Progress, Progress, Everywhere

Stu RasmussenEven after an election week rife with the almost ethereal reality of change (save, of course, for these soul-crushing blows in California, Florida and Arizona), the story of one small-town Oregon mayoral race glimmers with a special sort of triumph.

Silverton, Oregon, population 9588, has just elected America's first openly transgender-identified mayor.

His name is Stu Rasmussen--and yes, he uses male pronouns. He's also been known to refer to himself as a heterosexual dude, albeit one with breast implants and a wild mane of auburn hair. He's served 20 years as an elected official (including two previous terms as Silverton's mayor in 1988 and 1990), has long been a small-business owner and proponent of the Norman Rockwellian way of Silverton life, and is generally regarded by the community as a damn fine public servant. Rasmussen retreated from public life in the mid-90s, following what Just Out calls his self-described gender identity crisis, but came back to Silverton's city council in 2004 as the city's first gender-fluid elected official. And now, after a landslide victory over incumbent Ken Hector, he's back in the mayorship.

But tiny as Silverton may be, this certainly isn't a novel little region story. In an election cycle that berated candidates for not adhering to the standard political accoutrements, that sometimes felt like a school-yard competition for most patriotic, most true-blue American, most plain old normal, Rasmussen's candidacy, let alone his victory, flew in the face of another deep-rooted fear. And though his presence in Silverton isn't quite the same as putting a gender-fluid candidate on the national stage, it still serves as an example of a people not so afraid after all. I, for one, couldn't be more excited.

Read more about Stu Rasmussen's story in Just Out --they've done some incredible reporting on this.

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