Danica Roem made history earlier this month when she became the first ever transgender woman voted into the Virginia House of Delegates.
The momentous win saw the Democrat take the position away from incumbent Republican Bob Marshall, who has a track record of anti-LGBTQ views.
However, Republicans have suddenly decided to change the chamber’s 400-year-old rulebook on how politicians speaking on the floor refer to each other, before Roem takes up her seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in January.
Instead of using the terms ‘gentleman’ or ‘gentlelady’, they will now have to use the term ‘delegate’ as a gender-neutral address.
“All members will be afforded the same respect and courtesy that this nearly 400-year-old institution commands,” said House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights) in statement to the Washington Post.
“Speaker-designee Cox believes the ‘gentlelady’ and ‘gentleman’ terminology is outdated, and that referring to everyone as ‘delegate’ is more timely and appropriate.”
While doing away with gender-specific terms is usually applauded by liberal minds, on this occasion people have suggested that it is so Republican delegates won’t have to refer to Roem as a ‘gentlelady’.
During her campaign before her win, Roem was routinely misgendered by Republicans, with their campaign focussing so much on her gender identity.
Delegate-elect Roem, meanwhile, focussed on improving transportation, generating jobs, offering better education, and to facilitate economic development in District 13, where she won the vote.
“They’re trying in some way to thread a needle with their own base,” said Bob Holsworth, a former Virginia Commonwealth University political-science professor.
“They’re willing to change the tradition in this sense before they will explicitly acknowledge Danica Roem as a woman.”
Responding to the decision, Danica Roem tweeted: “I know the intent behind this wasn’t charitable toward me and I’m grateful our hopefully future Speaker @deltoscano has my back.
“That said, I hope the unintended consequence of this will be non-binary Virginians feeling emboldened to run for office and win.”
Roem’s victory was lauded as a historic moment, not least by Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of Victory Fund, which endorsed her.
“Tonight voters chose a smart, solutions-oriented trans leader over a divisive anti-LGBTQ demagogue – sending a powerful message to anti-trans legislators all across the nation,” she said upon Roem’s win.
“Danica defeated ‘Bigot Bob’ Marshall not because she is transgender, but because she presented a positive vision for her constituents that will improve their lives.
“We are determined to replicate this race nationwide – using constituent-focused LGBTQ candidates to takedown elected officials who use their positions to target our community. Tonight was the opening salvo.”
This past weekend, Demi Lovato took Roem as her date to the American Music Awards in Los Angeles, praising her for being “completely inspirational” and “a trailblazer”.