When Green Party co-leaders Jonathan Bartley and Sian Berry stepped down in July, with Berry citing internal Party transphobia as one reason for her resignation, it triggered a battle for power in a political party on the rise.
This week, members will elect a new leadership team. Among the contenders is Tamsin Omond, a 36-year-old environmental activist who is the first trans and non-binary person to stand for the leadership of a major UK political party.
Omond, who describes themselves as “trans (nonbinary)”, is standing on a co-leadership ticket alongside current deputy leader Amelia Womack. If the pair win, it would mark a historic first in British LGBTQ history at a time of increasing hostility towards trans people.
Their leadership bid follows a record number of trans, non-binary and genderqueer parliamentary candidates who ran in the 2019 general election. Owen Hurcum is the first openly non-binary mayor in the UK, heading up Bangor City in Wales, but we are yet to see a non-binary MP win a seat in Parliament.
This leadership election comes at a time when the climate crisis has been marked as a “code red for humanity”. It is a decisive and world-altering moment in the history, present and future of our civilisation; something both candidates say they do not take lightly.
Although substantial focus has centred on Omond’s genderqueerness, they and Womack speak to VICE about the many other crucial elements of their campaign and their visions for a just world.
VICE: Hello! So, what made you want to run for co-leadership?
Amelia Womack: Tamsin and I are the same age, and I think we represent a generation that has been failed by politics and political systems: we're the generation that got our first jobs during austerity; we’re also a generation that grew up learning about the climate and ecological emergency at school. And I know that I naively thought someone's going to do something about that, because that's quite scary, and nobody has.
Tamsin Omond: Absolutely. And another part of the reason that I stood was because it didn't look like a trans person was going to stand and within the context of this election, for there not to be a trans person standing, it felt really… What’s the word I’m looking for, Amelia?
Womack: It felt really serendipitous, us running together.
Omond: Yes, exactly.
How do you see the significance of running on such a trans-inclusive platform?
Omond: The way I see it, this isn't a Green Party moment; this is a big society moment against the kind of transphobic pushback which has happened, because trans people are taking up more space than we used to; because we used to hide it, because we used to feel like there wasn't any room for us and it wasn't safe for us to exist even in our imaginations, let alone out there in the world. I didn't come across my first non-binary person until I was in my thirties…that's just rubbish. We need representation, because otherwise, I don't see myself anywhere.
I’m obviously not trying to represent any specific “gender”, we all express our gender in different ways. But I'm not the gender that I was assigned at birth. That's something that I know very strongly, and I didn't know how to live that. There weren’t choices for me when I was growing up for living that. And now there are, and that's amazing. That's something that representation does, it offers people the idea that this isn't wrong, there's nothing wrong with me and with how I feel.
Womack: I often think back to my school days and the kind of oppressive way that we talked about sexuality. I go into schools now and young people are so much more confident in understanding who they are, and that's really because of the generation of LGBT leaders that opened up the doors to that. I feel like we're seeing the same thing on trans rights now, and I really hope it paves the way for the next generation to not have the same struggles that too many generations before them had.
Do you think the Party is ready to move on from the transphobia?
Omond: The Green Party that I know and that I've been a part of for ten years is young, progressive, and excited to work for change, and they want a leadership that is anti-transphobic. More than that, the country needs a Green Party that is clearly signposting its anti-transphobia, that is standing alongside marginalised and oppressed people and saying, we will build a political machine that is able to take power so that we don't leave anyone behind in this time of massive vulnerability. The climate crisis is one such vulnerability.
Racism, patriarchy, transphobia, antisemitism, ableism: all of these things are structures that are ensuring that we'll all be left out if we don't stand together.
How do you plan to bring intersectionality to your campaign?
Womack: We want to ensure that we're working at listening to and promoting diverse voices. For me, a lot of that work is about removing the barriers as to why people don't engage in politics. So one of the things that I've done in the past is ring fencing money during general elections for diverse candidates to stand because there are so many barriers as to why they can't.
Omond: We also have a plan for a liberation panel so that every week we're talking to people from the party who represent the communities [that we don’t]. We’re offering our platforms to them, and we want them to let us know about the structures within the party that are locking them out so we can use our leadership to undo them.
Womack: Yes, and we’re inspired by others in the Party like Magid Magid, who’s currently putting forward his bid to become South Yorkshire mayor, ensuring that his story of being a refugee is heard, but also proving the power of the Green Party and the power of voting green. And Cleo Lake, who was our Lord Mayor in Bristol, has done work on reparations and getting councils to declare motions on reparations.
Omond: All of these people – and us – are examples of what happens when you give BIPOC people power, when you give a trans person power: there are solutions in our experience to the crisis that we’re encountering. If we can learn from the experience of marginalised people, then we have a chance of actually transforming our society.
Do you think the UK is ready for such radical leadership?
Omond: Yes! We're really on the path to something very exciting which speaks to how much hunger there is for something to believe in. It’s already happening in other places like New Zealand, Finland, Germany – leadership done by different values, with a younger, more intersectional understanding of politics. I think there's a whole demographic that is hungry for that to be the story that's happening here, too. And we're the answer to that story.