Lisa Middleton was sworn in as the new mayor of Palm Springs Thursday evening, becoming the first transgender mayor in California history and only the third ever in the United States.
“Being transgender in America today is to know both hope and fear,” Middleton said in a statement released before the swearing in ceremony during the regular City Council meeting at City Hall. “Our fears are grounded in the lived experiences of each of us. They are grounded in the lives lost to violence. The jobs we did not get or keep. The healthcare that was specifically barred from us.”
“Tragically, it has also been only days since the last elected official virtually if not literally stood in the doorway blocking a transgender child from the full access of a public school, public playground and, in some states, from the accepted standards of medical care for transgender youth,” Middleton noted. “But nothing offers more hope than the loving parents of transgender children standing up to bullies and standing up for their children to grow to be adults living out a full, authentic and equal life. For every elected official blocking doorways, there is another opening doors. And across this country there are places like Palm Springs with the welcome mat out.
“I am so humbled and grateful for this opportunity, and deeply proud of my hometown. Turned away at home, many of us have made a new home, a new family in Palm Springs.”
The city no longer elects a mayor directly. Instead, council members are appointed to the largely ceremonial role on a rotating annual basis based on their district. Middleton, who represents District 5, replaced now former Mayor Christy Holstege, the District 4 representative, in the role. Grace Garner, who represents District 1, is now mayor pro tem and is next up for the mayor role in December 2022.
This isn’t the first time Middleton has made history in the LGBTQ+ community. In 2017, she became the first openly transgender person in California history to win an elected non-judicial position when she was voted onto the Palm Springs City Council.
The late Stu Rasmussen became America’s first openly transgender mayor
when he was elected mayor of Silverton, Oregon, in November 2008.
Middleton announced her run for the state Senate in October. She is looking to fill a spot in the 28th District that will not have an incumbent in the race. If she wins, she will be seated in Sacramento a year from now, allowing her to complete either a full term or a nearly full term as mayor. The timing of her exit from the mayor’s role, should she win higher office, depends on when and how the Council decides to fill her position. The same scenario exists for Holstege, who is also seeking a position in the state capitol.