This May, the northeastern French town of Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes marked a significant achievement in the country’s history when it elected Marie Cau as its mayor, the first town in the nation to do so. Following her election to town council earlier this year, Cau’s leadership was quickly recognized as the council almost unanimously selected her to fill the town’s mayoral position. Cau described her political achievement as an opportunity to “put [her] skills at the service of the population,” working to realize the “Deciding Together” list’s platform of environmental sustainability.
In an interview with the Victory Institute, Mayor Cau detailed why she decided to run for office this year. She cited a noted “desire for change” among her community and established her only motivation as “improving the life of [her] village,” a drive clear to her constituents. Mayor Cau shared she felt her election was due to her platform and her values rather than her gender identity, an ideology she hopes to see normalized in politics. “What is […] surprising is that I am not an LGBT activist. One can therefore be elected normally on a program without taking into account one’s orientation and sexual identity,” elaborated Cau. In the few cases she did experience comments regarding her identity, Mayor Cau found her fellow Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes residents treated her only with kindness and positivity.
In her first months as mayor, Cau led Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes through the troublesome times of the novel coronavirus. COVID-19 initially prevented Cau and her town council from taking office due to the necessities of inauguration. However, before even swearing into office, Mayor Cau “launched a citizen solidarity initiative to which many volunteers responded” to help implement preventative measures. The inauguration in May provided the town council with the legitimacy to take further action, opening school following safety measures as the town held control of the virus. The council’s pre-inauguration plan included community bonding during its era of social distancing, enabling the town to eventually enter a state of relative safety.
Cau’s election comes “in a context of regression of LGBT rights in Europe in the world, especially for transgender people, who have become a particular target of conservatives,” Cau added. Indeed, France’s Interior Ministry reported a “36 percent increase in the number of victims of anti-LGBT acts” in 2019 alone. Cau’s election and support from her community show a potential future for LGBTQ people in France and Europe generally, giving hope to LGBTQ individuals across the region. As LGBTQ representation across the political sphere increases, voters focus on “the value of individuals regardless of their gender identity” or sexual orientation, as expressed by French National Transgender Association co-founder Stéphanie Nicot. Victory Institute works around the globe to train leaders like Cau on running successfully as LGBTQ candidates, helping to bring about the world Mayor Cau envisions: one of acceptance in which LGBTQ individuals know they are not alone.