Election Day 2017 saw a record number of transgender politicians elected into office, including Virginia state delegate Danica Roem, Palm Springs City Councilwoman Lisa Middleton and Minneapolis City Councilwoman Andrea Jenkins.
Of course, their success is due in part to the work done by those who came before them. Below, we celebrate ten officeholders have effected change on the local, national, and global levels.
Geraldine Roman, The Philippines
In 2016, Roman became the first trans woman elected to Congress in the Philippines. Popular among poorer voters, she’s an outspoken advocate for economic justice and LGBT rights.
Misty Snow, UtahGeorge Frey/Getty Images
Last year Snow became the first trans person to run for state Senate in Utah, and became the first major-party nominee for statewide office. The 32-year-old lost her race, but garnered a respectable 27% of the vote in a solidly red state.
In April, Snow announced she was running against Chris Stewart for Utah’s 2nd congressional district.
Georgina Beyer, New ZealandHagen Hopkins/Getty Images
In 1995, Beyes, a former sex worker and entertainer, was elected mayor of Carterton, making her the first openly trans mayor in the world. In 1999 she broke another barrier when she became a Labour Party MP for Wairarapa.
“This is an historic moment,” she said in her first address to Parliament. “We need to acknowledge that this country of ours leads the way in so many aspects. We have led the way for women getting the vote. We have led the way in the past, and I hope we will do so again in the future in social policy and certainly in human rights.”
Michelle Suárez Bértora, Uruguay
Bértora called becoming the firs trans person in the Uruguayan legislature in 2014 “a sad honor,” because it reflected how much more work there was to do. Before taking office, she was also a staunch activist, helping to draft the country’s marriage equality law and advising Black Sheep, a Uruguayan LGBT advocacy group.
Petra De Sutter, BelgiumWikipedia Commons
De Sutter was elected to the Belgian senate in 2014 as a member of the Green party. She also heads the department of reproductive medicine at Ghent University Hospital and is an advocate for reproductive rights, especially regarding surrogacy.
Tomoya Hosoda, JapanTomoyo Hosoda | Twitter
In March 2017, Hosoda was elected councilor for Iruma, Japan, the openly first transgender man ever elected to public office.
At just 25, he’s already an accomplished advocate for the LGBT community, seniors, and the disabled.
Carla Antonelli, SpainWikipedia Commons
An actress who’s appeared on Spanish television, Antonelli was active in trans rights long before being elected to the Madrid Assembly. In 2006, she threatened a hunger strike unless the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) adopted a gender-identity law. The PSOE relented and, the following year, she became the first trans person in Madrid to change the gender on their legal documents.
Anna Grodzka, PolandWikipedia Commons
In 2011, Grodzka became the first openly trans person elected to Parliament in Poland. She had a diverse career before taking office, including stints as a political studies professor at Warsaw University and a publishing industry professional. Before coming out, Grodzka was married with a son: She finalized her divorce in 2007, transitioned in 2009, and was elected to Parliament just two years later in 2011.
Vladimir Luxuria, ItalyBarbara Zanon/Getty Images
Luxuria became Europe’s first openly transgender MP in 2006 as a member of the Communist Reformation Party. During her camaign, she faced physical assaults and verbal attacks from fellow politicians. Before her foray into politics, Luxuria’s career included acting, writing, and hosting a TV program.
Jess Herbst, TexasJess Herbst
Herbst broke barriers in May 2017 when she came out as transgender, less than a year after winning her seat as mayor of New Hope, Texas. Herbst said she was met with acceptance from her small-town community.
“Two years ago, with the support of my wife, daughters and son-in-law, I began hormone replacement therapy (HRT),” she wrote in a letter to constituents. “At the time, I did not imagine I would hold the mayor’s position, but here I am.”
Althea GarrisonAlthea Garrison
Decades before Roem won her seat in the Virginia statehouse, Garrison became the first transgender person elected to a state legislature when she won election as a state representative in Massachusetts. It was 1992, and Garrison was a Republican—and not out as trans at the time. In fact, her career derailed when she was unwillingly outed as trans in the press by Eric Ferhrnstrom, a Boston Herald reporter who later became an aide to Mitt Romney. (“I can remember his glee when he found the birth certificate,” a colleague recalled years later.)
Garrison served only one term and, despite running again more than a dozen time, was never reelected.
Her comfort with the LGBT community, and in fact with her own identity, has never been robust: Still a Republican, Garrison strongly opposes marriage equality and reproductive rights. But she put a face to a community few in Boston were familiar with, impressing her colleagues and demonstrating we deserved a seat at the table.