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Virginia delegate urges underrepresented groups to run for office

Shahriyar Emami, Staff Reporter

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Students, faculty and staff gathered in a ten Hoor classroom on Tuesday, Oct. 16 to hear Virginia Delegate Danica Roem (D-13th), the first out transgender woman elected to a state legislature, speak about the importance of people from underrepresented groups running for political office.

Roem was elected on Nov. 7 last year for the office of the Virginia House of Delegates. She defeated the predecessor Robert G. Marshall, who referred to himself as “chief homophobe” and introduced a controversial bill restricting transgender individuals’ use of restrooms in schools before his loss to Roem.

Roem’s talk is part of the Women and Gender Resource Center’s Intentionally Diversifying Engagement and Leadership Series, or I.D.E.A.L. The talk took place in honor of LGBT History Month.

Austin Schutz, a third-year graduate student in political science, said that he feels the University does not do enough to ensure that queer people, people of color and trans people have access to the institutional support that they need.

Schutz helps run Gradient at UA, an organization for LGBTQ+ graduate students at the University and their allies.

“It’s important because we need visible reminders that we are here on this campus and that we need support and representation just like anybody else,” Schutz said.

Before being elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, Roem worked as a reporter for ten and a half years. Roem worked as a lead reporter for the Gainesville Times from 2006 to 2015 and served as the news editor of the Montgomery County Sentinel from 2015 to 2016.

During her talk, Roem encouraged students from underrepresented groups to run for political office and be involved and be involved in politics.

“If I can get any message out to you all today it is that very simple message of be who you are, be that well and succeed because of who you are,” Roem said.

Roem said that underrepresented people should not let other people dictate their lives.

“If you’re well-qualified and you have good ideas then bring those ideas to the table,” Roem said. “Because no matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship if you do or who you love, if you’re well-qualified for office and you do have those good ideas, well this is your America too and you have to run it and you have that right to run it just as much as any other American.”

Another message that Roem emphasized is the importance of journalism.

Roem said that factors like reporters being attacked verbally and physically and the institution of journalism under financial duress can deter people from entering the field.

“It is so important at this time that we have good reporters telling the stories and holding the government accountable because we badly, badly need that throughout the country,” Roem said. “It’s really a blessing right now that a lot of journalism schools across the country have seen a surge of students entering their programs.”

For Roem, the die-hard journalists that know the risks of going into the field are the ones that will do well.

Attendees were encouraged to ask question after Roem’s talk.

“If there’s any graduate professional or non-traditional students who are looking for some support based around LGBT+ issues or if you’re an ally of the community, look up our Facebook page, Gradient at UA,” Schutz said.


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Virginia delegate urges underrepresented groups to run for office