Friday, 8 October 2010

Women in government - so what about transmen/women?

Harriet Harman is widely credited with the success of getting 8 women into the shadow cabinet and this is considered a major achievement, despite the fact that there are now fewer women MPs in parliament, because Labour women MPs were repleced by Tory "Cameron Clone" males at the last election. Not mine, incidentally, just 42 votes kept Glenda Jackson as MP instead of some George Osborne (ie. posh but dim) lookalike.

The government in Spain is the first one to have more women in the cabinet than men. Hilary Clinton represents a very powerful women as US foreign secretary. Iceland, Germany and many other countries have women leaders. The UK, Israel, Pakistan, Oz, Bangladesh, and many other countries have had women leaders in the past.

So far so much progress for gender equality in some (but not all) parts of the world.

So how come this gender equality has not extended to people who do not fit easily into the categories "male" and "female"? Where are our transgender politicians?

OK so Italy had a transgender MP for a while; the wonderful Valdimir Luxuria, as did the Kiwis, and there are elected transgender politicians in Hawaii and New Zealand. But that total does not represent very many compared to the numbers of transgender people there are on this planet. The UK actually elected its first transgender politician back in May; Sarah Brown was elected as a Lib Dem councilor in Cambridge. (The former mayor of Cambridge was also a transwoman but she was not known as a transwoman before she was elected, only choosing to out herself after the threat of being outed by the gutter press).

If we accept one of the lowest estimates of the number of transgender people in the UK at 1% and if there are 600+ MPs and 785 MEPs in the EU as a whole, there should be at least 6 transgender MPs and 8 transgender MEPs. Instead we have to settle for one Lib Dem councillor.

As is often the case, "diversity and equality" are simply never applied to transgender people. Even Sarah's heartfelt speech about transgender marriage equality at Lib Dem conference this Autumn was not broadcast, I suspect because they did not want to portray themselves as a party of "freaks" which might put off "mainstream" voters. Well it is about time parties started to be more inclusive. If "mainstream" voters are put off by the sight of transgender people standing for election, then it is up to the parties to educate the public and argue against the insidious propaganda of the Daily Mail and associated hate-mongers.

I have always believed in transgender people speaking for themselves as trans people. That is the ultimate performative act of being transgender. Yet unless those who purport to support our existence as human beings of transgender experience in their parties need to show that support by permitting transgender people to stand as candidates for the major political parties in elections where they have more power at national and European level.


  1. The silence is tacit approval of the anti-trans views. Not challenging that "norm" when i such a position to do so is to give approval of it, even recommend it as proper.

    Your last paragraph rocks, and is a problem that extends beyond politics.

  2. A very good point Agent J, silence is tacit approval of transphobia.

  3. Maybe there already are, but they have not come out. (Similar to gay MPs who didn't come out until later perhaps?)


  4. @Charlie. Maybe there are, but I think it would be better for all of us if they did come out. Being in the closet or in stealth means that they might just as well not be trans MPs...