LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Labour candidate who has become Britain's first openly transgender person to run for parliament for a major party was hailed by rights groups on Wednesday as a political role model for modern Britain.
Emily Brothers, who is standing for the Liberal Democrat-held seat of Sutton and Cheam in May's general election, said she wanted to avoid notoriety as having a transgender background, but would use her experience to be a positive role model.
Transgender people are described as those who feel they have been born into a body of the wrong gender. Many take hormones, while some undergo surgery to change their bodies, but transgender identity is not dependent upon medical procedures.
"In an ideal world I wouldn't be speaking out about my past because it's very private, however I recognise that as a politician the key thing is trust," Brothers told the gay news service Pink News.
"We have a situation in Britain where politicians have been losing trust with people, if I'm not honest about my life experience people may be critical of me being secretive."
Brothers told Pink News she was fortunate to have the support of her ex-wife and two children, although her wider family have broken their connections with her.
After losing her sight as a child to glaucoma, Brothers worked for the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Disability Rights Commission, and campaigned for the introduction of disability living allowance in the 1980s, according to her website.
Ruth Hunt, chief executive of gay rights group Stonewall, said parliament did not represent modern Britain, and hoped more trans, lesbian, gay and bisexual people would stand up as role models in politics.
"Emily has shown that she's a tenacious campaigner and advocate and will send a powerful message to trans people young and old," Hunt said in a statement.
Carola Towle, an officer of trade union UNISON, said that by standing as a parliamentary candidate, Brothers would promote a positive portrayal of trans people and "take us all a step closer to the society we want to live in".
Writing on Twitter, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said he was proud to have Brothers as a candidate and "an important voice in our movement".
(Editing by Tim Pearce)