Metro Weekly

Tennessee Elects Its First Transgender Official

Olivia Hill won a seat on Nashville's Metro Council, making her Tennessee's first out transgender elected official.

Olivia Hill – Photo: Olivia Hill for Council At-Large

Olivia Hill made history on Thursday evening, winning one of Nashville’s Metropolitan Council’s five at-large seats and, in the process, becoming the first out transgender woman elected to office in the history of Tennessee.

Hill secured her seat by finishing third in the runoff election, with 12.9% of the vote. She joins a body with a historic number of women councilmembers, where women comprise a majority of the 40-member council.

“I want to say that I am elated,” Hill told The Tennessean after the results came in. “For every trans kid in the state of Tennessee that has felt discomfort or that they didn’t belong…we are valid. We are who we say we are. And we are going to move forward.”

The 57-year-old is a Nashville native and former Naval veteran who saw combat overseas during Operation Desert Storm. She previously worked for 26 years at the Vanderbilt University Power Plant and retired as the plant’s senior supervisor in December 2021.

During her last few months working for Vanderbilt, Hill transitioned, and began facing workplace discrimination. She sued the university three months prior to her retirement, alleging she was subjected to harassment by her co-workers and supervisors. She claimed people would ignore her, make crude or sexually suggestive remarks to her, and one supervisor even referred to her as “it,” a “trans freak,” and a “weirdo.”

Other employees allegedly refused to acknowledge Hill’s gender identity, referring to her with male pronouns, with one employee refusing to take direct orders from her.

Plant supervisors refused to provide a women’s bathroom for Hill — the only female employee at the plant. University officials ignored her complaints. The school settled the lawsuit with Hill three months after it was filed.

“I’m ready to get to work and to fix the broken parts of Nashville,” Hill told The Tennessean. Her priorities for the upcoming council term include improving infrastructure, utilities, and public transportation to improve local residents’ lives. “We have become a tourist hotspot,” she noted, “but it is time to refocus on those of us who call this city home.”

The LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, which supported Hill’s candidacy, celebrated her victory. 

“Nashville voters clearly reject the hateful rhetoric that has grown louder in Tennessee politics lately,” Annise Parker, the president and CEO of LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, and a former mayor of Houston, Texas, said in a statement. “Olivia’s victory proves that transgender people belong everywhere decisions about them are being made, including local office.”

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