And so, with polls closing in the last set of elections less than a week ago it is time for another election – 4pm today was the deadline for candidates in the upcoming General Election to get their nomination papers in.

This year’s local elections saw relatively few openly trans candidates with only three people putting their names forward, and no winners. That might seem relatively few, but county elections often produce a different crop of candidates to district councils and three was at least an improvement on the last set of council elections, 2013, in which no known trans people stood.

Against that background, and given this was a snap election in which parties would have less time to ensure a diverse slate of candidates, it would not have been surprising to find fewer openly trans candidates standing than in 2015.

But politics at the moment is defying expectations, and trans candidates are no exception with a record of six eight nine trans and non-binary people nominated – four Green, three Liberal Democrats and two Labour. This compares well to four in 2015 and none in 2010.

As ever, if you know of anyone I have missed (and you are certain they are out!) please do let me know.

Liberal Democrats Helen Belcher
Chippenham
Swing required:
9.1% (2015)
-3.9% (2010 – held seat)
Green Party Aimee Challenor
Coventry South
Swing required:
19.2% (2015)
20.2% (2010)
Labour Sophie Cook
East Worthing & Shoreham
Swing required:
15.0% (2015)
15.9% (2010)
Green Party Andrew Creak
Caerphilly
(Non-Binary)
Swing required:
21.0% (2015)
No Green candidate in 2010
Liberal Democrats Charley Hasted
Swansea East
(Non-Binary)
Swing required:
24.5% (2015)
16.6% (2010)
Green Party Dom Horsman
North West Durham
Swing required:
21.6% (2015)
No Green candidate in 2010
Green Party Lee-Anne Lawrance
Runnymede and Weybridge
(Non-Binary)
Swing required:
27.8% (2015)
27.3% (2010)
Zoe OConnell Liberal Democrats Zoe O’Connell
Maldon
Swing required:
28.1% (2015)
20.3% (2010)
Labour Heather Peto
Rutland & Melton
Swing required:
20.1% (2015)
18.5% (2010)

 

Photo sources – not all Creative Commons. Please check before reuse:
Helen Belcher, Charley Hasted: Liberal Democrat candidate promotional literature.
Aimee Challenor: CC BY-SA 3.0, credit Green Party of England and Wales.
Sophie Cook: Labour party candidate promotional literature.
Dom Horsman, Lee-Anne Lawrance: Provided by the candidates for use on this blog.
Zoe O’Connell: CC BY-SA 3.0, credit Zoe O’Connell.

Unsurprisingly – given there were only three candidates standing versus ten last year – none of the openly trans candidates were successfully elected on Thursday.

I will be posting my list of General Election candidates after the nominations close on 11th May, and the notices of poll have been published.

Labour Sam Feeney
Cambridgeshire, St Ives North & Wyton
3rd place: 17.3% (New boundaries, so no %age change)
Mridul Wadhwa
Edinburgh, Craigentinny/Duddingston
6th in a 4-member division, 6.3% of first preference votes
Alex Bear
Derbyshire, Ripley East and Codnor
4th place: 2.2% (+2.2%)

There has been some fuss recently about Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat party leader, and his views on sin. I am finding I am having to answer the same questions and rebut the same half-truths over and over again, so I put together a quick handy guide. The progression of points in here is typically how the debate unfolds but my style tends to be quite dry. Those who want a slightly more emotional response to the issue, which can best be summarised by “FFS, not this again”, should read Jennie Rigg’s post. Jennie is also chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats.

For those new to this blog, I should clarify that I’m a bisexual transwoman in a polyamourous relationship.

I have avoided criticism of other politicians in this post, but I would like to note that there is more than enough of the brown stuff to go around if we want to get into a mud slinging contest. Some people might want to go there, but that’s not something I’m doing in this post.

Edit: Since I wrote this post, Tim has answered a direct question on this in parliament. His reply to “Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin” was “I do not”. You can see the clip on BBC iPlayer at about 13:46. It remains to be seen if he has opened Pandora’s Box or not…

But why won’t Tim Farron say gay sex is not a sin?
I don’t think he can, because the question is a trap. It’s not a new trap, and back in 2003 Tony Blair was stopped from answering questions on religion by his spin doctors with the now-infamous line “We don’t do God“.

For political leaders, religion is a Pandora’s Box and should stay closed. Cathy Newman, when she asked him the question, no doubt had followup questions for him to try to back him into a corner – she’s an accomplished political journalist and anyone of that calibre will not ask a question without follow up questions in mind. With enough questioning, any politician is going to find themselves forced either into a row with religious leaders (Just look at what happened with Cadbury’s and the National Trust) or with their own party. Neither of those are vote-winning choices.

