Story at a glance

  • Two candidates for North Carolina’s senate could become the state’s first openly transgender lawmakers.
  • Their candidacy is historic in a state that made headlines this decade for a bill restricting the rights of transgender people to use public bathrooms.
  • Danica Roem, from Virginia, became the first openly transgender candidate elected to office in 2017.

Three years after Danica Roem, the nation's first openly transgender candidate, was elected to office in Virginia, two candidates in North Carolina are seeking to become the state’s first transgender lawmakers. 

Attorney Gray Ellis of Durham and Angela Bridgman of Wendell are running as Democrats for seats in the state Senate, according to the News & Observer. North Carolina currently has no openly transgender state lawmakers and only four openly gay or lesbian members of the General Assembly. 

“I think it’s right and it’s time for [transgender people] to have a seat at the table. We’re completely unrepresented,” Ellis told the News & Observer.

This is the same state that enacted House Bill 2 (HB2), commonly known as the "bathroom bill,” in 2016, which, among other things, restricted the use of public bathrooms based on assigned gender at birth. That section of the bill was repealed a year later and a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder in 2018 established the right of transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.  

HB2 was one of several reasons Bridgman gave the News & Observer for running, and Ellis called the state’s passage of the bill “horrifying.”

Ellis is seeking to replace Democratic Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr., in NC-20, northeast of Durham, while Bridgman is running in Wake County, where the incumbent Republican Sen. John Alexander is not seeking reelection. Both candidates face primary challengers.

Their candidacies come during a consequential election for the state, which recently approved a redistricting plan after its Supreme Court found political gerrymandering violated the state constitution. While the state senate districts were not affected, the redistricting is expected to give the Democratic party momentum in the election.   

North Carolina elected its first openly lesbian state legislator, Julia Boseman, in 2005, followed by Marcus Brandon in 2011. 

“We’ve arrived as transgender people when someone like Gray or myself can be elected, and it’s no big deal,” Bridgman said to the News & Observer.

Published on Dec 23, 2019