When I rang the doorbell of Labour’s candidate for Sutton and Cheam, I thought I had a fairly clear picture of the woman I was about to meet. Anyone who stands for a party that polled 9% in the seat last time round has to be pretty bold. To do so as a blind woman with impaired hearing must take serious nerve. To have won the nomination without mentioning her transgender identity, then to announce it 12 months later without even warning her own party leader, suggests a degree of audacity uncommon even by the standards of politicians.
Within days of her decision in December to out herself as Labour’s first transgender candidate, Emily Brothers was ridiculed by the Sun’s Rod Liddle, who wrote: “Being blind, how did she know she was the wrong sex?” By the time we meet a week later, Brothers has seen off his mockery with a crisp retort (“I wonder how he knows he’s a man when he turns the light out”), and extracted a rare public apology from both the columnist and the tabloid.
“If anyone thinks I’m just going to go quietly into the corner, they are sorely mistaken,” she says coolly, dismissing Liddle as “a ridiculous man writing in a rag of a paper”.