Unfortunately, Tim did fluff a 2015 interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 by starting to talk about theology before he had realising it was a bad idea in his new role as party leader. This original error is why the issue has become a story. For those who might have missed the initial interview, what he actually said was “We’re all sinners”. Yes, it is theologically accurat, but it is unhelpful for a party leader to say. Nevertheless, he has definitely never said he thinks gay sex is a sin.

I do recognise that some people won’t be happy unless he says “No” to the question, and that not everyone will agree with me here, but I believe that Tim’s statement that he is not going to make theological pronouncements is probably the right approach. Although Cathy Newman has so far failed to ask any other political leadership figures the same question, you can bet that the likes of May, Khan and so on now all have their own soundbite-sized version of “We don’t do God” prepared.

But he abstained on Same-Sex Marriage!
There were six votes, and Tim abstained on one of those due to issues surrounding the spousal veto. “They Work For You” have more on this, just click the linked image on the right to see the detail. If you think that trying to fix the spousal veto during the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act was a bad thing, then that’s far from evidence that Tim is homophobic and I must respectfully disagree with you on parliamentary tactics. One of my regrets that is that trans politicians didn’t rock the boat more at the time and try to persuade people to vote against the bill due to it’s transphobic content. Sadly, we did not as a group have the influence then that we have now.

Gay frogs!
Seriously? That wasn’t even close to Tim’s usual tweeting style and he’s hardly likely to wade into random twitter debates on LGBT issues with the British Humanists Association. He’s not the only party leader to have his twitter hacked either.

He’s only suddenly become LGBT+ friendly since he became party leader!
This is where I get to point out that Tim has a long track record of positive action on LGBT+ issues. Tim doesn’t – or didn’t, I suspect the school of hard knocks may affect this – do vapid soundbite politics. Those of us in bi/queer/trans circles often get marginalised by soundbite politics, with “Equal Marriage” being a prime example. (Top tip: We do not have Equal Marriage in the UK. We have Same-Sex Marriage, and you only have to look at the injustices perpetrated by the spousal veto, pension laws and so on to realise this) What he had done is learnt about the detail and spoken in favour of many positive Liberal Democrat policies that are often overlooked.

There’s plenty more press coverage since he became leader, and Pink News have a pretty good list of his pro-LGBT work once you scroll past the headline and attacks on him. Most recently, Tim was front of the queue condemning the homophobic atrocities in Chechnya, when I don’t think we’ve heard anything at all from Corbyn or May. However there are whole host of other things linked to from that article. Please do go and have a look.

The older stuff has less coverage as party presidents don’t usually get the limelight, but the photo at the top of this article was at an LGBT+ Liberal Democrats event he spoke at in 2012. From memory, that was the event where several of us spoke to him on the concerns trans people had about accreditation at party conference and which he helped us lobby on in his role as party president. The photo on the right was taken in February 2015, when Nick Clegg was still leader and Tim was out campaigning in my ward. Anyone local to Cambridge may recognise this as being outside the primary school on Coronation Street. Apologies for the poor photo, we didn’t realise this was going to be a “thing” at the time.

You’re only defending him because you’re a Liberal Democrat!
Hardly, and I was quite willing to be critical of Clegg when he messed up.

There are a number of loud bisexual/poly/queer/trans voices in the party defending Tim – Jennie Rigg, whose blog post I linked to above for example. A number of us get Righteously Annoyed when people attack Tim on LGBT+ issues, because he has been solid on the BT+ parts of the debate for many years when other political leaders have left us out in the cold for not being vote-worthy enough. Seeing people, and sometimes even the same people who sold us down the river over Same-Sex Marriage, attack him for not being word-perfect and repeating the same damaging soundbites as other leaders (“Equal” Marriage) is predictably going to rile us up.

As I said on Twitter, we’re the Awkward Squad. We don’t DO “Loyal party drone”. But I do have a nice photo of two of us with Tim Farron in Bournemouth that I’d like to share.

Having run through the history of trans politicians in the UK in three parts – pre-2000, 2001-2009 and post-2010, it’s back to the usual routine and time to report who is standing in next month’s elections.

