PALM SPRINGS – In 2017, Palm Springs Pro Mayor Tem Lisa Middleton made history when she was elected to city council, becoming the first openly trans person to be elected to political office in California. The public service veteran now wants to make history again as she campaigns for the California State Senate.
If elected, she would become the first female senator from an openly trans state in California history and only the second trans state senator in the United States – Sarah McBride of Delaware was the first.
“It was an honor and it meant so much to the kind of opportunity we found in Palm Springs,” Middleton told the Los Angeles Blade of her election in 2017.
Middleton joined the country’s first fully LGBTQ + city council, which also included three gay men – Robert Moon, then mayor, JR Roberts, then mayor Pro Tem and Geoff Kors – and a bisexual woman, Christy Holstege, who now serves as Mayor of Palm Springs.
Middleton noted that there has been at least one LGBTQ + majority city council in the past 20 years while touting the success it has brought. “In those 20 years, the average property value has tripled, our hotel taxes have quadrupled, and our sales tax revenues have quintupled,” she said. “We have brought many new entrepreneurs and visitors to our community. We’ve not only been good at values in Palm Springs, we’ve been good at business.
Even though Middleton is campaigning for a seat in the State Senate, she hasn’t lost sight of what really matters to her: the people of Palm Springs.
“One fascinating thing about a city council in a place like Palm Springs is that you are really connected immediately to your residents,” she said. “I get arrested when I go to the grocery store, the hardware store, the restaurant and people want to talk about the problems. When someone calls me, they expect me to answer the phone and listen to what their problem is. And damn it, I get hundreds of emails every day that people expect a personal response from their city council members.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge to follow everyone,” she said. “But it’s also very nice to have this direct connection with the electorate.”
Middleton is campaigning for the 28th District of the California State Senate, a district that will not be easy for her. SD-28, which includes Coachella and Temecula, went to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election – but only by 2 points.
Still, Middleton has some firepower behind her with early backing from former U.S. Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer and the California LGBTQ legislative caucus.
Boxer was “delighted” to announce her support for Middleton. “A fearless fighter for the people she represents, Lisa is a compassionate, principled, and wise leader who will fight for those who need them most in Sacramento while bringing people and ideas to the table to resolve. big problems, ”she said in a statement. “California needs the forward thinking, compassion, courage and determination of Lisa in the State Senate. I am proud to offer him my enthusiastic support.
The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus offered similar words of encouragement in its statement: “Throughout her career, Lisa has been a pioneering champion of the LGBTQ community as well as a dedicated public servant and activist working to uplift her city, especially on the city of Palm Springs. Advice. Additionally, the California legislature should reflect our state’s vibrant population, and it is high time that transgender Californians were represented in Sacramento. We know Lisa will be a trailblazer and relentless advocate for the 28th District and all Californians, working tirelessly to make the state more inclusive, just, and equitable. We’re 100% with her and can’t wait to help Lisa get elected.
The support she received was one of the main reasons she decided to run. “It was extremely helpful to know that they were supporting me,” she said. “It lets you know that the organizational resources to run a successful campaign were something we could pull together. “
Originally from California, Middleton has long had an interest in state politics. For 36 years, she worked at the State Compensation Insurance Fund, handling workers’ compensation audits at factories and meat packing plants not far from where she grew up in Bell Gardens in the South. is from Los Angeles County.
During her time with the insurance fund, she became a trans woman in 1995 with the support of her employer. “I think I was pretty good at the job I did and gained that kind of support,” she said. “But it was certainly gratifying to have it.”
She understands that she was “one of the lucky people” because she knows that so many trans people did not and still do not have the support of their employers.
“Shortly before my release, in 1995, the San Francisco Commission on Human Rights did an in-depth study of transgender people in San Francisco, where I was living and working at the time,” he said. she declared. “And in this study, they found an unemployment rate for transgender people that was approaching 75%. It is not just underemployment, it is not employment at all.
“Things have improved somewhat, but studies show again and again that transgender people are much more likely to be unemployed than anyone in the LGBTQ community,” she said. “It creates economic insecurity and it is very difficult to move forward, individually or collectively as a community, when economic insecurity is widespread. “
Middleton remains somewhat optimistic about the future. However, the stark contrast between trans rights in the Red and Blue states keeps her from being fully optimistic.
“We are seeing very big progress in terms of legal non-discrimination in most of the progressive democratic states of the country,” she said. “We see the opposite states and the most Republican dominated.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, “2021 has officially passed 2015 as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history,” with more than 250 anti-queer bills introduced in state legislatures.
These bills have particularly attacked the trans community, from the sports field to the doctor’s office. So far in 2021, at least eight anti-trans sports bans have been enacted in Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Mississippi, Montana and West Virginia – all of which have voted for the former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Arkansas also enacted a ban on anti-trans medical care.
Besides trans rights, Middleton also focuses on climate change, noting its profound effect on all facets of life. More specifically, she wants to see more charging infrastructure for electric cars and renewable energies. “What we see each day is the abundance of over 350 days of sunshine with the steady wind blowing through the San Gorgonio Pass into the Coachella Valley,” she said. “We have an absolutely spectacular place for renewable energy projects.
She also hopes to solve a “big problem” for residents of the district she is running for: regular daily train service to Los Angeles. “I will be putting a tremendous amount of energy into working with Metrolink, the Riverside County Transportation Commission, the California Transportation Commission, Amtrak and officials to build the third rail from Colton to the Coachella Valley so that we can really connect the commuter train, “she said.
Growing up in a working poor and blue collar community, Middleton understands the value of hard work. She was the first in her family to attend college and rose through the ranks during her 36 years with the insurance fund. When she finally retired – or at least tried to – and moved to Palm Springs in 2011, she ended up getting involved in local government.
During her candidacy for city council in 2017, she noted that if she was able to win, she felt she could make a difference.
“I really love Palm Springs and the values of this community,” she said.
When asked why serving on city council was worth retiring, Middleton replied, “Every day that I’m in Palm Springs, I meet someone who has moved here because of values and the claim they knew they would find in town of Palm Springs. So many people who live in this community are old people like me and my wife, we have been discriminated against and we have been given second class status. This does not happen in this community.
Middleton and his wife Cheryl have been together for 21 years. They married in 2013, shortly after moving to Palm Springs.
They met via a personal ad in the San Francisco Chronicle. “I put the ad because I had a few friends who were threatening to make one for me,” she said. “It lasted about a month and it didn’t work. Then a few weeks later Cheryl picked it up, called me, and we lived together in a few months. “
Middleton is also the proud parent of an adult son and daughter, both educators. “To see the talent, love and intelligence of my children is something incredibly special,” she said.
She became a grandmother last July after the birth of her daughter’s son. “He’s absolutely gorgeous, shiny and wonderful,” she said.
Her family, which she describes as the “treasure” of her life, has been there for her every step of the way – something she needs with the stress of working in local government and a new campaign. They are also his motivation for pushing into state government.
“I’m running for the State Senate so that my grandson and all these kids starting school today will have the kind of opportunity I had in the second half of the 20th century,” he said. she declared. “One of the things that makes me incredibly humble when I look at my grandson is that if he reaches his normal life expectancy, he will see the 22nd century. This is the obligation we have in government today. Building the institutions that will allow people in 50, 60, 70 years to live in a country that still has the kind of opportunity I grew up with.
“The government is creating the foundation that allows people to do their best to be their best,” she said. “When we’re at our best in government, we create the institutions and support systems that allow people to show their genius. “