By Meg Friel
Vermont made history this summer when Christine Hallquist became the first transgender candidate to be nominated for a governorship by a major party, setting her on track to potentially become the United State’s first transgender governor.
Hallquist’s Democratic platform tackles issues such as climate change, healthcare, and solar energy, but this isn’t what makes her unique from other candidates. Vermont resident Ashley Turner ’21 said she voted for Hallquist because her transgender identity made her stand out.
“It’s such a big first for the country,” said Turner.
Hallquist first became inspired to run after hearing a group of four young Muslim women perform slam poetry at the Montpelier Women’s March, according to an interview in the magazine, Elle. The four women spoke about how unsafe it was for them being Muslim in Vermont. Their stories brought Hallquist to tears, while she related to them about what it felt like to be marginalized.
Hallquist follows the path of many other female candidates taking part in this election year, quickly turning 2018 into the ‘year of the woman’ in politics.
“An irony about Vermont politics is that we’re such a progressive state, but we have a very, very, male top hedge, and lots of people are very frustrated about that,” said Patricia Siplon, a political science professor at St. Michael’s.
“She’s a woman, she’s trans, and in this state, those things are very exciting for people.”
Hallquist’s primary win has been one topic of discussion at Common Ground, the student-based LGBT+ [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] friendly club on campus. Common Ground meets weekly to discuss different things going on in the LGBT+ world.
Victoria Putnam ’21, Student Association rep for Common Ground, said that Hallquist’s win has brought more light to the LGBT+ community on campus.
“Sometimes, as a smaller community on campus, we’re less noticeable,” said Putnam. “With her in the running and hopefully winning, it would make the transgender community and even the LGBT+ community as a whole that much more visible within our school, and Vermont as well.”
Hallquist has been actively campaigning to college students in Vermont. She spoke to a group of Democrats at UVM about education financing just weeks after appearing at Middlebury College with Bernie Sanders for Labor Day. Hallquist was also present at the Burlington Pride Parade, where she marched alongside people from many different groups and organizations, including St. Michael’s College.
Turner, who was present at the Pride Parade, agreed with Putnam, stating that Hallquist’s win is not only a personal win, but is one for the LGBT+ community.
“It will be really good for younger kids who are struggling with their gender identity to know that if they identify as transgender or whatever they identify as, that they’re accepted and it’s okay to be themselves.”
While Hallquist’s identity has made her campaign a first, her platform also has voters’ attention. As a Democratic candidate, she advocates on progressive issues such as addressing climate change, investing in tuition-free college and healthcare for all.
However, she isn’t as forward on other progressive issues, such as making a ban on guns a top priority. Siplon questioned how Vermont residents will react to her platform.
“In one way, it’s very much sort of in the trajectory of Vermont,” said Siplon.
“Vermont brags about how we’re the first state to abolish slavery, the first state to have civil unions – there’s a lot of ‘first’ progressive steps, and I think that this election fits in that category.”
“It’ll be interesting to see where she ends up on guns, it’ll be interesting to see where she ends up on taxation policy, the wealth gap, and mandatory minimum wages, but she is an advocate for healthcare for all. I think that’s very helpful in that column.”
Turner and Putnam said they stay hopeful that Hallquist will win the governorship, further adding to this list of “firsts” for Vermont, and making a lasting impact on the LGBT+ community.