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Seattle woman running to become first transgender legislator in Washington

Danni Askini has announced she will be running for the 43rd Legislative District. If she wins, she will be the first openly transgender individual to serve. (Courtesy of Danni Askini)

Another person has entered the race for the 43rd Legislative District House seat. And if voted in, that person hopes to make history.

Danni Askini has announced her intention to run for the 43rd Legislative District &#8212 an area that covers much of Seattle’s popular neighborhoods, including downtown, First Hill, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, Eastlake, Wallingford, and Ballard. She announced Tuesday her intention to run for the position that will be left vacant as current State Rep. Brady Walkinshaw moves on to run for the US House of Representatives.

If Askini wins, it could place a unique voice in Olympia.

“I would be the first openly trans person elected to a state house in the country,” Askini told Mike McGinn on his podcast “You, Me, Us, Now”.

Related: Washington family says transgender people don’t look transgender

Askini spoke about her experience as an activist and advocate for the transgender rights. She is the director of the Gender Justice League based in Seattle. She has a history of working with a range of LGBTQ organizations. She told McGinn that she is very fact-based, holds strong opinions, but is open to being wrong.

“There has been a trans person who sat in the Legislature in the ’90s in Massachusetts, but was not open and was outed while in the Legislature, and did not win re-election,” Askini said. “But there has never been an openly trans person who has run and won.”

Providing a transgender voice is not the only unique perspective that Askini offers. She told McGinn of her experience with homelessness, the foster care system, education, the LGBTQ community, hate and crime prevention.

But the issue of transgender rights has recently become popular in the state’s capitol. A bill recently failed in Olympia that would have barred transgender individuals from using the proper bathroom &#8212 the one that aligns with the gender they identify with. The argument often used to promote the bill was that predators would use transgender status as an excuse to violate and assault people in bathrooms and locker rooms.

“There is this fear that transgender people will make it hard to distinguish who can and cannot be in a bathroom. And the rules from the (Washington) Human Rights Commission are very clear &#8212 that you can ask if they are in the right bathroom. It makes it very clear that only women can use the women’s bathroom, and only men can use the men’s bathroom,” Askini said.

“And it doesn’t change the fact there are two separate bathrooms and people have the right not to be harassed, intimidated or assaulted in a bathroom,” she said. “There are already really strong laws on the books. But there is this fear of who transgender people are, and that is at the core of what propels this issue and has produced all these bills.”

Askini grew up in Maine and was initially raised as male. But that identity never really took. By age 12, Askini had come out to her parents, who were very supportive of her. Her journey from then on has been diverse and challenging, going through homelessness, and the foster care system.

Today, a resident of Washington and Seattle, Askini hopes that her experience can be part of the conversation in Olympia, especially as bills are produced relating to transgender issues. For example, organizers for the failed transgender bathroom bill aren’t giving up. They are already raising support to press the issue again.

“I think there is an opportunity to have a conversation about who trans people are, what our leadership looks like, what we can bring to the conversation,” Askini said. The Legislature, I think, can use some new voices and new leadership…”

“I think I can bring some new energy into the conversation,” she said.

Listen to Mike McGinn’s entire interview:

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