Sophie Cook has opened up about campaigning in the general election as a trans woman
A woman who ran for a seat during the general election has opened up about what it meant to be transgender during her campaign.
Sophie Rose Cook was the Labour candidate for the Shoreham and Worthing seat, formerly Conservative stronghold for over 20 years.
In an op-ed for the Brighton and Hove Independent Cook has spoken about the abuse she expected to get as a trans person campaigning for the seat, and the positive reaction she was actually met with.
Cook, who is a sports and TV presenter, said that she was told that the constituency she was running for would not warm to her because of her gender identity.
One person said to her that the area “isn’t Brighton”, the neighbouring city to Shoreham and Worthing which is known for being much more liberal.
Despite this and the short five-week period she had to stage her campaign, Cook decided that she would step into the political arena and “brace” herself “for a renewed onslaught of hatred”.
Cook explained that she had become used to the abuse she got online because of her presence on TV.
In the past, she had received death threats and been abused by troll groups online. However, Cook writes that this campaign marked a turning point in people’s acceptance of her and her gender identity.
“Something unexpected happened. Instead of the abuse, I was greeted with love and support, sure there were still a few transphobic remarks online but nothing like I’d experienced previously,” she said.
She had heard how some transgender people in the constituency had moved away because of the abuse, but she was met with open arms in the community.
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Cook came away from the election with almost 21,000 votes, increasing the Labour vote by 114 percent and making it one of the biggest swing seats in the country.
Despite not winning the seat, Cook said that she said she believes her gender identity was not something that concerned voters – and nor should it be.
“They weren’t voting for a trans woman, they were voting for Sophie Cook, they were voting for the Labour Party. They saw beyond the headlines and the things that made us different and in their way struck a massive blow for trans equality.”
She added that she was disappointed that no transgender MP was elected, but that the success of her campaign proved that there was now a greater acceptance of trans people.
“We need transgender politicians, after all, everyone in society needs to feel represented. But the main reason why I believe that the time is right for a trans MP has nothing to do with equality or diversity, it’s down to the constituents who put their faith in me to represent them, regardless of my gender identity.”