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There isn’t a single openly trans or non-binary voice at the top of UK politics, but this Green Party activist wants to change all that

Vic Parsons August 6, 2020
Non-binary activist Tom Pashby campaigns for Green Party deputy leader

If Tom Pashby's bid for deputy leader of the Green Party is successful, they'll be the first openly non-binary person in a party's leadership team. (Supplied)

For the first time in British history, an openly non-binary person is campaigning for the leadership of a UK political party.

Tom Pashby, a writer and veteran activist who stood to be an MP in the 2017 and 2019 general elections, launched their historic bid for deputy leader of the Green Party in June.

As the leadership election opened this week, they told PinkNews that people should vote for them as a “clear Green left voice for the party”.

Pashby, who at 28 would also be one of the youngest deputy leaders of any political party in the UK, added that a vote for them is a vote “to rebuild our credibility with the trans and non-binary community”.

“We are a leftwing party but I think our messaging has become muddled over the past four years, and now we should take the opportunity to win back members and voters who are disillusioned under Starmer’s Labour,” they said.

Tom Pashby was one of a record number of trans and non-binary parliamentary candidates in the 2019 general election. They won 2.4 per cent of the votes in South West Hertfordshire, which the Conservative party held with 49.6 per cent of the vote.

This experience – as well as their 2017 campaign to be MP of Braintree, in Essex, another constituency that was held by the Tories – was not unexpected, they say.

“Running as a Green parliamentary candidate in 99 per cent of cases means being an outsider,” Pashby acknowledged. The Green Party has just one MP, Brighton Pavilion’s Caroline Lucas – who is the only-ever representative the Greens have had in the House of Commons, and who spoke at the opening of Trans Pride Brighton last summer.

Pashby says that running a parliamentary campaign gave them the “fantastic opportunity to shift the conversation about things like the need to take urgent action on the climate emergency, rebuilding after austerity and having challenging debates about wider social justice issues”.

And it is this platform they are running on: in their campaign video on Twitter, Pashby commits to Green Party policies like a universal basic income, a reformed welfare state, and a green new deal.

But they also say that the Greens “need to recognise that the attempts at electoral pacts have failed”.

“As your deputy leader, I will use my influence to argue against further such experiments and instead seek to ask all voters in England and Wales to vote Green.”

Green Party activist Tom Pashby: ‘I’m in politics for climate action.’

Although the government’s 2018 survey of 108,100 LGBT+ people found that 6.9 per cent of the community are non-binary, there has never been an openly non-binary MP, let alone non-binary person at the top of a British political party.

In comparison, there are 45 lesbian, gay, bi or pan MPs – almost all of them cis gay men, of which there are 19 in the Conservative party alone – making the UK’s parliament “the gayest in the world“.

But while Pashby’s bid for Green Party deputy leader, if successful, would make history in terms of representing the trans and non-binary community, they are clear that what got them into politics was “the failure of the other parties to protect our environment”.

“I find it slightly strange that I have this platform to speak on behalf of the trans and non-binary community like this because I’m in politics for climate action,” they say.

“But I know that by being publicly and vocally non-binary in a position like deputy leader, I could create more space for fellow trans and non-binary people in public life and hopefully start to address some of the stigma associated with those identities.”

Pashby is one of six contenders for the deputy leadership – the others are current deputy leader Amelia Womack, Bristol city councillor Cleo Lake, the party’s digital officer Nick Humberstone, Deptford general election candidate Andrea Carey Fuller and Macclesfield general election candidate James Booth.

The Green Party leadership candidates are former deputy leader Shahrar Ali, current leaders Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry, and Solihull councillor Rosemary Sexton.

Green Party members can vote between 3 and 31 August, with the results announced shortly after voting closes.

More: Caroline Lucas, green party, green party leadership election, non-binary, tom pashby, trans mp

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