Brianna Titone has always wanted to be a good neighbor. In 2018, Titone ran for office and was elected the first transgender lawmaker in Colorado’s state legislature, representing House District 27. She’s an important step in the journey of trans people gaining more power and representation in government.
Titone’s career as a politician was unexpected. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in science and technology and has spent time as a geologist. Titone was, in fact, interested in becoming an FBI special agent.
When she realized she was too old to continue on that path, things changed. Her future goals for herself pivoted, but she also realized she had a new freedom to choose her path. “I kind of had to reinvent myself, and I did that in a couple different ways. I came out as being trans first, and then, a couple of years later, decided to run for office.”
The transition process was difficult and opened up her eyes to the struggles of the trans community.
“At the time, before I came out, I had a lot of privilege I didn’t know about. And when I came out, I lost that privilege, and I saw people like me in the community struggling. I’m the kind of person that wants to stand up and do something to help.”
Although her path into politics was unexpected, Titone has always been oriented towards public service. Aside from aspirations for the FBI, Titone has also spent time as a volunteer firefighter and as the president of her HOA before entering the political world.
After venturing into the political world, the opportunity to run for office arose. It was hard for Titone to make that leap and decide to be the first trans person to run for state legislature. She was also running for office in a majority republican district. However, she knew she had to try and make a change. She said, “I wouldn’t want to wait it out. I knew there was too much at stake. So I just stepped up.”
The final count was close; Titone was actually losing on the day of the election. But, 20,000 votes still had to be counted. As the results slowly came in, Titone waited and found herself slowly gaining the lead. She won the seat by 439 votes.
On finally winning the election after the work and the wait, Titone said, “Once we finally got to that threshold of having enough votes, It was a moment of triumph. And, you know, with the climate in the federal government, it felt like it was so needed.”
Her work after reaching the House has been broad and expansive, going beyond trans issues. She leverages her technical knowledge as well, serving on three committees: Joint Technology, Health and Insurance, and Rural Affairs and Agriculture.
Titone is also involved in a wide variety of bills. She has recently sponsored bills to increase tax credit allocation for affordable housing, create a consumer insurance council to advise the commissioner of insurance, and encourage the use of xeriscaping in common areas. Her work in state legislature has had a wide breadth.
Titone has risen to occasions to advocate for the trans community as well. One of her more satisfying and prominent achievements in office was Jude’s Law, a bill that made it possible for birth certificates to accurately reflect one’s current gender marker identification.
The moment the law passed felt incredibly important to Titone, who was honored to be a part of its passage. In fact, Titone had testified on the bill before running for office and knew Jude.
Reflecting on the magnitude of the bill, she said, “I knew how so many people wanted this to be changed. It had to wait five, long years for that to cross the finish line. And it just felt so good to be one of those people that got to vote ‘yes.’”
Titone knows there is more work to be done; the stakes are so high for trans issues. “It’s worse around the country; we’re fortunate here in Colorado that we have a good community that stands up for people. But we’re not immune to the violence and the hatred people have. They’re still among us here.” Titone has faith that things can change, especially through involvement and service.
“Things are changing, because I’m at the table. And, as the saying goes, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Trans people have been on the menu for way too long.”
Her position has also revealed the inner workings of Colorado’s political world, as she gets to “watch the sausage being made.” The world of politics has proven its complexity despite democrats having the trifecta of state control.
Titone admits, “Being that we have the House, the Senate, and the Governor, I thought it would be a little bit easier to get some things done. But, it turns out that there are still forces out there that are powerful and make it difficult to get some of the things we want done.”
With one legislative session under her belt, Titone feels ready to return and do more. She learned so much in the past year and is ready to carry forward with that new knowledge.
“Now that one sessions over, I’ve got a new pair of glasses for next session to look through to make sure that I can get more things accomplished and try to do a little bit better than I did last time. I don’t consider what I did last year bad by any means, but I always try and set the bar a little higher every time,” said Titone.
She wants the trans community to match her enthusiasm about where things are headed. “Being in this position gives people hope for the future that someone like them can achieve a good, solid position of leadership and trust in the community.”
When given the opportunity, she urges others to commit to being change agents as well. “Don’t wait for someone to be the first if it hasn’t been done. Just go out there, keep trying, and be the first. You’ll break through new ground. You have it in you to do it.”
Photos by Veronica L. Holyfield