While we all await the outcome of our country’s all-important presidential election, there are other races that have made news across America for good reasons — and for bad reasons. Unfortunately, one such race is the congressional one between Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones and my fellow Republican, Tony Gonzales. I say unfortunate, as the forces of bigotry, fear, and opportunism have played a part in this passionate political battle of Texans.
As a resident of New Jersey, I can only imagine that many readers are wondering why a woman from the Garden State cares about a congressional race in the Lone Star State? Besides the fact that I have family in Texas, I am transgender and a Republican. I have seen the disturbing news reports of the recent anti-LGBTQ attacks on Ortiz Jones regarding her sexual orientation and support of transgender Americans. These attacks are vile, as well as un-American and un-Republican. They should not be happening and they should not be coming from anyone in my own party. Right is right and wrong is wrong and I cannot idly stand by and say nothing.
Recently, the National Republican Congressional Committee released two ads that target Ortiz Jones for her support of transgender military service and ensuring that transgender service members receive any necessary medical care they may need. It is a position that I hope Gonzales will support if he wins this congressional seat. The NRCC’s claim against Ms. Ortiz Jones is preposterous on its face, let alone that the U.S. Department of Defense hired the Rand Corporation to produce a study on transgender military service and medical care, which found that such service would entail minimal financial costs to the taxpayer. So minimal, in fact, that Rand estimated that the DOD’s costs for transgender medical care would be roughly one-tenth of the Veterans Affairs budget for Viagra prescriptions. Clearly, that isn’t enough money to close a military base and Gonzales and the NRCC would be well served by reading the Rand report before discussing such things further.
In addition to the NRCC ads, Gonzales mentioned on a podcast that Ms. Ortiz Jones, whom I do not know, nor I have never met, has a “transgender agenda.” As an active conservative Republican who has run for office herself on the state level, I can assure everyone that there is no special “transgender agenda.” Instead, many transgender Americans such as myself and allies (including elected officials on both sides of the aisle) work hard on Capitol Hill and in state houses and city halls to make sure our government stays small and treats us the same as any other citizen. No agenda there, just freedom and liberty.
There are a truckload of policies and issues on which I would disagree with Ortiz Jones and I will not try to tell voters in her district which way to lean. However, one should win with honor I am certain that the voters in this district will make an informed choice on who will represent them in Congress without my input. However, they should make their voting choice with the knowledge that transgender people and the full LGBTQ community are of no threat to them. I hope they will agree that no one would consider another American’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a reason to not serve their nation or community.
Our country needs everyone, Republican and Democrat, to extend grace to one another and bring out the best in each of us. Winning at any cost or by stoking a voter’s fear of an already marginalized group of people only emboldens those who want to see America weakened.
Just as I will await the results of our own races here in New Jersey, I will anxiously await the results of Texas Congressional District 23 and hope that transgender folks like me will not be a determining factor in who will represent them in Congress next year. No matter who wins, my hope and prayer is that I and millions of others like me will be fairly represented in Congress and that our congressional representatives will vote to enshrine our liberty, freedom and equality in law should they come up for a vote. What more can an American ask for?
Jennifer Williams is a LGBTQ advocate and Republican and was the first transgender person to run for the New Jersey State Legislature.