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Meet the trans and non-binary people running for parliament in the UK general election

Vic Parsons November 15, 2019
A vivid array of trans and non-binary candidates are running in this year's UK general election. (Supplied/Twitter)

Ten trans and non-binary candidates are running in this year's UK general election. (Supplied/Twitter)

Did you know that, since parliament began over 200 years ago, at least 20 MPs have been killed in a duel?

But, to date, there has never been a UK election that resulted in an openly trans MP.

In the 2017 snap election in the UK, nine trans, including non-binary, candidates ran for election – four Greens, three Lib Dems and two Labour – but none were successful.

There were only four trans candidates in the 2015 general election, and none in 2010.

In this coming election, there are 10 hopefuls – four trans women and a record six non-binary people. All of them are white.

PinkNews also knows of at least four trans people who had planned to run but either weren’t selected by their party or stood down, for Brexit-related reasons or for reasons like the “vile online abuse” they received for their gender identity.

There are no openly trans candidates for the Conservative party, the SNP, the DUP or Plaid Cymru, but the other parties all have at least one (and at least one trans person is standing as an independent). Half the trans and non-binary people running are standing for the Green Party.

Obviously, there may be trans candidates who are not out. There may also be trans candidates who are out and should be on this list – if that’s you, please get in touch.

Note: PinkNews recognises that not all non-binary people identify as trans and has tried to use language that reflects this where possible.

Green Party trans candidates in the UK election.

More than half the trans and non-binary candidates running are standing for the Green Party.

Rowan McLaughlin is the genderqueer candidate for Redcar in the north-east of England. It’s their first time running for Parliament.

Rowan McLaughlin, the non-binary Green Party candidate for Redcar. (Twitter)

Ben Foley is the non-binary candidate for Luton South. It’s their fourth time running for Parliament, but the first time since coming out as non-binary.

Their top priority, they say, is the same as any Green: “Finding a just transition to a sustainable economy – one that doesn’t sell out our children, nieces and nephews, and their children.”

Ben Foley is standing for the fourth time, but this is the first time since coming out as non-binary.

“I’m proud of the way the Party leadership go out of their way to stand  up for Trans rights,” Foley says. “For example with the deputy leader posting a picture of herself holding up a badge ‘I support Trans rights’ and posting it on her Facebook page in the full knowledge that she would get offensive responses (and she was actually surprised by the number of positive responses).”

“On the down side, there are some within the party who are active transphobes, and others in prominent positions in some local branches who are public in their support for Women’s Place UK.”

Quinn Daley, Green Party PPC for Pudsey.

Quinn Daley is standing for Pudsey, in Leeds – running for the first time having been active behind the scenes in the Green Party for several years. They cite the lack of representation of trans and non-binary people on the ballot paper in 2017 as their reason for standing.

Daley’s priorities are remaining in the EU, and fighting the “coming climate catastrophe with top-down change, not cardboard straws”.

They will also focus on: “Reversing government damage to the NHS, education and public services and stop blaming migrants for all this. Real rights and equality for disabled people, women and trans people.”

Elaine Gallagher is standing for the Scottish Greens in Glasgow Central. “I ran because I was asked and because it was needed,” she says.

“The Scottish Greens have been making moves to explicitly support trans and non-binary people, and the Women’s Network are especially keen for this. I agreed because I know that the only way to avert the climate emergency is by making sweeping changes at the policy level and as a trans person I know that the way for us to be accepted is to show that we are the same as everyone else, with the same concerns about the same issues,” Gallagher adds.

“[Scottish Greens] Party policy is explicitly – by acclamation at the party conference – in support of trans and non-binary people, and the Women’s Network as well as the Rainbow Greens LGBTI+ group have been hugely supportive of me and the other trans/NB candidates.

“There are technical issues still to be worked out in dealing with non-binary people in the gender balancing process but it’s all being sorted out with a good will.”

Like many of the trans and non-binary people running, Gallagher says the prospect of being elected is “terrifying”.

“It would be wonderful take such a huge step towards normalising and accepting trans people in society,” she says. “But like women, and people of colour, and working class people, and people from religious minorities and disabled people, and out gay people, I will be a lightning rod for abuse. I think that it’s appalling that so many women are standing down this election citing abuse as the reason.”

Elaine Gallagher, a trans woman standing for Glasgow Central. (Photo credit: Tiu Makkonen)

Tom Pashby is standing in South West Hertfordshire, where they’re up against David Gauke – who was the Conservative MP for SW Herts from 2005 to 2019, and is now standing as an independent.

Their priorities are the climate crisis, getting a public vote on any Brexit deal with the option of Remain on the ballot, and increasing funding for public services after what they call a “damaging decade of austerity”.

“I ran for parliament because I believe in an ‘all of the above’ approach when it comes to addressing the challenge presented by the climate emergency,” Pashby, who also ran in the 2017 snap election for Braintree in Essex, tells PinkNews.

“We need people to take part in non-violent direct action to raise the alarm, we need people to shift away from meat-heavy diets, and we need to campaign for people to vote for parties promising to take appropriate climate action,” they say.

Tom Pashby, the Green Party candidate for SW Herts.

They add that the Greens have “excellent policies on trans issues” while acknowledging that “we do sometimes have challenges on upholding those policies in the party, as lots of parties do”.

And if they were to become the first openly non-binary MP? “Being a non-binary person inevitably leaves me as a sort of trailblazer just in normal life,” they say, “so becoming the first openly non-binary MP would just be part and parcel of my journey in life and politics.”

