Emily Brothers, I did not know until yesterday, is the prospective Labour candidate for Sutton and Cheam. At first glance, it looks like an unremarkable first ride on the candidacy train, and it should not be too difficult to increase Labour's share of the vote from the paltry 2010 return of 7%. I know how those 7% feel of course, and have written ad nauseam about the continuing iniquities of our electoral system, but now they can be reinvigorated in the knowledge that they will be voting for the UK's first transgendered parliamentary candidate.
Is it okay for me to feel a bit jealous of her? I must admit that I had harboured my own secret ambitions of claiming that title, but had to concede that not being a member of any political party at present might just hinder my selection chances. That ambition nevertheless remains on the bucket list, sitting as it does somewhere above the even less realistic goal of playing rugby for England (or Ireland).
We learned about Emily because she decided to out herself. I was interested in her reasons, which she outlines eloquently in the interview. She certainly comes across as the sort of person I would vote for - not because she is transgendered, but because she seems to have a handle on the issues facing many people in the UK.
I would have held this opinion, I am certain, even if she had not taken the decision to go public, and I am sure that the people of Sutton and Cheam would have done too.
It is also clear that Emily is not seeking to reap a dividend from her disclosure, by becoming a self-appointed spokesperson for the transgendered community; and, short of the entire trans community moving to Sutton and Cheam (and it is two places so we would fit comfortably) it is not likely to enhance her electoral chances. So, why do it? Well, it is spectre of the great (with the lowest possible case "g") British press, and what they could seek to make of the earth-shattering revelation that someone aspiring for public life harbours a "secret". No blame at all attaching to Emily, but I find it appalling that someone, who has nothing to hide whatsoever, has to purge their past or be prepared to face the purgatory that accompanies a tabloid outing.
What grates particularly with me is that, seemingly, the only skeleton the press could possibly find in Emily's closet is the fact that she happens to have undergone gender confirmation. Well, so what? To be honest, I quite like the idea that prospective politicians have had some sort of life, as long as it wasn't a criminal one. I certainly prefer it to the private school to university to researcher to parliamentary candidate conveyor producing the Stepford MPs that we currently seem to have.
But, in order to try and get the type of MP we seem to be saying we want - especially as we have almost universally fallen out with the current crop, we have to accept that we are not entitled to judge people based upon things that happened years before a person entered public life. What would the "story" be anyway? "Labour candidate in sex-change past" accompanied, as I am sure it would be by a nebulous implication that this person somehow gained some sort of advantage or is less worthy of office simply because they happen to be a member of a minority group?
I feel sad for Emily that she (maybe due to pressure from her party) felt the need to make this disclosure. I also feel it demonstrates that the British public still has a lot of growing up to do- for the threat, no matter how small, of trial by tabloid, would not exist without a perceptibly large market for them to peddle their "stories" to.
If I ever become a Parliamentary candidate, I have already done the outing bit myself - but I would I still need to somehow sanitise other elements of my past in order to make myself acceptable to the voting public? As it stands, I don't feel the need to explain the fact to everyone I meet that I am transgendered, it is none of their business; I quite like the fact that it is generally a non-issue in my daily life-and they can like me or not based on who I am, rather than who a third-party defines me as. .
I feel certain that Emily would rather it was like that as well, but, understandably, she felt that she needed to explain herself. Good luck with your career Emily - but it should not be you who needs to explain herself- it is all of us for helping to perpetuate a climate where an explanation is deemed necessary. A while ago, I wrote that being an ordinary trans-person is not a story for the press- and it isn't. The potential problem that Emily is trying to avoid, is somehow feeling the need to justify herself in the face of gossip and innuendo. Unless we change our thinking, we will continue to get the braying, grey-suited middle aged, middle class male MPs we claim to despise.What we really need is more people like Emily - or maybe even me?