As a recap, we currently have four openly trans people elected to local government – many people will be aware of the first three, and news emerged last year of a fourth councillor, for UKIP, in Thanet. This is, as far as we are aware, a record high in trans representation in local government – but to put it into context, there are 20,830 seats on principal councils in the UK so the four of us represent just 0.02% of the total number of councillors. For comparison, figures for the number of trans people in the UK usually result in a number an order of magnitude higher, at around 0.1-0.2%.

Here’s the current, complete, list:

Liberal Democrats Zoë O’Connell
Cambridge City Council, Trumpington Ward

Elected 2015 with 29.9% of the vote, 2.6% majority.
Conservatives Zoë Kirk-Robinson
Bolton City Council, Westhoughton North and Chew Moor Ward
Elected 2015 with 41.3% of the vote, 2.7% majority.
Sarah Larkins
Thanet District Council, Eastcliff Ward
Elected 2015 with 33.5% of the vote, 4.3% majority.
Labour Anwen Muston
Wolverhampton, East Park Ward
Elected 2016 with 43.4% of the vote, 12.8% majority.

There is also one election result to report – Ellen Murry stood again as the Green Party’s candidate in the sudden Northern Ireland Assembly election earlier this year:

Green Party Northern Ireland Ellen Murray
West Belfast (Party list)
Not elected. Round one result: 0.6%, change: -0.3%

And now onto the main feature: candidates in 2017. It is slim pickings this year, with only twothree candidates known of so far. I often receive news of more after the initial list is posted and anyone I hear of will be added here. At this point in the four-year local council electoral cycle, it is mostly county councils up for grabs. The job of a county councillor is typically more time consuming than at city/district level, and although I have not seen any evidence on the topic it does seem to favour those who are retired, self-employed and doing well or otherwise better off – which will tend to work against trans people in general. With an increasing number of trans people also holding office and Helen Belcher being the LibDem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Chippenham, there is also a smaller pool of people willing to stand for election!

Labour Sam Feeney
Cambridgeshire, St Ives North & Wyton
 
Mridul Wadhwa
Edinburgh, Craigentinny/Duddingston
 
Alex Bear
Derbyshire, Ripley East and Codnor
 

And finally, one honorary mention. Lily, co-founder of Britain Elects, should have been the candidate for Uplands, Swansea next month. Sadly, she died late last year.

Labour Lily Summers
Swansea, Uplands
 

Happy Local Election Nomination Deadline Day! If you are planning on standing for election on May 4th, you have until 4pm today to get your nomination papers in. As I expect to be posting the 2017 candidate list in the next few days, it is an appropriate day to post the final part of the series on openly trans politicians in the UK, which started as part of LGBT History Month. (For earlier years, see part one covering 1986-1999 and part two, 2000-2010) LGBT History Month is now long past, but as a result of the first two parts I received a number of new leads to chase down on candidates who stood – most turned out to be people who didn’t come out until after they had left office, but many thanks to those who sent them in.

2010 was, in mainstream political terms, when it all kicked off for openly trans representation in the UK – going from one elected councillor in May 2010 up to a record three elected councillors and 9 other candidates in May 2016. It’s notable enough that a trans person standing for election might warrant a short and usually positive human interest piece in the local press, but at least for local election candidates it no longer generates the kind of mock-outrage by tabloid commentators that was previously common. The sheer number of people standing makes it difficult to write a biography for everyone, so only brief details are given on those elected.

The emphasis above is on “openly” above, as there are a number of trans politicians in the UK at local election level who are not out. At least some of the recent increase in numbers can be attributed not just to the increased number of trans candidates standing, but also the increased likelihood of people being out. Records prior to about 2010 are also sketchy, and it is likely some earlier candidates have been missed.

There are two known out Candidates who are now out, but are not listed below as it has not been able to confirm were out at the time of election: Sarah Larkins (UKIP, 2015) and Lee-Anne Lawrance. (Green, 2016)

If you have not been included in this list and believe you should be, please drop me a line. If I know you and have not included you here, it is because I believe you are not out.


2010

Sarah Brown (Liberal Democrats)
2010-2014: Cambridge, Petersfield

Appeared on the Independent on Sunday “Pink List” (later called the “Rainbow List”) of top 100 most influential LGBT people in the UK from 2011 to 2015. Cambridge City Council’s Executive Councillor for Community Services 2013-2014.