Independent trans candidates in the UK election.

Sophie Cook is running as an independent for East Worthing and Shoreham.

She came second in the 2017 election in the constituency as a Labour candidate, with more than 20,000 votes, but is standing again as an Independent.

Labour trans candidates in the UK election.

Labour has one non-binary candidate, in England, and one trans candidate, in Scotland.

Thom Kirkwood is the non-binary candidate for Richmond in Yorkshire. It’s their first time running for parliament and they were motivated by the impact of the Tory government on the area where they live, which has had a Conservative MP “for donkey’s years”.

“The impact of cuts to our schools (I’m a teacher) and the narrowing of the curriculum, the attacks on our NHS, the under-paying of my mum’s care workers, the closing of bus routes that older people round here rely on, and the small businesses closing down,” they cite as reasons for running.

“Johnson’s Brexit deal will be terrible for our farmers; and the climate crisis means that we cannot sit on our hands saying we’ll do something by 2050,” they add. “I’ve experience of standing up to injustice as part of my Union, and wanted to stand up for our future.”

Labour is “pretty good” on trans issues, Kirkwood says, “but only pretty good, not excellent”.

“Our policy is to reform the Equality Act to protect gender as well as sex, and we are supportive of GRA reform; but there are some loud voices in the membership who are extremely and actively transphobic,” they say.

If elected, they will feel “immensely privileged” and “daunted by the responsibility”.

“I will also feel pride that by being visible and open, I might inspire young people to realise that they can and should be open about their gender, and it does not have to hold them back,” Kirkwood says.

Thom Kirkwood, Labour’s non-binary candidate for Richmond in Yorkshire.

Heather Herbert is the Labour candidate for Gordon in Scotland. It’s her first time running for political office, and she says that like most people who get involved in politics, she’s running because she wants to help people.

“There is an element of publicly showing trans people that politics is for us, and an element of showing cis people we’re normal people, but mostly it’s because I want to improve people’s lives,” Herbert says.

“Labour is putting forward a radical set of reforms that will help everyone within society,” she says. “Be that the £10 living wage, which will not only help people out of poverty but pump money into our economy helping small and medium-sized businesses, or fighting for the green industrial revolution to help tackle climate change without costing jobs.”

Heather Herbert, a trans woman and Labour’s candidate for Gordon in Scotland.

Herbert says that she’ll fight for GRA reform, but that she thinks the most important thing that can be done by parliament to support trans people is a “properly funded NHS”.

“Those of us who seek to medically transition are being badly let down by huge waiting lists caused by health authorities being chronically underfunded,” Herbert says. “We need an increase in the living wage – many trans folk are either unemployed or underemployed; we need affordable, good quality housing; in short, we need a Labour government.”

Winning is a “petrifying” concept, Herbert says. “However, I felt absolutely petrified the first time I wore a dress in public, and absolutely petrified when I first spoke in a meeting and absolutely petrified when I changed my name at work. So I’m getting used to it.”

Liberal Democrats trans candidates in the UK election.

The Lib Dems are also fielding two trans candidates.

Charley Hasted is non-binary and trans, and running for Eltham in south London.

“I decided to run because I want to represent people who don’t often have our voices heard – how many MP’s have used food banks or done shift work or tried to navigate getting ESA, for example?” they say.

Their priorities are stopping Brexit, and getting more funding for the NHS and youth services – as an ex-youth worker, they say they’ve seen the impact cuts have had on young people and communities.

“Locally, there are big issues with tackling air pollution, the same as much of London – children are suffering because they can’t breathe properly,” they add.

Hasted is proud of the Lib Dem’s position on trans rights and along with a manifesto commitment to reform the GRA – including legal recognition for non-binary people – they say tackling anti-trans hate crime is important.

“We also need to do more to defend trans rights internationally, everything from using our influence to call for better rights and support for trans people across the world to recognising and supporting trans people coming to the UK as refugees,” Hasted says.

“It’s a frightening time to put yourself in the public eye as a trans person,” they add, “and I can’t imagine that will get any easier as an MP, but I can’t help but feel that having watched Labour and the Tories fail so many times on trans issues over the years it’s vital we get trans people elected.”

Charley Hasted, the non-binary Lib Dem candidate for Eltham.

Helen Belcher is running for Chippenham for the Lib Dems for the second time, having joined the party in 2015.

“Over the past 10 years I have acquired a lot of experience in campaigning, which includes same sex marriage, trans rights, press regulation and making votes matter,” she says. “I want to make use of the skills I have acquired to benefit my local community.”

Belcher says that her first priority is stopping Brexit, and then the important issues for her are: ” the climate crisis, investing in our NHS, schools and police, as well as reforming the system, ensuring that people have access to justice and feel represented”.

Helen Belcher is the Lib Dem candidate for Chippenham for the second time. (Photo: Andrew Eberlin)

“The Lib Dems have always been at the forefront of LGBT equality, with Lynne Featherstone leading the way on same sex marriage,” Belcher says. “The party has strongly supported our trans members for decades. We have a forward-looking and inclusive party policy on trans and non-binary rights which I look forward to supporting.”

But she was keen to emphasise, as were the other candidates PinkNews spoke to, that although trans issues would be important to her as a trans MP, her first priority in parliament would be to her Chippenham constituents.

“Being trans is just one facet of me – it doesn’t define me entirely, any more than being a software entrepreneur or choral singer does,” she says.

More: green party, Labour, Liberal Democrats, prospective parliamentary candidates, uk general election

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