Q+A: Georgina Beyer interviewed by Corin Dann
Former Labour MP and Mayor Georgina Beyer to speak at the Oxford Union.
Georgina Beyer told TVNZ 1’s Q+A programme, ‘they certainly want me to cover my experiences in the political arena as a transgender person and then some of the broader aspects of my colourful life.’
When asked about the issue of some feminists pushing back against the transgender community, Georgina Beyer told Corin Dann,’ these ‘TERFs’ – and I saw your clip a few weeks ago with Germaine Greer, et cetera, like that – I think they’re getting a little hysterical about feeling that their gender is under siege. We are transsexual or transgender, and I’m a transsexual woman. I’m not a biological female. I was born a biological male. That changed. That’s the biology of the thing, and that changed for me as I realised that that didn’t fit right. But I’m a transsexual woman. I don’t claim to be a female.’
And my advice to the transgender activists these days – if you actually want to get anywhere, you must bring the public along with you, and they need to be sufficiently educated to understand what the hell you’re talking about.
Ms Beyer also said, ‘look at the wider society and see that actually, we’re in a pretty good place here in New Zealand. Don’t blow it by getting people working against you.’
Interviewed by Corin Dann
CORIN Joining me now is Georgina Beyer. Welcome to you. Lovely to see you.
GEORGINA Thank you, Corin. Thank you.
CORIN This is very exciting – that you’ve been invited to the Oxford Union.
GEORGINA It is.
CORIN Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein – lots of big names. How do you feel about that?
GEORGINA Oh, absolutely elated. I’m absolutely delighted. It was an invitation that came out of the blue and I was gobsmacked when—And it didn’t even come to me directly. A friend of mine in Auckland received the email and he rang me immediately and let me know, and I said, ‘Are you sure it’s not a hoax?’ And he said, ‘No, it’s looking pretty genuine.’
CORIN I mean, you have been a trailblazer in many, many areas, so I guess going there and speaking, what will you be talking to them about? Because it’s a very interesting time, particularly with the debate around transgender issues.
CORIN You’re ahead of your time.
GEORGINA I guess I was, and isn’t New Zealand just so prone to doing that? Well, they certainly want me to cover my experiences in the political arena as a transgender person and then some of the broader aspects of my colourful life, and I certainly want to give a plug for New Zealand celebrating suffrage 1-2-5 – 125 years, which I’ve been doing some panels and things around the country, making a contribution there on that, which is wonderful. You see, that’s inclusiveness, celebrating diversity, and I’m very fortunate to be a part of that.
CORIN Well, tell me about the—How do you compare the—? We’re seeing debates now. We’re seeing some sections of the feminist community pushing back against transgender in some areas – words like ‘TERF’ I didn’t even know existed.
GEORGINA Exactly. Me too.
CORIN But compared to what you experienced coming through and then into Parliament and fighting your corner.
GEORGINA Well, I never needed any particular help for me to be successful in politics. I stood head and shoulders along with any other candidate, and I challenged, I guess, our democracy to see if someone like me with my background could achieve in that arena. If you’d asked me in the 1980s if I ever thought that I’d be involved in politics, I don’t think so. But it was something I fell into and then what I realised is that you’re not handed the handbook on how to do this job, so I learned on the job. I enjoyed local government very much while I was a councillor and then mayor of Carterton. It was wonderful because it’s, sort of, right there and you can, you know—and it was a small district, granted. Parliament was quite different. I certainly didn’t expect to be successful in winning the seat of Wairarapa to get into Parliament in ’99, but I did, and I think that’s a wonderful reflection on the voters, actually, who were able to—or in that electorate, at least – who were able to look beyond my colourful past, which was all out there on the table for them to know about. I couldn’t possibly expect someone to vote for me and support me unless they knew exactly who I was.
CORIN And New Zealanders did.
GEORGINA They did.
CORIN So are you surprised that we are now in a world where there are new debates coming in – these new debates?
