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New Hampshire’s First Openly Trans City Council Member Elected

Palana Belken

On Tuesday, Palana Belken became the first openly transgender person to ever be elected to a city council anywhere in New Hampshire.

The 30-year-old Belken defeated incumbent Sandra Keans, who had been on Rochester City Council for three decades.

Belken, who works as a trans justice organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, told the local CBS affiliate WGME that she hadn’t been dwelling on how her election might make history.

“I wasn't really thinking about that while I was running,” she said. “I was just going out, knocking doors. I don't think a lot of people knew that I was transgender. I didn't run on that."

Rather, she concentrated on keeping property taxes affordable, helping the city's homeless population, and supporting small businesses. She told the Associated Press residents also care about substance use disorder, a downtown revitalization plan, and housing affordability.

"I didn't see myself on city council,” Belken said. “You know, it skews towards an older population, and I think it's important to have a younger voice at the table."

Belken says the community is generally accepting of LGBTQ people. Three of the 12 members of the Rochester City Council are now members of the LGBTQ community, reports WGME.

"I can imagine if I was a transgender person running for office 10 years ago, it would have been a different response," Belken said.

Belken is one of at least 100 openly LGBTQ candidates who won races on Tuesday as part of the continuing “rainbow wave.” These include Holly Ryan, a trans woman who was elected to Newton City Council in neighboring Massachusetts; Aime Wichtendahl, elected to Hiawatha City Council in Iowa; and Air Rhodes, a nonbinary person elected to Beacon City Council in New York.

Tags: News, Election

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