OK, so the dust has settled, the election and its associated bargaining is over. Mrs. May has managed to reach her memorandum of understanding, and form a Government in conjunction with the DUP. If you are a political enthusiast, these are interesting times.
One thing hasn’t changed at all though, we still have no trans MPs. Despite a group of trans people standing across several parties, sadly none of them were elected. This is not because they were not high quality candidates, merely that they were only offered unwinnable seats by their parties, or if they were in seats with a slight chance of winning, they were denied the resources to achieve a win.
It’s a numbers problem, folks
In the last sentence of the previous paragraph lies the problem we trans people face as a community when it comes to political representation within our ranks. Parties put their resources into seats they think they can win easily, this means sending activists to those constituencies. We heard about it in 2015 because the Conservatives sent a battle bus full of activists to winnable marginals and got into trouble over the resulting expenses, but the same is true for other parties, all of whom do it. It is bodies that win elections, people pounding the streets with leaflets, people on the phone banks, and people canvassing.
The political establishment are unlikely to put a trans person into a seat they think they can win and to which they will devote resources, if it means displacing one of their party hacks. They like us in unwinnable seats for a bit of diversity window dressing, but they remain unlikely to either put one of us somewhere winnable, or put those bodies in to get one of us elected.
Therefore this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, they will never put the resources into a seat with a trans candidate to win it because they will always put them into a winnable seat in which they have a cis candidate. Thus trans candidates will never progress to being considered a winnable prospect, and so the cycle will repeat. I am sorry to say I have watched this happen over the last few weeks of the 2017 election campaign, as the extremely able trans candidate I was working for was robbed of resources because they were throwing the kitchen sink at a nearby seat they considered more winnable. Our trans candidate might still not have won, but could have had huge amount more chance without that hindrance.
So if cis-dominated political parties are going to do very little to put a trans person in parliament, it’s up to we trans people to put the resources in ourselves. We have the power to provide those essential extra bodies to help our candidates in their campaigns, because it is evident that this is something at which our cis allies will continue to fail to deliver.
Operation Trans MP, one way out of this mess
I would therefore like to propose Operation Trans MP, or OpTransMP. This will be an effort to motivate the trans community to give some of their time to the campaigns of trans candidates. By which I mean present them with the information they need to find their appropriate trans candidate by either party, swing, or distance, so they can go along and volunteer on their campaigns. The aim will be to both provide the required extra bodies that their national parties will fail to provide, and to help motivate local party volunteers by making them aware that there is a national community of trans people rooting for their candidate too.
A couple of things to remember
There are a couple of things it is worth making clear though before proceeding with such a project, one of which involves the trans candidates, the other the trans volunteers.
The candidates may be trans, but it is vital to understand that they are not standing to be the MP for all trans people. Instead they are standing to be the MP for their own constituency. Their primary concerns will not be those of our community, but those of their constituents. As the candidate I was working for put it though, if elected they will be there for us when our issues are debated, and the political dinosaurs will have to look a member of our community in the eye if they are considering throwing us under the bus.
Any trans volunteers must also understand that the candidate they are supporting will be standing as the candidate for wherever the constituency is, rather than the trans candidate. Thus the campaigning and other work will not be about their being trans, but about their being elected for that constituency. It’s important that anybody volunteering for them remembers this in the work they do and in any engagements they may have with potential voters, the last thing they need is for their campaign to be made about the trans community rather than their constituency and party.
Are you up to the challenge?
We have already looked at why our first trans MPs will be a very important step, but as the election we have just had has shown, that first trans MP still seems very far away. This piece has proposed a way our community can help make trans MPs a reality, and since with a shaky coalition government it seems we might have another election before too long, is it a way you can see yourself following?
After all, if we do nothing we can guarantee one thing. After the next election there will be 650 cis MPs.
Interested? Find @OpTransMP on Twitter.
Palace of Westminster image: Diliff [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons, recoloured by Rachel Evans