Colorado Representative Brianna Titone: Making history was just the beginning
“Hello everyone, my name is Brianna Titone and I'm a transgender person. Now let's get down to business because that's what I'm here for.”
As a woman, I found myself in a class of people that were being discriminated against and being the kind of person I am, I wasn’t just going to stand there and take it. So I worked with some local advocacy groups and went down to the Capitol to lobby my legislator.
And guess what? They wouldn't come out and talk to us! That was a profound thing for me. I was shocked my elected public servant would not come out to talk to me. As time went on, I got more involved and tried to advocate for different LGBTQ bills. That’s when one of the party chair people said to me, “You should consider running for office.”
I didn’t know what to think. She said, “You're probably more qualified than most of the people down at the Capitol, so don't sell yourself short. Let people decide that.”
At first, I wasn’t convinced I could do it since I live in a pretty conservative area, but I gave it thought. It wasn't until November 2017 when I watched Danica Roem become the first elected [transgender] state legislator that I really started considering it.
That is when I started to put together a campaign and going to all the trainings, learning how to run for office, gathering all the information I needed and working really hard to run my lecture.
In 2018, we won the election by 439 votes and it was a very slim margin. We had to wait until Saturday to get the results. It was kind of an awkward situation because I was behind in the polls and then a couple of days later, as the results started to come in, I was ahead by as few as nine votes.
We weren't sure who was gonna win, so they had to start the orientation process, even though we didn’t know if my votes may or may not count.
We were doing our leadership elections and the results finally came, which bumped me up to a number of votes that would have taken me out of recount range. I was up by a little over 200 votes!
I want to thank everyone that supported me through this challenging campaign. Thank you so much to my constituents for believing in me to be your elected leader. I'm honored to be and looking forward to serving and making Colorado a better place for all.
— Rep Brianna Titone - COHD27 (@BriannaForCO) November 10, 2018
That was a really great turnaround. However, the first time that I did a big speech at the Democratic caucuses, I was really nervous because I don’t like the sound of my voice, so my friend helped me come up with a little icebreaker:
“Hello everyone, my name is Brianna Titone and I'm a transgender person. Now that that's out of the way, let's address the elephant in the district.”
That didn’t stop the press from saying, “Brianna's the first transgender woman to be elected to state legislature.” And then that was it.
I served in the legislature from January through May, through the regular session, and I produced a lot of good bills. Yet, besides a mention here and there, they didn’t dive into the things I was doing, because they “don't want it to be about identity politics.”
I'm a legislator! And in my time in office I have produced seven bills on flood control, affordable housing, consumer insurance, control rental application fees, and the use of Xeriscape in common areas.
Likewise, I have co-sponsored 11 bills on cancer treatment and license plate surcharge, state funding for full-day Kindergarten, climate action plan to reduce pollution, free menstrual hygiene products, prohibit conversion therapy for minors, and identity documents for transgender persons.
I care deeply about the people in my community and I want them to know that my door is always open for them. That’s why I hold gatherings with the community. I'm one of the one hundred people in the State Capitol that are making laws trying to better the people's lives in Colorado. And I should just be treated the same way as everybody else and not be treated differently.
Tonight was @LWVColorado night out with your Legislators. I was joined by @Cutter4Colorado and @Zenzinger_AtoZ to talk about the upcoming session and to take questions. Thanks for having us! #copolitics #coleg pic.twitter.com/jFw428wZKd
— Rep Brianna Titone - COHD27 (@BriannaForCO) November 22, 2019
This isn’t about identity stuff. It's just about a good legislator doing good work, trying to do work for the people and to give them the time they deserve. We really don’t need those labels when it comes to work. Unless were are talking about discrimination against that person, their gender identity doesn’t matter.
I'm trying to do good as a member of the house and show people that transgender people are worthy of the positions we strive for and want to represent.
Yes I'm a transgender woman in an office position, but you should be talking to me because I'm a legislator. It comes down to the fact that we all have the same hopes, dreams and desire for love and a better future. We don't want to be cast aside.
I grew up in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, surrounded by hard working parents, a brother and a very close relationship with my grandparents.
I always felt really, well...different. [I] didn't fit in and had to hide myself for so long. But, it wasn't quite like I felt like a girl. It didn't really even occur to me that I could have the right to do that or even the ability.
You see, growing up there was not a lot of transgender role models around my small town. Top that with the fact that I grew up before the internet was a thing—which by the way, definitely helps people today be able to find resources for themselves.
It was a time where shows like “The Phil Donahue” and “Jerry Springer” were on. You probably won’t even remember or know what am talking about. Well, “The Phil Donahue” was this show where they had guests that were usually controversial, outrageous or, you know, something like that.
One time,my seven-year-old self was watching it, and they had a transgender woman on stage. She was in a relationship with another woman. They basically put them on display and kind of ridiculed them and criticized them.
Believe me, it wasn't great, or even a nice way to portray these people. But to me, the idea that somebody could change their gender and still love someone who is a woman was very strong, because I liked girls and I felt differently.
I don't have a lot of really strong memories from the past, but that one I definitely remember, because it was that idea that I could change myself to fit my inner personality, and maybe in the future it will end up turning out to be true.
The struggle! Now I will tell younger me not to worry about it, because it'll all make sense later, it'll all work out great and I will have a good life ahead of me. Being different is okay and it's actually something that we should embrace. But back then I just kept going.
While still in middle school, I got my first job. My 14-year-old self was being prepared for the one to three jobs (at a time) I would hold all the way through college.
As I was growing up, so did this huge urge to get involved and help people. At 16-years-old, I became a volunteer at Milton Engine Company No.1, the fire department where I became a junior member for two years, until I turned 18-years-old. In total I served as a firefighter for seven years.
Thanks to my parents, I was able and fortunate to go the local state university and graduate from geology and physics. With time and working while in school, I manage to make it to grad school to pursue a master's degree in geochemistry.
However, while I was in college, 9/11 happened. It stuck in my head a lot, and I thought that doing something service-minded to help prevent that from happening would be something I could do. I decided to join the FBI and become an FBI special agent.
That pursuit became a big part of my life and many years and sacrifice were put into it, but in the end I didn't get accepted. By that time I was already living in Colorado and turning 37-years-old, which is the cutoff age for the FBI. It was a turning point for me.
For so long, I put aside discovering who I was, afraid it would complicate things. I figured maybe if I was just a crossdresser, I could get away with that and not have that be a problem. I ended up going to a lot of therapists who said, “It’s just a phase,” or, “You are not transgender.”
Yet, I was at the point where, you know, my career, hopes and dreams dissolved, and that was a big part of what was driving me in life! It gave me an ultimatum to say: ‘Well look! You're lost right now, and you need to go figure out what it is that really makes you a happy person and there is gonna be some bumps in the road and you have to be able to accept some of those things.”
At 37 I really didn't have a lot of other choices, and I was kind of desperate to face it. However, the biggest struggle for me was hearing a lot of what other people went through, and
not knowing if a lot of those negative experiences were going to be the same for me.
You talk to people that have come out and they lost their family, they lose their friends, their job. They end up becoming homeless, because things really go downhill.That was always a big fear for me, because I had relationships that prevented me from really coming out, and kept me keeping secrets about who I was, knowing that it was possible that they were going to leave me because of who I am, because they didn't want to be with me, as a different person.
However, once I was able to really grasp the facts I just went forward, and went at them at one at a time. You know, talking to my family, coming out to my friends. Coming out on Facebook was a big deal for me, because I didn't know how people were gonna react on that and how many friendships I would watch going down.
That was four years ago. Now, except for my hair color, I'm just living my authentic life.