Creating Space for Transgender Women in Politics
Written By: Anna Murphy
When we talk about women in politics, much of the conversation gets dominated by cisgender women. Meaning those who were born female and identify as female. However, we don’t often take the conversation further looking at how transgender women can create and secure a seat at the table. Perhaps this is due to the barriers which are faced by marginalized individuals as it relates to entering the political ring (i.e financial, adversity, discrimination, intolerance, etc.). However, it is important that the conversation includes and engages with ALL women and that as a community we work towards creating representation which is reflective upon the diversity and intersectionality of individuals, because by successfully creating equity within politics and in fact within society we can effectively meet the needs of the most important community stakeholders – everyday citizens.
If we look at how successful we have been at creating equitable representation within all levels of government specific to transgender women, it is only as recently as 2017 when the first transgender woman became successfully elected to a municipal government role within Tres-Saint-Redempteur, Quebec - Julie Lemieux, Mayor. However, looking specifically within the province of Alberta, at any level of government there has never been a transgender woman successful in campaigning for both municipal office and provincial office, nor has a transgender woman held the role of Lieutenant Governor. At the federal level there has never been a transgender woman sitting as a Member of Parliament nor Senator. Goes without saying, there has never been a transgender or LGTQ2S+ individual which has held the role of Prime Minister nor Governor General. Why? That’s a serious question I ask myself, and an answer which I often reflect upon which leads to why I believe
there is lack of diverse and equitable representation within politics, specific towards transgender individuals.
Currently 40% of transgender and gender-diverse youth within Alberta attempt suicide, many face adversity and discrimination when it comes to securing employment, struggle to secure the basic necessities of life such as food, clean clothes, shelter. The list of that which must be overcome is far larger, than that of one listing opportunities and advantages. Aspirations become those of being able to walk out the door without immediately being met with adversity, ignorance, intolerance, discrimination, harassment, abuse, and in some circumstances murder or suicide – rather than those of becoming a Councillor or even that of Prime Minister.
When we look at creating equitable representation, the conversation must include how as a community we come together to effectively remove the barriers which are faced by marginalized individuals. This applies not only towards LGBTQ2S+ women, but for women of colour, women who are single parents, women who are escaping domestic violence, women of diverse socio-economic backgrounds, etc. In order to be truly successful in our pursuit of creating equitable representation, in order for us to be successful in our pursuit of creating more seats at the table, in order for us to truly be successful as a community and as a society – together we must be more effective in coming together in putting forward our support and ensuring women from all walks of life have the tools and resources to be successful.
As a transgender woman – I look upon the political landscape and am faced with the stark reality that someone like me has never been successful in breaking through the barriers of marginalization and successful in being chosen on a ballot, or having their name successfully put forward - someone like me has never been reflected and as result there has never been a woman like me within the major Canadian politics with which I could look to or see myself within - that is one of my motivations towards coming forward in pursuit of shattering a glass ceiling long overdue, and in doing so becoming a leader not only for transgender or LGBTQ2S+ individuals, but truly for all. Doing so out of knowing how immensely important it is that space be created, engagement be initiated, and the voices of individuals be listened to and reflected within decisions and actions – because diversity and inclusion should serve as the greatest asset to our society.