Emily Brothers is NOT the first openly trans Parliamentary Candidate

Having looked at the number of qualifiers that Pink News had to put onto their claim that Emily Brothers is the first openly trans Parliamentary candidate it should come as no surprise to find that the claim (now being touted by national newspapers) is false. Brothers is not the first by a long shot. That accolade belongs to Alexandra MacRae, a Scottish candidate for the SNP in Glasgow Provan, way back in 1992.

I’ve spoken before about how a Newsround piece in 1992 sparked my attention and first made me aware that transsexuality existed. Her name may have slipped my memory (thanks to Zoë O’Connell for tracking her down) but MacRae’s image has stuck with me for over twenty years now, and probably will stick with me for the rest of my life. She’s the reason that I was able to find out more about the feelings I’ve had all my life.

She’s the reason I could look up what to do about my condition when I first got Internet access at home (I’d been online for six years by that point but having access from the bedroom meant actually being able to run a search in privacy).

So, naturally, I am angered when someone comes along trying to erase MacRae from history. She may have been a convicted embezzler but that doesn’t mean this Labour jenny-come-lately can steal her crown; especially not after making a big thing about supposed honesty.

Honestly works both ways, Emily. Next time you want to make such a big claim, it would be wise to do your homework first.

7 thoughts on “Emily Brothers is NOT the first openly trans Parliamentary Candidate

  1. As the Chair of Emily’s Local Labour Party, you might find the following points of use.

    1. This has been driven by media outlets who have run with this story quite strongly as you have online acknowledged. In my own social media comments I have myself said she is the first Labour transgender parliamentary candidate, so I think I have been honest on the subject. I may have retweeted some of the media links early but then I did not write them. As you can imagine we have been overwhelmed with comments online across the globe including Spain, Russia, Canada, Peru and Hong Kong which I suspect many previous candidates did not even get as late as the 2005 election. Emily has commented on the massive reaction here: https://www.facebook.com/SuttonAndCheamLabourParty/posts/799363136766474?notif_t=wall
    You might also want to read her story here: http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?PBID=21808e87-e7bc-4660-9728-9e4ce3c30669&skip=
    and Rod Liddle’s take in the Sun today:
    https://twitter.com/jhallwood/status/542987361840533504
    which led to my row with their head of PR
    https://twitter.com/charliemansell/status/543079837628645376
    You are very welcome to take part in that current online debate which might end up uniting us all against common prejudice

    2. Emily’s own announcement was that she was the first openly trangender candidate for a “major” party – that certainly wasn’t the case for SNP in 1980’s or 1990’s, especially here in England. As far as we she is the first for either of the two main parties which between – even in this diminished era for them still represent 60% of the votes and 80% of the seats

    3. I’m not sure if the SNP leadership issued a press release in support (the equivalent of tweeting then), but I think the really important ‘news’ making element of this story was actually Ed Miliband tweeting not once by twice and further retweeting Gloria de Piero. It would interesting to see if ANY party leader has done that, which may be what makes it significant to the media and says a lot more about Ed Miliband compared to all party leaders in the past on this issue. You might want to engage with other people looking into the history to clarify that point

    4. Please correct me if I am wrong, but for those who write the history she is likely to be the first disabled transgender candidate. You have referred elsewhere to LGBT Labour’s tweets, but you might also want to be aware of Disability Labour’s equal pride in her expressing her identity more widely. I can tell you she truly is a pioneer. She was head of policy at EHRC for a while so I do believe she is a wider equalities role model who will support and encourage others who follow both her and the transgender candidates of all the other parties

    5. It is perhaps just a little disappointing that senior people in Lib Dem LGBT haven’t been quite as supportive of Emily making such an advance for the trans community in the way Emily’s own local Lib Dem MP, Paul Burstow, has been in his comments. I certainly assume you are not asking him to retract his gracious words, which were similarly supported by their Tory opponent Paul Scully? Of course it is perfectly reasonable in seeking to go around correcting news reports for the sake of the history you and others describe in this and other blog posts, but I am also sure you would wish to have the opportunity to be as gracious on this issue as Paul Burstow has been. I hope you will now appreciate that the exact nature of the coverage is not due to Emily, but more because Ed Miliband absolutely rightly stood up and showed solidarity with one of his candidates. The fact a party leader was prepared to be so clear on supporting and encouraging transgender candidates may well be acknowledged by all to be the most ‘historic’ bit of the recent news coverage!

    1. First of all, I’m glad to see that the references to her being “first” have now gone from her website. That’s a good step in the right direction. I’m going to assume that the removal was due to her and/or her website admin wanting to clarify her position, rather than to help you with your story that she wasn’t instigating/benefiting from false accolades.

      Secondly, your qualifiers and continued chest-beating don’t sit well with me. To suggest the SNP aren’t a major party is ludicrous. They run Scotland.

      As for the SNP not issuing a press release, it hardly matters. MacRae was on TV after she came out. In 1992, that was high profile – probably more high profile then than now, I’m sure you’ll agree.

