Bil Browning

Cambridge mayor comes out as trans

Filed By Bil Browning | May 26, 2007 10:52 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Cambridge, coming out of the closet, England, Indiana, mayor, outing, transgender

Now here's a twist... The newly elected mayor of Cambridge was forced to "come out" as transgender after a newspaper reporter approached her asking questions. But as an added bonus, not only the mayor was forced to reveal her original gender, but so was the mayor's lesbian partner - who is also trans. I found a couple clips from the story really interesting though...

On running for office:

"When I first joined the Liberal Democrats, there was a vetting process and they asked: 'Is there anything in your past that is going to be difficult?' I said I was transgender and they said: 'No, is there anything that is going to be difficult?'."

So, it's just not that big of a deal, right? Over in Europe they're so much more advanced then we are... Being trans is more accepted and scientific understanding is higher, right?
"So many more things define me than being transgender - a medical condition I had 15 years ago and which I have now recovered from," she said.

"I'm proud that I managed to get through something which was quite difficult and managed to come out of it a better person. I certainly do not want it to eclipse being mayor."

"If it damages the Cambridge mayoralty I will be so upset. I'm so proud of Cambridge. It's an honour to be mayor."


Buwha?!? "Recovered from?" Eh? Now, I'll admit that I'm not transgender so I'm not an expert on the subject, so perhaps some of our trans readers or contributors can help set me (pardon the pun) straight... But is this a good quote? It sure doesn't sound like it to me... This makes it sound like she had a disease and now she's quite recovered, thank you. A couple of aspirin and a hormone shot, and - walla! - she "recovered."

Of course, the flip side of the coin is that Cambridge has a trans mayor and the party didn't give a crap. Here in Indiana, a lesbian ran openly for a county sheriff's position and lost miserably. As far as I know, she's the only openly LGBT candidate in Indiana to have even made it to the ballot box. Hell, you'd think by now Indianapolis would at least have an LGBT City-County Councilor. Instead, we have to hope that the Democrats will act halfway decently towards us - and that only happens when it's politically expedient. I long for the day when most people in Indiana think, "No, is there anything that is going to be difficult?"


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I'm not trans, but I've heard a lot of trans people describe trans as a "birth defect." So if I was born with a vagina, but I feel male, then my vagina is a birth defect. After my sex change, my birth defect has been "cured" (so to speak).

But I do agree with you, Bil, that speaking about "cures" sounds pathologizing. But I don't think there's anything we as a community can do to avoid that.

A. J. Lopp | May 28, 2007 2:08 PM
As far as I know, she's the only openly LGBT candidate in Indiana to have even made it to the ballot box.

I believe I heard that in November 2006 an openly gay man got elected to a school board in Lawrence County. (Bedford is the county seat of Lawrence County, but I'm not sure whether it was the Bedford school board per se.)

I'll try to research this, and if I find anything I will post the details here.

"Pathologizing" is the perfect word for this, Serena. Thanks for reading my mind better than I did. :)

A. J. Lopp | June 1, 2007 8:37 PM
Here in Indiana, a lesbian ran openly for a county sheriff's position and lost miserably. As far as I know, she's the only openly LGBT candidate in Indiana to have even made it to the ballot box. Hell, you'd think by now Indianapolis would at least have an LGBT City-County Councilor.

Well, Bil, I was right but I did have my facts all screwed up. In November 2006 Henry Fernandez was elected to the Lawrence Township school board right there in your native Indianapolis/Marion County. So, you still don't have an openly GLBT City Councilperson, but you do have an openly GLBT school board member. Better than nothing, eh?

According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Fernandez is the first openly GLBT elected official in Indiana.

Relative to our surrounding states, Indiana is behind the curve when it comes to openly GLBT elected officials:

Illinois: 11
Kentucky: 5
Ohio: 9
Michigan: 17

Our work is cut out for us, I'd say!

Iain Coleman | June 6, 2007 8:16 PM

You should bear in mind that the source of your quotes, the Daily Telegraph, is a right-wing conservative newspaper. I'm a former colleague of Jenny Bailey, having served with her on Cambridge City Council, and I'm sure she'll do an excellent job as Mayor. The idea that she has been "forced to come out" is just a bizarre piece of spin from the journalist. While a private matter, it was never a secret.

There's a lengthy interview with Jenny (and her partner, Jennifer) in the Cambridge Evening News, which should give you a better idea of her personal history and her feelings about it all. I think you'll find it rather more positive than the material you've quoted so far.

I note that this is the subject of a contentious debate within the trans community.

Some transsexuals consider themselves to have been born in the wrong body, e.g., she was born into a boy's body, though her gender identity is female. In this view, she has a birth defect that must be corrected, just as a tumor must be removed. Her condition is theorized as a physical medical condition, rather than a psychological condition. Sometimes people refer to this as "Harry Benjamin Syndrome," after a psychiatrist of the 1960s who popularized the issue. In such thinking, one stops being "transsexual" after the operation. In addition, without an operation, one cannot claim to be of the opposite sex.

To the contrary, other transgender people consider this understanding to be pathologizing, and prefer to have a radical distinction between sex and gender. In this view, there can be a woman with a penis or a man with a vagina, on the grounds that gender identity as a man or woman has no connection whatsoever with male or female sex.

Both views have theoretical problems, but if you want to understand GLBT politics, here it is.