Carmen Rupe, the late transgender activist, is to be honoured with four pedestrian crossing lights in central Wellington.
Rupe arrived in Wellington in 1967 with little more to her name than a past of prostitution and stripping. It was in the capital that she established herself as an entrepreneur, drag performer, and gay rights activist who sought to rid prejudice against the transgender community.
Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown remembered Rupe saying she, “shook the foundations of Wellington’s conservative society … Carmen was a fighter for equality, and one of the most colourful fighters we’ve ever had.”
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While not all of Rupe’s campaigns were successful (they were notorious for provocative images and text, and even strippers in the streets), Rupe was perseverant for change until the day she died (2011, aged 75).
According to Wade-Brown, putting in lights of the woman who aided in curating Wellington’s accepting environment was the least the city could do.
True to form, Wellington will be the first city in the world to display a transgender figure as the crossing symbol.
The other frontrunner to be featured on crossing lights was the father of Wellington—John Plimmer, whose statue sits at the bottom of the Plimmer Steps.