Danica Roem Becomes America’s First Openly Transgender State Legislator

Democrat unseated long-serving Republican Robert Marshall on Tuesday to win Virginia’s 13th district

Democrat Danica Roem has unseated Robert Marshall to become the first openly transgender elected official in the state of Virginia, defeating a man who campaigned openly on his opposition to LGBT rights.

Roem, a veteran reporter and vocalist for the heavy metal band Cab Ride Home, ran a campaign focused on improving traffic on the state’s Route 28 and bringing jobs to Prince William County, though her gender identity became a key component of the race. Even so, she consistently outpaced her opponent in fundraising.

Marshall, who has served in the House of Delegates since 1992, once described himself as Virginia’s “chief homophobe,” and occasionally caused uproar with his conservative legislative record. Among his actions as a state legislator, he earned harsh criticism earlier this year when sponsored a bill that would restrict the bathroom use of transgender individuals in Virginia. He’d previously proposed legislation to ban same-sex marriage and prevent gay people from serving in the Virginia National Guard.

During the campaign, Marshall repeatedly referred to Roem using male pronouns and approved attack ads focused on her transition. Just days before the election, he said that Roem “defies laws of nature,” and in September when asked why he refused to use her correct pronoun, said “did Danica’s DNA change?”

Roem responded to Marshall’s remarks with a well-received ad titled “Inspire” in which she said “I’m running for office because my identity shouldn’t be a big deal. This shouldn’t be newsworthy or political. This is just who I am.”

Roem’s music and her band’s video imagery was also attacked, ultimately without success, during the election by Marshall.