The Suburban Women Problem

Pronouns Aren’t Bullets (with Del. Danica Roem and Elliott Kozuch)

March 15, 2023 Red Wine & Blue Season 3 Episode 9
The Suburban Women Problem
Pronouns Aren’t Bullets (with Del. Danica Roem and Elliott Kozuch)
Show Notes Transcript

This year alone, over 400 bills have been introduced to block transgender people from receiving basic healthcare, education, and the right to publicly exist. These bills not only harm individual trans people, they’re also an attack on our freedom and our democracy. Just like with reproductive rights, it all comes down to extremist politicians inserting themselves into a conversation that should be between a person and their doctor. Or between a kid and their parents!

We’re joined by Elliott Kozuch, who shares their thoughts as the Senior Communications Strategist for NARAL Pro-Choice America and a person who’s trans and non-binary. Elliott talks about what the fight for trans rights and reproductive rights have in common, and what we can do to band together and stand up against extremism.

Then Jasmine sits down with Danica Roem, a Virginia state delegate, a journalist, and the first openly trans person to be elected as a state representative. Jasmine and Danica chat about authenticity, trans rights, and what people get wrong about the suburbs.

Finally, Amanda, Rachel and Jasmine raise a glass to high school theater, 100 Women Strong Ohio, and Junior’s Cheesecake in this episode’s “Toast to Joy.”

If you want to stay in the loop about the pending ban on the abortion pill, we encourage you to join us in our Emergency Trouble Huddle on Monday, March 20th. We’ll be joined by Skye Perryman, the President and CEO of Democracy Forward, and Dr. Colleen McNicholas, a board-certified OB-GYN and the Chief Medical Officer of Planned Parenthood Missouri. You can learn more and sign up here.

For a transcript of this episode, please email

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Twitter: @TheSWPpod and @RedWineBlueUSA

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The Suburban Women Problem - Season 3, Episode 9

Jasmine Clark: Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Jasmine Clark. 

Amanda Weinstein: I'm Amanda Weinstein.

Rachel Vindman: I'm Rachel Vindman.

Jasmine: And you're listening to the Suburban Women Problem. This year alone, over 450 bills have been introduced to block trans people from receiving basic healthcare education and the right to publicly exist. One far right speaker at CPAC last week even said that “transgenderism must be eradicated.” These bills not only harm individual trans people, they're also an attack on our freedom and our democracy. Just like with reproductive rights, it all comes down to extremist politicians inserting themselves into a conversation that should be between a person and their doctor. 

So this week we'll be joined by Elliott Kozuch, who can speak to both of those issues as the senior communications strategist for NARAL Pro-Choice America, and a person who's trans and non-binary. And after that, I'll get the chance to talk to Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person to serve as a state representative. 

But before we get to all that, how are you guys? And I'm so sad that I had to miss you all last week.  

Amanda: Oh, Jasmine, you've been busy. I feel like you should start with like, tell us what you've been up to.

Jasmine: So on Monday, which is when we normally record, we also had Crossover Day at the Georgia State Capitol. And so Crossover Day is basically the deadline for a bill to pass out of at least one chamber or the other chamber. And so we started our day very early. Some people had committee meetings as early as 7:30 AM and we voted on the last bill at 11:40 PM. So a very, very, very long day. Lots of bills. 

And actually it's pretty on target for what we're talking about this week because one of the bills that passed here in Georgia was SB 140 and this bill would basically ban gender affirming care that parents might seek for their children. And so that bill did unfortunately pass and so we'll probably see it and on the House side really, really soon. SB means it was a Senate bill. I'm on the House side, so it has crossed over to the House. I am hoping that I never see it, but if I do, I'm ready to fight it because it's just right along the lines of everything else we've been seeing with extremists trying to insert themselves into people's lives while also at the same time yelling about freedom. They don't trust doctors. They don't trust people to make decisions for their children that they think will help them. 

And again, there's a doctor involved in this process. Doctors go through a lot of schooling. I'm not saying they're always right 100% of the time, but goodness, let them do their job and stop trying to tell doctors what they can and can't do when you literally have no idea what you're talking about. It really… it really grates on my nerves. 

Rachel: Well, as it should. It should for all of us. I mean, I think when there are these victories of infringing on people's rights, of diminishing physicians’ roles in healthcare, then it becomes normal for people to hear that medical care and the rights that we have are being legislated. 

Amanda: And our rights as parents. No one's an expert on your kids like you are. Like, yes, doctors are important, but we've all had experiences where… whether it's like, with sleep issues, like it was with my kids, right? My experiences were very different than other people, and I had a doctor at the time who took me as an expert at my kid's sleep. Knowing that she was a doctor, like, she listened very hard. Like you are the expert on your kid, and let's let you be the expert on your kid. And we have so many laws not letting people be the expert on their kid. And it just frustrates me. 

Like, the trans community is about 1% of the population, ish, right? So they're creating so many bills, like the number of bills that they're creating targeting trans people? Far over 1%. But if you ask people, there are certain polls where some people think trans people are about 20% of the population because in part of these bills and how much they hear about it from legislators and how much misinformation there is. There's just such a huge disconnect. 

