Chloë Goldbach, Gainesville’s first trans woman to run for office shares her story.

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Photo by Sean Doolan.

It was opening night, Feb. 14, 2016, and Chloë Goldbach stepped on stage. She was one of three women. The lights were in her eyes as all attention in the Hippodrome was on her.

“In my early 20s I came out to a girlfriend as a crossdresser,” she began. “She ridiculed me and we broke up. The inevitable next girlfriend wrongly assumed I was a gay man. No one gives you permission to be yourself; you have to take it.”

Since her transition, Goldbach had been working on an original piece for The Vagina Monologues, a play written by Eve Ensler that features monologues from women about their experience as a woman. Now, she’s taking on another stage in her life as a write-in candidate for District 5 City Commissioner.

Goldbach arrived in Gainesville 8 years ago as a mechanical engineering student at the University of Florida. Like most freshmen, Goldbach tried to find her place on campus by joining clubs that interested her. She joined an engineering fraternity and tried out a faith organization in an attempt to find solace in religion and her major, but after a few months in each group she just “felt like she didn’t belong again.”

“[These groups] felt too isolated and I felt too forced into a box to appease the people in these groups,” Goldbach said. “I was still very much processing my trans identity, so I didn’t like how segregated into men and women they were. I just always felt like I didn’t belong in the men’s group.”

It would not be until after graduation that Goldbach would finally be able to live life as she wanted.

In September 2014, Goldbach started her transition into full-time womanhood, though it was not immediate. At first, she only felt comfortable enough to dress as herself on the weekends; during the week she was still going to work dressed as a man, her birth-assigned gender. 

As part of her transition, Goldbach became involved with LovEd, a self-improvement community organization based in Gainesville that seeks to empower individuals through healthy relationships. In February 2016, she attended one of LovEd’s three-part seminars, which give people the information and tools to empower themselves and reach their full potential. Through this, Goldbach met Isabell Springer, founder and creator of LovEd, and began to work with her to update the organization’s current self-improvement model. They worked to make the programs that will be presented nationwide starting in April 2017 more LGBTQ-friendly.

As Goldbach became more involved in Gainesville’s LGBTQ community, she began to feel more like herself.

“My biggest issue with [engineering] was that I just felt so far disconnected from the [people] I’m supposed to be helping that I almost felt like I was not helping them,” Goldbach said. “Through my transition I began to realize that my passion lies more in directly helping people.”

Through their mutual involvement in LovEd, Goldbach and Springer became good friends. When Springer became the social media manager for Mike Byerly’s re-election campaign for District 1 in early June 2016, she asked Goldbach to assist her.

“What I love about [Goldbach] is her stand for important issues,” Springer said. “She’s really motivated by people having fairness and being treated well. She’s… become a leader in the community, and I’m inspired by that.”

A few months into the Byerly campaign, Springer and Melina Barrat, now Goldbach’s campaign manager, suggested to her that “it would be nice to have a transgender woman on the ballot.” With their support, Goldbach decided to run, though she declared her intention too late to have her name printed on the Aug. 30 primary ballots.

“Rather than getting to know us and asking what our pronouns are, many people create assumptions about our identities,” Goldbach said.

Goldbach’s campaign began as another way to raise awareness for the LGBTQ community in Gainesville and to educate people on the everyday life of transgender-identifying individuals.

“I have known Chloë for a long time, and I find it easy to support her during this,” said Nancy Conlin, Goldbach’s friend and supporter. “She’s compassionate and has this ability to listen and take action. ”

If elected, Goldbach hopes to examine current teaching practices in Alachua County Public Schools and implement anti-bullying education in schools and the workplace. 

“Rather than getting to know us and asking what our pronouns are, many people create assumptions about our identities,” Goldbach said. “Whether or not these assumptions are accidental or intentionally hurtful, they lead to discomfort, humiliation and in some cases, violence.”

Goldbach aims to bring diversity programs to public schools to help bridge the gap between those who fall under the LGBTQ spectrum and those who do not. She also wants to address the issue of LGBTQ youth homelessness, which she believes receives almost no attention in politics, by working with the homeless shelters in the county.

Goldbach has had to grapple with the realities of running a campaign on a limited budget. She’s a new candidate and has been trying to introduce herself to Gainesville  voters through meet-and-greets since the beginning of October. At the end of the  month, she’ll begin canvassing in the Duckpond neighborhood.

However, for Goldbach, this campaign is not the end. Next spring, she will finish her second bachelor’s degree, this time in psychology. She hopes to become a social worker and wants to help people in the community. She will also present her original piece in the Vagina Monologues this spring season for the second time and continue her work with LovEd.

“I just hope to be remembered as someone who was not afraid to be 100 percent themselves.”