America’s first out trans mayor Stu Rasmussen, who won hearts by breaking down barriers, dies at 73

Stu Rasmussen was the first openly trans mayor in the US

The first openly trans mayor in the US, Stu Rasmussen, has died at the age of 73.

Rasmussen was elected the mayor of Silverton in western Oregon, a small town of around 10,000 people, in 2008.

His death (Rasmussen was a self-described “gender anarchist” and used both he/him and she/her pronouns) was announced on Facebook by Kyle Palmer, the current mayor of Silverton, who said that Rasmussen died “after a number of weeks under home hospice care for metastatic prostate cancer”.

According to Palmer, Rasmussen’s long-time partner, Victoria, said “he went bravely into the unknown on his own terms”.

Palmer added that a documentary about Rasmussen’s life, and the international attention she received in 2008 when she became Silverton’s mayor, has recently completed filming.

The documentary will focus on an incident in 2008 where the Westboro Baptist church went to Silverton to protest against Rasmussen being mayor – and were met by a large crowd of residents, many of them wearing dresses, supporting Rasmussen and demanding that the church leave town.

“It was a pretty unique moment,” Palmer told the Salem Statesman Journal. “Our citizens who dressed up in dresses. Many of them made signs saying ‘Not in our town,’ ‘Leave,’ ‘Stu is our mayor.’ I know it was extremely moving for him.”

Rasmussen was mayor of Silverton until 2014, and went on to hold several other positions on the city council and at the public library. She also co-owned and ran the Palace Cinema with business partner Roger Paulson – a single-screen cinema that remained open in Silverton from 1974 to 2020.

“I will never forget being allowed to see Star Wars twice a night for seven straight days as an 11-year-old in 1977, but it also wasn’t uncommon to go to the Palace for the popcorn and just happen to enjoy a movie in the background,” Palmer said. “The ridiculously low ticket prices and the fact that a whole family could have popcorn and a drink for less than $10 was a welcome relief as movies elsewhere became unaffordable for many.”

Palmer continued: “Throughout his career as an elected official, Stu advocated for many things on behalf of those who shared his vision for Silverton. Although citizens can debate their support or lack of support for some of those visions, the time for those conversations has long passed. His volume of service to city government, his role as a longtime downtown business owner, and his impact on the LGBTQ population in Silverton and beyond leaves a huge legacy behind.

“My thoughts are with Victoria, as she faces life without Stuart for the first time in many decades. I’m comforted in the knowledge that he is no longer in pain.”