First openly transgender elected official in Virginia

danica_roem Danica Roem | Reuters

An American Democrat made history by becoming Virginia's — and possibly the nation's — first openly transgender state delegate, winning her bid for a seat in the legislature. It makes for yet another glass ceiling shattered.

Roem, a Democrat, won the position by winning nearly 10% more votes than the Republican candidate Bob Marshall for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates representing the 13th district.

Roem, who is also a vocalist in her own metal band said, “"A message of inclusion and equality resonated here, and for a national audience. I think it's really important that discrimination is a disqualifier and you can champion inclusion, you can champion equality and equity, and you can win.”

In a campaign that garnered national attention, musician and former journalist Danica Roem, 33, prevailed in her race against Republican Robert Marshall, who has served as a delegate for a quarter century and once referred to himself as Virginia's "chief homophobe."

Not only has her opponent Marshall, been a delegate for 11 consecutive terms, he is also a social conservative with an anti-LGBTQ record. In 2014, Marshall drafted a letter calling on Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to defend the state's constitutional amendment ban on same-sex marriage.

While campaigning, Marshall constantly misgendered Roem during the campaign — calling her a "he" and refusing to acknowledge her as a woman — while refusing to debate her. Earlier this year, he authored the state's own "bathroom bill, which was even stricter than the infamous HB2 in North Carolina. This makes her victory nothing less of a breakthrough.

With 95 per cent of the vote counted, Roem was leading with 55 per cent of the vote against Marshall's 45 per cent. The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund described Roem as the only out transgender person in US history to win a seat in a state legislature. Not only is Roem's win historical, it is also step forward for transgender representation in government.

Roem's win was a highlight of a successful night Virginia Democrats. Her campaign focused on policy rather than gender identity. After the 2016 election, there were only 105 openly LGBTQ state legislators across the country — fewer than in past cycles. So Ralph Northam was victorious in the governor's race, and Roem is headed to the state legislature with fellow Democrats Chris Hurst and Elizabeth Guzmán.

"Tonight voters chose a smart, solutions-oriented trans leader over a divisive anti-LGBTQ demagogue, sending a powerful message to anti-trans legislators all across the nation," Victory Fund president Aisha Moodie-Mills said in a statement.

Roem rode to victory on strong fundraising by the Victory Fund and other pro-LGBT groups and voters, which helped her grass-roots effort to raise awareness of her campaign in Virginia's Prince William County.

She will now serve two years in the House of Delegates in Richmond, where Democrats gained several seats yesterday and appeared close to seizing control of the legislature from Republicans.

The former journalist emphasised last month that she was not entering politics to be an LGBTQ symbol, under a president who recently banned transgender people from serving in the military.

Instead she aimed to take on municipal issues using the knowledge she amassed during nearly a decade covering local news for the Gainesville Times paper.
The septuagenarian Marshall — a staunch gay marriage opponent — refused to use the pronoun "she" when referring to Roem during the campaign, and he also refuses to debate her.

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