It was a big night for transgender people in Louisiana. Peyton “Rose Michelle” Theriot, who goes by Peyton Rose Michelle, won her seat with the Democratic State Central Committee for the 46th District A, representing St. Martin, Iberia, and St. Landry Parishes. She is the first openly transgender woman elected to a Louisiana political position, winning decisively 614 to Clarice Gallegos’ 304 votes.
Michelle is aware of having made history. “I’m proud to stand for transgender and gender non-conforming people in the state. I’m proud to show them that they, too, can be involved in politics. We are all humans, and we’re worthy of having a voice. With so much injustice in this world, with so much injustice being brought to light in the past months, I’m incredibly excited to start my political journey towards systematic change that holds our government, at all levels, accountable for the ‘liberty and justice for all’ line of our Pledge of Allegiance.”
She sees her youth, at 22, as an asset. “I think that people really see value in having a young person in politics. We are the future, after all. I think people really respect and appreciate when they see a young person running for office. After qualifying, I got many people reaching out to let me know how happy they were that a young trans person was running.
“The people in my district are overall much more conservative than I am. The parishes encompassed by my house district are red parishes for any major elections, so I’m happy to stand for my more liberal Democrats that are outliers.”
Rather than run on LGBTQ+ issues alone, Michelle says, “I decided to instead run on a platform based on anti-racism and government accountability. It felt especially right after protests calling for both of those things started popping up around the country after the murder of George Floyd and many other black and brown people across the country. My electorate was also only Democrats, as that is how the State Central Committees are elected.”
On how it feels to have won, Michelle shares, “Last night I was incredibly overwhelmed with emotions. Qualifying and running was one thing. But winning felt like a whole new world. Posts of support flooded my social media as soon as results started coming in, and haven’t stopped since. After learning I won, I cried for almost an hour straight.
“Growing up, I was told by so many people, in so many ways, that I wasn’t valuable. And while I’ve been through lots of therapy to work through that, feelings like that linger with a person. Last night, I felt more validation from my community than I’d ever felt before. It was overwhelming. I just kept crying.
“And though it’s cheesy, the overarching emotion I have is gratitude. Gratitude for all of the people who trusted me with their vote. Gratitude for the people that supported me to get where I am. Gratitude to God for blessing me with the ability to stand up for injustice in the world.”
Tonight rural Democrats in one of the most conservative corners of Louisiana elected 22 year old trans woman Peyton Rose Michelle to public office. Peyton ran on a platform of racial and economic justice and youth leadership. I am so damn proud to know her. pic.twitter.com/ugOi5NdyRo
— Dylan Waguespack (@DylanMercury) July 12, 2020
About what her job entails, Michelle says, “The Democratic State Central Committee is tasked with moving forward the various tasks of the Louisiana Democratic Party. I hope to find myself on committees to be able to institute change within the party. I hope to assist the party in electing more Democrats to elected seats within the state. I will then hope to use anything I’ve learned to continue to develop a political career beyond.
“It’s definitely too early to say too much,” she says of the future, “ But I think it’s acceptable to say that I’d love to sit in the Louisiana Legislature to represent transgender and gender non-conforming people on a legislative level.”
When it comes to other transgender people who are considering a political run, Michelle is encouraging, “I would tell them that it’s definitely scary. But if they can handle the pressure and the attention, please run! Trans visibility is incredibly important, more now than ever. We need to be ‘in the room’ that decisions are made so that the decision-makers can see that we’re people just like them, and we deserve to feel safe in our lives.
“I’m grateful for everyone’s continued support. I look forward to working towards systematic change to obtain justice for all.”
For more information, please check out her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/PeytonRoseMichelleDSCC/
UPDATE: The article originally stated Michelle was the first openly transgender person to be elected. That is incorrect. The first openly transgender person to be elected was Peter Astrid Marie. The first openly transgender woman to be elected is still Peyton Rose Michelle.