West Virginia elected its first out transgender official on Tuesday, a victory civil rights groups said would help bolster representation and political power for LGBTQ Americans.
Rosemary Ketchum won her bid for the Wheeling City Council on Tuesday and will represent the city’s Ward 3. When she assumes her role on July 1, Ketchum will be one of just four out LGBTQ officials in the state to hold public office.
“I’m incredibly excited and grateful. I know this was a close race,” Ketchum told The Wheeling News-Register on Tuesday, noting that while she didn’t campaign on her identity, the win “matters a lot.”
Ketchum works at the National Alliance for Mental Illness and is an active community organizer.
“I believe that we must work WITH our community members to solve problems rather than without them or worse – against them,” she wrote on her campaign site. “But all too often, what we have seen is a lack of focus, a lack of drive, and most notably, a lack of presence regarding our elected community leaders.”
The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which backed Ketchum’s bid, noted her win is a landmark moment in the fight for representation. There are just 26 out transgender officials in the United States, and the group said Ketchum’s victory “will resonate well beyond her state.”
“Rosemary has shattered a lavender ceiling in West Virginia and will join the growing number of out trans elected officials serving nationwide,” the group’s president, Annise Parker, said in a statement. “We know Rosemary’s race will inspire other trans people from conservative states to consider a run for office in their communities – and then those candidates will inspire others as well. That virtuous cycle is the key to building trans acceptance and political power long-term.”