Althea Garrison

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Althea Garrison
Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from the 5th Suffolk District
In office
Preceded by Nelson Merced
Succeeded by Charlotte Golar Richie
Personal details
Born (1940-10-07) October 7, 1940 (age 76)
Hahira, Georgia
Nationality American
Political party Democrat (1982–1986, 1998–1999, 2010–2012)
Independent (1988, 2000, 2008, 2012)
Republican (1990–1996, 2002–2006)
Residence Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts
Alma mater Suffolk University
Lesley College
Harvard University
Newbury Junior College
Occupation Human Resources

Althea Garrison (born October 7, 1940)[1] is an American politician from Boston, Massachusetts who was elected as a Republican to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1992 and served one term from 1993 to 1995. Both before and after Garrison's successful bid for office, she has run unsuccessfully in multiple elections for the state legislature and Boston City Council, as a Republican, Democrat, or independent, which has resulted in her being described in the media as a "perennial candidate".[2][3] Garrison is also known as the first transgender or transsexual person to be elected to a state legislature in the United States.[4][5]


Garrison was formerly known by the name A. C. Garson.[6][7] Born in Hahira, Georgia,[1][7] Garrison attended Hahira High School there.[1] Garrison moved to Boston to attend beauty school,[7] but went on to enroll in Newbury Junior College and received an associate degree there.[1][7] Garrison later received a B.S. degree in administration from Suffolk University, an M.S. degree in management from Lesley College, and a certificate in special studies in administration and management from Harvard University.[1][8]

According to records in the Suffolk County Probate Court, Garrison petitioned for a name change from A. C. Garson to Althea Garrison in 1976.[9] The petition stated that the name Althea Garrison "is consistent with petitioner's appearance and medical condition and is the name by which he will be known in the future."[9][10]

Political career[edit]

In 1982 and 1986, Garrison ran for the Massachusetts State House as a Democrat.[11]

Garrison ran for the Boston City Council, District 7, in 1991.[12] During that campaign, the Boston Herald noted that she had run for office nine times,[12] although Garrison herself later described the race as her 10th or 11th bid for office.[13] In that race, Garrison finished in third place in the preliminary election.[14]

In 1992, Garrison ran for the 5th Suffolk district in the Massachusetts House, representing the Dorchester and Roxbury areas of Boston. Garrison's 1992 election to the legislature was made possible in part by the fact that she challenged some of the signatures that the then-incumbent representative, Nelson Merced, had submitted to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot. Her challenge was successful and meant that Garrison did not have to run against an incumbent in the general election.[6] In the general election, Garrison defeated Democratic candidate Irene Roman, 2,451 votes to 2,014.[15]

The fact that Garrison had been formerly known as a male was not widely publicized until shortly after she was elected to the legislature.[6][9] When The Boston Herald asked her about her past, Garrison denied that she used to be a man but ended the conversation when asked about her name change.[9]

In the state House of Representatives, Garrison consistently voted in favor of labor unions, resulting in her being endorsed for re-election by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO[16] and eight unions.[11] On many votes, she voted with the Democrats in the legislature rather than with the Republicans.[11] Garrison was defeated in her 1994 bid for re-election by Democratic candidate Charlotte Golar Richie by a margin of 2,108 votes to 1,718.[17]

Garrison's later runs for office, all unsuccessful, included a 2000 race for the Massachusetts House as an "Independent Progressive" candidate;[18] a 2001 race for mayor of Boston;[19] a 2002 race in a special election for the 1st Suffolk district in the Massachusetts Senate as a Republican;[20] races for the Boston City Council at large in 2003[21] and 2005;[22] and a 2006 race for the Massachusetts House as a Republican.[23]

Garrison ran again for the 5th Suffolk district in the Massachusetts House in 2010 and finished third in the Democratic primary.[24]

In February 2011, Garrison ran in a special election to fill a vacancy on the Boston City Council, District 7,[25] and finished in fourth place in the preliminary election.[26]

