GU Pride and GU College Democrats co-hosted an event with Virginia House of Delegates member Danica Roem, in which she urged students to get involved in the political process. Roem is the first openly transgender person to serve in any U.S. state legislature.
“I’m going to be blunt,” Roem said, “I am here to recruit a lot more people to run for office today.”
Roem had one message: find politicians who shares your values. She asked the audience for examples of politicians they liked, which varied from famous senators to local state representatives.
“Your job is to go get them elected,” Roem said, “and then when they are in office, hold them accountable.”
If you could not find a politician you liked, Roem offered a solution. “Go grab a clipboard, go collect some ballot signatures,” Roem said. “Become the advocate that you never had, or the advocate that you’ve aspired to be.”
Roem, a Democrat, won her seat in Virginia’s 13th House of Delegates District, which consists of Manassas Park and part of Prince William County, running on a platform centered around transportation and the economy. Her opponent was 26-year incumbent Bob Marshall, Virginia’s self-proclaimed “chief homophobe,” who was well-known for his failed bathroom bill proposal that would have barred transgender people from using the public restrooms that corresponded to their gender identity.
Reflecting on her journey, Roem said that running for office was not always part of her plan, and was not something many thought she could do successfully. “I launched my campaign last year uninsured, unemployed, and driving a ‘92 Dodge Shadow America,” Roem said.
She acknowledged that she was perhaps not the most politically viable candidate at face value, even jokingly referring to when a Vice article called her a “trans metalhead stepmom.”
“But if 2016 taught us anything,” Roem said, “it is that the perception of authenticity, whether or not it is grounded in reality, is extremely important and it is what people in our voting populace want from their elected officeholders and want from their candidates.”
Roem also spoke fondly of her career in journalism, noting that she was a reporter for a decade before deciding to run for public office.
“I love reporting the news,” Roem said. “I love being the person who holds politicians’ feet to the fire.” She credited this background as a reporter with helping inform her on a wide variety of different policy issues.
On the recent federal rollbacks of transgender rights, and the current administration considering defining gender as biological and immutable, Roem expressed a determined optimism for the future.
“Our civil rights should never be up for a referendum,” Roem said. “They should never be subject to political whims. They should never be subject to majority view. We don’t want to have to be in that position, to have to even focus on gender identity and that stuff in the first place, but given the situation, but given the fight, we will organize, we will mobilize, and we will win.”
“It was nice to hear from someone with a bright outlook on politics for a change,” said MacKenzie Grimm (COL ’21), a student worker at the LGBTQ Resource Center and GUSA’s LGBTQ+ Inclusive Policy Chair.
“Delegate Roem was extremely transparent about her previous financial struggles before her campaign and I felt she was quite relatable. It felt really empowering to be reminded that politics is not just for the more privileged elite,” Grimm said. “Coming from a background which is a bit unorthodox compared to the stereotypical Georgetown student, I felt validated by what Roem had to say.”
The Oct. 30 event was sponsored by the LGBTQ Resource Center, the McCourt LGBTQ+ Policy Initiative, and the Georgetown University Lecture Fund.
Jenny Xu (COL ’21), who organized the event and serves as the Co-President of GU Pride and Vice Chair of GU College Democrats, shared similar sentiments.
“Delegate Roem’s fiery authenticity captivated everyone in the room, and her message was clear: trans folks, and folks in the LGBTQ+ community at large, are not just the sums of their identities. They’re complex, nuanced, and sometimes, they just really care about local traffic laws.”