Trans Candidates Made History by Running—and in Some Cases Winning—In the Midterms

By catherine lizette gonzalez Nov 07, 2018

Last night’s (November 6) midterm elections were described as a "rainbow wave" by LGBTQ advocacy groups, with transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual candidates running for office at all levels of government in unprecedented numbers—at least 240 in total. And amid the Trump administration’s direct attacks on transgender rights, trans candidates in particular ran historic campaigns.

Two trans women, Democrats Lisa Bunker and Gerri Cannon, were elected to serve in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives, making them the first openly trans people to win and serve in their state legislature. In Massachusetts, voters struck down an attempt to repeal a 2016 law that prohibits discrimination against trans people in places of public accommodation, including locker rooms, hospitals and restrooms, making it the first state to defend transgender rights by popular vote. 

Currently, there is no federal law that explicitly prohibits discrimination against trans people, and most statewide civil rights protections do not extend to trans rights, as reported by Vox. Since he was elected president, Donald Trump has dismantled Obama-era transgender protections through a variety of vehicles. Last year, Trump signed a "religious liberty" executive order that many religious leaders and civil rights activists say could open the door to further trans discrimination. Earlier this year, he signed a memoranda that banned trans people from serving in the U.S. military. He has appointed justices to the Supreme Court with track records that could foretell harm to queer and transgender communities. Last month The New York Times reported Trump’s intention to change the legal definition of gender that would write transgender out of existence in the eyes of the law.

While several other transgender candidates lost in their respective races, their campaigns were firsts. In Vermont, Democrat Christine Hallquist was the first trans gubernatorial candidate in United States history. She received support from high profile politicians such as former president Barack Obama, former vice president Joesph Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Amelia Marquez, a Democrat running for the Montana House of Representatives in District 52, was one of the first openly trans woman of color to run in state legislature in the country. Lasia Casil, a Democrat who ran for the 35th Guam Legislature, was the first openly trans person to run in Guam’s legislature. 

Of the record number of trans candidates in the midterms, the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Raffi Freedman-Gurspan told Reuters, "It was so thrilling. It felt that we had entered this moment as a community in entering political space."