Eight months after taking office, the mayor of a North Texas town has announced that she is transgender. Jess Herbst of tiny New Hope is believed to be the first openly transgender mayor in Texas, reports the New York Times. In an open letter posted Jan. 23 on the town website, she writes, "As your mayor I must tell you about something that has been with me since my earliest memories. I am Transgender." She says she began hormone replacement therapy two years ago "with the support of my wife, daughters and son-in-law." The former Jeff Herbst, 58, adds that she had no idea she would become mayor when she began her gender conversion, which she chronicled on her website. Herbst served in local government for years before being appointed to her current post last May, after the mayor died.
The announcement came as a bill is wending its way through the state legislature that would force people to use bathrooms in government buildings according to "biological sex." Herbst has called such measures "transphobic" on her website, per the Texas Observer. Herbst began living as "Jess" last September and dressed as a woman at a town council meeting for the first time on Tuesday. Reaction was "phenomenally positive," she tells the Times. Some residents interviewed by Fox4 had doubts. "In the role he plays in the community, I'm not sure how that would be a positive thing," says one, using a male pronoun to refer to Herbst. Herbst says she hopes stepping forward "helps people understand that we are just normal people like everyone else." (Read more gender equality stories.)