On Tuesday, November 7, Danica Roem, an out transgender woman, made history when she was elected to District 13 in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Roem, a Democrat, beat the GOP candidate, incumbent Bob Marshall, a self-described homophobe. In 2016 Marshall authored an anti-trans bathroom bill which would have forced transgender individuals to use the public restrooms which match their assigned birth genders. The bill died in committee. In a Friday conference call with reporters, Roem noted that she had not heard from Marshall.
Though she is the first openly transgender person to win a statewide election, The Daily Beast reports that the first transwoman to hold elective office was Joanne Conte, who began serving on the City Council of Arvada, Colorado in 1991.
It was an upbeat Roem who laid out her agenda during Friday’s conference call. Her top priority is to improve infrastructure in her district, though she added that she is also concerned with expanding healthcare.
“LGBTQ health care is health care,” she said. “It is not cosmetic. It is not elective. We are following our doctor’s orders.”
She recalled getting a letter during her transition period, which began in 2013, informing her that her gender reassignment care was not covered by insurance. “I want to make sure that hormone replacement is covered,” she said.”I will fight tooth and nail. Health care is a quality of life issue.”
A former journalist, Roem also hopes to pass legislation which would protect reporters from having to reveal their sources, and to make it easier for citizens to obtain copies of public documents. “I want to protect reporters from jail time,” she said. “I want to expedite information requests so you can get your documents when you ask for them. I’d like to hire someone whose job it is to do this.”
Roem also focused on Route 28, a Virginia state highway beset with traffic problems. Fixing Route 28 was one of her core campaign promises.
“The best thing I can do is take a leadership role on this,” she said, adding that she hopes to work with legislators from neighboring districts on this issue. “The 13th district leads to the 15th district. I want to work collaboratively on this.” Widening Route 28 is one idea that’s been put on the table. Roem emphasized that she hopes to accomplish this without invoking eminent domain laws.
“I don’t want to take people’s homes away from them,” she said.
When asked about Marshall, Roem declined to say anything negative.
“The people didn’t elect me to be rude,” she said. “Marshall will soon be one of my constituents; I’m going to lead by example. It does no good to point at him and laugh. The voters made their voices heard. Let’s work together instead of finger pointing. Let’s get the job done.”
Roem further noted that during the election she talked about issues, not about negativity.
She offered some advice for those who might be feeling anger towards Marshall or others like him.
“Be who you are and be it well,” she said. “Be out and proud and fight for inclusion. Do what affects the most number of people.”
Roem also has a message for LGBTQ youth.
“You can be successful,” she says. “If I can succeed then you can. I told an 11-year-old trans girl that she can be president. This is for all of you.”