Stewart “Stu” Rasmussen, America’s first openly transgender mayor, has died, according to the current mayor of Silverton, Oregon, Kyle Palmer.
Rasmussen died Wednesday “after a number of weeks under home hospice care for metastatic prostate cancer,” Palmer said in a Facebook post.
“His longtime love Victoria (Sage) noted that ‘he went bravely into the unknown on his own terms,’” Palmer said.
Rasmussen, a lifelong resident of Silverton, the town he served as mayor over multiple terms, was 73 years old, according to the Statesman Journal newspaper.
Rasmussen wasn’t concerned about pronoun usage and accepted both he/him or she/her, Sage told the newspaper.
Rasmussen was first elected mayor in 1988 and was re-elected in 1990, before coming out as transgender, according to a Just Out magazine interview posted by the Victory Fund, a national organization dedicated to electing openly LGBTQ people.
Rasmussen was elected mayor of Silverton again in 2008, this time as an openly transgender person, and remained in office until being unseated in 2014. That historic election sparked a protest by the Westboro Baptist Church, the Statesman Journal reported. The group is known for its virulently anti-LGBTQ protests at public events, including military funerals.
But the Westboro protesters “were met by a large crowd of demonstrating citizens – many of them wearing dresses – supporting Stu and demanding that they leave town,” Palmer said.
“He set an example for members of our community who needed to see that it was safe to live their lives openly in our community,” Palmer added. “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.”