So far this year, there have been 12 violent deaths of transgender people in the United States, and about 30 states still have no laws to protect transgender people when it comes to employment discrimination. And 16 states are debating bathroom bills that would segregate people to use restrooms consistent with their biological sex.
The Victory Fund says there are at least 20 transgender candidates for office at present.
We are making 2017 the year of the trans candidate.
We have more transgender people running this cycle than almost all other cycles combined.
--Victory Fund President Aisha C. Moodie-Mills
At present there are no known transgender people who have been elected to serve in state legislatures, federal government or city councils of major cities.
Danica Roem is running for the District 13 seat in the Virginia House of Delegates to unseat Bigot Bob Marshall.
For about the past decade, Roem has worked in her personal and professional life to put a stop to discrimination in Virginia’s Prince William County. A Manassas native, Roem is an award-winning journalist and has covered every major and minor issue in her hometown, including current Virginia delegate Bob Marshall. Marshall is known for his opposition to abortion rights and has proposed bills to get rid of gender identity and sexual orientation protection in Virginia schools.
We have to lead in Virginia and we have to do it now. When the attorney general pulled out the rug from under Gavin Grimm’s feet, that was a huge problem.
Roem’s passion for her hometown translates far beyond LGBTQ rights. She hopes to have an impact on other issues in her community, starting with bringing high-paying jobs to Innovation Park and greater funding to the county’s education programs.
When you have the ability to speak fluently about the quality-of-life issues that affect people who live here, suddenly your gender identity becomes less important.
Phillipe Cunningham is running for Minneapolis City Council in Ward 4.
Growing up in “the cornfields of Illinois,” Cunningham lost his college scholarship at 19 years old when his college's endowment was hit by the Great Recession and began teaching kids to support himself. Eventually making his way to Chicago to finish school and work as a special education teacher, Cunningham’s career plans were involuntarily cut short.
Cunningham was outed, bullied, humiliated and intimidated got being a black queer trans man. That resulted in his move to Minneapolis. He eventually worked his way into the mayor’s office, serving as the senior policy aide for education, youth success, racial equity, and LGBTQ rights.
If elected, Cunningham will be the first trans man elected to a major city council, and one of the first trans people of color to hold office in the United States.
It’s still terrifying every time I tell someone that I am trans because I don’t know how they are going to respond. But I need people to know that I spent the first 23 years of my life as a black woman and I need people to know that my world dramatically changed when I stepped out of my house and spent the past seven years as a black man.
In Minneapolis' Ward 8, Andrea Jenkins is also running for City Council.
As an African-American trans woman, I really believe that representation matters.
Jenkins is no stranger to Minneapolis’s Ward 8 or to the city council’s office; she served as Glidden’s policy aide for years before running for her seat. After more than a decade of helping her community with everything from school funding to getting squirrels out of attics, Jenkins's constituents supported her even when she didn’t consider the possibility of replacing her boss.
At the end of the day, my campaign is about equity and access. I want to make sure that the policies we make as a city council will be fair and equitable for everybody.
Endorsed by the Minneapolis Democratic party, Jenkins’ election would make her the first trans woman elected to a major city council, and one of the first trans people of color to hold elected office in the United States.
Jenkins’s social activism and role as a community leader are also well-respected. As an oral historian at the University of Minnesota, she continues to interview transgender and gender non-conforming people all around the country about their experiences. In addition to holding a degree in creative writing, Jenkins is also an artist, a poet, and a community organizer.
Mel Wymore is running the District 6 seat on the New York City Council.
Mel began by working locally in the Upper West Side, starting a food program, a community council and bringing in visiting nurses.
The food program lasted for 20 years and represented Wymore’s first step into community activism. After two terms as his community board’s chair, Wymore became the first transgender candidate to run for office in New York State in 2013.
Mel lost that race. But four years later, the political landscape drastically changed. Transgender representation grew and the state-by-state opposition created a climate that Wymore refused to ignore.
On the state level, we’ve had Democrats rolling over and joining the Republican agenda. That made me angry. I really believe that we need to stand up as activists, and the Upper West Side has a legacy of doing that.
As a former PTA president for his child’s middle school, Wymore fought against school bullying by helping bring in an expert on gender and sexual orientation. It was during the children’s presentation that Wymore began to understand his own gender identity.
I announced that I was going to be dealing with and I was going to embark on a transition, not knowing where I would land,. I wasn’t clear that I would go the full spectrum of changing my name, taking a male pronoun, but I wanted to have a public dialogue about gender.
Gender roles are so deeply ingrained in us, like the air we breathe. When you elect a transgender person into office it becomes about what they’ve accomplished as a human being that voters care about.
NYC Council primaries are in September. The Minneapolis City Council General Elections are November 7. The primaries for the Virginia House of Delegates are today.