Besides her one term in the State House, Garrison has worked in human resources for the Massachusetts state comptroller's office, where she used her vacation time to run for office, and served for four years on the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e O'Neill, Edward B.; MacQueen, Robert E. (1993). 1993-1994 Public Officers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (PDF). Boston: General Court of Massachusetts. p. 132. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  2. ^ Larocque, Marc (2008-02-03). "On primary day, they'll elect to not vote". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  3. ^ Gintautus, Dumcius (2010-10-07). "Reporter's Notebook: An endorsement, and another Fifth Suffolk write-in campaign". Dorchester Reporter. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  4. ^ Eaklor, Vicki L. (2008). Queer America: A GLBT History of the 20th Century. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 212. ISBN 0-313-33749-7. Retrieved 2010-10-20. The nineties also saw the first openly transgender person in a state office, Althea Garrison, elected in 1992 but serving only one term in Massachusetts' House. 
  5. ^ Haider-Markel, Donald P. (2010). Out and Running: Gay and Lesbian Candidates, Elections, and Policy Representation. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. p. 86. ISBN 1-58901-699-8. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  6. ^ a b c Reilly, Adam (2005-09-23). "The compulsive candidate: What makes Althea Garrison run?". The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  7. ^ a b c d Schweitzer, Sarah (2001-09-21). "Garrison Undeterred by Long Odds". The Boston Globe. p. B1. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  8. ^ "Race for City Council: Althea Garrison". The Boston Globe. 1999-09-04. p. B2. 
  9. ^ a b c d Fehrnstrom, Eric (1992-11-05). "New state rep leaves questions about past life unanswered". The Boston Herald. p. 29. 
  10. ^ Woodlief, Wayne (1999-05-27). "Lawton best choice in 5th District race". The Boston Herald. p. 35. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  11. ^ a b c Kenney, Michael (1994-10-09). "Garrison hopes to show win no fluke: Faces tough fight from Golar Richie to keep 5th Suffolk seat". The Boston Globe. p. 1. 
  12. ^ a b Estes, Andrea (1991-09-18). "Most talked about pol in Dist. 7 running a different race". The Boston Herald. p. 10. 
  13. ^ Carr, Howie (1991-10-09). "Crop of young up-&-coming pols keep tradition alive". The Boston Herald. p. 12. 
  14. ^ Estes, Andrea (1991-09-25). "Perennial Owens wins chance at Bolling seat". The Boston Herald. p. 8. 
  15. ^ Brown, Laura (1992-11-05). "Hub voters break tradition & elect Republican state rep". The Boston Herald. p. 10. 
  16. ^ "Rumors don't undermine Garrison's power". The Boston Herald. 1994-08-15. p. 14. 
  17. ^ Kenney, Michael (1994-11-13). "'95's new looks for Beacon Hill". The Boston Globe. p. 4. 
  18. ^ Jonas, Michael (2000-10-15). "Incumbents Taking Nothing for Granted". The Boston Globe. p. 2. 
  19. ^ Ebbert, Stephanie; Schweitzer, Sarah (2001-09-26). "Menino Easily Wins Preliminary: Davis-Mullen Takes 22.5 Percent in Low Turnout". The Boston Globe. p. B1. 
  20. ^ Tangney, Chris (2002-02-13). "Hart Wins Election to Senate in Landslide". The Boston Globe. p. B12. 
  21. ^ a b Talcott, Sasha (2003-10-27). "Activist Chases an Elusive Dream: Quest Continues for Public Office". The Boston Globe. p. B2. 
  22. ^ Rothstein, Kevin (2005-09-27). "City Hall Showdown: Today's preliminary vote will trim council field". The Boston Herald. p. 4. 
  23. ^ McNamara, Eileen (2006-09-10). "It's Time for the Truth". The Boston Globe. p. B1. 
  24. ^ "Democratic Primary Results, 09/14/2010 State Primary" (PDF). Massachusetts Elections Division. p. 25. Retrieved 2010-10-20. 
  25. ^ Brown, Bridgit (2011-02-10). "District 7 campaign pulls crowded field". The Bay State Banner. Boston. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2011. 
  26. ^ "City of Boston Special Preliminary Municipal Election - February 15, 2011 City Councillor District 7" (PDF). City of Boston Election Department. 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2011.