Jess Herbst became mayor of New Hope – a small north Texas town in Collin County – last May when the previous mayor died of a heart attack. As the longest serving alderman on the town council, she was next in line. Herbst just came out publicly as a transgender woman, the first sitting mayor to do so. She publicly announced her transition with an open letter to her constituents on the conservative town’s website.
Herbst said her transition from Jeff to Jess hasn’t been much of a secret in New Hope. She’s been blogging for several years about going through Hormone Replacement Therapy and other aspects of her life. She also has an open Facebook page. But before now, she says she hadn’t otherwise publicly addressed it.
“I’ve not flaunted it in anyone’s face, but I certainly have not gone out of my way to keep people from discovering this,” Herbst says.
The townspeople have been extremely supportive, she says.
“It has been absolutely phenomenal,” she says. “I had hoped for tolerance and I have been met with overwhelming support. The townspeople are just amazing. I’m truly truly one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth.”
Herbst said her decision to write publicly on the town’s website came after she was appointed mayor.
“I knew at that point if I was going to remain mayor of this town, I had to make sure that everybody knew the truth about me,” Herbst says. “I could not continue without them knowing. It would not be honest or fair to the citizens.”
She says that the small community of New Hope doesn’t “make a stink about things.”
“People are concerned about real issues, not about whether I’m wearing a suit or a dress,” she says.
Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.