I grew up in the early days of “women’s lib”, but I was nowhere near it’s epicenter or even anywhere close to the front. The trickle down of that movement came to me in the form of slapstick ridiculous comedy via shows like the Brady Bunch, the Dick Van Dyke show (as well as the Mary Tyler Moore show) and I Love Lucy. Words like “suffragette” were used, intentionally but not obviously as a diminutive rather than the real word, “suffragist”, depriving it of any influence or powerful meaning, and making it instead a subtle joke. The 1975 Random House Dictionary defined *manly* using 21 adjectives including: strong, virile, resolute, brave and honest. Where that same dictionary defined *womanly* as “like or befitting a woman; not manly”. I didn’t know I was transgender, but it isn’t surprising either that I wasn’t proud of being female given the times and the mockery of even a suggestion of women’s equality that bordered on absurd.
I was heartened, albeit briefly, by Geraldine Ferraro and the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin. But those fizzled out like flashes in the proverbial pan. Given just enough ostensible attention to appear a serious attempt at progress toward equality while lacking any real substance. The old bait and switch empty gesture. Reality was that women were not taken seriously or given any real opportunities in politics, sports, medicine, science or religion (just to name a few areas).
I cried, as an adult, the first time I looked around an arena at so many little girls wearing Mia Hamm jerseys and t-shirts, gathered with their families in a relatively crowded football stadium to watch professional women’s soccer. Those jerseys, seem so small a gesture and yet the power of little girls having women sports heroes was so powerful I was reduced to tears. I didn’t have that growing up. Unless you count Billie Jean King. And there was no jersey for her.
Anyway, thanks for tripping with me down debby-downer-nostalgia-lane. My point was actually that I didn’t have any truly powerful, smart, confident, serious women role models even if I had identified as female. And since I didn’t have any of those, you can be assured I didn’t have any transgender role models. The name “Renee Richards” was whispered disparagingly at some point in my childhood and though I have that vague recollection, I’m quite sure I didn’t have any connection or identification with her at all. It amazes me how much things have changed since my childhood.
Though one year ago last week was a very bad day in the history of America (a colossal understatement), we did have a serious, smart, powerful woman candidate representing. Even though the outcome seemed to validate all of my parents’ conspiracy theories of everything politic being corrupt and fixed. My mother, in particular, has always been quite sure that votes get sucked into the dark vortex of nihility, the winner already decided by some mastermind politician with chimerical power. Lots of things, not the least of which is the fact that women and others fought so long and so hard to make sure that everyone has the right to vote, keeps me voting every time there is an opportunity to do so. Though I admit that I vote with the uncertainty that my vote really counts. So last week when I went to vote for a woman for mayor of our city, I reminded myself not to be too disappointed if the straight, white, Christian, cis-man running against her beat her. I mean, he had the backing of the police and firefighters’ unions, loudly proclaiming that everywhere in and around the city. He was born and raised, something like fifth generation in this very same city, he boasted. Which to me had the underlying current of “outsiders not welcome”, but perhaps that’s just my jaded experience in the world in which we currently live. I noted each and every yard sign, poster, banner, flyer with his name on it as I drove through town daily, seemingly so many more than I saw representing her and I didn’t expect the woman to win. But she did. I stayed up way too late refreshing my phone screen as results came in and were counted. The race was exceptionally close. Decided in the end by only a few hundred votes. One of which was mine. I felt heartened and even a bit proud. Not just because my choice of candidate won, but that hope that our democracy might still actually exist was kindled in me.
The following morning over coffee I perused the national election results. On Tuesday November 7, 2017, in elections throughout the United States, there were 7 trans people elected into political offices. I was stupefied, rendered speechless, overcome with emotion. I had to read the articles several times each. Where there have, in the history of America, not ever been even one openly or known transgender person elected to serve in a public office, in one election there were suddenly SEVEN.
The 7 transgender Americans who won in their elections were detailed in a blog post on the Human Rights Campaign website….
Andrea Jenkins, Minnesota (Minneapolis City Council)
Voters elected Jenkins to the Minneapolis City Council as the first openly transgender woman of color elected to public office in the U.S.
Danica Roem, Virginia (Virginia House of Delegates)
Roem unseated anti-LGBTQ Delegate Bob Marshall, and her electoral victory will make her Virginia’s first out transgender public official and the nation’s only out transgender state representative.
Gerri Cannon, New Hampshire (Somersworth School Board)
Cannon joined the Somersworth School Board yesterday. According to her LinkedIn page, she is planning on running for New Hampshire State Representative.
Lisa Middleton, California (Palm Springs City Council)
Middleton’s victory in the Palm Springs City Council election made her the first openly transgender person elected to a non-judicial office in the state of California.
Tyler Titus, Pennsylvania (Erie School Board)
Titus’s win makes him the first out transgender person elected to office in Pennsylvania after a successful write-in campaign to join the ballot.
Phillipe Cunningham, Minnesota (Minneapolis City Council)
Cunningham earned a spot on the Minneapolis City Council. He is the first transgender man elected to a major city’s council in the U.S.
And I could not say it any better than HRC, “These candidates represent not only regional voters, but the 1.4 million transgender Americans across the country.”
“For trans youth across the country, Danica Roem’s election isn’t just a headline or even history,” HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride told The New York Times. “It’s hope. Hope for a better tomorrow.”