If elected to replace outgoing Democratic House member Rep. Lynn Hemingway, D-Salt Lake City, Sophia Hawes could make history for her community and for Utah. After a legislative session where a non-discrimination bill for LGBT Utahns was not even heard once on the hill, Hawes would not only put a face to Utah's trans community but could also share her own story of workplace discrimination.---
As City Weekly previously reported, in 2011 Hawes underwent male-to-female gender reassignment surgery and fought for partial coverage from SelectHealth. Not only did her insurance deny the coverage but SelectHealth went back over her file and denied coverage for unrelated treatments she had before her surgery including a test for a blood disorder she's had all her life.
Hawes moved on from her fight for coverage to becoming a fighter for her community, joining the Transgender Advocates of Utah in March 2013 as a Volunteer Coordinator. Now Hawes has her eyes set on the Legislature to represent House District 40, a reliably democratic district covering parts of Taylorsville and Holladay.
Hawes hopes that her presence on the hill can make lawmakers more empathetic to LGBT Utahns but also show them that's not her only issue. “
What it should do is break up stereotypes,” Hawes says. “People should also say 'here is someone who is conscientious and is active about things that affect all Utahns.'” But Hawes admits equality affects everyone and she could fight that battle better than most on the hill.
Hawes would also definitely shatter some pre-conceived notions about a trans person. While her resume includes more than 20 years as a software engineer and her recent work as a community advocate, she's also a veteran of the United States Navy having served from 1989 to 1993. At the end of her service she worked on a ship that patrolled the waters off Mexico and South and Central America coordinating drug seizures and monitoring air traffic to track down smugglers.
She recalls in some instances the ship would pull into unsecured ports where her and her crew mates had been warned of security threats that caused Hawes to conduct her rounds on the vessel with a firearm at her side.
“It was a scary time,” Hawes says.
As for the battle ahead, Hawes is focusing her platform equality, air-quality, healthcare--especially mental health services--and championing for more domestic violence support and prevention programming for battered women. She recognizes she has an uphill battle when she goes to the Democratic caucus on March 18 since her opponent is Justin Miller.
Miller is not only the precinct chair for the District, but has also worked on Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams' campaign and currently works for him as an Associate Deputy Mayor.
For Hawes, winning will mean convincing delegates, especially ones concerned about equality, that more can be done if they support the right voice for their values.
“Watching this last session I realized that we need some Democrats who will fight for what needs to be done,” Hawes says.
Salt Lake County's Democratic Neighborhood Caucus Night is Tuesday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m. Visit SLCountyDems.com to find your caucus location.