Election /

Nashville Elects First Transgender Councilmember

Olivia Hill is a Navy veteran who sued Vanderbilt for discrimination in 2021

Nashville has elected an openly transgender lawmaker — a first for Tennessee.

Olivia Hill will serve as one of the Nashville Metro Council’s members-at-large after winning a run-off election on Sept. 15. Hill, a biological male who identifies as a transgender woman, secured roughly 12.9% of the vote.

“I want to say that I am elated,” Hill told The Tennessean. “For every trans kid in the state of Tennessee that has felt discomfort or that they didn’t belong … we are valid. We are who we say we are. And we are going to move forward.”

Hill, a native of Nashville, served in the Navy from 1986 to 1995, and was deployed overseas during Desert Storm. Hill retired in December 2021 after working for the Vanderbilt University Power Plant for 26 years.

The 57-year-old has two adult children and four grandchildren. 

Hill was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2017 and began to identify as transgender while working for Vanderbilt, including beginning forms of medical intervention in February of 2019. On Sept. 29, 2021, Hill sued Vanderbilt for discrimination and accused the institution of violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Tennessee Human Rights Act.

Hill described working for the organization as a “living hell” and alleged that other employees used Hill’s male name and referred to Hill as “sir.” Hill said, after complaining about harassment, an administrator who oversaw the plant’s operations told Hill to “leave her emotions at home and just do her job,” per The Vanderbilt Hustler.

Vanderbilt settled with Hill in January of 2022. The terms of the settlement were kept confidential.

“I don’t want to diminish the historic part of this race—I really don’t. As the first trans-elected official in the state of Tennessee, it’s a huge boost to the trans community, but people elected me because of who I am and because of my skill, not because I am trans,” Hill told local reporters outside the Metro Courthouse building on Sept. 15, per WKRN. “I have tried very hard to run this race on my ability to sit at the table and my ability to get work done. The fact that I am trans is just a part of who I really am and not why I ran.”

During an interview with The Tennessean in June, Hill laid out three key priorities that included improving “our infrastructure and utilities,” making “it easier to travel in … this city,” and finding “solutions for those who are unhoused.”

“We have become a tourist hotspot but it is time to refocus on those of us who call this city home,” said Hill. “We must work to better fund and improve our infrastructure, public safety, and public education systems.”

Hill is one of several Democrats who won leadership positions in Nashville. Progressive Freddie O’Connell, a Nashville metro councilmember, will serve as the city’s next mayor after defeating conservative Alice Rolli.

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