A seat at the table

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This week I attended the The Victory Institute’s International LGBTQ Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. 

Transgender elected officials and candidates were the talk of the conference and subject matter of many breakout sessions.

 Everyone was celebrating the victories of the November 2017 election.

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 In attendance were Danica Roem - Virginal House of Delegates elect,

Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham - Minneapolis City council elect,

Lisa Middleton - Palm Springs City Council elect,

Tyler Titus - Erie Pennsylvania School Board elect,

Vernetta Alston - Durham City Council elect,

They were this years ‘Conference Royalty’.

 

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The Conference last day’s main Plenum was titled ‘Year of the Trans Candidate’.

 

 

 It would be easy to think these candidates ran on platforms of transgender rights, but nothing could be further from the truth.

 

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Danica spoke passionately about the traffic issues strangling her constituents.

Phillipe was upset with the gentrification of his neighborhoods and the community it was displacing.

Tyler could hardly stop talking about the kids in his district and how many were being left behind.

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And so it went with each and every one.

 

 

They were concerned with the issues that effected everyone they will now represent. They were not there to single out transgender as some kind of chosen people.

 

 

 

 If they did not run with a transgender agenda, why did they run? Why now after all these years of never seeing a transgender candidate?

 To answer that you need to look at history, to the acceptance of transgender individuals in society.

 

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 In 1999, I moved into my home in New Hope Texas, and at the time there many gravel roads in town. I was concerned with the state of these roads and in 2003 when a council seat was vacated by the existing road commissioner, I jumped at the chance and filled it.

I was trans then as I always have been, but I had to hide it. Society still considered me mentally defective.

 

 

Outing myself as trans at that time would have prevented me from the opportunity to serve so I could pave those roads.

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 Since then something happened, something wonderful. Major psychological organizations declared there was nothing wrong with the transgender mind. They recommended embracing us rather than trying to change us.

 

 Society was introduced to, and began to accept when several celebrities came out as transgender. Then regular people like me came out and showed the world who we were. Now when a person is passionate about issues affecting their community, they can step up and run for office. Being transgender is no longer a barrier to serve.

 

 Going forward, we will see many more transgender people run for and win political office, just like anyone else in this country.

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Election 2017, What now?

We did great, 7 Transgender candidates elected to various offices. 

Danica Roem, Virginia (Virginia House of Delegates) , Gerri Cannon, New Hampshire (Somersworth School Board), Andrea Jenkins, Minnesota (Minneapolis City Council), Stephe Koontz, Georgia (Doraville City Council), Phillipe Cunningham, Minnesota (Minneapolis City Council), Lisa Middleton, California (Palm Springs City Council), Tyler Titus, Pennsylvania (Erie School Board)

Danica Roem, Virginia (Virginia House of Delegates) , Gerri Cannon, New Hampshire (Somersworth School Board), Andrea Jenkins, Minnesota (Minneapolis City Council),

Stephe Koontz, Georgia (Doraville City Council), Phillipe Cunningham, Minnesota (Minneapolis City Council), Lisa Middleton, California (Palm Springs City Council), Tyler Titus, Pennsylvania (Erie School Board)

Steve Bannon - Britebart propagandist and Anti-LGBT perveyour. 

Steve Bannon - Britebart propagandist and Anti-LGBT perveyour. 

 

But we can not stop here and think we are done, we are not. We have now come to the attention of political forces that want us gone. 2018 will be a much harder battle.

 

 

 

When I came out publicly I was contacted by a small, scrappy organization dedicated to creating political power for Trans people and people with trans friendly positions. 

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That group is the TransUnited Fund. They asked me to join them and I did. In theses last 10 months I have watched the superhuman efforts of a very few individuals make amazing differences in our political landscape. They fought the hate group ADF and won 3 school board seats in Illinois last May.
Through their BREAKTHROUGH Fund they threw everything they had supporting Andrea Jenkins, Philippe Cunningham, Kristen Bowden and Danica Roem. They also threw support to a dozen others.

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They had a 75% success rate on the 4 primary candidates and had a positive effect on the others.
Net Result: 7 newly elected openly Transgender officials in the US.


My role is small, just advice really. The hard work is being done by a very few people who somehow manage to put out the work of dozens.

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But nothing is free. These people have to eat, campaigns cost money, lots of money. They have beaten $millions of dollars of campaign money provided by the big hate groups campaigning against their candidate with a few $thousand, that is how good they are. But they have to have those dollars.

If you felt a sense of pride, joy or hopefulness by the November 2017 election results, and you want that again in 2018, Donate.

