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Janet Melman aims to become first Trans elected official in Olympia

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Janet Melman — Courtesy photo  

To ensure that Washington remains a safe place for LGBTQ+ people, Janet Melman is running for the 42nd Legislative District, which encompasses Bellingham — where she lives and which she describes as Queer friendly — and Ferndale. If elected, Melman would become the first Transgender person to serve in the state legislature.

"Our rights are only as guaranteed as our lawmakers can protect them for us, and that's why a Trans voice needs to be in Olympia," Melman told the SGN.

One of the primary reasons she entered the race was because of the passage of Initiative 2081, which has the potential to out Queer youth to their parents and guardians.

"A sitting senator told me last year that they believed that Trans people aren't working hard enough to be accepted," Melman said. "If that's the attitude in Olympia, how can we expect them to defend our rights?"

Melman said if legislators who claim to be LGBTQ+ allies think like this, there needs to be someone at the table who knows the truth, and the lived experiences of Trans people — both good and bad, adding that those wishing to roll back the rights of LGBTQ+ people affect all Washingtonians, not just those who identify as Trans.

Although she has a degree in biosciences, Melman has spent years as a healthcare and LGBTQ+ rights advocate, which has led her to cultivate relationships with lawmakers in Olympia and Washington, DC. She believes if she can advocate for herself as a woman who is Transgender, then she can do so for others.

Uphill battle
In early 2022, Melman realized she was Trans, she said.

"It took me until December of that year to basically come out fully and start living my life daily as my true self," she said. "One of the things that gave me a lot of insight is that there was no one helping me figure out how to get healthcare, what I need."

Now with the increased knowledge of navigating different aspects of the state's healthcare system, Melman hopes to pay it forward.

"My passion is to literally take my knowledge and share it with other people so that they don't have the fear and anxieties I had by doing everything myself," she said.

Her biggest challenge with her campaign so far has been outreach and letting community members know what's at stake in this election.

"I don't think this is an issue of apathy. I think this is an issue where people just don't get that word. They don't hear about it, so they think it's just another election cycle, and there's more to it than that," Melman said.

Melman's opponents in the 42nd Legislative District include the incumbent Democrat, Alicia Rule, and Republican Raymond Pelletti. Melman said she feels like she is being shut out of the race, however. During a recent endorsement call, where she and Rule were trying to earn endorsements from a local group, an question shook her.

"The first person asked a question, and it was supposed to be for both candidates, and the question was: 'We worked very hard to flip this district for Democrats. Why do you want to ruin it for us?' Which, of course, was not a question that was directed at both candidates, but once they said it, I was cooked," Melman said. "I was sabotaged in that call, and I knew that if I was not going to get local support, I was going to be forced to run as an outsider."

Although frustrated, Melman is fighting the uphill battle. She believes that constituents are more inclined to vote based on their beliefs. She also thinks that when voters are told that someone [else] is your party's only candidate and if you don't vote for them, you get what you get, then it isn't democratic.

To learn more about Melman's campaign, visit https://www.janetfordistrict42.com