New Zealand has a proud history of breaking down boundaries to equality, and Elijah Luke Michel believes nationally embracing our Trans community will be our next big victory.

I’ve often pondered the privilege of living in Aotearoa NZ, this stunning group of paradise islands in the South Pacific – the privilege I received by my ancestors travelling and settling here, for which I acknowledge the Tangata Whenua and the effects settling had and continues to have on them.

We live on a pristine land, surrounded by ocean and far from war-torn nations and places where the majority of people struggle for survival on a daily basis. We may be small, but our influence has been great. We have produced both the ability to create global havoc by NZ physicist Rutherford’s splitting of the atom – never his intended use, of course – and we have led the way in establishing gender equality by being the first independent country to permanently allow women the right to vote in 1893.


That’s a huge deal. Accepting women as equal citizens with a right to a voice and continuing to affirm this by standing up for the right to pay equality. We’re still fighting, but we started the process, and we’re collectively moving away from the historical dominance of a patriarchal society.

I see another wonderful opportunity here when it comes to accepting and affirming fellow humans in a perceived “less than” community. People do not choose to be transgender. They do not choose to experience psychological and emotional distress, to become yet another high statistic in addictions, self-harm and suicidality. They are born with a physiological and chemical make-up that does not match the gender they are assigned at birth. They are also born into a society where gender roles have been constructed, and they simply, naturally, do not fit.

New Zealand boasts many fantastic artists, actors and other creatives, journalists and community leaders as well as those serving the public in everyday roles – each playing their part in using their gifts, talents and abilities to help create a better world. Living as their authentic selves not only role-model to other trans people that they too can fully participate in life but reminds the world at large that trans people do exist, have always existed and will continue to do so despite attempts at erasure.

The world’s first transgender mayor and MP, Georgina Beyer, (who sadly passed last year) faced extreme adversity not only as a trans woman but as a Māori one at that, yet she left a legacy of authenticity, courage and resilience.

On the global stage, Rūrangi, about – and starring – a trans man, won the International Emmy Award for Best Short-Form Series in 2022. We are making a difference.

For those who only perceive the binary, women and men are sacred. For those a little more enlightened, all genders are sacred. Regardless of your worldview, all humans are of equal value – each a miracle of existence within a universe of mystery and wonder. I hope Aotearoa will choose to lead the way in unconditional love and acceptance for all by supporting and affirming trans people in education, healthcare and basic human rights. I actually have faith that we can.