Herbert, Ian. The IoS Pink List 2011 Independent on Sunday. 22nd October 2011
Barkham, Patrick. ‘Why three in a bed isn’t a crowd’ – the polyamorous trio The Guardian. 20th April 2013
Cambridge Local Elections – Candidates A – B
Sarah Brown (politician) Wikipedia
Councillor details – Councillor Sarah Brown Cambridge City Council


2011

Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)


2012

Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)


2013
No known candidates


2014
2014 candidates list
2014 results list

Unsuccessful European Parliament Candidates: Nikki Sinclaire (We Demand a Referendum)
Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Anna May Booth (Labour), Sarah Brown (Liberal Democrats), Alice Chapman (Liberal Democrats), Zoe Kirk-Robinson (Conservatives), Charlie Kiss (Green), Anwen Muston (Labour), Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)


2015
2015 candidates/results list

Zoë O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)
Cambridge, Trumpington (Term expires 2019)

Deputy Leader of the opposition on Cambridge City Council since 2016, Vice-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Federal Conference Committee and the author of this blog.

Barkham, Patrick. ‘Why three in a bed isn’t a crowd’ – the polyamorous trio The Guardian. 20th April 2013
Cambridge Local Elections – Candidates L – O
Councillor details – Councillor Zoe O’Connell Cambridge City Council


Zoe Kirk-Robinson (Conservatives)
Bolton, Westhoughton North and Chew Moor (Term expires 2019)

Councillor details – Zoe Kirk-Robinson


Unsuccessful Westminster Candidates: Emily Brothers (Labour), Stella Gardiner (Green), Charlie Kiss (Green), Zoe O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)
Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Kirsten Ruth Bayes (Liberal Democrats), Anna May Booth (Labour), Alice Chapman (Liberal Democrats), Rachel Lawson (Green), Anwen Muston (Labour)


2016
2016 candidates list
2016 results list

Anwen Muston (Labour)
Wolverhampton, Eask Park (Term expires 2020)
Councillor details – Anwen Muston


Unsuccessful Regional/Metro Assembly Candidates: Brothers (Labour, London Assembly), Crow (Green, Scottish Parliament), Murray (Green, NI Assembly)
Unsuccessful City/Borough Council Candidates: Kirsten Ruth Bayes (Liberal Democrats), Helen Belcher (Liberal Democrats), Aimee Challenor (Green), Jane Fae (Liberal Democrats), Henry Foulds (Liberal Democrats), Jennifer Kirk (Conservatives), Maria Munir (Liberal Democrats)


As part of LGBT History Month, I have been researching the history of openly trans politicians in the UK and I will be posting these over the next few days. You can read part one of this mini-series here and part two, covering 2010 to 2016, here.


Jennifer Liddle (Liberal Democrats)
1999: City Council Candidate for East Chesterton Ward, Cambridge
2000-2007: Cambridge, East Chesterton (Reelected 2004)
2008-2010: Cambridge, East Chesterton

Jenny Bailey (Liberal Democrats)
2002-2008: Cambridge, East Chesterton (Releected 2004)
2007-2008: Mayor of Cambridge

There is a question as to exactly where in the timeline Liddle and Bailey – partners who represented the same ward on Cambridge City Council at the same time – should appear in the narrative. Liddle first stood in 1999 before being elected in 2000, but there was little or no media coverage at the time. Liddle herself has described their trans status as “the worst-kept secret in Cambridge” and then County Councillor for the same ward, Julian Huppert, says that “there were certainly voters who knew … it did come up occasionally on doorsteps. Not, sadly, in a positive light*

They did not receive widespread coverage until 2007, shortly before Bailey was sworn in as Mayor of Cambridge which, as far as is known, makes Bailey the first and to date only trans mayor in the UK. The publicity didn’t seem to hurt Liddle’s election when she re-stood in 2008, gaining 38.4% of the boat, versus 38.3% in 2004.

Regardless of where chronologically their entry should appear, Liddle and Bailey began a near-continuous run of openly trans representation on Cambridge City Council, broken only for one 12 month period in 2014-2015.

Sources and further reading:
Cambridge Local Elections – Candidates A – B
Cambridge Local Elections – Candidates O – L
First sex-swap mayor is sworn in. BBC News, 24th May 2007
Transsexual Becomes Mayor in Cambridge, England. Fox News, 25th May 2007
* In conversation with the author


Rebecca Baty (Conservatives)
2002: Council Candidate for Bruce Grove ward, Haringey

Relatively little is documented about Baty, who stood for election as a Tory candidate in London in 2002. This was a no-hope seat for the Conservative party, and despite being the top-placed candidate from her party Baty managed less than a quarter of the number of votes of the lowest-placed Labour candidate. Despite this, she received some press coverage. In 2002, merely being a candidate whilst out as trans was notable enough to be newsworthy.

