Danica Roem Was Not the First Openly Transgender Elected Official

This Tuesday, history was made as Danica Roem, an openly transgender candidate, won the race for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates against one of Virginia’s most conservative representatives. Bob Marshall, her opponent and self-described “chief homophobe,” refused to debate her due to her identity and repeatedly disrespected her by using incorrect pronouns. In fact, Bob Marshall was the man who championed an anti-trans bathroom bill that would make it illegal for a person to use a bathroom that did not align with their assigned sex at birth. Despite this clear discrimination and the bigoted behavior of Marshall, Roem continued her campaign with grace and dignity, which secured her a seat in the House. Roem appealed to the public by running on a transportation ticket, emphasizing the importance of more accessible transportation in her region, which Marshall had failed to recognize as a need for the people he was formerly representing.

However, as news curculates throughout the country that “the first transgender candidate has been elected,” this is, in fact, false. Danica Roem is not the first openly transgender elected official. In 1992, Althea Garrison, a transgender woman of color, was elected to the Massachusetts state legislature as a Republican. However, Garrison did not campaign as openly transgender. So yes, Danica Roem is the first transgender candidate who ran for office while openly transgender. However, she is definitely not the first transgender lawmaker ever elected. During her time in office, Garrison was outed against her will as transgender by Eric Fehrnstrom, a reporter for the Boston Herald. Fehrnstrom later went on to become a major aide of Mitt Romney and his anti-LGBT policies in his campaign against Obama in 2012. After the scandal, Garrison was not reelected and only ended up serving one term in office. Despite being a part of the LGBT+ community, Althea Garrison had a surprisingly conservative set of policies. Garrison was infamous for campaigning against abortion rights and opposed same-sex marriage.

This past Tuesday, running at the exact same time as Danica Roem, Garrison once again ran for Boston City Council. However, she lost with 7% of the vote. Now 77 years old, it seems as though Garrison’s political career is coming to a close. Although she is no longer in office and may have controversial and somewhat confusing beliefs, it is important to recognize her accomplishment as becoming the first transgender elected official more that two decades ago.

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Rebekah Harding
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Rebekah Harding is a 17 year old aspiring journalist from the Washington D.C. area with a passion for activism, politics, and fish.

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