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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.

"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.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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