Transgender Candidate Challenges Virginia’s ‘Minister of Private Parts’

Danica Roem is challenging a Republican culture warrior who won’t even acknowledge her as a woman. Photo: J. Lawler Duggan/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Democrats are hoping to make inroads in Virginia House of Delegates races in November (Republicans currently control it by a 66–34 margin), and whether they are successful could be a harbinger of more decisive national trends next year.

Of all the competitive legislative races, one seems sure to capture a lot of attention: the 13th district, in Northern Virginia’s Prince William County outer suburbs, where 73-year-old social-conservative stalwart Bob Marshall, who’s been around for 22 years, is fighting to hold on in territory Hillary Clinton carried by 14 points last year.

What will get this race the most attention, however, is the fact that Marshall’s Democratic opponent is a transgender woman, local journalist Danica Roem. When Roem first started running for the Democratic nomination in this contest, she was careful to focus on NoVa’s notorious transportation problems. But it was obvious another general election factor would be Marshall’s record: Aside from being a general-purpose cultural troglodyte (a Washington Post journalist dubbed him Virginia’s “Minister of Private Parts” for his incessant efforts to police private sexual behavior) the incumbent was the author of Virginia’s version of the infamous North Carolina “bathroom bill,” which he dubbed the “Physical Privacy Act.” Marshall’s arguments for the bill were about as reactionary as anything we heard in the Tar Heel State:

He expressed fear that men and boys will pretend to be transgender to infiltrate bathrooms and locker rooms used by women and girls.

“Some guys will use anything to make a move on some teenage girls or women,” he said. “Mere separation of the sexes should not be considered discrimination.”

In line with his view that gender identity is eternally dictated by birth certificates, Marshall has refused to acknowledge Roem as a woman. And that seems to be his excuse for refusing to debate her, since his references to Roem as a man would undoubtedly dominate the proceedings, with the backlash threatening the contest’s “civility.” In this way he’s made her gender identity an issue without having to talk about it.

Roem has now decided not to play the game of pretending gender identity isn’t an issue in the race, launching a YouTube ad that addresses it very directly:

Marshall, of course, is now claiming it’s Roem — “he” — who is injecting the divisive cultural issue into the campaign:

“If Danica wants to make what he thinks is his change an issue, I’m going to talk about Route 28,” Marshall said, referring to the congested thoroughfare that is a top concern of voters in the Prince William County district. “He’s making up stories all over the place, including about his sexual identity.”

Now it’s not unusual for right-wing culture warriors like Marshall to accuse godless liberals of “injecting” divisive issues into political races, apparently on the theory that if everyone just left laws and policies the way they were when America was great, we could all focus on highway congestion. But the incumbent is so notorious that he may not be able to pull off blaming the victim.

Transgender Candidate Challenges ‘Minister of Private Parts’