News Walthamstow

Waltham Forest elects first trans councillor

The 22-year-old has been a member of the Labour party since the age of 15
By Victoria Munro

Labour councillor for Higham Hill Kira Lewis (credit: Jack Phipps)
Labour councillor for Higham Hill Kira Lewis (credit: Jack Phipps)

Waltham Forest has elected its first ever transgender councillor.

Kira Lewis was elected as a Labour candidate in Higham Hill ward, alongside existing Labour councillors Karen Bellamy and Alistair Strathern.

The 22-year-old, originally from Somerset, currently works for the Labour party and has been a member of the party since the age of just 15.

They are non-binary, meaning they are neither a man or woman and use gender-neutral pronouns, and one of three new trans councillors elected nationwide last week.

Kira told the Echo they were nervous about campaigning as a trans person in an “abstract” way, adding: “There are so few trans [councillors] that I didn’t know what to expect, there’s no clear precedent.

“But the main thing [voters] care about is will you listen to my issues, do you live locally and do you care about the area; who you are is really second to that.

“Nationally, I think there’s an unfair fear of trans people and we’re subject to a bit of a moral panic but Walthamstow is a really great place to be. I hope people elected in other places get a similar positive response.

“[Mayor of London] Sadiq Khan even came to Higham Hill and gave a really great speech about how important it is to support trans people.”

Kira is one of three trans councillors elected last week, along with Plymouth Labour councillor Dylan Tippetts and Scottish Green councillor Elaine Gallagher, elected in Glasgow.

Kira said the local election held on 5th May was “possibly the best ever” in terms of trans candidates being elected, adding: “It’s been slow progress from the late 90s onwards but hopefully now we can… show we have something positive to contribute.”

While Kira has received some harassment on Twitter, they suspect these people “probably don’t live anywhere near Higham Hill”, adding they hope their work as a councillor will “speak for itself”.

They said: “I’m really passionate about making sure this part of Walthamstow gets a good end of the stick. In particular, I want to make sure we’re focused on young people and renters’ rights, as a renter myself.

“One of the reasons I joined the party is because of one of my local councillors when I was a child [in Somerset]. My mum had just lost her job and I was quite angry about it, for good reason. We sort of vaguely knew our councillor but she helped us through lots of things.

“I’ve really admired the work our Labour councillors have been doing… [particularly] the willingness to bring theatre and culture to the borough… and green policies like making sure everyone can access public transport.”