Given the recent attention to heartbreaking defeats in California, Florida, Arizona and Arkansas, we should take some time to recognize some important victories our community accomplished for good measure. As all know that Tuesday was an historic election not only for President-elect Barack Obama, but very few of us know that it was also a historic day for Stu Ramussen (pictured) and the people of Silverton, Oregon, who elected him their first ever gender non-conforming Mayor.
Ramussen, who previously served for two terms as Silverton’s Mayor in the 1990s, campaigned for office this time around with a different gender expression. A few years ago, Ramussen had come out as a “heterosexual male” who “just likes to look like a female.” In the 1990s he was often spotted wearing suits and oxfords. These days -- in post-election glory -- he can be found wearing skirts and high heels.
Because of his gender identity and non-conforming gender expression, Ramussen was unsure how the recent election would turn out. Yet his gender expression very quickly became a non-issue, given the town’s growing concerns about jobs, wage decline and education issues. Silverton residents were eager to see him serve another term because of his past experience as an effective mayor. In the end, Ramussen won the race for the Mayor’s Office by a hefty margin – 13 points, a landslide victory by some standards.
Many in Silverton find it amazing that a small town can be so open-minded in electing Stu Ramussen – the town’s first gender non-conforming mayor, a similar sentiment that many are feeling across the country when thinking of electing Barack Obama – the country’s first African-American President . This election has taught us all an important lesson that no matter a candidates identity – be that their gender identity, ethnic or racial identity – they can win on merit, integrity and a lot of persistence (and potentially caffeine). In the end we all should remember that like Stu Ramussen and Barack Obama – YES WE CAN!
- J. Rhodes Perry