From The Ashes Of HB2, North Carolina’s First Transgender Congressional Candidate Emerges

Dr. Wendy Ella May is a veteran, a minister and a former firefighter.

Even as North Carolina untangles itself from the chaos of HB2, the state’s first transgender candidate is running for Congress.

Rev. Dr. Wendy Ella May of Johnston County has filed to run for Democratic representative in District 2, where she’s up against Republican incumbent George Holding.

Wendy Ella May
Wendy Ella May/Facebook

May, 55, is a veteran, a minister and a former firefighter. She previously ran for Johnston County Commissioner and was a delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, where she supported Bernie Sanders. And while she’s the first out trans congressional candidate in North Carolina’s history, she insists her platform extends beyond LGBT equality to issues like public schools, healthcare and employee rights.

“As a union member myself, I will be an advocate for all county workers, who deserve a living wage and fair treatment on the job,” she wrote on Facebook. “I will also work with both the public and private sector to bring well-paying jobs and the skills training for those jobs to our community.”

She also hopes to address dysfunction in the Veterans Administration, which has been plagued with mismanagement and poor treatment. According to a study by the VA itself, an estimated 20 veterans commit suicide every day.

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Wendy May and Governor Roy Cooper/Facebook

While HB2 was devastating, May told the News and Observer that public discussion of the measure “opened the door for a lot of interviews where I could talk about veterans rights and a living wage and a quality education.”

She’s is one of a small but growing number of trans Americans getting involved in the political process: Last year, two trans women , Misty Plowright and Misty Snow, ran for Congress in Colorado and Utah. And fellow North Carolinian Angela Bridgman, an outspoken critic of HB2, has filed paperwork to run in the state House of Representatives.

May has an uphill battle before her—she’s running in a conservative rural county, and North Carolina has already been polarized about the transgender community. But Johnson County is a swing district, and standing on the sidelines just wasn’t an option for her.

“I strongly believe that if you are not sitting at the table you will be on the menu,” she wrote on Facebook.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.