But meanwhile, we have really big issues. What happened to the learning loss from the pandemic everyone is talking about? What about our big economic issues, like when we're still dealing with labor shortages? And all they seem to come up with is, “Oh, how about we get rid of child labor laws?” Because child labor laws are how we fix the learning loss with the pandemic? I don't think so. But really, if you ask them, they're like, “Well, maybe this is a way to fix, you know, our labor shortages.” And what they're really saying is we are trying to help companies not have to raise their wages to deal with that labor shortage. 

What we really have is a wage shortage, right, not a labor shortage. And the way that they're trying to have companies avoid actually raising their wages is by, well, how about child labor? So we just had a bill in Ohio pass, and I know Arkansas has done the same thing. 

Jasmine: Georgia has a bill moving as well.

Amanda: Ugh. So I was really surprised. We had no opposition testimony and I mean none. There weren't doctors coming in to talk about how important sleep is for children. There weren't educators talking about about how much homework we require of eighth graders. We're talking about eighth graders working til 9, waking up at 6:00 AM the next day. The long-term consequences that we know are associated with less likely to graduate high school, less likely to go to college, more likely to be unemployed, are just simply not worth it.

Jasmine: If I recall correctly, the Biden administration was pointing out that there were slaughterhouses in places that had these children working, cleaning, using caustic chemicals. And cleaning razor sharp machines and things like that. 

Amanda: Children are also associated with more workplace incidents. Like of course, because they're kids, right?

Jasmine: Yeah, they're kids. Like we're not around here like letting the kids play with bleach and sharp objects. But apparently these legislators think that that's a good idea. Oh, and let's let them do it in the middle of the night. And it's like I don't understand how we are reversing, like going in reverse.

Amanda: It was not on my bingo card! 

Rachel: I feel like all these people that are passing these laws now and trying to do these things right now, the reality is for them… this stuff never went away. They never changed their views. They never became enlightened or got more information and felt a different way. A lot of them still felt the same way, but now they have some politicians who are willing to entertain these ideas. Whether or not they actually believe them, they're willing to do it in exchange for power, in exchange for influence. And so for them, the power is a zero sum game. And when they, when other people have more power and opportunity, they have less. And I think that there are, again, many politicians who are willing to champion those views in exchange for their positions of power. 

Amanda: So we actually had a Nazi rally here in Ohio just a couple days ago. 

Rachel: Lovely.

Amanda: So fun. And it was a Nazi rally against drag queens and they accused all drag queens of pedophilia and really they were all chanting about all of the pedophiles and the grooming and all of this from the Nazis. This is now somewhat normalized and this is a way for them to gain power. So they find who they can step on, and so this time it was drag queens who they can step on, to step up, in their view. To get more power. And to be clear, we're talking about Nazis, like holding Nazi flags. They are very open that they are Nazis. 

Rachel: I can't imagine.

Amanda: It was, it is terrible, and I don't think we hear enough about it and the things that they're doing. But we've also talked on the show about how limiting reproductive rights is really about control.

Rachel: Of course. 

Amanda: And what worries me is... I don't, well, I don't know if this is right or wrong, but what worries me more about the 20, you know, attorneys general who wrote notes about not wanting Miffy being sold on their shelves, is Walgreens caving! And saying, “Okay, 20 states, we will no longer sell Miffy on the shelves.” And in a lot of those states, it was already illegal, but not all of them. There were many states where it was still legal. Kansas is one of them. Montana's another one, I think Alaska's another. Where they basically caved to extremists. 

Now to be clear, there was a huge backlash and their stock prices tanked. So then I was like, “Oh, yay. Go markets.” So then they had to walk it back. 

Jasmine: Yeah. And to be clear, we're talking about Mifepristone, the medical abortion pill, and you know, I've gone to Walgreens before. I've gone to CVS before, but after this whole thing, I will make it a point not to set foot in a Walgreens.

Amanda: I think they underestimated how loud and how much of a minority that the people they were caving to were. And then what the, what you see in the stock prices and people refusing to go to Walgreens is suddenly it became very clear that the majority does not agree with that statement. The majority is for reproductive rights, reproductive freedom. And not for attorneys general or any politician making that decision for women.

Rachel: I won’t shop at Walgreens, I'll tell you that. 

Jasmine: Me either, like, I literally won't. 

Rachel: And I’m not gonna make a big deal out of it. I'm just not gonna go there because I, again, like I don't have time to make a big deal out of it. This is, this is right here, the biggest conversation I've had about this, but I've made the decision personally. And that's the mistake. That is the mistake that so many people make, people who don't vote because they're listening to this loud group and they think that because they're loud, that there’s more of them. That's not the case. 

But you see, they're surprised how Biden won when they didn't see any Biden flags. It's cause we're fucking normal. And also, have you heard of physics? You don't wanna have a big flag on your car. It's not very good for gas mileage.

Amanda: Gas mileage! Yes! Totally. 

I mean, so before we come to our guest, I did wanna talk about the bank run that we had in Silicon Valley. Which, I don't know if you guys heard about the Silicon Valley Bank, so it's basically like from It's a Wonderful Life bank run–

Rachel: It’s the Great Depression!

