What You Never Knew About Danica Roem

Danica Roem is Virginia's heavy metal, yoga-loving assemblywoman who made history as the first openly transgender person to win a statewide seat when she was elected in 2017. And, in a year when many Democrats lost ground, she was handily re-elected once again in 2021 by constituents who have grown to adore her and her commitment to policies that matter. "I'm a trans lady from NOVA with an ERA tattoo who drinks kombucha with her vegan breakfast burrito and chills out to Porcupine Tree," she tweeted after her win. "That's supposed to make me pretentious but I'm not. People care about constituent service [and] I'm good at it. Be yourself. Help people. That's all."

State politicians don't usually take center stage in the national media, but her history-making defeat of a 25-year incumbent is just one thing that makes Roem so fascinating. From the band she's been on tour with to why she chopped off a foot of her signature locks, here are some things you may not know about Danica Roem.

Danica Roem was a journalist before she became a politician

As a child, Danica Roem was raised to recognize and respect good journalism. On her website, she writes that her grandfather served as an example by reading the paper every day, inspiring her to pursue a career as a reporter. "What makes journalism special is you have to actually pay attention, vet your facts, receive an earful from your editor and improve your work while reporting the news as a neutral, disinterested, third-party observer," she said. One month after graduating college with a journalism degree, she landed a job at the Gainesville Times. She worked as a reporter there and at Prince William Times for over a decade, covering local beats from high school sports to transportation.

Per People, she was awarded honors from the Virginia Press Association seven times. She's said her favorite story was uncovering that Amazon owned a data center in her community, which officials at the company Dominion Energy tried to keep under wraps, Fourth Estate writes. "That was a really good investigative story that has completely changed the narrative about how to deal with Dominion and power lines ever since," she said. Though Roem is now the one making news as an assemblywoman, she still very much relates to her earlier career. "I'll always be a reporter before I'm a politician," she told Jezebel.

She walloped an opponent who dubbed himself Virginia's 'Chief Homophobe'

One reason why Danica Roem's state race was followed on the national stage was due to her stark contrast from her opponent. Bob Marshall, a 25-year incumbent, called himself the state's "chief homophobe" and authored bills against marriage equality, The Washington Post reports. He later tried to pass bills mandating which bathrooms transgender people used. Roem knew the race would likely get personal. "I interviewed him for nine years, two months, and two weeks, all throughout my time at the Gainesville Times," she told Jezebel. "I was well aware of what I was getting myself into."

Per The Washington Post, Marshall attacked Roem's gender identity and would not refer to her as a woman or reference her with female pronouns during a "bitter general election." Once she clinched the nomination, winning nearly 54% of the vote, Roem said Marshall went silent and didn't call to congratulate her or provide advice. "It's not my responsibility now," Marshall told The Washington Post. "People who are there have to best figure out what to do." After her win, Roem told Time she wasn't worried about facing discrimination from her colleagues or constituents. "I've encountered it for [10] months," she said. "And I won anyway."

She made traffic a cornerstone in her campaign

Danica Roem kept her campaign locally focused by zeroing in on an issue that resonated with many of her neighbors: traffic. Her obsession for local issues and infrastructure stems from personal frustrations, starting when she was just a kid. "When I was in sixth grade I would be in school until 6:30, 7:00 at night waiting for my mom to come pick me up because she was [stuck] on Route 28 for two hours," she told Jezebel, "and twenty some-odd years later, it hasn't gotten any better."

For Roem, nerding out on local issues was a passion. "She talked for nearly three minutes straight during her interview about repairing the district's water infrastructure, and the methods she was considering to fix traffic lights," Time reported while covering the election. This put her in stark contrast to her opponent, Bob Marshall, who tried to make the race about Roem's gender identity. One of her favorite lines while knocking on doors criticized Marshall's tactics, saying his "legislative priorities are more focused on where I go to the bathroom than how you get to work" (per Cosmopolitan).

