Bella Simpson

Bella Simpson came out as a transgender girl when she was 11 in 2007. Fortunately, she was part of an extremely supportive and open-minded family. Together, Bella and her family embarked on a journey of learning and understanding that helped make her transition relatively smooth. At the time there was very little information available for transgender people or their families. However, in 2008 the Human Rights Commission published the report ‘To Be Who I Am’ on discrimination against transgender people. The report provided well-researched information that confirmed for Bella and her family that being trans was okay and normal.

From an early age Bella has been speaking out on the rights of transgender people and LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) rights. She spoke at her first human rights conference when she was just 12. She has mainly worked as an individual and argues that she prefers to speak out as an individual rather than part of an organisation or group because it gives her more freedom to speak specifically to the issues she is passionate about. This has enabled her to choose her focus depending on what she thought was important.

In the following video, Bella tells her story and explains some of the key issues important to her and transgender people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Bella has been active on many fronts, and has been involved in global, national and local conversations. One of the first things she did when she turned 18 was an interview with Women’s Day magazine. In sharing her story in a mainstream magazine, she made a strong statement about the rights of trans women to be seen and heard in public spaces.

Some of Bella’s other achievements include her involvement in the creation of a youth representative role on the Wellington Pride Festival committee. She helped establish the festival’s annual youth ball. The group also added more flags that represented the diverse people and communities involved in the LGBTQIA+ community.

Bella has spoken at Parliament too. In 2016 she was a speaker for the 30th anniversary of the Homosexual Law Reform act. The same year she was part of a select committee on youth education and science that explored how schools could become more accessible for LGBTI people. In 2017 Bella and others spoke about their research at a select committee convened for the international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

In 2018 Bella spoke at Government House for the launch of Suffrage 125 – the 125th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in New Zealand. It was a significant moment for Bella and all trans women. This was especially important given that trans women still face animosity from some feminists who argue they are not real women and should be excluded from women’s events. Yet, on this important day Bella was included and asked to speak about her experiences of working in government. Bella noted that this issue also came to the fore at the South African Global LBQ feminist conference 2019, when the inclusion of trans women was questioned.   

The visibility and acceptance of transgender people continues to be a key issue that Bella strives to highlight and address. While gay men and lesbians are at a stage when they can openly celebrate who they are, the trans community is still fighting to be accepted in mainstream society. It is equally important to understand that all transgender people are different and that there is no single unified experience.

Bella has been working towards equal opportunities and positive visibility for transgender people. She wants good quality education in schools and in workplaces throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, but her biggest dream is that transgender people are empowered and inspired to be their ‘authentic selves in their own ways’.

Further information

To be who I am report https://www.hrc.co.nz/files/5714/2378/7661/15-Jan-2008_14-56-48_HRC_Transgender_FINAL.pdf

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/the-wireless/373542/outspoken-bella-simpson

Groups

Agender NZ http://www.agender.org.nz/

RainbowYOUTH https://ry.org.nz/

Explore more stories about women's activism in New Zealand

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