Amanda: Ha, yes! Except for it happened in Silicon Valley, and I know all the venture capitalists in Silicon Valley basically all tried to get their money out at the same time, just like in It's A Wonderful Life. And the FDIC had to take it over to stop it. But here's the issue. So the FDIC insures up to $250,000 in deposits. So everyone who has at least 250,000, if something were to happen, it's insured. You get that money back. Now, here's the real sticker. 95% of their deposits were over $250,000. So now you have a bunch of very wealthy people a little worried about bank regulations all of a sudden, who just weren't that worried about bank regulations before this. 

Rachel: We need to have some sort of alert on the podcast when we get to every week's segment of “Deregulation: it's bad for everyone!” Because it comes up all the time. Because it's true! But they're okay with regulation when it comes to what I can do to my body and what books my child can read. Can I just point that out? 

Jasmine: Oh my gosh. 

Amanda: I know! So you did have treasury secretary Janet Yellen, who is a badass economist, who said that there will not be a bailout. Right? So they have the same insurance policy we all do, 250,000, but she right now is like, “no bailout guys.” Like you need to be paying attention to your bank and bank regulations. And some of you were the same people who argued to take away bank regulations to make sure that, for example, this bank kept more money on hand in case something like this happened.

Jasmine: Exactly. Well, speaking of experts and just letting people, you know, do what they're good at, do what they are trained to do, our guest today knows all about the overlap between abortion and LGBTQ justice. So Elliott, thank you for joining us on the Suburban Women Problem! 

Elliott Kozuch: So great to be here. Thank you. 

Amanda: So it sounds like you've been working for reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights for basically your whole life. What inspired you to not just fight for those causes in your free time but to build your career around them? 

Elliott: Ah, thank you for that. Frankly, I think I've been doing this for my whole life cuz it kind of is my whole life. You know, I'm a transgender person, I'm a bisexual person, I'm a person who can get pregnant. I grew up in the rural conservative south. So, you know, I think just growing up at those intersections, it's really just always been a part of my journey. I've always known I've wanted to do this. I got really involved in campus activism in college, and here I am today doing writing and communications work for NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Rachel: So what, just to get right into it, what are the, some of the anti-trans bills being proposed right now and what are the real effects that those are gonna have on trans kids and adults around the country? 

Elliott: Yeah, so I think we are in a really honestly kind of scary moment when it comes to state legislation. So right now the ACLU, one of NARAL’s really close partners, is tracking nearly 400 anti LGBTQ bills. And all of those bills impact the trans community. But of course, there's also very specific bills that target only the trans community. 

Of those bills, I think the two biggest buckets that we're seeing are attacks on trans healthcare, and that largely means denying trans children the healthcare they need to live their most authentic lives.  And we're also seeing bans on talking about trans topics in schools. That can look like book bans, that can look like the so-called Don't Say Gay that we're seeing in places like Florida. And what these bills effectively are doing is they're just taking away the ability of trans people to exist, frankly, in public. If we're erasing their ability to get care, if we're erasing the ability to even mention the existence of trans people in schools, it's effectively trying to erase trans people from the entire conversation. And that is pretty scary. 

Rachel: 400 bills for a population that's anywhere from 1 to 5% of the American population, 400 bills. I mean, what if they put that much thought and energy into public education and to, to helping, actually helping fund public education or having childcare. When they're spending time with this, they're not spending time solving the problems that absolutely do exist and affect all of us.  

Elliott: Yes, no, absolutely. As someone who works at NARAL Pro-Choice America, I spend most of my time really diving in on bills impacting abortion access and reproductive freedom. And it's interesting coming from an LGBTQ activist background, looking at these bills, often they look like MadLibs of one another. The ways that we're attacking healthcare in the reproductive sphere, almost identical to the way that we're seeing similar attacks on transgender healthcare. And, you know, ultimately a lot of these bills are coming from the same national organizations that are attacking both realms. And we're seeing the same lawmakers at the state and federal level introducing all of these same bills. So it really just shows how connected these movements are. 

I think in a lot of ways, you know, it boils down to power and control. You know, these are politicians that recognize that when they reduce the humanity of the people who don't vote for them, if they attack their right to vote, if they attack their right to access healthcare, if they attack their right to access education, it's gonna be easier for them to retain their power and control and their positions. And that sounds dystopian, but it's because it kind of is.

Rachel: Yeah, no, I, I completely agree. 

Amanda: So I got to talk to your colleague Angela Vasquez Giroux a couple weeks ago about the mifepristone ban, and we were actually talking on Friday when it was supposed to be announced, and we're still here and we're like, “When's this, when's this gonna be announced?” So do you have any idea of what they are waiting for? Is there anything new going on with the ruling about this in the Texas case?

Elliott:  Yeah, so I, you know, I can't pretend to be inside Judge Kacsmaryk’s head, and frankly, I'm really glad that I can't. 

Rachel: This is probably a good thing. 

Amanda: Yeah, we don't wanna go there.

