Ohio refuses to reconsider disqualification of trans state House candidate

An Ohio board is upholding its decision to disqualify a trans state House candidate who refused to disclose her deadname – even though others have been cleared.

Vanessa Joy, an estate agent photographer from Massillon, did not list her deadname on the petitions used to collect signatures for a place on the ballot. Currently, the state law dictates that candidates need to disclose any changes they’ve made to their name in the past five years on the petition, though alterations related to marriage are excluded from the policy.

Notably, the legal technicality isn’t listed in the 33-page requirement guide issued to candidates, and trans candidates Bobbie Arnold of Preble County and Arienne Childrey of Auglaize County were granted permission to run earlier this month.

Joy is now campaigning to change the Ohio law before November, when Childrey or Arnold would see the results of the ballot – but they could face being kicked out of office if she doesn’t succeed.

“I’m out of the race, but I’m not out of the fight,” Joy told The Associated Press.

She also believes that, although she would’ve been willing to include her deadname on the ballot if needs be, that’s not always a safe option for trans people – another reason she’s fighting to get the policy changed.

“It’s a barrier to entry for many trans and gender-nonconforming people,” she told NBC News.

“Where I personally would have just bit the bullet and allowed my deadname to be on the petitions and likely on the ballot, for a lot of trans people, they don’t want their deadnames printed.

“It’s a safety concern for many.”

Ohio secretary of state Frank LaRose said his team will be working on the candidate guide, but the Republican said they won’t be altering the law as he believes public officeholders must offer transparency to voters. According to his views, trans people aren’t entitled to privacy over their past name.

For Joy, the fight to be represented authentically on the Ohio ballot is also about inspiring younger trans people to run for office and increasing trans representation in government.

“I wanted to give millennials, Gen X and Gen Z the courage to get out and vote and to run for office themselves,” Joy further told NBC News.

“Because if they see a trans girl from very red Ohio running for public office, in a chamber full of people who despise me for my existence, they might have more courage to get out and vote and see that ‘maybe my vote will make a difference.’”

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