A Transgender Candidate Is Hoping to Make History [nytimes.com]

by Kate Taylor / nytimes.com

Zoning. School overcrowding. The design of New York’s transportation system.

These are just a few of the subjects that Mel Wymore, a candidate for City Council on the Upper West Side, brought up in an interview before addressing the elephant in the room: that, if elected, he would be the first transgender member of the Council.

“I’m not running because I’m transgender,” said Mr. Wymore, 50, who was born female but now, after testosterone therapy and top surgery, identifies as transgender. But, he said, that “doesn’t mean that being transgender doesn’t bring a certain perspective.”

Although gay men and lesbians have broken many electoral barriers — serving as mayors, state legislators and members of Congress — the same is not true of the transgender community. Only a few, including a Democratic district leader in Westchester County and a former member of the Hawaii Board of Education, have been elected to office around the country.

“I think there is a feeling that there is too much difference there,” Mr. Wymore said. But he said he believed: “This is the seat. This is the community that’s ready to go forward.”

The race, for the Sixth District seat occupied by Gale A. Brewer, who is term-limited, is competitive and has drawn a number of candidates, including Marc Landis, a district leader; Helen Rosenthal, a former chairwoman of Community Board 7; and Ken Biberaj, a vice president of the Russian Tea Room.

Melissa Sklarz, a transgender woman, said that the race was full of worthy candidates, and that as president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, she could not make an endorsement. But she described Mr. Wymore’s candidacy as “an opportunity for transgender people everywhere.”

“He’s a great representative,” Ms. Sklarz said. “Many people only know of transgender, I guess, from watching Chaz Bono on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ Mel Wymore brings a much different, broader experience.”

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