During the recent debate over ENDA most agreed on one major point—the transgender community could use more political power. Judging by the numbers who hold political office in the United States, that’s an understatement. Out of more than a half million elected officeholders, fewer than a dozen are openly transgender. What’s worse, that number could shrink soon.
In Riverdale, Ga., this week, openly transgender City Councilwoman Michelle Bruce lost a runoff election to keep her seat. She was the target of an anti-trans political attack (in the form of a highly publicized lawsuit) that made her gender identity the top issue in a heated campaign. Michelle fought hard, but it’s far more difficult to win when our opponents in places like Riverdale succeed in making sexual orientation or gender identity a major issue in a campaign.
Next week there will be another test of tolerance and fairness in a place that’s been far more hospitable to LGBT candidates. Dr. Dana Beyer is vying to replace a Maryland lawmaker who died in office last week. Dana is well known in the district, having run for the seat in 2006. She is the only candidate in the mix who has actually run and received a significant number of votes to represent the district in the House of Delegates. Now it’s up to a committee of 23 Democrats to choose her over a handful of men running to fill the open seat.
Maryland’s Democrats have an opportunity to place a community leader, a strong voice for equality and a qualified woman in their legislature. For the transgender community, this is an opportunity to make history. Dana would be the first openly transgender state legislator ever elected in the United States.