On April 22, Toni Mua tweeted, “Hi I’m Toni Mua & I believe I just broke history as the first trans person to run for state legislature in Michigan! I’m doing this to change the face of politics and to rebuild community trust. Please follow and donate.” She included a photo of herself with paperwork in hand.
As a 25-year-old transgender woman of color running to represent Michigan’s 10th State House District, Mua recognizes she’s already made history just by being an openly trans candidate for the state legislature. Nationally, if elected, Mua would only be the second trans woman of color elected to any state legislature, following Stephanie Byers of Kansas. And from what Mua told Pride Source, it sounds like this young woman is ready to shatter some glass ceilings.
The 10th State House District comprises Detroit’s lower east side and the Grosse Pointes. It’s where Mua grew up. “I’m honestly running because I feel like there’s a need for a new generation of leaders to step up,” Mua said. “And since redistricting and being raised and born in this district and having close ties to it, I thought it was time for me to give back.”
As she embarks on her plan to enter public service, Mua said what motivates her is the desire to help people. She has a brother who is disabled, and she has experience helping with things like the Special Olympics and Autism Speaks. Today, “I actually have a crisis management firm,” Mua said. “So my degree is in business and crisis management. But before that, I was actually a make-up artist and a beauty professional for New York Fashion Week.”
At the Creating Change conference a few years ago, Mua met representatives from Planned Parenthood. As a volunteer for Planned Parenthood Advocates since 2019, Mua said it was her work with the organization that helped propel her into the world of politics. She said what they do “felt so near and dear to my heart.” She’s not only tabled at events, she went to Washington, D.C. with Planned Parenthood to talk to members of Congress about Title IX.
In terms of her own district’s needs, Mua would like to see a solution to chronic flooding.
“I believe the biggest issue for District 10 is the water infrastructure issue, noting that “a lot of family and friends who also live in the district have been impacted by the several times that it flooded. And I just feel like there has to be something more that we could do to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Our houses have flooded more than 10 times over the past decade or so.”
Mua would also shine a light on education issues in Lansing if elected. She’d fight for greater educational opportunities for students and more resources for teachers.
“I feel like education is [at] the forefront of everything that I believe in,” Mua said. “If it wasn’t for the education and the resources that I had growing up, I wouldn’t be where I am today, so I definitely want to expand educational opportunities statewide.”
Mua faces a tough challenge, as she is running a campaign against an incumbent Democrat, but she is not deterred. As a matter of fact, originally, Mua planned to run for Congress, then decided she could achieve more at the state level. Part of the reason she went in a different direction was to get her feet wet in politics.
According to Victory Fund data, out of the 38 openly trans women in public office across the country, eight are in state legislatures. A member of the Chicksaw Nation, Stephanie Byers is the first transgender Native American elected to office. Mua’s mother, a nurse, immigrated from the Philippines and her father is Black. A win by Mua would represent a significant milestone.
“Making history would be something … important, not only to me … but I feel like we need better representation in our state legislature,” Mua said. “How do you go about speaking for someone you can’t empathize with on a different level, when you don’t even want to speak or just deal with them in general? I feel like this is really important for representation from the different communities at the table coming together.”
Mua wants to center other marginalized voices, too.
“I just have a passion for helping people and using my voice to help put others’ voices at the forefront,” Mua said. “Because whenever I walk into a [room], people are gonna stare. And if they’re gonna stare, I might have to just give them a reason to.”
Learn more about Mua’s campaign at @tonimua on Instagram. Early voting has begun. Election Day is Aug. 2.