The Mayor Of A Small Texas Town Just Came Out As Transgender In A Moving Letter

"At the time, I did not imagine I would hold the Mayor's position, but here I am."

The small town of New Hope, Texas, was suddenly the center of national attention this week when its mayor publicly came out as transgender to the townsfolk. Jess Herbst, who became the mayor of New Hope (pop. 640) in May, 2016, wrote in an open letter on the town's website that she began hormone replacement therapy with the support of her wife and children two years ago. "At the time, I did not imagine I would hold the Mayor's position," Herbst wrote, "but here I am."

Herbst's letter struck a gentle tone as she explained what being transgender means. "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," she wrote. 

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Only in the past few years has transgender visibility helped raise awareness and understanding about the community, thanks in part to the prominence of pop culture figures like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox. Herbst acknowledged the development and offered an open channel of communication for residents in New Hope to address her about her identity. She included a link to her blog, where she documents her experience as a transgender woman, and noted that she will carry out her duties to the town as a woman.

On Facebook, Herbst posted a before-after photo of her transition. "I haven't changed a bit," she joked. 

While recent years has seen progress for the transgender community, there's still plenty of work ahead. Transgender people continue to face higher rates of murder, violence, and discrimination. And that number rises even further when it involves transgender women of color. 

But as advocates continue to fight for more stringent protections for LGBTQ rights, those like Herbst who have come out bravely to the public force others to confront their fears and misgivings, and help them realize that the transgender people are not just statistics or Hollywood stars; they're everyday people, just like them. 

A Plus has reached out to Mayor Herbst for comment.

Cover image via Shutterstock / sevenMaps7.

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