For the first time in Maine, an openly transgender person has been elected to public office. Geo Neptune was elected to the school board in Indian Township.
The transgender advocacy organization MaineTransNet says this is the first time a trans person has been elected to office in the state.
Neptune, who uses they/them pronouns, is a Two-Spirit artist and educator and a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe.
“Two-Spirit is an intersectional identity that was and is found within Indigenous cultures all across Turtle Island,” says Neptune. “A lot of people get caught up in trying to separate all of these different things and saying like, well, is it gender identity or is it sexual orientation? Or is it a spiritual role? Or is it gender and societal role? And all of those things are true.”
Of the three candidates elected to the school board, Neptune received the most votes — about half.
“To almost stand up and say that they're embracing me in this leadership role as a Two-Spirit was incredibly affirming,” Neptune says. “I feel very lucky that I live in a place where my community accepts me because a lot of trans people don't have that.”
Neptune's decision to run for the school board came at the urging of community members and tribal youth, who were familiar with their work as an art teacher in an after-school program. Neptune says that students wanted more access to Passamaquoddy culture and language.
“The education system treats our own culture as supplementary, as an extracurricular activity that the kids are allowed to do, instead of treating Passamaquoddy culture and history as one of the main priorities in the education system,” says Neptune. “These youth concerns, on top of community members asking me to run, those are my two motivating reasons for running for this office.”
As a member of the school board, Neptune hopes to increase student and teacher access to Passamaquoddy culture and ceremonial teachings, as well as work toward language revitalization.
Quinn Gormley, executive director of MaineTransNet, says Neptune's election is a mark of progress.
“We expect these electoral victories to happen in Portland," Gormley says, "but often small communities are more willing to embrace whole identities.”
MaineTransNet shared the news on its Facebook page, and by Friday the post had been shared more than 9,000 times by people as far away as Australia. Neptune says Indigenous people all over the world are reacting to the post.
“I don't know why it resonates with so many people. “I just know that I'm trying to do my best to do the work that Creator wants me to do while I'm here. And that my community, both my literal, immediate community, and my greater global community, I'll say, all really support me, and I really, I really am thankful for that. And I really, I really hope that I serve my community.”
Neptune will be sworn into office October 1.