Brianna Titone, an Arvada resident seeking election to represent House District 27 in Jefferson County, is hoping to make history as the first openly transgender person to hold state office in …
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Brianna Titone, an Arvada resident seeking election to represent House District 27 in Jefferson County, is hoping to make history as the first openly transgender person to hold state office in Colorado. She is the second to run, following in the footsteps of former Arvada city councilwoman Joanne Conte who ran for the House of Representatives in the 1990s.
Danica Roem made history last year when she was elected to District 13 in the Virginia House of Delegates as the first openly transgender person to win a statewide election in the nation.
This year, transgender candidates are running for state offices throughout the county including Vermont, Montana, Guam, Hawaii and Massachusetts.
“Being a trans person gives me a different perspective on things,” Titone said. “When people see someone who is marginalized but still cares about people, I think that adds a little more value to my candidacy.”
Arvada’s history with transgendered officials dates back to the 1990s. Twenty-seven years ago, Conte became the first known trans woman in the country to hold elective office when she joined the Arvada City Council in 1991. The difference though, was that although she came out as transgender in the 1970s and legally changed her name before undergoing gender confirmation surgery, her past was a secret when she ran for office. In March 1993, Conte made a public announcement revealing that she was transgender after Westword told her of plans to include her previous identity as a man in a story it was publishing.
Conte served on Arvada’s City Council until 1995, when she lost reelection. She also ran as an Independent for the Colorado House of Representatives. She lost.
It was reported by Westword that Conte blamed her defeat on sex-change jokes made by constituents and critics during the campaign. She died in 2013.
Recently the rights of trans people in America have come to the forefront of discussion when a leaked memo from the Trump Administration indicated plans to effectively eliminate recognition of and protection for transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people.
Titone said she was “outraged” when she hear of the “attack on the transgender community.”
“This kind of change of definition doesn’t make sense in terms of what we know in science,” Titone said. “If one reads the definition of what intersex means, they are impacting not only the self-identified transgender community, but potentially 1 in 1,500 children born every year as intersex. I for one will not stand for this kind of attack on our humanity. I encourage everyone to stand up for the civil rights of the transgender and non-binary community today because if they can strip away the rights of one group today, they could come for another tomorrow.”
Titone said this is an example of why the this is election is so important and concerned citizens must elect people at all levels who will stand up for marginalized groups of citizens.
Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, an advocacy organization dedicated to advancing equality for LGBTQ Coloradans and their families, said the actions of the Trump Administration “is an affront to basic human decency and to the values of fairness and freedom.”
“Here in Colorado, and in every state, we need to fight like hell and vote to elect pro-equality candidates who will stand up for transgender Americans and the entire LGBTQ community against the president’s hateful agenda,” Ramos continued.
During the primaries for the Jefferson County Coroner race earlier this year, Democratic candidate Dana Hutcheson, who eventually lost, was fighting against misgendering in death, a new battleground for transgender rights.
“Trans people are victims of violence at a greater rate and that is erased if not noted in death,” Hutcheson said, adding that there is little to no statistics about transgender deaths in Colorado. “I’m close with a lot of trans people and the more I talked to people in my community, the bigger an issue it turned out to be.”
Following the news last week about a potential federal change in the definition of gender, Titone hosted Roem and a group of supporters at her home before visiting constituents door-to-door.
“The actual reality based on vetted facts is that they’re trying to scrub us, they’re trying to say that we don’t exist,” Roem said, of the transgender community. “If you’re an elected official how the hell can you do constituent service if you don’t acknowledge that your constituents exist for who they are. How is it possible that you can ever deliver on those core quality of life issues if you can’t even show the basic decency and respect to tell your constituents that they are welcome, respected, celebrated and protected because of who they are not despite it.”
But Titone said while she is proud of who she is, she does not put being transgender at the forefront of her campaign.
“I don’t talk to people about it at the doors,” she said. “We just talk to them about getting out to vote, voting for me and why they should vote for me. And the reason is that I’m the candidate that wants to know what they think, their ideas and bring their ideas to the capitol.”
In the HD 27 race, Titone, a Democrat, is running against Republican Vicki Pyne, a mom and small business owner who’s served on several community boards including the Board of Directors for Apex Parks and Recreation District, where she serves as the current vice president.
“Running for office seemed to be the best thing for me to do because I’m always thinking about everyone else and what I can do to help people,” Titone said. “I don’t mind putting myself out there, putting myself into danger.”
Titone sited her work as a geologist in hostile environments and as a firefighter as times in her life where she has willingly put herself in danger for the good of other people. Titone said that during the campaign she has been subject to hate speech, but that the violence has not gone further than “hurtful words.”
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender people face extraordinary levels of physical and sexual violence, whether on the streets, at school or work, at home, or at the hands of government officials.
“It’s a calculated risk that I’m willing to take,” she said. “With risk comes great reward. And I think that running for office now has a lot of reward for a lot of people and a lot of people will benefit from the work that I’m trying to do.”
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