I know I'm asking for your hard earned dollars, I know you struggle to get by. But what would you pay to make sure your job is safe, or your home? LGBTQ people can be fired or evicted in most of the US just for being LGBTQ. The only way to fix this is to get the right people in office, and the only way to do that is to have a strong group supporting the right candidates. Trans United Fund(and its BreakThrough Fund) has proven itself to be that group.
Give, please.

Jess Herbst, board member, Trans United Fund (c4)

 

Donate – BreakThrough Fund

 

Mistaken Identity

 

Growing up trans, I dreamed of transformation. I imagined all sorts of ways that I could instantly become female. Like a caterpillar emerging from it’s cocoon, I would be a new and different person.

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These feelings are shared by many transgender people, and they are flawed.

I know transgender women, who long to transition, but expect to become this new and different person. Many are held back by the mistaken belief that they must become a completely new person.

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 Friends and family of transgender people go through a mourning for their lost loved ones. They believe the man or woman they knew is gone, replaced by a gender opposite new person.

 My wife went through this process, mourning the loss of ‘Jeff’. Then one night she said ‘ You have not changed, not really’.  I smiled and said ‘I’m still me’.

Transitioning does not mean you become someone else, you can't. Your mind, you concisness, your thoughts, hopes & desires are still the same. If you loved hot dogs, batman and bicycles, you still will. You can not, and should not try to, escape who you are.  

Transitioning just means showing the world who you are, and always have been, on the inside.

My Birthday

 

 

 I threw a cocktail party to celebrate my birthday this last weekend. (Really it was Debbie, Alexandria & Andrew that did all the work).

I had around 70 people. Family, Friends, Town government, work colleagues, Debbie's work colleagues, Alexandria's friends, and of course my transgender friends. There were  CIS, Trans, straight & gay.

There were people of all colors, some from as far as Senegal, and as close as down the street. It mattered not. 

Most people had nothing common besides knowing me, but they got along like old friends.  It was an amazingly diverse group, and everyone had fun.

 People who had never met a transgender person before were engaging them in conversation. People who never spoke to a politician before were exchanging jokes with them. 

  This is what the future of our country should look like. 

The world is a better place than many believe.

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And then there were two..

You will find a new addition to this site. 'Alexandria Speaks'.

Alexandria Hull is the older of my two daughters. She recently took on the job of my personal assistant , so she attends events and travel with me. and she has decided to write some of her observations and experiences. 

Not just about me, but about her two dogs, husband, political advocacy the LGBTQIA community.

I think you will find her voice quite different than mine and I think you will like it.

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Confession

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Forgive me father for I haven’t blogged. It has been 92 days since my last post. (That is your cue, internet audience, to suggest my penance.)

I am suppose to be logging my experiences as a transitioning trans woman here for the world to see. You would be well within reason to think that nothing has been going on, based on my latest reports. Fortunately that is not the case.

My last blog dealt with my official name change and I am happy to report It went very smoothly. Say hello to the official ‘Jess Helene Herbst’. The judge did not bat an eye when he granted my request and I got a couple of ‘Congratulations’ from people in the court.

 

 So now I have a new Social Security card, Drivers license and Passport. I’ve updated my bank, medical and insurance records. There are a few more records to update, but for all practical purposes, Jeff is history.

 It’s been 8 months since I came out to my town, and inadvertently the world. I am called ma’am when I'm out and when I’m with my wife, they say ‘ladies’. It feels weird to have wait staff always ask if we want the dinner bill on separate checks or one. I was used to the assumption that we would always be paying together.

 We struggled for a while on how to identity each other. My Wife did not like ‘Spouse’ or ‘Partner’, she found them a little too impersonal, having been together 37 years. She surprised me one day by casually introducing me as her ‘wife’. I really like it and I think it shows how far she has come with her acceptance, not of me, but of how our relationship appears to others and her role in it.

 I have gotten used to most of this, but sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not just dreaming. 50+ years of keeping my identity a secret make it hard to get used to letting it all out there for the world to see.

 I joined with hundreds of other LGBTQIA in Texas and took up the battle against the states attempt to create discriminatory bathroom laws. It was a struggle that involved many trips to the state capital in Austin. Testifying three times before state senate & house committee hearings, protests marches and rallies. I was privileged to be included in one of the most amazing alliance of rights organizations ever - One Texas Resists. 36+ major diverse groups along with dozens of grassroots organizations. We won, for now.

 It’s time to plan strategies to replace the legislators in Texas that believe discrimination is acceptable with those who know it is not. 

 And finally it is time to look at my own political future. I have a Mayoral election in the spring if I wish to keep my seat, and I do. Beyond that, the 2020 elections are coming and I think it’s time for new blood in US congress. Maybe someone with local governmental experience…