Trans political candidate disqualified from House race for not using her deadname

A person holds up a trans flag, both of which are bathed in an orange glow.

A trans woman has been disqualified as a candidate for Ohio’s House of Representatives because she didn’t disclose her deadname.

Vanessa Joy had been planning to run as a Democratic representative for District 50, but her campaign came to an abrupt halt this week when it was discovered that she hadn’t included her deadname in her candidacy petitions.

According to Ohio state law, anyone running for political office must include their former names on candidacy petitions if they have changed their name in the past five years.

Ohio House of Representatives
A trans candidate has been disqualified from running for a seat in Ohio’s House of Representatives after failing to disclose her deadname. (Getty Images)

While candidates who change their name after marriage are exempt from the law, there is no exception for transgender candidates who change their name as part of their transition.

Speaking to NBC News, Joy, 42, said that she was not previously aware of the law until she was officially disqualified.

“It’s a barrier to entry for many trans and gender-nonconforming people,” she told the news outlet.

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“Where I personally would have just bit the bullet and allowed my deadname to be on the petitions and likely on the ballot, for a lot of trans people, they don’t want their deadnames printed. It’s a safety concern for many.”

Joy has since filed a petition to contest her disqualification from the political race, arguing that the law poses a “discriminatory barrier” to LGBTQ+ candidates.

“I wanted to give millennials, Gen X and Gen Z the courage to get out and vote and to run for office themselves,” said the former real estate photographer. 

“Because if they see a trans girl from very red Ohio running for public office, in a chamber full of people who despise me for my existence, they might have more courage to get out and vote and see that ‘maybe my vote will make a difference.’”

According to local news outlet,, Joy said that, while she would have been comfortable to abide by the law, it had not been mentioned in the 33-page candidate guide provided by the Ohio secretary of state’s office.

“I’m not sure how familiar you are with the trans community, but we’re not too keen on people knowing our dead names, you know what I mean?” she said. “But had I known the rule, I would have put it on there… It was a huge disappointment.”

In her appeal, Joy wrote: “While I understand that the spirit of the law was not intended to be discriminatory, it is, in fact, a discriminatory barrier for the LGBTQIA2S+ community at large… Therefore, I feel my disqualification, despite being done by the letter of the law, was unjust.”

Three other transgender candidates are running for state legislature in Ohio: Bobbie Arnold, Arienne Chidrey, and Ari Faber.

If any of these first-time candidates are elected, they will become the first openly trans lawmakers in the Republican state.

Joy, Chidrey, and Faber have each made it clear that they were motivated to join the political race after a number of anti-transgender and anti-drag bills were introduced by Republican lawmakers.

For example, in July 2023, Republican Representatives introduced legislation that would seek to ban drag queens – or “adult cabaret performances” – from library story hours and other children’s events.

Later in the year, Reps introduced House Bill 68, which would have banned healthcare for transgender youth and restricted transgender students from participating in sports that align with their gender identity. 

The bill was eventually vetoed by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, but Republican lawmakers have kicked off the new year with plans to override that veto, WLWT5 reports.

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