Wendy May is running for United States Congress because she believes her strong progressive views can help transform North Carolina’s image on the national stage, and she looks to be a representative truly “of the people.”
Along the way, she’s happy to have made a little history as well.
With the announcement of her Congressional run earlier this year, Wendy May became the first openly transgender person in the state of North Carolina to run for federal office.
A 9/11 first responder, Wendy spent 168 days at Ground Zero in New York City as part of the cleanup and search and rescue efforts; in addition, she is also an Army veteran. While she began to consider transitioning during this time, she says the cost was prohibitive.
“I’d been living as a male since I was 40,” she explains. “I couldn’t afford to transition initially, but when the VA (Veterans’ Administration) began offering hormone therapy for vets in transition, I took advantage and began my journey to living full time as a female.”
Originally from New Jersey, Wendy moved after her semi-retirement to North Carolina in order to be closer to her son and other family. While living in the Tar Heel State, Wendy saw the passage of the infamous HB 2, one of the most discriminatory LGBTQ bills passed in recent years, which restricted restroom access for transgender people, overturned LGBTQ-inclusive municipal ordinances and prevented cities and towns, and municipalities from enacting their own in the future.
“This was so distressing to so many of my transgender friends,” Wendy said. “I became driven to help change the law and make sure that this kind of hate could never happen anywhere again.”
In fact, it was the very nature of HB 2 that first piqued Wendy’s interest in running for political office in the Tarheel State; she had previously run for office in New Jersey.
“One of the reasons I decided to run is because a federal law is needed — something with real teeth — that ensures equality. It would need to provide nondiscrimination laws and protections for everybody, meaning true lived equality for all. There’s a strong coalition of people here who believe that already.”
Even though the state legislature repealed HB 2, what they replaced it with did nothing to fix the problem. The so-called “replacement bill,” HB 142, simply put a moratorium on all branches of government and state institutions enacting their own nondiscrimination policies and laws until February of 2020.
“Replacing [HB 2] with HB 142 was not a help by any means. This is a hate bill as well, affecting the entire LGBTQ community.”
Wendy’s run is a step in the right direction for inclusion and visibility for transgender people engaged in the political process; she believes that Congress needs more diversity and needs to do a better job of listening to constituents and acting in their best interest.
“One thing I’ve promised to bring to Congress is two ears and one mouth — I’ll be listening to those who elected me and speaking up for them, because that would be my responsibility.”
Wendy also says that she’s taken heart from the 2017 election, which saw more transgender candidates than ever elected to political office, from school boards and city councils to, in Virginia, the state general assembly, as Danica Roem became the first ever openly transgender person elected to state office. Ultimately, Wendy wants the transgender community to be represented in national discussions corresponding to any number of issues, but doesn’t want to win simply on the basis of her gender identity.
“Having a transgender person winning in state government is a great stepping stone, and having a transgender person win a federal office would be incredible,” she said. “I give Danica a lot of credit for running not as a transgender candidate, but as a candidate focused on real issues that affected people. In the federal House and Senate, we need at least one seat at the table to say “stop looking at us as only defined by our sexual orientation or gender identity, and start looking at us as real, serious candidates driven by issues. I run as a progressive who also happens to identify as a transgender woman. I don’t want to win just because I’m transgender, I want to win because people believe in the issues I want to fight for.”