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Vermont Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist, a transgender woman and former electric company executive, applauds with her supporters during her election night party in Burlington, Vt., Aug. 14, 2018.
Charles Krupa/AP
Citizenship

Christine Hallquist Makes US History as First Openly Trans Major Party Candidate for Governor


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Transgender people in the US face widespread discrimination and are barely represented in government. By running for governor of Vermont, Christine Hallquist is able to make transgender issues more mainstream and fight for equal rights. You can join us in taking action on these issue here.

Christine Hallquist won the Democratic nomination for governor of Vermont on Tuesday in her bid to become the highest-elected transgender person in United States history, according to the New York Times. This makes her the first openly trans gubernatorial candidate to be nominated by a major party.

Hallquist was able to easily beat three other nominees in the Democratic primary election, but her victory was never much in doubt, according to CNN. The general election will be a tougher contest as Hallquist challenges Republican incumbent Phil Scott, who enjoys broad support in the progressive state with a libertarian streak.

But Hallquist’s nomination is being hailed as a major achievement for transgender rights, signalling the gains that have been made in recent years and serving as a reminder that these rights need to be championed and furthered at higher levels of government, according to the Times.

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Hallquist told CNN’s Don Lemon on Tuesday night that she wants to fight corruption and bigotry.

"People like myself and who normally wouldn't be in politics are rising up all over [in response to President Trump's election] and I think that's what healthy democracy looks like," she said. "I'm hoping that years from now we can look back and say, 'Isn't American democracy wonderful: We survived a death spot.'”

In another interview on Tuesday, Hallquist spoke about what drives her.

“I can handle all the bigotry and grief in the world to know that I’m supporting people in a marginalized community,” she said. “And it’s not just about the transgender community, it’s not just about the LGBTQ community, it’s all marginalized communities.”

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Hallquist told Elle magazine that she first felt compelled to enter politics in 2017 after attending a slam poetry event in which four Muslim girls spoke about being harassed for wearing hijabs and other forms of discrimination they endured.

“It’s hard to imagine,” she said. “Of course being somebody who had just transitioned a couple of years earlier, I can certainly relate to what feels like being marginalized. But to hear it from these Muslim women was really hard for me to take.”

She was also motivated by the support she received after publicly transitioning in 2015, and how a documentary on the process made by her son was positively received.

"I was sure I was going to lose my job. I was sure I was going to lose respect. But that didn't happen," Hallquist told CNN. "So this describes the beauty of Vermont. Now I'm at this point where I can't do enough to give back to Vermont."

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Hallquist, a former energy executive, ran a staunchly progressive campaign, calling for Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, investments in renewable energy, an end to racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and more.  

She was endorsed by human rights groups such as the LGBTQ Victory Fund and National Center for Transgender Equality.

In recent years, the number of LGBTQ candidates running for office have risen sharply, especially in the aftermath of the election of US President Donald Trump, according to CNN.  

There are more than 400 LGBTQ candidates campaigning in the current political cycle, according to the Victory Institute. In 2017, Democrat Danica Roem became the first transgender state representative in Virginia and Andrea Jenkins became the Minnesota’s African American transgender state rep.

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Many of these campaigns have been fueled by ongoing efforts to roll back LGBTQ rights.

By making it into the halls of power, however, advocates like Roem, Jenkins, and now Hallquist can fight to make sure that equal rights apply to everyone.

"This is not a time in American history to sit back and be apathetic," Hallquist said at her campaign launch. "We must be bold in the face of the headwinds from Washington, we must be bold in the face of continuing unpredictability from Congress, and we must be bold in the face of the chaos from the White House."