Why being transgender was irrelevant in my GE2017 campaign

As I stood on stage, a room full of expectant people looking up at me I was totally focused on the next words that I would hear.

“Sophie Rose Cook, Labour Party, 20,882.”

In the space of five short weeks we’d achieved the seemingly impossible, taking a previously safe Tory seat and making it a marginal, increasing the Labour vote by 114% with one of the biggest swings in the country at 19.8%.

At the start of the general election campaign no one gave the Labour Party a chance, both nationally and here in East Worthing & Shoreham.

The constituency had always been blue and the Tory incumbent, Tim Loughton, had been the MP for 20 years.

He felt safe and secure that no one could ever challenge him, and I’m sure that the selection of a little known transgender TV presenter as the Labour candidate only added to the feeling that he would increase his 15,000 majority.

My selection caused a few waves, I was told that ‘this isn’t Brighton’ and that the people of the constituency wouldn’t warm to a transgender candidate.

The press gave my campaign some coverage and despite being one of nine transgender candidates I was the one that got the most attention due to my profile from working in football and TV.

“Labour candidate could become first transgender MP” said one headline whilst another mentioned the fight for LGBT rights, “Trans activist is fighting to oust anti-LGBT Conservative politician.”

Being transgender and in the public eye I was already used to abuse, both online and in the real world. I’d been trolled by various groups including receiving death threats on Twitter and as I stepped into the political arena I was bracing myself for a renewed onslaught of hatred.

But then something unexpected happened.

Instead of the abuse I was greeted with love and support, sure there were still a few transphobic remarks online but nothing like I’d experienced previously.

I’d heard first hand accounts of trans people moving out of the constituency because of abuse and yet, when I started to talk to people, they responded with warmth and openness.

My gender identity that had hit the headlines around the world seemed to mean nothing to the constituents that I met, it was never mentioned on the doorsteps, the street stalls or the hustings. The only people that made it an issue were the press, not the voters. They listened to the policies, my ideas, passion and belief and they embraced me.

On June 8 nearly 21,000 of them chose to put their mark next to my name on the ballot paper.

They weren’t voting for a trans woman, they were voting for Sophie Cook, they were voting for the Labour Party. They saw beyond the headlines and the things that made us different and in their way struck a massive blow for trans equality.

We now have the most diverse parliament ever with 45 LGB MPs, I missed out on adding a T to that by 5000 votes.

We need transgender politicians, after all everyone in society needs to feel represented. But the main reason why I believe that the time is right for a trans MP has nothing to do with equality or diversity, it’s down to the constituents who put their faith in me to represent them, regardless of my gender identity.

Since the election I’ve spoken to hundreds of people who said that I’ve given them hope for the first time.

That feeling goes both ways, they saw that there is more that unites us than separates us, they saw a person rather than a label, and they too gave me hope for a brighter tomorrow.

1 thought on “Why being transgender was irrelevant in my GE2017 campaign

  1. Mick G says:

    So beautifully put, Sophie. It has been a pleasure and a privilege for me and my family to work with you and get to know you a little in these last few weeks. We warmed to you immediately as you come across as a committed and principled Socialist and somebody(like so many of our class)who knows what it is to struggle against the odds. Gender never came up on the doorstep and surely that is all we want, for everybody to have an equal chance in life whatever we are and wherever we come from. One world, one human race living in peace and harmony.
    I am sure you have the full support of the vast majority of our members. My only reservation was that candidates were imposed by the NEC from above, which I am sure would not have been your choice in different circumstances. Given that, I think we should all insist that we have a full and open selection process in the party so all members can feel that you are truly our candidate. While I am sure it would be a formality, We would all benefit from you being openly given the full support of Party members.
    Congratulations Comrade on an incredible result and I sincerely hope you will be with us for years to come while we all struggle for a socialist Labour Government and a real future for all our people.

    Reply

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