Elliott: However, there actually has been a really interesting update in this case that came out just this past weekend. Today's Monday, this is a news story that came out yesterday, that the judge in that Texas case, Matthew Kacsmaryk, he sought to delay telling the public of a new hearing that's supposed to be happening on Wednesday, and that's a really sort of unprecedented moment. The fact that this is not, you know, did not become public in the same way, or he sought for it to not become public in the same way these hearings traditionally are. 

And you know, like I said, I can really only speculate here. I'm not a lawyer and I'm certainly not Matthew Kacsmaryk himself. But what I suspect here is that he knows that we have this people power. He knows that there is this public opinion. And he knows that people who are impacted by this case, which to be clear, is every single one of us. whether or not we can get pregnant, whether or not we have a loved one who can get pregnant. It's gonna impact every single person in this country. And I think he knows that, and I think that he's still aiming to attack our most fundamental freedoms, but he also knows that we're gonna fight back for that freedom. And I think that's why he's trying to hide some of these aspects of the case from the public right now.

Amanda: That is such a great point. And man, if he didn't know it, like after the whole Walgreens debacle happened, he sure knows it now in case he was trying to pretend he didn't know it.

Rachel: No matter how loud they are, they are not the majority. We know this, we know this, we know this. They try to get around it with gerrymandering, they try to get around it with secrecy. They are not the majority. And if we use our voices and we use our vote, it is still, we're gonna have to claw our way out of a lot of this mess. But it's absolutely possible if we put the work in.

Elliott: Yes. I'm gonna repeat something that I heard Angela say on the fantastic episode she was featured on, but you know, 8 in 10 Americans support reproductive freedom, support the legal right to access abortion care. 

Amanda: We call that a majority, a very clear majority.

Rachel: Is that a technical economist term Amanda?

Elliott: That's, I mean, to me, maybe I'm overstating it, but to me, that's not just a majority, that's a consensus. And no matter what these anti-choice actors are doing, no matter how they try to sneak and go behind the curtain to attack our rights and go through these backdoor bands to, you know, further attack our most fundamental freedoms, there's too many of us for them.

Amanda: It’s hard to hide from 8 in 10 . 

Rachel: Yeah! 

Amanda: So I love that, Elliott, you've been talking about how these bills that target a certain group, they end up affecting all of us. But as someone who is part of the LGBTQ community and also works for NARAL, you have a unique perspective on the overlaps here. And we often talk about reproductive justice as an issue that affects women but that leaves trans and non-binary people out of the conversation sometimes. So why is it important to be inclusive when we talk about abortion and how can we be inclusive when we talk about abortion?

Elliott: Yeah. I love this question. So I'll kind of start with the why, and I think the why is easy. When we try to divide the communities that are impacted by anti-choice legislation, we're really playing into that anti-choice handbook. We are giving them exactly what they want. Their goal throughout history has been to divide us by redefining us. Ultimately what they're trying to do here is they're trying to take that 8 in 10 and they're trying to split us. Because if they can section out trans people, if they can section out people of color, they can section out any population and pit them against one another, that means we're fighting each other and we're not fighting the powers that are actually impacting us.

So I think that's exactly why we have to maintain unity here. We have to really think through who are our allies, who's on our side, and we have to band together. We have to stick together in this fight. 

And you know, the way to do that is simple. It's just, remember that trans people are here. We're such a small part of the population, and while we've been getting more and more recognition, especially in this past decade, that doesn't change the fact that we're being attacked. And so the more we can speak up about the way anti-choice bills impact trans people, you know, if that's simply saying pregnant people, whether that's simply saying women and trans populations who can get pregnant.

The exact wording is… you know, no one's getting graded here. And I try to tell people that, cause I think people get nervous, you know, when they're talking about trans inclusion. Cause they don't wanna get it wrong. But it's better to get it wrong than to not get it at all, right? Even I mess up sometimes. I've misgendered myself! It doesn't make me a bad person and it doesn't make anyone else a bad person. We're all just here having humanity and trying and maintaining that humanity is important. 

Rachel: I love that you give people the space, you know, for grace, for mistakes. We all make mistakes and we're trying to learn and trying to be a good advocate.

But I'd, I'd love to hear more about how you're feeling personally you know, as you see these 400 bills. I know the work that you do, but how does it affect you personally? 

Elliott: Mmm. That's, that is the question, isn't it? You know, I mean, I'm not gonna lie, there are days that feel really, really difficult, that just feel heavy. You know, I'm a person who worked in the LGBTQ world for years and years talking about the different forms of violence that have impacted the trans community and then I joined the reproductive freedom movement, you know, just about a year and a half before the fall of Roe v. Wade. And that, you know, can't not take a toll.

And so, you know, there are days where I just need to put on my like sad boy, you know, indie rock playlist and just feel some feelings about it. But what I always try to keep myself grounded in, and I think staying grounded is so important for all of us, not just people specifically in this, but your listeners as well, just having to hear this every day, is just sort of looking for the heroes. That's something that I always tell myself. Look for those folks that are doing that good work, those organizations doing that good work, the elected officials doing that good work. 

