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Roem Lays Out Agenda

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Virginia Delegate-elect Danica Roem often wore a rainbow scarf on the campaign trail.
Virginia Delegate-elect Danica Roem often wore a rainbow scarf on the campaign trail.  

Danica Roem, who made history last week when she became the first out transgender person to win and serve in a state legislature and the only out transgender state legislator in the U.S., held a conference call with reporters last week to lay out her agenda once she assumes office.

Roem, a Democrat, was elected November 7 to the Virginia House of Delegates, representing the 13th District. She beat a longtime Republican incumbent, Bob Marshall, who, according to media reports, refused to debate Roem and resorted to misgendering her during the campaign.

Marshall has referred to himself as Virginia's "chief homophobe" and last year authored an anti-trans bathroom bill that would have forced trans people to use the restroom that matched their gender identity at birth. The bill died in committee. During the November 10 call, Roem said that she has not heard from Marshall.

Roem was upbeat during the call as she laid out her agenda. Her top priority is to improve infrastructure in her district, though she added that she is also concerned with expanding health care.

"LGBTQ health care is health care," she said. "It is not cosmetic. It is not elective. We are following our doctor's orders."

She recalled getting a letter during her transition, which began in 2013, informing her that her gender reassignment care was not covered by insurance. "I want to make sure that hormone replacement is covered," she said. "I will fight tooth and nail. Health care is a quality of life issue."

A former journalist, Roem, 33, also hopes to pass legislation that would protect reporters from having to reveal their sources, and to make it easier for citizens to obtain copies of public documents.

"I want to protect reporters from jail time," she said. "I want to expedite information requests so you can get your documents when you ask for them. I'd like to hire someone whose job it is to do this."

Roem also focused on Route 28, a Virginia state highway beset with traffic problems. Fixing Route 28 was one of her core campaign promises.

"The best thing I can do is take a leadership role on this," she said, adding that she hopes to work with legislators from neighboring districts on this issue. "The 13th District leads to the 15th District. I want to work collaboratively on this." Widening Route 28 is one idea that's been put on the table. Roem emphasized that she hopes to accomplish this without invoking eminent domain laws.

"I don't want to take people's homes away from them," she said.

When asked about Marshall, Roem declined to say anything negative.

"The people didn't elect me to be rude," she said. "Marshall will soon be one of my constituents - I'm going to lead by example. It does no good to point at him and laugh. The voters made their voices heard. Let's work together instead of finger-pointing. Let's get the job done."

Roem further noted that during the election she talked about issues, not about negativity.

She offered some advice for those who might be feeling anger toward Marshall or others like him. "Be who you are and be it well," she said. "Be out and proud and fight for inclusion. Do what affects the most number of people."

Roem also had a message for LGBTQ youth. "You can be successful," she said. "If I can succeed then you can. I told an 11-year-old trans girl that she can be president. This is for all of you."

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