Carmen Rupe: Why she kicks ass
- She was a LGBT community pioneer, a performer, and mayoral candidate, who also was a prominent member of Agender, the New Zealand transgender group.
- In 1957 she moved to Kings Cross and became the first Maori drag performer in Australia. She stripped, danced the hula, had two snakes, and joined the famous Les Girls revue.
- She ran for mayor of Wellington in 1977 under the banner ‘Get in Behind’ promising gay marriage and legalized brothels.
- In the 1950-60s, Carmen waited tables by day and worked the streets by night. In the pre-law reform days, police would pick trans sex workers off the streets, take them to the police station, hose them down and beat them. By the late ’90s, Carmen was the only surviving trans prostitute from that era.
- In 1968, she returned to New Zealand, and opened Carmen’s International Coffee Lounge, a sexually tolerant place where GLBT people would meet for tea, coffee and much more. Because homosexuality was illegal, Carmen’s coffee lounge had an elaborate system of doors and stairways to allow patrons to escape discreetly if a police raid occurred.
- “I had five bedrooms upstairs and turned it into a brothel. And so I always used to say to people, ‘tea and coffee downstairs but the sweets are upstairs’”.
- Forty years later, even when her ailing health became a problem, she lead the Decade of the Diva float at Sydney’s Mardi Gras on her mobility scooter.