Danica Roem, a transgender woman, made election history in Virginia Tuesday night, unseating a 26-year member of the state’s House of Delegates, who described himself as the state's “chief homophobe,” in a wave of Democratic victories throughout the state and beyond.
Some were quick to laud Roem as the first ever transgender state legislator.
“Democrat and Trans woman, Danica Roem, has defeated Republican and anti-LGBT candidate, Bob Marshall, in Virginia,” Huffington Post writer Aaron Vallely wrote on Twitter. “Roem has become the first ever Trans legislator in America.”
“Danica Roem (D) has defeated Bob Marshall (R) in HD13,” also tweeted Dave Weigel, a politics reporter for The Washington Post. “She will be America's first transgender state legislator.”
But the second part of those two tweets aren’t completely true — come January, Roem will be the first openly transgender person to be elected and seated in a state legislature.
The first known transgender person to hold office in a state legislature is actually Althea Garrison, a Republican who in 1992 defeated Democratic candidate Irene Roman in the race for the 5th Suffolk district in the Massachusetts House, according to TransGriot, an online outlet that focuses on the transgender community.
But Garrison was not out as a trans woman when she ran and won. She did not reveal her gender identity during her successful campaign, and never won another race after she was outed just two days after her 1992 victory, The New York Times reported. A reporter from the Boston Herald broke the story about Garrison’s name change shortly after her victory.
Roem, once she is sworn into office in January, will solidify her place in U.S. history as the first openly transgender candidate to be seated in a state legislature. That’s because in 2012, Stacie Laughton, who is also transgender, was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives, according to NBC News.
Laughton didn’t serve any time in office, however, as she resigned when it was discovered that she never disclosed a felony conviction from 2008, according to WCVB.
There was another transgender woman who made headlines Tuesday, too, as Andrea Jenkins was elected to the Minneapolis City Council, the Star Tribune reported. That will make her the first open transgender woman of color to be elected to office in a major U.S. city, according to the Star Tribune.
Both Jenkins and Roem serve as major victories for transgender Americans, who have no open members of their community serving in the U.S. Congress. It’s a community that still faces dangerous challenges — around 40 percent of transgender adults say they have attempted suicide at least once, according to the Trevor Project, with 92 percent of those people saying they attempted to end their lives before the age of 25. And data analyzed by The New York Times shows that transgender women of color are most often victims of murder when compared to all other subgroups in the LGBT community.
Roem defeated Del. Bob Marshall, who called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe” and introduced legislation similar to North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill” that laid out what bathrooms transgender people could use, AOL reported.
Marshall, who served in Virginia’s state legislature for 26 years, never debated Roem and referred to her with male pronouns.
Roem and Jenkins — who also ran as a Democrat, according to the Hill — were just one part of the wave of Democratic victories Tuesday night that included big blue pickups in the Virginia House of Delegates and Democrats winning a one-seat majority in the Washington state Senate, CNBC reported.
Democrat Ralph Northam easily defeated Republican candidate Ed Gillespie 53.8 percent to 44.9 percent in the race for Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Elections. Democrat Justin Fairfax was also elected as Lieutenant Governor, and Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring won reelection.
Voters in New Jersey also elected Phil Murphy, a Democrat, as governor, according to CNN.