by Del. Danica Roem
On Friday morning, Capital News Service ran a story about members of the Westboro Baptist Church planning to protest my existence as a trans woman in state government.
Now, I knew about the protest last Saturday from a tweet WBC sent out that included my name but it didn’t draw any traction, so I didn’t make any public comments about it until Friday when it made the news as I didn’t want to draw any attention to it.
But once it made the news, all bets were off, so I put out a statement with my response being in its entirety, “Meh.”
I also made a pitch for people to donate to my re-election campaign, saying, “They’ll hate that,” referring to WBC.
Well, that’s when the money started coming in and soon a few hundred dollars arrived. That quickly turned into $1,000 and I started the #WestboroBackfire hashtag. You can follow along my Twitter page (@pwcdanica) to see how that evolved.
By the end of the night, we received 392 donations totaling $15,962 for my 2019 re-election campaign. In the 43 minutes after midnight, another 18 people chipped in $476, bringing our total to $16,438 from 409 donations.
All of those donations except for one came from either emails, Facebook status updates or tweets I sent out (I run my own social media). Among the donors were my constituents from each of the four communities I represent in the 13th District of the Virginia House of Delegates: Haymarket, Gainesville, Manassas and Manassas Park.
The other donation came after I sent a text to my top donor, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele — who chairs the LGBTQ Victory Fund — to let him know what was going on. He matched the first $5,000 raised by everyone else and sent me a message to go along with it.
Chris wrote, “If you get the chance, tell the Westboro folks I said to thank them for reminding me to make another donation to my favorite VA delegate; I might have forgotten otherwise.”
The point of sharing this with you is this is a good story about people finding a positive, nonviolent way to respond to hate by supporting someone targeted by that hate. As you can tell from the attached image that one of my Gainesville constituents wrote Friday, I work hard for my constituents and I work in an inclusive way. We’re all in this together.
However, whether it’s from a dog whistle or a bullhorn, transphobia is never okay. Just because I won an election in 2017 doesn’t mean hate toward transgender people has stopped. More than 20 trans people in the United States are routinely murdered each year, according to TDOR.info, and 2017 and 2018 were no exceptions, and neither is 2019 for that matter.
But there are so many more good people out there who want to help, who genuinely want to support elected officials and candidates who promote inclusivity and constituent service.
You’ll notice all throughout the day I never wasted my time responding to the words used by the WBC, other than one sentence in one email because it was comically bad. Instead, I set out to make the best out of a bad situation by doing what a good candidate for office should do: flip the script on something negative by raising money off of the response without amplifying the original negativity and driving a unifying message about love conquering hate.
The people of the 13th District elected me to focus on their priorities of traffic, jobs, schools and health care while working to make Virginia a more inclusive commonwealth. That way, no matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship if you do or who you love, you’re welcomed, celebrated, respected and protected here because of who you are, not despite it.
Unless you’re WBC.
Because, I mean… do I really need an asterisks to explain why?
13th District Delegate
Virginia House of Delegates