And just remembering, again, that we are the majority here and even if there is a lot of power concentrated in a lot of really dark circles right now with some of these folks that are pushing these bans, ultimately there's more of us than there are of them. You know, we're gonna get there one way or another. I have no doubt. It might take time. It might take more time than we want, but yeah, we're gonna get there. And in the meantime, you know, The National is a great band and sometimes you just wanna listen to some really sad music and cry it out. And that is ok. It's okay to cry sometimes.

Rachel: You're right. That is okay.

Amanda: Yep. We need that. Can confirm. Alright, Elliott, it has been a pleasure talking with you. You are definitely one of the heroes along with NARAL. And I know that some of the days, I think we've all had those days where we feel like 1 in 10. We're like, we feel like we're 1 in 10, but we're 8 in 10. So thank you for what you do.

Rachel: Thank you so much, Elliott. 

Elliott: And thank you both as well. 

Amanda: Now we're gonna take a quick break and when we come back we'll have Jasmine's interview with Danica Roem.


Jasmine: Our guest today is a Virginia State delegate, a journalist and an alumni of Emerge Virginia. She's been on the cover of TIME Magazine, she's the author of a memoir titled Burn the Page, and she also happens to be the first openly trans person to serve as a state representative. Danica Roem, thank you so much for joining me today on the Suburban Women Problem.

Danica Roem: Thank you so much for the invitation. 

Jasmine: So we talk all the time on the podcast about authenticity. People think there's a quote, mold that they have to fit in in order to be in politics, but I know very well, and I'm sure you do too, that that's just not true. So what has the journey of authenticity been like for you?

Danica: Well, the journey for authenticity for me has basically been 30 years of hiding my actual authentic self. You know, I didn't start therapy for my transition until I was 28, I didn't start HRT till I was 29. And I think that when you have that perspective of having to live a life afraid when you have that experience and then you bring that into politics, that means that you're gonna be in a position where you're talking to people and being real with them, right? Because you've already been afraid. You're done being afraid at this point and you're like, yeah, I'll just be real with you. I spent my entire career as a newspaper reporter vetting facts and holding people accountable for a living. It's not gonna change just cause I got into office. 

And so, you know, I learned from Senator Tammy Baldwin, actually, years ago. She told this great story about how for her, being out as a lesbian and running for Congress and running for, you know, US Senate, that a guy told her once, “if you're willing to be honest about that with me, I guess you're gonna be willing to be honest when you're in office.” And I'm like, well, who's gonna be more honest with you than a transgender metalhead reporter yogini stepmom vegetarian, you know, who's a lifelong resident of Prince William County who covered the stories of our community here for more than nine years? And while doing all of that, you've seen right before your very eyes me saying, “yeah, this is who I am, and let's go work on fixing Route 28 together.” 

I never say I'm transgender “but,” I always say I'm transgender “and.” And to me it is making sure people understand that yes, I am going to be authentically myself AND I'm going to make sure that I'm really focused on your core quality of life issues as I'm doing it.

Jasmine: I love that. I love that. I think that oftentimes, you know, people are like, for instance with me, “Oh, if you're Black, you're only gonna care about Black issues. Or if you're a woman, you're only gonna care about woman issues.” And I'm like, you know, I am capable of doing more than one thing and thinking about more than one thing and caring about more than one thing at a time. And you laid that out perfectly. You can 100% fight for inclusivity and also fight for literal roundabouts at intersections. 

Danica: And here's the thing. Black people get stuck in traffic too. Black women get second traffic too. Trans people get stuck in traffic too. Trans women get stuck in traffic. Transportation as a whole is a civil rights and social justice issue. Your ability to pick your kids up from daycare. Your ability to make it to your job on time without getting fired, right? Your ability to get home and actually get either to a second job or to see your family or do whatever it is is entirely reliant on sound infrastructure and making sure everything works together. You can see transportation, the very design of our roads, being used to perpetuate utter racism. And if you need any example of that, look at Jackson Ward. I95 dissected that community, split it apart, and only now, like literally this year, are we actually dealing with actually reconnecting the community again.

Jasmine: I love that. I love your passion. And so I am curious you brought up how long you've lived in your community. You were born in Manassas, Virginia. You got elected in 2017 as a delegate in the same district that you actually grew up in. So I was also born and raised in Georgia. I didn't live in this district, but I did live in the state. Tell us what, what has it been like to spend most of your life in a district and then you get to turn around and represent the very neighbors that you've pretty much known like most of your life in the Legislature? 

Danica: So what's interesting is because I live in a very transient community, and because I grew up in the woods, I didn't always see a lot of my neighbors. You know, like people when we think about the burbs, right, and this entire podcast is about, you know, suburban issues here, right? We will very much think about that cul-de-sac design, or the houses are on quarter-acre lots and they kind of all go through this like almost Stepford wives, you know, sort of scenario here where you have the overhead shot. And that's absolutely certainly part of the area here. Like no question. That development, that post World War II development is very much prevalent here. No question. 

At the same time, I was out knocking doors, you know, where sometimes you got half a mile between, you know, your targeted houses. And I say that because again, this is the burbs. People forget, there's what people think the burbs are, and then there's what the burbs actually are. Yes, there's a lot of burbs where it's a lot of clustered housing here and businesses over there. And then there's a lot of burbs where you've got a lot of woods around a lot of houses too. That's also a thing. 

