A transgender man running for Erie County Executive has released a video touting the historic nature of their campaign.
If elected, Dr. Tyler Titus, a mental health professional and small business owner who has worked as a full-time therapist in the foster care system, would become the first transgender county executive in U.S. history.
They already made history in 2017 as the first transgender elected official in the state of Pennsylvania following their election to the Erie School Board.
In the campaign video, created by award-winning queer filmmaker Hansen Bursic, Titus talks about attempting suicide twice before the age of 16, and how they eventually overcame various hardships and odds to create a better life for themself, and — through their commitment to public service — others.
“My life was saved by the belief that a better world is possible, that freedom is within our grasp, that we can wait for change, or we can be the change,” Titus says in the ad. “I wish I could go back to 16-year-old me, and tell them, ‘We are going to change the world.'”
Titus also talks about their family’s working-class roots, born in rural poverty to teenage parents and raised in a family with their 11 siblings.
They criticize “the failures of systems that left so many behind” in post-industrial urban areas like Erie and other cities harmed by a combination of globalization, the loss of industry, and the crumbling of community institutions.
Titus also offers a vision of a “healthier, safer, more equitable Erie County” for the future.
“It was important to me to release this video because I know the power of vulnerability and authenticity — especially from marginalized perspectives,” Titus said in a statement announcing the launch of the campaign ad.
“At the end of the day, I want trans kids to be able to look at me and feel hope — for themselves, and that a better world is possible,” Titus continued. “I’m proud to be running an unapologetically progressive campaign to not just right the wrongs of the past, but to create a future we can be proud of. This is bigger than any one of us.”
Titus is running as a Democrat in the May 18 primary and has already been endorsed by several national groups, including the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Run for Something, Roadmap for Progress, and LGBTQ Victory Fund, which encourages LGBTQ people to run for public office.
“While many Americans still need to be educated on trans issues, Tyler’s openness in discussing their past struggles with gender identity and mental health will resonate with many who too often keep their own struggles to themselves,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement. “Tyler’s experiences contextualize their passion for transforming the healthcare and education system in Erie County and that authenticity will help Tyler win this race.
“At a moment when too many political figures are vilifying trans people for their own perceived political gain, Tyler’s video is a strong counter-narrative that shows trans people as leaders who care about their communities and are determined to make positive change for everyone,” Parker added.
Titus has also garnered an endorsement from Delaware State Sen. Sarah McBride, who currently holds the honor of the top-ranked transgender elected official in the country.
“Tyler is a trailblazer for our community, and will be an extraordinary county executive,” McBride said in a statement. “This is a historic opportunity to elevate the first trans person elected in Pennsylvania history. It should interest and excite all those who believe in representation, equity, and progress.”
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