A brief history of trans parliamentarians

Trans politicians were briefly in the news today, when it was claimed that the Labour candidate for Sutton and Cheam was the “first transgender candidate for Parliament”.

After a short session of fact-checking supplied by twitter, that’s now been reduced to “first openly transgender candidate for Labour” – but as this mistake keeps cropping up it appears that a brief history lesson might be useful.

The first openly trans candidate in current political memory appears to have been Alexandra (Sandra) MacRae, who stood in Glasgow Provan for the SNP back in 1992. Twenty three years isn’t just a long time in politics – it’s a lifetime, meaning the story of her candidature is now unclear. It was certainly known that she was trans by the date of the election, and it seems likely that it was known prior to her selection, as she had previously stood at least once before transitioning (in 1996) and possibly, according to some sources, as many as three times.

Arguably, she remains the best parliamentary record of a trans person to date, securing 21.7% of the vote and coming second to Labour. But don’t expect her to stand again any time soon following her conviction and jail sentence for fraud.

Second, if we are going by coming-out date, would be Stephanie Dearden.

There is a version of events that has Stephanie being “outed” Daily Mail in 2005, but there are earlier Guardian stories which mention her in connection with the July 2004 Leicester South by-election. The attack leaflets distributed at that time, showing the Liberal Democrat candidate shaking Stephanie’s hand, include a quote from her clearly revealing her trans status – suggesting she may have never been stealth.

Either way, she certainly was not stealth by the time of her selection for Tooting constituency for the Liberal Democrats on the 4th November, 2004 and she went on to come third with 19.5% of the vote.

Next up is Nikki Sinclair, who was an MEP until earlier this year and whose background is better known. She has stood four times post-transition and as an open lesbian but before coming out as trans – for UKIP in 2001 and 2005 for Westminster, in 2009 for the European Parliament when she was successfully elected as a UKIP MEP and again for Westminster as an independent in 2010, following her departure from UKIP.

She came out as trans in 2013, but lost her MEP re-election bid as part of the “We Demand a Referendum Party”.

Fourth and fifth are the Green Prospective Parliamentary Candidates Charlie Kiss – the first trans man anyone knows of – and Stella Gardiner, who has been a Green party member since 1993 and who transitioned in 2013.

Both Stella and Charlie have been selected for seats in London in May 2015, with Stella adding that she “took the decision from the start to be out and open about being trans“.

This puts the latest announcement sixth on the list – and with just under six months to run until the general election, I’m expecting that we’ll see at least one more trans candidate announced for May 2015. There were eight openly trans politicians who stood this May, and I would expect the total to be higher in a General Election year.

This post was updated on 10th December 2014 with links showing the date of Stephanie Dearden’s selection. Thanks to Jon Ball for finding this information.

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