The country’s first out non-binary state legislator is also Muslim & they have a lot of work to do

Mauree Turner in their campaign announcement video.
Mauree Turner in their campaign announcement video. Photo: Screenshot / YouTube

Mauree Turner made history in Oklahoma by becoming the first out non-binary person elected to a state legislature, and also the first Muslim legislator in their state.

“That was something a lot of us never thought would happen,” they told LGBTQ Nation.

Related: New York will soon allow non-binary “X” gender markers on drivers licenses

Turner’s solidly Democratic district, House District 88, meant they were more or less a shoo-in for the general election. Their victory in the Democratic primary was the real triumph.

“I ran against an incumbent that is a white, cishet man, and in the beginning, a lot of the conversations I had around the primary were, why are you challenging a Democrat? We have someone that’s really good that cares for us.”

Turner’s message was not to settle for someone who was merely good enough.

“When you don’t have that shared lived experience with your community, and when your community doesn’t continuously see you trying to work with and learn from your community, then you carve out a good portion of ideas and opinions on how we make Oklahoma and House District 88 a better place.”

A longtime community organizer, Turner is excited to take all they have been fighting for to the legislature. Their priority is overhauling the criminal justice system in Oklahoma, which has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world.

“We don’t have worse people here,” they said, “but [our laws] are more archaic. They are more gender-biased. They are more racist.”

In Elle, Turner spoke of their father’s own experience in and out of prison for minor offenses and how challenging it was for him to get a job after he served his time.

One of their goals is to eliminate the need to disclose on job applications if you have been convicted of a felony. Another is to ensure that incarcerated transgender and gender-nonconforming people are placed in appropriate prison pods and have access to hormones.

“Just because you go to prison does not mean you are no longer human. It doesn’t mean you no longer have autonomy…Prisons are not a place for revenge. I think somewhere along the line someone thought they would be a place for rehabilitation.”

Turner also plans to work toward a ban on LGBTQ conversion therapy, as well as make it easier to change the gender marker on your ID. In Oklahoma, it is extremely difficult to change it without having surgery.

“There are a lot of folks in our LBGTQ2S+ community that do not have the funds to be able to go through surgery,” Turner said, “but it’s nice to be able to say, this is who I am, and to feel support in what some people might think is small, but is really big for a lot of us.”

In a Republican-dominated legislature, Turner believes their experience as a community organizer will be helpful in working across the aisle.

“The hope is that the people in that building are there with community in mind. [I’m happy to be able] to provide a perspective of a shared lived experience that a big portion of our Oklahomans has to go through,” they said, “and doing that relational organizing to bring people into that conversation on what it looks like to actually equitably care for your community.”

As they begin their first term, Turner wants their constituents to know that they will strive to be as accessible as possible.

“I’m the type of person that wants to make sure I’m exhausting all opportunities to grow and learn before I make a final decision. If you live in House District 88 and want to give me a call, you definitely can. If you want to email me, you definitely can.”

They are incredibly grateful, they added, for the people who made their campaign a success. This campaign, Turner emphasized, relied on “people power.”

“Communities have more power than they think they do. Sometimes, the systems we play into really oppress us into thinking that we don’t have power, and I think that was one of the big things that really ignited people about this campaign, was that it was so rooted in people power, and there’s no way we would have gotten it done without community.”

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