Baty also stood in 1998 in the Quadrant Ward of Islington, but does not appear to have been out at the time as no press coverage of her from that election has been located.

Although non-principal council results have not been included, it’s worth noting that in 2009 Baty also stood unsuccessfully for Ramsgate Parish council, in the same ward that in 2015 saw UKIPs only known trans councillor, Sarah Larkin, secure a seat.

Sources and further reading:
London Borough Council Elections, 7th May 1998
London Borough Council Elections, 2nd May 2002
McGowan, Patrick. Tories to field first transsexual. Evening Standard 14th March 2002
Sex change Tory hopeful says she should be judged on her merits. Scotsman 15th March 2002
Allen, Peter. The Lady Who Turned Is to Stand for Tories. Daily Mail. 15th March 2002.
Parish of Ramsgate Election – Thursday, 4th June, 2009


Krystyna Haywood
2002: Council Candidate for Park, Sheffield (Liberal Democrats)
2007: Council Candidate for Arbourthorne, Sheffield (Green)

Sources and further reading:
Norton, Cherry. The pressure and confusion are terrible. Independent 29th July 1999.
Local Elections Archive Project – Sheffield City Council Election Results 2002
Local Elections Archive Project – Sheffield City Council Election Results 2007


Stephanie Dearden (Liberal Democrats)
2005: Westminster Parliamentary Candidate for Tooting
2006, 2010, 2014: Council Candidate for Graveney, Wandsworth

It’s not clear if Dearden was already “out” before the Leicester South by-election in 2004, but an unattributed attack leaflet distributed during the run-up to polling day put her name in the public domain and, according to subsequent interviews during the election campaign, Dearden’s own web site initially made mention of it. As with MacRae back in 1992, being a candidate only likely to secure third-place didn’t stop interest from the Daily Mail, which briefly interviewed her in the weeks prior to the election.

Dearden is still involved in politics, having unsuccessfully stood for election to the same area three times – in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

Sources and further reading:
Cohen, Nick. The ghost of Enoch. The Guardian 22nd August 2004.
Letts, Quentin. Not Hattie Jacques, but the ladies are no pushover Mail Online. 8th April 2005
Bain, Charlie. Lib-Dem Lady Who Was a Man Mail on Sunday. 1st May 2005
UK General Election result for Tooting, 2005
Wandsworth Council election results 2006
Wandsworth Council election results for Graveney Ward 2010
Wandsworth Council election results 2014


Ailsa Spindler (Scottish Greens)
2005: Westminster Parliamentary Candidate for Edinburgh West

Although she did not make it into the collective memory of the trans community or LGBT politicians in the same way as Dearden did, possibly due to being a member of the smaller Scottish Green Party, Spindler stood in the same General Election. Public knowledge of her trans status appears to have been entirely at her own initiative – multiple sources published on the same day give the same quotes, suggesting a press release simuntaneously sent to multiple outlets.

Sources and further reading:
UK General Election result for Edinburgh West, 2005
Green Party candidate says sex change is not an election issue Scotsman. 23rd April 2005
Stokes, Christina. The Sex-Change Green Who Wants Voters to Swing Her Way in May Daily Mail. 23rd April 2005
Stokes, Christina. Sex Swop Boxer Bids to Land Knockout Blow for the Green Party The Mirror. 25th April 2005

As part of LGBT History Month, I have been researching the history of openly trans politicians in the UK and I will be posting these over the next few days.

Our history is often confused by the media’s need for sensationalism and they will often latch on to the idea that someone might be “first” at something to make another otherwise run-of-the-mill human-interest story about someone seem more interesting. Sometimes politicians reuse these stories themselves, not realising that the media have not bothered to fact-check their claims. This does not help trans representation in the long run, because it makes people feel as if being elected in politics is something remote and unobtainable for trans people rather than something that is quite achievable.

For those interested in the topic, it’s worth checking out this excellent report from the University of North Carolina’s LGBTQ representation and rights research initiative which covers the global situation.

More information is always welcome, as I will certainly have missed people prior to 2014, when I started compiling lists of known trans candidates at principle authority level or above each year. However, I will state my usual caveat here – I am aware of a number of trans people who hold or have held public office but are not out. I am not in the business of outing people, so I will only include those who are publicly out or have already been outed by the media.

