A charitable trust has been set up to commemorate transgender icon Carmen Rupe, and the community on both sides of the Tasman, has been called to get involved.

Close friend Jurgen Hoffman said the trust would be a fitting tribute to honour the trail blazer.

“We’re all so grateful to the many people who were there for Carmen during those last difficult months and came out in their droves to make her funeral such a deeply moving experience,” Hoffman told the Star Observer. “Our next task is working to perpetuate Carmen’s legacy.”

Tributes after the 75-year old’s death late last year following an extended illness.

The colourful New Zealand-born drag performer was well known, both here and her birthplace. She owned several business during her life including cafes, nightclubs and bothels in the New Zealand capital of Wellington, where she ran for mayor in 1977.

In her early years Rupe joined Les Girls in Kings Cross as a performer and was credited as being the first Maori drag queen in the ’50s.

The Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust (CRMT) is set to commemorate Rupe’s life and continue her interests in education and social justice through charity work.

Rupe’s legal guardians, along with close friends, family and the executors of her estate, will establish the CRMT early next month.

The Trust is now looking for extra involvement from the community (both here and New Zealand), especially from lawyers, accountants, fundraisers, web designers and event producers to help with the initial start-up.

Rupe’s long time neighbour and legal guardian Kelly Glanney said she hopes Rupe’s legacy will live on through the Trust.

“Amidst the glitz and glamor of Carmen’s many life achievements … it’s easily forgotten how much courage it took for a quiet Maori boy from rural Taumarunui to venture to Sydney in the late ‘50s, aspiring to fame and fortune as a drag artist and female impersonator.” she said.

“Not only did Carmen have to face down that same all pervasive ignorance and homophobia, as a Maori Carmen bore an additional, often uglier, burden [of] entrenched racism.

“It’s because of people like Carmen ­— who found the courage to take a stand against ignorance, intolerance and homophobic hatred long before it was ever safe or hip to do so — that the rest of us live today relatively unencumbered by that horrific degree of institutionalised bigotry.”

INFO: To get involved contact 0452 454 965, email carmenrupememorialtrust@gmail.com or visit the Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust Facebook page.

Photo: Ann-Marie Calilhanna

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