Oklahoma State Representative Mauree Turner’s election last November was historic for two main reasons. They are the first Muslim elected to the Oklahoma Legislature and nationally, they are the first non-binary state representative elected in the country. As a person who wears a hijab as a symbol of faith, Turner was surprised that wasn’t the biggest story of their election. “I thought the majority of the stories were going to be about being Muslim and queer in Oklahoma,” they told BET.com. “But Nov 4th, when I woke up, I didn't know I’d just become the first openly non-binary person to be elected (as a state representative). I was contacted by people from across the globe who said they felt empowered to tell family about their pronouns for the first time.”
Known as an activist, community organizer and native Oklahoman, Turner has spent most of their life fighting for issues such as immigration rights, racial justice and criminal justice, according to a campaign news release. They defeated a Republican candidate to represent the district by securing about 71 percent of the votes, according to the Oklahoma State Election Board unofficial results.
Turner is patient when explaining how they are to be classified. “I will say that I am a non-binary. I don't identify as a woman.” And Turner’s life experience will influence the way they plan to legislate. “I’m working on gender neutral language for bills. I don’t see myself in the laws and policies we create.” They also previewed another bit of legislation they will introduce. “In Oklahoma, you must have a letter from a physician or show that you’ve had surgery for a gender marker change on your identification. I want to make sure to do away with that! Some people don’t want surgery and some people can’t afford it.” They believe the government shouldn’t be allowed to mandate how anyone shows up fully as themselves.
Turner recognizes that their position is unique in the state, as Oklahoma hasn’t always been seen as a place that welcomes the LGBTQIA+ community. “House District 88 is the most liberal place in the entire state,” the 27-year-old explained. “It’s the arts, culture and entertainment scene.” It was important for them to run for office to reflect that community's own representation. “Rather than allies writing legislation on behalf of us, we can be a part of the government ourselves. Before we're fighting for our lives, we are making sure that we are proactive in making sure people feel seen and heard and it’s not talk and it’s not just for show.”