Last night, Democrat Danica Roem was elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates—making her the first trans woman to serve in the state’s legislature. While this is a historic win, it’s important for us to use proper context. Many people (and news organizations) have been saying Roem’s the first transgender woman in U.S. history to serve in a state legislature.
That is not correct.
Meet Althea Garrison. She was elected to Massachusetts’ state legislature in 1992 and served for one term, from 1993-1995.
In a 2012 post at the blog TransGriot, Monica Roberts writes a little bit about Garrison’s history.
Althea Garrison was born in Hahira, GA on October 7, 1940 and moved to Boston to attend beauty school. She went on to enroll at Newbury Junior College and received an associate's degree. Garrison later received a B.S. degree in administration from Suffolk University, an M.S. degree in management from Lesley College and a certificate in special studies in administration and management from Harvard University in 1984.
Although Althea has never publicly announced her trans status or talked about it, we are aware that people who transitioned during that more restrictive HBIDGA era were advised to never let anyone know their trans status and live their lives. In 1976 her name change petition was approved and filed in the Suffolk County Courthouse"consistent with [her] appearance and medical condition."
This is a friendly reminder to keep an accurate account of our history. Black and trans people are often overlooked and actively erased from the history books. Let’s do our part to actively combat that.