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Politics

Old Habits Die
Hard in the New South

Old Habits Die
Hard in the New South

Michelle_bruce

Five years ago transgender and intersex Michelle Bruce managed to win elected office in Georgia without incident. Her reelection attempt was another story.

Michelle Bruce is no stranger to intolerance -- she was born intersex and now identifies as transgender. So it was a shock when she ran for a seat on the city council of Riverdale, Ga., in 2003 and her political platform -- creating a neighborhood watch program and a police bicycle patrol -- made headlines instead of her sexuality.

Unfortunately for Bruce, the opposite occurred when she ran for reelection last year. Although things went smoothly until Election Day, where her 312 votes ensured a runoff against runner-up Wayne Hall (202 votes), third-place finisher Georgia Fuller (171 votes) quickly filed a lawsuit claiming Bruce misled voters by running as a woman.

Although a judge dismissed the complaint on December 3, "the damage was done," says Bruce, who lost the runoff to Hall the very next day.

Why do you think your sexuality became an issue during your reelection when no one seemed to care the first time around? I guess they just didn't think about it until now. That's the only reason I can come up with, because everybody here knows who and what I am. I live as a woman, I dress as a woman, I walk as a woman, I carry myself as a woman -- and that has never seemed to bother anyone here except the bigots in office.

So you consider Riverdale, an Atlanta suburb of 12,000 people, to be fairly LGBT-friendly? I think so. I felt supported by most of the people. I wasn't so sure that would be the case when I first ran, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Does Riverdale have much of an LGBT community? There are a few, and they're all waking up to what's going on here -- the nepotism and cronyism that's keeping important things from getting done.

What's next for you? Will you run for office again in the future? Oh, this isn't the end of me. I think I'll be more dangerous as a regular citizen than as an elected official, especially since I know how the game is played. I'm going to raise hell until I can run again.

Do you hope your story will cause other LGBT people to follow in your footsteps? What I hope is that LGBT people from around the country will move here and run for office too. They can help me bring about change and educate the people who live here and don't understand our community.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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