If 2014 was, at least according to Time magazine, the year of the transgender tipping point, perhaps 2017 is the year of the transgender political candidate. While trans Americans still face barriers to equality — from the Trump administration and elsewhere — and a horrendous level of violence, many are taking up the fight for progress in the political arena.
“Victory Fund is working to make 2017 the year of the trans candidate — and we have already endorsed more trans candidates this year than ever before,” says Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the political group, which works to elect out LGBT people to office. “While trans equality is under attack by anti-LGBTQ forces in state legislatures and the federal government, trans candidates are fired up and running for office to defend the community and ensure our voices are included in the halls of power. Trans lawmakers are the antidote to the anti-trans bills being introduced across the nation — so Victory Fund is fighting to elect more of them.”
On this and the following pages, meet the six trans candidates endorsed by Victory Fund so far this year.
Danica Roem, Virginia House of Delegates
There’s much notable about Danica Roem’s candidacy for the Virginia House of Delegates in District 13. She has the endorsement of both Victory Fund and EMILY’s List, which works to elect pro-choice Democratic women. And if she wins her June 13 primary, in the November 7 general election she will face incumbent Republican Bob Marshall, who is perhaps the state’s most anti-LGBT lawmaker and is known in Virginia as “Sideshow Bob.”
Roem, who names traffic, jobs, and education as her legislative priorities, says Marshall has ignored these matters in his 11 terms in office in favor of backing anti-LGBT measures, including a “bathroom bill” just this year that would require teachers to out trans kids to their parents, and a ban on same-sex marriage.
“Marshall has had 25 years to fix Route 28 [a major area thoroughfare] and his legislative priorities have been more concerned about where I go to the bathroom,” she tells The Advocate. Most of his bills, she notes, have been defeated.
Roem is a lifelong resident of Manassas, the historic northern Virginia town that is the seat of Prince William County; most of the county is in District 13. She was a reporter for the county’s Gainesville Times newspaper from 2006, shortly after she finished college, until 2015, when she joined the Montgomery County Sentinel in Rockville, Md. She left the Sentinel at the end of last year to run for office.
Her experience as a resident and journalist has given her intimate familiarity with issues important to District 13 citizens, she says. “I have the public policy knowledge, the local roots,” she says.
Improving roads and mass transit is crucial for the district, which is part of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Transportation, she adds, is an economic development issue and a social justice issue — people have to be able to get to their jobs.
And she’ll be standing up for LGBT rights and other social justice causes too, she says. She notes that she has rebutted Marshall’s testimony before the Prince William County School Board, which is considering a trans-inclusive nondiscrimination policy.
Marshall, she says, has called trans people “gender-confused,” to which she responds, “Transitioning is an act of certainty. Coming out is an act of certainty.”
She has three opponents in the Democratic primary: businessman Mansimran Kahlon, former prosecutor Steven Jansen, and Army veteran Andrew Adams. But she believes she’s best suited to take Marshall on.
So do the people at EMILY’s List. “EMILY’s List is proud to endorse Danica Roem because she is a passionate leader who has been on the front lines with members of her community and knows firsthand the challenges Virginians face,” says the group’s president, Stephanie Schriock. “If we are going to drive change, we need public servants like Danica working at the local level to stand up for justice and fight against discrimination. We are thrilled to be fighting alongside her.” She is not the first trans candidate to receive the group’s endorsement, but she is the first openly trans candidate ever to run for office in Virginia.
Roem also has the endorsement of Virginia’s List, which supports progressive women in the state, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Equality Virginia, and Women Under Forty.