New Zealander Georgina Beyer, a trailblazer in the LGBTQ+ community as the world’s first out transgender member of parliament, has died after a long battle with kidney disease. She was 65.
The former sex worker, actor, and drag queen was elected to the national parliament in 1999.
Following four years of end-stage renal failure and daily dialysis, Beyer received a kidney transplant in 2017.
A friend, Scotty Kennedy, posted a Facebook message on Monday informing people that she had passed away while in hospice care, Reuters reports.
“Georgie was surrounded by her nearest and dearest 24/7 over the past week, she accepted what was happening, was cracking jokes, and had a twinkle in her eye, right until the final moment,” Kennedy wrote.
After serving as a member of the parliament until 2007, she unsuccessfully ran for parliament again in 2014 as a member of the former Mana Party. In 2020, she earned the New Zealand Order of Merit for her efforts to legalize gay marriage and civil unions and decriminalize prostitution.
As a result of her work, in 2004, same-sex civil unions became legal in New Zealand, and nine years later, same-sex marriages were legalized there as well. She was remembered as a brave and gracious politician by both sides of the aisle, including conservative National Party deputy leader Nicola Willis.
“We came from different political sides, but she had the power to breach the divide,” Willis wrote on Twitter.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said Beyer had a lasting impact on the New Zealand parliament.
“I certainly think that Georgina blazed a trail that has made it much easier for others to follow.”