The city’s first openly transgender lawmaker was voted into office Tuesday, a milestone for the local LGBTQ community that was among the victories transgender candidates won nationwide on Election Day.
Raven Matherne, 29, who is believed to be the state’s first transgender lawmaker, won a seat on Stamford’s Board of Representatives. She ran as part of the Reform Stamford slate that sought political change on the 40-member board.
In Virginia, Democrat Danica Roem, 33, became the state’s first openly transgender legislator after beating a 13-term incumbent who introduced a bill that would have restricted transgender bathroom use. In Minneapolis, Minn., Andrea Jenkins, 56, made history as the first out transgender black person elected to public office after winning a seat on the city council. Transgender candidates also won in Florida and California.
Matherne said she ran on issues that impact her constituents, such as rising property taxes and fewer public services for residents in her wooded North Stamford district, and not necessarily that she was the first transgender person seeking a seat on the board. Reform Stamford presented a platform focused on taxes, community-minded development, enforcing zoning laws, affordable housing and protecting public spaces.
“Whether you believe taxes are high or not, they are rising,” she said. “Then when (homeowners) get to the point where they can’t afford to live in Stamford anymore, their property values are going down.”
Matherne, most recently a martial arts instructor, and newcomer Bob Lion beat Republicans Gail Okun, the incumbent, and Elise Esses in the 19th District. Lions, 69, is a retired educator and media executive. Board of Representatives President Randy Skigen, a Democrat, is from Matherne’s district, but did not seek re-election.
Democrats overall saw big wins in Stamford’s election, managing to secure a second term for Mayor David Martin and unseating the longtime Republican town clerk.
“We live in an incredibly diverse city where all residents deserve fair and equal treatment, no matter how they identify,” Martin said in a news release last month announcing Stamford received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, measuring how the city supports the LGBTQ community.
Matherne, who will be one of the Board of Representatives’ youngest members when she is sworn in, was among eight Reform Stamford candidates to win across the city’s 20 voting districts. Many saw their rise as fueled by President Donald Trump and the national political stage. Locally, Reform Stamford members said they were running a positive campaign.
“People took opposition to us despite the fact that we never once named any names. We never once said we were against anyone,” Matherne said. “We were running solely on our message and the changes we wanted to see in government.”
Part of Reform Stamford’s platform was responding to citizen concerns, something they believe has been lacking on the board.
“I feel like local government has atrophied in my neck of the woods, so trying to strengthen people’s views of local government in my district is going to be key,” she said. “When we were knocking on doors … a majority of people simply didn’t know any of the representatives, which I also thinks contributes to people feeling like they’re secluded from the rest of the government.”
Matherne, an athlete who has run marathons in 26 states, said she came out as transgender earlier this year and began hormone replacement therapy in March. Despite noting her gender orientation in campaign literature, Matherne said she didn’t actively promote it on the campaign trail.
“On a personal note, it played a great role in pushing me to run, but it plays almost no role in my stance on policies and changes that I want to see in government,” she said.
Danica Roem Biography
Who is Danica Roem? Danica was born “Daniel” Roem on September 30, 1984. She was born and raised in Manassas, Prince William County, VA, and went on to attend and graduate from Paul VI High School in the early 2000s. Post graduation, she went on to study at St. Bonaventure University, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in the mid-2000s.
As early as age 17, documented evidence of Roem’s gender change aspirations started to peek through. She accounts how she became heavily involved in alcohol, at least partially, “as a toxic way to present a male persona because I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.”
This evolved into more overt signals as time wore on.
For example, at St. Bonaventure, Roem won her university’s “gender buster.” The event was akin to a drag show, with participants decked out in RuPaul-like garb. The event was chronicled by the student newspaper, and a photo of Roem surfaced online. As she describes it, “I was getting slammed. It was bad, it was really really bad, and it violently shoved me back into the closet.” (Source: Ibid.)
Roem put her journalism credentials to work shortly after graduation. She worked for nine years as the lead reporter for the Gainesville Times and the Prince William Times. Possessing obvious talent at her craft, she won awards from the Virginia Press Association seven times. Her inspiration to become a journalist stemmed from her grandfather’s devotion to his daily newspaper.
