Is City Hall Ready for a Transgender Councilmember? (Part 3)

RACHAEL ROSE LUCKEY is a Transgender Activist and President Emeritus of the Rampart Village Neighborhood Council, running for the LA City Council District 13.

Once elected, she will become the first openly transgender person to be elect to the LA City Council. In this multi-part interview series, she speaks to Campaign Press Secretary Hollis Evans about her transition, political awakenings, the rich, poor, and houseless of CD13, and a future where City Hall commits to building equitable communities where citizens come before profit-driven developments and a militarized police force. 

In Parts 1 & 2 Rachael Rose described her decision to transition beginning in 2013, joining the Steering Committee as a Transgender Activist in the Stonewall Democratic Club, being elected to the Board of the Rampart Village Neighborhood Council, first meeting with CD13 incumbent and political opponent Mitch O’Farrell, and her decision to run for LA City Council. 

Hollis Evans: When you joined the Rampart Village Neighborhood Council in 2017, did you encounter any transphobia or any kind of awkwardness from other Board members? 

Rachael Rose Luckey: I did not. 

Hollis Evans:  You didn’t? Your experience has been one of openness? People have been open to you? 

Rachael Rose Luckey: Yeah. And I don't know if it's them or it's me. Probably both. When I walk into a room, I don't expect transphobia. And I almost feel like, I've got a bit of a swagger that says don't mess with me. 

Hollis Evans: Do you think being transgender facilitated your being elected to the Board? In other words, this person brings something different to the table? 

Rachael Rose Luckey: I don't know. I can't guess what other people were thinking, but I don't think it had anything to do with it. 

Hollis Evans: You were on the Board of the Rampart Village Neighborhood Council. How did you become President? 

Rachael Rose Luckey: I got on the Board in January of 2017. That was during the time that they rejiggered the election cycle for the City of Los Angeles. Instead of being a two-year term, I came in after year one of what was a three-year term. That's why Mitch got a five-and-a-half-year term this cycle. In 2019, I was elected back to the Board and then the Board appointed me as President. 

Hollis Evans: Around that time, you also had another encounter with Mitch O’Farrell? 

Rachael Rose Luckey: Through the Neighborhood Council, I was working with a group in opposition to the North Westlake Design Ordinance, that his office was trying to push through City Planning and the City Council. It would have accelerated gentrification in Historic Filipinotown if we had not gotten it killed. 

The group I was working with organized a town hall where we had a couple of our members in opposition, we had three people from the Planning staff come to the town hall, and we had a couple of seats available for Mitch O’Farrell and/or his representatives. Leading up to the town hall, I wrote three press releases for the LA Tenants Union. In those, I quoted myself

So, we held the town hall, the Planning Department showed up but nobody from Mitch’s office did, those seats remained empty. You would have thought he would have wanted to defend his proposal, but no. That was on a Monday in January of 2018. That following Thursday was the homeless count. I showed up to his field office in Echo Park. I got there around 8 p.m., which was the start time, and the place was packed. I walked in, and the entry room was filled with people and there was a table, and a lady behind it. She handed me a form and said: “Here’s a waiver, go fill it out.” 

So, I stepped to my left into another long room, and as I stepped into the room, I saw Mitch coming up the line, shaking hands. When he got to me, I said: “Hi, Mitch.” He looked up at me and said: “I know you and your inflammatory work!” I responded by saying: “Well, maybe we should talk then.” I stuck out my hand to shake his. He gave me a huff and walked away without shaking my hand. 

Then I went further into the room to find a surface to fill out the form. By the time I got back to the table, the lady tells me: “Ah, we’re all full up here. They need people down in Silver Lake.” By that time, it was too late to try to find another place, so I just went home. I can’t prove it, but it sure seemed awfully coincidental that after my encounter with him, now they’re too full. 

Hollis Evans: So, the event was wrapped up? “We don’t need any more people--go home.” 

Rachael Rose Luckey: No, this is while people were still in the conference room watching the training video. The event hadn’t even started yet. 

Hollis Evans: Even if he had had an issue with your position on the North Westlake Design Ordinance, to act that way to a constituent, let alone a Board Member. He also allegedly said: “Keep that woman away from me.” 

Rachael Rose Luckey: One of my Board members told me he said that. But that was much later. It came up in casual conversation. It could have been almost a year later after that incident. 

Hollis Evans: Looking at your record as President of the RVNC, the resolutions you introduced, and your Board passed, during your time on the Board and as President, are pretty impressive. 

