Labour’s first out trans Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Emily Brothers spoke passionately about her journey at the Cambridge Union, and told PinkNews she thought trans issues are the “new frontier of equality”.
Ms Brothers – who was a key figure in securing Disability Living Allowance for blind people – came out as transgender in an interview with PinkNews last month.
In a historic first for the Labour party, she will run to become an MP in Sutton and Cheam.
Speaking at the Cambridge Union yesterday followed by a Q&A, Brothers said she was “engaged” by the audience, and was honoured to speak alongside people like Stephen Fry and Sarah Palin at the Union, which is celebrating its bicentenary.
She described giving the speech as a “powerful experience”, and said she thought “non gender-binary issues” as the “new frontier of equality” based on having spoken at the first NUS trans conference last week in Manchester, as well as at the Cambridge Union this week.
Starting from losing her sight when she was a child in Merseyside, Brothers spoke impassionately to defend the NHS. She describes a picket line collection, which allowed her to travel to London too see a specialist, who was unable to help, but that she used the money to buy a braille machine, which she still uses today.
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“I’ve had amazing support from within the party, but outside and across Britain, for which I’m very grateful – people finding my personal story inspiring, that’s humbling. All I’m doing is being me. That’s what I believe is at the core of leadership – being honest with yourself and genuine with others – in my case, an authentic woman.”
“Let’s be frank, there’s still a lot of fear. There are people out there who are very negative — People who like to judge people with different backgrounds. There have been plenty of examples where people have suffered because of negative stories, to the extent where some have taken their own lives. To put it in perspective though, just in the last few days coverage of my personal story in America has been received with hostility and bigotry, underlying how much we have moved forward in this country.”
Referring to Rod Liddle’s column in the Sun, in which he wrote: “Thing is though, being blind, how did she know she was the wrong sex?’, she said she responded, asking: “I responded by asking: when he turns the lights out, how does he know he is a man. He hasn’t answered, so I think he must be frightened of the dark.”
“For my part, it is about being congruent, having a sense of harmony between my sense of self and physical characteristics. It is a journey that brings different factors into alignment. However, there is still some travelling for me to do. Now with a lesbian identity there are new challenges, hand in hand with new prospects. Although things may be daunting and frustrating at times, I trust that my inner resilience will help to make progress.”
Saying, despite previously having avoided it, she took to Twitter following the Rod Liddle controversy, and said in response to trolls: “If they thought I was going to be intimidated, they got that wrong.”
“My task is to seek election as a mainstream politician. Community organisations better represent issues of concern to transgender people, that isn’t my task. As a woman with a transsexual history, my voice will hopefully compliment their excellent work. As a politician I expect some rough treatment at the hands of the media and political opponents. As a Liverpudlian with history with The Sun, I expect nothing else from them. Yet I’m very conscious that many transgender people, families and friends were upset. That’s why I’m speaking out.”
Continuing, Brothers called for more stringent press regulation, in particular when dealing with individuals being damaged by reports.
She mentioned Lucy Meadows, who was found dead in a house in Lancashire on Tuesday 19 March, saying: “When Lucy Meadows was exposed by the newspapers that was bad enough, but a piece by Richard Littlejohn in The Daily mail was particularly vindictive. The coroner was rightly critical of the press when delivering his verdict of suicide. Some 220,000 people signed a petition that should have brought about a parliamentary debate, but that still hasn’t happened. If I am elected to Westminster, I will endeavour to make that debate happen.”