Out Denver State Representative Leslie Herod on Hate Crimes and Being a Voice for LGBTs

GO sat down with Leslie at Victory Institute’s conference for LGBTQ elected officials. Hear directly from Leslie about how she got elected and her approach towards positive change for all communities. All photos courtesy of YuniqueYunique.

In the weeks after Trump was elected, hate crimes against LGBTQ people, immigrants, Muslims, and Black communities have seen a heartbreaking increase. One person to experience Trump’s hateful rhetoric first-hand was Amber Timmons, a trans woman from Denver, Colorado. She woke up on the morning on November, 16 to find her car covered in graffiti and hateful messages. Among the messages on her car were “fag,” “die he-she,” “tranny,” “Trump,” and a swastika sign.

“It’s hard to describe; the first thought is shock,” Amber told The Denver Channel. “You just can’t believe it. You hear about it happening with others, but you never think it’s going to happen to you – especially here in Denver. And then it sets in, and the first thing is fearful. You get scared, and you fear everything that can and would happen. It’s a personal attack against me as a person.”

Moments like these are why it is so vital we have LGBTQ officials to represent us. Out Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod is a shining example of what we can hope for from politicians. After Leslie heard of the hate crime Amber had experienced, she decided to hold her first town hall. Leslie has worked tirelessly to ensure an intersectional approach to her coalition building, and that was reflecting in this town hall where over 200 people were heard on their concerns with a Trump presidency.

GO sat down with Leslie at Victory Institute’s conference for LGBTQ elected officials. Hear directly from Leslie about how she got elected and her approach towards positive change for all communities.

Photo by: YuniqueYunique

GO Magazine: What was the most pivotal moment of your campaign?

Leslie Herod: The best day of my race was the day I got the endorsement from the Victory Fund because, on that same day, I got endorsed by the African American Ministerial Alliance. They’ve never endorsed an LGBTQ candidate, ever. But because of the work I’ve done with them to help them understand our community, and help them work with folks in their congregations who are LGBTQ, they were willing to stand up for me. That was huge.

GO: How do you hope to continue to build intersectional coalitions of people in your new role as House Representative?

LH: Coalition building is what I do. I actually just found out that my race won the highest number of Democratic votes in the history of Colorado. I’m the highest vote getter on the Democratic side. As much as we want to be hope and change and Obama – that’s not why I got elected. It’s because I built a coalition of folks to all come together in support of my race. So, we had African-American folks from out in the streets, the senior homes, the churches, we were in the gayborhood, we had the Latino community come out in full force, as well as having Spanish speakers at the doors. All of that came together to create a winning coalition for my campaign. That’s what I plan to continue to do while in office; to use, build, and lean on that coalition to overcome some of the negativity we are facing right now.

GO: You recently had your first Town Hall experience – how was that?

LH: Well, it was a response to hate crimes in the district. We had over 200 people show up; it was standing room only. The media even showed up to cover it. The intersectional coalition we built was all represented on the panel at the Town Hall meeting, and this reflected into the audience. Eventually, it will reflect into neighborhoods and communities being safer. After the Town Hall, we sent out a recap to folks who couldn’t make it, and we live streamed on Facebook. I had many people thank me, saying they’re happy to have folks in the legislature and the community willing to have each other’s backs.

GO: The next four years are undoubtedly going to be difficult for so many of us – how do you hope to provide a voice for LGBTQ people in your new role?

LH: It is going to be challenging for the LGBTQ community. It’s going to be challenging for so many different communities of people. The most important thing I want to do, especially as an LGBTQ woman of color, is not segregate out our communities. The attacks that are coming at us, like deporting families and Pence’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, are something that will take us standing together and saying we won’t welcome this into our communities.

It’s interesting in Colorado because we have the Democratic majority in the House, a Democratic governor, and we’re only down in the Senate by one vote and Hilary won the state. We’ve been playing offense a lot with the Obama administration, and now it’s time for our defense to show up. Quite frankly, defenses win the game. I will say that we are part of the defensive line and we’ll make sure that our communities are safe. At the state level, we aren’t going to allow these things to pass. Together we will overcome this.

GO: When it comes to the personal being political – how has your lived experience empowered you to want to join public service?

LH: I come from a single parent household, I have family members who have struggled with addiction, I have family members who have been incarcerated, I’m an LGBTQ person. It’s part of my story; it’s part of who I am. All of those reasons are why I ran for office and why I’m passionate about what I’m passionate about. My lived experience makes me uniquely qualified to be in office. Someone who has directly experienced some of the things we’re talking about and fighting for should be the ones to run for office. We should tell our stories.

Being an out LGBTQ person, it’s interesting that I come out a lot. The way I present, people might not always assume that I’m LGBTQ. I also come out as a Christian, I come out about my family, these are what make me unique and qualified for the position. I will take those experiences and the experiences of folks in the community to fight for the right legislation. And to make sure we make really impact and change for the folks at home.

Photo by: YuniqueYunique