Finally, if any historians would like to work on turning this series into a more formal paper for publication please do get in touch. I would like to be able to get this information recorded in a format more amenable to citation by future generations of activists.

Part two of this series covers 1999-2009, and part three 2010-2016.


Rachael Terri Webb (Labour)
1986-1990: Councillor for Ferndale Ward, Lambeth
1990-1994: Councillor for Gipsy Hill Ward, Lambeth

The history of successful trans politicians stretches back surprisingly far – to the mid 1980s. This was a time not just before the Gender Recognition Act was passed but before the campaign group that fought for that legislation, Press for Change, was formed. The trailblazer was Rachael Terri Webb who was, as far as anyone has been able to establish, not only the first openly trans person to have been a candidate in a UK election, but the first to have been elected.

Webb stood for Lambeth council in 1986 to the safe Labour ward of Ferndale, serving there until 1990. She then stood in Gipsy Hill in 1990, until retiring in 1994.

As with many people, it is difficult to establish the extent to which Webb’s history was known prior to her first election as the media rarely gives much coverage to candidates for local councils. More recent articles suggest she was outed by the tabloid press in 1983 as a result of using a loan available to all council employees to pay for surgery, but it has not been possible to locate the original articles yet. However, her position as the earliest known out trans politician and the first to win an election is secure, as there are references in the 1987 book “Bodyshock: The Truth about Changing Sex” as well as other sources prior to her re-election. She was also known to the wider trans community, presenting on the topic of “Transsexuals and Local Authority Equal Opportunities Policies” to the GENDYS conference in 1990.

Looking at the election results, it is notable that although elected comfortably Webb placed third of all three Labour councillors in both elections. That difference is most pronounced in the 1990 Gipsy Hill results, in which she polled 8% lower than the other two Labour candidates in an election that otherwise seems to have seen people voting a straight party ticket, with little or no difference in the votes between candidates of the same party. Concerning though this difference might be, it is entirely possible this difference in votes was for entirely political reasons. She was apparently well known and referenced in a number of articles and books in the late 80’s and early 90’s. These sources typically do not mention her as a trans woman, but do focus on her history as an outspoken member of Militant, on the left wing of the Labour party during a period that saw internal party disagreement on a par with today’s troubles.

Webb sadly died in 2009.

Sources and further reading:
London Borough Council Elections, 8th May 1986
London Borough Council Elections, 3rd May 1990
Hodgkinson, Liz (1987), Bodyshock: The Truth about Changing Sex. Columbus Books.
Ekins R, King D (2002), Blending Genders: Social Aspects of Cross-Dressing and Sex Changing. Routledge
International gender dysphoria conference 1990. Beaumont Trust
Zagria, A Gender Variance Who’s Who – Rachael Webb (1940 – 2009)
Webb, Rachael. Letters to the Editor. The Guardian. 2nd October 1990


Alexandra “Sandra” MacRae (SNP)
1992: Westminster Parliamentary Candidate for Glasgow Provan

MacRae has been in the headlines well before she became a candidate for the SNP, having been outed in 1981 by the News of the World in a story described by the Press Council as “distasteful” – it appears the Scottish Daily Record also ran less-than-positive stories during the election. Despite this, she appears willing to talk about her background publicly as a Herald Scotland article repeats by then historical quotes from her General Election campaign in 1992 where she talks about her transition. Coverage of her candidature is sparser than might be expected – the SNP then were less prominent than today, and MacRae was not expected to win. She placed second on 21.7%, with Labour comfortably holding the seat with 66.5% of the vote.

MacRae was no stranger to elections, having stood at least four times prior to transition, in Edinburgh Central (Feb & Oct 1974), Edinburgh Pentlands (1970) and Midlothian. (1966) Unfortunately, most sources about MacRae are from 1997 when she hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons following a conviction for fraud. According to media reports, she was the first trans woman to be housed in a female prison but as with most media claims about “firsts”, this is tricky to verify.

Sources and further reading:
‘News of the World’ censured. The Observer. 9th August 1981, page 5
Lawyer stole #16,000 from clients, Prisons face dilemma of sex-change embezzler. The Herald. 10th December 1997
Transsexual man jailed in women’s prison. BBC News. 1st September 1998
UK General Elections since 1832
Zagria, A Gender Variance Who’s Who – Sandra MacRae (1942–) solicitor, SNP candidate


Mark Rees (Liberal Democrats)
1994-1998: Councillor for Rusthall Ward, Tunbridge Wells

Mark Rees is perhaps better known as co-founder of Press for Change and a prominent campaigner for gender recognition which resulted in the passage of the Gender Recognition Act in 2004 – a journey which began with a European Court hearing as far back as 1986, the same year that Webb was first elected. In the middle of this period, Rees had served four years as a councillor in Tunbridge Wells, standing in Rusthall Ward first in 1991 before going on to win in 1994. Although he re-stood in 1998, he was not successful.

