Stu Rasmussen, First Openly Transgender Mayor in America, Dies at 73

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Mr. Rasmussen, who served 2 presumption arsenic politician of Silverton, Ore., defied galore conventions, sex being conscionable 1 of them.

Stu Rasmussen successful  2009. In summation  to holding respective  elected offices, helium  was a Mr. Fix-It for neighbors and ran the town’s lone  first-run movie   theater.
Credit...Lisa Kereszi

Clay Risen

Dec. 3, 2021, 12:51 p.m. ET

Stu Rasmussen, who successful 2004 became what is believed to beryllium the archetypal openly transgender politician successful America, died connected Nov. 17 astatine his location successful Silverton, Ore., wherever helium had served successful assorted elected offices for the amended portion of 30 years. Mr. Rasmussen, who identified arsenic a pistillate but typically utilized masculine pronouns, was 73.

His wife, Victoria Sage, said the origin was prostate cancer.

Silverton, an cultivation assemblage with astir 9,200 residents and a jewel container of a downtown, sits astir an hr southbound of Portland and a fractional hr eastbound of Salem, the authorities capital. Despite an influx of radical that tripled the colonisation since Mr. Rasmussen was young, it was hardly the benignant of spot 1 mightiness expect to find specified a pathbreaking politician.

But Mr. Rasmussen defied galore conventions, sex being conscionable 1 of them. He belonged to some the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association. He was socially progressive but fiscally conservative, and helium butted heads with growth-oriented metropolis leaders erstwhile helium blocked caller subdivisions oregon upgrades to section infrastructure.

He was intensely backstage — but also, according to Oregon Encyclopedia, “easily the astir recognized idiosyncratic successful the community,” a information established agelong earlier helium went nationalist with his caller sex identity, successful 1998.

A lifelong nonmigratory of Silverton, helium was an technologist and entrepreneur who brought cablegram TV to the municipality successful the 1970s — often wiring customers himself — and remained a reliable Mr. Fix-It for his neighbors, the idiosyncratic they called to repair a janky fuse container oregon a buggy computer.

He besides co-owned and operated Silverton’s lone first-run movie theater, the Palace. He sold the tickets, served the popcorn, ran the projector and often stood retired beforehand dressed arsenic a quality from immoderate movie was showing inside.

He entered authorities successful the mid-1980s, archetypal connected the City Council and past for 2 two-year presumption arsenic mayor, some times identifying arsenic a man. He ran unsuccessfully for the State Legislature, twice, earlier returning to Silverton authorities successful 2004, this clip arsenic a woman.

By then, the assemblage had mostly travel to judge his caller identity.

“Nobody truly cared,” Kyle Palmer, the existent politician of Silverton, said successful an interview. “Everyone knew him, truthful that portion of him didn’t get a reaction.”

He served 2 presumption connected the assembly earlier moving again for politician successful 2008, defeating an eight-term incumbent and drafting planetary headlines for taking to the hustings successful precocious heels and a low-cut blouse.

Three weeks aft the election, members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a spiritual radical successful Topeka, Kan., known for staging hate-filled, antigay protests astatine subject funerals and different ceremonies, held a tiny rally successful Silverton, wherever they lofted signs condemning Mr. Rasmussen and the town.

But an adjacent larger fig of locals turned retired for a counterprotest. Some 200 people, including respective men who had dressed successful women’s covering for the occasion, held their ain signs, speechmaking “Jesus Loves Stu” and “Stu Rocks.”

The encounter, which besides drew nationalist attention, aboriginal inspired a musical, “Stu for Silverton,” which debuted successful Seattle successful 2013.

Despite his celebrity, Mr. Rasmussen spent his 2nd stint arsenic mayor, from 2009 to 2015, with his caput down, focused connected the benignant of issues that undergird astir of beingness successful small-town America. He built a skate parkland and a elder center. He established an early-warning strategy astatine a adjacent dam. He ran City Council meetings. He was, successful astir ways that mattered, nary antithetic from immoderate different politician, and the municipality treated him that way.

“A batch of radical who are transgender think, ‘I can’t beryllium myself here. I person to spell determination else, spell to Portland oregon to San Francisco, and fto the different broadside of maine travel out,’” he told The Salem Statesman-Journal successful 2015. “I transitioned successful place. And the assemblage came on with me.”

Stewart Alan Rasmussen was calved connected Sept. 9, 1948. His father, Albert, was a Danish migrant who astatine assorted points successful his beingness panned for gold, delivered message and managed the Palace Theater. His mother, Nan (Dowling) Rasmussen, was a homemaker.

Stu received an associate’s grade successful electrical engineering successful 1971 from what is present Chemeketa Community College, successful Salem, aft which helium spent astir 8 years moving for a tech institution successful Beaverton, a occidental suburb of Portland. It was the lone clip successful his beingness helium lived extracurricular Silverton.

Mr. Rasmussen began dating Ms. Sage successful the mid-1970s, and they joined successful 2014. She is his lone survivor.

Though helium was considered a pillar of the community, by the mid-2010s galore radical successful Silverton had soured connected his leadership, which immoderate felt was dense handed and excessively conservative. He mislaid re-election successful 2014, arsenic good arsenic a comeback effort successful 2018, against Mr. Palmer, who had taken bureau successful 2017.

He continued to tally the Palace Theater until aboriginal 2020, erstwhile the archetypal question of the coronavirus pandemic deed the Pacific Northwest. A fewer months later, helium called Mr. Palmer to archer him helium had terminal cancer.

“He was a thoughtful unit for what helium thought was bully for Silverton,” Mr. Palmer said. “His bequest is arsenic idiosyncratic who gave everything helium could successful the clip that helium had.”

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