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History made by transgender candidates elected to public office

History made by transgender candidates elected to public office

Minneapolis City Hall and Virginia State Capitol

Last night marked a milestone in the quest for transgender inclusion. Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham, elected to the Minneapolis City Council, are the first out transgender black people elected to public office in the United States. And Danica Roem, elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, is the first openly transgender elected official in Virginia.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Jenkins said she believes her and Roem’s victories are proof that many communities in the US won’t succumb to hatred, bigotry or transphobia – and are willing to fight for social justice and equality for all minority groups.

In the era of rescinding guidelines that protect transgender students, “bathroom bills,” and an attempted  transgender military ban, last night’s election results are especially meaningful. As Roem said, “To every person who’s ever been singled out, who’s ever been stigmatized, who’s ever been the misfit, who’s ever been the kid in the corner, who’s ever needed someone to stand up for them when they didn’t have a voice of their own, this one is for you.”

Elections were also won by three other transgender candidates: Lisa Middleton was elected to the Palm Springs City Council. Tyler Titus was elected to the Erie School Board in Erie, PA. Stephe Koontz was elected to the city council in Doraville, GA. 

As we celebrate this milestone in American political history, we recommit ourselves to continuing that progress. Jewish tradition teaches us both of the importance of involvement in public life, and of the all peoples’ inherent value. As Jews and American citizens we have an obligation to participate in the elections to ensure that our country’s policies at the local, state and national levels reflect our commitment to social justice. This commitment is grounded in our value of b’tselem eloheim, in the Divine image (Genesis 1:27).  

In 2015, the Union for Reform Judaism ratified our commitment to the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people and now we are taking action to stand with transgender students whose rights are being threatened. To get learn more and get involved in the RAC’s campaign, visit our Urgency of Now website.  

Lizzie Stein is a leadership development associate at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where she previously served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. In her current role, she leads fellowships for alumni of RAC programs and brings leadership skills training to the RAC’s L’Taken Social Justice Seminars and other programs. Lizzie also staffs the Urgency of Now: Transgender Rights Campaign. A graduate of Occidential College, she is a member of Temple Kol Ami in Phoenix, AZ, her hometown.

Lizzie Stein

Published: 11/08/2017