Jordan Evans has always grown up with conservative values. From a young age, values of small government and individual responsibility have resonated with Jordan, who hails from Massachusetts and serves as Town Constable in the town of Charlton.
“The individual charity, and the idea of people helping people without the need for a larger government has really stuck with me,” Jordan said, citing her upbringing with a “Conservatarian” bend. “My family had a small business, and we were into blazing our own path. I want to ensure that it’s easy and straightforward for someone to believe what they want to believe, be who they want to be, and do what they want to do with minimal governmental interference.”
When, as an adult, Jordan began to understand that she is a transgender woman, she found herself without much of a roadmap to look toward when it came to reconciling her gender identity with her politics.
After all, it’s hardly revolutionary to acknowledge that especially in recent years especially, the modern Republican Party is not widely celebrated for its inclusion of the LGBT community.
“I didn’t know how to be open or how to consolidate the two identities into one,” Jordan said, explaining that there are so few models of openly transgender people who are also Republicans. “I knew it had to be possible though. I grew up and hung out with people who were large believers in the individual. What’s more individual than taking the steps to be who you are?”
“I thought for a long time that these two parts of me – being transgender and being a Republican – should be able to be compatible,” she said. “But how? I was in that state of limbo for a while. And then I realized that there was no one better to talk about what I was experiencing than me. I thought that maybe I could say something and get people thinking.”
In 2016 Jordan published an editorial in CommonWealth Magazine urging Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, to support non-discrimination protections for transgender people.
In the piece, Jordan explained that being transgender is, of course, not a choice. “Being a Republican, however,” she wrote, “is a choice I made that continues to confuse so many of my transgender friends and family, who feel a personal sense of betrayal over the actions of our party. It’s a choice that they have every right to criticize because of the policies we’ve been enacting across the country, and the positions of our national party. It’s a choice I made because, even though I share their pain and frustration, I want to believe that I wasn’t wrong about this party and that we’ll make the moral choice at the end of the day.”
“I thought for a long time that these two parts of me – being transgender and being a Republican – should be able to be compatible. But how? I was in that state of limbo for a while.” – Jordan Evans
“My argument was basically, ‘I’m a Massachusetts Republican,'” Jordan said about the editorial. “I explained that I’ve helped our candidates, that we both have similar principles on a lot of issues. So if I can get behind transgender equality, too, why can’t you?”
Ultimately, Governor Baker signed the bill into law later that summer, a tremendous victory for transgender equality that directly contested the anti-transgender legislation filed in dozens of states last year.
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Jordan’s politics are not simply conversation fodder or theoretical viewpoints by which she votes or chooses candidates to support. As an elected official, her politics are a much more significant part of her life than most Americans.
In fact, politics was in many ways a mooring buoy for Jordan throughout her teenage and college years, a career project she embarked on before even turning 20.
“Politics in some ways gave me a reprieve from gender dysphoria and all of this thinking I was doing around my gender identity,” Jordan said. “At least by consolidating myself into politics I could understand that part of who I was, which gave me the liberty to express myself that way.”
After high school she became a local Cultural Council member and an election poll worker – and by 19, she set her sights on running for public office, for the role of Town Moderator.
“I wanted to make my town better and address issues no one else was addressing,” Jordan said of her commitment to the cause. “I wanted to explore this political side of me.”
She didn’t prevail in her first race, or her next race for School Board, but with each election she got to know more people and grew closer and closer to a victory.
Throughout the process she became close with the Massachusetts Republican Party. “The MA Republican Party is more open-minded than how the national party has been,” Jordan said. “I felt more at home there than any other party, and so I threw my lot behind them, got really involved, and became the local registrar of voters for my town.”
In 2014 she ran for state delegate and was elected to the position, enabling her to cast a vote on the gubernatorial nominee for the Republican Party.
“Before I knew it, I was involved in other organizations and I saw that I really liked Education, and I wanted to be involved beyond being a teacher,” Jordan said.
In 2015 she discovered a potential outlet when the Library Trustee position opened up. She ran for the position and was elected. “I’m a total book nerd, and I went to college to become a teacher. Becoming the Library Trustee was one of the best things ever.”
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While her political work blossomed, Jordan became increasingly aware of the need to come to terms with her gender identity.
In 2013 she had come out to a small group – “I was wicked scared, to say the least” – but after a few negative reactions and recognizing a small personal network, she retreated, “until things became clearer.”
“Ultimately, I just realized that things were going to be difficult for me until I confronted this side of me and acknowledged that I am transgender,” Jordan said. “By not confronting that and what that meant for me, I was setting myself up for a troubling time.”
Jordan began transitioning in 2015 and now she lives every day as the woman she has long understood herself to be.
Months later she ran for reelection for the Library Trustee position, out publicly as a transgender woman.
On Election Day she stood outside of her town’s single polling location – one location for all 14,000 people in Charlton.
“I stood there with my sign with my name on it, shook everyone’s hand, had conversations – many of them good, some indifferent, some where people didn’t say anything. It was trial by fire.” It was a little scary – but Jordan said she was ready to be out and honest with her community and with her party.
“I actually got a lot of support from people,” she said. “They would say, ‘I’m not center-left or progressive at all, but I’m an ally to transgender people,’ or they’d say, ‘I’m a little center-right and conservative and transgender, and I just don’t know how to go about doing it.'”
Clearly, other people in her own community were struggling with being both transgender-supportive and conservative, reaffirming Jordan’s commitment to sharing her story proudly.
“It was all a journey for me,” Jordan said. “And so now I’m trying to reach other people and say, ‘Hey, it’s OK – you’re allowed to be both transgender and conservative. And if you want, you should help our community move forward.’ I just want people to know that it’s OK to have differing political views and still be a member of our community. There’s no right way to be transgender. We need everyone.”
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One way Jordan is helping to move the needle on transgender equality is through Freedom Massachusetts, the campaign to protect transgender non-discrimination protections across the state. A ballot initiative has been filed for 2018, when voters in Massachusetts will be asked to affirm the transgender protections law signed in 2016 by Governor Baker.
She speaks regularly with students, including Gay-Straight Alliance groups, sharing information about the current state of the law when it comes to transgender protections and why voters across the state must vote to affirm the basic tenet of fairness at the ballot in 2018.
“We have to be ever vigilant about this issue,” Jordan said. “We have to keep on fighting, even when we think we’ve secured equal rights for everyone. You just never know what can happen. We can’t let ourselves get complacent.”
For Jordan, much of her energy is directed at helping Republicans evolve on the question of transgender equality, which can be challenge given the negative messages and policies coming from the Trump Administration.
“I just want people to know that it’s OK to have differing political views and still be a member of our community. There’s no right way to be transgender. We need everyone.” – Jordan Evans
“It’s not a bad thing to be critical of the president,” Jordan said. “But even though the administration has been discouraging on transgender equality, if anyone on our side wants to move forward, his failings mean that we need to be fighting all the more so. If we get discouraged and withdrawn, that’s not going to help the party evolve. We need to be a constant buzz.”
“Ultimately, transgender people are not in the pocket of one party or the other,” she said. “Support for transgender equality is not something pigeonholed just to one side. Full LGBTQIA equality is an American value – not something that should be reserved for political capital. That should be a motivator to stay and keep fighting, because the more of us that there are and the louder that we are, that’s when things will begin to change. Equality is a multi-partisan issue. Equality is an American value.”