**UPDATE**
Carmen Rupe is to lie in state at the Te Wairua Rapu Church at 587 Elizabeth Street, Redfern tomorrow, Sunday and Monday from 1pm until 5pm.

Her service is at 12.30pm Tuesday, December 20 before leaving for Rookwood Cemetery (Maori section) for an arrival at 2.30pm.
**

Transgender icon Carmen Rupe has died in Sydney aged 75.

Rupe, who had a fall earlier in the year and suffered ill health ever since, succumbed to kidney failure early this morning at St Vincent’s Hospital.

Friends had been keeping a bedside vigil for several days.

The New Zealand-born drag performer was as well known in her homeland as in Australia. She opened businesses including cafes, nightclubs and brothels in Wellington that were unique for being openly gay and welcoming to all in the community.

The Les Girls performer was also credited as being the first Maori drag queen in the ’50s.

DIVA Awards Committee chair Greg Steele told the Star Observer her death would be widely felt by both the organisation and the wider community.

“She was a Hall of Fame winner for DIVA from 1996 and she was certainly larger than life,” Steele said.

“She had costumes and hair higher than heaven and the personality to match.

“If there was a call for drag queens to be somewhere and lend a hand, she was the first to put hers up. She rarely said no.”

In 2008 a topless Rupe led the Decade of the Divas float at the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras aboard a mobility scooter.

The National LGBTI Health Alliance added their voice to the tributes, calling Rupe an icon respected on both sides of the Tasman for her varied career and as a pioneering transgender personality.

“We recognise Carmen Rupe as an elder of our LGBTI communities, and an outstanding pioneer and advocate of LGBTI rights,” Alliance board member Peter Hyndal said.

“We know that the adverse health outcomes experienced by so many LGBTI people, and especially trans people, are a result of the stress that comes from living as part of a group that is stigmatised and discriminated against. Carmen and others of her generation have helped to transform our societies and create opportunities for those of us who follow.

“We are indebted to her and will ensure her contributions continue to be recognised and valued.”

GayNZ reports Rupe is likely to be buried in Sydney’s Rookwood Maori Cemetery.

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