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Six trans and non-binary Democrats wanted to represent their communities. They were disqualified ‘because of their gender’

Vic Parsons April 28, 2020
Derek Gaskill

Derek Gaskill, a trans man who is one of six plaintiffs suing the Brooklyn Democratic Party. (Twitter/Derek Gaskill)

Six trans candidates said they have been eliminated from the race to represent their communities at county level by the Brooklyn Democratic Party because of their gender.

In March, Nandani Bharrat, Casey Bohannon, Michael Donatz, Derek Gaskill, Paige Havener and Angela LaScala-Gruenewald all submitted petitions to run for seats on the governing body of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.

They are all trans, non-binary, or gender non-conforming, and had all left the gender field blank when they applied to run in the upcoming June and December elections, because there was only a male or female option.

On April 22, the six learned that the Board of Elections had disqualified them from the race – “not because we did not collect enough signatures — but because of our genders”, they wrote in a column for the Brooklyn Paper.

Trans and non-binary Democrats say they are being blocked from representing their communities.

All six said they were eliminated because the Democratic primary ballot currently requires candidates to specify their gender as male or female only.

“Each of us should have the right to run to represent our communities,” the candidates wrote in response to their elimination.

“Removing these gender barriers is critical to fixing our local political system.

“For many, holding a seat on County Committee is the first stepping stone before running for higher office in New York City.

As Democrats, we can and should do better to support people of all genders seeking these elected positions.

Separately, the candidates are all suing the Brooklyn Democratic Party for forcing them to run as male or female without their consent.

They alleged that the Board of Elections later filled out the gender fields without their consent, assigning them false genders based off their names, according to local news.

In the lawsuit, the candidates argue that gender-parity rules, in place to ensure that a certain number of men and women represent each state assembly district and originally intended to encourage more women to join local politics, exclude non-binary people.

In their op-ed, the candidates wrote: “We contend the gender-based discrimination ingrained in Brooklyn’s petitioning process violates the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution and our city and state human rights laws.

“The current requirements to petition for a seat on County Committee neglect a view of gender that reflects our lived experience and the experiences of tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

“As both first-time candidates and former members of the committee, we see how gender and gender-based assumptions permeate our local Democratic Party structure.”

Brooklyn Democrats have eliminated gender rules in other cases.

At a higher level of politics in Brooklyn, these rules have already been eliminated to allow for two women — Rodneyse Bichotte and Annette Robinson — to hold the posts of executive committee chair and vice chair.

This would not have been allowed under the gender-parity rules, which state there must be one man and one woman in these posts.

Last summer, a non-binary person called Bre Kidman became the first out non-binary person to run for the US Senate.

If elected, Kidman would be the first openly transgender person to serve in the US Congress.

PinkNews has contacted the New York Democratic Party for comment.

More: brooklyn democratic party, democratic party, Democrats, gender binary, gender non-conforming, GenderFluid, non-binary, Transgender, Western gender binary

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