Rep. Brianna Titone recalled her best experience during her 2018 state legislature campaign — knocking on a door in suburban Jefferson County.
Titone, a democrat who represents District 27, which includes parts of Jefferson County and Arvada, is Colorado's first openly transgender elected official and one of the first in the United States.
She spoke to about 100 people at the TRANSforming Gender Conference at the University of Colorado on Saturday and shared how she knocked on the storm door of a house, and the woman who answered was overjoyed because she had heard about Titone.
"'Oh my god, you're here! It's you at my door. Come in!'" Titone recalled the woman saying. "She knew who I was. She had a sibling who is trans. It meant a lot to me. We ended up staying too long. My campaign manager wasn't happy. But it was snowing outside and I needed hot tea."
The conference, according to organizers with CU's Center for Inclusion and Social Change, started after a CU professor made unkind remarks about transgender people 13 years ago. Organizers expect about 900 attendees — an all time high — including transgender and non-binary people and parents of non-gender conforming kids.
The weekend-long conference included talks on sex education, the terminology of different gender identities and a workshop for transgender and non-binary people regarding their inclusion in religious settings as well as sessions for non-trans people to be better allies. It continues on Sunday with more workshops and a 2 p.m. talk by author and journalist Meredith Talusan on trans story telling.
Titone believes she won in a heavily Republican district because no one thought a democrat could win. The former volunteer firefighter said public office seemed like a good fit, because she has always liked to help people.
She said that for the most part she doesn't experience a lot of nastiness related to her gender identity, at least not to her face.
"People wait for me to leave the room," she said. "There's also social media, because it has that anonymity to it."
She said she knew she was different from other children when she was about 7- or 8-years-old, and that for a long time, she kept her gender identity to herself and considered herself a "cross-dresser."
She first saw transgender women on "The Phil Donahue Show," a precursor to and less trashy version of "The Jerry Springer Show."
"They used to be male and now they were female but still in love with women," she said. "I was like 'whoa.' It didn't quite register, but it was intriguing to me. It stuck with me."
Answering a question from an audience member, Titone said she has focused on issues important to her constituents and hasn't introduced specific bills related to LGBTQ issues, although she will happily vote on and cosponsor them. She did this at the suggestion of Virginia politician Danica Roem , the nations first openly transgender person elected to a state legislature, who told her that doing so can come off self-serving.
"I'm trying to focus on the stuff people told me at the doors," she said, adding that she did not make her identity a huge part of her campaign.
Her desire is just to serve the people of House District 27, but some firsts are inevitable. Titone said that when she chairs the Committee of the House as a Whole on Monday, she will likely be the first transgender woman in United States history to do so. The committee is made up of the entire House of Representatives and convened for the purpose of debating bills that have come out of committee.
"How respectful they are to me, we will have to see what happens," she said. "If they call me 'Madam Chair' or something different, I will make sure to correct them if they make a mistake."