This past Tuesday, Nov. 7, as Americans around the country participated in election day, history was being made as transgender citizens were elected to government positions around the country for the first time. In at least six different states, these openly transgender individuals are making history by overcoming the general prejudices and discrimination that much of the general population may have against them, and in turn are serving to improve their communities in more ways than just what their positions of office would allow. This is a huge first for our country, and will hopefully be the starting point for many other LGBTQ+ future legislators in America.
While there may still be some currently unaccounted for towns and districts across the country, as of now, at least seven openly transgender individuals from six different states have been elected into office. Where each candidate differs in background and elected position, each one is coming with the same title: first. Whether they are the first transgender woman, man, or person elected into office in their state or town, each of these elected officials have overcome the normal challenges that anyone would face in a political campaign, as well as having the added pressure of being a leader in the face of bigotry and adversity. Despite these added difficulties these candidates are showing great strength and proving that they are able to persevere and come out on top.
While each elected candidate’s story is unique and interesting, the one that has garnered the most attention from the media is that of Danica Roem, who was elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates earlier this week. As the first openly transgender person elected to a state legislature, Roem’s successful campaign helps to illustrate just how much more progressive this year’s election day was compared to election day in 2016. However, not only is Roem’s triumph important to LGBTQ+ equality because of the success in her campaign, but it also clearly showcases the old-fashioned and bigoted ideas that she had to overcome to get to this point.
These characteristics were embodied in the form of her opponent in this race, Virginia Delegate Robert Marshall. Marshall based much of his campaign for the 2017 election on opposing much of what Roem stands for. He has openly campaigned against transgender rights during his previous terms, and was the person responsible for introducing the “Bathroom Bill” which aimed to prohibit gender neutral bathrooms as well as keeping transgender people from using their proper restrooms. Marshall, a self-proclaimed “chief homophobe,” also refused to debate Roem during his campaign, and always referred to her using male pronouns.
Unfortunately for Marshall, his bigotry did nothing to help him secure the election and he lost the election. Roem, on the other hand, was successful in her winning campaign, which focused not on her gender identity but more on the issues currently at hand like infrastructure, jobs, and schools. In approaching her campaign in this way, Roem not only highlights the fact that bigotry and hatred will not help you in this world but also showcases that her gender identity and sexuality are not the only things that define her. While these topics may play a big part in her life, she is so much more than these labels, and it seems like finally citizens of Virginia are starting to understand that.
With the current political climate in our nation being one that breeds hate and discrimination, through their campaigns, each of these elected candidates is helping to do the opposite. Their successful campaigns will hopefully make history as a turning point for the American people as we continue to become a more open-minded and welcoming country. It is ignorant to think that LGBTQ+ people currently enjoy the same freedoms, rights, and privileges as those not belonging to these identities, but these results certainly are a step in the right direction to get us there.
One year ago, Election Day in 2016 brought many people feelings of hopelessness, despair and anger. While not much has changed about these feelings over the past year since Donald Trump was elected as president, hopefully this year’s election results will help minimize them. There is obviously a long way to go in order to eliminate the hate-filled speech and thoughts that are currently plaguing this country, but if we continue to advocate for equality and support those who may be lacking in it, we are sure to improve the social climate in America. The results of this year’s elections may not be perfect, but they are certainly a step towards a more equal future.
Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.