Pictured above: Mayor Robert Moon, J.R. Roberts, Christy Gilbert Holstege, California State assembly member Evan Low, Lisa Middleton, and Geoff Kors.
Last November, Palm Springs, Calif., made history with the elections of Lisa Middleton and Christy Holstege to the City Council, becoming the first city government in America led entirely by out LGBT officials. For a city known as an LGBT mecca, it’s a feat years in the making.
Middleton, a transgender lesbian, was one of eight out trans candidates elected to public office last November across the U.S. Holstege, a cisgender bisexual woman, also made history as the first millennial elected to the Palm Springs City Council and the youngest woman to be elected since the 1950s. The pair complete a five-person body, which also includes three out gay men.
For Middleton, a retired author who previously worked for the State Compensation Insurance Fund, her victory was more than historic. It was a testament to the incredible diversity of Palm Springs.
“We are a city of neighborhoods that attracts people from all over the world.” She jokingly adds, “I took some personal enjoyment in doing double duty by holding down the L and the T for the city council.”
Holstege, an alumna of Stanford Law School, shares the love, adding, “It makes sense to me that this milestone … would first happen in Palm Springs, which has long stood for equality and civil rights for all. I am incredibly proud of our voters, our city, and our values.”
Growing up, those in public service were heroes to Middleton, who’s worked in government her entire adult life. It’s on their shoulders she proudly stands.
“The future belongs to those communities that invest in their people and that invest in being fully inclusive,” she explains. “When you look at where entrepreneurs want to live ... [or] invest, they want to invest in communities with high-quality social services and [an] absolute commitment to equality for all.”
In order for cities to embrace inclusivity, Middleton advises community leaders, “First, get the laws in the books that protect individuals so that you have the law behind you as the foundation. Second is walking the walk, demonstrating in words and deeds that your commitment to equality, your full commitment to inclusion, does in fact extend to all.”
Before she got into politics, Holstege was an attorney dedicated to representing clients who had been discriminated against or marginalized. It wasn’t until last year she felt inspired to get into politics.
“I saw that the best way I could create change was to run for my office myself right now,” Holstege says. “I truly believe all politics is local and we need good, ethical, qualified people representing us.”
Middleton says the council knows the responsibility in being a visible force for LGBT people across the country. And, as Holstege says, their work is only beginning.
“I join only 10 bisexual female elected officials in the entire United States, and only three others serving at the local level,” Holstege says, according to Victory Institute’s Out for America report on LGBT people in public office. “My favorite response has been to hear from people that my election has given them hope or made them feel like they could also run for office and win.”