Elisa Crespo is running to make history. The 30-year-old is hoping to replace outgoing Councilman Ritchie Torres representing the 15th council district in the heart of the Bronx in New York City. If she wins, Crespo will be the first out transgender woman of color on the council — the candidate is Latinx. But rather than focus on her qualifications and vision for the future, some are choosing instead to focus on her past. It's a past Crespo tells Out that she is embracing past because it helps her connect with marginalized constituents in her community.
The New York Post titled a recent feature "Ex-prostitute Elisa Crespo vies to become first trans member of NYC Council," sensationalizing and highlighting a 2012 arrest. Crespo, whose arrest came as a part of a Florida sting operation when she was involved in sex work, has been open and honest about the incident, tweeting “nothing new” and that she has “publicly talked about all of this” previously. The headline was criticied by other politicians and activists on social media.
“My lived experience connects me to the struggles my district’s most vulnerable are forced to endure and that’s one of the reasons I feel as though I have the best ability to represent them,” Crespo tells Out via email. “I’m here to fight for the bold and transformative policies that Bronxites need to thrive.”
So far, 2020 has been filled with firsts for LGBTQ+ representation in the government. A record number of LGBTQ+ lawmakers are heading to the nation’s capital next year after victories in last month’s general election, guaranteeing the queerest Congress ever. Democrats Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones won their respective congressional races and will become the first out Black LGBTQ+ candidates elected to Congress. Torres will also be the first Afro-Latinx LGBTQ+ Congressman once seated. With this in mind, Crespo is fully aware of the significance of her candidacy.
“2020 has been an important year for the LGBTQ+ community and I am using my experiences to elevate those left in the shadows and to help others become more comfortable in acknowledging both the issues and the very common reality many trans-women of color face regularly,” she says. The tactics being used against her mirror campaigns run against New Mexico's Roger Montoya earlier this year — he appeared in a series of gay pornographic films in the 1980s. He went on to win his seat in the state's house of representatives. “I hope that this elevates more trans woman and LGBTQ identifying folks to jump into the arena and become politically engaged.”
Crespo tells Out her top priority for her district is to “address high unemployment by implementing a Public Option” to provide a “good job and long term economic security” to those New Yorkers “who have been historically shut out from the private sector.”
Crespo attended the prestigious John Jay College of Criminal Justice where she earned a bachelors degree in political science with a minor in human rights. She is currently the Education Liaison at the office of the Bronx Borough President, making her the first out transgender woman of color to work in a borough-wide office.
While others may try to build a narrative about her past to frame her candidacy, Crespo remains focused on her goals and vision for the future.
“People are trying to make this race about me, but it’s not about me - this is about the struggles that the constituents in my community live with every damn day,” Crespo says defiantly.