Representation in the bourgeois parliament can be important to any liberation struggle that is still in its infancy. Yet 15 years after the first transgender person was elected to the New Zealand parliament, our representation has not improved. The current parliament lacks any transgender representation and only two political parties have transgender candidates standing for election this year. Indeed for the past seven years we have relied on gay or feminist MP’s to advocate on our behalf. This is quite problematic as people who do not experience this unique struggle tend to be quite out of touch with the community and their experiences.
The transgender liberation struggle is a prime example of this, those who we rely upon for advocacy and representation are no longer able to do so effectively. The gay community has become heavily commercialised, as well as being dominated by rich gay men. Feminist groups meanwhile are becoming increasingly transphobic, with Radfem tendencies becoming increasingly dominant within Anarcha-Feminist groups. On one level this highlights the importance of transgender representation within parliament yet it also highlights the inadequacy of bourgeoisie “Democracy” to properly address our concerns regardless of who is in power.
When Whangarei lawyer Kelly Ellis first announced her candidacy for the Labour party I was excited. Initially it looked like the beginning of a new chapter for transgender liberation (paying lip service to liberation struggles being one of the few things that help distinguish the Labour party from National). When the Labour party announced the so called progressive list however, she was ranked so low that her only chance of getting into parliament would be winning the deeply conservative Whangarei electorate, an impossible task during the best of times.
Georgina Beyer has really been the only significant transgender representative in the New Zealand parliament, she was elected MP for Wairarapa for six years. However she later left parliament due to the confiscation of Māori land by the Clark government. Beyer is a Māori Trans woman who has put a lot of her political focus on Maori struggles. Today she is the MANA Movement candidate for Te Tai Tonga with a very small chance of winning that electorate.
Georgina Beyer’s selection for Te Tai Tonga brings some hope for Transgender people. MANA however is a small party that is only likely to send a few MP’s to parliament. On the slight chance that Georgina Beyer can break the Tirikatene family stranglehold on Te Tai Tonga, she will be returned to parliament.
With neither of the major party's running a Transgender candidate that is likely to be elected. We must therefore focus on how we can best use radical grass roots politics to further our struggle for liberation. The liberal approach of “using the appropriate channels” has failed to improve conditions for working class, Transgender people to any significant degree. And relying on cisgender people to advocate for us is simply not acceptable, we must fight for our rights like so many before us.