It is somewhat uncanny that I write this article in memory of Helen Frame. I was asked to write an article today for Tapatoru not knowing who would be my subject ; it so happens that my mentor and dearest friend and my “drag mother” died on August 30th 2002, so it is timely and coincidental that I write this article on her.
Helen was one of those “unsung heroes” who never graced the headlines of the news papers nor ended up in Parliament, but worked tirelessly in the background for reform. She campaigned for years for the rights of Gay & Lesbians but her passion was for the rights of Transgender/Transsexuals & the Sex Worker communities long before the Human Rights Commission was ever established.
She was at the forefront of the “Blue Jeans” protest march campaign for Homosexual Law Reform waving her banner in the early 80's marching up Queen St; she got a bottle thrown at her head by the some of the awful people that lined the route of Queen St, but still marched on with her head bleeding as others in the march suffered the same fate (I was there with her).
Helen was born in 1928 in London just before the war in Europe started, she witnessed the bombings and the raids that swept across Britain in the early 1940’s; she was a child, and she always told me that they were so very hungry and thirsty and that that was the most unbearable pain she could remember, was that of the hunger and thirst.
Her parents house had been destroyed and she remembered as a child the whole street that she grew up in was in flames and had been destroyed by the German bombings; those bombs casings which had not manage to detonate where they fell had the Nazi Swastika embellished upon them.
In later years she married Julie a woman also from England and they had a son and a daughter. Her son eventually took his own life at the age of 22 for reasons unknown.
Helen was employed by the Otahuhu District Court, she worked her way up through the ranks to the posItion of Senior Court Registrar and in 1976 she set a groundbreaking precedent to change from male to female, something unheard of in the Public Sector at that time. Upon her appointment to Senior Court Registrar she came in dressed as a woman which of course stirred debate within the Department Of Justice.
She previously only told 2 groups of people; her immediate supervisor and the 6 District Court Judges with whom she had previously worked with; all but 1 Judge would support her in her transition; the Police were baffled and mystified how this could have happened nd sort to mount a legal challenge regarding her appointment; it failed and the Minister Of Justice at the time dismissed any appeal as he had the confidence of the Judges to whom she would work with; a very clever strategy on Helen’s part.
I met Helen when I was at my lowest ebb in 1986, I was working in Myers Park and had just been beaten up by a client while working on Upper Queen St, I was bloodied and bruised and Helen came over to me and tidied me up as best she could taking her hanky from her blouse and her bottle of water and patted the blood away.
I cried in her arms, she told me it was going to be ok and she would take care of me. I was 19 years old. I spent the next 10 years both living with her and learning from her. Helen was Clairvoyant which only those in her closest circles knew of and she did not it publicly known she was very accurate in her predictions both of me and others in our own community, I learned spiritually from her and she introduced me to the Spiritualist Church in Grey Lynn which she was a regular parishioner and enjoyed her Sunday afternoons there.
Helen was an inspiration to many Transsexual/Transgender women of the 1980’s-1990’s nationally. She lobbied for the Homosexual law reform in 1985 and again for the decriminalisation of Prostitution with a handful of others, her legal background allowed her to write submissions to Parliament and individual MP’s and to Judges for their conscious backing/vote later to aid in first reading of the Prostitution Law Reform in the mid 90’s, this was not widely known
Helen was a groundbreaker not only fighting for equality for GLBT rights (back in the 80’s the term GLBT never existed) she fought for the underdog but her passion was to ensure the rights of Trans People in New Zealand. I do miss my dear friend, mentor and sister.
It tore me apart to see Helen go into a rest home in 2002, the rest home tried to do all it could to accommodate her needs but as a Transsexual woman it was too hard for her to bare and she would often run away from the rest home trying to get back to her own home in Mt Albert to escape some of the scorn she would receive whilst “institutionalised”. Helen died in the rest home in 2003 aged 74 of both heart complications and strokes.
He maumahara ki te tino hoa
Tènà koe i ò màtauranga mai
E kore ràwà e motu te aroha i ahau
Otirà ko te mutunga iho, kia kotahi tatou.
Moe mai rà e te tau tuahine
Me te aroha nui ò tamahine
“rest in peace my dearest sister. Thank you for all you taught me, one day we will all be together girl, l love you always”
Your loving “daughter” Roxy.
FRAME - HELEN B 1928 - D 30.08.2002
Roxanne Henare's friend Helen Frame passed over on the 30th August 2002. We celebrated her life in our "TATOU" August 2012 issue with Roxanne's reflection. Here is the extract from the August issue