On Nov. 7, the first openly transgender state representative was elected to office. Danica Roem of Virginia was elected to the House of Delegates, defeating her opponent in a landslide victory that is one for the history books. The election of Danica Roem shows that people will no longer put up with hatred or intolerance from those in office, and that a local-minded politician is what America truly needs.
In previous elections, being openly transgender has been a crippling obstacle to overcome. Most transgender candidates who have been elected have never officially come forward as being transgender. This is due to the fear that their political campaigns would come to an abrupt halt. It wasn’t until the last thirty years in which an open member of the LGBT+ community could even serve for office without their existence being something of scandal.
Though Danica Roem is the first successful state representative, she is not the first transgender American who has campaigned. In 1992, Althea Garrison, a state representative for Massachusetts, was outed as transgender. This lead to the imminent demise of her political career. Though she has continued to run in every election since 1992, she has never been re-elected.
There have been several other transgender candidates since Garrison, but none have successfully taken office until Roem. This could be due to poorly funded campaigns, or more likely due to stigma around the gender identity of the candidates in question. Transgender voices have often faced marginalization and silencing from those who do not seek to understand, but to persecute.
This was true of Roem’s opponent, Del.Robert G. Marshall. He had previously served for over twenty five years in the House of Delegates, and was a stark conservative who referred to himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” He was best known for his failed bathroom bill, which never made it past committee. He refused to ever debate Roem, and consistently referred to her by male pronouns. He made it abundantly clear that the people he represented were of his same interests, and that he would never truly represent the voices of the general public.
The unseating of Marshall is significant due to more than future legislature. A transgender woman defeating a massive campaigner against LGBT+ rights shows a political shift that is beginning in America. It shows that the people will no longer stand for blatant homophobia, nor will they stand for empty campaign promises. Roem just happens to be the candidate who seems to fight against both.
Danica Roem also proves that people are tired of politicians who are uninterested in local issues. Her biggest campaign promise was to decongest Northern Virginia’s crowded roadways. She had no previous government experience, but decided to run and fight against the issues she saw in the current legislature. She ran a grassroots campaign and was known for going door-to-door to speak with her future constituents while wrapped in her trademark rainbow scarf.
Roem is a symbol for what political candidates should be. She represents local issues, and is unafraid to stand up for her rights, as well as the rights of her constituents. She represents not only the LGBT+ community, but the local interests of the people of Virginia. She has debunked a politician who had become ineffective, and did so without running a slanderous campaign. Even when faced with opposition due to her identity, she continued to fight for a cause she believed in. She is a people’s politician, and hopefully the beginning of a movement.
Politicians who are blatantly against their own constituents are inefficient politicians. It’s time for the members of government to truly reflect the members of the public, and that includes transgender representation. Danica Roem represents a shift in American thinking, and hopefully it is a shift which will continue to grow. The future of government is not represented by hatred and intolerance, but rather by a sense of understanding.