Eight months after taking office, the mayor of a small Texas town has become the first transgender elected official to come out publicly in the state’s history.
“As your Mayor I must tell you about something that has been with me since my earliest memories, I am Transgender” said Jess Herbst, the mayor of New Hope in Collin County.
She gave the message in an open letter posted on the town’s website.
Herbst, who has been documenting her transition on her personal blog JessHerbst.com., also talked about how her decision affected her family:
“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.”
“I live my life as a female now, and I will be performing my duties to the town as such,” Herbst wrote.
She also welcomed the great strides made in the transgender community in recent years, pointing to the growing number of high-profile trans figures in sports and media.
With “celebrities like olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox from the show ‘Orange is the new Black’ [sic] and popular shows like ‘Transparent’, society finally has a chance to see and learn about who we are” she wrote.
Contrary to most in the LGBTQ community, Herbst said she was not particularly sensitive to which pronouns people use when addressing her, and encouraged constituents to email her if they had any questions.
Herbst’s announcement comes as transgender rights have become the focus of an intense battle between state and federal lawmakers over so-called bathroom bills, including Texas’ Senate Bill 6.
According to the Texas Observer, Herbst criticized Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick on Facebook in January for pushing SB 6 as one of his priorities for 2017:
“Mr. Patrick: Let me get this straight, are you saying that right now, without your bill being passed, anyone can assault someone in the bathroom without breaking the law?” she wrote. “That [sic] some some kind of weird screwed-up loophole if so.”
While this is normally an elected position, Herbst, who was already serving as Mayor pro tem, was appointed by the town council last summer to replace the previous mayor Johnny Hamm after he died.
She is believed to be the first transgender official to have held public office in Texas, according to the Observer.