Mary Lou McDonald expresses support for trans sibling

“Everybody gets one life, it’s not a dress rehearsal, so it’s important people are true to themselves."

Mary Lou McDonald wearing black blazer, she publicly expressed support for her trans sibling.
Image: Twitter @NicholaBradley

Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald has publicly shared her support for her trans sister who transitioned in 2021.

In an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, the politician shared that her eldest sister was assigned male at birth but has transitioned in recent years. While she acknowledged that she’s still learning about trans experiences, Mary Lou McDonald expressed her full support for her sibling.

She said, “Everybody gets one life, it’s not a dress rehearsal, so it’s important that people are true to themselves. And of course, when it’s a family member, it’s all the more important because it’s so close to your life.”

McDonald is one of four children. In addition to her eldest sister who is trans, she also has two younger siblings – a twin brother and sister, Patrick and Joanne.

When asked about Ireland’s position regarding gender identity, she stated that Ireland still has things to overcome before catching up with certain other European nations.

In late 2022, Scotland and Spain approved new laws that allow for anyone aged 16 and older to change their legal gender status. The new law in Scotland is expected to officially come into effect early this year, although it could still be overturned by Westminster.

In response to these groundbreaking legislative changes, McDonald expressed that Ireland is not yet positioned to follow suit.

“We haven’t taken that step. And I’m conscious that I, like lots of people … we’re on a learning curve on these issues,” the 53-year-old said.

Ireland passed the landmark Gender Recognition Act in July 2015 which allows trans people over the age of 18 to achieve full legal recognition of their gender identity, including receiving a new birth certificate that reflects their gender identity. Younger people aged 16 and 17 can apply to have their gender recognised in Ireland, but the approval process is more difficult.

Update: TENI welcomed Mary Lou McDonald’s decision to speak publicly about her trans sibling. Transgender Equality Network Ireland CEO, Tina Kolos Orban (they/them), shared that there’s always an impact.

They said, “Talking about it publicly sends a message – when a politician talks about their private lives it sends a strong message…Family members around the country are coming out… Hopefully we’ll see more family members coming out to support them.”

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