Danica Roem was sworn in to the Virginia House of Delegates this morning, officially becoming the first openly transgender person to serve in a state legislature.
In November Roem scored an upset victory against 13-term Republican state Del. Bob Marshall, who had trafficked in anti-LGBT rhetoric, refusing both to debate Roem and use her proper pronouns. “Why do you call Danica a female?” he asked a reporter in August. “Did Danica’s DNA change?”
Marshall was also the author of Virginia’s marriage-equality ban and proposed a North Carolina-style bathroom bill in the Old Dominion.
Roem, who was hugged by colleagues as she took her seat, took the high road throughout: When asked about Marshall after the election, she replied, “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.”
During the campaign, Roem focused on jobs, infrastructure, and other bread-and-butter issues. But she never shied away from embracing her identity. (While campaigning door-to-door, Roem would often wear a rainbow headscarf.)
“We made history tonight,” she declared at newly-elected Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s victory party. “We won because I am a transgender woman... because of my inherent identifiers not despite them. I never ran away from them. I championed them.”
In November, pop singer Demi Lovato brought Roem to the American Music Awards.
“I think what Danica has done is just completely inspirational and she’s a trailblazer” the singer said on the red carpet. “To be a state legislator as a trans woman is groundbreaking and incredible, I have so much respect for her and I wanted to come with her.”
According to the Washington Blade, Roem is one of five openly LGBT members of the Virginia General Assembly, along with Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), state Dels. Mark Sickles (D-Fairfax County), Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) and State Del. Dawn Adams (D-Richmond), the first out lesbian elected to the General Assembly.
The midterm elections saw unprecedented trans representation in politics, with Lisa Middleton winning a seat on the Palm Springs City Council, and Andrea Jenkins claiming victory in the Minneapolis City Council race.