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September 30, 2014

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Transgender and Republican: Lauren Scott could make history in November

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Lauren Scott

Lauren Scott isn’t running a typical Republican campaign.

She is a transgender, renewable energy consultant running for Assembly District 30 in Washoe County.

Her day job, sexual expression and the fact that she once worked on John Kerry’s presidential campaign don’t fit the traditional mold of the Republican orthodoxy. But that didn’t stop Gov. Brian Sandoval from endorsing her.

If Scott, 50, wins the general election against incumbent Democrat Michael Sprinkle, she will be the first openly transgender politician to hold office in the Legislature.

Scott has been a fixture in Nevada politics since 2009 as founder and executive director of Equality Nevada, which advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. She led the charge to pass legislation to provide LGBT members with legal protections against hate crimes and housing and employment discrimination.

Scott worked with the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to change its policy on gender identification on state IDs. Now, a doctor’s note is all someone needs to register a gender. Before, the decision was up to the DMV.

“The idea of having to go to a DMV worker and explain the configuration of genitals is a little bit awkward,” Scott said.

Scott lectures on gender issues at UNR and doesn’t shy away from talking about her gender identity on the campaign trail.

But civil rights isn’t her only focus. She also is working on energy independence and job growth, and has the resume to back up her proposals.

Scott has owned her own business, consulted for biodiesel companies and lobbied in the Legislature on energy policy. Before she started her gender transition in 1999, she was in the Air Force’s F-117 fighter program.

The self-proclaimed “Teddy Roosevelt Republican” won her June primary by 17 percentage points and says she’s trending well in a district where Democrats have a 13 percent advantage in registered voters.

Scott recently spoke with The Sunday about why she switched parties and what it means to be “the first.”

You’ve lobbied on behalf of Equality Nevada. Do you think you can get more done as a lawmaker than a lobbyist?

There’s not much I can do about gay marriage if it goes through the judicial pathway, which it looks like it’s going to do. I don’t know that I have any personal agenda items left. Beyond this election, if we get marriage, I can’t think of anything I would look for to pass legislation.

Being transgender is something you don’t shy away from talking about on the campaign trail. What are people’s reactions?

The more interesting reaction has been in the Legislature. We’ve seen very vocal antagonism from people who either don’t understand or have inherent bigotry.

During my transition in 1999, I thought this was my problem, that there is something wrong with me and that I should kowtow to society and hope society accepts it. But I read a lot about the basis for gender and sexual development, and I realized all the stories I’ve been reading in the media and popular culture about gender identity and sexuality have been wrong.

When did you know you were a woman?

I generally don’t say I am a woman. I say I am not a man. I was 12. It was when I went through puberty. With all of those changes, I felt very uncomfortable with my body.

You worked on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign in Florida as an LGBT campaign chair. Why did you switch to the Republican Party?

I believe in competition and business development. I want a job. I know people want to work.

By working in the Legislature, I see how the Democrats exploit minorities to pass other policies. The Democrats have passed a lot of LGBT initiatives, but look at history: the Democrats and Jim Crow. Bill Clinton signed “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It was Log Cabin Republicans who got that repealed. A lot of my platform is good economic policy and fiscal development and that I happen to be transgender.

There has been an ongoing debate within the Republican ranks about how to attract and build the foundation of a modern party. Are you the face of the modern-day Republican — a transgender person who works in renewable energy?

I think I am one of many faces. Log Cabin Republicans are growing leaps and bounds. Log Cabins have been active in Las Vegas and are starting in Reno. Though the party and Fox News won’t tell you this: There are more Latinos and transgender people joining the party.

At a local level Republicans are willing to listen and talk to you. They’re not looking for someone who’s radical.

If you win in the general, you will be the first openly transgender lawmaker in state history. Is there added pressure with that?

There is. If you screw up, you set a bad precedent. Like being the first woman to go through Navy SEAL training. When you’re the first, people who don’t want you to succeed always point out your mistakes.

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