Emily Andrea Melanie Brothers (born 1964, Merseyside) is a British Labour politician who stood in the Sutton and Cheam constituency in the 2015 General Election. She is the first openly transgender Labour Party candidate to run for Westminster.
Early life and education
Brothers was born in Merseyside. Diagnosed with aniridia – a condition affecting the iris – at six months old, she spent extended periods in hospital and lost her sight in childhood. At seven she became a weekly boarder at a Catholic school for blind and partially sighted children, and later studied at Teesside University, where she became involved in student politics.
Until February 2014, she was Programme Head at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, responsible for health and local government. Previously she worked at the Disability Rights Commission and the RNIB. She is an active member of the Greater London Association of Disabled People and former President of the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom. She is on the board of the Community Network charity.
She was one of a number of disabled delegates to the Labour conference in 2014 who complained about a lack of BSL interpreters, disabled delegates not being seated in the most accessible part of the conference hall, and problems with accessible information.
She gave an interview to Pink News in December 2014 in which she spoke about her transgender experience and her campaigning for disabled people and the value and the importance of the NHS. She also gave an interview to London TV station London Live in which she said she didn't know if Ed Miliband knew about her transgender background, but that she was confident that he would be supportive. Ed Miliband welcomed her candidacy, saying she had long been a courageous campaigner on disability rights and now on trans issues too.
In response Rod Liddle of The Sun, in a December 2014 column, asked how she knew "she was the wrong sex", since she was blind. Her response was "My position is that I think it's a cheap comment that doesn't surprise me coming from The Sun. But my concern is how other transgender people feel about these comments, particularly those who are going through the transitioning process and are fearful of other people's reactions, and fearful of being ridiculed." In a statement later Liddle said: "I wish Emily the very best and I'd definitely vote for her if I lived in Sutton and Cheam. I am sorry for the poor joke!"
In the 2015 General Election in Sutton and Cheam she secured 5,546 votes, 4% more than her Labour predecessor in 2010. A few weeks later, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), after upholding a complaint from the charity Trans Media Watch, obliged The Sun to publish its decision to censure Liddle for also being discriminatory towards Brothers in a second column, published in January 2015, supposedly apologising for the first. The IPSO considered Liddle to have breached its editors' code.
Brothers married in 1993, and had two children. The marriage broke down after she revealed her desire to live as a woman. She subsequently underwent hormone and voice therapy, and had genital surgery in Thailand in 2008.
She said that her ex-wife was very supportive and understanding, and that she had two great children, William and Victoria, who were very supportive. Her family are not, and they have broken their connections with her.
She is openly lesbian.
- "Election results for Sutton North, 3 May 2018". morderngov.sutton.gov.uk. London Borough of Sutton Council. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- Aitkenhead, Decca (3 January 2015). "Emily Brothers, Labour's first transgender candidate: 'I walked into the sea. Something brought me back'". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
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- Nico Hines. "The World's First Blind Trans Politician". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
- "Emily Brothers". MHP Insight. Archived from the original on 13 December 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- "Labour party conference: Access meltdown sparks call for action". Disability News Service. 26 September 2014. Archived from the original on 13 December 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- "Emily Brothers to run as Labour's first openly transgender person". London Live. 9 December 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- "Ed Miliband hails transgender Labour candidate Emily Brothers". BBC News. 9 December 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- "The Sun on blind, trans Labour candidate: 'How did she know she was the wrong sex?'". Pink News. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- "Emily Brothers hits back at Rod Liddle column asking how blind transgender Labour candidate knew she was 'the wrong sex'". The Independent. 12 December 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- "Sun columnist sorry for 'poor joke' about blind Labour transgender candidate". ITV News. 12 December 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
- Greenslade, Roy (28 May 2015). "The Sun censured by Ipso for Rod Liddle's discriminatory columns". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
- Ponsford, Dominic (28 May 2015). "Sun censured by IPSO over Rod Liddle column joke about blind and transgender MP". Press Gazette. Retrieved 28 May 2015.