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Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran comes out as pansexual: ‘Pan is about the person, not the gender’

Nick Duffy January 2, 2020

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has revealed she is in a relationship with a woman and identifies as pansexual, in an interview with PinkNews.

The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, who was first elected to parliament in 2017, revealed for the first time that she is in a relationship with former Lib Dem press officer Rosy Cobb.

Moran, who has previously had relationships with men, explained that she identifies as pansexual because “it doesn’t matter about the physical attributions of the person you fall in love with, it’s about the person themselves”.

The MP is believed to be the first UK parliamentarian to come out as pansexual – though there are many out lesbian, gay and bisexual politicians in the chamber.

Layla Moran MP and her girlfriend Rosy Cobb, a former Lib Dem press officer
Layla Moran MP and her girlfriend Rosy Cobb, a former Lib Dem press officer

Moran has defended her relationship with Cobb, who was suspended from the party in December after allegations she faked an email.

PinkNews: When did you realise you were pansexual?

Layla Moran: About six months ago I started a relationship with a woman, and that was quite surprising, because before that I’d only ever had boyfriends.

We met at work, which a lot of people do, and we just totally hit it off, started hanging out, and one day after a couple glasses of wine… It was really wonderful on the one hand, but also quite surprising for me in how I had identified before.

It wasn’t really something I had done before or considered before, but sometimes when you meet the right person, it just kind of happens.

We’re in a really committed, loving, supportive, relationship, and I feel now is the time to talk about it, because as an MP I spend a lot of my time defending our community and talking about our community. I want people to know I am part of our community as well.

What has your coming out journey been like, in terms of your personal life?

It did make me think: have I always been attracted to women? Was this something I was hiding before? It made me really think about how I’d approached my life before… I decided, sod everything else, you just need to be happy!

The next stage was obviously telling my friends and family and parents. I tell my mother everything, and so having that first conversation with her was quite an emotional moment.

I’ve got a gay brother and a gay sister, so it’s not that I didn’t think [my family] would be supportive, but all of my life I’ve been with men, and its now a woman partner I’m telling my mother about.

It was wonderful – she said, ‘All I want is for you to be happy, and everything else I’m really supportive of.’ My friends have been exactly the same way. It’s been brilliant.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran speaks at party conference
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran speaks at party conference (BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Where it’s been slightly more difficult is in the context of being an MP and in public life.

When it became more widely known that we were together, I was quite shocked, actually. There were a few people who said, ‘How serious is this?’ And some people even overtly said, ‘Don’t you think it would be better for your career if you weren’t together?’

They definitely would not have said anything like that had she been a man.

That was the moment where I realised – we like to think everything is equal, that no one cares, that it wouldn’t be a detriment. The reason I’m speaking out is because I want to prove it’s not a detriment. It’s a great thing.

What is it like being LGBT+ and working in parliament?

Parliament is a weird, backwards place. I don’t know if there’s any other [MPs] who would identify as pansexual, and not that many who identify as bisexual – there are a few women who are brilliant role models who have come out in their lesbian relationships.

People like Ruth Davidson and Justine Greening are people I look to to have done this kind of thing in the past.

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran (Photo: Nina Lecourt)

Within that Westminster bubble, I’m not going to lie, doing this is a bit, ‘Ooh, what are people going to think?’ But I don’t really care – because I know that in wider society it’s more than just fine. It’s something that we now all accept.

We had equal marriage passed in the last decade. But it’s also a fact of life that over the past few years, we’ve seen a backwards step in terms of acceptance for LGBT+ issues. We’ve seen particularly trans and bi hate crime on the rise, and if there was ever a time we need to keep pushing these issues, I think it’s now.

What’s the reaction been like from your colleagues?

When I’ve spoken to people about it, the first thing they ask is, ‘So you’re gay then?’ ‘Well, I don’t know if that’s how I identify…’

When it first happened, it didn’t strike me that I needed to work out which box I fit into.

The way I would have said it to people is, ‘Actually I’m probably bi,’ because that’s a term they understand.

But when I’ve looked at the definitions of what I’m comfortable with – pan is more about the person, and less the gender. That, if I was going to force myself to have a label, that would be how I would identify.

If you had to explain pansexuality to an older MP who might not be as clued up, how would you explain it?

Pansexuality, to me, means it doesn’t matter about the physical attributions of the person you fall in love with, it’s about the person themselves.

It doesn’t if they’re a man or a woman or gender non-conforming, it doesn’t matter if they identify as gay or not. In the end, these are all things that don’t matter – the thing that matters is the person, and that you love the person.

Do you have a pansexual hero?

I’m not sure! I read in PinkNews that there are others who are, and it was probably in PinkNews articles that I realised this was a thing at all.

It’s a relatively new term in terms of society, and I find myself having to explain what it is… I hope that through talking about it, people will [learn about] it who maybe didn’t even realise it was a thing at all.

As an LGBT+ woman in politics, what do you make of the controversy around Gender Recognition Act reform, where a lot of people claim it will have an impact on queer women?

I don’t think that equality is a finite size pie that you share out. I think that it’s something that you fight for for everyone. By fighting for trans and gender non-conforming people, that helps equality in all of its forms. All that happens when you do that is that pie just gets bigger.

The last couple of years has seen people attack the trans community, particularly because of talk about much-needed reform for the Gender Recognition Act. I’ve spoken in parliament about it, and we have to keep fighting for these issues.

There are so many people out there who want to try and pit different parts of our community against each other, and all that does it help cement the fact that the old way of looking at the world, and helps that blossom.

We’ve got to help each other, and continue those fights.

You were first elected to parliament when Tim Farron was leader of the Liberal Democrats. What did you make of the controversy around his views on sexuality?

I was a candidate when all of the furore around his comments came out, and the thing that I found most depressing about it is that I’d spoken to him about these issues, and knew he was an ally of the LGBT+ community, but the way he was expressing himself made it sound like the party and he weren’t, and that isn’t a reflection of his or the party’s views.

Layla Moran campaigns in Oxford West and Abingdon with then-Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron
Layla Moran campaigns in Oxford West and Abingdon with then-Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

I wish he had just simply said what we all know, which is that it’s fine to be gay in all of its forms, it’s wonderful, that’s what equality is all about and that’s what we stand for as Liberal Democrats.

That water has been muddied a bit. I think we need to make sure as a party that we continue to fight for these things. I think in the last few years we definitely have.

Have you spoken to Tim about being pansexual?

I haven’t said the word pansexual, but he does know about my relationship and he’s really supportive!

There’s a leadership vacancy at the moment – are you considering running?

It’s a really big decision to make, and it’s one that I haven’t made yet.

But I do know that you bring your friends and family and all of you with you when you decide to do something like that, so it’s not something I’m going to be doing or saying lightly.

More: Layla Moran, mp

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