A Labour Party candidate standing in the forthcoming general election could become the first transgender MP in Parliament’s history.
Sophie Cook, an RAF engineer turned TV presenter, will contest the seat of East Worthing and Shoreham, which has been held by the Tories for two decades.
The 50-year-old equality campaigner, who has three children, began transitioning in 1998 but only came out in 2015.
Ms Cook, who is also a photographer for Bournemouth football club, spoke of her “mental anguish” at transitioning from a man to a woman.
Speaking to The Independent, she said transgender people were underrepresented at all levels of society but she had decided to stand as a Labour candidate as it was the “party of diversity”.
“It's vitally important that Parliament reflects the diversity of our society, with members from all walks of life regardless of gender, sexuality, gender identity, race, religion and disability,” she said.
“We need to strive for a world where difference is celebrated rather than one where it's used to divide people and cause hatred.
“Transgender people have been sadly underrepresented at all levels of society in the past and faced abuse, discrimination and bigotry.
“This is beginning to change but it is only by working towards a day when everyone can be free to live their life free of discrimination that we will have true equality.”
“Labour is the party of diversity and I believe that it is vitally important that we continue to ensure that LGBT rights are enshrined in law and that only by publicly standing up for those rights will we make this country a place where our children can be free to grow up without fear.”
Conservative MP Tim Loughton has represented the seat since 1997 and won a majority of 14,949 at the last election.
Labour was left in second place with 19.5 per cent of the vote, compared to the Tories on almost 50 per cent.