Lily Madigan: The Labour crusader aiming to becoming Britain's first transgender MP

Lily Madigan, Labour, Transgender, Women's Officer, Rochester and Strood, Transphobia, Twitter, Politics

Lily Madigan has faced a lot of controversy (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, December 8, 2017

It's the last frontier in the fight for political diversity, the one remaining obstacle in the path towards true democratic representation.

The British Parliament is proud to have received MPs from all creeds and social backgrounds. Gay people have held some of the highest offices in the land. But we've still not had a transgender MP.

Now, however, one up-and-coming politician is dreaming of changing that.

Lily Madigan, 19, was appointed women's officer for Labour in Rochester and Strood back in November, apparently making her the first trans person to hold this role within the party. It's a meteoric journey for someone who only began her trans journey just a few years ago.

Madigan realised she was transgender at the age of 14. She told her family and school, St Simon Stock Catholic School, two years later.

The journey has been rutted by several instances of transphobia, which even prompted Madigan to call in a solicitor last year. The school she was attending had said she would be suspended if she continued to wear female clothes and it also insisted on using her male name, while forbidding her from using the women's facilities.

In order to fight against this, Madigan actually travelled to London alone and visited law firms calling on them to help her for free, and after many attempts finally found one that would. The school eventually apologised and allowed her to wear female clothes and use the women's toilets.

It was actually this very incident that led her to join the Labour Party. She explained "it was Labour's Equality Act that helped me out in that situation" and that's "why I joined the party. I sort of worked my way up from there."

Before becoming women's officer Madigan worked as an activist for Labour and took part in a campaign against a Tory plan to close a local nursery as well as Sure Start Centres. She also went to the Young Labour Conference to represent her area.

After finishing school she has gone on to study fashion design at the University of Creative Arts and been elected women’s officer as well as LGBTQ+ Officer, demonstrating her willingness to take responsibility.

However her appointment as women's officer has not come without controversy. In September Madigan accused fellow Labour woman's officer Anne Ruzylo, who represented Bexhill and Battle, of expressing transphobic views and called for her to be removed from the position. Explaining her stance against Ruzylo, Madigan had said “Labour is supposed to be the party of equality, so I definitely think views like [Ruzylo's] shouldn’t be in our party.”

The complaint was not upheld and Ruzylo told the BBC she had been neither abusive nor transphobic. However she did resign two months later, in November, claiming it was because a member of Bexhill and Battle CLP had created a smear campaign against her. Although the two women belonged to different constituency Labour parties, some have suggested Madigan's complaint effectively forced Ruzylo out.

Madigan has also had to deal with abuse on Twitter, so much so that a few months ago she tweeted calling on people to stop sending her hateful messages. She herself has also been criticised for alleged malpractice on the social media site, having been accused of tweeting a joke about rape back in 2013, when she was 15.

The account allegedly had Madigan's old name on it and led some to call for her to resign as women's officer. But Madigan insists she did not write the tweet and the account was made by her brother as a joke when he was 13. She believes her brother should not be "dragged through the mud" for this due to his age at the time.

Madigan now aims to widen her political career and become the first transgender MP. She has said “I’m on the right track but I think I need more skills and experience to apply for roles like councillor or parliamentary candidate."