Resolution Requesting the City of Los Angeles to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis; Resolution Regarding Support for the Ethics Commission to Be Elected Positions; Resolution Regarding Support for the Police Commission to Be Elected Positions; Resolution in Solidarity with Armenian-Americans in the Face of Violent Attacks By Azerbaijan & Turkey in Armenia and Artsakh. 

The list goes on. Impressive resolutions for a Neighborhood Council to put on the record. Were any of the Resolutions you and your Board passed acted upon by the City Council? 

Rachael Rose Luckey: Well, seeing how hostile Mitch was towards my NC board and myself, not really, not really. Mitch seems to like NCs who kiss his ring. 

Hollis Evans: How often do they act upon NC resolutions? 

Rachael Rose Luckey: Very rarely in my experience, but, then again, it would be impossible to keep up with all 99 NCs in LA as to their rates of success. I have heard from other NC folks they are not much listened to either. 

Hollis Evans: You and your Board passed the Resolution in Solidarity with Armenian-Americans in the Face of Violent Attacks by Azerbaijan & Turkey in Armenia and Artsakh during the height of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War last October. You addressed a large pro-Armenian rally during that time in support of Artsakh and Armenia. As a local elected official, why insert yourself into an international conflict, especially one as so heated as Nagorno-Karabakh? 

Rachael Rose Luckey: Oppression anywhere is oppression everywhere. I cannot stand idly by and watch anyone be oppressed. I believe that every person on this planet has the right to live their life with dignity. There shouldn't be a culture of: My God is better than your God, my people are better than your people, my country is better than your country. We all live on the same freaking planet. We need to start acting like it. 

There's already enough suffering in the world just from human existence that we don't need to be adding to it ourselves. And then, conversely, we are screwing ourselves out of the most wondrous opportunity. If we all just got together in harmony, we could really create one helluva magnificent world. It pains me to my bones that people just don't see what a miraculous opportunity this is, all because of living on the lowest levels of consciousness of security, sensation, and power. It saddens me that, as a species, as an intelligent, sentient species, we have yet to get beyond those primitive impulses that make us not only destroy ourselves, but the planet we live on. 

Hollis Evans: When you spoke to the Armenian Community at the rally on Hollywood Boulevard, you actually sang One Tin Soldier from the film Billy Jack

Rachael Rose Luckey: The most powerful song of peace that I know, next to John Lennon's Imagine

Hollis Evans: It brought back a lot of memories. 

Rachael Rose Luckey: I've been singing it since I was five years old. I've always had that song in my heart. It's part of my DNA. What Donald Wilson Bush wanted me to do was get up there and read the Resolution, and maybe say a few words. They would have politely listened to me and clapped their hands, but I knew I needed something stronger than that. I needed to try to make a connection, and one of the most powerful ways I know to make a connection with somebody is through music. As a kid, I had six years of piano lessons, I was always in chorus, I was always singing. I call going to karaoke, "going to church." So, I decided to use the gift I was given and sing. I was nervous as all get out to put myself out there like that. 

Hollis Evans: You were very vulnerable in that situation. 

Rachael Rose Luckey: But that's part of it. If I make myself vulnerable to them, then hopefully, they can now make themselves vulnerable me. 

Hollis Evans:  During the Nagorno-Karabakh aggression last fall, protestors here shut down the Hollywood Freeway. The local Armenian community was trying to raise awareness of the conflict with the broader American community, but there seemed to be little cross over. Why should Americans care about a distant conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia? 

Rachael Rose Luckey: We should care because it's the human thing to do, because it's the right to do. We should care because we have fellow Angelenos who are of Armenian descent, who have family over there, who are our Armenian-American brothers and sisters, siblings, here in Los Angeles, who are in pain because of this, and we should care. 

We should care because the best way for us to advance humanity forward, in a positive direction, is through allyship. Being a person of transgender experience and knowing that there are only 1.7 million transgender people in the United States, our movement is completely dependent upon allyship. What was so beautiful about the BLM protests over summer was that you had people from all races out there protesting. When we come to the defense of one, we come to the defense of all. And, when we do that, when we need help in defending our positions, it is hoped they will return the allyship. That's called community, that's called working together, that's called building a better tomorrow. 

(To be continued. . .)


Part 4 of Is City Hall Ready for A Transgender Councilmember? will appear in the May 17 edition of City Watch. You can find out more about Rachael Rose Luckey and her campaign for LA City Council CD13 at RachaelRoseForLA.com, and by checking out her blog, Conversations With LA

(Interview by Hollas Evens with LA City Council candidate Rachael Rose Luckey.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.