First transgender mayor in Texas 'concerned' about trans rights under Trump

The first transgender mayor in Texas speaks out about her concerns over the future of LGBT rights under the Trump administration.

'I'm very worried about us going backwards in time,' says Jess Herbst

First transgender mayor in Texas 'concerned' about trans rights under Trump

5 years ago
'I'm very worried about us going backwards in time,' says New Hope, Texas mayor Jess Herbst. 6:52

The first transgender mayor in Texas is speaking out about her concerns over the future of LGBT rights under the Donald Trump administration.

"I'm very worried about us going backwards in time," Jess Herbst told Rosemary Barton in an interview on CBC News Network's Power & Politics.

One issue of concern in particular for the mayor of New Hope, about an hour's drive north of Dallas, is currently being debated in her own state, as well as in Kentucky and Virginia — a controversial "bathroom bill" similar to one passed in North Carolina last year. 

Trump made contradictory statements on the campaign trail about the North Carolina law, which requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that align with the biological sex appearing on their birth certificate, not their gender identity. 

Despite Trump pledging last week to extend former president Barack Obama's LGBT workplace protections, Herbst is still watching the new administration carefully for its signals on LGBT issues.

"The feeling across the country that's permeating is that it's OK to start writing these discriminatory bills against transgender people," she said. 

"We're also seeing pushback against the same-sex marriage rule the Supreme Court came down with, so yes, I am concerned when I see indications that we might be going in those directions."

Jeff Sessions, the new U.S. attorney general, who was narrowly confirmed Wednesday by the Senate in a vote split along party lines, voted in support of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2006. He has also voted twice against expanding the definition of hate crimes to include attacks on people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

'Overwhelming support' to coming out

Herbst is making headlines — and history — of her own after recently coming out to her constituents as transgender. She is the first transgender mayor in Texas history.

In an open letter posted on the town council website, Herbst wrote, "I live my life as a female now, and I will be performing my duties to the town as such."

Herbst was previously known as Jeff, and had served as alderman, road commissioner and mayor pro-tem since 2003. She has lived in New Hope with her wife, who grew up in the town, and their two daughters since 1999.

Jess Herbst, the first transgender mayor in Texas, shared a photo from 1977, left, on Facebook comparing it with how she looks now. (Facebook/Jess Herbst)

Herbst told Barton the response from the small community of 670 people has been one of "overwhelming support" — but that it didn't surprise her.

"They were just getting to see me the way I've always seen myself," she said. 

"Although it's a conservative area of the country ... if things don't affect us, if things don't cause us problems, then we're pretty much a live and let live society," Herbst added.

New Hope is part of Collin County, one of the most conservative suburban regions in Texas. In the 2016 presidential election, Trump won by 17 percentage points over Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton.

Herbst said she did not vote for Trump, telling Barton she is not a registered Democrat or Republican. 

"I've voted Democrat, I've voted Republican, I voted Independent once," she said. "I cast my vote for who I think is the best person, with the best policies."

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