The Eight Trans Officials Who Made History Tuesday Night
by Cerys Beckwith and Jay Wu
In a groundbreaking round of state and local elections Tuesday, eight openly transgender candidates won their respective races for public office. Danica Roem, Phillipe Cunningham, Andrea Jenkins, Gerri Cannon, Stephe Koontz, Lisa Middleton, Raven Matherne and Tyler Titus have all taken their places in history in these political races across the United States.
Here’s what you need to know about each of these newly elected officials:
Fresh off of a campaign focused on improving public infrastructure and raising teacher salaries, Danica Roem will be the first openly transgender person to serve on a state legislature. This success is especially impactful given that her opponent, Bob Marshall, is a staunchly anti-LGBTQ politican. The 26-year incumbent is well-known for calling himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe” and introducing the state’s discriminatory “bathroom ban” legislation this year.
Because of Minneapolis’ ranked-choice voting system, Phillipe Cunningham’s victory was announced late in the afternoon of the day after Election Day. That makes his win no less momentous, as he has become the first Black transgender man to be elected to public office in the United States. He campaigned on his strong ties to the North Minneapolis community he will represent as the city council member from the city’s 4th Ward and plans to focus on building community wealth.
Policy aide, poet, employment specialist, oral historian, community organizer — Andrea Jenkins wears many hats, and the latest addition is her new role as city council member. As the new representative of Minneapolis’ Ward 8, Jenkins has become the first openly transgender Black woman to be elected to public office in the United States, making Minneapolis the only city to have two transgender city council members. Her campaign was built on her focuses on equity in public safety, transportation, the environment, and access to various aspects of society.
During her campaign for school board in Somersworth, New Hampshire, Gerri Cannon emphasized funding schools through local business, industry, and community. On top of her work in education, Cannon is heavily involved in transgender and LGBTQ life in New Hampshire. She is the Chairperson of PFLAG New Hampshire and a member of the Freedom New Hampshire Steering Committee, advocating for equality in both roles.
A decades-long resident of Doraville, Georgia, Stephe Koontz won her race for the Ward 3 seat on Doraville’s city council. Positioning herself as a “catalyst for Doraville’s transformation,” Koontz’ platform rests on revitalizing the city’s town center, modernizing schools, and reinstating LEED certification requirements for all new buildings constructed in Doraville. A former church administrator and IT professional, Koontz is the first transgender person to be elected to public office in Georgia.
With the election of Lisa Middleton and another candidate, Christy Holstege, Palm Springs, California is now the only city in the nation to have an entirely LGBTQ city council. Middleton is the first openly transgender person to be elected to a non-judicial office in California. She has previously served on the Advisory Council of her neighborhood as an elected Chairperson, focusing on issues such as street repairs and pedestrian safety. Since then, her commitment to neighborhood development has grown to encompass advocating for solar energy and innovative use of desert landscapes around Palm Springs.
At only 29, Raven Matherne is believed to Connecticut’s first transgender lawmaker, having won a seat on the Stamford Board of Representatives. A former martial arts instructor, Matherne ran on rising property taxes and fewer public services for residents in her district, even downplaying the historic significance of her candidacy.
Another transgender school board candidate also won his election yesterday. Tyler Titus, a licensed professional counselor, youth advocate, and community leader in Erie, Pennsylvania, has worked to raise awareness around homelessness, especially as it impacts LGBTQ youth. With a vested interest in education and equal opportunity for LGBTQ youth, Titus’s win puts wind in the sails of the vital push for fair and equal education for youth of all identities and backgrounds.
These election results are nothing short of monumental, and are both reassuring and emboldening for the many transgender people out there who are potential candidates for elected office. For far too long, transgender people were not involved in the creation of policies or laws that affect all communities, including our own.
This is only the beginning of a new chapter for the trans movement.