Transphobia in Public Life

| Mar 9, 2020
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Claire Hall (with mic).

I’m something of a rare bird. According to Wikipedia, through the 2018 election cycle, just 16 openly transgender people have been elected to office in the United States. Although we’ve had one major party candidate who was transgender, and a handful of candidates for office, there’s just one state legislator (Danica Roem of Virginia). All the rest are at the local level.

I was first elected as a county commissioner in Lincoln County, Oregon in 2004, and have been reelected three times since. In all three of those elections, I won with 60 percent of the vote or more. It’s a full-time job with both policy and management responsibilities. We have about 500 people on our payroll and an annual budget that tops $100 million.

I’m known for being on the liberal/progressive side. My focus issues have always been around marginalized populations: children, seniors, people living in poverty and without shelter, people dealing with mental illness and addictions, and the LGBTQ community.

When I went public as a transgender woman almost two years ago, there was only a tiny amount of pushback. This county leans toward progressive politics, but even the conservatives I know are old school live and let live types who want smaller government and want to leave people’s personal lives alone.

I can’t say this with certainty, but I believe I’m the only elected official to transition on the job. The other 16 all had done so prior to running for office. Although I never planned it that way, I may be a very minor historical footnote.

I’m now running for a fifth term. I’ve had two people file to oppose me in the nonpartisan primary coming up in May as of this writing, and there’s still a week left for people to jump in. Neither of my opponents has any prior political experience and I’m hoping for and expecting the best. The response to my announcement of candidacy has mostly been very positive and affirming, but as I suspected, it’s brought a few transphobes slithering out from under the rocks.

There have been social media comments like this gem: “Is this a man or what?” I really scratched my head when I opened an envelope sent to my office, anonymously, of course. Someone had torn the article about my filing out of the local paper, and in red and black sharpie written across it: “Sorry (deadname), but despite all the makeup and dresses, you still look like the man that you are.” I understand the fear and hatred that drives cowards like this, but it’s still sad.

Before I went public, a couple of friends expressed fears that living my truth might cost me my job. If I lose, I will be an unemployed 61-year-old trans woman, and yeah, that’s a little scary. But win or lose, I will never regret living my truth. . .I’m only sorry I didn’t do it years earlier.

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul

Claire H.

About the Author ()

Claire Hall was born and grew up in a large city on the left coast and has spent most of her adult years in a beautiful small coastal community where she's now an elected official in local government after spending many years as a newspaper and radio reporter. In her space time she loves reading, writing fiction (her first novel was published by a regional press a couple of years ago), watching classic Hollywood movies, and walking.

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