Jo Cox women’s leadership scheme rebukes The Times over attacks on transgender teen

A women’s leadership scheme named in honour of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox has rebuked The Times newspaper for criticising a transgender teenager who has its support.

The Times has published a string of articles over the past few weeks focusing on 19-year-old Labour Party activist Lily Madigan, who was named a women’s officer by her constituency Labour Party.

The newspaper targeted Madigan for taking on the local women’s officer role and for applying for the party’s Jo Cox Women in Leadership Scheme..

A Times reporter interviewed anti-trans activists who claimed her presence is a “monstrous insult” to women.

Times Lily Madigan

Today, 55 Labour activists involved in the Jo Cox Women in Leadership scheme defended Ms Madigan, in a letter to the editor of The Times disputing their coverage.

It appears that that The Times has declined to publish the letter from the group of women – despite publishing no fewer than five separate pieces targeting the teenager over the past few weeks.

In the letter, the group say that the Times coverage was “focussed on sowing divisions”.

(Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

The group adds: “One of our cohort is a trans woman, our friend, and our sister.

“We wish to make it clear that the decision to include all women in this programme is one we supported then, and one which we support now.”

The full letter is published below:

Dear Editor of The Times,

We are members of the first cohort of the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme. We were privileged to be part of a course which challenged and empowered us as leaders in equal measure. In Jo’s memory, we have built a strong network of friendship and sisterhood which we know will last long after our graduation from the programme.

One of the great strengths of our experience was the diversity of the cohort. Different ages, backgrounds, beliefs, ethnicities and political perspectives came together for learning and mutual support. We did this with a strong sense that, as Jo said, we have more in common than that which divides us.

We were disappointed to read an article in The Times (25th November 2017) about a trans woman applying to the programme. Rather than celebrate what it has achieved, it focussed on sowing divisions with regards to who applies.

One of our cohort is a trans woman, our friend, and our sister.

We applaud the Labour Party, the Labour Women’s Network and the Jo Cox Foundation for supporting the principle that every woman should have the opportunity to participate in this course. We wish to make it clear that the decision to include all women in this programme is one we supported then, and one which we support now.

We urge all Labour women interested in developing their leadership skills to make the most of this and future programmes. Because we really do have more in common than that which divides us.

The letter is signed by 55 female activists, including MP for Canterbury Rosie Duffield and MP for Birmingham Edgbaston Preet Kaur Gill, who are involved in the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Scheme.

Ms Madigan has repeatedly had to defend her gender identity from critics previously.

She was last year forced to hire a solicitor after her school in Maidstone forced the student to wear a male uniform and threatened to exclude her if she turned up in a skirt.

The teen said: “When I first went [to school presenting as female] it felt really great.

“I felt like myself. But I was treated like I did something wrong, which was upsetting.

“Wearing male clothes makes me feel really invalidated and puts me in a low mood for the whole day.

“They gave me three options: I could come back in the male dress code, go on permanent study leave or find a new school.”

The school stood by its decision and forced Lily to wear a men’s suit and tie for a further six months.

After the teen threatened an Equality act case against the school, it published an apology to her.

It said: “I would like to offer an apology for any hurt to you which has been caused by individuals or the school in respect of this situation.”

The young activist also came under fire when she submitted a complaint about a Labour activist who had made a number of transphobic comments online.

The derogatory tweets about gender identity were sent by Anne Ruzylo, 52, which led to her resignation as Bexhill and Battle Constituency Labour Party women’s officer.

Ms Madigan was later elected as the women’s officer in the Rochester and Strood Constituency Labour Party.