In a week when we have watched minorities of all kinds get further marginalized, here is a ray of sunshine from a very unexpected place.
A Texas mayor made history this week when she came out as transgender. New Hope Mayor Jess Herbst — the state’s first seated official to openly change gender — shared her announcement in an open letter posted on the town’s website this week.
“As your Mayor I must tell you about something that has been with me since my earliest memories. I am transgender. Two years ago, with the support of my wife, daughters and son-in-law, I began Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). At the time, I did not imagine I would hold the Mayors position, but here I am,” Herbst wrote.
Herbst — who was previously elected as an alderman to the town council — was appointed mayor when the town’s previous mayor, Johnny Mamm, died in the days leading up to the election. When he was re-elected post mortem, Herbst was assigned his role.
Herbst, whose birth name is Jeff, has been living in New Hope since 1999 with her wife and two daughters.
“It is gender identity not sexual preference that applies to me. I love my wife, and she loves me, we have no intention of change. My daughters have been adamant supporters of me and are proud to tell people their father is transgender,” Herbst explains in her letter.
Herbst, who said transgender public figures like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox give society a chance to learn about people like her, blogs about her transition experience on a website called JessHerbst.com.
Since writing her open letter, Herbst says she’s been inundated by support from her fellow residents. “I have received emails congratulating me, calling me brave and even one expressing pride in living in a town with a mayor like me,” Herbst told the Huffington Post. “I never hoped for more than simple tolerance, the outpouring of support is unprecedented.”
Herbst is not the first transgender mayor in the U.S.. In 2008 Stu Rasmussen, who sometimes went by Carla Fong, was elected mayor of Silverton, Ore. (You may recall she was ridiculously censured by the City Council for wearing a miniskirt while speaking to children.) Herbst’s letter comes days after the Boy Scouts of America announced they’d be allowing transgender boys to join their organization.