On Tuesday, four transgender candidates won local elections, and one became the first transgender state representative. The elections also saw the victory of many openly socialist candidates. These two trends suggest a broad leftward tilt in local politics across the country.
PJ Media listed the four transgender candidates, along with their identities M to F or F to M (male to female, female to male) and their campaign issues.
1. Tyler Titus, F to M.
Tyler Titus, born a woman but identifying as a man, won one of four seats on the school board in Erie, Pa., Tuesday. The 33-year-old came out as transgender three years ago. Titus is raising two sons, ages 8 and 4.
A professional counselor who works in public and private schools, Titus has championed many LGBT issues. The counselor supported a campaign called “couches don’t count,” focusing on the sexual exploitation of LGBT people.
“Tyler Titus shattered a lavender ceiling in Pennsylvania today — and his victory will resonate well-beyond state boundaries,” Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, said in a statement. “Trans people remain severely underrepresented in our politics and government, and now more than ever we need trans voices like Tyler’s in the halls of power. This is a historic night for trans candidates across the country.”
Philadelphia lawyer Henry McGregor Sias, who lost the primary for a Common Pleas Court earlier this year, said of Titus’ victory: “Our status as trans people is no longer disqualifying.”
Titus did not just run on transgender identity, however. The counselor has focused on combatting discrimination, conflict, and bullying, offering support to marginalized students. The candidate even praised private Catholic schools in their efforts to navigate the transgender bathroom issue. Titus grew up in a large family, one of 13 children and sharing space with 50 foster kids.
2. Andrea Jenkins, M to F.
Andrea Jenkins, born a man but identifying as a woman, won election to the Minneapolis City Council, becoming the first transgender person elected to a major city’s governing body and hailed as one of the first transgender people of color ever elected to office in the United States. While the race was officially nonpartisan, Jenkins chose to identify as a Democrat, The Advocate reported.
“As an out African-American trans-identified woman, I know first-hand the feeling of being marginalized, left out, thrown under the bus,” Jenkins said in a statement released by the campaign. “Those days are over. We don’t just want a seat at the table — we want to set the table.” The 56-year-old candidate transitioned roughly twenty years ago.
Jenkins won over 70 percent in the Eighth Ward. A former aide to departing Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden, the transgender candidate enjoyed endorsements from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (the Minnesota version of the Democratic Party), and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.
As an aide to Glidden and previous Eighth Ward council member Robert Lilligren, Jenkins worked with small business and art venues, organizing a Trans Equity Summit. Despite working on revitalization in the community, this social worker emphasized that it must not come at the expense of the poor.
Jenkins ran on the issues of developing affordable housing, raising the minimum wage, addressing youth violence, and supporting artists from racial minorities. A historian with the Transgender Oral History Project at the University of Minnesota, this social worker has also received grants for her work as a poet, a prose author, and performance artist.
“Andrea Jenkins shattered a glass ceiling tonight — becoming the first out trans woman ever elected to the city council of a major U.S. city,” Moodie-Mills said in a statement. Will all feminists embrace this statement?
3. Phillipe Cunningham, F to M.
Phillipe Cunningham, born a woman but identifying as a man, also won a seat on the Minneapolis city council, representing the 4th Ward. This transgender candidate defeated Barb Johnson, the current council president and a 20-year incumbent. Both Cunningham and Johnson are Democrats. Cunningham had served as senior policy aide to Mayor Betsy Hodges, as well as a special education teacher.
“Before North Minneapolis, as a Black trans man, I never had a community because of such prejudice and discrimination,” the candidate wrote on the campaign website. “Living in North Minneapolis I finally discovered what home feels like. I have truly fallen in love with our community.”
Cunningham ran on a platform of “Community Wealth,” focused on increasing small businesses, providing housing stability, pushing environmentalism, boosting health programs, expanding youth opportunities, and building safer neighborhoods.
Cunningham came out as a transgender in 2010 as a student at DePaul University, he told City Pages. The “stoic” father said little, but the candidate recalled, “My mom had a harder time with it. Being a mother to a daughter was part of her identity, and she had to mourn that loss.”
According to the campaign website, Cunningham has a husband and four rescue pets — “our fur family.” The candidate also posted a photo on his “manniversary,” the 7th anniversary of the first testosterone shot.
“Today is an historic day for all trans people and especially trans people of color,” Danni Askini, national co-chair of the transgender political action committee Breakthrough, said in a statement. “Our goal was to not just elect Andrea and Phillipe but to permanently expand the electorate by focusing on poor, working class voters with mid-to low voting propensity scores.”
4. Danica Roem, M to F.
Danica Roem, born a man but identifying as a woman, won a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates Tuesday, and will become the nation’s first transgender lawmaker.
Roem came out in 2013, a year after beginning the transition. A 33-year-old former newspaper reporter and vocalist in a metal band, Roem defeated Republican Delegate Bob Marshall. Marshall had held his seat for 25 years, and vocally opposed LGBT issues.
He referred to Roem with male pronouns and LGBT activists branded him “Bigot Bob.” Marshall also sponsored legislation restricting bathrooms to members of one biological sex, a bill to bring back “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into the Virginia National Guard, and a constitutional amendment supporting marriage as between a man and a woman.
The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund bundled more than $200,000 on her behalf. “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,” Moodie-Mills said in a statement.
“Danica defeated ‘Bigot Bob’ Marshall not because she is transgender, but because she presented a positive vision for her constituents that will improve their lives,” Moodie-Mills added. “Danica’s victory is a historic milestone in our continued march toward equality. … 2017 will be remembered as the year of the trans candidate — and Danica’s heroic run for office the centerpiece of that national movement.”
In an interview with Time magazine, Roem emphasized the issue of transgender health care accessibility. “I know what it’s like in Virginia to be denied coverage … for transitional medical expenses,” the candidate said. “What I want to make sure is that insurers understand that LGBTQ health care is health care.”
Even so, Roem emphasized local issues, like fixing traffic on Route 28 by adding $80 million in overpasses, creating jobs in her district, repairing water infrastructure, fixing traffic lights, and raising teachers’ salaries.
Transgender candidates — and now at least one lawmaker — are likely here to stay. While Americans can disagree with the idea that someone can change their biological sex, they should consider the issues when it comes to LGBT candidates and refrain from any bullying.
It is easy to overstate the political implications of these transgender victories. Such elections need not doom social conservatism. Candidates who oppose transgender identity may still win, but they need to make sure not to come across as “bigots,” and should wholeheartedly condemn any bullying or real discrimination faced by LGBT people.
Many Americans think that transgender people are living a lie, but they need to remember that transgender people are people, too. Even the most adamant of social conservatives needs to understand that these people are struggling, and deserve help, support, and — only in the right circumstances and presented winsomely — reasons to reconsider transgenderism.
Americans can live with one another, vote with one another, and legislate with one another despite key differences on matters of sexuality. Both sides need to understand that the other view is not a matter of stupidity or evil intentions, and that all candidates represent political issues beyond their identity — as transgender or as socially conservative.