The assemblywoman campaigned without taking 'personal shots'

As a trans woman, Danica Roem's approach to facing off against Virginia's "chief homophobe" involved enormous levels of patience and grace. She told Jezebel that she found inspiration from Michelle Obama's "when they go low, we go high" speech. Whenever former Delegate Bob Marshall made homophobic attacks on her, she'd lead by example, even releasing a video ad titled "Inspire" to candidly address her gender identity when he would not acknowledge her as a woman. "I was able to give this upbeat inspirational message about being yourself and how important it is to be yourself while at the same time not even acknowledging the name or words of the people who are attacking me" (per Jezebel).

Roem knew her opponent well from covering him for nearly a decade as a journalist. Her attitude was that Marshall would be her constituent should she win the election, and she could not attack someone she was meant to represent. She kept things above board by never making it personal and only focusing on the issues as well as the job. "You never saw me take personal shots," she said, adding, "I think the most nasty thing I said during the campaign was 'You are awful at your job.'"

Danica Roem is a proud metal head

While it isn't so common to see elected officials at heavy metal shows, Danica Roem is an interesting exception — because she's the one singing onstage. Roem is the frontwoman for the band Cab Ride Home, which describes itself as "Virginia-brewed drunken thrash metal." The band has put out several albums and has toured, and Roem doesn't see a disconnect to her passion for music and her role in politics. "Just because I sing in a heavy metal band while spinning my head in circles and getting paid to do it, why can't I run for government?" she explained to Vice. "Why would I have to change who I am in order to run for government?"

She told Jezebel that she first got into metal, which she describes as "audio rebellion," in her first year of high school. Along with the sound, it's the community that makes metal music part of her identity. "I have not lost a single friend during my gender transition. Not one," she told Vice. "When I say I'm part of the metal community, this is as much a part of my personality as everything else." While politicians might be rare in the metal scene, trans frontwomen like Roem are becoming more common, including well-known bands like Against Me! and Life of Agony.

She's moved on from her boozy 20s

Living that rocker life can catch up with you quickly, especially if your band is known for drunken anthems. Danica Roem told Vice that her group Cab Ride Home's most well-known song was called "Drunk on Arrival." "When I was 17, I decided my vice of choice was going to be to drink," she said. "I spent a lot of my 20s at the bottom of a bottle ... I used alcohol ... to make friends. And my song lyrics were all about it, and to really embrace the lifestyle as a toxic way to present a male persona because I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin."

Part of her dependence on alcohol and partying was to chase away her desire to come out by filling her life with the extreme highs that come with performing on stage. Though it took some time, she realized that, no matter how much she drank and performed, her desire to live true to herself never went away. "You wake up the next morning and it's still the first thing you think about: 'how come I'm not her? How come I can't live this way?'" she explained to Vice. Coming out in 2013 quelled Roem's need to drink socially, and she's since toned down her partying ways.

The politician's time as a reporter shaped how she manages the media

Danica Roem has an ease with reporters that helps her keep her message on point. While the intrigue about her gender identity is constantly poked at by the media, she's managed to stay on message, keeping her campaign about the issues. And, since she was a journalist long before she became a politician, such media savvy isn't all that surprising. "Every bit of advice that was ever given about how to handle the media, I threw right out the damn window, because I am a reporter," she said, via Jezebel. "I know how to talk to reporters!"

Roem pushed against advice that she should be picky about interviews and have a handler nearby to help her should tough questions arise. Instead, she used the media to create name recognition and introduce herself to her community, taking part in over 100 interviews while running for her seat. On the flipside, her opponent refused to do most interviews, which didn't exactly help his campaign. "We need to have an independent, thriving free press in order for our representative democracy within a republic to function," she said. "And I actually value the role that reporters play. I know, what a concept!"

She spoke out against Trump's ban on transgender military personnel while campaigning

Danica Roem faced all manner of transphobia during her bid for a Virginia assembly seat, while, within the political machine, new local and national policies were chipping away at trans rights. In 2017, then-President Trump issued a ban on people experiencing gender dysphoria from entering the military (as well as current military personnel who didn't already identify as trans to seek future medical treatments or change their gender), NBC News reports. (This policy has since been overturned during the Biden administration.)