There are many excellent resources about Rees’ life online, and rather than try to summarise them here, anyone interested should read the articles published by either LGBT History Month or Zagria. Christine Burns’ eBooks, Pressing Matters also cover the story of the campaigning group, Press for Change.

As well as being the first, to date, Mark remains the only openly trans man known to have been elected to public office in the UK.

Sources and further reading:
Rees v. The United Kingdom – 9532/81 [1986] ECHR 11. 17 October 1986.
Burns, Christine (2013) Pressing Matters (Vol 1)
Famous and Inspirational Trans People: Mark Rees. LGBT History Month
Zagria, Mark Rees (1942 – ) Part II: activist, councillor
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Election Results 1973-2012


Rosalind Mitchell (Labour)
1997-1999: Councillor for Redland Ward, Bristol

Mitchell was not out when first elected to Bristol Council. In fact, she didn’t transition until 6 months after her election, meaning she can lay claim to being the first trans person known to have transitioned whilst holding public office in the UK. She was in office for a relatively brief period, and her tenure appears to have not been trouble-free as although apparently accepted by the Labour Group on the council she was refused entry to a Labour Women’s group and did not restand when her term expired in 1999.

Sources and further reading:
Election results for Redland, Bristol, 1997 (Election data has been updated by Bristol Council to refer to Mitchell’s current name. It is clear from other sources that she did not transition until November 1997)
Burns, Christine (2013) Pressing Matters (Vol 1)
Burns, Christine. The Rosalind Mitchell Story, Press For Change. 21st September 1997, archived from the original.
Dyer, Clare. Labour transsexual comes out. The Guardian. 22nd September 1997, page 6.
Winkler, Elisabeth. The year that changed my life, The Independent. 27th December 1998
New Labour, New Woman, part of the Home Ground series. BBC. 7th July 1998
Dyer, Clare. Labour Group Throws out Sex Change Woman. The Guardian. 19th March 1998, page 4.
Sex objection to Bristol Woman. Local Government Chronicle. 31st March 1998.

There was hand-wringing piece in the Independent yesterday about an Essex pharmacy that provided a journalist with HRT. It’s so bad and on so many levels that I felt it worthy of mentioning here specifically. However, this is hardly an isolated incident – the media have a very long history of trying to scupper trans healthcare, including David Batty’s persecution of doctors practicing trans medicine and past efforts by the BBC, similar to this one, to shut down entirely legal sources of medicine.

Turning back to the Indy piece, sources such as the pharmacy they mention are often a lifeline for people who can’t get medication in any other way. Even having had to wait, sometiems years, to get help many people subsequently find their GPs refuse to prescribe drugs because it goes against their religion, even when recommended by a specialist. Or they live somewhere where they can’t access specialist care without long journeys – there is no Gender Identity Clinic anywhere in Wales, for example. (Fortunately, there are moves afoot to remedy that particular problem)

This isn’t due to a lack of evidence of the effectiveness of health care – research has shown that blocking health care for those seeing transition is extremely dangerous, with the suicide attempt rate for those unable to access services at around 50%.

The Indy also plays up the risks of HRT, which if you believe the tone of the article must be incredibly dangerous, and state that it shouldn’t be “used unmonitored”. However, amongst the long-term-transitioned trans women I know of who have been able to find a stable supply via cooperative and responsible GPs, none are being monitored – because the real world risk for most people is not high enough to make it worth the GP’s time. Progynova is even an over-the-counter medicine in some countries, such as Spain.

In case you’re wondering, the side effects list of an over-the-counter drug in the UK such as Ibuprofen includes difficulty breathing, vomiting blood, stroke, liver failure, heart failure and heart attacks. If there’s a lesson here, it’s “don’t read the side effects list on the leaflets”.

Finally, the headline cites “Fears of ‘DIY transitioning’“. DIY transitioning is exactly what people have been doing for decades because the press and medical establishments have a long history of making it as hard as possible to access treatment.

