Fighting Back and Preparing for 2018

As the reactionary evil forces that surround and focus with laser focus on the arguably distressed Trump and are empowered by him, they move America toward banana republic status or that of a modern feudal system where oligarchs rule, we can and must fight back.

Danica Roem

Because of gerrymandering, taking back the House will be extremely difficult, but not impossible. It is all about getting out the vote and really clearing out the swamp and making elected officials accountable to us. We saw Virginia elect Danica Roem as the first out trans person to a state legislative body, but the perhaps bigger story is that a huge number of legislative seats were flipped in Virginia and pending recountsDemocrats may actually take control despite heavily gerrymandered state legislative districts.

For transgender people, Besides Danica’s historic victory in Virginia, Transgender activist Andrea Jenkins was elected to the Minneapolis City Council, becoming the first openly transgender African-American woman elected to the city council of a major U.S. city.

Jenkins, favored to win, was endorsed by the Star Tribune, citing her years of experience working as a policy aide alongside city council members and her commitment to helping underrepresented communities. And in a close race after the votes were counted, Jenkins was not alone as Phillipe Cunningham, a black trans man, also won his race for the Minneapolis City Council. Like Jenkins, he’s not new to city government, having previously served as a staffer to Mayor Betsy Hodges.

Tyler Titus with a supporter.

Tyler Titus won a seat on the Erie School Board, becoming the first openly transgender person to ever be elected in the state of Pennsylvania. A 33-year-old clinical psychologist and father of two, Titus pursued a write-in campaign in the primary election to get to the ballot.

Lisa Middleton is the first openly transgender person to be elected to a non-judicial office in California. She’s joining Palm Springs’ city council which will become the first city government in the country where a majority of the members are LGBTQ.

Stephe Koontz is now the only openly transgender elected official in the entire state of Georgia. In the small city of Doraville, Georgia, which has a population of about 10,000, Stephe Koontz won her race for city council by just six votes. She is a small business owner and church administrator.

Raven Matherne is believed to be the first transgender lawmaker in Connecticut, ever. She was elected to the Board of Representatives of the City of Stamford, Connecticut. At 29, she’s one of the youngest members of the 40-member board.

Gerri Cannon was elected to the school board in Somersworth, New Hampshire and will be its first transgender member. Gerri Cannon won her seat by just six votes. She is the chairperson of PFLAG NH, founder of Tri Ess New England (a support group for trans people and their families), and has also worked with the High Hopes Foundation, a wish-granting organization for chronically or critically ill children in New Hampshire.

These are the people making headlines and being out there, successfully being role models. They deserve the all acclamation that they receive.

In New Jersey and New York two eminently qualified first time candidates, endorsed by the Victory Fund, came up disappointingly short in their quest to make history. Kristen Browde challenged a popular two term incumbent for Town Supervisor of New Castle, and ran a creditable race. In my home state of New Jersey, Shannon Cuttle, a nationally recognized expert on school bullying, was a last minute entry in the race, performed well and picked up important endorsements, that can help for any future runs.

Individual elections of transgender people are not the whole story. Elections of true allies have important consequences. Here in New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy handily defeated the Republican Lt. Governor Kim Guadano for Governor. In New Jersey, the Governor wields immense power and appoints major positions such as Attorney General, Comptroller, Sec. of State, etc, etc. For example, Gov. Corzine established the Office of Public Advocate and Chris Christie abolished it! Murphy ran on a platform that his Administration would be inclusive.

In 2005-6, Governor-Elect Corzine appointed a transgender person as an advisor to his Labor and Workforce transition team. I can tell you that inside visibility was extremely helpful in opening doors and educating labor unions and business organizations in empowering a landslide vote to add transgender language to New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. I don’t know if any LGBT people were on Chris Christie’s transition team. His generally mediocre record for LGBT record would reflect zero. We can thank having a progressive Democratic legislature for some legislative successes over the last 8 years. How some of those laws were administered is another question.

So, where are we now? I was pleased when the co-chairs on his transition team were announced. Among the list of many LGBT allies that I knew, two names stood out. Among the co-chairs for Military and Veteran Affairs were:

“Former Cpt. Sue Fulton, Executive Director, Women in the Service Change Initiative.” Formerly as President of SPARTA, she played a leading role in lifting the military’s ban on transgender service in 2013. “SPART*A is a group of LGBT people who currently serve or have served in the military and our families as well as veteran and uniformed allies . . . a membership organization, with members from all parts of the LGBT military community.” Sue, a graduate from the first class of women at West Point, is a personal friend and has been a fierce and consistent advocate for transgender rights in general and open service in our military.

“Sgt. Maj. Jennifer Long, SGM Jennifer Long, ret., Financial Advisor, Integrated Financial Concepts.” Jennifer has a unique and powerful story as after serving in Iraq, Guantanamo and Afghanistan, she was called back to Afghanistan after she had been well into her medical transition. Sgt. Major is the highest ranking enlisted rank and she often reported directly to Generals. A combat infantry senior NCO, she was able to continue her stealth medical transition with the help of female military physicians on her base. Combat infantry means combat, she was in several firefights including one where she was awarded a bronze star for combat valor. Returning home after the tour and at that time unable to be out as trans, she retired. She was out, however, when she was elected Post Commander of her VFW post and now serves as a District Commander.

Phil Murphy was certainly aware of the harm to trans people by Trumps ridiculous trans military ban, and this seemed to be an overt way of telling transgender New Jerseyans that he sees us and has our back. There may be ways of adding protections to National Guard members while sticking a thumb in Trump’s eye!

As the full list of approximately 500 members of the transition team is being released, it appears that two other transgender people will have a seat at the table including the Education, Access, and Opportunity Committee! Among specifics that will be brought up will be implementation of S3067 “Requires Commissioner of Education to develop guidelines for school districts regarding transgender students” that was passed and signed earlier this year. We will promote a speedy introduction of the transgender Birth Certificate bill that Christie twice vetoed! We plan on pushing the Transgender Equality Task Force with a friendly Governor and Speaker to have positive input as well. Those are just for starters!

So although we don’t have any “out” elected in NJ, we will be making a difference!

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