Pioneering transgender lawmaker has advice for pushing back against transphobic bills

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Teahe ran into me the first time Danica Rome In 2019, I literally ran into him in a mud hole at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland, the former heavy metal The musician, journalist and leading lawmaker taking a quick break from running for a second term Virginia House of Representatives to enjoy some Swedish metal.

Her years of feuding with fellow headbangers likely escalated and prepared her for her days defending the rights of transgender people and LGBT+ people, as Republicans seek to ban them in Virginia. state legislaturewhere she is currently serving her third term and is currently seeking promotion from Representative to State Senator.

talking to Independent On the phone four years later, Ms. Rome is quick to remind people that she is not the first transgender state legislator, as Althea Garrison served in the state legislature in Massachusetts before coming out as trans, and Stacey Laughton was elected in New Hampshire. Had happened. 2012 but not worked till 2020.

Still, as the first openly transgender person to be elected and serve in a state legislature, she now faces the challenge of fighting to protect the rights of LGBT+ people as her state’s Republican governor and legislature Have tried to prevent transgender women from participating. in women’s sports. And in doing so, she has something that many other transgender people don’t as they try to maintain what little dignity society gives them: the power to push back.

“And I know that, when I speak against bills like this on the floor of the House, it’s not just me I’m speaking for, and even though I’m there to represent my constituents, And that is why I am speaking floor, above all,” she said.

“I also know that there will be people all over the country, and in some cases, even around the world, who will be watching what I’m saying, because they’re going to pay attention to the arguments, Whether they agree with them or disagree with them, because they’re basically trying to learn about the issue and learn how to talk about the issue one way or the other.

As a result, Ms Rome says she needs to consider how she approaches her job and the way she achieves her goals, not doing everything at once.

“Focus on the bill that’s in front of you, don’t focus on how Twitter will react to it,” she said. “Don’t focus on how people outside your district are going to react to this bill, focus on the words and letters in front of you. Make a case on the basis of law only.

Ms Rome said doing so takes away the stress and pressure of performing for a global audience.

His first win in 2017 came as part of a response to former Pres. Donald TrumpElection of Democrats captured the governorship and flipped the state’s 15 House seats. In 2019, Democrats flipped the state House and it appeared that Virginia was signaling a change from a purple state to a solid blue state.

Then in 2021 a big change happened. Former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe was defeated by Republican businessman Glen Youngkin, and Republicans flipped the House of Representatives. Since taking office, Mr. Youngqin has proposed a model policy This would require transgender youth to use bathrooms and facilities that align with the gender they were assigned at birth. The policy would also require that a parent give approval if a student uses a name or pronoun different from his or her birth name or pronoun.

This often means that Ms. Rome is at the forefront when it comes to defending the rights of transgender people. A journalist by profession before embarking on her political career, she is often quick in her questioning.

Danica Roem speaks on stage during TLC’s Give a Little Awards 2019 on October 02, 2019 in New York City.

(Getty Images for TLC)

Most recently, she served as a lead questioner for Democrats when Republicans pushed forward two bills targeting transgender people: one that would ban transgender girls from participating in women’s and girls’ sports and the other Which will exclude transgender youth from their parents.

“And so, I pointed to a world of faults with both of these terms of language,” she said. Ultimately, she noted, the bills were amended after their passage and both bills failed in the Senate. Ms Rome said it shows that for Republican lawmakers, passing these bills is more about pleasing outside interest groups rather than serving their constituents.

“They were just trying to take political credit from groups about this, even though the text they were proposing was actually up to thorough scrutiny, it wasn’t,” she said.

Ms. Rome is quick to remind people that the Republican Party has often pushed anti-LGBT+ legislation and it has only recently struck back with a wave of anti-transgender legislation.

He said, “I had to drive to the General Assembly four times from Manassas to Richmond to fight nine anti-LGBTQ bills.” “It’s nothing new from the Republican Party in Virginia, it’s nothing new.”

By May, Over 145 Anti-LGBT+ Bills have passed through At least one chamber of the state legislature, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Many work on the same issues Ms. Rome is tackling in Virginia, such as prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors, preventing transgender youth from participating in women’s sports, or preventing them from using bathrooms that that aligns with their gender identity.

These quarrels are being blown up on the national stage as well. In 2017, when he won his seat in the State House, Joe Biden called him. Mr. Biden has in the past called transgender rights a modern-day civil rights issue. At the same time, in April, the Biden administration announced Title IX. proposal that would ban schools Completely banning transgender athletes from playing in sports that align with their gender identity, but would leave room for schools to enact rules, including “fairness in competition” and “competitive high school and college athletic environment” may include exclusions for trans athletes. “Some schools may adopt policies that limit the participation of transgender students”.

Ms. Rome said Democrats need to make sure they act quickly when they have the power to protect the rights of disenfranchised groups, noting how in 2009, Democrats held 60 seats in the US Senate. and there was a majority in the House.

Abigail Spanberger (right), Democratic candidate for Virginia’s seventh district in the US House of Representatives, with Virginia Dail. Danica Rome (left) poses for a photo while campaigning for the vote on November 3, 2018 in Richmond, Virginia.

(Getty Images)

“Sometimes you have to understand that when you are given the opportunity to do something big and do something important you have a moment that may not last long,” she said. She said that Congressional Democrats and the White House should look to states like Michigan and Minnesota that are enacting protection laws for LGBT+ people. She said that the next time Democrats have the trifecta, they should work to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, which she says would protect LGBT+ people. Ms. Rome has the text of the amendment tattooed on her arm.

“So I would make the case that they need to get on the mat for the Equal Rights Amendment,” she said.

Despite the challenges many transgender people face in state legislatures, Ms. Rome is no longer alone. In Delaware, Sarah McBride serves as a state senator and is widely considered a top contender for Delaware’s lone congressional seat if incumbent Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) is elected to the United States Senate. It moves

In Montana, Zooey Zephyr is a transgender state legislator who recently received national attention When Republicans in the legislature barred him from speaking on the floor of the House.

Zooey Zephyr during a protest after being barred from speaking on the House floor in Montana

(Thom Bridges, Independent Records)

But Ms. Rome says she knows that all things aside, she is the best person to represent the people in her district, highlighting how 41 bills she sponsored were signed into law.

“You don’t have that record because you’re just some partisan who doesn’t understand that you have to work with people who disagree with you,” she said. “I come from a Republican family. I am well informed and able to communicate with my Republican colleagues.

Plus, she understands the importance of her visibility, saying she knows what her visibility means to other transgender people, noting how when she started her campaign, a mother Told the story to his transgender daughter, who had attempted suicide.

“Today, she is a happy 16-year-old,” she said.

“My job was not just to be first, my job was not just to be first,” she said, noting how Ms. McBride was a first for the community.

“She is the first trans state senator, and hopefully, she will be the first out member of Congress,” she said. “Great. Cool. I don’t need it. Other people should be first.”