Photo: Courtesy of Tribune News Service

Opinion: Trans role models are important

The Nov. 7 elections are the magical event where, every four years, national news and opinion writers pretend to deeply care about Virginia for the sake of getting a little more horse-race coverage out of their systems after the presidential election.

There’s a lot that could be written about the statewide elections in New Jersey and Virginia, but truth be told I don’t care much. Democrats winning is good and all, but I usually view Democrats as a sort of placeholder — they probably won’t do anything truly heinous (although it happens from time to time), but I don’t expect much good either. It’s kind of hard to dismantle white supremacy and related institutions when around 40 percent of your house members are white men and your average federal legislator is a multimillionaire. And, if anything, they only seem to be trying to double down by running more white men and veterans for offices in a bid to appease the racists who swept an orange white supremacist into the nation’s highest elected office.

The Virginia governorship was profoundly boring in that sense. The Democrats avoided giving the governorship to a race-baiting extremist, yeah, but they only got a relatively wealthy old white man in office instead. Bets on how much he’s going to do to upend the system that made him comfortable and powerful?

But, there was one particular result in Virginia that actually got me to care. Danica Roem will be the first openly transgender state legislature candidate in the country to take office. She’s unapologetically queer, a bit of a policy nerd and she plays heavy metal music. And while her campaign wasn’t exactly radical (it principally focused on traffic), it’s a step towards actually putting the people whose rights are on the line in positions of power in the party, even if it’s a tiny one. 

Beyond Democratic politics, it’s always nice to have another prominent trans role model. Trans people aren’t taught about in school history courses, nor are there many discussions of queer history. Our media representation is almost nil and when a trans character does appear they’ll almost always be played by a cisgender actor of the identified sex the character was assigned at birth. And the most prominent trans person in America right now is a Trump-loving, ultra-rich celebrity who can be a bit out of touch, to put things mildly. Chelsea Manning is great and her emoji game is top tier, but it’s been a little hard to only have her and Laverne Cox to point to in terms of well-known trans people who are actually likable. 

So having one more prominent, decent human being for trans people to look at and connect to, that’s a big win. Even if they’re a Democratic politician.



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