In Depth

The teen hoping to become the first transgender MP

Lily Madigan’s appointment as women’s officer has sparked a row in the Labour party and the press

Lily Madigan, Labour’s first transgender women’s officer, has spoken out about the online abuse she has received since her election.

The 19-year-old political activist was elected to the position in Rochester and Strood last month, sparking a bitter row among some in the Labour party and the press.

Her recent application for the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme, launched after the murder of the MP to encourage female participation in politics, also triggered a wave of online attacks.

“I’m a strong person but I’m also just a teenage girl,” she tweeted yesterday. “I’m not invulnerable and it affects me. Your words have the power to hurt, to heal, to inspire, or discourage. Remember that.”

Who is she and what does she stand for?

Madigan, who was identified male at birth, came out as transgender in January last year, aged 18, and has “repeatedly had to defend her gender identity” from critics, according to Pink News.

Last year, she was forced to hire a solicitor after her school in Maidstone forced her to wear a male uniform, denied her access to female toilets, and would not refer to her as Lily. The administration later backed down and apologised.

She says this experience left her “shaken” but built her determination to raise awareness of transgender rights, particularly within politics, BBC Newsbeat reports.

“I’d love to be the first trans MP,” Madigan told the website last week. “It’s about time.”

As women’s officer, she says her priorities will be tackling the lack of funding for refuges and nurseries.  She has also vowed to create a new women’s forum across the constituency so she “can get feedback from all women and we can share opinions and ideas to go forward in the best way”.

Why the controversy?

Some critics have questioned how well Madigan, who has only lived openly as a woman for two years, can represent the women in her constituency.

She was also criticised by some activists for campaigning to have another Labour women’s officer, Anne Ruzylo, removed due to her alleged transphobic views, the BBC reports. Ruzylo has since stood down but denies the accusations of transphobia.

In a recent article in The Times, a Labour member was quoted as saying the decision to open the Jo Cox mentoring scheme to all “self-defining women” was a “monstrous insult” to women in the party.

But Madigan says her detractors are missing the point of the programme. It’s about getting “a diverse group of talented women to stand for election and roles within the Labour movement and wider public life”, the activist says.

“No woman has the experience to be representative of all women,” she adds.

Madigan has received the backing of dozens of women already on the programme, who applauded the party for “supporting the principle that every woman” should get the chance to participate. 

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