Collin county, a Texas suburb, is considered one of the state’s most conservative locales. That’s why its residents (and the state at large) probably didn’t expect this — the town of New Hope’s mayor coming out as transgender.
In an open letter on the town’s official website, Jess Herbst, who the Texas Observer reports took over the role of mayor (moving up from alderman) after the previous one had died, shared her experience with the town’s residents, first stating how important New Hope is to her and moving into an important message about trans visibility:
As your Mayor I must tell you about something that has been with me since my earliest memories. I am Transgender. Twoyears ago, with the support of my wife, daughters and son-in-law, I began Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). At the time, I did not imagine I would hold the Mayors position, but here I am.
I know that transgender people are just coming to light in our society, and we have made great strides in the last few years. Celebrities like olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox from the show ‘Orange is the new Black’ and popular shows like ‘Transparent’ , society finally has a chance to see and learn about who we are. 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.
Herbst, who asks to be referred to as Jess now (as opposed to Jeff) also points out that this may be a difficult transition for some people. While she says all of her customers — she runs her own business — are supportive of her, she wants the town to be behind her as well. As such, she says that she isn’t particular about the pronouns people use to describe her and invites people to speak to her publicly about this (“or any other town issue”) at her monthly town hall meeting.
Herbst’s act is incredibly brave. At a time when LGBT+ visibility is more important than ever, she’s coming out despite the backlash she may receive. She’s documenting her journey on her own website (available for all residents to see) and will hopefully make some of the town’s residents reconsider how they feel about the trans community.
In a post on the site’s “pictures” section, the one of the first photos is of Herbst looking into a mirror.
“Finally I recognize the face in the mirror as me,” the caption reads.