clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The number of trans state lawmakers nearly doubled Tuesday night

These trans lawmakers won key victories — and historic firsts.

Stephanie Byers poses for a photo in front of a backdrop at a gala.
Stephanie Byers, elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 2020, attends the GLSEN 2018 Respect Awards at Cipriani 42nd Street on May 21, 2018, in New York City.
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for GLSEN
Anna North is a senior correspondent for Vox, where she covers American family life, work, and education. Previously, she was an editor and writer at the New York Times. She is also the author of three novels, including the New York Times bestseller Outlawed.

Though the outcome of the presidential race remains uncertain, Tuesday night was a win for LGBTQ representation at the state level, with key victories for several openly trans lawmakers in a year when many have faced harassment.

Sarah McBride became the highest-ranking openly trans official in the country when she won her race for Delaware state Senate. Stephanie Byers became the first openly trans state lawmaker in Kansas history, and likely the first openly trans state legislator of color ever elected in the US. And Colorado state Rep. Brianna Titone won reelection despite transphobic campaigning by Republicans.

Titone wasn’t the only one forced to contend with such tactics. This year has been marked by discriminatory attacks on trans officials and candidates, from McBride, who was the target of transphobic Facebook ads, to Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, who has faced bigoted attacks from local businesses as she leads her state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the attacks were not enough to keep trans candidates from victory on Election Day. The number of openly trans state legislators in the country nearly doubled, from four to seven. And the victories took place against a backdrop of larger gains for LGBTQ lawmakers, with at least 160 LGBTQ candidates winning their races as of Wednesday, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a group that works to increase LGBTQ representation in government.

The wins by trans candidates “reflect where America stands on the inclusion of LGBTQ people in our nation’s politics and each one represents an important step forward on the march toward equality,” Mayor Annise Parker, president of the fund, said in a statement to media on Wednesday.

Trans lawmakers recorded wins from the Northeast to the Mountain West. Here are some details to know about some of the winners:

  • Byers decided to run for a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives after retiring from her career as a high school band teacher, according to the Wichita Eagle. Her win over Republican Cyndi Howerton means she’ll represent the state’s District 86, which includes much of Wichita. A member of the Chickasaw Nation, Byers is not just Kansas’s first openly trans lawmaker but the first in the whole Midwest, and likely the first openly trans state legislator of color in the country. “With each election, we see the various state legislatures begin to resemble more and more the constituencies they represent,” Byers said in an email to Vox. “Each election we see more of ourselves in the people we elect to power.”
  • McBride first came to nationwide prominence at 2016’s Democratic National Convention, when she was the first openly trans person to speak at a national political convention, as Vox’s German Lopez reported at the time. This year, she became America’s first openly trans state senator, beating Republican Steve Washington in Delaware’s District 1. Despite attacks by her opponent, McBride told Vox’s Jerusalem Demsas that most voters didn’t bring up her gender identity: “Voters in this district are fair-minded and they’re judging candidates based on their ideas and not their identities.”
  • Titone was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 2018, flipping a seat previously held by Republican Vicki Pyne. This year, Pyne ran against her again. In support of Pyne, Republican state Rep. Stephen Humphrey recorded a robocall misgendering Titone and claiming that she “wants to force a radical sexual agenda on every Coloradan,” according to Pink. But the tactic failed; Titone won reelection by an even larger margin than in 2018.
  • Taylor Small became the first openly trans state legislator in Vermont when she won a seat in the state House representing the Winooski area. The 26-year-old has a focus on health care issues, including gender-affirming care, after she found herself forced to choose between medical treatment and rent when out of work four years ago, she told the Burlington Free Press: “It should never be a choice as to whether someone accesses health care.”

In addition to wins by trans lawmakers, Mauree Turner became the first openly nonbinary state legislator in the country, winning a seat in the Oklahoma state House. The night also included other high-profile wins for LGBTQ candidates, including Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones of New York, who will become the first openly gay Black members of the US Congress.