On December 5, Shepherd Janeway announced their intention to run for Seat 3 of the MMSD School Board on their Facebook page. “My name is Shepherd, and I want to help.” Shepherd is a trans and non-binary person focused on community action, inclusivity, and facts. In a few short weeks, they have successfully harnessed the energy of the growing LGBTQ+ community of Madison. They say their priorities are “ensuring staff is well supported,” “the teachers union feels heard,” and “supporting the endeavors of all students.” Janeway cites the community’s response to a recent violent outbreak at East High as an example of a community coming together for a positive impact.
Shepherd spent the weekend of December 11–12 gathering the required nomination signatures at local queer and trans owned bookstore, A Room of One’s Own. They set up a table at the store’s new location on Atwood Ave, a “beautiful space” says Shepherd. The bookstore was busy on that mid-December weekend. Shepherd says that as a result of their campaign working with the bookstore that they are very close to getting the required nomination signatures before the January deadline. The help from A Room of One’s Own on the Shepherd campaign comes as the store is also working with the Madison Area Transgender Association on book donations for holiday trans care packages.
Shepherd briefly ran against the opponent, Mary Jo Walters, who ran for the Democratic Party Lt. Governor nomination in 2014. Walters identifies as a “trans-a-phobe (sic).” Her public pages are filled with anti-transgender talking points. She denies that trans people are real. A good portion of the local LGBTQ+ and transgender community was brought online in a COVID era. These groups and networks were used for sharing issues widely and finding solutions from within. “We were ready,” Shepherd says. Shepherd, who learned about Walters through Twitter, would use those same networks to encourage her withdrawal. Walters announced her withdrawal on December 10, just five days after Shepherd’s Facebook page was launched. She links dubious blogs for sources and demands an end to trans-inclusive policies in schools. Such a change would put many transgender kids in danger, as they have been historically. Shepherd responds in their announcement post, “I believe that everyone deserves to feel safe in school. I believe that it is our responsibility as adults to ensure that the children and youth in our communities are safe and well supported.”
Walters’ denial of the existence of transgender people and gender altogether defies the overwhelming scientific consensus. “I believe in science. It’s a fact that there are more than two sexes,” Janeway responds to Walters’ elaborate anti-LGBTQ+ ideology. Shepherd responds, “There is no solid foundation aside from hatred of trans people.”
In the first two weeks, their campaign Facebook page, “Shepherd for School Board,” had more than 700 likes. “There are a lot of people who love trans people—parents, partners of trans people. There are whole swaths of people that support trans people.” That appears to be true now more than ever.