Christine Hallquist may be poised to become the first transgender governor in America. The 62 year old is running for election in Vermont, a famously progressive state. But she told the Associated Press that she wants people to pay attention to her progressive policies — not just to the fact that she’s a transgender woman.
Hallquist says the biggest issues facing Vermont right now are the need for an economic revival in rural communities; she is calling for a higher minimum wage, greater community involvement all decisions, internet access across the state, and more use of renewable energy.
On Tuesday, August 14, Vermont holds its primary election. Hallquist is up against three other candidates — James Ehlers, an environmental activist; Brenda Siegel, a dance festival organizer; and Ethan Sonneborn, a 14-year-old boy.
Here’s what you need to know about Christine Hallquist:
1. Hallquist Was Born a Boy Named Dave and Grew Up in Upstate New York
Hallquist was born in 1956 in upstate New York. She moved to Vermont in 1976, when she was 20 years old, because her father’s job relocated him to Burlington. Once there, Hallquist settled settled in. She studied engineering and then went to work for Vermont Energy, where she eventually rose to be CEO.
Hallquist married a woman named Pat, and had three children, whom they raised in Vermont. She confided to Pat that she felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body — but she also promised Pat that she would not reveal that to the world. She eventually changed her mind, after struggling with a bout of intense depression that convinced her to transition to living as a woman.
2. In 1998, Hallquist Went to Work for the Vermont Electric Co-operative, Eventually Rising to Become CEO
Hallquist said she joined Vermont Electric because she was passionate about climate change. She boasted that in her years with the company, she worked to offer incentives to help people shift away from fosssil fuels and move towards using renewable energy.
Hallquist is credited with bringing Vermont Electric back from bankruptcy.
As a candidate for governor, Hallquist says she believes in renewable energy, but also believes in consulting with local communities about what they want — she acknowledges that many Vermonters do not want wind farms taking over their fields, and says the issue needs to be addressed on a case by case basis.
3. In 2015, Hallquist Transitioned to Living as a Woman
In an interview with the Guardian, Hallquist said that even as a child, she felt that she was a girl trapped in a boy’s body. She said that she has a vivid memory of one Halloween when she was dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and she realized that she longed to be a girl:
“When I was 11 years old – I’ll remember this day forever, it’s like a snapshot – the day my mom dressed me as Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween. And it was beautiful. I loved it. And I said: ‘Mom, I want to be a girl.’ And she said: ‘Well, never tell anybody that.’
Christine Hallquist lived most of her life as Dave Hallquist. She even promised her wife, Pat, that she would never tell anyone about her gendre identity. But in 2015, after a period of depression and a struggle with suicidal thoughts, she made the decision to transition to living as a woman named Christine. She made the transition publicly and said she was amazed at how peaceful and easy the transition was. You can read more about Hallquist’s public transition here.
Hallquist also says that living as a woman educated her about gender bias and has taught her about “how marginalized people experience the world.” She said her first-hand experience has been invaluable: “It’s one thing to know about bias; it’s another to experience it,” she said.
4. Hallquist Went to Catholic School, Until the Church Told Her Parents That She Needed an Exorcism
Hallquist told the Guardian that she was an effeminate boy — something which did not serve her well in her conservative Catholic school. She was also a gifted, intellectually curious student who tended to question church doctrine, something which also didn’t serve her well in school.
Hallquist said that she was repeatedly beaten by nuns in the school. She said that at one point, when she was in the 8th grade, the monsignor approached her parents and said that Hallquist needed to have an exorcism.
Her parents were outraged and, instead of agreeing to the exorcism, they pulled her and her siblings out of the school. She went to public school, eventually going on to get an associate’s degree. She eventually rose to become the CEO of Vermont Energy Cooperative.
5. Hallquist Said She Was Inspired to Run for Office After Trump Was Elected President
Hallquist, who is 62 years old now, says that she was already looking forward to wrapping up her career at Vermont Energy and heading into retirement. But she says her plans were turned around by the 2016 presidential election. She has spoken extensively about how, in her view, the world was thrown into chaos after Trump was elected.
“November 8, 2016, I realized the world changed,” she said to the Guardian. “I went to bed, and of course like any other trauma I was in political depression and I just didn’t know what to do. I mean, many of us in this country shed a lot of tears for what happened on November 8.”
Once she got over her “political depression,” Hallquist said she vowed to become politically active — and within a few months, she started looking into ways to run for office. She said, too, that running for office was a way of doing “penance” for having voted for Vermont’s incumbent Republican governor, Phil Scott.