Speaking with history: the first openly non-binary SMOB candidate in Montgomery County


Heera Anand, pictured center, walks among students of Hallie Wells Middle School while giving a lunchtime campaign speech.

Heera Anand, a junior in the Global Ecology house at Poolesville High School, was one of the record-breaking 19 candidates who ran for MCPS Student Member of the Board (SMOB). Although not voted as a finalist, Heera made history as the first openly transgender person to campaign for SMOB in the county. They visited over 30 different middle and high schools across the county to campaign and learn more about the county-wide student body. During their campaign, Heera had the chance to sit down with the Poolesville Pulse and talk about their identity and their goals for county advocacy. This conversation has been edited and condensed.

When did you learn that you were nonbinary?

It was over the COVID-19 stay-at-home lockdown, and it was a literal transition. I saw one of my friends start experimenting with their gender and pronouns, so I thought, “Huh. I might try that too.” So it went from she/her, she/they, they/she, and then I finally settled on they/them, and I’m comfortable with my identity as a nonbinary person.

How did the people around you react to your identity?

My friends were great about my identity, but others weren’t. Growing up as a person assigned female at birth, I did experience a lot of misogyny, but after coming out the harassment only evolved into transphobia. Because of the harassment I experienced, I put schools being a place where everyone is welcome at the top of my priorities for SMOB.

What were the top 3 most important points in your SMOB campaign, then?

[B]esides student safety, [the] second most important [to me is] curriculum reform. MCPS students struggle a lot with mental health because of the overburden of work, and we also aren’t given resources properly. After that, I’d like to make activism and advocacy accessible to all students, because it’s something that everyone in our generation should have the opportunity to get involved in without hassle.

You mentioned advocacy, and you’ve certainly been involved in a lot of activism and advocacy across the years. What’s the most memorable or most important experience to you?

I’d actually say it was working with the Asian American Progressive Student Union to help write the curriculum for a new class on Asian American history. One of the more positive things in MCPS I’m grateful for is our diversity, both in our student body and our class content, which is something that not every student in America can relate to. But we can always work more on our curriculum’s diversity. Working with the student union and Stop AAPI Hate to write the Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American (APIDA) course was a great experience for me. I’ve always been a little separated from my identity as a person of color, but while writing APIDA I slowly came into my identity. I learned a lot about how I can stop hate and help the community, so it was a really great experience for me.

When did you start getting into politics?

From a young age, around five or so, I was interested in politics in a general sense. I would always keep up with the news and the big politicians. A few years ago, actually, I was more interested in advertising. That then turned to the marketing field. Then I started shifting to wanting to market myself, and that eventually turned my interest into politics. All in all, I do really want to make the world a better place, so I feel comfortable in this field. 

Running for SMOB makes you a huge role model to students all over the county. What do you want to say as advice to other high school students like you and/or other LGBTQ+ kids in the county?

To all the other high school students like me in the county who want advice, I’d say don’t listen to people who try to bring you down. Take constructive criticism when you want, and if it crosses a line, just don’t listen to them. Do what your heart says, and don’t let them drag you down. And to other kids in the LGBTQ+ community, I’d say the same thing. Use whatever identity you want, find yourself, stick with it, and if someone doesn’t like it, don’t listen to them.