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Olivia Hill of Nashville Council Is First Trans Person Elected in Tennessee

Author: Trudy Ring

Olivia Hill has made history as the first transgender person elected to public office in Tennessee, and she’s part of a female majority on the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County.

She is one of five women elected to at-large seats on the Metro Council. Four won their seats in a runoff election Thursday, while the other, an incumbent, had enough votes to be elected in the general election August 3, The Tennesseanreports. The council now has a record number of women — 22, with 17 elected from districts and five at large. That means women have a majority of seats on the 40-member council.

“I want to say that I am elated,” Hill told The Tennessean. She was not only the first out trans person elected in Tennessee but the first one to appear on a ballot.

“For every trans kid in the state of Tennessee that has felt discomfort or that they didn’t belong … . We are valid,” she continued. “We are who we say we are. And we are going to move forward.”

Hill, a Nashville native and longtime LGBTQ+ advocate, was in the U.S. Navy from 1986 to 1995 and served in combat during Operation Desert Storm. After leaving the military, she worked at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. She spent 26 years at the university’s power plant, retiring in December 2021 as its senior supervisor.

She transitioned during her time at Vanderbilt, but she ended up suing the university, alleging she faced extensive discrimination as she was going through the process. She filed suit in September 2021, and she and Vanderbilt agreed to a settlement three months later, The Tennessean reports.

Hill also received honors from Vanderbilt, including the Chancellor’s Heart and Soul Award in 2019 and the citation as one of three LGBTQ Advocates of the Year by the university’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Life in 2020.

She told The Tennessean that on the council, she will work “to fix the broken parts of Nashville.” The council needs to focus on improving conditions for people who live in the city rather than devoting attention the already healthy tourist trade, she said.

Hill was endorsed by the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund. “Nashville voters clearly reject the hateful rhetoric that has grown louder in Tennessee politics lately,” said a statement from Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker. “Olivia’s victory proves that transgender people belong everywhere decisions about them are being made, including local office. I know Olivia is well-prepared to take her seat on the Metro Council and work to make Nashville and Davidson County a more welcoming place for all.”

Statewide, Tennessee has been carving away LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive rights. Among other things, state legislators have banned gender-affirming care for minors and enacted one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the nation.

“The victors [in the at-large council races] reflect the inclusive, progressive nature of Nashville at time of pushback from the Tennessee General Assembly on diversity, reproductive and LGBTQ rights, and the city’s authority to govern itself,” David Plazas wrote in an opinion piece for The Tennessean.

The reelected at-large member, Zulfat Suara, is Muslim, and there has been much anti-Muslim sentiment in Tennessee, he noted. She and one of the newly elected at-large members are Black, the other three at-large members white.

“The At-Large council members will be strong voices for Nashville who may end up frustrating lawmakers, but who also will be dedicated to defending their constituents against attacks and encroachments on their human and civil rights,” Plazas added.

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring

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