My name is Christine Hallquist. In 2018, I became the first transgender gubernatorial nominee from a major party thanks to primary voters in Vermont. I ultimately didn’t win my race, which means that if Caitlyn Jenner’s longshot campaign in California actually succeeds, she would be the first transgender governor in the United States.

I don’t support her, though, and I think it’s important I tell her why. Caitlyn, I want you to know that you don’t have a serious path to victory, and you probably know it already. I thought I had a chance to win when I ran in 2018, but I didn’t pull it off, coming up with 40% of the vote to incumbent Phil Scott’s 55%. But winning isn’t everything in politics. What I learned from my experience running for governor is this: You can either lose gracefully, grow in the process, and actually give a voice to people, like I tried to do, or you can lose by airing grievances, shoring up regressive politics, and continuing to harm our community. Right now, you’re on track to take the latter path.

Caitlyn, you and I have more than a few similarities. We both transitioned late in life. You were 65 when you transitioned; I was 58. We both grew up in male-dominated fields. You came up in the field of sports, and I worked in electric utilities, where fewer than 5% of line-workers are female (and even then they are still called “linemen”). Financially, I’m not as well off as you, of course, but I was the CEO of a small electric utility in Vermont and would have been considered upper-middle class. Before transition, we were both designated and perceived as “white males.”

You and I even came out around the same time, Caitlyn. Like you, I grew up hiding my feelings of gender non-conformity and of being different from people around me. I, too, crafted a male persona, disconnected myself from my feelings, raised a family, and enjoyed a successful career. We both struggled with suicidal ideation, as so many trans people do because of the discrimination we face.

When your interview with Diane Sawyer aired in April 2015, in which you told the world you were transgender, I had already resolved to transition publicly after 5 years of working privately with a gender therapist. I was nervous about transitioning on the job and couldn’t find any examples of CEOs who had done so, which meant I was bound to draw attention — and potentially retaliation — if I came out, especially in a small state like Vermont where I was relatively well-known. Nationally, I was the vice-chair to a group that provides technical advice and strategy to electric cooperatives, which provided 56% of America with electricity. I was quite sure I would lose my job and my family after I transitioned. I know you struggled with similar fears.

For a brief window, Caitlyn, your announcement and the public awareness you generated helped pave the way for me. In April 2015, when that interview aired, I was working with about 20 CEO peers in Vermont who were helping me figure out how to come out. My plan was to make the public announcement in September at Vermont’s annual Pride celebration. You made that process easier. Prior to your coming out on the national stage, only one of the CEOs even knew what “transgender” meant. You brought the word into the dialogue.

To my surprise, Vermonters welcomed me with open arms, much like the transgender community tried to embrace you at first. But soon, I realized that dozens of Vermonters had fought for justice before me, securing some of the best legal protections in the country earlier than many other states. Vermont has included gender identity in its statewide non-discrimination protections since 2007, thanks to pioneering trans advocates who persuaded then-governor Jim Douglas to sign them into law. Their work made me want to be a leader — to pave the way for others and be an example for the LGBTQ+ community.

But that’s where you and I seem to have diverged, Caitlyn. In 2016, when Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency, I knew that he would work to reverse all the gains of the transgender community if he were elected. Bigotry, misogyny, and racism were fundamental elements of his campaign. Much to my disappointment, you initially supported his candidacy, before finally revoking that endorsement in 2018. By that point, your tepid condemnation was too little, too late, as many of the worst fears that I and so many others had when he was elected had already come to pass. Within Trump’s first months of taking office, his administration repealed protections for trans students and sought to ban trans people from the military, and it only got worse from there.

My hopes and dreams for my community were shattered the day he took office, but you stood by, remaining silent as he assailed the most vulnerable among us. You are doing it again by underwriting the GOP’s attacks on trans youth in endorsing bills preventing trans student athletes from playing sports in states across the country, which have driven several young people to attempt to end their lives. This is not what a governor looks like, let alone the governor of a state with America’s largest LGBTQ+ population.



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