Firsts

Danica Roem

First openly transgender woman to be elected to and seated in a U.S. state legislature

‘It’s not trans but. It’s trans and.’

I was a lead reporter of the Gainesville Times for nine years, and I authored more than 2,500 news stories about the greater Prince William area. I’ve always seen my role as public servant. And public servant in this case means upholding myself with the same ethics and integrity that I did as a reporter for ten and a half years.

In order to be a good reporter and to be good in public office, you’ve got to research, listen, ask questions, listen more, and research more. Then, you submit your first draft — whether it’s a story or a bill. Who understands your local community and your hyper-local issues better than a reporter? I like the fact that I’m able to shine the spotlight on my constituents’ needs.

And the fact that I’m transgender — great.

No matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship, who you love or how you identify, if you’ve got good ideas, you can bring those ideas to the table. Because this is your commonwealth of Virginia, too. This is your America, too. Every person who is well qualified to do this job should be taken seriously.

I understand how I conduct myself in Richmond is unfortunately going to affect how a lot of people end up viewing trans people, even if it’s unfair to stereotype all trans people because of the actions, good or bad, of one state legislator. So, I need to make sure I’m setting a good example as a public servant, and showing that any person — trans or not — can succeed on their own merits.

One of the most meaningful messages I received came from a kid in Hampton Roads, which is outside my district. She wrote a handwritten letter to me saying I was the first person she had ever come out to as transgender. She felt that it would be safe to say that to me. It was emotional to see a child who’s just looking for anyone who they can talk to so they can express themselves and don’t have to keep bottling it up, when they might not feel safe at home or at school. To know that someone was confiding in me really meant a lot.

I don’t have to pretend to be someone else. I still listen to the same music I did before, still love to play guitar, and I still love to see shows. I want to make sure that when people see me, they go: “Yeah, she’s transgender, and she’s a really, really good policy wonk. Yeah, she’s transgender, and she has a really good bill to fix Route 28.”

It’s not trans but. It’s trans and.

Danica Roem was sworn in to the Virginia House of Delegates in January 2018.

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