The mayor of a small town in Texas has come out as a transgender woman.
Jess Herbst, the Mayor of a town in Collin County called New Hope, is believed to be the state’s first openly transgender official.
Herbst, who been mayor for seven months, came out as trans in an open letter to residents on the town’s website. She has also been documenting her personal journey through transition on her own website.
“As your Mayor I must tell you about something that has been with me since my earliest memories. I am transgender,” she said in the open letter. “Two years ago, with the support of my wife, daughters and son-in-law, I began Hormone Replacement Therapy. At the time, I did not imagine I would hold the Mayors position, but here I am.”
Herbst commended the progress transgender people had made in recent years, naming both Olympic gold medallist Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox from series Orange is the new Black.
“Society finally has a chance to see and learn about who we are,” she said. “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 said she would be living her life as a female now and performing duties to her town as such, explaining she would be using the name Jess instead of Jeff. She said people had been understanding and supportive towards her.
According to the Texas Observer, Herbst is the first transgender person to hold office in the state. In 2010, Houston’s Phyllis Frye became Texas's first openly transgender judge.
In a post on her website last year, Herbst condemned the “Bathroom Bill” as “transphobic”. The controversial Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which some argue legalises discrimination against the LGBT community, forces transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate.
Top Republicans in Texas are now keen to follow North Carolina’s lead on the bill and ban transgender people from using the bathrooms of the gender they identify with. Last year, Texas was one of almost a dozen states that sued the Obama administration over federal guidance directing schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms which correspond to their gender identities.
LGBTQ people face a number of legal challenges and discrimination in Texas which is a staunchly Republican state.
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