When the announcement was made, Roem had to step out of a meeting she was attending to "go outside and cuss," she told Cosmopolitan. "If I had gone on social media at that point," she admitted, "I would've said things that were potentially regrettable." Roem turned her frustrations into organizing energy. She released a statement, outlining the hypocrisy of the new rule. "For our president, who opted out of serving in the military, to attack transgender people for being unfit to serve . . . is the height of hypocrisy," said Roem, via The Washington Post. "Transgender military members . . . have done more to serve and protect their country than Donald Trump ever will." Standing up against the ban helped boost her profile and also brought in generous donations that helped fuel her campaign.

Danica Roem considers herself a stepmom

In interviews, Danica Roem occasionally mentions her boyfriend, who has a daughter from a previous relationship whom she refers to as her child. She keeps pretty mum about her family, opting not to include them in photos and on social media to keep them away from the often hostile world of politics. "I don't want to expose my family to this s**t," she candidly told Cosmopolitan.

But she's found teachable moments for her daughter, per Vice, which shows her that along with the negativity, comes positivity. "There's a lot more nice than there is hate here," she said. She also celebrated Kamala Harris' historic vice presidency with her daughter and urged others to do the same. "I wanted her to know this is open to biracial girls like her. She can succeed because of who she is, not despite it," she tweeted. While you won't see her family all over social media, Roem does post frequently about the fluffier members of her home: her cats. She has a calico named Melinda and a tuxedo cat named Bela.

The Advocate named her a Person of the Year in 2017

Danica Roem's historic win to the Virginia House of Delegates came in a year full of ups and downs for transgender Americans. Along with discriminatory laws passed by the Trump administration, it introduced policies like banning the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using the word "transgender" in official documents. For that reason, The Advocate named transgender Americans as its Person of the Year to celebrate activists fighting against this disturbing tide.

Roem was also specifically recognized as one of the 10 people or groups "who were most influential on LGBT lives during the past year." The magazine noted that Roem "won by knocking on doors throughout the northern Virginia district and emphasizing the economy, jobs, and transportation," while her opponent eschewed issues important to constituents and was openly hostile to her, even refusing "to recognize Roem as a woman." She was joined by Rachel Maddow, Don Lemon, and Lena Waithe in the list of 2017 honorees.

Danica Roem donated her long locks to charity

Danica Roem's brown hair is lovely and long, something that's, perhaps, a throwback to her youth, when she was obsessed with "The Addams Family" character Morticia Addams and wanted to look like her "*so* badly." Though she's sitting on her secrets for having such shiny locks, she's more charitable with her hair in other ways.

In March 2021, she posted a photo to Twitter holding up long bunches of her hair tied up neatly. She wrote that she'd just received her first COVID-19 vaccine and later made a trip to a local salon to hack off a full foot of hair to donate to charity. Her charity of choice, Wigs for Kids, provides free wigs to children who lost their hair due to illness or burns. "I donated a foot of my hair to 'Wigs for Kids' on March 24 because everyone — cis or trans — should be able to look and feel great in a wig if they choose," she followed up in another tweet, also letting her followers know that, despite her hair still being quite long, she indeed lost a foot in length (the shortest it's been since 2018).

Before transitioning, she won a drag show in college

While in college, Danica Roem had not yet transitioned, but she began exploring ways to express her gender identity. When a "gender bender" drag show was announced, it harkened her back to the days where she intently watched her VHS-recording of the comedy "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar." She decided to enter the 2005 competition, wearing a pink skirt, stockings, and heels. "We'll call it a home-field advantage, shall we say, because I ended up winning," she told Teen Vogue. "I can't even describe how free I felt just walking around campus that day."

While the moment was powerful for Roem, her freedom was fleeting. "The student newspaper came out, and the photo of me was there," she said, per Vice. "I went online, and I was getting slammed. It was bad, it was really, really bad, and it violently shoved me back into the closet." It ended up taking several years for Roem to fully embrace her identity publicly, and, thanks to more trans visibility in the media, she decided to change her Facebook profile in 2013 and hasn't looked back since.