Maureen Colquhoun is the first openly lesbian MP to serve in the House of Commons.
Before entering Parliament, Colquhoun was the only woman working as a councillor in her local authority and was subsequently banned from local meeting because “the men simply couldn’t shut her up”. Still, she didn’t let sexist attitudes stop her from aiming high. Several years later, she was chosen as Parliamentary Labour candidate for Northampton North and duly won the seat in 1974.
In the same year, she left her husband, with whom she had brought up three children, and declared that she was a lesbian. While this may cause bit of a stir now, back in the seventies the announcement was met with outrage and disgust. The Labour Party, and indeed the general public, were far from ready for an openly lesbian MP. Whereas today she would be applauded for her courage, Colquhoun was mocked and vilified.
In 1978 the Labour party moved to deselect her for her so-called “obsession” with women’s rights, but this decision was reversed on appeal. Yet public opinion mixed with her own party’s hostility towards her meant that keeping her seat became impossible, and in 1979 she lost her place in Parliament.
Still, Colquhoun’s bravery paved the way for future generations of MP’s. Currently there are 32 openly LGBT+ Members of Parliament in the UK – the most anywhere in the world. It’s hard to imagine that this would be the case had Colquhoun not taken the first step into the unknown.