To be clear, having to defend grey market medication is a far from ideal situation to be in. But it is disingenuous to harp on about the “dangers” of these sources, while ignoring the effects of cutting off that supply. And trawling forums for “exclusives” like this is terribly dangerous and will just force desperate people further and further underground, where they’ll end up being taken advantage of or finding sources of supply that are really dangerous. I imagine many people will be wary of asking for help on that particular Reddit forum after it was cited by the paper.

The NSPCC have now announced the cancellation of the debate into the care of trans kids. At first, this seems like good news, given one of the speakers was to have been Sarah Ditum – known for her support of those practising conversion therapy.

However, I am quite annoyed by the tone of their response which is at best disingenuous. Here is what they said: (I received the same text via email in response to my letter)

However, the trans community have raised concerns and told us that they don’t support the NSPCC hosting this discussion. We have listened, and following the withdrawal of a keynote speaker, we are no longer hosting this event.

To be fair, getting a press release like this right in a way that doesn’t cause repercussions is hard. However, I would expect a withdrawal from an organisation with a competent press department to use phrases like “Having considered the background of the speakers, we can understand why this would upset members of the trans communities“. Some people might regard these as “weasel words”, but they’re there to indicate that they don’t blame those who protested, that they can see both sides of the argument and they really just don’t want a fight. Instead, we’re treated to a spin on the facts stating that trans people don’t want the NSPCC to discuss this issue. We do, because we think this is an important issue and I said as much in my letter to them. We just don’t think it’s appropriate for the debate to involve someone supporting those engaged in child abuse.

I expect we’ll see a concern-trolling New Statesman rant by Sarah Ditum about how her right to freeze peach has been violated soon. As always, it hasn’t.

Following the news that the NSPCC had invited Sarah Ditum to a debate on trans kids, I sent them the note below regarding Ditum’s support for those advocating conversion therapy against kids. Since I wrote this yesterday evening, Kellie Maloney (also an odd choice for this debate) has pulled out which means it may not go ahead, although Kellie’s withdrawal appears to be because of concerns about personal attacks from Ditum rather than due to her controversial views on trans people.


Dear NSPCC,

I would like to thank the NSPCC for giving time to discuss the issue of treatment of trans children. As I am sure you are aware, this is an important but often overlooked topic in an area in which many involved in setting policy, including teachers, social workers, clinicians and politicians, are unaware of the facts and of the desperate need for more resources.

However, the as someone who had until now held the NSPCC in high regard, I was appalled to learn that you had selected speakers who will harm rather than help this issue. Sarah Ditum’s position on trans issues in general is controversial and well-documented, but I would particularly like to highlight to you two specific incidents regarding Ditum’s support for those practising conversion therapy.

Firstly, in 2014, Sarah Ditum wrote an article for the New Statesman, best characterised as “concern trolling”, regarding the suicide of Leelah Alcorn. (“If you believe trans lives matter, don’t share Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note on social media“) Leelah was a trans teenager who had been cut off from her peers and subjected to conversion therapy by her parents. After 5 months of this, Leelah posted a public suicide note on the social media site Tumblr in which she was highly critical of her parents, before stepping into traffic on Interstate 71. Despite this, Ditum wrote an article for the New Stateman in which she was highly critical of the media coverage highlighting the dangers of conversion therapy, downplayed the significance of the abuse and expressed support for Leelah’s parents. (She has not written similar articles concerning other events that do not feature trans people)

More recently, in May 2016 another article appeared in the New Statesman by Ditum (“What is gender, anyway?“) in which she supported clinicians practising conversion therapy on children, including Susan Bradley and Kenneth Zucker. Conversion therapy (sometimes also known as reparative therapy) is now widely abhorred by the medical community as not just ineffective but dangerous and cruel. It is banned in some Canadian provinces and US states and, in the UK, LGB conversion therapy has been condemned by all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies as well as the NHS. Zucker’s clinic in Canada was shut down after Ontario banned the practice of conversion therapy – Susan Bradley also campaigned against the ban. The centre hosting the clinic later issued a public apology for the practice as a result of an external audit, but Ditum dismisses this in her article as being “attacked for not conforming to the current trans political line” and Zucker being “ultimately forced from his job”.

It should not be the case that, in 2016, a children’s charity proposes to host a “debate” in which one of the panellists supports treatment that is now banned in many parts of the world as child abuse. Your supporters would be horrified if you hosted a debate with those advocating other forms of child abuse – please do not let trans kids be the exception.

I urge the NSPCC to reconsider the ethical implications of allowing this debate to proceed.

Kind Regards,

Councillor Zoe O’Connell
Cambridge City Council