Danica Roem: Transgender heavy metal singer defeats man who wrote Virginia’s anti-trans bathroom bill in election

Losing candidate Bob Marshall - a self-declared 'chief homophobe' - referred to Ms Roem as 'he' and refused to debate her during the campaign

Maya Oppenheim
Wednesday 08 November 2017 11:25 GMT
Transgender candidate Danica Roen campaigns prior to winning Virginia primary

A transgender heavy metal singer has beaten a politician who penned Virginia’s anti-trans bathroom bill in a local election.

Danica Roem defeated Bob Marshall, one of Virginia’s most socially conservative and vocal anti-LGBT lawmakers, to become the first openly transgender candidate to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday.

With 19 or 20 precincts reporting, Ms Roem had 54 per cent of the vote. Hillary Clinton won the district by 14 points, 54 to 40 per cent, over Donald Trump last year.

The Democrat, who is a heavy metal vocalist, is said to be the first openly transgender person to be elected to a state legislature in the US.

Bob Marshall, who had been elected 13 times over 26 years according to his website, has previously called himself Virginia's "chief homophobe".

Mr Marshall wrote the “Physical Privacy Act” - a piece of legislation similar to the ultra-controversial “Bathroom Bill” which passed in North Carolina last year. The lawmaker’s bill would have required people to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender on their original birth certificates.

The Republican, who refused to use Ms Roem’s correct pronouns in the campaign, later diluted the legislation’s language to eliminate the word "original" but denounced the Republican committee who rejected the bill as "disgusting".

Ms Roem, his successor, is not just the first transgender person to run for the Virginia House of Delegates but also appears to be the first member of a metal band to do so.

The former journalist, who worked as a lead reporter and won awards from the Virginia Press Association seven times, has long been a critical part of the Virginia heavy metal scene. She has spent over a decade singing for a thrash metal band called Cab Ride Home whose biggest hit is a party tune about getting inebriated and occupies a sphere worlds apart from party politics.

"Just because I sing in a heavy metal band while spinning my head in circles and getting paid to do it, why can't I run for government? Why would I have to change who I am in order to run for government? I've already had to go through transformative change," she told Noisey in an interview in June.

The politician, who has a special penchant for Swedish death metal, said the music scene reacted amazingly to her gender transition.

She said: "I have not lost a single friend during my gender transition. Not one. When I say I'm part of the metal community, this is as much a part of my personality as everything else. The way I explain it to people is that, for some people music is a sound. For people who are into metal, it's a lifestyle.”

She has previously said that she sees her gender identity as a source of strength, saying that she can succeed because of her gender rather than “despite it”.

“To every person who’s ever been singled out, who’s ever been stigmatised, who’s ever been the misfit, whose ever been the kid in the corner, whose ever needed someone to stand up for them when they didn’t have a voice of their own … This one’s for you,” Ms Roem told a crowd of cheering supporters after clinching the vote.

During the campaign, Mr Marshall, who first took his seat in 1992, outrightly refused to debate Ms Roem, kept his schedule private and rebuffed the majority of requests for interviews.

Mr Marshall expressed his sadness at the loss in a statement on Facebook, saying: “Though we all wish tonight would have turned out differently, I am deeply grateful for your support and effort over the years.”

He added: “I’m committed to continue the fight for you, but in a different role going forward”.

According to Monica Roberts of the TransGriot blog, which covers issues in the transgender community, Ms Roem is the first openly transgender person elected to a state legislature in the US. Althea Garrison, elected in Massachusetts, was the first openly transgender person to serve in a state legislature, however she chose not to campaign as an openly transgender person during her race back in 1992.

The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, congratulated Ms Roem for her victory, saying: "Couldn't be more thrilled for Danica Roem. And good riddance to Bob Marshall, one of the most anti-choice, and anti-LGBTQ members of the VA House."

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