Carmen, born Trevor Rupe in 1936, was a drag performer, brothel keeper, anti-discrimination activist, would-be politician, and HIV/AIDS activist, who was a colourful member of the Cuba Street and transgender community until she died in 2011.
Following the success, locally and internationally, of the Kate Sheppard pedestrian crossing lanterns installed near Parliament in 2014, a series of other famous Wellington icons/figures are planned to be rolled out in similar fashion across the capital – and Carmen is a popular choice for the local community.
“Cuba Street has always celebrated colourful characters and diversity, and Carmen fits into both those categories, so we’re glad she’s being honoured in this way – and she would’ve loved it too!,” says Mal Kennedy-Vaughan from Scotty & Mal’s bar.
The launch has been planned to mark the 30-year anniversary of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill coming into effect on 8 August – celebrating diversity and raising awareness and support for the LGBTQI community, which is something the Council’s Director Strategy and Communications, Jeremy Baker, sees as an essential part of Wellington’s character.
“New Zealand has come a long way in its support of the rainbow community, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Celebrating the wonderful character that Carmen was in this way displays tolerance, unity, and Wellington pride on many levels – and the Council is proud to be a part of that,” he says.
The concept involves replacing the green man on the ‘cross-now’ signal with a Carmen silhouette. The lanterns will appear at four intersections along Cuba Street, and are in place indefinitely.
The official unveiling will be held on Monday 8 August at 2pm on the corner of Cuba and Ghuznee streets, with colourful characters from Carmen’s past joining in with the entertainment and music for everyone to enjoy as part of the celebrations.