And is to the detriment of the public, I believe, to misunderstand how we think of the burbs as this lily white little pasture where it was just like, “oh, because I wanted the spouse and the 2.5 kids and the white picket fence and all the other sorts of stuff.” Like that exists. There's, there's some of it, but it is not the totality of my district. And it is not the totality of people who live in this district. Nope. This is an ethnically diverse area that I represent. And if you were to spend a day with me going elementary school to elementary school, you're gonna notice there's a lot more brown kids than there are white kids. The demographic has completely changed.

Jasmine: Same in Gwinnett County.

Danica: Absolutely. Suburban Atlanta, so similar to what, you know, we experience in suburban DC, like no question. And so I, I think one of the things that we are having to redefine as democratic women representing the burbs is number one, talking to our peers in the suburbs and talking to other other women about what does it mean to actually live here? What does it mean to vote here? What does it mean to want to choose to raise a child here? Right? I would suggest it's just like, well, the blend of people that we have here means that we have to inherently be inclusive, but that's the, one of the unique things about being in the burbs in a, you know, high growth area is that you don't know where everyone's life story around you all the time. And the Prince William County I grew up in in the 1980s and the 1990s is very different than the Prince William County I now represent today, even though I still live in the same zip code.

Jasmine: I love that. I love that you mentioned how the suburbs can look very different than what people picture, because you're right. That's really what this podcast is all about. That's kind of the focus of this podcast. 

So we're all very concerned, as everyone should be about the recent, just like absolute explosion of anti-trans legislation across the country. I know here in Georgia, they're talking about banning any type of gender affirming care for children and basically taking those choices away from parents, but it’s so hard to know exactly what to do or how to help, especially for people who aren't legislators or aren't in the mix. And so could you tell us or tell our listeners more about some of the anti-trans legislation that's happening in your state, and more importantly than what is happening, can you help us to kind of know what they can do?

Danica: Sure. So this year in Virginia, there were about 12 or 13 pieces of specifically anti-trans legislation, you know, that had been introduced, and that was so much more than any time. Since 2016, we have had nine pieces of anti-trans legislation. And then once I won in 2017 as the first out and seated transgender state legislator in the country, I unseated the self-described “chief homophobe Virginia in doing so.”

Jasmine: Oh my gosh. 

Danica: Yeah. I mean, you know, he had been in office for 26 years, over 13 terms. He had authored the state's ban on marriage equality. He had authored the bathroom bill. All that sort of stuff. And he lost this suburban district. And what happened fundamentally at that point was you saw, I believe, in the Republican party at that point, this idea that like, “Oh, this might be too toxic for us to deal with. Let's focus on other things.” Well, what happened is the people who were opposed to trans rights kind of regrouped and they refocused their efforts and they really wanted to start at attacking kids. They thought that was gonna be more palpable to society, and this is not my words, this is their own, this is what they've said themselves. And with the ultimate goal of getting up to be able to attack, you know, trans healthcare for adults, which is what you're seeing in Oklahoma, for example. 

But here's the thing, like there is only so much that the opponents of trans rights are gonna be able to really get electorally out of attacking us. And then you have to ask, how come I've been, how come I’ve earned election three times in a suburban district, if the attacks on trans people were gonna be as prolific, electorally, and successful as electorally as they thought it would be, then Michigan wouldn't be a Democratic trifecta state right now. Cause they just put, you know they put seven digits into attacking Gretchen Whitmer and the state legislative Democrats on this. And the Democrats won. Mallory McMorrow is right now kind of like the poster Senator–

Jasmine: I love her, by the way. 

Danica: Yeah! And she's an Emerge sister by the way! And so for someone in her case to unabashedly be so supportive of LGBTQ people and talk about how she's using her own position as this like straight, white, Christian, suburban mom, and she's used it for good and look at all the good things their legislature is doing now, you look at this and you go, okay, there is a certain echo chamber within their party that really wants to hammer on anti-trans stuff, but that doesn't mean that the entire electorate is buying it. 

However, in the burbs though, that does mean that there are going to still be persuasion voters that they are gonna target with it. And what they're trying to do specifically is make moms and dads be suspicious that you are coming for their children or that you're gonna do something that's gonna make life harder for their kid, or you're gonna make their kid trans, or they're gonna start questioning themselves, blah, blah, blah. But here in this district that I represent where kids come from all around the world, we're not scared of someone who's different from us.

Jasmine: Not at all. In fact, I had a town hall last night and I literally had someone say, “I'm just not okay with people doing this to children. And they're trying to target them with pronouns.” And the way she was talking, I was like, “Ma'am, first of all, pronouns are not bullets, and let's be clear we're not doing anything about those. Secondly, it's not ‘people’ doing this to children, it is parents caring for their children. And if it were any other issue, would you have a problem with the government telling you that you cannot care for your child the way you feel it is best to care for your child? And that's all parents are asking for is for you to not take away the ability for them to do what they need to do for their children.” 

