Danica Roem / REUTERS

First Openly Transgender Person to Serve in State Legislature after Defeating 'Chief Homophobe'

Danica Roem made Virginia history last night when she became the state’s first openly transgender person to be elected to the state’s legislature.

And come January, she will become the first openly transgender person in the nation to be elected to and serve in a state legislature.

Roem, a 33-year-old former journalist, defeated opponent Bob Marshall, a 73-year-old Republican who has described himself as “chief homophobe” and has sat on the state legislature for more than two decades. Roem defeated him by about 15 percentage points, according to exit polls.

During his campaign, Marshall used male pronouns to refer to Roem and refused to face her in a debate. He also pushed for legislation that would have prevented transgender students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity in schools. It also would have required school officials to “out” transgender students to their parents. The effort failed.

Meanwhile, after winning the election, Roem was asked to comment about Marshall and responded with grace.

“I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now,” she said.

Roem did not focus her campaign on her gender identity. She concentrated on issues that are affecting members of the Virginia community directly, primarily traffic concerns.

“Transgender people have really good public policy ideas that span the gamut of transportation policy to health care policy to education policy, and yes, to civil rights as well,” Roem said in an interview with Mother Jones this week. “We shouldn’t just be pigeonholed into the idea that we’re just going to be fighting about bathrooms.”

Roem expressed in a September interview with Cosmopolitian that while she did not center her campaign around LGBTQ issues, she hopes her political journey can serve as inspiration not just for others who identify as transgender but to anyone who has been shunned during their life.

“The message that I can succeed because of my gender, not despite it, because of who I am without being afraid of who I am is a human message,” she said. “It’s something that even if you are cisgender, but you have some reason that you’ve been singled out in your life, you have some reason that you’ve been stigmatized in your life, you’ve had some reason when you’ve been cornered in your life for being yourself, you can look at me and say, ‘If she can do this, so can I.'”

In 1992 Althea Garrison campaigned and was elected for state legislature in Massachusetts. But unlike Roem, she was not out as a transgender person while she campaigned.

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

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