Marie Cau made history Saturday when she was elected mayor of Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes, a small village in the north of France, becoming the country’s first known openly transgender mayor, according to French media reports.
“What’s surprising is that this is surprising,” Cau told Agence France-Presse. “They didn’t vote for me or against me because I’m transgender; they voted for a program and for values.”
Cau, 55, has an educational background in agriculture and horticulture and ran on a platform of environmental sustainability. She and her fellow “Deciding Together” candidates were elected on March 15 by the people of Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes, a municipality near the Belgium border where Cau has been living for 20 years. Then on Saturday, the newly elected council members voted nearly unanimously to make Cau the new mayor, according to BBC News.
Cau added that since beginning her transition 15 years ago, she hasn’t experienced discrimination or bullying, stating that overall “people are kind, despite some blunders.” Still, she looks forward to the day when her gender identity “will become a nonevent.”
At the same time, she acknowledges that her new position shows “that transgender people can have normal social and political lives.”
Marlène Schiappa, France’s minister of state for gender equality, congratulated Cau on her victory, writing in French on Twitter, “Trans visibility, and therefore the fight against transphobia, also requires the exercise of political or public responsibilities.”
Jena Selle, who works at SOS Homophobie, a French LGBTQ advocacy organization, also congratulated the history-making lawmaker on Twitter.
“Congratulations to Marie Cau, first trans woman elected mayor in France,” she wrote in French. “Strength and courage to all trans people who open the way for us.”
Cau’s election arrives as anti-LGBTQ sentiment is on the rise in France. According to a recent report from the country’s Interior Ministry, reported homophobic attacks rose by 36 percent year-over-year in 2019, marking the third consecutive year that reports of such attacks had increased.