Candidates for public office who are LGBT can face huge uphill battles on the campaign trail. One of the most frequent challenges for aspiring lawmakers is to avoid the label of “the gay candidate”. Sexual orientation can unfortunately become the sticking point in public discourse and media attention, something pundits and voters dwell on that can obscure consideration of the qualities needed to make a competent and committed public servant. As candidates score unprecedented victories throughout the country, there is a balancing act of applauding these historic milestones in LGBT representation while reminding voters that effective leadership involves so much more than whom somebody loves or how they identify.
While the advancement of LGBT people into appointed or elected positions is certainly an achievement worthy of celebration, the election victory of a transgender candidate, for any office in any city, is truly ground-breaking. This week, the residents of Appleton, Wis. voted in a transgender candidate to the city council, the first openly trans individual in the state’s history to serve as a public official.
With a head of dreadlocked hair and over fifty tattoos, Gypsy Vered Meltzer is not exactly the most immediately palatable hopeful for public office, especially in Middle America. His victory, therefore, signals a very promising sign of inevitable change in unlikely places. Though local and state advocacy groups cheered his success, Meltzer, 31, is steeling himself for community opposition. “I can see some push back, but I hope they’ll get over it,” said Meltzer, who identifies as a man. “I don’t want to lose focus on the issues and increasing communications between the city and its residents. I look forward to the day when this isn’t as interesting of a topic.”
Meltzer hopes that his election will help inspire young people and those from all walks of life to become engaged in politics. “As someone who is part of various subcultures, I want to show everyone that the door’s open, come on in and be part of local government,” he said.
Area activists could not be more thrilled with the development. “Every time a trans person succeeds in anything related to the public, it is a step forward,” said Loree Cook-Daniels, policy and program director at FORGE, a Milwaukee transgender advocacy group. “It’s an acknowledgement that we’re just like everyone else and it shouldn’t be the issue by which we’re judged.”