Jenna Marie Bourgeois is an openly transgender woman and civil rights activist who is running for the United States House of Representatives in Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her opponent, Vicky Hartzler, is an anti-LGBTQ bigot and author of many oppressive anti-LGBTQ bills introduced to Congress. Jenna Marie is the CEO of Dynamics Intelligence Inc., which is a global technology startup that operates in the United States and Canada. Aside from her experience and talent, she is also well-known from her article “20 Things You Wanted to Ask a Transgender Professional,” in which she explores the adversity she has faced as a transgender woman in the workforce.
She decided to take a dive to run for office in Missouri after President Trump’s announcement that he would ban transgender individuals from the military. With more representation of transgender people within Congress, the harder Jenna Marie hopes it will be for Republicans to pass discriminatory laws.
Below are a few questions from Millennial Politics’ interview with Jenna Marie about her identity, her campaign, and the platform she is running on.
How did you get into politics?
I first entered politics in 2002 after hearing the “Bush Doctrine” speech. I viewed preemptive war to be counter to American values. In politics, we often say that a candidate has to have “fire in the belly,” meaning that you have to have a burning issue to drive you to run. In 2002, that was my burning issue. Today, the assault on transgender men and women by Republicans, the continued assault on working families, and the continued assault on women’s rights are my burning issues. I started by volunteering for the Dick Gephardt Congressional Campaign. When he ran for President in 2004, I was a staffer for him in Iowa. At the same time, I founded the Young Democrats of St. Charles County, Missouri and we began developing candidates. Some of the members of that organization ended up working in the Obama Administration.
What made you decide to run for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District?
The incumbent is the author of several anti-LGBT bills including the transgender military ban and the Civil Rights Conformity Act, which promises to remove discrimination protection on the basis of gender and gender identity affecting some 3.5 million transgender Americans. I felt it was really important to take the fight for LGBT rights to the front porch of the oppressors. So, I dropped everything and moved to her district to run against her. A victory by any of the transgender candidates will legitimize transgender people because it will be much more difficult to pass bathroom laws when we are members of Congress.
What is special to you about Missouri?
Despite how people describe “red states.” Missouri has always been a swing state and many of the people are very nice. My district is predominantly rural. 25% percent of children living in my district are in poverty. My New Deal for Rural Missouri is a series of programs that are designed to eliminate poverty in my district that include Single-Payer Healthcare, Startup Farms (Sustainable Agriculture), and Rural Business Innovation Centers. Today, the people of my district are being ignored by their local politicians, who have done little to help reduce poverty.
Having vast experience in the tech field, how do you believe technology can be used in government?
I believe that you can see my tech experience influence my platforms. With my experience in working with tech startups, I applied the same theory to sustainable agriculture and the needs of rural Missourians to create the Startup Farms program. As a small business owner, it was always difficult to provide healthcare benefits to my employees, which is why Single-Payer Healthcare is so important. Many times in the business world, we cannot predict the market. Missourians need to be able to predict their healthcare coverage. Single-Payer Healthcare provides them that. Of course, technology people are all about streamlining operations and reducing costs. By modernizing our federal government, we can save the taxpayers a lot of money. My philosophy has always been to apply technology to make the world a better place and I think we can make great strides in helping people with supporting integrated medicine which combines clinical data with research data allowing researchers to develop new drugs and treatments at a much faster pace.
How does your identity affect your candidacy?
Transgender people are actually much more qualified to be in office than someone who has only experienced life as a male or female. Through our experience, we can empathize with both genders because we’ve been there. Of course, there is a lot of hateful uneducated people out there with guns. As a candidate, I have to take extra precautions to protect myself while accepting that personal risk is part of the campaign. We get trolled a lot online by hate groups almost every day. The voters don’t always understand what is going on when it happens. As a result, I fully support strengthening the federal laws to toughen the penalties on cyber bullies and to make it easier to for victims to obtain orders of protection. Not every state provides protection from cyberbullying, which can cause people to commit suicide, anxiety, depression or otherwise unfairly disrupt their lives.
What are your top issues?
My top issues are passing a civil rights bill for transgender Americans, solving rural poverty, and Single-Payer Healthcare. My platform is filled with new ideas that will help solve the long=term problems that have plagued America and my district. I would also vote to impeach Trump, which is an important issue to many Americans.
If you win, how will you resolve these issues within your government?
I will need to build coalitions with members from both sides of the aisle where we can agree. On issues where we don’t agree, I may have to dig in. For example, I will not compromise on LGBTQ rights, nor will I compromise on racial equality, nor will I compromise on a woman’s right to choose. Furthermore, I do not support government interference with respect to our bodies whether that be choice, transition, or end of life.
What advice would you give to young trans individuals who hope to run for office someday?
Hopefully, things will be easier for the younger generation than it is today. My advice to transgender people is to be out and be proud. The time has passed for people hiding in the shadows. It is our time to lead and demonstrate to the rest of America that we make a positive contribution to our society every day.
Any closing thoughts or other things you would like people to know about you and your campaign?
There is no doubt that my campaign will be extremely tough to win. It is an uphill battle, but the rewards are great. This is a title bout, a race between an openly transgender woman and the very incumbent that wants to eliminate transgender people from society. There couldn’t be a better matchup and a better story. Victory means everything. A victory will mean that transgender people are legitimized and will be a mandate for a civil rights bill. Regardless of where they are located in the country, I encourage transgender people and our allies to donate to my campaign, so that together we can be victorious!
Jenna Marie is passionate, determined, and ready for a long fight. But she is going to need our help to win this race, so visit her site to volunteer and donate to her campaign!