Small town Texas doesn't really scream 'LGBT-friendly' to most people.
But we may have got that one wrong, since Jess Herbst (formerly known as Jeff), a proud transgender woman, has just become the Mayor of the aptly-named town of New Hope.
This makes her the State's first openly transgender person to serve in office.
She recently penned an open letter to the citizens of the town, explaining her identiy, her history and encouraging anyone who had any questions about herself or her journey to to contact her, personally.
My wife has lived in New Hope since she was 2 years old. Along with our 2 daughters, we have lived here since 1999, on the same farm my wife was raised. I was born and raised in Greenville, Texas. As your Mayor I must tell you about something that has been with me since my earliest memories. I am Transgender. Two years ago, with the support of my wife, daughters and son-in-law, I began Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). At the time, I did not imagine I would hold the Mayors position, but here I am.
One of the reasons Jess needed to write this warm letter was because she wasn't actually elected for the position.
The Mayor who had won the most recent election unfortunately died, and Jess, as the longest-serving Alderman for the town, was asked to step in.
She is, in fact, a small business owner, and has been able to 'come out' slowly over time to all of her clients.
The last year has seen less and less Jeff. By early Summer 2016 Jeff was an appearance for work only. Late Summer I began coming out with my various employers( I am self employed and work for many different entities), and working as Jess. Before the new year rang in, Jess was open knowledge to everyone in my life and I have abandoned appearing as Jeff.
Jess explains on her blog that she began telling people about her 'secret' once she had begun researching transexual living online.
I wanted my kids to know this aspect of me. I started with my oldest, not sure how she would react. I got an entirely unexpected enthusiasm. She and I spend many hours with her as my teacher. When I got things in a working order, we broke the news to my youngest. Initially she was upset, change of any kind were never her favorite. But she quickly accepted it and has become one of my biggest supporters, and supporter for all LGBT issues. She takes pride in telling people that her father is trans. My future son-in-law came next, again I got nothing but support. I went on to tell my brothers, their kids and eventually my friends. Reactions are mixed, but they ranged from complete support to some 'OK, but I don't want to see it'. No one was outwardly opposed.
Though not everyone was always accepting of Jess.
When she was younger, living as Jeff, she was caught multiple times with her mother's clothes and sent to a psychiatrist since it was considered a mental illness at that time.
It was only much later, when she looked online, did she see that there was an entire transgender community that felt similarly to herself.
Jess' wife has always been aware of her husband's desire to be a woman, in fact they met at a screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show and played with 'dressing up' since then.
Jess explained in her open letter,
It is gender identity not sexual preference that applies to me. I love my wife, and she loves me, we have no intention of change.
It's refreshing to see in so many stories of prejudice and hate, how people are able to live their lives authentically, and be successful as they do so.