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Rural areas risky for gays, says Beyer

Sat 25 Oct 2008 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback

Transgender former MP and Mayor of Carterton Georgina Beyer says the Wairarapa is conservative and – like many rural provincial areas – "are not entirely safe places for out gay people." Attacked: Paul Irons (pic: NZ Herald) Beyer's comment comes after 36-year-old Wairarapa man Paul Irons died following a brutal attack in Featherston Park. He found with his pants down around his ankles, scratches on his midriff and serious head injuries, after what was widely rumoured to be an anti-gay hate crime – although his father has since denied Irons was gay. Asked if there was homophobia in the Wairarapa, Beyer admitted "the short answer is 'yes'. "Just because I was the Mayor or the MP for the area, it didn't make it any more gay-friendly, per se." Beyer recalled a particular ongoing case from when she was a councilor in the '90's. "There was a gay couple who owned a vineyard, and they suffered nasty attacks on their business – for example, poisoning their water supplies to their vineyard. They stuck it out for about ten years or so. They were a great asset to the area, and I was very upset when they sold up and moved to Wellington." The region does have a small gay network, "but they don't exactly 'flaunt it', says Beyer. My landlord is a gay hairdresser in Carterton, and so I find out what the gay scene is like. It seems those who work in the hospitality area are accepted – no one bats an eyelid about it. They don't seem to get any undue bad vibes. "The Wairarapa's no worse than any other provincial centre for our gay community – but I would say that young people have to be careful at school." As open and as high-profile as she was in Carterton as Mayor and MP, Beyer says she had to deal with regular cat-calls, usually from young people, of 'poofter' and other insults. "But I found it was easier for people to accept me as a transsexual then something else, like being gay or lesbian – the idea was that 'at least I knew what I wanted to be'." GayNZ.com has tried to contact several gay individuals, and organisations known to operate in the Wairarapa, to assemble background on the situation but none have responded or felt able to go on the record.    

Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News Staff

First published: Saturday, 25th October 2008 - 2:07pm

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