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Transgender Texas politician Addison Perry-Franks has died at age 39.
"The love of my life has passed away today," Perry-Franks's wife, Lacey Franks, wrote on Facebook New Year's Day. "I don't have all of the details till the autopsy comes back. The world is a darker place without her light shining in it."
In 2020, Perry-Franks, a Democrat, ran for the Texas House of Representatives from District 83, in the panhandle area, and for mayor of her hometown, Snyder. "Although she lost both races, she had an empowering impact on the party, the community, and her family," reports OutSmart, a Houston-based LGBTQ+ publication.
Perry-Franks died at Cogdell Memorial Hospital in Snyder; her wife had rushed her to the hospital when she became ill. The cause of death has still not been reported.
Perry-Franks, who ran a computer repair business, decided to seek office because of anti-transgender discrimination -- the incumbent state representative she challenged, Republican Dustin Burrows, was one of the authors of the 2017 "bathroom bill," which would have restricted trans Texans' access to public restrooms. It failed to pass. She's experienced discrimination herself as well.
"I had a problem at a local store that wouldn't let me use the restroom," she told OutSmart last year. "I publicized the incident, and the store's corporate head wound up coming to Snyder to retrain all the employees and make the chain more LGBT-inclusive."
That was not the only issue she emphasized in her campaigns, however. Health care access, the economy, and education were among her priorities.
"Retired teachers in Texas haven't had a cost-of-living raise in years," she told OutSmart. "And we hold fundraisers to help local teachers buy school supplies so they don't have to pay for them out of their own savings."
Her district is heavily Republican and conservative -- Burrows ended up winning reelection by a large margin in 2020 -- and Perry-Franks encountered a mixed reaction while campaigning.
"Knocking on doors and talking to people, they're very friendly," she said in the OutSmart interview. "But the local media aren't covering my campaign, and some Lubbock conservative radio shows really went after me. I got hate mail and death threats from that -- most of them not even from Texas. But it's not as much as I thought it would be." Lubbock is the largest city in her area.
Perry-Franks transitioned publicly in 2018. She had nearly died -- she didn't specify the cause -- and emerged from the experience deciding to live her authentic life. When she revealed her female identity to her wife, Lacey Franks told her she already knew. The couple had been married 10 years at the time; they remarried in November 2018, after Perry-Franks changed her legal name. They have five children, two each from previous relationships, and one child they had together. After Perry-Franks came out as trans, the two youngest children came out as nonbinary; she said her transition made them comfortable in doing so.
Perry-Franks was also an actor and screenwriter. She acted in Robert Rodriguez's film Alita: Battle Angel under her deadname, and she and Franks appeared on the reality show Texas Flip n' Move as well as in a music video. She had written screenplays for two dramatized films, the LGBTQ-themed Equally Friends and the sci-fi movie Zombie Traveler, and a documentary about herself, A Biography of Great Proportions. They were in various stages of production at the time of her death.
Texas Democratic groups memorialized her on Facebook. "Lubbock Area Young Democrats want to extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family of former Democratic candidate Addison Perry-Franks on her all-too-sudden passing," the organization posted. "Addison stood up for working people when others wouldn't. We continue to keep her friends and family in our thoughts during this time of bereavement."
"Her determination to stand up for West Texas against so many odds could never be matched, even in the face of defeat," the Texas Democratic Women of South Plains wrote. "Please keep her wife, Lacey Perry-Franks, and her family in your thoughts during this difficult time."
In addition to her wife and children, Perry-Franks is survived by her parents, two sisters, a brother, and her grandfather. Her wife has launched a Facebook campaign to raise funds for funeral expenses.