General Election 2017: This trans activist is fighting to oust anti-LGBT Conservative politician
A trans activist is vying to oust anti-LGBT politician Tim Loughton at the UK general election.
Sophie Cook, an RAF engineer turned TV presenter, who is trans, is fighting to replace the high-profile Conservative as the MP for East Worthing and Shoreham.
Mr Loughton had been a children’s minister under David Cameron, and is a prolific opponent of equality rights.
Mr Loughton was among 128 Conservative MPs to vote against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act introduced by the coalition government.
Now Ms Cook is standing as Labour’s candidate for the constituency, and would become the UK’s first out trans member of parliament if she’s elected.
The 50-year-old equality campaigner, who has three children, began transitioning in 1998 and came out in 2015.
She told The Independent: “It’s vitally important that Parliament reflects the diversity of our society, with members from all walks of life regardless of gender, sexuality, gender identity, race, religion and disability.
“Transgender people have been sadly underrepresented at all levels of society in the past and faced abuse, discrimination and bigotry.
“This is beginning to change but it is only by working towards a day when everyone can be free to live their life free of discrimination that we will have true equality.”
The sitting MP previously told the BBC’s World at One that he was “annoyed” by the priority introducing equality had been given.
He said: “Most of us were really annoyed by the way it happened.
“It wasn’t in the manifestos and all of a sudden it became a very urgent issue, where as other things to do with family like the married transferable tax allowance apparently weren’t as urgent.
“So almost the mechanics of the way the gay marriage issue was handled became a bigger issue than whether you support gay marriage or not. The timing just seemed altogether rather crass and clumsily handled.”
Ms Cook, a former Royal Air Force technician who became the first ever trans news anchor in Europe last year, emphasised that this step had been a long time coming.
“From my days in the Royal Air Force during the 1980s, I always knew that I wanted to stand for Parliament, but was unable to pursue this in case I was outed as transgender.
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“This is no longer an issue.”
Conservative MP Mr Loughton has represented the seat since 1997 and won a majority of 14,949 at the last election.
Labour was left in second place with 19.5 percent of the vote, compared to the Tories on almost 50 percent.
Ms Cook isn’t the only trans candidate running for election on June 8.
Trans Liberal Democrat candidates Helen Belcher and Zoe O’Connell will both be standing in the snap election.
Belcher is competing for the constituency of Chippenham, which was a Liberal Democrat held seat until the last election.
O’Connell was selected to stand for the party in the constituency of Maldon in the 2015 general election, coming fifth.
They join former out trans candidates, Labour’s Emily Brothers, Green candidate Charlie Kiss in Islington South and Finsbury, and Stella Gardiner, also a Green, in Bexleyheath and Crayford.