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Stewart “Stu” Rasmussen, the first openly transgender person to serve as mayor of a U.S. town, died on Nov. 19. He was 73.
Rasmussen, a self-described “gender anarchist” who used both he/him and she/her pronouns, is survived by her wife, Victoria Sage. (HuffPost is using both sets of pronouns in this story.)
Kyle Palmer, who is the current mayor of Silverton, Oregon, confirmed his predecessor’s death in a lengthy Facebook post last week. Rasmussen, Palmer wrote, had been under home hospice care for metastatic prostate cancer for several weeks.
“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 wrote. “I’m comforted in the knowledge that he is no longer in pain.”
News of Rasmussen’s death prompted condolences from friends, LGBTQ advocates and lawmakers alike on social media.
My friend, Stu Rasmussen, passed away Nov. 17. Stu was a brilliant, compassionate groundbreaker, a "gender anarchist" who championed being unapologetically who you are. Be true to yourselves today (& everyday). Stu would like that. #RIPStupic.twitter.com/MgqP1VqflD
— Misha Collins (@mishacollins) November 21, 2021
The Democrat rose to prominence in 1988 when he was first elected as mayor of Silverton ― located about 15 miles east of Oregon’s capital, Salem ― and served two terms. She was reelected in 2008 after coming out publicly as transgender.
His campaign garnered international media coverage and, later, was protested by the Westboro Baptist Church, known for its anti-LGBTQ views.
Following her victory, however, Rasmussen described the campaign as “a very positive experience.”
“The town has embraced me as their native son,” he told local news outlet KLCC at the time. “And I think the election results kind of show that.”
— Basic Rights Oregon (@basicrights) November 24, 2021
So sad to see Stu Rasmussen has passed away. Spending time with Stu back in 2009) changed my understanding about how acceptance works. We will miss this great human." https://t.co/hjLG8xXkkP
— Jad Abumrad (@JadAbumrad) November 22, 2021
Rasmussen’s story was memorably captured for posterity in “Stu for Silverton,” a 2013 musical that was produced in Seattle and New York. In 2018, Playbill reported that the musical was “Broadway-aimed,” though it has not yet been staged in a Broadway theater.
In addition to her political career, Rasmussen was the co-owner of Silverton’s Palace Cinema from 1974 to 2020. As a business owner, he described himself as socially progressive but fiscally conservative, which often put him at odds with the town council.
“Change is not necessarily progress,” Rasmussen told the Statesman Journal in 2015, upon leaving office after six years. “This town is really good at being a small town. It has charm, it has character, and you don’t want to destroy that.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.