Skip to Content

Virginia Elects Danica Roem As First Openly-Transgender State Legislator in the U.S.

Danica Roem just made political history.

Roem, a Democrat, won Tuesday’s race for a Virginia House of Delegates seat, making her the first openly transgender state legislator in the United States. She beat out a socially-conservative Republican who’s sought to limit the rights of members of the LGBT community.

Roem, 33, ran a campaign focused on jobs, schools, and traffic issues, but the race hinged—in large part—on the issue of gender identity as she opposed 13-term incumbent Robert Marshall, author of an unsuccessful “bathroom bill” that sought to restrict restroom use based on a person’s gender at birth.

Throughout the campaign, Marshall, who’s referred to himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe,” refused to debate Roem and insisted on referring to her using male pronouns. In addition to the “bathroom bill,” Marshall, 73, authored a Virginia constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman and sponsored a bill banning homosexuals from the Virginia National Guard. Marshall frequently aimed to make Roem’s gender identity a central issue of the campaign, going so far as to approve mailers that accused Roem of wanting to teach kindergartners about “transgenderism.”

Roem, a former journalist, managed to out-raise Marshall 3-to-1 with nearly $500,000 in donations, according to The Washington Post. Much of the funding came from LGBT advocates and supporters. She granted interviews, made several public appearances, and was active on social media throughout the campaign. Her team reportedly knocked on doors more than 75,000 times in a district with about 52,000 registered voters.

Marshall’s staffers reportedly reached about 49,000 in comparison.

Danica Roem hugs supporters, celebrates her win, becoming first transgender legislator elected in the USA
Roem, center, celebrated with supporters Tuesday night. The Washington Post/Getty Images
The Washington Post The Washington Post/Getty Images

Like several other legislative elections that took place Tuesday across the country, the race for Virginia’s House of Delegates was also a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency. Anti-Trump and progressive sentiment won out, with Roem dedicating her win “to every person who’s ever been singled out, who’s ever been stigmatized…who’s ever needed someone to stand up for them when they didn’t have a voice of their own.”

Roem, at one point, turned her victory speech back to a central pillar of her campaign: traffic in her county. She told supporters, “[T]hat’s why I got in this race. Because I’m fed up with the frickin’ road over in my home town.”