Britain’s transgender candidate prepares for election battle

by Beatrice Credi - 2015.01.14
Britain’s transgender candidate prepares for election battle
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In the UK's elections in May, an outsider, who is as unknown as she is unusual, could derail Ukip leader Nigel Farage's dreams of glory, as well as shaking up the Conservative and Labour parties. Emily Brothers, 51, has always voted Labour. She's transgender, blind and has never seen herself in the mirror. Born male in Merseyside in 1964 to working class parents, at six months doctors diagnosed her with aniridia: a disease that affects the iris. She spent the first 10 years of her life undergoing numerous eye operations, in a futile battle to save what little sight she had. In the late '80s, while working in an organisation for blind people, Emily fell in love with a colleague and they got married in 1993. The couple have two children. When Emily's wife found a skirt hidden under the bed, she thought her husband was having an affair.

“Actually, I started reading a lot of material on gender identity, and I finally understood my condition,” Emily is on record telling the press. “I started going to a transgender support group and in the summer of 2006, I summoned the courage to tell my wife.” Her transition began in 2007 and she underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2009. For the past five years, she has lived as a woman and she believes that the whole experience has had a huge impact, not only on her quality of life but also on her political views.

Apart from her personal life, her career also deserves attention. As a member of the Labour Party for 33 years, Emily is known as a staunch supporter of the rights of people with disabilities.

Although she initially withheld her identity, she went on to reveal it suddenly, without informing the party's leader, Ed Milliband, beforehand. The move suggests an uncommon daring compared to the politicians we're used to but it has enabled her to become the first British transsexual to run for a seat in the national parliament.

Defamatory comments were not long in coming. A few days after she announced her candidature, a columnist at the infamous tabloid The Sun, who later apologised, wrote regarding Brothers' political candidature: “She's blind, how does she know she's the wrong sex?” Not in the least ruffled, Emily replied: “If anyone thinks I’m just going to go quietly into the corner, they are sorely mistaken.” It only remains to follow her election campaign and wait for the poll results.

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