November 8, 2017 at 10:10 am PST | by Karen Ocamb
Palm Springs elects trans Lisa Middleton to City Council

New Palm Springs City Councilmembers Lisa Middleton and Christy Holstege (Photo courtesy Equality California)

Exactly one year after Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Democrats won big in a clear refutation of what Trump has wrought. And, as if to underscore the point, four transgender candidates were elected in races across the nation, including Lisa Middleton, the top-vote-getter elected to the Palm Springs City Council on Tuesday night. She was joined in victory by bisexual millennial Christy Holstege, who won the second most votes for the two open seats in a field of six candidates. Palm Springs is now America’s first LGB and T-majority run city government.

Middleton made history as the first out trans person elected to a non-judicial office in California. The first trans person elected to any public office in California was Victoria Kolakowski who became the nation’s first trans judge when she was elected in 2010 to the Superior Court in Alameda County.

Lisa Middleton talks to supporters (Photo courtesy Geoff Kors)

“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 after her victory.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to represent all of the people of Palm Springs,” Middleton told the Los Angeles Blade in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “I truly appreciate the commitment to diversity and inclusion that Palm Springs exemplifies. The future belongs to those who embrace diversity and embrace people of all backgrounds.”

Lisa Middleton and supporters watch returns (Photo courtesy Geoff Kors)

Middleton believes the Nov. 7 elections might be a turning point. “Last November was a stunning disappointment for so many people in our country.  The forces of division won over the forces of inclusion,” Middleton tells the Los Angeles Blade. “What we are witnessing in the campaign in Palm Springs and across the nation in the results yesterday, is that our nation—and my community— want problem-solvers who bring people together, who get things done. And I believe we are going to see over the course of the next few years, a rejection of divisive politics in favor of common sense individuals committed to building a future based on broad strength and diversity of all of the American people.”

Middleton was on point during the campaign, as well. “We [trans people] have been the preferred target of conservative forces,” Middleton told the Mercury News. “If transgender people are being attacked, you need transgender voices to respond to those attacks.”

The paper also reported a moment that captures Middleton’s sense of responsibility to the larger trans community. “At a recent campaign event, she said, she met a shy 7-year-old girl with pigtails who shook her hand and told her, ‘I’m like you — I’m transgender,’” The News reported. “’To be an example for kids like her … that is absolutely a humbling opportunity,’ Middleton said.”

“Lisa was elected because she was the most qualified candidate,” says James Williamson, Middleton’s campaign manager and husband of City Council member Geoff Kors. “Her win, though, is significant as she becomes the first elected out Transgender member of a city council in California.  Shattering another glass ceiling moves us all forward but is especially inspiring for our youth as they see more possibilities for their future.”

Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur, Campaign Manager James Williamson, trans candidate Lisa Middleton, Palm Springs City Councilmember Geoff Kors (Photo courtesy Equality California)

“This election sent a powerful message with Palm Springs now having council members who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender,” Kors tells the Los Angeles Blade via email. “The candidates’ sexual orientation and gender identity were not issues in the election. Palm Springs residents simply voted for the two most qualified candidates.  This is the kind of world we as a community have worked so hard to create.”

Equality California endorsed both Middleton and Holstege.

“In light of the repeated attacks on transgender people from the federal government, tonight’s wins by Lisa Middleton in Palm Springs and other transgender candidates in Minneapolis and Virginia are a beacon of hope that voters have embraced values of equality and inclusion,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “By becoming the first out transgender person to be elected to a non-judicial office in California, Lisa is paving the way for others to follow in her footsteps in California and across the nation. Her first place finish out of a field of 6 candidates demonstrates that a glass ceiling for transgender people who want to serve in elected office was not only broken, but was shattered in Palm Springs.

“With the election of Lisa and Christy Holstege, the city of Palm Springs will now be represented by a city council that is 100% LGBTQ,” Zbur continues.  “At Equality California, we know that representation matters. That’s why we endorse and work to elect highly qualified LGBTQ candidates at the local level. One of our top organizational goals is to build the bench of LGBTQ elected officials to prepare them to run for higher office. To achieve that in Palm Springs, we spent thousands of dollars in direct contributions, independent expenditures and member-to-member communications in support of both candidates. In 2018, we hope to build on tonight’s success by electing more LGBTQ candidates and pro-equality allies up and down the ballot across California.”

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