'I chose to live': Transgender congressional nominee Misty Plowright talks about her historic victory

This week, Democratic congressional hopeful Misty Plowright became one of two transgender women named Misty to win a major-party primary vote, something no transgender person had done before.

Plowright will challenge Rep. Doug Lamborn in Colorado, and Misty Snow will run against Sen. Mike Lee in Utah this November.

The 33-year-old Plowright joined Yahoo News guest anchor Stephanie Sy from Denver on Friday to talk about her historic primary victory, serving in the military under the transgender ban and her dilemma over whom to vote for in the presidential election.

Growing up Southern Baptist in northwest Arkansas, Plowright felt “pretty early on” that she identified as female, but had no idea what that meant or how to articulate it, she told Sy.

It wasn’t until her teenage years that she actually started to “figure out what was going on,” but even then, “it wasn’t something I could talk about or try to get help with, so it got suppressed.”

Then in 2004, after completing her service in the Army, Plowright said, “I couldn’t suppress it anymore.”

“It was kind of a do or die moment for me, and I chose to live.”

It seems especially fitting, then, that in the same week she became the Democratic congressional nominee for Colorado’s most conservative district, the U.S. military lifted its longtime ban on transgender troops — a move that Plowright, a veteran of the Army, called “long overdue.”

The ban “certainly kept me from being open about who I was,” Plowright said, adding, “Trans people having to suppress their identity is, in a lot of ways, it’s soul crushing.”

Even with the ban lifted, Plowright predicts that “being out in the military will be very challenging for a while.”

“It takes time for certain mindsets to change,” she said. “But that change is happening, and it will get a lot easier as time goes by.”

Plowright also dismissed concerns expressed by some that allowing transgender troops to serve openly could somehow affect troop readiness.

“That gets said anytime anything in the military changes to make it more inclusive,” she said. “There might be issues occasionally here and there from people who are intolerant or can’t get over it, but the reality of the situation is these people can do the job, and that’s what’s really important for unit readiness.”

In general, Plowright said, “I don’t see any reason to bar anyone from serving that wants to and is capable of performing the job.”

It’s this kind of attitude that appears to be driving Plowright’s run for Congress.

When asked how her largely conservative constituency has responded to the fact that she and her wife of nine years are currently in a polyamorous relationship with a man, the candidate said that “so far the voters that I’ve talked to frankly don’t really care that much.”

“They’re much more interested in issues like jobs, national security, defense, guns, property rights,” she said. “They’re very interested in the issues, not so much my personal life.”

Perhaps that’s because, as Plowright pointed out, she’s long kept the two separate, choosing to focus her political platform more on the economy, for example, rather than LGBTQ rights.

“It’s not really a fight that I’ve been involved in much in the past,” she said. “For a very long time I’ve been quite content to stay in the shadows where it’s safe. But to really effect change, you have to get out there, you have to be willing to put it all on the line.”

If elected, Plowright said, she would support any sort of action to end discrimination, arguing that while last year’s Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality was certainly a watershed moment for gay rights, “there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

“The trans community faces a lot of issues that the gay community largely doesn’t have to worry about,” she said. “The bathroom bills are a perfect example.”

As Plowright proceeds to seek support for her own campaign, she’s also bracing for a difficult decision at the polls this November. An ardent Bernie Sanders supporter, Plowright said that while she voted for Hillary Clinton in 2008, the presumptive Democratic nominee’s “tenure as secretary of state has not sat well with me at all.”

On the other hand, she said, “Trump scares the hell out of me.”

“Honestly, I don’t know,” she said. “I’m going to have to see what happens. I’ve never cast a vote against anyone in my life … that may very well change next November.”