologues. It was a short piece, sort of a cameo appearance, I suppose. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have to say that some aspects of Parliament are very dramatic, and very like theater, and so you can sort of do it there. When I’m out of politics and Parliament, I wouldn’t mind exploring again the performing arts. The GOFTA Award nomination was important for me because I was nominated as a woman. So for me, personally, that was a wonderful acknowledgment from the industry.

POV: You’ve been complimented by the New Zealand Listener for being “a walking advertisement for transparency.” Now that your life story will be shown on national television in the States, is there any advice you would like to share with politicians here?

Beyer: My goodness, me. I had not heard that quote. I don’t know whether to be offended or complimented by it.

POV: I think it was a compliment.

Beyer: Yes, yes. The reality is, and this is only commonsense, really, is that I have had an unusual life. A misfit, one might think. If I were not a transsexual, anything I might have done would not be considered particularly remarkable. But I am a transsexual, [and] proud of it to the hilt, because that is what I am. In order to stand for public office, given my history, I want to do it from a clean slate. People want to know just who the hell they are considering to put into a position of responsibility. That’s only fair. And it relieves me of a whole lot of unscrupulous media that wanted to uncover scandal after scandal as they delved into my past. I put it out there before them. And of course I knew that it was all true. And people are satisfied with that. They seem to want to support an underdog who’s a good, true, honest person, with a certain amount of cheekiness about them. I guess I just slipped into the belief that people have a right to know who it is that they are electing. So my suggestion is that if you’ve got any skeletons in the closet, you can save yourself an awful lot of grief if you lay it all on the table before you enter into the world of politics.