Danica Roem made history earlier this month winning a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, making her the first openly transgender person to be elected to the legislature, and one of the first out trans people to be elected to any legislature in the U.S. Now, the Republican leader there has suddenly decided to do away with gendered titles like “gentlewoman” and “gentleman,” according to The Washington Post.
Following Roem’s win, Virginia House of Delegates House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox said that if Republicans continue to control the House then they would do away with the 400-year tradition of gendered titles, a pointed decision considering that conservatives backed the idea, asserting that it could help them avoid an awkward situation.
“All members will be afforded the same respect and courtesy that this nearly 400-year-old institution commands,” Parker Slaybaugh, a spokesperson for Cox told the Washington Post. “Speaker-designee Cox believes the ‘gentlelady’ and ‘gentleman’ terminology is outdated, and that referring to everyone as ‘delegate’ is more timely and appropriate.”
But the timing is specious considering that in one of Roem’s campaign ads she spoke about the meaning and power if she were to win and be addressed as “gentlewoman.”Roem defeated Robert. G. Marshall, who repeatedly, hatefully misgendered her throughout the campaign.
“They’re trying in some way to thread a needle with their own base,” Bob Holsworth, a former Virginia Commonwealth University political-science professor told the Washington Post. “They’re willing to change the tradition in this sense before they will explicitly acknowledge Danica Roem as a woman.”
While conservatives praised Cox’s decision, Kenneth Plum, a Democrat in the Virginia House of Delegates said he was “disappointed” by the move.
“If Danica Roem had not won the election we would still be doing the same thing we have done for 400 years, calling each other gentleman or gentlelady," Plum said. "It’s unfortunate that we, in effect, have to single out her election, as unique as it is.”
But Roem, a born leader, turned Cox’s cynical move into a teachable moment, focusing on the message her win sends to trans people who now know that they can be elected to office.
"I hope the unintended consequences of this will be non-binary Virginians feeling emboldened to run for office & win," Roem tweeted.