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A North Cleveland Park resident is seeking to become the District of Columbia’s first out transgender elected official. Monika Nemeth is running in a special election for a seat on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3F, finally jumping into the political fray nearly a decade after first she first considered it.
“I thought about running 10 years ago. The neighbor on the other end of my block was stepping down from the ANC after a couple of terms, and he asked me if I wanted to run for his seat,” she says. “At that time, it was still pre-transition for me, and I just didn’t feel up to it. I had so much more stuff going on.”
But following the election of Donald Trump as president last year, Nemeth, a D.C. resident since 1983, felt it was time for her to “get off my ass and do something.” She had planned to run in 2018, when all ANC seats are typically up, but her ANC member suddenly took an overseas assignment, forcing him to step down from his position in September. A special election was scheduled, and Nemeth decided to run.
Nemeth says campaigning has been an amazing experience for her as she gets to know her neighbors.
“I met this lovely lesbian couple who live two blocks from me, and we’ve lived two blocks from each other for probably 15 years now, but we’d never met. I was walking the street, collecting signatures for my petitions, and I walked in front of their house, and they were flying the trans pride flag. And I said to myself, ‘I don’t know who lives here, but whoever it is, they’re my people,'” she says. “And we became fast friends, honestly. They’ve been whipping up people around them to support me.”
When she walks around her district campaigning, Nemeth primarily focuses on quality-of-life issues, though she’d like to see some development on a commercial strip in Connecticut Avenue NW that she feels “isn’t living up to its potential.” She also is concerned about how best to help residents “age in place,” noting that there is no senior recreation center in Ward 3, nor any publicly-funded services such as a shuttle for elderly residents, in the ward. She notes there are for-profit, private institutions that provide those services, but that means lower- or middle-income residents aren’t necessarily using those services.
While she doesn’t stress her gender identity on the campaign trail, she also doesn’t hide it on her website or campaign literature, alluding to her involvement with the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and volunteer service with Trans Pride, Capital Pride, and Whitman-Walker Health. She says she feels the uptick in the number of transgender candidates running for elective office during the 2017-2018 cycle is motivated, in part, to efforts by the Trump administration and other legislative bodies to restrict transgender people’s rights.
“I’m not surprised. If you’ve been paying attention, they’re doing what they said they were going to do,” she says of anti-LGBTQ politicians. “So I’m not shocked, I’m angry. Tip O’Neill said ‘All politics is local.’ We have to start building from the ground up. And I think that’s what’s happening: you have people who are, to quote the movie Network, ‘mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.’ This year’s proven to be the year of the trans candidate. We’ve decided it’s time for us to stake our claim.
“For me as a trans person, for years I just wanted to get through transition, and fade into the background, just to live as a normal person. And then I realized I’m not doing anyone any good by disappearing,” she adds. “We’ve had four trans people be elected to office this year, and hopefully I’ll be number five.”
The election for Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3F06 is from 7:30 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 21. For more information on Nemeth, visit sites.google.com/view/monikaanc3f or follow her on Twitter, @TheMonikaNemeth.
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