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 A. C. Garson
(1940-10-07) October 7, 1940 (age 78)
Hahira, Georgia
Nationality American
Political party Independent (1988, 2000, 2008, 2012–present)
Democrat (1982–1986, 1998–1999, 2010–2012)
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 [sic] will be known in the future."[9][10]

Political career[edit]

Early years

In 1982 and 1986, Garrison ran unsuccessfully for the Massachusetts House of Representatives as a Democrat.[11] She ran unsuccessfully for Boston City Council in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, and 1991. During the 1991 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 the 1991 race, Garrison finished in third place in the District 7 preliminary election.[14]

Massachusetts House

In 1992, Garrison ran successfully 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 whether she was a man, Garrison denied it and ended the conversation when asked about her past, including her name change.[9][16]

In the Massachusetts House, Garrison consistently voted in favor of labor unions, resulting in her being endorsed for re-election by the Massachusetts AFL-CIO[17] and eight unions.[11] On many votes, she voted with the Democrats in the legislature rather than with the Republicans.[11] However, she opposed same-sex marriage and abortion.[16]

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.[18]

Later years

Garrison's later runs for office, all unsuccessful, have included:

Besides her one term in the Massachusetts 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.[22]

Garrison is expected to take over the seat left vacant by Ayanna Pressley on the Boston City Council when Pressley resigns following her victory in the Democratic primary for Massachusetts's 7th congressional district, likely in January. City rules require that vacancies for the at-large council seats are filled by the next-placed candidate at the previous election - which was Garrison - and she has indicated her intention to take up the seat.[28]

See also[edit]

  • Stacie Laughton, first out trangender person to be elected to state legislature
  • Danica Roem, first out trangender person to be elected, and presumably to serve, to state legislature


  1. ^ a b c d e O'Neill, Edward B.; MacQueen, Robert E. (1993). 1993-1994 Public Officers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 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 978-0-313-33749-9. 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 978-1-58901-699-6. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  6. ^ a b c Reilly, Adam (2005-09-23). "The compulsive candidate: What makes Althea Garrison run?". The Boston Phoenix. Archived from the original on 2010-02-05. 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. ^ Estes, Andrea (1991-09-18). "Most talked about pol in Dist. 7 running a different race". Boston Herald. p. 10.
  13. ^ Carr, Howie (1991-10-09). "Crop of young up-&-coming pols keep tradition alive". Boston Herald. p. 12.
  14. ^ Estes, Andrea (1991-09-25). "Perennial Owens wins chance at Bolling seat". Boston Herald. p. 8.
  15. ^ Brown, Laura (1992-11-05). "Hub voters break tradition & elect Republican state rep". Boston Herald. p. 10.
  16. ^ a b Osberg, Molly (8 November 2017). "The Tragic Story of Althea Garrison, the First Trans Person to Hold State Office in America". Splinter. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Rumors don't undermine Garrison's power". Boston Herald. 1994-08-15. p. 14.
  18. ^ Kenney, Michael (1994-11-13). "'95's new looks for Beacon Hill". The Boston Globe. p. 4.
  19. ^ Jonas, Michael (2000-10-15). "Incumbents Taking Nothing for Granted". The Boston Globe. p. 2.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Tangney, Chris (2002-02-13). "Hart Wins Election to Senate in Landslide". The Boston Globe. p. B12.
  22. ^ a b Talcott, Sasha (2003-10-27). "Activist Chases an Elusive Dream: Quest Continues for Public Office". The Boston Globe. p. B2.
  23. ^ Rothstein, Kevin (2005-09-27). "City Hall Showdown: Today's preliminary vote will trim council field". Boston Herald. p. 4.
  24. ^ McNamara, Eileen (2006-09-10). "It's Time for the Truth". The Boston Globe. p. B1.
  25. ^ "Democratic Primary Results, 09/14/2010 State Primary" (PDF). Massachusetts Elections Division. p. 25. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ "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.
  28. ^ "Finally, Althea Garrison will be a city councillor". Boston Globe. 6 September 2018. Retrieved 6 September 2018.

Further reading[edit]