Lisa Middleton was sworn in Thursday evening as mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., making her the first transgender mayor in the state and only the third ever nationwide.
The Palm Springs mayor position rotates among members of the City Council. Middleton, who is in her second term on the council, will serve a year as mayor. She succeeds another history-maker, Christy Holstege, who was the first woman mayor of the desert city east of Los Angeles and the only out bisexual mayor in the nation.
After her swearing-in, Middleton discussed the history of trans people in the U.S., including Marsha P. Johnson's role in the Stonewall riots and recent legislation in some states to block transgender young people from receiving gender-affirming medical care or restrict their participation in school sports, the Desert Sun reports. She struck a note of optimism overall.
"For every elected official blocking doorways, there are others opening doors, and across the country, there are places like Palm Springs where the welcome mat is out," she said, according to the paper. "I am so thankful for my hometown."
"Our work in this city is far from done," she continued. "But in this city, it will always matter most what you are willing to work for and what you are prepared to give back to others. My thanks, and let's get back to work."
Other out trans mayors in the U.S. were Stu Rasmussen, elected mayor of Silverton, Ore., in 2008 (he died last month), and Jess Herbst, a council member in New Hope, Texas, who moved up to mayor in 2016 when that town's mayor died, the Desert Sun reports.
The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles sang a song in Middleton's honor at the meeting, and Holstege described Middleton's swearing-in as "a historic moment for the state of California and the country and city." A staffer from U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz's office "presented Middleton with a certificate of congressional recognition for becoming mayor and congratulated her on becoming the first transgender mayor in state history," according to the paper. Middleton's wife, Cheryl, attended the ceremony as well. They have been married since 2013.
This isn't the first time Middleton has made history; she was the first out trans person elected to a nonjudicial position in California. A Democrat, she has also entered the 2022 race for California State Senate. If elected, she will be only the second out trans state senator in the nation, the first being Sarah McBride of Delaware.
She is retired after 36 years with California's State Compensation Insurance Fund, which provides workers' comp insurance and seeks to make workplaces safe, and is now on the board of administrators for the California Public Employees Retirement System.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund and Equality California, both of which have endorsed Middleton's California Senate bid, applauded her move up to mayor.
"Lisa's elevation to mayor is a milestone moment for California, but also for trans people across the nation who want to make positive change through public service," Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker said in a press release. "While hateful politicians attempt to vilify trans people for their own perceived political gain, Lisa is the model of a true public servant -- one who lifts people up and focuses on issues that actually improve people's lives. Lisa is a trailblazer who will be a fantastic mayor, and we are excited for her to shatter another lavender ceiling with a State Senate win in 2022."
"Lisa Middleton has been a transformational trailblazer, and we're proud to be by her side as she makes history again -- this time as California's first out transgender mayor," added Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. "Just as important as the powerful representation she's provided, Lisa has been a champion for bold solutions to the big challenges Palm Springs faces -- housing affordability, access to affordable health care, support for our elders, the climate crisis, and more. We know that Lisa will continue to be a champion for the Coachella Valley and all Californians when she is elected to the California Senate next year."