It's not these random people coming out of the woods grabbing children and taking them to clinics that are gonna turn them trans. Like that's not what's happening, but that's like this picture they are trying to paint. And at the same time, I know for a fact these same people will argue that you should not be able to make their child wear a mask. You should not be able to make their child do anything else because they have a right to decide. You should not be able to make their child read a book about Black history! I mean, literally, they don't want you to do anything else, but they definitely want to tell parents what they can do for their children medically.

And that is the issue that I've had is they deal in fear, but then there's people in the room that are also like, “Hey, I'm that parent that says I don't want the government stepping in and telling me what I can't do.” Also, we have doctors saying, “I'm a doctor. I am trained. I went to medical school and I paid a lot of money to do it. I know what I'm doing. Stop trying to tell me how to do my job.” So that is something that I've seen right here in Georgia. So you and I are definitely on the same page when it comes to these issues. And I think that is where Republicans lose a lot of people in the suburbs because they are in their echo chamber and they are not actually having real conversations with the people who live here that are like, “Hey, you know, we're not as scared of each other as you're trying to make us seem.”

Danica: At what point in the last four years did you have parents when you were out knocking on doors say, “you know, Representative Clark, the thing I need the most that's gonna make my life better is for you to make life more miserable for trans kids. That's the thing that I'm casting my vote on.” 

Jasmine: Exactly. No one ever has done that.

Danica: No! It's just that's not reality. And at the same time, if you're looking for ideological consistency, politics and state legislatures are not the best place to go looking. When you're dealing with the same people who are trying to tell you, like, “Hey, you're taking away my freedom and my rights” and whatever, and then you're like, “Oh, but this parent is affirming of their trans kid. Now we're gonna take that kids away from that parent cause that's child abuse!” 

Jasmine: And take those books away from those kids and everything. Yeah. It's crazy. 

Danica: What I'm thinking about, this is a conversation I had with one of my Republican colleagues who was going to put in an anti-trans medical bill, but then didn't in part because that member has a son who's friends for the trans boy. And getting to know that kid was really eye-opening for that legislator. And so what's so sad is that for way too many politicians, they have to know someone in their personal life before the issue matters to them. And that's worth fighting for. 

Like you saw that with Senator Rob Portman in Ohio. “Oh, my son came out. Better start protecting gay people!” It’s like, you had gay constituents for a long, very long time. It shouldn't have taken that. And at the same time, I also think that a lot for a lot of white legislators, that until something happens to that Black friend who they have, you know, “oh, I have black friends,” you know, until they see that they’re like, “Oh, I had no idea!” 

Jasmine: Right. “I didn't know these types of things happened.” Yes. This has been such a great conversation, Danica, like I really we could probably keep going like for a really long time, especially on this subject, because you're right, the inconsistency is jarring. It's extremely aggravating. But before we go, I do wanna ask you a few rapid fire questions. Is that okay? 

Danica: Absolutely. 

Jasmine: All right. Question number one, what piece of legislation are you most proud of passing? 

Danica: I'm gonna give you two things. Number one is it took me five years of fighting to basically get health insurers for… in the way the final version of the bill was written, and I'm sure you've gone through this where there's what you've introduced and then there's what came out… the final version is large private employers now have to include in their health insurance plans coverage for state-of-the-art prosthetic devices for amputees. 

Jasmine: Oh, nice. 

Danica: That's something I fought for all five years and battled and battled and battled with this and something I'll expand more on in future years as well.

And then another one though is my bill to ban school meal debt shaming and school meal debt… well, school meal debt, I should say. Of my 41 bills that we've passed through the general assembly, 13 of them deal with feeding hungry kids and so I'm really proud about that. 

Jasmine: I love it. All right, so people might be surprised to hear that you were in a metal band for over a decade. So what is it about metal music that speaks to you?

Danica: It is intensity. It is audio rebellion. It is complex. It can be sometimes very easy to play, sometimes very hard to play, but there's so much range and there's so much intensity, and it's done in a way that for me, it hits my mind and it hits my body in a way that is just fundamentally different from other types of music. And that there's so many different types of metal. 

Jasmine: So speaking of music, what song always makes you wanna hit the dance floor? 

Danica: For a non-metal, my guilt song absolutely was Blow by Kesha. 

Jasmine: Ah, I love it. 

Danica: Like that's, that was definitely a, when I was in my gay clubbing days, so basically like I would get all dolled up, that was my guilty pleasure song. And I probably like Judas from Lady Gaga too as far as like those dance floor songs go.  

Jasmine: I love it. All right, one last question. What advice do you wish you could give to your younger self? 

Danica: It's gonna hurt. It's gonna suck. It's ok. I wish I had courage at that time to just tell people, “Yeah, this is who I am, and you know what? Love me, hate me however you feel about it, this is who I am and this is who I'm gonna be.” I wish I had that courage. And now I get to be the person who other people look out to and say, “Well, if Danica can do it, so can I.”

Jasmine: I love that. Tuly, that is great advice. I love that. And I think that is the perfect end to our rapid fire questions. So just to finish it off, where can people go to find out more about you and your work? 

