Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to LGBTIQA+ rights
Folk in the Wairarapa can spot a fake from 50 paces but no one could accuse Georgina Beyer of being a phoney.
From sex work to politics, the world's first transgender mayor and later a Member of Parliament says her secret is no secrets - always be "straight up" and they'll support a "battler from Struggle Street", she says.
"They mightn't have always liked it, but they seemed to know where they stood with me on matters.
"My life was entirely exposed. I allowed it to be that way."
This Queen's Birthday, Beyer has been "humbled, grateful and delighted" to be made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to LGBTIQA+ rights.
There's not one victory Beyer, 62, would point to and say in her deep voice with rounded annunciation honed by years of politics, performance and cigarettes: "That was it, that was the win."
Instead, she said it was a slow, steady and patient battle fought over decades to achieve broad acceptance of the rainbow community.
There actually wasn't a lot more to be done to ingrain equality in legislation, Beyer said. What was left was discrimination, prejudice and attitudes, and those came with gentle easing.
"What some transgender activists are seeking these days really start to push the boundaries and my argument with them is 'Look, stop browbeating the public about what they don't do and how they disrespect you'.
"They need to, in a sincere and genuine way, inform and educate as they go along the campaign to get these things done, rather than wagging the finger and getting angry. You've got to be patient because the fact of the game is these things take time.
"Go ask any women's activists."
She wondered if there would actually ever be total equality, women included.
Beyer identified as a woman at the age of 5 and took up choir for the dresses and acting for the dress-ups. Her life took a turn when she became a sex worker because of a lack of job opportunities for a trans woman.
In 1979, she was sexually assaulted by a group of men. Beyer never reported it to the police, but it gave her a new fire in her belly to change the status quo.
She turned to local government to affect change and in 1995 became the first openly transsexual mayor in the world in the supposedly conservative Carterton.
Four years later, Labour shoulder-tapped her to run for the Wairarapa seat but she wasn't expected to win. It had always been a deep shade of blue and Beyer was up against high-profile Paul Henry.
"I had a name as a mayor and I suppose I ticked a lot of the identity politics boxes: Māori, transgender, woman."
But win she did and became the world's first transsexual MP.
Beyer went on to spend eight years in government and counts decriminalising prostitution and bringing in civil unions among her proudest achievements. She credits the latter for being the building block for the wave of support for marriage equality a decade later.
Attitudinal change was incremental, she said.
In 2017, Beyer had a life-saving kidney transplant and it took her a long time to get better. Finally fighting-fight, she's spoken at the prestigious Cambridge and Oxford Unions.
However, depending on public speaking for income means it's often a long time between paychecks and she gets the supported-living payment to make ends meet.
Beyer has a speech booked in Sydney in September and crosses her fingers at the mention of a transtasman bubble.
"I'm another victim of Covid-19."
Asked to define her contribution to New Zealand, Beyer said she was a trailblazer for the rainbow community.
"But I have to say that none of it would have been of any particular importance if the citizens of the Carterton district and of the Wairarapa electorate hadn't overlooked the hullabaloo and the backstory about me and looked more at the substance and voted me into office.
"Don't judge a book by a cover because they blew that out of the water."