Lily Madigan, 19, is a transgender woman who works for The Labour Party (UK) as the ‘Women’s Officer’ in Rochester and Strood. She has also applied for the Jo Cox ‘Women in Leadership’ programme. This is a ground-breaking achievement for trans representation that has been marred by horrible, transphobic responses. The media have referred to Madigan by her deadname and used male pronouns to describe her, while consistently arguing that her identity will hinder her ability to represent women.
By presenting damaging rhetoric as factual, this strident, young feminist has been subjected to a barrage of insults — which speak more to our own beliefs than to Madigan’s ability to lead. The invasive questioning, the constant doubting – it implies Britain isn’t comfortable letting a trans woman into government. If we can’t embrace someone who has already fought grueling battles, simply because she wanted to dress according to her gender, then we’re the ones at fault, not her.
I applaud Lily Madigan. The media have criticised her for demanding that Anne Ruzylo, 52, (a former ‘Women’s Officer’) step down after making transphobic comments on Twitter. But, it’s important to challenge transphobia wherever we encounter it, because there isn’t any debate here – only trans people can decide what is and isn’t offensive to them. Their experience should always over-rule a cis person’s limited knowledge; if they say it’s transphobic, then we need to trust them.
However, the response hasn’t all been negative. The applicants from the Jo Cox ‘Women in Leadership’ programme have all co-signed a letter, supporting Madigan’s application to the scheme. Meanwhile, Twitter has been sympathetic to her, with thousands rushing to her defence.
The responses have been telling. While some were malicious, or insulted Madigan in a more covert manner – others have vocalized their support for her. I think she will excel in politics. The argument that she doesn’t have ‘experience’ as a woman is invalid – every woman’s experience, trans or otherwise, can be used to work towards the equality of women everywhere. I hope she continues working in politics, because we need innovative young people to inspire disenfranchised teenagers. We need diverse voices in government.
When I look at her; I see a courageous woman, one who has risen above hatred, while fighting to justify her her gender and right to the position of ‘Women’s Officer’. I see a leader who has overcome adversity. I see a role model for trans youth everywhere.
Photo: Channel 4 News