Georgina Beyer, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou, takatāpui, wahine irawhiti, trans woman, sex worker, actress, politician.
Star of Jewel’s Darl way back in ’86. The first trans MP in the world. Responsible for getting the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act passed, decriminalising sex work in Aotearoa, and for the 2004 Civil Union Act which led to legalising same-sex marriage.
I never know what to say when someone dies, even 10 years on. Gala and I joked my epitaph should be, “Fuck you looking at? I’ll knife ya.” Ten years ago, Iain Banks died. Shit joke. Unequivocally my fave author at the time. I’ve read a heap since then and in that specific genre only Tamsyn Muir and Ann Leckie have come close. Yeah, a lot of other writers are amazing and touched my heart, made me laugh, but this is the you can take a tote bag of books to a desert island kind of love and it’s those three with Iain forever first.
Like so many weird subculture scenes, Iain got the attention of way too many straight white dudes. And because he was a nominally straight white dude, with a love of fast cars, whiskey and drugs, he doesn’t get much attention outside that very mediocre bubble of dudes talking. Yeah, Excession is a banger of a space opera, but have you read Feersum Endjinn? Or Whit? That shit has radical, liberatory politics all the way through. He was writing Black, Brown, trans, queer liberation and love back in the ’90s. And he always seemed like one of those so rare, genuinely good, thoughtful, fun, caring men. The kind we need a whole lot more of.
Over the almost twenty years of this blog, I’ve written about or mentioned him in the low hundreds of posts. He even has his own tag, though for that number he should be a category. Here’s some of my faves, chronologically.
Which caused me to read some of my own writing from the last decade and I’m not as shamed or embarrassed as I feared. Which might be me lacking in self-awareness of what I’m missing, but whatever.
And what caused this — I was not paying attention and February 16th was his birthday and it’s 10 years since he died — was a thread by Assoc for Scottish Literature with a bunch of links to articles and interviews I’m going to remind myself of by putting here:
I’ve never celebrated str8 wyt valentine’s day but I always forget it was the day colonialist invader Captain Cook got himself murked for trying to kidnap Kalaniʻōpuʻu on Hawaiʻi. This ten-year-old reminder comes from somos lobos, no ovejas. Fucked around, found out, bro.
Continuing on from my last post on the early-’90s comic She-Male Trouble, the back cover of Issue #1 is highly relevant to all the cis hysteria about us pissing where they piss. #bitchesgottapiss #utijustsayno #washyourhandscunt
And some I gave their own posts to ’cos they were utter bangers, and some I might even give their own posts, ’cos also bangers. So many books. I can only take one fiction and one non-fiction with me? Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s Rehearsals for Living, and Tamsyn Muir’s Nona the Ninth. And one book of poetry? Fatimah Asghar’s If They Come For Us.
P-Valley Season 2 is damn! those bitches are messy damn! the lighting damn the camera work damn! the music damn! the poledancing the poledancing the poledancing damn! the hair makeup eyes shoes heels costumes hips butts tits skin flesh Black femininity gushing flooding drowning anyone too weak for its power (me. I am too weak) damn! Uncle Cliff she every time and damn if I did not need to sit down after all that every time Diamond’s tight fade and soft lips and eyes.
Another in the small pile of books out of Aotearoa I’m getting all up in my memories about reading. I haven’t thought about Witi Ihimaera for decades. Same with Peter Wells. Old names in an anthology of mostly young Millennial and Gen Y poets and writers. Some of the other old names I can’t read past knowing they were rad-fem-les-sep transphobes back in the day. Cool if they’ve grown from that, but irrelevant to me; they did the damage then and I don’t need to read them now.
Dasniya said, on Thursday when their nohinohi little one was all big eyes and focus as I sung old Māori songs I seem to have remembered for them, she was seeing a show as Sophinesaele by Pelenakeke Brown and I said that name sounds familiar, reckon I’ve just been reading them. And I had. Her writing, A Travelling Practice, one of the couple of non-fiction pieces, and one of the couple that really stuck with me out of all the writers. The other was Jessica Niurangi Mary Maclean’s Kāore e wehi tōku kiri ki te taraongaonga; my skin does not fear the nettle, not the least for reminding me te Reo Māori is grammared but gender neutral, ia, tāna, tōna … like all the best languages. I photographed Pelenakeke’s piece and sent it to Dasniya before she saw her performance.
I should have marked all the writers I really liked. Forgot to do that with my usual oh I’ll remember of course I won’t and now I spose I could go back through. Almost finished my most recent stack of books and the upcoming pile is heavy on Māori Pasifika and I’m very fucking happy about that.
I joked I reckon I’ll know some people in this book. Turns out wasn’t a joke. Turns out it was much more personal than I expected, even when under that joke I knew I bought this book to remember history. My history. History around me. History I should know.
Long time ago, young me worked end-of-week nights in the needle exchange in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, binning returns and handing out fresh packs. Which led to me being nights at the NZ Prostitutes Collective drop-in centre, because being a young transsexual, the only work available was sex work. Or selling drugs or doing robbery, more or less in that order. I never did proper street sex work on Karangahape Road, but did occasionally crack it opportunistically, sometimes just so I’d have a bed for the night. All the transsexual women who worked the street passed through the drop-in centre of an evening, Māori, Pasifika, and the one of two Pākehā. Later, they’d be up the Ponsonby Road end, and when I lived in the old brothel, above the sex shop looking down Howe St, I’d see them on the corner.
My Body, my business: New Zealand sex workers in an era of change reminded me of a lot of history I’d forgotten, and connected things, filling in blanks, explaining details. Like the probable identity of the old Greek man who owned the house in Pirie St I lived in when I was (once again) homeless, the upstairs apartment home since the ’70s to various Māori trans sex workers. Or the doctor at Three Lamps in Ponsonby who used to prescribe hormones to all the transsexuals, also known since the ’70s. I don’t think I ever saw him, but pretty sure it was a woman Doctor in the same practice.
And just the general truth of it all, how it was in the ’80s and ’90s — even though most of the oral histories were slightly before my time. It was all so familiar, reminding me how deep I was in that life, how they were the ones who guided and saved me. And how it was so easy to have that all taken away.
I wonder how my life would look, would have looked, if I hadn’t been through conversion therapy. Would I have started dancing (probably, I was incredibly naïve about what trans girls and women could and couldn’t do)? Would I have moved to Melbourne? Maybe, though staying in Sydney is perhaps more likely. Gone to VCA? Realistically I wouldn’t have made it through the auditions, because being trans and a dancer has only been a possibility for the last decade or so. Even my — in current language — non-binary self bashed up hard against the rigid and strict cisheteronormativity of dance back then.
This is a reminder. Where I came from, what I lived through, who were my contemporaries, family, whānau, who I owe an obligation to.
(ot technical note: I ditched Photoshop a while ago and have been using Affinity Photo, which is much nicer and not Adobe. But my workflow is still kinda hacky, especially with RAW processing and colour balancing. I think this is a better job than Infinity Net A, but equally might be over-saturated and over-processed amateur hour.)