Same mayor, different gender

A small Oregon town reelects a transgender candidate who served two terms before transitioning.

By Judy Berman

Published November 10, 2008 11:11AM (EST)

I know I'm not the only one whose utter post-election joy was tainted, slightly, by Wednesday's revelation that California's Proposition 8 had passed. As similar measures prohibiting same-sex marriage and adoption proved successful in other states, 2008's election illustrated not only how far we've come in terms of race relations but also that we've got a long way to go in the battle over equal rights for all Americans.

Fortunately, the election has yielded a few tidbits of good news for the GLBT community. In his speech Tuesday night, Barack Obama made a point of positively acknowledging gays. And today I learned that the little town of Silverton, Ore., made history on Tuesday by electing the nation's first gender-fluid, trans-identified mayor.

As a man, Stu Rasmussen served two consecutive terms as Silverton's mayor, beginning in 1989. After undergoing what he calls a "gender identity crisis" in the mid-'90s, Rasmussen took some time off from public service, underwent "top surgery," and then won a spot on Silverton's City Council in 2004. As he puts it, in a conversation with Just Out, "I got elected ... Boobs and all. I tell people this country has a long and proud history of electing boobs to public office.”

Not only did Rasmussen win on Tuesday, but he managed to unseat an eight-term incumbent. His entire interview with Just Out, conducted hours after he learned of his victory, is worth a read. But personally, what makes me happiest is Rasmussen's response to a question about what he tells people who can't see past his gender identity: a simple, yet effective, "Get over it."

Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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