Roem is a heavy metal music enthusiast and active participant in a heavy metal band named “Cab Ride Home.” She is purported to have performed at least 34 shows, including local iconic hotspot Northern Virginia club Jaxx.
She legally changed her name from “Daniel” to “Danica” in 2015, following the completion of a sex change surgery, which began in 2012.
Is Danica Roem Married?
Who is Danica Roem’s husband? She’s not officially married, but does have a relationship with her boyfriend (and his 9-year-old daughter). Little is known as Roem is extremely protective of her private life. In her own words “I don’t want to expose my family to this s–t,” she told Cosmopolitan in September.”
Danica Roem Political Career
Roem declared her candidacy in January 2017. Despite being a political novice, she received endorsements from organizations such as the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Her appeal as a potential LGBT rights crusader was obvious.
By all accounts, she campaigned relentlessly going into the election. She would attend local grassroots rallies and canvass door-to-door for hours on end. She often adorned a distinctive rainbow-colored bandanna, providing sharp visual contrast from her deeply conservative opponent, incumbent Robert G. Marshall.
Almost from the beginning, she received significant support to help her to the finish line.
On the monetary front, Roem received 1,064 donations of under $100.00, the highest of any state delegate candidate except for Chris Hurst. She also received a $50,000 donation from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele shortly after Donald Trump announced his transgender military ban.
All told, she outraised her LGBT antagonist opponent by a margin of 3 to 1. Many of the donations originated out-of-state.
In a testament to her appeal in progressive identity politics, Roem received a major boost in October 2017 when she was endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden. While we’re sure Biden appreciated her campaign platform, these types of major endorsements don’t happen in a vacuum. Roem’s personal “appeal” was not lost on the progressive left, which values any achievement from visible minorities.
Also, in October 2017, Roem discovered just how nasty political campaigns can be.
Her campaign claimed reports of at least three anti-transgender “robocalls.” Roem claimed the robocall telephone interview said she “supports boys using the girls bathroom, locker room . . . the typical transphobic crap we have to deal with.” Roem believed a conservative group called the American Principles Project was behind the robocalls.
Roem believed a group called the American Principles Project was behind the robocalls.
Roem’s campaign focus reducing traffic on Route 28 was cultivated early in life, when she endured long wait times being picked up from school. Her mother worked at Dulles International Airport and trying to maneuver through intense traffic was no easy task. In fact, it’s one of the busiest traffic spots in the state.
Despite the focus on improving commuter traffic, Roem isn’t a one-issue candidate. According to his website, she had multi-faceted positions in several areas:
Let’s finally fix Route 28 and find a cost-effective way to extend VRE to Innovation Technology Park.
Incentivize localities to eliminate their BPOL taxes through state economic development grants and finally fill the office vacancies in Manassas Park along Manassas Drive.
Raise teacher salaries in Manassas Park and Prince William County so they are no longer the lowest in Northern Virginia while also providing more money for capital improvement projects that reduce class sizes.
Improving our quality of life starts with equality. I support the DREAM Act, civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, raising the minimum wage and making health insurance more accessible and affordable for everyone. (Source: “TRAFFIC, JOBS, SCHOOLS & EQUALITY,” Danica Roem campaign website, last accessed November 9, 2017.)
Roem ended up winning the Virginia House of Delegates, District 13 Democratic Primary in a cakewalk. She easily outpaced Steve Jansen by double-digit percentage margins. In a testament to house sparsely populated that District is, only 4,339 total ballots were cast.
Virgina Election Results
|Virginia House of Delegates, District 13 Democratic Primary, 2017|
(Source: Danica Roem, Ballotpedia)
Danica is set to take office on January 8, 2018. The Danica Roem wiki profile is only set to grow as her political experience expands. She’s definitely on the up-and-comer list of potential Democratic politicians to watch, owing not just to her minority status, but her likability and laser-like determination to her causes.