Julie Lemieux

First Openly Transgender Person Wins Office In Canada

Julie Lemieux was elected mayor of the small Quebec village of Très-Saint-Redempteur.

Election Day 2017 was a watershed moment for transgender people in the U.S., with a record number of trans candidates winning elected office. But our neighbors to the north had their own trans moment as well: Last Sunday, Julie Lemieux became the first openly transgender person elected to public office in Canada.

Lemieux ran for mayor in the small Quebec village of Très-Saint-Redempteur, population 863. The town, located near the Ontario border, is best known for its impressive Catholic cathedral—an irony Lemieux calls “quite funny.”

Lemieux, 45, won 48% of the vote in the November 5 municipal elections. Her victory, she told Radio Canada, stems from people’s desire for change. “People needed renewal in the village. It shows something we don’t necessarily see in the media: in the villages, too, there is acceptance and social openness.” ”

It’s really a place and a village that is bold and innovative,” she added. “We’re writing history and I have a lot to offer.”

Indeed, turnout for the mayoral election was about 70%, much higher than the average in Quebec, which is about 45%.

Her opponents tried to marginalize her candidacy, but Lemieux says there was no direct transphobia during the campaign: “[It] makes me proud,” she says. “People see skills before status.”

In addition to being the first transgender Canadian voted into office, the former former cabinetmaker is the first woman elected mayor in Très-Saint-Redempteur’s 137-year history.

Estefania Cortes-Vargas was elected in the Alberta general election in 2015: At the time they identified publicly as a female and a lesbian. In December of that year they came out as non-binary in a debate on the inclusion of transgender people in the provincial human rights code.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.