Real Life

Georgina Beyer's advice to Caitlyn Jenner

The history-making Kiwi has a challenge for the trailblazing reality star

By Sebastian van der Zwan
As Georgina Beyer steps out of the make-up chair for our glamorous photo shoot, there’s a collective gasp from the Woman’s Day team. “Those cheekbones!” cries the photographer.
“No surgery here!” laughs Georgina, referring to the facial-feminisation operation recently undergone by Caitlyn Jenner. Checking herself out in the mirror, she continues, “But people are going to think I’m trying to be her.”
Given the circus surrounding E! reality star Caitlyn’s transition from male to female, and the fact that Georgina, 57, is New Zealand’s most famous transsexual, the comparison is only natural. And Georgina seems just as fascinated by the 65-year-old former Olympic champion’s transformation from Bruce to Caitlyn as the rest of us.
“It’s such a brave and courageous thing she’s doing,” says Georgina. “Caitlyn has lived in her own prison for so many years and she didn’t want to die wondering, ‘What if?’ It reminds me of a drag show I did at a pub in Greymouth in the ’80s.
“Afterwards, this elderly gentleman came up to me and started crying. He felt he was a transsexual, but he was never able to fulfil it because of his marriage and family. I dissolved into tears because this was a pain he was taking to the grave. That’s not going to happen to Caitlyn.”
Of course, Georgina and Caitlyn’s journeys are wildly different. Georgina started taking hormones at the age of 16 and had sex-reassignment surgery at 27. After a stint as a sex worker, Georgina went on to become the world’s first transsexual mayor and later its first transsexual MP.
When Georgina had her operation in 1984, Caitlyn was having a nose job and partial face lift in the hope of boosting a stalled acting career. The former decathlete made worldwide headlines this April when she came out as a trans woman, but she has not undergone a sex-change operation yet.
Power from pain
“Because of Caitlyn, transgender is flavour of the month, but we’ve always been here,” says Georgina. “I’m glad that I was young, really. I didn’t have millions of dollars, and I had to suffer the slings and arrows of an outraged society that treated me like I was subhuman, but it gave me an inner strength. It made me determined to do something with my life.
“Caitlyn’s journey is an unusual one in the transgender world. She hasn’t had to suffer
a lot of the same prejudice, but it’s given her a platform to die for. She better use it responsibly and do some good for the transgender community, not just run around as a Hollywood bimbo. Caitlyn needs to show she has substance.
“My life has substance. I’m a world first. She’s an Olympic medallist, which is nothing to sniff at, but I have my reservations about the Kardashians and reality TV. I’m waiting with bated breath to see what Caitlyn’s next move is.”
Georgina is also waiting for a new kidney. After being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 2013, she’s been having four half- hour dialysis sessions at her Wellington home every day while she waits on the public transplant list. It means she’s unable to work
or travel.
“It’s not quite the glamorous life it might once have been,” Georgina says with a wry smile.
“My life’s almost come to a full stop. It’s frustrating, but it’s out of my hands. I just hope the disease doesn’t progress so that I need to be in hospital three days a week.”
Recently, Georgina has shifted her political ambitions from the Beehive to Wellington City Council. “If I have a new kidney and I’m well enough, the local body elections are a possibility,” she says, “but it’s looking unlikely.”
As for her love life, Georgina chuckles, “Never say never, but I don’t really put myself out there. Tinder? I don’t know anything about that. I’m a fuddy-duddy!”
Besides the newfound acceptance of transgender people in the mainstream, the brightest spot in Georgina’s life at the moment is the fact a film about her life is back in development after years on the back-burner.
“They’ve got the money now and the director is really excited,” smiles Georgina. “I don’t have a clue who’ll play me. I’m a bit scared, to be honest. I’d want a good actor. It’s a big deal. I mean, how many good New Zealand life stories have you seen on film? Hopefully, with all this Caitlyn Jenner stuff, we’re not all trannied out!”

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