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"It's About Listening to People"

By H.L. Comeriato (They/Them), Reporter, The Buckeye Flame

‘It’s about listening to people’: Out LGBTQ+ candidate Arienne Childrey to run against Rep. Angela King in Ohio’s 84th district

Transgender candidate Arienne Childrey has announced a run against Rep. Angela King, who protested alongside neo-Nazis at Celina’s Small Town Pride festival earlier this year.

Arienne Childrey — a trans woman, southern transplant and former preacher— has announced her bid to run as a Democratic candidate against Rep. Angela King (R-Celina).

King currently represents Ohio’s 84th House District in rural west-central Ohio, where LGBTQ+ activists have endured months of online harassment and faced a marked increase in white supremacist activity.

In June, King was photographed and captured on video protesting Celina’s annual LGBTQ+ celebration, Small Town Pride. King joined a handful of anti-LGBTQ+ Christians wearing red shirts, just feet away from self-identified members of the Aryan Freedom Network — a neo-Nazi, white nationalist group whose members have appeared at other Pride events across the state.

For Childrey, King’s proximity to the white nationalist group was the final straw.

A longtime resident of St. Marys — a rural community about ten miles east of the county seat of Celina — Childrey is now working hard to build an inclusive and collaborative grassroots campaign. With a focus on issues that affect voters’ day-to-day lives, she hopes to change the narrative around what LGBTQ+ candidates can accomplish in elected office, particularly in rural communities.

The Buckeye Flame spoke with Childrey about her background, her campaign platform and why she believes it’s important to run an honest and accessible campaign, regardless of the outcome.

This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? What’s your background?

I’ve lived in St. Marys for the better part of a decade. I’m a southern transplant, so I understand the extreme conservative leanings because that happened in the area I come from.

In my closeted days I was vehemently right-wing, and I’ve espoused some of the same talking points they’re using right now. I understand where they’re coming from — and I know it’s hate because I had to overcome it myself from the internalized transphobia and homophobia that had been instilled in me.

I also know that it’s something that can be overcome with education and acceptance. That has been a big motivator for me to get involved and to show the people in this district that they do have options

What made you decide to run for the 84th district congressional seat?

I was at [Small Town Pride] in Celina and helped organize the Pride event in Lima.

When I saw Representative King standing a few yards from the neo-Nazis protesting our event, I hadn’t made a decision to run. In all honesty, my intention was not to run. I’d actually contacted the local Democratic parties trying to see if they had [a Democratic candidate] they could put up against Angie King. Then, we held our protest on September 2 [outside the Mercer County Courthouse].

Then I saw the statement Angie King issued on her Facebook page in response to our protest where she described the protesters as “adults who feel it’s their right to twerk and gyrate in front of your minor children.” That was it for me.

In my view, it felt to me like she was doing her best to sic her followers on the LGBTQ+ community in this area. And if you’re going to do that, then the LGBTQ+ community needs a platform to fight back and show that, in this district, we’re not going to take being marginalized.

We’re going to stand up and we’re going to speak for all the residents.

Can you give me a rundown of your campaign platform? What are some of the core issues you're running on?

As an LGBTQ+ candidate, as a trans candidate, I’m able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

I can talk about civil rights, but while we’re working on that we can also talk about economic issues like expanding broadband into our district, the education bills that have been put forward to strip control from the electorate and put it under the control of the governor, the way that we’re stripping funding [for public education] by putting it towards these voucher programs.

We have a massive teacher shortage. We say that we value our children, but we don’t want to pay a living wage to our teachers. We need to increase that kind of funding, but if you look at my opponent’s record, she’s spent the last year sponsoring or cosponsoring one bill after another to attack the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized communities in our state.

She is doing nothing to improve the quality of life or economic circumstances for the people in the 84th district. I think that needs to change.

I also want to look at how we evaluate our tax plans, because we still have these massive tax cuts for the wealthiest in our state. We give big corporations tax breaks, bringing in less tax revenue. Then we cut programs that benefit the poor and the middle class: our education, our safety nets. Those are the things people living to paycheck to paycheck need most.

I’ve been there. I’ve sat for three days with no electricity because I’m waiting for the paycheck to come. I don’t think that any resident in the state of Ohio — especially working a full time job — should ever have to be in that circumstance.

There are all these things my opponent wants to waste time on that are really not having any impact on your day-to-day life. I’ll tell you what is having a day-to-day impact on your life: the rising cost of living, the lack of new technology and business coming into our areas, the weakening of our education system. Those are things that have an impact.

We should be doing better as a state, but nothing will change so long as we put people up [for elected office] that are going to be more focused on who they can attack rather than who they can help.

You’re also big on being accessible and having conversations with voters?

It’s about listening to people. I think the best ideas are going to come from people who are in the thick of it. I live in a farming community, but I’m not a farmer. I can’t tell you the details of exactly what my farmers in the community need, but I can tell you I’m willing to listen.

I think when it comes to the issues that matter, we don’t have to worry about party labels. Making people successful, making people able to survive, should not be dependent on what little letter I put at the end of my name. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a Democrat idea or a Republican idea, so long as it’s a good idea.

I’ll sit down with the transphobic bigots who hate me if they want to talk about what we can do to help their family farm. I won’t take their bigotry to Columbus, but I’ll take their concerns and suggestions about how farms in the area can be both productive and address climate issues and the economic impact — and balancing that so no one has to suffer for it. .

If the voters decide to take the chance and send me to Columbus, part of the promise I’m making is that we’re going to host town halls in each of the three counties (Mercer County, along with parts of Darke and Auglaize Counties) that make up this district.

With a regular job, you don’t get to go and do the interview and get hired and then avoid your boss for the next two years. My constituents employ me, therefore I am answerable to them. That doesn’t mean I’ll always give them the answer that they want. I don’t always give my boss in the public sector the answer they want. But [voters] get to ask questions and we have a responsibility to be responsive to that.

I want to be there. I will talk to people regardless of their viewpoints, because I’m interested in a future where we can support an economy and an education system that benefits every single person in the 84th district. A politician is not simply to tell people what they want to hear. It’s also to tell people what they need to hear — and what we need are policies that benefit our economic conditions.

What do you hope to accomplish with your campaign as an out LGBTQ+ candidate?

A big part of my activism outside of politics is raising awareness about the situation for LGBTQ+ people in rural communities and that, a lot of times, it is as bad as it seems. That’s why we’ve got to be prepared to work towards a better goal, to understand that it’s going to be a long battle and not an overnight victory.

There’s not any one law that we’re going to strike down that’s going to take all of this away. We’re going to have to be in it for the long haul.

I hope that somebody will look at it and look at the numbers, see how red the 84th district is and see by what margin Donald Trump won this area. Then I want them to say, “If this 40-year-old trans woman can run in this deep red district — regardless of the outcome — then there is no reason why I can’t run.”

It’s a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking to try to make a difference, to bring people together and — win or lose — to show our local LGBTQ+ community that they’re not in this alone. Part of the message I really want to get out there is that if I can do it here in the 84th district, you can do it anywhere in the United States. 🔥


  • To learn more about Arienne Childrey’s campaign to represent Ohio’s 84th congressional district, click here.

  • To register to vote or to check your voter eligibility status in the state of Ohio, click here.

  • To find contact information for your Ohio state representative, click here.

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