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State’s first openly gay mayor resigns, citing harassment

by Erika DuBose
State's first openly gay mayor resigns, citing harassment
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Adam Graham, the openly gay mayor of The Village, Oklahoma, resigned from his position on Monday, citing harassment. Graham was Oklahoma’s first openly gay mayor of any city or town in the state.

Graham, who also referred to himself as the youngest official in The Village, Oklahoma, has been increasingly the target of threats. He noted that he had been followed home from city meetings and threatened while walking his dog. He also said someone slashed his tires.

 Graham tendered his resignation in a letter to the city manager. “Unfortunately, these malicious bad-faith attacks are escalating and I no longer feel safe to serve in my capacity as mayor,” he wrote. 

In his letter, Graham noted his years of service to The Village, Oklahoma, where he was previously vice-mayor and a city councilor.  During his tenure as mayor, he promoted public transportation, opening a new city park – and banning conversion therapy. 

Conversion therapy is a controversial practice of attempting to change a person’s sexual identity through bad-faith “counseling.” Norman, Oklahoma, recently banned conversion therapy, although one Oklahoma official is attempting to prohibit city-wide bans on the dangerous practice.

Oklahoma’s first openly gay mayor a “fierce LGBTQ leader”

Graham’s resignation has turned the spotlight on the experiences of elected LGBTQIA+ community members. According to Albert Fuji, of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, an organization promoting LGBTQ elected officials across the country, Graham is a “fierce LGBTQ leader in Oklahoma, fighting for LGBTQ rights, racial equity and reproductive justice.” 

Freedom Oklahoma also had choice words about Graham and his experience in The Village. “We know that for many queer folks with political aspirations, The Village Mayor, Adam Graham’s resignation may give them pause if there is space for them to serve their communities in elected office in Oklahoma,” Freedom Oklahoma said in a statement.

In fact, Graham was one of just a few openly gay mayors in the country, although LGBTQIA+ community members have made strides in entering politics over the last decade. Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor of Houston, noted “There are more L.G.B.T.Q. folks who are taking the plunge and deciding to run for office.”

Yet many face an uphill battle against willful ignorance, particularly Black and Brown LGBTQIA+ community members. According to Freedom Oklahoma, “the harassment that queer and trans folks face as electeds cannot be normalized just because it is common occurrence in Oklahoma.”

Black LGBTQ individuals face heightened levels of harassment

Black and Brown LGBTQIA+ men and women face even more harassment – as well as threats of physical violence. According to the Center for American Progress, ​​33 percent of Black LGBTQ individuals reported experiencing discrimination in the last year that had a significant impact on their daily lives. 

In fact Black LGBTQ people report avoiding common community locales due to concerns about harassment – much like that experienced by Graham. Graham’s tires were slashed, and he was verbally attacked at a coffee shop. 

Graham was also a target following an exchange with two police officers from a neighboring town, who were ticketing a citizen from The Village for speeding. Graham claimed the officers could not cite a resident of The Village in another town; the police officers disagreed due to a mutual exchange agreement. 

According to Freedom Oklahoma, “We also want to acknowledge that Adam Graham’s experience being harassed by police after attempting to hold them accountable is not unique. Further, if Mayor Graham, with his platform and power, felt this level of harassment driven by trying to hold cops in the broader OKC metro accountable, that pressure is amplified for the Black and Brown queer and trans folks, especially those engaged in survival economies, who are disproportionately targeted and harassed by law enforcement, and who don’t have any pathways for relief.”

According to The Village rules, if the city council does not appoint a mayor before the next term starts, the town will be short one member. 

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