Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
The UK may get its first transgender MP, thanks to Emily Brothers, the Labour candidate for Sutton and Cheam. Brothers, who is blind, and was a key figure in securing Disability Living Allowance for blind people, said that part of the reason to come out was to tackle the ‘distrust in politicians’.
Talking to the London Live TV station, she said: ‘I felt that this was something about my past, that at some point would come out and it was important for me to be honest about my experience. There is a lot of distrust in politicians and I felt it was important for me to come out and say “I have a transgender background, I am a gay woman, this is part of my life experience”.’
‘I think we have a very inclusive party,’ she said. ‘I am confident that [Labour leader, Ed Miliband] will be supportive of me as a woman with a transgender background as he is with the conversations I’ve had about my disability. I have spoken to our shadow equality support minister, Gloria De Pro, and she has been very supportive and I’m sure the rest of leadership around me will be too.’
She added that the feedback she has received so far has been overwhelmingly positive ‘even though it is rather nerve wracking’.
Pointing out that there are difficulties with politicians often being asked to confirm to stereotype, she said that she could have kept quiet in order to progress her career. ‘But,’ she added, ‘I do feel quite passionately that if I am going to speak about people’s rights, about disability, about transgender rights, it is important that I draw on my own personal experience.’
‘Yes, I have spoken out,’ she said, ‘yes, I have revealed my past, and [I have] tried to carve a way forward in terms of political representation. I hope in some small way I can make that path easier for future politicians in terms of being transgender and wishing to be involved in public life.’
Brothers may be the first openly transgender politician, and hopes to be the first blind woman to be a member of the House of Commons. ‘That would also be a very significant step,’ she said. ‘We are seeing an increasing number of women in Parliament, and we want those women to be diverse – from BME communities, from working class backgrounds such as myself, and also who are women and have a transgender history.’
Video courtesy of Headline London, on London Live – Freeview 8, YouView 8, Sky 117 and Virgin 159
The headline of this article was changed on 10 December 2014 to reflect that Brothers is not the first transsexual politician to run for office. In Westminster, a trans woman ran for the SNP in Glasgow in 1992 and Stephanie Dryden stood for the Liberal Democrats in Tooting in 2005 as an openly trans woman. For May 2015, Stella Gardiner has already been selected as PPC for the Green party in Bexleyheath & Crayford.
In the European Parliament, Nikki Sinclair came out while still an MEP and then stood for re-election.
At a local level, Cambridge has had trans representation continuously with openly trans Liberal Democrat councillors from 2000 until earlier this year and has had a trans woman as mayor.
Thanks to Zoe O’Connell, Secretary-Elect, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, for this information.
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