By Amy Hunter
BAY CITY – Michigan has been without an openly LGBTQ legislator in Lansing for almost seven years. That will change in 2015 when Jon Hoadley and Jeremy Moss take their seats in the Michigan House of Representatives. Both of these talented men won crucial primary contests in August which more or less guarantee them election in this coming Tuesday’s general election.
For many years, Equality Michigan Pride PAC, Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality and others have been endorsing and supporting pro-equality candidates and groups like The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund worked to get openly LGBTQ candidates elected. Michigan had been on Victory’s “Legislative Horizon State” list for many years. With Jon and Jeremy’s election, what is next in Michigan?
Enter Charin Davenport, an adjunct faculty member at Saginaw Valley State University and Delta College who is running a write-in campaign for Delta College Trustee in Michigan’s thumb area. She’s savvy and engaged with a background in journalism and market research. Charin’s candidacy is remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that she’s an out trans*woman – a very rare occurrence in electoral politics. And what’s more, she’s running an impressively smart write-in campaign. So impressive in fact, that Equality Michigan Pride PAC has broken with precedent and endorsed a write-in campaign for the first time in its twenty-eight year history.
“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu,” is an often recited mantra in LGBTQ politics. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why this is true. It is a well established fact that when a legislative body looks like its constituency, that body’s members are more likely to support measures which are favorable to that constituency’s issues. If not, the results speak for themselves.
The profound need for our communities to be represented in public office is evidenced by the nearly thirty year battle to amend our civil rights laws. Witness recent developments around the updating of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to protect LGBTQ Michiganders from discrimination. Even with the economic data and a large part of the corporate community on the side of equality, some legislators are still balking at extending fair protection to Michigan’s LGBTQ people and in particular, protections for gender identity and gender expression seem to be stumbling blocks for them. Even a prominent gay lobbyist has said he’d be OK with leaving out trans*people.
Michigan will have not one, but two out-gay legislators in Lansing come the first session of 2015. Let’s check that one off our bucket list for now. Their leadership in Lansing will undoubtedly help bring about significant movement on many equality issues that have been blocked by the extreme conservative control of our legislature, but lived equality, especially for the trans* and genderqueer communities still lags far behind. That’s why Charin Davenport running for office is so important.
It’s been a terrific year of visibility for trans*people. Heck, a few years ago, it was almost as if we didn’t exist at all or, if we did, it was in horrible stereotypes and to be laughed at or feared. Now you can’t go more than a day or two without seeing a mainstream media outlet running a story about out, visible and unapologetic trans*people. And that’s great; accurate cultural awareness is the first step toward social integration. The next step toward lived equality is vertical integration in culture and the establishment structures of a society.
Charin Davenport, an out, capable, unapologetic trans*woman running for office is that next step. Who knows, maybe Charin’s next step is the Michigan House of Representatives?
I’d vote for her.