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Transgender city council candidate could become a first in NYC

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
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NEW YORK — If Mel Wymore wins a New York City council seat in the upcoming election, he would be the first openly transgender person elected to public office in America’s biggest city and one of only a handful ever in the U.S.

His campaign is neither emphasizing his personal story nor sidestepping it.

Bebeto Matthews, AP
City council candidate Mel Wymore at a gun law rally on June 14, 2013 on the steps of New York City Hall. If Wymore wins a council seat it would mark the first transgender officeholder for the city.

“I want to create the inclusive community, and it goes beyond my personal identity,” said Wymore, 51. “But it actually lends a lot to my story and my credibility as a candidate. I’m honest, I’m brave, I’m forthright, and I’m willing to stand up for change.”

Nationwide, at least five transgender people have won city, school board and judicial elections, including Mayor Stu Rasmussen in Silverton, Oregon. Perhaps dozens of others have run across the country.

They are bringing more attention to an issue that’s increasingly seen as a new frontier in rights debates. Recent local conflicts in the U.S. have involved the use of restrooms by transgender people, for example.

Wymore, a Democrat and systems engineer who has raised two children, had a happy childhood as Melanie Wymore. But the “exuberance” from childhood slipped away around puberty. At 35, Wymore reached a conclusion about why – and came out as a lesbian.

As a decade went by, Wymore still felt joy was missing and didn’t know the reason until seeing a recorded interview with a transgender boy during an anti-bullying event about five years ago. Wymore looked at the boy and saw himself.

“It suddenly hit me that it was gender that was at the core” of his unease, he said in an interview.

He ultimately decided to undertake surgical and other changes to live as a man.

The response was accepting, he and a colleague recall. “People knew him before and knew what kind of person he was,” community board member Madge Rosenberg said.

At times, Wymore sensed other people’s awkwardness as they stumbled over whether to use “he” or “she,” or felt hurt when a women’s book group stopped inviting him.

The experience made him more determined to advocate for the disabled, the elderly and others who feel overlooked – in other words, everybody, Wymore said.

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