Peyton Rose Michelle recently became the first openly trans person to win an election in Louisiana when she was elected to the Democratic State Central Committee (DSCC). I recently had an opportunity to interview her.
FP: Tell us a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up?
PRM: I’m born and raised in Parks/Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. I say Breaux Bridge to folks less familiar with the area. I’ve been here my whole life.
FP: You’re currently enrolled at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. What is the campus atmosphere like for queer folk?
PRM: There’s a pretty good queer community on campus, with a few LGBTQ+ related student groups. For me, campus is pretty kind, but I’m privileged in a lot of ways. Others are less privileged and have issues on campus. Trans students on campus often run into issues with housing, changing their name in the UL system is difficult, etc. People tabling on campus for TDOR [Transgender Day of Remembrance] were also harassed by some students passing by. Things definitely aren’t perfect.
FP: When did you first get interested in politics?
PRM: Right out of high school, I began working with Louisiana Trans Advocates in small ways. I soon grew more interested in the work the organization was doing, some of which was local and state-level legislative work. This led me to an interest in political work and to working towards a degree in Political Science to attend law school. Nowadays, I work on as many progressive causes as I can handle.
FP: You recently became the first openly trans person elected to office in Louisiana. What motivated you to run?
PRM: I actually had no idea what the DSCC was until someone told me I needed to run for the seat in my district. That person thought I should run to bring more progressive ideals to the Louisiana Democrats and of course to advocate for trans people within the committee. I already had an interest in politics and political work, so it seemed like a great idea to me.
FP: Acadiana is a very conservative, very religious area. Did you encounter a lot of religious opposition to your candidacy?
PRM: Not really. I had a few outliers here or there via Facebook comments, but nothing major. I think this was a small enough election that I was able to fly under the radar for those hyper-aggressive conservatives. I was also only voted on by Democrats, as Louisiana is a closed primary, so that may have helped also.
FP: What was the most surprising thing about running for the DSCC?
PRM: That I won.
FP: Some of our readers may not be familiar with the DSCC. What exactly does the DSCC do?
PRM: DSCC stands for Democratic State Central Committee. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have these Committees. Theirs is the Republican State Central Committee. These Committees function as the leadership of the respective parties. Something like a board of directors in an organization. Representatives in this committee vote on issues relating to party funding, supporting candidates running for offices, etc.
FP: You also work with PFLAG Lafayette and Louisiana Trans Advocates. Tell us about those groups.
PRM: I previously mentioned Louisiana Trans Advocates. It’s a statewide trans-specific group focusing on advocacy, social support, and education for trans people. We do state and local advocacy. We provide support groups around the state for trans people to find a community. And we work to educate all people about trans people, our lives, our struggles, etc.
PFLAG Lafayette is a chapter of PFLAG National that many may be familiar with. PFLAG Lafayette has advocated for local resolutions, like a school board resolution to help fight bullying of LGBT students, which passed the Lafayette Parish School Board earlier this year. This organization also works to provide support to LGBTQ people in the Lafayette area by giving them a community. It is also a newer organization, and there’s much more we’d like to do as an organization.
FP: How would you sum up the recent legislative session with regard to trans issues?
PRM: In Louisiana specifically, we saw two anti-trans sports bills that would’ve made participating in sport extremely traumatizing for trans youth. However with COVID, the legislature was unable to complete the needed steps to vote and pass either of these bills, so we get more time to figure out how to fight these bills, assuming they reemerge next year.
FP: A lot of rank and file Democrats, especially young ones, have become disillusioned with the Democratic Party in recent years. What do you say to those voters?
PRM: I completely see why they feel the way they do. I think everyone is entitled to their own political opinions. For me personally, I decided to try to get involved and be a part of a solution. I’m hoping that any changes that can come will help show voters of all ages that they can trust the Louisiana Democratic party to stand for justice and liberty for all.
FP: What’s next for you?
PRM: Immediately, I’ll be taking a multitude of naps to recover from the excitement. Short-term, I’ll be doing everything I can to be visible in politics, make connections, and push the Louisiana Democrats to be more confidently progressive. Long-term, probably a state legislative position of some kind. We shall see.