Danica: Sure. So if you wanna follow me day to day you can follow me on Twitter @pwcdanica. I'm also on Facebook. You can find Danica Roem, Virginia Delegate. And otherwise you can always find me down in Richmond, you know, when we're in session and back here in Manassas. So always feel free when you're in Western Prince William, reach out to me. I’d be happy to meet you over at Tony's New York Pizza or Yorkshire restaurant or someplace. And yeah, we'll go chat. 

Jasmine: Awesome. Well, this was so great. Thank you so much for joining us on the Suburban Women Problem. 

Danica: Thank you so much, Representative Clark, yourself. I really, really appreciate you taking the time out, and thank you for your kindness.


Rachel: Welcome back everyone. Jasmine, I am so glad you got to talk with Danica. I actually got to meet her. She is from my former county, Prince William County, Virginia, and yeah, just such a positive person and I'm glad I got to meet her, but really great to hear from her. 

Jasmine: Yeah, she has really good energy. And she knows her stuff really does. Like, she really knows her stuff.

Amanda: Isn't that refreshing? When you know how to do your job instead of just going for, like, talking points on Fox? 

Jasmine: I think that one of the things that she said that I loved the most was when she was like, “Hey, guess what? Traffic affects women. Traffic affects trans people. Traffic affects pretty much everyone. So yeah, I can actually care about trans issues and also care about traffic because guess what? Traffic is a trans issue. It's literally everyone's issue.”

Amanda: That is true. 

Jasmine: So now we will transition to the Toast to Joy. This is a point in the podcast where we talk about something great and happy and exciting or something that we wanna…

Rachel: Celebrate!

Jasmine: Yes. Celebration. All right. So Rachel, let's start with you. 

Rachel: So my Toast to Joy this week is, we had a busy weekend, but I'm so glad that we made time even when we lost an hour of sleep to go to the upper school musical at my daughter's new school. It was a wonderful performance and I won't give it away so people can't Google where my daughter's going to school, but I will say the students really put it together and it was very, very impressive. 

But it was a timely subject. And I think when you present something in the performing arts, it's a different way of starting a conversation. And I just, I, I love to see the kids. Not only how proud of themselves they were and their accomplishment and, and displaying their talent, which was great, but that they're not afraid to take on those subjects, which, frankly, I think we know is the case, but I like to see them starting at a young age. And the parents in the community not being afraid to do that also. So my Toast to Joy is those high school students and as we often discuss on the pod of how the young people really give us hope that they are not buying into all this hate and division and they're just gonna go live their lives. And they're not gonna let it control their, you know, decision cycle, get to be part of their decision cycle. They're gonna do what they think is best and I love that. So yeah, it was wonderful. How about you, Amanda? What's yours? 

Amanda: The kids are all right. Oh my gosh. I know. 

So there were so many things I was thinking about for the Toast to Joy today. My daughter did a Pinewood, my daughters, both of them, did a Pinewood derby for Girl Scouts, which was so fun. So it was actually my, my stepdad and then my husband Casey, who took them to it and it was so cute. 

But actually, my Toast of Joy is going to be about an organization called 100 Women's Strong Ohio. I don't know if you guys have heard of them. So they're, it's actually in a number of different states, it's called 100 Women Strong. And basically it's just a bunch of women coming together and we each donate… so I think it varies by organization, but about $100 to $200. And we pool our resources and then what we do is we pick different organizations to give the money to. 

So we got to hear from an organization run by a mother who is trying to buy sensors for kids with epilepsy to notify a caregiver if they are having a seizure. And so that's actually who won. And it was just amazing to hear about all the organizations and so the three organizations, all three got money, but it's a great place where you see women coming together and finding out what our community actually needs and doing something about it. And so it's a very cool organization to be a part of. And it was a lot of fun. So my Toast to Joy is to 100 Women Strong. Jasmine, what is your Toast to Joy?  

Jasmine: So last week was really rough for me, you guys. Like, it was a really tough week. A lot of things happened. One of those things being, we lost one of our colleagues in the House.

Amanda: Oh, I’m sorry.

Jasmine: And she sat right behind me in the chamber and it was really tough. It was really tough on me. But outside of that I was having this really rough week and then I get home one day and there's this package on my front door. And I was picking Jada up for basketball practice, and she comes out of the front door, she sees the package, she kind of picks it up and she's like, “oh, I don't know what this is.” And so she brings it into the car. Guys. It was Junior's Cheesecake from New York. 

Amanda: Oh yes. 

Jasmine: And it came from Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Who, right here on this podcast, he promised me that he would get me some Junior's Cheesecake. And I saw him a weekend prior, and I kind of reminded him in jest, “oh, yeah, by the way, I still haven't forgotten that time you promised me Junior's Cheesecake.” And lo and behold, a few days later, I had Junior's Cheesecake at my door!

Amanda: What a class act. That's so cool. 

Jasmine: It was delicious, but I'm impressed that he kept his promise. And so my Toast to Joy is to Leader Jeffries and also to delicious Junior's Cheesecake from New York.

Amanda: Oh, that's awesome. Now I want cheesecake. 

Rachel: That is quite a Toast to Joy. 

Jasmine: All right. So thanks so much to everyone for joining us today. If you're enjoying the show, please share it with someone you know, and we'll see you next week on another episode of The Suburban Women Problem.