      She’s not the first disabled trans candidate either. You’re talking to another disabled (deaf) trans candidate right now and I’ve met several others over the last few years. Several of the original pioneers of trans activism in the UK were (and, for those who are still active now, still are) disabled. Disability and trans activism often go hand-in-hand.

      With regard to your final point, you come across as attempting to patronise. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt on this one. Sometimes text doesn’t quite convey the spirit of the message, especially if you aren’t used to using it as your main method of communication.

      I’m sure Emily is a nice person and while I wish her all the best in her (unwinable) election, the purpose of this article and the others like it was clear from the outset. The trans community knows its history and won’t stand for it being rewritten, for political benefit or any other reason.

    2. I think your point number 5 might be mixing up Zoë Kirk-Robinson (author of this Blog, LGBTory activist) with Zoë O’Connell (LGBT+ LibDems activist)

  2. Dear Charlie,

    Thank you for your comment here, but you appear to have confused Zoe Kirk-Robinson with me. Zoe is the Vice-Chair of LGBTory, I am the secretary of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats.

    Unlike Zoe, I’m still seeing claims on Emily’s web site in the text of the links she has that she’s the first out trans candidate (with no qualifiers) – perhaps you have some sort of cache system and I’m getting an old copy. I hope they will have cleared from the cache by the morning

    On (1), your point tends towards “it wasn’t us”, but Labour – and Emily herself – have gleefully used every opportunity to capitalise on a media event based on a false premise and made no effort whatsoever to correct that. (LGBT Labour were repeating this clam until they stared quietly deleting tweets this morning) Mistakes happen, but every other member of the trans community has had the decency to correct errors. My own partner has been falsely credited with being the first out trans councillor, to the extent it’s been repeated as part of her citation in the Independent on Sunday Rainbow List, but ALWAYS corrects people.

    I hope you can appreciate that Emily claiming she seeks complete honesty in the Independent under a headline that states she is the first trans candidate does not sit well with members of the trans community who have dedicated years to advancing trans equality via political means. From conversations I have had with journalists over the last 3 days, it is clear no member of Labour has made any effort at all to correct false impressions,

    On the topic of The Sun, I am a little surprised (and frankly, offended) you expect people to leap to your defence due to one remark.

    Let me educate you on what life is like as someone who has been an out trans politician for many years: We get death threats. We deadbolt our door at night. A “monk” was arrested this week in Cambridge, our city, for distributing homophobic leaflets – my partner was named by this monk in a letter to Pink News.

    But we know we are the lucky ones. Lucy Meadows, a teacher, committed suicide following media intrusion into her life. And every year, the names of hundreds of trans people who have been murdered – mostly trans women of colour – are read out at Trans Day of Remembrance.

    If you had ever properly engaged with the trans community you would know this is our life. Expecting the community to rapidly jump to your defence for one comment in The Sun suggests you are ignorant of the issues we face. There were some Twitter comments from LGBT+ LibDem executive members about it but it’s business as usual for us.

    2) The Conservative and Liberal Democrat popular votes combined in 2010 were also in excess of 60%. (65.1%, to be exact) trying to claim a party of government isn’t a “major party” smacks of desperation after the fact, having been caught out

    3) Why is a party leader giving a particular candidate support news? Trans candidates are not news to other parties. If anything else that this is notable enough to Labour to get leadership attention this demonstrates problems within Labour – not progress.

    4) Quite apart from it’s irrelevance to the dishonesty of your central claims, as with 2 above, you appear to be further caveating everything to wriggle out of a hole – I can’t prove she isn’t the first disabled trans candidate any more than you can prove she WAS the first. In particular, you are assuming that every disability is a visible one. Any activist with experience of equalities should be able to tell you this is wrong.

    5) Had Emily made an advance for the trans community, I would support it – the truth is that she’s gained political capital out of a lie, desecrating the legacy of other members of our community in the process.

    Finally, think on this: I am a LibDem, commenting on the blog of a Tory, who has been advertising the fact that a member of the SNP was 1st at something. I have also been promoting two trans members of the Green Party who are PPCs for 2015 – they have already publicly thanked me for my support on this. Of the largest 5 parties, the only ones not yelling at you right now are UKIP.

    That’s a good signal that you screwed up.

    Time to apologise.

  3. On the subject of disabled transgendered candidates. I have autism and I am trans. I am recognised as disabled by my employer. I was also selected a full week before Emily so even that claim does not stack up.
    Labour are in fact only the 5th party to select a trans candidate, and the Greens selected two before Labour selected one. Just because Labour refuse to acknowledge the other parties’ achievements does not make them any the less. And there’s probably a reason it took Labour, a party that makes big claims about being fair and equal, 22 years to select a trans candidate and the first 5 trans candidates all chose to stand for other parties.
    The correct thing for Labour to have done would be to have recognized the others who went before and admit that though they were slow to get there they are there now and we would have applauded you!
    And Labour might claim to be a major party but Emily is not standing in a seat that she is likely to win. How does that make it any different from what the other parties have done?

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