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Trans candidates ride blue wave 

Queer&There

As transgender people have gained broader, mainstream acceptance, many of them have entered the political sphere. In 2016, Kristin Beck ran for the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s 5th congressional district; Misty Plowright unsuccessfully challenged Doug Lamborn for the 5th Congressional District in Colorado; and Misty Snow won the Democratic primary in Utah. In 2017 Danica Roem won election to the Virginia House of Delegates.

Democrats are hoping for a “blue wave” in the midterm elections this year in response to the last two years of Republican-controlled legislation, and trans people are poised to hang 10. In Vermont, trans woman Christine Hallquist won the Democratic nomination for the governor’s race, and here in Colorado, Arvada resident Brianna Titone is running for state representative in House District 27.

Titone came out as trans in 2015, and her political career was born out of a desire to further serve her community. “I’ve been a volunteer my whole life,” she says. “I was a volunteer firefighter when I was 16 and did that for seven years.” Titone, whose professional career has been spent as a geologist, has also volunteered with NecroSearch International, which she describes as “a group of interdisciplinary scientists who help law enforcement locate graves and evidence.”

Titone got her start in politics working with the Jefferson County Democrats’ LGBTQ+ Caucus on the issue of conversion therapy. Conversion therapy, or “reparative therapy,” is the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, sometimes including “electroshock” therapy. It has been rejected by almost all legitimate medical and scientific bodies, such as the American Psychiatric Association, but conservative politicians and faith groups like Focus on the Family continue to support it. Many of my past columns have featured conversion therapy survivors, which should tell you something about its efficacy. Attempts at passing legislation at the state level to ban the practice have been defeated by Republican legislators.

“We shouldn’t be hassling kids to be something they’re not,” says Titone. “So I mentioned, what if we did this at a grassroots, city level?” Titone worked with the Jefferson County Dems to get (unfortunately non-binding) resolutions against conversion therapy signed by the municipal governments in Westminster, Edgewater, Wheat Ridge and Denver.
Titone decided to run for state representative in HD27 after Danica Roem’s successful Virginia campaign, and as she felt disgusted by the fact that “my legislator [Lang Sias, who is now running with Walker Stapleton for Lieutenant Governor] wasn’t doing his job. He wasn’t talking to the people, he wasn’t going to his town hall meetings. That’s not what the people deserve.

“They deserve someone who is actually going to do the job and have conversations with people to solve their problems,” she says, “not just sit up in an ivory castle and do whatever he wants. He voted against a lot of LGBT issues,” such as the conversion therapy ban and birth certificate modernization bill.

Titone has also followed Roem’s successful strategy of building a grassroots campaign around issues of concern to local voters, not niche issues like gender identity or sexual orientation.

“We knock on a lot of doors and we’re talking to a lot of people. A lot of the LGBTQ issues that face the state are not always important to my district. What is really important to the people in my district is the way education funding is going, the rising prices of health care, and they’re concerned about the quality of the roads and public transportation.”

Titone supports Amendment 73, calling for an increase in funding for education. “In Colorado we don’t have the ability to save for long-term goals, and the longer we put things off the more money it’s going to cost. We have to address the problems today.”

She is less enthusiastic about Proposition 112, the oil and gas setback measure which has faced staunch opposition from the oil and gas industry, Republicans, and even mainstream Democrats like Jared Polis, a candidate for governor. “That one is very contentious,” Titone says. “As a geologist I care for the environment and people’s health and safety, but I don’t want it to be an ‘off-switch’ for the industry. We’re very dependent on oil and gas here in Colorado.”

Titone remains cautiously optimistic about her chances in November. If campaign spending offers any indication, she has good reason to be. Her campaign has been funded largely by small, individual contributions reminiscent of the Bernie Sanders campaign, and has raised more than $57,000, compared to competitor Vicky Pyne’s $26,000. If she wins, Titone would be the first transgender person elected to Colorado’s legislature.

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