GEORGINA There is, because the term ‘transgender’ never existed in my younger days. I think it was a term that became used in the 1990s, probably, and maybe into the 2000s more often. And the term ‘transgender’, I guess, opened up a sort of a Pandora’s box regarding gender identity. And now it’s far beyond what people thought. There are those now who believe they’re non-binary. There’s gender fluid, gender expressive, gender identity – a whole range of things. And I think if law is ever going to be made around this stuff, and I believe there are some initiatives underway to do that, you’ve got to draw the line. Or where is the line, actually, between what is a gender matter and what is a deviancy or a fetish?
CORIN That sounds like a pretty difficult line to draw.
GEORGINA It would be an extremely difficult line to draw.
CORIN Where would you draw the line?
GEORGINA Well, therefore I wouldn’t want to draw the line. I don’t have to. I’m already assured of—
CORIN But isn’t having it slightly vague, if that’s—that’s not probably a great word, but isn’t it good that people can fit where they want to fit in and then there’s no kind of pressure? Why can’t other people just be whatever they want to be?
GEORGINA Well, that’s perfectly correct. Why can’t you just be allowed to be who you want to be as a law-abiding, positive participant in your society? And as long as your life doesn’t impact on others and go about it, it shouldn’t be a problem, but it is. And as you mentioned, these ‘TERFs’ – and I saw your clip a few weeks ago with Germaine Greer, et cetera, like that – I think they’re getting a little hysterical about feeling that their gender is under siege. We are transsexual or transgender, and I’m a transsexual woman. I’m not a biological female. I was born a biological male. That changed. That’s the biology of the thing, and that changed for me as I realised that that didn’t fit right. But I’m a transsexual woman. I don’t claim to be a female.
CORIN But does the problem not emerge, then, when you have birth certificates changing and these sorts of issues where it starts to become—there start to be legal issues around it? And we know, of course, of Penny, who was denied access to a gym initially because she wasn’t prepared to meet whatever standard they wanted.
GEORGINA Well, you may recall – or not – I had a Member’s Bill in the Parliament when I was there to include gender identity in Section 21 of the Human Rights Act – grounds upon which you cannot be discriminated against. It went over into after the 2005 election and I lost support. It would have been a conscience vote. I think gender identity is important to have protected for those who want to go for it, but there are other nuances. We are seeing an emergence far more of female-to-male transgender people and those who firmly believe that they are non-binary. I find that a little hard to, sort of, accept. I’m probably as ignorant maybe as you are, Corin, about all of these gender things, because these things have emerged very recently, and it is confusing. And my advice to the transgender activists these days – if you actually want to get anywhere, you must bring the public along with you, and they need to be sufficiently educated to understand what the hell you’re talking about.
CORIN Yeah, because it is confusing. I know businesses are confused at times about unisex toilets, these sorts of issues as well. So it is confusing.
GEORGINA It is confusing. The toilet issue is a very minor one in my view. I don’t know why people keep going on about. You know, unisex toilets are just non-gender specific toilets. They’re everywhere – in our homes, even. Why it becomes an issue for businesses I’m not entirely sure.
CORIN Because they’re nervous. They’re worried about public backlash.
GEORGINA I know, and they shouldn’t be. And this is where they need to be made to feel far more comfortable about it, and that is up to the transgender activists these days to ensure that that happens, not just to point the finger and just demand and bang the table all the time about what they need and want.
CORIN At the end of the day, we are talking about a group that will probably be finding life pretty difficult, won’t they? I mean, they do face discrimination, people of transgender, don’t they?
GEORGINA Well, yes, but not as much as they used to.
CORIN So, but, we should be empa—There should be an empathy.
GEORGINA Look, I get a bit worried about people who wallow in their victimhood, frankly. They have got to move forward and stop being so introverted and looking into themselves. They want to sit there and analyse and overanalyse why they are what they are and all of that sort of thing. Actually, just move beyond that. Look at the wider society and see that actually, we’re in a pretty good place here in New Zealand. Don’t blow it by getting people working against you.
CORIN So bring the public with you – that’s your message?
GEORGINA Yes, I think so.
CORIN Georgina Beyer, good luck with the speech. Fantastic to have you here.
GEORGINA Cheers. Thank you, Corin.
CORIN Nice one.
Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz
Please find the full transcript attached and you can watch the interview here.
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