We begin our interview with Emily Brothers, parliamentary candidate for the Sutton and Cheam constituency who if successful will be the first blind transgender woman to be MP, by asking why she chose to run for the Sutton and Cheam constituency, a constituency where Labour’s Kathy Allen faced defeat in the 2010 general election winning just 7% of the vote. It takes courage and commitment to challenge such precedence; Emily told us that her motivation was “to pay back [her] community by representing their interests” affirming that engaging for politics is for her “a way to change things, to bring about social reform, social justice”. Terming this year’s General Election “the most open election since 1964”, she predicted a “shakeup” in the state of British politics, referencing the failures of the Lib Dem candidate in her constituency and anticipating “some surprises across the country”.
Discussing Germaine Greer’s appearance at the Union, Brothers said that trans-exclusionary radical feminists like Greer and her contemporaries, such as Julie Bindel, Judy Burchill and Suzanne Moore, “have ripped into the transsexual community in unacceptable ways” and “are mistaken to think that physical characteristics equal womanhood”. She stated, “People like myself are first and foremost women. We may have a different history, and many women have different kinds of history. It doesn’t make them any less of a woman”.
She embraced freedom of opinion and debate whilst also reaffirming that discriminatory speech that generates a sense of hatred towards trans people is unacceptable: “I’m not in favour of censorship or stopping people talking, unless they are going to demonstrate a lack of tolerance of other people. And that’s where I draw the line”. She felt that trans students’ views need to be considered and prioritized by the university in issues of their own welfare, stating, “I think the Union and other parts of the university need to listen to people and learn from the conversations they’re having with those people”.
Remembering acts of protest she herself had taken part in whilst at university, Brothers found it “really positive that LGBT students here are finding their voice and are able to stand up to ill-tolerant views”. She said that in her experience of the disability movement, radical action “has always been a part of bringing about change”, recounting incidences of wheelchair users chaining themselves to inaccessible buses in Oxford Street and her own experiences taking part in protests causing obstruction by sitting in the road at Whitehall. In her experience, “there is a role for civil rights disobedience”, but she reaffirmed that “it has to be part of the wider picture. Anger alone doesn’t bring about success.”
One of the most striking things that came across about Brothers is her positivity regarding her own experiences, and her hopes for continued social change and acceptance in the future. She sees the positive responses she has had towards her transition as “a real message as to how Britain is changing in terms of tolerance” and comes across as a truly changing and inspirational force in British politics.
Brothers first and foremost is a woman promising to create a positive impact; an impact that if she is elected we are confident will be delivered.
Hesham Mashhour & Em Travis (Chief Editor & Comment Editor)