Leigh Finke began her role as a US state representative less than three months ago
Leigh Finke, a transgender former journalist and author who was elected as a state representative late last year, has been chosen as Minnesota's 'Woman of the Year' by the USA Today newspaper. The decision has sparked criticism from some American conservatives.
Finke - a Democrat who transitioned in 2017 - became Minnesota's first-ever transgender legislator when she secured 81% of the vote in November's House of Representatives election in the left-leaning Twin Cities metropolitan area.
She assumed office in early January, and USA Today claimed in its list of female honorees released last Friday that she is "fighting to build a better future for trans youth." The publication selected Finke for praise alongside the likes of Michelle Obama, actress Goldie Hawn, and the entire US women's soccer team.
Minnesota's lieutenant governor, Peggy Flanagan, insisted on social media that the award for Finke was "well-deserved," arguing that she had displayed "tenacity, bravery and leadership" in her role as a rookie lawmaker.
Finke has pursued legislation to transform Minnesota into a so-called "trans sanctuary state," and USA Today also wrote of her activism for "transgender and LGBTQ+ rights" as well as Black Lives Matter, which it said she had supported "almost her whole life."
In a Sunday tweet referencing the award, Finke wrote: "As an elected [official], I recognize that I just got here. The faith that has been put in my (sic) by my district, by the queer community, and by my colleagues at the capitol has been life-giving."
However, several prominent political figures have spoken out against the decision to honor the lawmaker. "What will ever be left for biological females?" former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who served during the Donald Trump administration, asked on Fox News on Tuesday.
"What does it take for a conservative woman to get on a list like this?" she added.
Fox News commentator Guy Benson pushed back somewhat, arguing that there are several examples of both biological and transgender women who deserve recognition for various accomplishments, but that Finke should not be among them. Her selection, he said, was little more than a "political statement."
"This is about, 'there's a culture war, there's a big controversy around trans issues, so let's find some and put them on these lists to make a statement,'" Benson claimed.
In 2022, USA Today nominated transgender Biden administration official Rachel Levine on its 'Women of the Year' list.