Earlier this month, Danica Roem, a former reporter and trans woman from Manassas won her second election to the Virginia House of Delegates, becoming the first openly transgender legislator to win reelection.
Democrats swept into power this past election cycle, capturing majorities in both the State House and Senate chambers. For the first time in 20 years, Democrats in Virginia control the state legislature, as well as the governor’s mansion, and Roem says she’s ready to take action for her constituents.
She was attacked relentlessly throughout the campaign, facing particularly personal attacks on her transgender status from Family Foundation Action over the last two weeks of the campaign.
The attacks claimed she’d pursue an “EXTREME social agenda,” which would “force all insurance companies to pay for harmful and unnecessary ‘gender transition’ surgeries.”
The bill, which would ban health care discrimination against LGBTQ people in the state, didn’t originate from Roem’s desk, but she supports its passage nonetheless.
Roem addressed her support for that bill and the rest of her sweeping second-term legislative agenda in a recent interview with LGBTQ Nation.
LGBTQ Nation: One of the things that we talked about, just before your first election, was just how having a trans person in these conversations, in the actual House of Delegates, changes the conversation?
Danica Roem: Well, if you look in the House of Delegates in the last two years, there wasn’t a single anti-LGBTQ bill, explicitly anti-LGBTQ bill, that was introduced by any of the members. And in 2016, I traveled to Richmond four times to fight nine anti-LGBTQ bills including two from my predecessor. And then the same year that I ran, my predecessor obviously put in four anti-LGBTQ bills. Just being there has changed that conversation.
QN: Congratulations on your re-election. What are your priorities for your second term?
DR: My top priority, of course, is going to be fixing Route 28, as always. On November 20th at 6:00 PM at Cougar Elementary School in Manassas Park, we’re going to have my second public hearing about alternative intersection designs along the Route 28 corridor in Yorkshire.
And my constituents, basically anyone who comes out to attend, will have the opportunity to vote on what redesigns they actually want to see for that corridor. Then when the study’s complete, by the end of the year, I’ll have enough information for me to then put it into my legislative agenda for 2020 so we can start pursuing the funding that we’re going to need to take care of that. So obviously, Route 28’s number one.
I’m also going to make sure that we restore funding, fully fund the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority after the Republican majority, in 2018, rejected the funding amendments that I requested to the Metro Bill, that would have taken care of us without having to lose tens of millions of dollars. So we’re going to go get that done as well.
I’m also going to make sure that we pass a shield law. After my first two times of trying, we’re going to bring it back for a third time. We’re going to pass the shield law to protect reporters from being jailed for protecting a confidential source.
I want to make sure that we continue to ban all forms of school meal shaming. You should never, ever, be denied a meal as a student just because of your parents’ income situation.
And I’m always going to make sure that we’re pushing for equality. I’m going to be signing on as a co-patron to Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy’s Equal Rights Amendment resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Of course we’re going to do that.
We’re going to make sure that we take care of trans folks, and LGBTQ folks in general, in terms of housing non-discrimination, employment non-discrimination, medical, for example. And I want us to pass a Virginia version of the Equality Act.
At the same time, I know what it’s like, personally, to have an insurance company deny me coverage for my transition-related healthcare and I’m trying to get everyone to understand that when you’re following your doctor’s orders, your healthcare is your healthcare. This is not cosmetic. This is not elective. We are following our doctor’s orders. Therefore, our insurers should be covering our medical needs.
This is what this is, and I want to make sure that we actually get that done, especially after the Family Foundation Action attacked me for it in the last two weeks of the campaign, and especially after the Republican party of Virginia attacked me for it last year. Well, guess what? We won by 12 points. You all lost. We’re going to go get this done.
QN: That’s really interesting. What are you looking forward to in your second term?
DR: I want to make sure that all of my constituents in Manassas Park, Haymarket, Gainesville, and my lifelong home, Manassas, know that I’m still going to be the same legislator to them that I’ve always been in terms of accessibility. I held 22 local town halls my first 22 months in office, and I’ve got two more coming up. I want to make sure that people, my constituents, always know that, agree or disagree with me on the issues, that my office is open to you.
I want to make sure that people know that just because I’m in the majority, doesn’t mean that I’m going to bully people in the minority. While at the same time, I want people to understand that when it comes to civil rights, the Republican majority has blocked our civil rights for 20 years. We’re done negotiating on that. It’s time to go get some stuff done.
When it comes to protecting people from gun violence, especially after another mass shooting at another school yesterday, we’re going to go get some stuff done. People who have been bottling this up for years, sorry, you had your chance. You had your chance over and over and over again. Now it’s time, it’s time for action. The people voted for action. They didn’t vote for platitudes. They didn’t vote to be nice. They voted for you to get stuff done and now it’s time for us to get stuff done.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.