Osun Zotique wants to be the first trans member of Congress

They were already teaching yoga at Hudson and working on a doctorate. in education at the State University of New York at Buffalo when in December they took over as executive director of OutHudson, a nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ people in Columbia County.

The job came after Zotique met with the organization’s former leaders and realized, “God bless them, they’re exhausted.” Fearing that their exhaustion meant OutHudson, now in her 13th year, would “get by the wayside,” Zotique offered to help. “We still need pride in 2022 and they were happy to pass the sparkle baton to me,” they said.

Beyond hosting Pride commemorations each June, OutHudson’s work spans the entire year. “Our mission is to expand the visibility and well-being of LGBTQ and allied people in Columbia County,” Zotique said. This includes a scholarship fund for a high school graduate, which Zotique intends to expand through a new fundraising campaign.

Then came May.

As plans took shape for OutHudson’s first Pride celebrations after two years of the pandemic, Zotique once again felt the call to community service, this time to run for Congress in the newly redesigned 19th Precinct. Currently, they are collecting signatures to be on the August 23 ballot.

Zotique proudly notes that, to their knowledge, they are the first openly transgender, non-binary candidate for federal office in the United States. There are a growing number of transgender and non-binary candidates running for public office, but, according to Out for America, while there are 11 openly gay, lesbian or bisexual members of Congress, there are currently no no transgender members. The organization does not track candidates who lost their elections.

“Everyone says I came out of the womb holding a cup of coffee,” Zotique said. “I wear a lot of hats.”

They couldn’t help but throw their hats into the congressional ring when a proposed Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade leaked. “It was a pivotal national moment that inspired me to run for office. I was content to teach yoga and lead OutHudson until that happened. Gender equality covers women and all genders. gender identities and sexual orientations. An attack on women’s rights is an attack on gay rights. I said, no way, José.

Zotique had an opening: U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado, a “fellow Latinx musician,” had left his seat in Congress to become lieutenant governor. “We needed someone who would be a charismatic and transformative leader to help move the essence of what the Hudson Valley is all about.”

For Zotique, that means making sure the candidates aren’t just white men like Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, the two candidates running in the special election. to see the rest of Delgado’s tenure. Zotique says it is “leadership deficient” if a wide variety of voters cannot see themselves in government officials. So they stepped up.

If Zotique collects the necessary signatures by the June 10 nomination deadline, they will likely face two other Democrats: Jamie Cheney (“a cis, white, heterosexual woman and business owner from Rhinebeck”) and Josh Riley (“a cisgender, white, married, fifth-generation male from Ithaca”).

Zotique, who first came to the Hudson Valley from New York to serve as music director at Berkshire Country Day School, has lived in the Hudson area for seven years. Their congressional platform covers several categories: economy, education, welfare, land, reproductive health and history.

“I am committed to helping Upstate New York shine as a post-industrial workforce leader in the global digital economy, and to championing affordable housing and quality of life. as we face a massive influx of new residents who are telecommuting and increasing property values,” they said. “We must thrive together.”

Another concern for Zotique: voter confusion at the polls in August. The Aug. 23 ballot puts both the special election and the midterm congressional primaries ahead of voters.

“I’m afraid this whole situation will play a lot in Molinaro’s favor,” Zotique said. “It reminds me of a 2024 race against Molinaro – that’s my fear.”

This is not Zotique’s first attempt at elected office. They also ran, at the last minute and unsuccessfully, for a seat on the Hudson School Board in 2022.

“I joke that they’re the reincarnation of the Energizer Bunny,” said fellow Hudson activist Sherry Jo Williams, who judged the tanks at the 2022 OutHudson Pride Parade. a huge fan and admirer of their intellect and dedication to the community. They seem to understand the needs of large and small communities. »

Williams met Zotique some “pre-panoramic” years while walking down Warren Street, where she had a gallery. “I saw a very cute human with pigtails and a tie-dye shirt,” she said, so she approached them. They chatted, exchanged numbers, had coffee and became friends. Zotique’s drive was always clear. They wanted to meet the “Hudson movers and shakers”, and Warren was happy to help.

“From the first time I met them, there was a kind of radical authenticity that struck me in a very positive way. Bravery, courage, lots of compassion,” Williams said. They also bonded when coming from the South. Zotique says they grew up in a “non-accepting family” in Georgia.

Even a brief conversation with Zotique brings up some very diverse opinions, big and small. National sex education is ‘catastrophic’… people should apply for more mortgages under the Rural Development Lands Act 1949… The legal rights of indigenous entrepreneurs are being undermined in a capitalist economy. They want to get government out of wombs, save the Hudson River from toxic chemicals, and educate ordinary people about how wealthy people take advantage of community investment opportunities, so they can do the same.

Zotique shares these insights quickly but calmly, and usually while wearing a “limited edition necklace” from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s collection. Zotique says it was part of a bag of Banana Republic swag. “She wore it often. I wear it every day until we restore our reproductive rights in this country.

Meanwhile, Zotique is hoping a notable figure like “AOC or Bernie” will take notice of their campaign. “That’s the missing ingredient at this point to push us over the top in terms of attention.”

If that should happen, they are ready. “I bring sage cases to Capitol Hill,” they said, referring to the spiritual ritual of burning grass to cleanse a space and usher in healing. “Congress is one of the least popular elected bodies in recorded history. He is ripe for transformation.

About Mary Moser

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