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Texas’ first transgender Mayor

Meet Jess Herbst, Mayor of New Hope, Texas.

Jess Herbst

The mayor of a small Collin County town has become the first known openly transgender elected official in Texas history.

Jess Herbst, who was elected mayor of New Hope last May, came out as trans in an open letter to residents on the town’s website.

“As your Mayor I must tell you about something that has been with me since my earliest memories. I am Transgender,” Herbst wrote, adding that two years ago, she began hormone replacement therapy. “At the time, I did not imagine I would hold the Mayor’s position, but here I am.”

Herbst couldn’t immediately be reached for further comment. New Hope is a suburb of McKinney with a population of 670, according to the 2010 census.

[…]

Although gay and lesbian elected officials have held public office across Texas for decades, no transgender person has done so. In 2010, Houston’s Phyllis Frye became the nation’s first transgender judge, after being appointed to the position by then-Mayor Annise Parker. Last year, Houston’s Jenifer Pool became the first transgender candidate to win a party primary in Texas, but she was defeated in the general election.

Nell Gaither, president of Trans Pride initiative, a Dallas nonprofit, said she doesn’t know Herbst personally but was proud of her decision.

“I’m happy that our society is progressing to the point that she can feel empowered to come out and be her true self in public office, knowing that she will continue to be welcomed and valued for her skills and capabilities,” Gaither said.

It’s too bad that Herbst couldn’t have been reached before publication, because as she explained on her website, she wasn’t actually elected Mayor. She was appointed after the winning Mayoral candidate in last May’s election passed away. Herbst was elected alderman in 2003, and was the longest-serving member on New Hope’s city council as well as its Mayor Pro Tem, so she certainly deserves the title of “first transgender elected official in Texas”, even if the office in question wasn’t Mayor. Interestingly, she’s still listed as “Jeff Herbst” on the New Hope website, though I presume that will change. It will be interesting to see how things go for her from here, and I wish her all the best. WFAA has more.

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