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Trans woman Danica Roem beat her anti-trans opponent by focusing on ... roads. Seriously.

It turns out that if you run a campaign centered on real issues, people take notice.

Trans woman Danica Roem beat her anti-trans opponent by focusing on ... roads. Seriously.

"To every person who's ever been singled out, who's ever been stigmatized, who's ever been the misfit, who's ever been the kid in the corner, who's ever needed someone to stand up for them when they didn't have a voice of their own ... this one's for you," said Virginia delegate-elect Danica Roem during a fiery victory speech on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Roem is a transgender woman, but her gender identity is secondary to the main issue she campaigned on: fixing Route 28.

"That's why I got in this race, because I'm fed up with the frickin' road over in my home town," she said to laughter and applause during the speech, calling on the state legislature to fix existing problems rather than creating new ones.


Roem's election makes her the first out transgender person who will be elected and seated in a state legislature. Photo by Danica Roem for Delegate.

Roem used her speech to highlight the importance of focusing on unifying issues like infrastructure, ensuring teachers get fair pay, working to expand access to health care, and finding cost-effective solutions to local problems.

"This is the important stuff," she told the crowd. "We can't get lost in discrimination. We can't get lost in BS. We can't get lost tearing each other down."

It's that view, that it's the government's job to address issues of infrastructure and public health, that set her apart from her opponent, incumbent candidate Bob Marshall. Marshall, the self-described "chief homophobe" of Virginia, is perhaps best known for introducing a so-called "bathroom bill" designed to discriminate against trans people. Seeing a politician so obsessed with his anti-LGBTQ views have his seat won out from under him by a trans woman just feels ... symbolic.

Oh yeah, did I mention Roem is also a singer in a heavy metal band?

Mailers sent out by her opponent's campaign before the election warned that "[His] defeat would signal that holding these [anti-LGBTQ] principles is a detriment to being elected."

Hopefully, Marshall is right about that. The people who represent us in government should represent all of us, and his defeat shows many voters aren't willing to put up with elected officials who don't see things that way.

In a recent interview on a right-wing radio show, Marshall showed his disdain for Roem and trans people, generally:

"It is not a civil right to masquerade your fantasies as reality. ... I’ve drawn a line. I’m not leaving it, because I don’t make the laws of nature but I think I understand them, at least at this fundamental level. I never flunked biology, so I’m not going to call a man a woman, period."

If a candidate wants to run on a platform of legislating trans people out of public existence or thinks it's OK accuse their political opponents of defying the laws of nature, that should be detrimental to their odds of being elected.

We need more candidates like Roem whose political ambitions revolve around how best to help their constituents.

This country belongs to all of us. As Roem said in her victory speech (which is excellent, and you should watch it below) with all the intensity of a seasoned politician:

"No matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship, who you love, how you identify — and yeah, how you rock — that if you have good public policy ideas and you’re well qualified for office, bring those ideas to the table because this is your America too."

Just as it's not enough for Democrats to simply run on being not-Trump, perhaps this is a sign that it's not enough for Republicans to bank on voters hating the same groups as them. During the 2016 election, then-North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory ran hard on the state's anti-trans bathroom bill only to come up short; Marshall did the same in his race against Roem.

Maybe, just maybe, empathy is winning out, and maybe people are coming to understand that the purpose of government isn't to determine who to oppress, but how to help lift us all.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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