This 24-year-old wants to be the 1st transgender legislator in N.Y., joining elected officials in several other states

Emilia Decaudin, an Assembly candidate in New York.
Émilia Decaudin, an Assembly candidate in New York. (Decaudin campaign)
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If 24-year-old Émilia Decaudin wins her just-announced campaign for a seat in the New York Assembly, she will make history as the state’s first openly transgender person to hold elected office.

Elected to a Democratic Party post in 2020, Decaudin, who is a member of Democratic Socialists of America, is part of a cadre of trans politicians who could make this election cycle a breakthrough for trans candidates.

A growing list of officeholders

Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride, a Democrat, is the highest-ranking trans elected official in the country. She announced late last month that she is seeking her state’s sole seat in the House of Representatives.

Sarah McBride makes a point.
Sarah McBride, a transgender rights activist, at the Women in the World summit in New York in 2019. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

In May, a Virginia delegate, Danica Roem, a Democrat who made history in 2018 as the first openly trans person elected to serve in a state legislature, announced her candidacy for an open state Senate seat in northern Virginia. If elected, she would become the first trans state senator in the South.

Palm Springs City Council member Lisa Middleton, a trans woman, announced in March that she is running for a Coachella Valley-based seat in the California state Senate. If elected, she would become the first transgender state legislator in the largest U.S. state. Middleton, a Democrat, was first elected to the Palm Springs City Council in 2017.

In 2020, Kansas state Rep. Stephanie Byers, a Democrat, was the first trans candidate elected in her state and the first Indigenous trans person elected anywhere in the country. That year, McBride became the first transgender state senator in the U.S., and Mauree Turner (who uses the pronouns they/them) was elected to the Oklahoma state House of Representatives, making them the first nonbinary state legislator.

Building momentum

James Roesener. (LGBTQ Victory Fund)
James Roesener. (LGBTQ Victory Fund)

The 2022 midterm elections featured advances for trans representation, such as the first openly trans man elected to a state legislature, New Hampshire Democrat James Roesener. Including party primaries, more than 1,000 transgender candidates ran for political office in 2022, according to the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

There already are 11 trans candidates being backed this year by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a political action committee that promotes LGBTQ candidates. They include city council candidates in sizable cities such as Minneapolis and Madison, Wis. — and much smaller cities like Greencastle, Ind.

A study from the Williams Institute, a UCLA research center, estimated that 1.3% of adults ages 18-24 and 1.4% of 13- to 17-year-olds are transgender, a doubling of the share of transgender young people from its previous study in 2017.

Reacting to attacks

A demonstrator holds up two pieces of a toilet seat, framing a caricature of Dr. Potty, marked: Stop NC GOP, Potty Politics.
A demonstrator in Raleigh, N.C., in 2016 protests House Bill 2, which required transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

Some trans candidates say they are inspired to run for office to combat bills targeting trans people. Such legislation has been introduced in nearly every state legislature in recent years, including measures restricting transgender people from participating in sports or using bathrooms that do not correspond to their gender at birth.

“I think it's a direct response to the onslaught on trans rights that we're seeing across the nation,” Decaudin told Yahoo News in an email.

When Roem won in Virginia in 2017, she defeated a Republican incumbent who had introduced a bill that year requiring Virginians to use only the restroom that matched their biological sex.

But trans rights are not the only motivating factor for many of these candidates.

Decaudin said she’s inspired to address New York’s crisis of unaffordability, which is “hitting marginalized people, including trans people, the hardest.”

“While I understand the significance of my candidacy, I am not running just to be a ‘first,’ but to be a champion for everyone in my district and one of many socialist legislators in a movement,” she said.

LGBTQ candidates on the rise

Gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek, onstage with two guitarists, raises her fist in the air.
Tina Kotek, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, at a rally in Portland, Ore., on Oct. 22, 2022. (Mathieu Lewis-Rolland/Getty Images)

Trans candidates and elected officials are increasing in number, along with gay, lesbian and bisexual candidates. There were 678 LGBTQ candidates on general election ballots last November, an 18% increase over the 574 in the 2020 general election. Last year, 436 of those candidates won, up from the previous record of 336 candidates set in 2020. For the first time, LGBTQ Americans were on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Still, only 0.2% of all U.S. elected officials self-identify as being LGBTQ, far below the 7.1% of American adults who identify that way, according to Axios.


Rep. Zooey Zephyr on an interview program with a view of Manhattan in the background.
Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr on ABC's "The View" on June 1. (Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images)

In April, Republican legislators in Montana barred Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a trans first-year lawmaker, from the state House of Representatives floor for the remainder of the legislative session after she said her colleagues would have “blood on their hands” if they passed a bill banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth.

Decaudin said she is fully aware that being a trans candidate opens up a person to transphobic attacks.

“I've faced it both online and in person (in district!), simply because I am a trans woman who is putting herself out there,” Decaudin said. “I can handle it, but I shouldn't have to.”