Anna Lee, a Maths student from Lancaster University, has become the first ever trans woman in the running to become the NUS National Women’s Officer, as well as the first to stand for a national role.
The current women’s officer, Susuana Amoah, was elected last April to represent female students from across the UK for the year. Lee, as this year’s nominee, has a history of campaigning for women’s issues including sexual harassment, the tampon tax, and has worked on increasing gender diversity within the national curriculum.
She defines herself as a “queer trans disabled lesbian woman” whose mission statement involves making “voices that are so often silenced and pushed aside heard.” In her past, Lee has pursued this mission in her role as Vice President of Welfare and Community at the Lancaster Students’ Union.
Lee has received a great deal of abuse during her election campaign for women’s officer, mainly from the “middle aged White men” demographic. She claims that they are “very angry” about the possibility of her winning. Hundreds of trolls have sent her thousands of abusive messages online because she is a trans woman. She claims that this has greatly impacted her mental health, but remains positive, with an “unstoppable passion” for women’s causes.
However, some people feel that whilst they do not have a problem with Lee being transgender, they do have a problem with her representing the female student body. Many of these critics are feminist activists, who believe that “a biological man” cannot understand female issues fully and so should not have the opportunity to represent women.
Others have questioned whether the election will be fair. They are concerned that if Lee were to lose her spot at the election, it could be “an excuse to raise the discrimination flag.” Another commentator asked: “Will she be elected automatically as long as she labels all critics abusers?”
Whilst critique has been plentiful, there has also been a lot of support. Jess Lishak, the Women’s Officer for the University of Manchester Students’ Union, stated plainly that: “trans women are women… I fully support her right to be able to run for the position.”
She added that she will be “deciding who to vote for purely based on their ideas and passion for the job.” Fervent support has also come from Jo Gowers from the Union of Students in Ireland, who praises Lee’s understanding of key issues and states that she is “proudly backing Anna for the NUS UK Women’s Officer.”
The elections will take place in Brighton from the 19th to the 21st of April, where over 1,000 student representatives will gather to vote for the next year’s NUS leadership team.
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