Lisa Middleton

Palm Springs Elects Trans Candidate Lisa Middleton To City Council

“If transgender people are being attacked, you need transgender voices to respond to those attacks.”

Lisa Middleton made history in Palm Springs on Election Day, becoming the first transgender person elected to a non-judicial office in the state of California.

“It’s all because of all of you that we are here tonight, celebrating a victory, a historic victory for our city and for our state,” Middleton told supporters at a victory party.

Middleton and fellow winner Christy Holstege each took about 30% of the vote. They were running for two open seats as longtime council members Chris Mills and Ginny Foat chose not to seek re-election. According to the Desert Sun, only about 8,350 people voted in the election, a number of them via mail-in ballots.

Middleton, 65, worked as an auditor at the State Compensation Insurance Fund for 36 years, much of it in San Francisco. She came out as transgender in 1995 and, in 2010, retired with her wife to Palm Springs, where she’s served on the planning commission and several neighborhood groups.

The town is known for its sizable LGBT community, but it also has a conservative streak. (Republican Sonny Bono was once mayor.) Middleton focused on homelessness and renewable energy in her campaign, and scored endorsements from former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, the Palm Springs Police Department and The Desert Sun, among others.

A record number of trans candidates sought office this cycle: In addition to Middleton, Danica Roem won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates and Andrea Jenkins claimed victory in the Minneapolis City Council race.

“We have been the preferred target of conservative forces,” Middleton told the Mercury News this week. “If transgender people are being attacked, you need transgender voices to respond to those attacks.”

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.