New Hampshire's James Roesener is first trans man elected to a state legislature

James Roesener of New Hampshire is the first transgender man elected to a state legislature in the United States, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which supports queer candidates running for office.

With 87% of precincts reporting Wednesday afternoon, Roesener, a Democrat, had won the race with 55% of the vote, while Republican Dennis Soucy had 45%, according to The New York Times, citing Associated Press data and race calls.

Roesener, 26, lives in Concord with his wife and cat and works for a boutique intimacy shop, he told NBC News on Friday. He has also volunteered at a local clinic that provides abortion services, contraception, gender-affirming care and other health care for the past eight years.

He said he decided to run for office due, in part, to the wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced in states across the country, including in New Hampshire.

"Especially as a trans person, seeing all of the new political action happening towards my community really kind of inspired me to be a voice for trans people to be visible and help be a concrete part of making these decisions," he said.

Roesener said he was driving home on Tuesday when he got a text that said he had won his race. As the text came in, he said, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister came on.

"So I got the notification, and then the trombone comes in, and I felt like I was in the cheesiest movie of all time — very main-character energy," he said. "That aside, it was really exciting. It still doesn’t feel real to me. I think I’m going to need to be in the statehouse in my seat participating for it to really sink in that that’s what I’m doing now. That’s who I am in the world."

Roesener’s platform included expanding nondiscrimination laws in health care, affordable housing, raising the state minimum wage to at least $15 per hour and legalizing marijuana.

He said he believes his campaign was successful because he focused on unifying messages that all people care about.

“I think that people do care about others,” he said. “I think people are all concerned about really basically the same thing. It’s like, are we going to have enough food to eat? Do we have a roof over our heads? Am I going to have time with my family off of work? These are very unifying issues.”

In a candidate survey from the New Hampshire nonprofit Citizens Count, which asked political hopefuls whether they are “for,” “against” or “other” on a variety of issues, Soucy indicated that he is “for” a “ban on discussing sexual orientation, gender identity in K-3,” a “ban on teaching certain concepts related to race” and a policy to “ban abortion during 1st trimester.” In response to questions about abortion, Soucy added in the comments that he is a “pro life Catholic.”

Roesener wants to repeal the current abortion laws in New Hampshire, according to his website. State law bars abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy except if the mother’s life is at risk or fatal fetal diagnoses, and requires the parent of a minor be notified before an abortion and an ultrasound be done prior to an abortion.

James Roesener of New Hampshire is the first transgender man elected to a state legislature in the United States. (Courtesy James Roesener)
James Roesener of New Hampshire is the first transgender man elected to a state legislature in the United States. (Courtesy James Roesener)

At a July rally following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark decision guaranteeing abortion access, Roesener told New Hampshire Public Radio that the moment was incredibly difficult for him as a transgender man, “because there is so much focus on women.”

“I have a uterus, and I am affected by these decisions, as well,” he said at the time.

Roesener noted that efforts to restrict abortion access and gender-affirming medical care affect “more than just the people who seek those particular forms of care.”

“It criminalizes and reduces access to everyone, for those who utilize contraception, those who need hormone replacement therapy — that is not just transgender people — and those whose well-being relies on medications deemed abortifacients,” he told New Hampshire Public Radio.

Prior to Tuesday’s elections, there were eight out trans people serving in state legislatures, but none of them are trans men, according to the LGBTQ Victory Institute, the research arm of the Victory Fund. Outside of state legislatures, there are six out trans men serving in elected office nationwide, according to the institute.

As for being the first trans man elected to a state legislature nationwide, Roesener said it's a great honor, but he thinks it was "a stroke of luck."

"I would just love for more people to follow in my footsteps," he said.

Annise Parker, the president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and Victory Institute, said Roesener is prepared to enact legislation that will protect abortion access and invest in New Hampshire’s education and health care systems.

“At a time of intensifying transphobia at all levels of government and society, he showed incredible courage throughout his historic campaign,” she said in a statement. “Trans people — and trans men in particular — remain severely underrepresented in government at every level, but we are confident his win will inspire many more trans people to run for office.”

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